Interview with Author Karl Steam

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?’’

                Once upon a time, I wanted to be a park ranger and wildlife photographer. Camping, fishing, and canoeing were my favorite pastimes. I liked to learn about nature and often checked out national geographic documentaries from the city library. The things I learned inspired me to write a few nonfiction animal books as a kid. I would staple paper together, write interesting facts about a particular species, and illustrate my books with cut out magazine pictures. To this day, nature influences most of the things I write.

               During middle school a teacher told my class that kids can do anything. He once had a student who wrote a book and a different student of his could take apart a lawnmower, put it back together again, and it would still work. I wasn’t interested in lawnmowers, but I did like the idea of writing a book. I figured if some other kid could do it, I could too.

               I tried writing my first novel a few months later. It wasn’t very good. O.K., it was horrible. I gave up after a couple pages and decided to postpone my writing career until I had a few high school writing classes under my belt.

               I wrote off and on for many years, but never seriously. I told myself in high school that I would have more time to write once I was in college. In college I told myself I would write more once I graduated. After graduating, I married and had children. One day a story came to mind, but I told myself that I would have more time to write it once my kids were grown. That’s when I realized I was on the path to becoming an old man, who shakes his head and wonders why he never wrote a book.

               I write more often now. Don’t take my word for it though. Go check out the stories I’ve published.

2) What inspired you to write your book series?

The concept for the Kids vs. Nature series began after I read an article about someone who had been lost in a forest while cross country skiing. The article’s author considered this person’s experience to be an example of a great survival story. Yes, the person did survive a one-night ordeal in a forest, but I disagreed with the notion that it was a great example of surviving in the wilderness.

                The main concern of the lost person was that they would freeze to death during the night, so they continuously skied throughout the ordeal to generate body heat and stay warm while they spoke to their spouse on a cell phone. As the night wore on, the person still could not figure out what trail they were on and began to get tired of skiing. They were also thirsty and feared that without water they would become dehydrated and die, and this fear continued to be a concern until the person was eventually discovered by rescuers.

                Nowhere in the article did the writer point out that this person was skiing, which means there was snow on the ground which could have been eaten to hydrate the lost person. Nor did they point out to readers that it’s typically recommended to remain in one location if you’re lost in the wilderness, so that you don’t wander further way from your original location. This makes it easier for rescuers to find you, especially if you have a cell phone and are able to alert others of your predicament.

                Now, can I say for sure that I would have remained calm and thought clearly if encountered with a similar situation? No, and this person did survive so I applaud them for everything they did do right. However, I couldn’t help but think that I would have handed the situation differently, and the reason why is because I had read so many wilderness survival stories as a child.

Through stories such as Hatchet, My Side of the Mountain, Island of the Blue Dolphins, and Sign of the Beaver, I learned a considerable amount about surviving in the wilderness. Tactics to for staying warm, creating shelters, and how to obtain fresh water. Though I have never had to put this knowledge to practice, I do believe that if I were to find myself stranded in the wilderness my odds of survival would be much greater due everything I have learned.

This realization gave me a deeper appreciation for the literature I read as a child. I realized these stories had the power to help save people’s lives. This made me wonder what other survival stories were on the market today. What new stories are captivating young readers and providing them with similar information.

I was surprised and disappointed to discover that very few popular books have been published in this genre throughout the past twenty years. Most of the top sellers continue to be the same stories I read as a child. So, I decided to contribute to the genre and create some fresh stories for those that share my interest in action, adventure, and the great outdoors. That day I began to develop the plot of the Kids vs. Nature series, and I think they do a good job of accomplishing the goals I set out to achieve.

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your books?

Like any good book or series there are multiple themes and messages I hope readers take away from these books. The main one, as mentioned before, is that I hope readers learn things that will help them to survive similar situations, should they every become lost in the wilderness. A lot of factual information and strategies have been added to the back of each book in order to help accomplish this goal. I also tried not to sensationalize the stories too much. Most of the situations the characters encounter remain simple and realistic to things average people might experience in real life.

                Because the characters in the series encounter many different ecosystems, I also designed the books be informative. Readers will be able to learn about different animals, plants, and environments.

                Lastly, there are various social issues involved in the stories. Friendships, social group dynamics, and bullying are matters frequently encountered throughout the series. Characters have to work through prior perceptions of one another in order to grow and develop from one book to another. Hopefully readers can relate to some of these issues and find the lessons that the characters learn to be applicable in their own lives.

4) If you could sit down with any character in your book series, what would you ask them and why?

I would like to sit with Tyler. He’s an odd, quirky guy but has a lot of admirable traits. I wouldn’t have anything particular to ask him. I’d rather sit and listen to him talk.

5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I’m not active on social media. Perhaps I should be. Writing time is precious. To get writing done you have to chose not to do other things. Limiting social media and television are two main ways that I carve out time during the week to make progress on my stories.

I have a website where readers message me. They also send letters in the mail. As far as developing readership goes, most authors will say that the best way to gain readers is to publish more books. I’m still beginning my writing career, but hopefully when people read stories like the Kids vs. Nature series they will want to go back and read others I have written, like Purple Pup. If they really enjoy these stories, perhaps they’ll tell others about them too. Theoretically, the more stories I complete the more opportunities new readers will have to find my works.

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

If you want to be a writer, you need to write. Do what you can to dedicate some time to this. Don’t expect your first writings to be very good either. It usually takes many years to develop your skills. Expect your first book or two to be unworthy of publishing. This is normal. Keep trying until you finish one that is.

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’m currently writing a young adult historical fiction novel. It takes place during the most recent ice age and will feature Paleo-Indian characters. Beyond that, it’s difficult to say what the future holds. I will continue to write and focus on projects that inspire me the most.

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Interview With Author Stefan Vucak

1)     Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I was born in Croatia, and when my parents immigrated to Australia, I faced a new world, a new language, and a totally new way of life. My parents found it particularly difficult to integrate, but for me and my sister, as kids, we took it in stride. I had devoured books ever since I learned to read, which helped my transition, but writing in English was a path filled with spelling and grammar potholes. It took me a while to master it, and I am still not sure that I have it all. Anyway, while at the university, still reading avidly, I turned my hand to writing short stories, thinking it didn’t look all that hard. Thankfully, some of my early experiments will never see the light of day, but the process did help me hone my writing skills. I sent some of my stories to U.S. magazines, but without success. One day, I told myself, I will get published.

I always wanted to write. Well, not exactly always, but ever since I came across an illustrated book of Jules Verne’s ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, the printed word fueled my imagination. In high school and university, I breezed through essay and writing assignments, truly puzzled why some of my classmates struggled. Books, of course, particularly science fiction, got my ideas factory churning. If others could write short stories and novels, so could I. I first turned my hand to writing short stories. I yearned for the day when people would walk past a bookstore and see my books on display. Vanity? Perhaps, but the fire burning deep within me that urged me to write, also compelled me to share the products of my imagination. Regrettably, just making my way in the world, I could not indulge my passion. I had to find a way to live and support myself. Hence my IT career, but that fire never went out, although I did allow it to die down a bit, frustrated at not being able to find a publisher. Publishing is a savage game, as I came to learn, and publishers are not keen to publish my books just because I wanted to see them in bookstores.

2)     What inspired you to write Lifeliners?

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‘Lifeliners’ began as an idea for a short story on a long flight from Europe to Melbourne, Australia, my home. I always have my notebook handy, never knowing when inspiration would strike. Tired of browsing through inflight entertainment, I began jotting down notes to flesh out a story about an emerging new human able to draw energy from someone by touching them. Birthrates in Western countries had been falling for a while, accompanied by growing sterility. A product of our high-pressure technological lifestyle and high density urban living, explained the pundits. Nature decided that lifeliners were the answer who would over time replace the ‘normals’. As expected, this development was not received well by the general population, and governments everywhere began to blame lifeliners for failure of bad economic policies, introducing draconian laws to curtail their rights and freedoms.

Well, I wrote the short story, posted it on my website, and I thought I was done with it. Time to finish what was then my latest book project ‘Legitimate Power’. Once I had it published, I began reviewing ideas for a new book – and kept coming back to the lifeliners story. It was one thing to write a short story, but fleshing it out into a full-length novel was not something I had in mind, wanting to write another contemporary political drama/thriller. But the bug had bitten me and lifeliners began to haunt my days. The only way I would have peace was to write the damned book.

3)     What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

When I write a novel, I don’t set out to promote a particular message to readers. If something emerges from the story that readers can relate to, it would be a byproduct of the story and the characters in it. Of course, most novels deal with familiar themes: personalities, conflict, betrayal, self-reflection, overcoming adversity; the list goes on. These are all present in any book, whether a crime novel, a political thriller, love story, or just a good adventure yarn. The hard part is for a writer to utilize these themes into what will hopefully end up as an enjoyable and entertaining read. After all, isn’t that the aim of every book?

4)     What drew you into this particular genre?

Although ‘Lifeliners’ is science fiction set in 2032, it is not hard sci-fi of my previous books. I suppose I could have set the novel in present time, but I did not feel comfortable with the idea. It would not feel ‘real’. Moving it slightly into the future and taking advantage of several emerging technologies has, I believe, provided enough time for lifeliners to emerge and generate an impact on societies and governments, and the negative reaction their presence has produced. The story background is also familiar to readers without having to create a new social setting far removed from present time.

5)     If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

With a science fiction series and six contemporary political drama/thriller novels behind me, I have created a number of interesting characters. During the writing process, they sometimes say and do unexpected and surprising things, and I allow them a degree of indulgence. I believe it spices up my writing. However, I don’t give them free reign, having to keep in mind the plot and the story. With ‘Lifeliners’, Nash Bannon has turned into a character with whom I could converse at length. Having the society at large after him, and lifeliners in general, his views on life, colored by negative experiences by his fellow humans, would provide a unique perspective on people, ethics, and behavioral norms. Our veneer of civilization is very thin, hiding what is a barely controlled savage. I would enjoy exploring all these things with him.

6)     What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I cannot say that any one social media outlet has helped brand my name or acted as a marketing platform for my books, or that any of them have helped boost my book sales. It is a tough game out there where some books do well for no apparent reason, and others simply fade away. I just plug away on several outlets, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads, and trust that what I have to say will attract readers and buyers. Doing an occasional interview also helps! I use my website extensively to post general articles of interest, and blogs on writing, and the publishing industry in general.

7)     What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

If there is one thing I learned over the years as a writer, if anyone is contemplating taking this on seriously, he or she should be prepared to spend many lonely hours with a pencil and paper, and sitting behind a computer screen. There will be disappointments, frustration, angst … and moments of sheer exhilaration and satisfaction when the words flow and the creative process produces something wonderful. Writing is a gift, but it can also be a curse. However, once bitten with the urge to create, there is no cure.

These days, it is easy to self-publish, and outlets like Amazon and Smashwords are replete with good books. Unfortunately, they are also full of amateurish efforts, which has contributed to a negative reputation of ebooks. Most authors dream of finding an agent and being published by a traditional publisher. I have those thoughts myself. However, traditional publishers rarely take up new writers, always keeping an eye on the bottom line. They are running a business to make money, not cater to hopeful authors. It is tough, but that is the hard reality. Another tough reality is the ongoing need to market and promote my books. As I mentioned in one of my Tweets, ‘Writing fills my soul, and marketing empties it’.

8)     What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

Having just finished ‘Lifeliners’, I need a break to recharge. I have a brief outline for a short story, and now that I have the time, I will flesh it out and post it to my website. Like most writers, I have a number of ideas for a new novel, but two stand out that I need to look at closely before deciding which one will end up as a book. For now, I will let both ideas simmer for a while, but not too long. The urge to write, to create, will not allow me to be idle for too long. Before tackling my next project, I will spend some time doing book reviews, hopefully provide editing services on the side, and indulge in reading, golf, and doing odd things around the house that I have been putting off. No hurry.

Author bio and links:

Stefan Vucak

Stefan Vučak has written eight Shadow Gods Saga sci-fi novels and six contemporary political drama books. He started writing science fiction while still in college, but did not get published until 2001. His Cry of Eagles won the Readers’ Favorite silver medal award, and his All the Evils was the prestigious Eric Hoffer contest finalist and Readers’ Favorite silver medal winner. Strike for Honor won the gold medal.

Stefan leveraged a successful career in the Information Technology industry, which took him to the Middle East working on cellphone systems. He applied his IT discipline to create realistic storylines for his books. Writing has been a road of discovery, helping him broaden his horizons. He also spends time as an editor and book reviewer. Stefan lives in Melbourne, Australia.

To learn more about Stefan, visit his:

Website: www.stefanvucak.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/StefanVucakAuthor

Twitter: @stefanvucak

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stefan-vucak-65572360

Read more about ‘Lifeliners’ here: https://www.stefanvucak.com/books/lifeliners/

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Interview with Travis Smith

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I got into writing about superheroes and philosophy after reading an article by Adam Barkman published in Comment magazine. I could give that a try, I thought. Why not? Barkman looked at superheroes from a “mythological” point of view; I would prefer to look at them from a somewhat more human perspective. When I discovered an article by Jonathan V. Last in The Weekly Standard that I disagreed with I took it as an opportunity to respond. Last argued for the timeliness of the Christopher Nolan trilogy of Batman films; I argued that Spider-Man was a better hero for our times, in commemoration of what was then the fiftieth anniversary of Spider-Man’s first appearance. Little did I know that this one article would lead to an entire book on the subject.

2) What inspired you to write your book?

University professors are asked to find ways to engage in the public dissemination of knowledge. Most of our research is written for an academic audience. How does someone like myself take what I study and teach in the history of political philosophy and make it relevant for a wider audience? Well, if Plato can discuss the popular heroes of his time, whose adventures are depicted in the epic poems of Homer, then why can’t I look into superheroes, whose stories have become popularized lately in so many feature films? I look at them to find out what they might teach us about ourselves and our ideals—who we imagine ourselves to be at our best, or who we would become if only we could be better than we are?

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I’d point to the value of thinking critically about the things we happen to enjoy, and the possibility of thinking critically about ourselves in the process. This is something we can do even with respect to our amusements—the music we like, the TV shows we binge on, the athletes we admire, the vloggers we subscribe to. Focusing on questions of ethics when doing so leads us to wonder: How does thinking about the character of this or that person, whether real or fictional, help me to better understand the worldview and motivations of people similar to them—whether that’s someone I’ve encountered in my private life, or public figures like politicians, leading professionals, or outspoken celebrities? What answers to life’s problems do they represent, and should we heed them? What does whether I like or dislike some particular person or character tell me about myself?

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

In the classroom, I draw on a lot of examples from popular culture in order to make old ideas and arguments seem relevant and familiar to my students. With respect to superhero stories in particular, I’ve read plenty of comic books over the years and re-watched the movies based on them more than enough. I put that hobby to use in Superhero Ethics.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I would like to know why Tony Stark doesn’t share his most advanced technologies with everyone—whether they want him to or not. Why not save people from ever needing saving again through upgrades and alterations to the human condition? Not that I would want him to—but I don’t really understand why he doesn’t. That said, I’d be concerned that by pushing him on it I might inadvertently convince him to give it a try, or else stop playing the hero entirely. Either way, better to keep my mouth shut, really. The most interesting line of dialogue to me in Avengers: Infinity War occurs when Thanos tells Iron Man, “You are not the only one cursed with knowledge.” In Superhero Ethics I argue that Tony Stark willfully refrains from drawing the furthermost consequences of his views regarding human nature and our place in the cosmos—including, ultimately, that he himself is insignificant. He struggles with a nagging suspicion that his pride—which is substantial—is vanity, and all of his efforts and sacrifices are offered in vain.

I’d also like to hear Wolverine explain his fascination with Japan. I think it’s because culturally, feudal Japan is practically the exact opposite of present-day Canada. We can be glad that imperial Japan at its worst was ended non-fictionally and still romanticize traditional Japanese society in fiction as representing honor-based society at its best. Still, I’d like to hear Logan’s perspective on it over a few bottles of beer, hoping he’ll call me “bub” at least once—and that I’ll be able to sneak out the back door of the dive bar before the inevitable brawl gets underway.

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Personally, I avoid using social media. I worry that it’s an engine of incivility.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Read. A lot. Read a lot of good books. Even books you imagine you’ll dislike by authors you expect to disagree with. For starters, read about Achilles sulking in his tent in the Iliad if you haven’t already. Also, learn to take criticism well, and be your own harshest critic. Reread everything you write, out loud, and ask yourself if it actually says what you want it to say in the best possible way. Always be revising but recognize that your words will never be perfect. Nothing that you decide today is good enough for now will seem good enough later in retrospect—and that’s okay.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

Some people have asked me whether I’ll write about Superheroine Ethics next. Or perhaps Supervillain Ethics. What about something fandom-adjacent, like Pro Wrestling Ethics? Within this genre, I haven’t decided yet. As a professor of political theory, I intend to publish more on the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, including pieces informed by my analyses of superhero stories, on subjects such as bravery, magic, and the imagination. I’m convinced that Thomas Hobbes himself thinks he’s like a superhero or something.

Bonus/Fun Questions:

Who was your favorite superhero growing up?

On Saturday morning cartoons, I liked Green Lantern best, mainly because of Sinestro. As a teen, I connected most with Rogue. For over a dozen years now though, Ms./Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) has been my favorite. I await her feature film debut in 2019 with great anticipation.

Do you prefer Marvel or DC? Or do you find them to be on equal footing overall?

When I wrote Superhero Ethics, I didn’t just focus on my favorite characters. I wanted the book to be accessible to casual fans and a general readership. I didn’t want it to be accessible only to those of us who have read a hundred thousand comic books. My book might give the impression that I prefer Marvel, but my analyses weren’t decided by my subjective preferences. I tried to give more generous readings to characters who interest me less and be tougher on characters I like most. Speaking personally, I am a fan of both universe’s characters. I started reading comic books as a pre-teen at the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and DC successfully persuaded me to disregard the pre-Crisis multiverse as no longer relevant and too confusing and supposedly unsophisticated. As I have gotten older, however, I have discovered how fantastic Silver Age Superman, Flash, Legion, and Earth-Two stories are. I have also enjoyed exploring DC’s western and war genre comics, too, such as Jonah Hex and Haunted Tank.

Which non-Marvel or -DC hero do you think would fit into the ethical discussion of superheroes? 

Sailor Moon and The Tick were favorites of mine when I was young. Captain Planet probably deserves some critical analysis, too, but I don’t think I could sit through enough episodes to assess the character fully.

If you were to create your own hero based on the ethical discussions raised in your book, what would that hero’s name be, what powers would they have (if any), and what villain/threat would they face to mirror the challenges of our world?

I already have a hero in my wife. [Awwww!] Putting up with me and my hobbies has got to be challenge enough. And who knows what kind of villainy I’d be up to if she wasn’t always asking me, “What are you doing?!?” I try to keep in mind how Aristotle would have told Ajax to listen to Tecmessa.

Thank you, Anthony, for the opportunity to discuss Superhero Ethics with you. I’m glad that you enjoyed the book!

About the Author:
Smith_Travis
Travis Smith is the author of Superhero Ethics (Templeton Press). He received his PhD from Harvard University and is associate professor of political science at Concordia University. He has been collecting comic books since he bought Uncanny X-Men #207 with his allowance in 1986. His writing has appeared in the Weekly Standard and Convivium Magazine. For more information, please visit https://www.templetonpress.org/books/superhero-ethics

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Interview with Brandon Dragan

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I grew up Northeastern New Jersey and have loved writing for as long as I can remember. My mom tells a funny story of a third-grade teacher who said that during writing assignments most of the kids would come to her desk with a few sentences scribbled and ask if they had written enough, but I would walk up asking for more paper. So, there’s always been that desire to write and express myself, although for the better part of my life I had trouble really sticking with it. I ended up focused mainly on writing songs and actually pursued it for a bit in Nashville, Tennessee, but pretty quickly found that I wasn’t a good enough musician to really hack it there. Eventually, I think I was about 25, married and working a regular corporate job when the idea for a story hit me and I just couldn’t shake it. That idea would eventually become my first novel, “The Wages of Grace,” which will hopefully be out later this year.
2) What inspired you to write your book?
As far as the writing of my newest short story “Cast No Shadow,” again it was really just a thought that hit me between the eyes and I couldn’t shake it. I absolutely love complex characters who are capable of enormous good and repulsive evil. I think most human beings are capable of both, so I really wanted to explore the thought of a good, loving, respected family man who also has a propensity toward violence and aggression toward those he finds evil or criminal.
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3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I don’t particularly want to feed readers what they should they think, so I’ll be careful here. When art is compelling it’s because of what each person brings to it. If anything, I would hope that this story raises questions about the concept of “just” violence. Is there such a thing as “good” violence, or does it all just feed into a nasty cycle? “Cast No Shadow” does touch on several themes-many of which were not intentional when I initially wrote it, such as race, children with guns, the war on drugs, etc. It is a short story, but I feel like there is a lot of meat there and I hope everyone who reads it will come away with something to chew on.
4) What drew you into this particular genre?
I was drawn into this type of story mainly by my admiration for the work of Cormac McCarthy. After reading “No Country For Old Men” I always had the desire to write a kind of “modern western.” 
5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?
If I could sit down with any character, I think it would be Annabelle. Although she maybe comes across as a bit mousy at first, though that’s probably not the best description, I think we find by the end of the story that she’s the strongest character in it. I would love to explore her background and particularly ask why she allowed Beau his vigilante fantasy when it’s clear that was something she never wanted any part of.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I am, unfortunately, not quite a dynamo when it comes to social media, but as far as connecting with actual readers, rather than just followers, I would have to say Facebook has been most helpful.
7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?
My advise for any upcoming or aspiring writers would be to do it for the love of it. Don’t expect a big pay day, don’t write to try to make a living. Write because something deep in you needs out and don’t give up on it. Write for you and be equal parts honest and kind to yourself.
8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?
I have got lots on the radar. My debut novel “The Wages of Grace” is complete, save one last round of nit-picky edits and cover art. I am hoping to release it in the fall or early next year. I’m also about 90% done with a rough draft on a work of Pride and Prejudice fan fiction, which I’ll be sharing some details about soon. I’ve got another novel in the oven and lots of ideas, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again!

Interview with Author Peter Bailey

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

Tripadvisor was my gateway drug to authorship. I wrote up a completely factual holiday report, but using a comic style that I borrowed from Douglas Adams with a dash of Terry Pratchett and people loved it! It got over a hundred responses and it was as if a lightbulb had gone on. I can write! And I’ve been trying to prove it ever since

The report is still on-line and can be seen here https://goo.gl/CNUaCZ

 

2) What inspired you to write your book?

 

I thought it was a good idea. I’ve always hates the idea of an effect without a cause (lots of books have zombies, but very few explain *why* the dead are suddenly ambling around.) But I had an idea that would not only explain the sort-of-zombies but also why someone would want them.

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3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

 

Hope. That there is always a way, there is always a sunrise.

 

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

 

Stephen King. I picked up Salem’s Lot on a whim mumbly years ago and loved the clear direct way he could tell a story, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

 

5) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

 

Facebook. Everyone tells me that Twitter is the place to be, but as someone once said. A twit is like shouting in a crowded room.

 

6) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

 

Keep on keeping on, and, it’s easier to correct a page of bad wring than a page of no writing

 

7) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

My third book ‘One step way’ is being published soon. This opens with three suicide bombers who step out from their Bronx apartment to an alien world that will be their prison for the rest of their lives. My forth book (so far untitled) opens with two men driving their car into the Hudson River and deliberately drowning themselves.

Interview with Author Shauna Packer

A couple of months ago, I had the distinct honor to review and help share the word on an important novel called Destroying Their God: How I Fought My Evil Half-Brother To Save My Children by Wallace Jeffs, Shauna Packer and Sherry Taylor. You can read the full review here.  This book is an extremely important look at the FLDS cult and the impact it has on it’s members and their families. I am now fortunate to be able to share an exclusive interview with one of the authors, Shauna Packer. Here is what she had to say about her experience writing this story and how she views the events related in it.

 

1: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you meet and eventually collaborate with Wallace Jeffs and Sherry Taylor?

Sherry and I have known each other for years as we volunteered in leadership positions through the League of Utah Writers. Sherry became acquainted with Wallace from a business networking group in the Salt Lake area. Wallace was in the movie, Prophet’s Prey, and a big-name producer/director (won’t name drop here) approached him and said he wanted to make a movie based on Wallace’s life story, but first, he wanted a book written. Wallace approached Sherry to co-author the book, but at that juncture, the timeframe for completing the project was only six months, so she asked me if I would like to join so it could be fast-tracked. As a professional writer for many years, I have been asked to collaborate on multiple books and, though I find all ideas interesting, have always refused. But when I heard Wallace’s story, of almost dying in order to protect his daughters from spiritual slavery, I knew this was one opportunity I couldn’t pass up! I believe strongly in a commitment to family, and the loyalty and sacrifice Wallace made for his children proved a theme that resonated deeply with my core values. I am continually grateful I had a chance to work on this project with Sherry and Wallace. After four years of co-authoring together, we get along well and enjoy a friendship and strong team commitment to each other individually as well as to our book.

 

2: What was the process like working on Destroying Their God?

Sherry and I would go to Wallace’s place and interview him as he told his life story. Or, sometimes we met at a restaurant or bookstore (nearby patrons were often quite intrigued by our conversation!). Some evenings there were things he wanted to speak about in particular; sometimes we had questions and we directed the interview. Then, I would come back to my home office and write the chapters and send them to Sherry for her feedback and addition/deletions. Quite often, we would have a lot of additional questions as we started laying out chapters and sections, so there was a great amount of follow up and digging down to do. We also had to make sure we put things into the correct historical context, sometimes that proved a challenge because access to FLDS records can be spotty or completely unavailable. Personally, I was super interested in the everyday life of an FLDS family. As a mother of children myself, I marveled at how you would even go about cooking meals for the sixty-five-plus children. So, alongside the details of Wallace’s life, Sherry and I asked a lot of questions about family dynamics. From a reader’s perspective, the feedback has been interesting: some of our readers felt like we included too many day-to-day details and some were quite frustrated that we did not include a whole lot more! But that’s the great thing about reading, it is a personal experience and preference.

 

3: What message do you hope this book sends to readers who are unfamiliar with FLDS or who don’t realize the affects both physically and psychologically on those who escape destructive religions? 

 

The truth of what happens in the FLDS and the reality of Wallace’s life is shocking to a lot of people. It certainly was to me. As a writing team, we genuinely strived with this book to illuminate, without hitting people over the head with the message, that being raised in the FLDS lifestyle demands certain behaviors and compliance or you doom yourself to destruction. It can be easy when reading about another’s life to become somewhat of an armchair psychologist. However, although highly suspicious to an outsider, this lifestyle literally represents life and death to people who are in the midst of the madness. If Wallace, or any other faithful FLDS member, would have chosen to leave, they would be banished from their family, their homes, their livelihood, their friends, and ultimately, in their minds, their salvation. Leaving the priesthood people and land equates a total loss of everything and utter destruction. This is especially a heavy reality when your own father, the prophet, and your mother represented this as absolute truth from birth. It is a culture of control and fear. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Wallace’s healing and ability to operate in a world he was raised to believe was wicked. I hope that the book not only educates, but also allows people to examine their own personal values. Wise individuals with sound moral compasses can indeed be manipulated by a parental and religious culture.

 

4: What would you say was the most difficult aspect of writing this novel?

There is some really raw information included in the book. In order for the reader (and Sherry and I) to understand why Wallace was willing to die to protect his children, we had to spend a lot of time with dark and gritty subject matter. This included listening to many hours of audio tapes made by Warren of his degradations. As a woman and mother to daughters myself, I can still scarcely believe what these women had to endure in order to attain salvation. However, I believe that writing should be about truth and we need to stand in that truth. Some publishers were interested in the story, but wanted us to remove some of the more challenging subject matter. We agreed as a team that as much as we found what happened repugnant, we had to recount it in truth, without allowing it to become gratuitous.

 

There is also a building up to extreme cruelty toward Wallace. Warren is a master of creating custom-made punishments, tailored to the individual “sinner”. I don’t want to give away too much of the book, but after Wallace defied his brother, Warren customized a punishment that is every parent’s worst nightmare. The night we discussed this event was a somber one indeed. I waited until I got to my car, because Wallace doesn’t like to see women cry and it seemed disrespectful to get rattled about something so personal to him, but how the tears flowed when I was alone! I even traveled down to St. George, Utah (about five hours from where I live) because I wanted to see the house where these painful events occurred and I also wanted to see where Wallace’s accident took place. Even though I have read this book dozens of times, I still get choked up when I read certain parts. I always have to call Wallace or text him to say, “I’m so sorry you had to go through this!” His reply is generally, “Thank you, but it’s what made me the man I am today.”

 

5: If you were able to reach out and talk to those still living the FLDS life, what would you want to say to them? 

That there are people and resources available to help them leave this cult. I do not believe it is God’s wish for families to be torn apart and for a prophet to constantly preach a message that says members are not worthy of the blessings of heaven. I would also share with them the many audio files Warren recorded, which are actively withheld from the FLDS people by leadership, and his own jail confession that “I am not the prophet”. They don’t have to lead a life based completely in fear, there are many who will help them discover the truth and find their own path!

 

6: What was the process like working with Wallace and diving into the ins and outs of FLDS and their practices?

Fascinating! I wanted to know everything and could still spend hours asking questions. When we are interviewed as a team, I never tire of listening to what Wallace has to say. The reality of growing up FLDS is a little hard to wrap your mind around. I really admire Wallace’s bravery; he always has an open and forthcoming attitude. Wallace has had a lot of things happen to him in his life, but he never wants to be seen as a victim. To write a book such as this, you really need to crawl through the cobwebs and challenge, probe, examine and then examine some more. There is a lot of digging into emotions and difficult memories. However, we chose to write the book in a more journalistic tone to match Wallace’s personality and so it wouldn’t seem overly emotional, as if he felt sorry for himself for the life events he experienced.

 

7: What’s next for you personally as an author? Any other projects on the horizon? Would you want to work on a memoir similar to this in the future?

I am always open to discussing future book ideas. If another project like Wallace’s came along that captivated me with a story of courage, love, and triumph, yes, I would definitely consider working on another memoir. I think Wallace has a few more books in him as well, and we have discussed further collaboration. I have my writing business, consulting with executives, corporations, and fiction authors on their content and editing needs. That keeps me happily occupied as I work on new books. Currently, I am in development on another non-fiction project. I also have a fictional short story that I wrote years ago and would and like to turn into a novel. It’s more of a happy story about redemption and it feels right at this moment in my career to work on something a little more upbeat. I have two completed novels I am in the process of marketing to agents. One is historical fiction called The Shadows of Plain Sight, set in post-Civil War Nevada, and the other, Ways To Go, is a women’s fiction novel.

 

Thank you for your time. It was an honor to speak with you and thank you for sharing this important story with the world. 

 

Shauna Packer

Shauna Packer Headshot

 

Shauna Packer has been a professional corporate and freelance writer, researcher, and content editor for over twelve years. She is a multi-award-winning fiction and non-fiction author. Shauna has been published in several commercial anthologies, including Angels to Bear You Up, Utah Voices: A Literary Annual, and Mother’s Messages in a Bottle. Though she has crafted a great deal of non-fiction over the years, Destroying Their God is her first full-length non-fiction book. She resides in the Salt Lake area with her family, including two cats named after candy bars.

 

Find Shauna Packer at:

 

https://www.instagram.com/shaunapacker/  

https://www.linkedin.com/in/shaunadansie/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17815620.Shauna_Packer

https://twitter.com/spackerauthor

https://www.facebook.com/Shauna-Packer-210939476157092/

http://www.destroyingtheirgod.com

 

Interview With Author Thomas Neviaser

Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’m a retired orthopedic surgeon who opted for the “good life” after 33 years of practice in Virginia. I decided to trade in my scalpel for a word processor.

In theory, I’ve been writing for decades, but all of that work has been in the orthopedic field of medicine. I have authored over 40 peer reviews articles, written chapters in orthopedic textbooks, presented at symposiums and instructional courses, but did not start writing for fun until I retired in 2000. Mm first endeavor was an informative yet humorous book, Man’s Unofficial Guide to the Use of His Garage, followed by a collection of short stories, The Comb in the Urinal and other Perplexities of Life, about everyday objects we all see in very unusual places and how they got there. Some stories are fictional but some of the stories actually happened to me.

At the encouragement of family and friends, I published (2016) my non-fiction orthopedic manuscript, THE WAY I SEE IT: A Head-to-Toe Guide to Common Orthopaedic Condtions, a guide for the layperson and orthopedic patients so they could educate themselves to their conditions and be able to converse with their doctors in intelligible manners. There are 90 conditions discussed as well as 80 diagrams/photos/x-rays included. Medical terminology is phonetically spelled and explained in easy to understand language.

What inspired you to write your book?

My first novel, YOU DEAR SWEET MAN (2017), was inspired by a digital photo in a subway car advertisement poster while I was traveling into Washington, DC. It was so vividly clear and almost three dimensional, I thought the woman in the ad would move if I stared at it long enough. Hence, the idea for the book was born. A blue-collar worker is seduced into the unsavory world of advertising by an attractive but evil woman whose alter-ego poses as a model in a most unique subway car ad, becomes his living fantasy, and ultimately defines his destiny.

What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I think this book illustrates how easily people can be swayed from their lives and think that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

What drew you into this particular genre?

I always loved books and TV shows that were somewhat out of box, made me think, and yet surprised me with the ending.

If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

I would choose Samantha, the antagonist in YOU DEAR SWEET MAN. The question would be, “Sam, why in the world would you use your exceptional extra-sensory abilities for evil rather than good?”

What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

I have never been interested in social media until I started writing. I’m still not a fan, but found it necessary to have some platform for myself, my orthopedic guide, and all of my books. I would have to say, Facebook, but as I said, I’m not that enthusiastic about it. I’m not on Twitter and a novice at Instagram. I guess I’m old school to the core.

What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Write what comes to your mind and keep writing. Correct all the mistakes later. I found that if trying to write grammatically correct, one loses concentration and tends to grind to a halt quickly. It one of the reasons for “Writer’s Block!”

What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I have just finished my second novel, THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 2222, a book I’ve been writing for sixty years, believe it or not. When I was in high school, I wrote this short story about a plane crash and the subsequent trials and tribulations of nine passengers as they endure stresses well beyond one’s imagination leading to physical and mental decline, paranoia, death, sharks, bad weather and open seas pirates. Their subsequent rescue only initiates another trip from which they can never escape.

I finally decided to expand the story that had been in the back of my mind for six decades, and now:

THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 2222 will be launched on July 25, 2018 on Amazon. It should soon be on the Amazon’s pre-order list, and I hope all your readers will read and review it.

Thank you so much for asking me to participate in your blog interview,

Thomas Neviaser

 

Man’s Unofficial Guide to the Use of His garage: