Tag Archives: interview

Interview with Author Michael J. Stiehl


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

When I was a kid I fell in love with writing through comic books. I loved stories by Peter David, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman and so many others – the 80’s were golden years for writing in comics. Later I was drawn to George R. R. Martin’s Wildcards books, which ultimately led me to Isaac Asimov and classic Sci-Fi.

As a kid I would daydream about superheroes and science fiction, occasionally trying to put those dreams on paper but never finishing anything. In college I migrated from creative writing to journalism before becoming pragmatic and abandoning the idea of writing for a living altogether to pursue other interests.

I still thought about writing after college though, even starting a book or short story from time to time but never finishing it. Finally, a few years ago, after giving a friend of mine feedback on his third novel, he suggested I give writing another try.

I’m glad I did.

Since then I’ve been writing as much regular life allows, creating characters, stories and worlds. It’s the most fun I’ve had doing something in a long time. Recently I re-watched the movie Stand By Me – which I loved as a kid – and was struck by the scene where Chris tells Gordie he could be a real writer if he tried and that the stories he can make up are a gift he shouldn’t lose. 

It reminded me that creativity is a gift and that I should make the most of what talent I have. I’m happy to say that my novella Sanctuary is my reward for doing just that.

What inspired you to write your book?

I wrote a novella a few years ago that didn’t work but that had a character in it named Theobard that I liked. I couldn’t shake wanting to know more about him, who he was and where he came from. Sanctuary started as my attempt to answer those questions.

Once I started writing I got interested in the idea of how sometimes people we meet, and fall in love with, change our lives forever. From there Dellia came into view and I could tell right away the interactions between Dellia and Theobard were exciting. The story took off from there, driven by Theobard’s past and present but altered by his feelings for Dellia.

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

I’d like readers to consider that sometimes you have to be who you are, no matter what. However, choosing that truth can come with a price but, even if it’s a huge price, being who you are is worth it. It’s like Shakespeare said “This above all: to thine own self be true…”

What drew you into this particular genre?

This particular story started out as a straight romance but quickly changed as I began writing. In the back of my head I kept thinking about old gothic mysteries like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I love how that book makes you think it’s going to be one thing, a Victorian drama, and then turns into a sort of ghost / horror story. I wanted a story with a compelling set of characters that lead you through an unfamiliar place to uncover a mystery. I’m not sure what genre I’ve landed on, but it certainly has bits of fantasy, romance, horror and mystery in it.


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

I would sit down with Mansell, owner of Mansell’s Marvels in the Mantori Bazaar. As a merchant of the most unique items available, I would ask him which was his favorite object, how he found it and why it was his favorite. Mansell, being a good salesman, would no doubt have a great story to tell, one that would leave me convinced the object was of immense value and interest. I would probably by it from him at too high a price and then be left wondering if it really was his favorite object or just the one he thought he could sell me.

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

I am terrible at social media. I have a Facebook page that I neglect and I’m on Reddit but that’s about it. I do have author’s pages on both Amazon and Goodreads but beyond that I don’t spend a lot of time on social media. I will say that I have found things like Submission Grinder invaluable for finding new open calls and writing opportunities.

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

  1. The following three things are true:
    1. The old quote by Hemingway, “the only kind of writing is rewriting.” 
    2. The advice Stephen King gives in his book “On Writing” that the second draft should always be ten percent shorter than the first
    3. Neil Gaiman’s advice from his Master Class to always finish your story.

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

I have a couple of submissions out there I’m waiting to hear back about, both of which are exciting. One is a short story I like a lot for a very cool music themed anthology. The other is another novella I completed earlier this year set in the same world as Sanctuary but with completely different characters. I’ve got my fingers crossed that both will see print. Other than that, I’m still fooling around with a story about Houdini in World War 1 that I hope to finish one of these days.


About the Author

Michael J. Stiehl has had a lifelong passion for fiction, in particular horror, comics, adventure and science fiction, and is thrilled to finally be writing some of his own.  Michael lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife, two kids and his very silly poodle Jack. When not writing fiction, Michael spends his time riding bikes, camping, reading books, obsessively listening to music and playing D&D with his friends. In short, he hasn’t changed a bit since junior high.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/michael_stiehl

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/michaelstiehl

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michael.stiehl

Interview with Author Laura Pratt

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

I am a career writer. I’ve made my living as a journalist for almost thirty years. I would say, however, that I didn’t really find my voice until I started writing creative nonfiction.

What inspired you to write your book?

In 2018, I went to the University of King’s College in Halifax to start a two-year program in creative nonfiction. I earned my MFA in 2020. The graduate thesis for this program is in fact a book, which we work through with mentors over the course of two years. Ideally, you have your book finished in alignment with the program. I chose to write about heartbreak because it has been such a powerful experience in my life. My story, coupled with a range of more scholarly explorations into the phenomenon of this universal experience, seemed like juicy fodder for a creative nonfiction project.

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

I think the biggest takeaway I envision for this book is that you’re OK. I’m OK. We’re all OK. If you’re reeling from heartbreak, you needn’t imagine you’re failing society or yourself or anyone at all for your failure to surface according to some perceived timetable. It’s OK to be reeling. It’s OK to hurt and yearn and struggle for a long time. I want people to stop judging themselves for not being OK, and to be kind to themselves in the face of their discomfort and despair. To realize, through my story, that it is entirely natural to hurt for a long time. They are not losers. They are only human.

What drew you into this particular genre?

Creative nonfiction is a natural fit for me. As a journalist, I am deeply concerned with the truth and feel strongly about holding my writing accountable to facts alone. But the *creative* aspect of this approach to writing was a wonderful discovery for me. Here, writers apply the tools and literary devices of creative writing (think: character development, scenes, detailed description, dialogue, etc.) to nonfiction. It elevates factual storytelling to a much more compelling and enjoyable place.

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

I have launched an Instagram account around this book, and am excited to see where this path takes me. It is my first experience on that platform and I’m hopeful for its reach in terms of attracting readers.

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

Keep going. It’s hard to write a book. It takes tremendous stick-to-it-iveness and patience. It’s a lot of work and a lot of words. But you need only to take a stroll through a bookstore, electronic or brick-built, to come away encouraged by the number of people who have been able to pull off this enormous undertaking. Have faith in yourself. If all those folks could do it, why not you?

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

I make my living now as a book editor, but feel strongly that there are more memoirs on my near horizon. I am a mother to four kids who are all young adults now, and I am kicking around ideas for another memoir that delves into this stage of maternal life. But I am so consumed right now with giving “Heartbroken” the birth it deserves, that I don’t want to muddy the waters by thinking too much ahead. I have loved every minute of writing this book and am awfully excited at the prospect of getting it out into the world. Thank you for taking the time for this conversation!


About the Author

LAURA PRATT is a long-time journalist, writer and editor. She writes for Canadian magazines and edits books. Her first memoir, The Fleeting Years, was published in 2004. She lives in Toronto with whichever of her kids and dogs she can corral to join her. She’s a 2020 graduate of the University of King’s College’s creative nonfiction MFA. She won an honourable mention in Prairie Fire’s 2020 CNF contest and was shortlisted for The Fiddlehead’s 2019 CNF contest. She has served as a judge at the National Magazine Awards for several years.



The Southern Magicks (The Southern Magicks Book One) by Ashton K. Rose Review and Author Interview

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After walking away from the world of magic they grew up in, one person is forced to work as an exorcist after being framed as a vigilante in author Ashton K. Rose’s “The Southern Magicks”, the first book in the series of the same name.


The Synopsis

A month ago, a demon tore the thin veneer of a normal life I’d crafted apart when it almost killed me. Revealing my husband, Eli, as the prodigal son of a powerful magic family.

When I grew up, I walked away from magic. Left my remote hometown and pretended the ghosts Gran taught me to see weren’t there while I went to university to become a librarian.

Our one secret tightly held to my heart.

Never let them know!

Two years later, with no other financial option, I moved back to my small hometown.

It was easy to pretend the fuzzy gaps in my memory weren’t there as I got a job under the strict woman who almost killed my childhood love of books.

I thought everything was perfect when I married my dream guy.

Then the attack happened.

The “good” folks at the local magical law enforcement agency knew about me the whole time. They’ve pressured me to work for them as an exorcist because they’re convinced I was a vigilante who committed multiple murders. My odd, intriguing mentor Cory watches for any misstep as I avoid the seduction attempt he’s been asked to perform.

Now they’ve accused my estranged older brother of taking over my “crimes.” I know I was framed, despite the gaps in my memory.

The worst part?

The only people who seem to believe me are my friend June and my journalist cousin Kat.

Eli, filled with spite for the local magical rulers, seems to know something I DON’T and thinks I should play them at their own game and seduce my mentor, so we can interrogate him together…

The Southern Magicks is a small-town paranormal urban fantasy/mystery series with a M/M/NB menage romantic subplot. For fans of “The Dresden Files,” “Rivers of London,” “Southern Vampire Mysteries,” “Alex Verus,” and “The Laundry Files” who enjoy LGBTQ+ characters and stories.

The Review

The first thing that really impressed me and drew me into this narrative was the vastness of everything. The scope of the author’s narrative and world-building was astonishing, as the small-town setting bore witness to a grand mythos that sees clashing family dynasties and powerful supernatural beings all coming together in an explosive way. The balance the author found between the mundane and everyday activities that the protagonist saw and the gritty realities of the supernatural threats that come their way was incredible to see come to life on the page.

The character development and grand themes the author delve into complimented one another really well. The themes of homophobia in the world, greed, bigotry, and prejudices, in general, all found their way into the narrative, and allowed the characters, mostly LGBTQ-driven characters, to either flourish or grow as a result of the adversity they are facing, which adds depth and emotion to the more grand supernatural story elements.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thrilling, author Ashton K. Rose’s “The Southern Magicks” is a must-read LGBTQ+ Fantasy and Paranormal & Urban Fantasy novel and a great first entry into the series of the same name. The heart and passion for which the author tells this story and the blend of LGBTQ+ character development with grand magical world-building and emotional themes made this one story I didn’t want to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

The Southern Magicks - Ashton K. Rose

Ashton K. Rose has a new queer fantasy/paranormal romance out: The Southern Magicks. And there’s a giveaway.

How do you prove your innocence when you don’t even remember whether you did it or not?

After a demon attack reveals Dexter’s secret – that his Gran taught him magic – the twenty-three-year-old librarian is forced to work for the local magical law enforcement agency in order to prove his loyalty, and hopefully save his grandmother from execution.

However, when someone tries to frame him for crimes he doesn’t remember committing, Dexter realizes he’ll have to start an investigation of his own. Joined by his beloved husband Eli, their best friend June, and his journalist cousin Kat, he desperately tries to prove his innocence…which is kind of difficult when gaps in his memory make him doubt everything he thinks he knows about himself.

The race against time begins. Can Dexter and his team uncover the criminals weaving the web of guilt around him before it’s too late, or is he going to lose everything and everyone he cares about?

Warnings: Assault, violent imagery, panic attack on page, police brutality

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Ashton is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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The Southern Magicks meme

Chapter 1, Scene 1:

I knew Nora Rowe had died in her home without anyone telling me.

I unlocked the door and my stomach dropped as I took in the sight of the small dim living room of her kit home, filled with books and old newspapers. The acrid smell of cigarettes and wood fire smoke filled my nose as I weaved my way through the stacks. Mismatched flatpack bookshelves that warped under the strain of thousands of books lined the walls. Her living room held no other furniture apart from an old TV and a worn leather armchair—the carpet covered by stained, threadbare rugs.

I flicked the first light switch I saw twice.

Why had I expected the power to work?

I walked over to the windows and pushed the dust-caked lace curtains aside.

My eyes watered as the sun poured into the room.

In the kitchen, the doors of the cupboards hung open. The only things left behind were a few cheap plastic items scattered across the scratched lino.

I stepped on a plastic cup on the floor. I wobbled on my feet for a few sick seconds before I grabbed the counter to steady myself. The sharp aluminium edge bit into the skin of my hand.

This place was a death trap!

She had over twenty library books I had to separate from the donations. My legs shook as I walked to the shelves closest to the door.

I ignored the erratic beating of my heart and the part of my brain telling me to run and pulled out my keys to flick the small key chain light on. I placed it between my teeth and examined the spines for library tags.

When the light hit the grimy glass of a small photo frame on the shelf, I saw something move behind me. I kept my eyes fixed on the glass and used my thumb to clear a spot of dust.

If it hadn’t moved, I could have ignored the human-shaped shadow reflected in the glass.

As a kid, I’d been hassled about seeing things and having an overactive imagination. When I was seven, Gran told me the truth. I shared her secret ability to see ghosts.

I turned to look at the woman who sat in the armchair.

This Nora was a couple of years older than the one who celebrated her birthday in the photo. Her gaze focused on the TV, which would have been new the year Queen Elizabeth was coronated.

I kept my gaze locked on her, blinking one eye at a time.

I slowed my breath and took a careful step backwards to the door. The back of my calf hit something that drove several points of pain into my skin.

The stack of books I knocked over sliced through my composure just as easily as it did the silence in the room, the hard covers and spines slapping against each other as they hit the floor.

“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” Nora stood and turned to face me.

I knew I’d given the game away when I jumped out of my skin and almost dropped my keys.

I made a noise like a dying rat.

She knew I could hear her.

The first thing Gran had taught me was not to let a ghost realise you could sense them. It was dangerous—a trigger for the ire of a vengeful spirit.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Your son gave us the key.”

“Worthless piece of shit. Letting strangers into my house. He stole my grandma’s dinner set for drug money before my body was cold. I saw him put it in his car before he called someone to deal with the mess.”

“I’ll just be going now.”

“Actually, I’ll be going.”

I felt a sharp pain in my chest.

I tried to breathe, but my lungs refused to move.

I couldn’t breathe!

The edge of my vision went black as I gasped for air. I fell flat on my front. I was so focused on trying to breathe, I almost missed the presence pushing at the back of my mind. It started small, a hint of a suggestion. The temptation to give in grew. This was her body. I was nothing but a figment of her imagination. Dexter wasn’t real. Nothing more than a thought exercise to see what it’d be like to be a man her grandson’s age. With each second, it pressed harder, and the urge to give in grew.


It would be easy to give in and never have another worry again. All the pain and pressure of life could vanish if I relaxed and let her take control.


I shivered as I tried to move my arms to push myself onto my hands and knees. I focused on the door. It was only a short crawl. I had to do it. For a second, my vision went entirely black.


I gathered all the strength I had and screamed. The remaining air expelled from my lungs. I took a sharp breath. I moved my stiff arms and pushed myself onto my hands and knees.

I was Dexter; I was real, and this was my body. Nothing would take that away from me.

I closed my eyes and pushed back the ghost. I wrapped a mental net around the invasive presence in my mind and forced it back through the hole where it had entered. A hole it had dug in a part of my mind I didn’t even know existed.

One arm forwards, one leg forwards, and breathe.

Move. Breathe. Move. Breathe.

I made it to the threshold and pulled the door open. I slid headfirst down the concrete stairs to lie on my back.

The pressure in my mind slowly vanished as I fell.

I opened my eyes.

Pale blue sky, almost cloudless.

My eyes watered from the bright light.

The perfect day was oblivious to my plight. The mid-autumn day was hardly different from late summer. I could’ve laid there for hours, but the hot concrete felt like it was melting the skin off my back where my shirt had ridden up. I rolled onto the dead grass beside the cracked front path.

Sweat ran into my eyes as I sat up. I squeezed my eyes shut to clear my vision.

I could still feel the cold air wafting from the open door. I had to shut it. Mrs Gregory was looking for any excuse to fire me. I stood and walked to the threshold.

All I had to do was grab the handle, pull it closed, remove my hand from the handle and step back.

One quick movement.

I could do it.

As I stared, my eyes adjusted to the dim. She stood just inside, her hard eyes focused on me.

She smiled.

I stepped forwards and grabbed the door handle. Her hand shot out towards my arm.

Her pale, icy fingers clamped around my left wrist. I tightened the grip of my right hand around the door handle. I tucked my chin to my chest and threw myself backwards down the stairs, using the weight of my body to swing the door closed. My shirt ripped as I fell backwards; the sleeve stayed in her hand as my arm slipped free.

The air expelled from my lungs as I hit the ground.

I lay on my back and my lungs refused to work. Fixed to the spot in terror, I gasped for air as my body refused to perform. A function that was usually thoughtless had become my only thought, the pinpoint the world had narrowed to.

There was a dizzy relief as I breathed again, and after a few minutes I slowly stood.

Blood ran down my exposed arm, the only part of my body that had hit the thin concrete path.

Ghosts could touch me! Physically hurt me!

I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing, forcing back the panic attack that bubbled in the back of my mind. I knew about the possession, but the touch? Why hadn’t Gran told me? I needed to call Gran, but I knew she couldn’t help me. She hadn’t talked to me about magic since her accident when I was seventeen.

I suspected the accident was magic-related, but she’d kept silent about it.

She’d looked at me sceptically any time I’d mentioned magic afterwards, as though I spoke of childish whimsy and needed to grow up.

So I had.

I’d left Dunn and become a librarian, a nice stable job for a responsible young man who liked books.

A normal young man who had resigned himself to a life of pretending he couldn’t see the dead.

I’d somehow ended up with nowhere else to turn and ended up back in this town.

Now Gran was in America with Aunt Myrtle, so it was hard to get help.

I drove back to the library to pretend I’d been out for my lunch break.

Author Bio

Ashton K. Rose author

Ashton K. Rose (They/Them) is a Queer author who writes Australian paranormal, urban fantasy and mystery fiction filled with LGBTQIA+ characters.

Ashton currently lives in sunny Queensland able to enjoy the best of the Australian bush and beach. Ashton spent their first fourteen years being raised on a remote farm shaped around the remains of an old mining town. Surrounded by the skeletons of past lives and their matching ghost stories, Ashton developed a love for fantasy, horror, and dark fairy tales from a young age.

Carrying a love of ghost stories into adulthood Ashton started writing novels about magic, vampires and ghosts. Ashton decided to set The Southern Magicks in a world heavily inspired by the backdrop of the Australia bush/beach and the speculative fiction Ashton has consumed over a lifetime.

Author Website: https://www.geekaflame.com/

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100086363208232

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/Geek_Aflame

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/geek_aflame/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21982765.Ashton_K_Rose

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/ashtonkrose

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Author Interview

Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?

I write character driven stories, so I usually come up with the plot after I have a couple of compelling/interesting characters. 

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

I’m a part time writer, I need to work a fulltime day job to fund my expensive hobby of publishing books. Over the last couple of months dealing with the business side of indie publishing plus working on my second book has made me feel like I’m working two full time jobs. 

I’d love to be a fulltime creator one day, but I’ve just reached a place where I can pay my bills and start publishing my stories. The results I’ve seen with one book I have no idea how to market have renewed my confidence. I feel like I’m running on fumes but I want to build a writing career that funds its self, even if I can’t ever write full time I’d at least love to be in the position where publish as often I need to and I can afford to release an audiobook on the same day as the eBook/paperback. 

Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?

My cover was created by Coffee and Fantasy Design, I saw their design portfolio in a Tweet mentioning they had schedule space and knew they were my cover artist. I’d already received quotes from a couple of other designers, but I didn’t think I was ready to have a cover yet. I dropped everything to email the owner of Coffee and Fantasy Design with a proposal and secure one of the empty spots in their schedule. 

I do think I was a slightly fussy/controlling client in the beginning, but everything was better when I let my designer take the reins. I’ve learnt a lot more about the eddicute of hiring a cover designer in the last year.

I’m very happy with my cover and it’s better than I could have ever imagined. I do wish I wasn’t so against the idea of a cover with a person on it though because they do seem to sell better in the American market even for adult fiction. 

The best thing you can do with cover designer is to let them do their job. They know their job.

What’s your drink of choice? 

Non-alcoholic: Either French Earl grey or any tea with rose or lavender. 

Alcoholic: Floral or citrus floured gin. 

What other artistic pursuits (it any) do you indulge in apart from writing?

I’ve been learning watercolor painting for a few months. I never really liked it in school because we used cheep paints and never learnt techniques. I’ve always liked the way watercolor paintings look and I knew I didn’t want to use acrylic paints after painting with as a hobby for a while as a teenager. When I wanted a creative hobby away from my computer, I decided to go all the way with learning and brought artist grade paint, cotton paper and good mid-range brushes. I wanted to learn without the quality of my tools damaging my perception of the medium. 

I really enjoy the hobby and constantly find myself improving though I don’t have as much time to paint as I’d like. One day I’d like to be able to draw a graphic novel as there are a few stories I want to tell that need a visual medium to fully shine.

Interview with Author Kinga Szumska 

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

I work and live in London, working in financial services, having a regular job but also breathing with a creative spirit and pursuing my different hobbies such as writing and painting on the side. I’ve always enjoyed keeping a journal but this was on and off. When I was at school – writing was coming my way quite easily but I had a horrible teacher of Polish literature and that definitely discouraged me to pursue my ideas. That brings me to a point of saying that English is my second language as I was born and educated in Poland. Then, moved to London at the age of 21 and my English language is still very far from perfect. But since I read a lot in English I thought let me write in English and get a pro editor to just correct my grammar. This is a great way of improving vocabulary and grammar in your second language. I have been always of creative spirit, painting, and writing stories came to me quite naturally. So let’s see how my creativity unfolds further and in what directions. 


What inspired you to write your book?

The Sacred Mountains was my second book in fact. It follows the theme of a parable – similar to my first book about living and working with purpose – “Dreamford”. I trust stories and parables have special powers to heal us and inspire us in an unusual way. I wanted to bring a few things here together: 

  1. a story of a girl from a small village
  2. an outsider story because there is so many beautiful colorful birds who feel out of place and I want them to know that there is a world they belong to
  3. love for mountains 
  4. the metaphor of mountain climbing as a life story 

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

I trust there are different things for different people to relate to in the book, but the one closest to my heart is: You have your powers. Find them. Go where your home is, where your heart and soul belong to. 

What drew you into this particular genre?

I trust storytelling has the power to change us and enrich our emotional intelligence.


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

I did not expand much on the mother character- I wonder why did she stay in the village, and who she really was. 

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

Your own blog is always a good source and I am a big fan of Instagram.

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

I’d say – just open a word document and start plotting things together, then change them a few times, leave it for some time to forget the story, go back to it, improve and just keep opening your word document and don’t wait for a full story to unfold in your mind, it comes to you more as you start typing!

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

I will definitely write another part of the Sacred Mountains and bring the themes together again, just like I brought Dreamford’s story in The Sacred Mountains together. 


About the Author

Kinga was born in Poland and now lives in London. She writes inspirational stories on personal and professional development, work, and travel on her blog: http://www.kinga.blog. Kinga is certified by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and is a Qualified Performance Coach and talent hunter. Besides writing and creative living, Kinga is a keen traveller, speaker, painter, foodie, and social media junkie.



Interview with Author Hal Free

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

My father’s love for the English language and the power of words. He used to repeat phrases from famous poems or speeches, caressing each word. Maybe that’s why I majored in Journalism at Rutgers and ended up as an advertising copywriter and author for many years. I still get excited when I come up with a way of expressing an idea I’ve been searching for.  In my advertising life, I ended up creating the emotional “Kodak Moment” campaign. From Kodak Moment to Good Dick, Bad Dick is quite a leap, I guess, but it’s for a good cause.


2)     What inspired you to write your book?

Ten years ago, an art director and I worked on a comic book about the life of a cartoon penis. It was funny but mostly just a bunch of clever puns, and I stopped working on it. A year ago, as I listened to so many reports of famous men assaulting women, I suddenly thought about the book and turning it into a bigger, more important idea. I wanted to use the cartoon character to teach some bad “dicks” what they’re doing wrong to women by using the character’s own life’s story as a reformed bad dick. It could still be very funny, but do some good in the world.

3. What theme or message do you hope readers will take away?

    If you see yourself on these pages, get over yourself. If you can’t do right because it’s right, you’ll pay a price for mistreating women.

4.What drew you into this particular genre?

I grew up in a time when it was common to treat women like objects and possessions. I know the mentality. And then I thought about this idea I had which was an unusual way for guys to allow the message to sink in. It’s not as if they would be hearing the message for the first time, but using humor might be a new way to get through to them.

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

Facebook ads were tremendously successful at getting likes. Amazon refused to let me advertise the book.  They admitted it was helping the feminist cause, but they

couldn’t get past the title and visuals which violated their content guidelines.  Really a bad decision. I’m just starting to try blogging sites like yours.

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

Love what you’re writing and the writing experience itself. When you’re not writing, read, so you’ll know how high the bar is and how much you need to improve.

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

I’m working on an unusual self-help book that explains how we cause a lot of our injuries and our pain ourselves by the way we move incorrectly, and how to easily prevent it. 


Interview with Author Steve Saroff 

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

I have severe dyslexia and did not do well in school. Then mother died when I was ten, and my father was mostly absent. I first started running away when I was 14. This was on the east coast, near D.C. I walked up the Potomac river to where I got on the Appalachian trail at Harpers Ferry and turned south. I was hungry and lonely most of the time. For the company in words, I started writing. My dyslexia became a superpower because I listened and looked at words as sounds and shapes, not as structured rules. Dyslexia has let me notice the world in ways most people don’t. In my early 20s, I lived off the short stories I was selling to magazines. Editors fixed my grammar and spelling. Not long after I started selling fiction, I found that I also had a knack for a different type of writing: code. So I started writing software too, which is another way to deal with loneliness. And dyslexia was also an advantage for understanding code, as it helped see connections that most people missed.


2) What inspired you to write your book?

I started writing “Paper Targets” more than 20 years ago. The software company I founded, FreeMail, had been acquired a few years earlier, and my life should have been good. But instead, it was a Herculean mess. I had just been fired by a billionaire whom I had accused in a board meeting of crimes, and now I was out of work and broke. It would still be four more years before Bernie Ebbers was arrested and sentenced to 25 years in federal prison — where he became blind and demented — for what was then the world’s largest fraud. But when I was writing the first words of “Paper Targets,” he and the other executives who had pulled me into their world of the “Lie” were freely strutting on the World Stage of Greed. But it was all corrupt, even as they were still scooping up investor money that would evaporate into headlines. I had also recently made yet another terrible relationship decision — wanting to believe that red flags were trail markers — and had bailed an artist out of jail. And that story found a place in Paper Targets.

Writing has been my way to understanding mistakes and troubles. But whenever I try to write “Just The Facts,” my words scrunch into arrogant-sounding scribbles and add depression to my burdens. So I turn to fiction, as I have been doing since I left home at 14, to figure out what happened. And inevitably, the truth does come out; there is a lot of non-fiction in “Paper Targets,” but I have never killed anyone nor hacked for money, though I have known several that have.

Then, in 2020 I became friends with Stacy Lear, a writer who was then a homicide detective and who also has a knack for solving financial crimes. I thought Stacy might appreciate what I had spent the last 20 years trying to figure out, and I read to her the first pages of what then was called “The Aether and the Lie,” some of which I had also read on my podcast Montana Voice. Stacy’s response encouraged me to finish what I had started and find a publisher for what became “Paper Targets.”

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

People who have created our technological world — the screens, wires, networks — are failable human beings, and some have done bad things because of greed. And others have been nudged into doing bad things because the border between right and wrong can be jagged and grey. But good still matters, and ethics is more than an academic concept, and living ethically is a challenge but should be a goal.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

Paper Targets fits into the shelf space of “Literary Thriller,” but I like to think of my genre as “Truth Stirred With Fiction.” A bad thriller is pure plot, and a bad literary work is pure internal insight. But when plot is mixed lovingly with insight, there’s often a good story. I’m drawn to a good story; that is what I also like to tell.

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

I like Pascal, the Bondsman. I would buy him a drink and ask him to tell me more about his time in Missoula before the place became a Zoom Town. I would ask him about great dirt roads that aren’t on the map and go far back into places with endless stars in a dark night sky.


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

I have a love/hate relationship with social media sites. Of course, they are all corrupt. But ignoring them is like saying you won’t have any part in book publishing because there are evil books that have been printed. I have a large following of fans because of my podcast, “Montana Voice,”  and most of those fans seem to come from my Facebook followers. Goodreads is cool too.

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

Writing needs to be, first and foremost, for yourself. There is great company in words, and good stories make the world a better place. Learn to tell a good story, then get the words down. Then do it again. Never stop.

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

I have several unpublished manuscripts that I am thinking about launching. I am also working on a new book with Pascal as the main character since I liked hanging out with him the most while writing Paper Targets.  


About the Author

Steve Saroff is the host of the podcast Montana Voice, and the author of over 30 traditionally published short stories printed in Redbook and other national magazines. His available books include Paper Targets; The Long Line of Elk; and the forthcoming Mixed Drinks.

Montana Voice Podcast:  https://montanavoice.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/steve.saroff

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22226034.Steve_S_Saroff

Writing: https://montanavoice.com/writing.html


Interview with Author Anya Costello

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

I grew up in a household where everyone was always reading and stopping by the library. I was quickly inspired by the books I read, and knew that I wanted to create stories of my own. I kept stacks of notebooks throughout elementary school and filled them with more short stories than I can count, but began writing The Shadow Hour as my first novel when I was ten. Since winning the Secret Kids Contest and having The Shadow Hour published, I’ve continued working on several longer projects, and can’t envision a future where I’m not writing! 


2) What inspired you to write your book? 

I had wanted to write a longer work for several years and had attempted it many times, typically foregoing the projects halfway through. Ultimately a conversation with friends sparked the basic idea for The Shadow Hour, and with that creative inspiration, I was able to turn the concept into a fully-fleshed story. I was also inspired greatly by the dystopian adventure novels I read throughout middle school, like The Hunger Games and Divergent. I wanted to create a dystopian novel of my own, combined with more fantastical elements. 

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

I hope that readers might learn from Amber, the protagonist, whose journey results in the realization that her fierce independence will not be the key to her success. Even if we may not have to face autonomous shadows or different dimensions in our lives, I hope readers can learn from Amber that the world and its challenges often aren’t meant to be faced alone. 

4) What drew you into this particular genre? 

I have always been drawn to the fantasy and dystopian genres because I like the creative elements of world building, and the ability to consider how characters might react to the new environments I create. I love the creative liberties I can take with fantasy especially, stepping away from the limitations of the real world through my writing. Fantasy and dystopian have always been my favorite genres to read as well, and the many books that I have read have constantly influenced me and my style of writing. 

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

I think I would sit down with Ender, one of the more mysterious characters in my book. Ender has been trapped in the Shadow Realm – an alternate dimension in the book – for years. If he were somehow brought to life, I would want to hear all about his years in the Shadow Realm and how they’d impacted him, as well as what kind of mysterious phenomena he’d witnessed in the strange dimension. For the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll have to keep some of the questions I’d ask him to myself! 


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

During the editing process, I was able to participate in blog posts where I could share my experiences with writing and editing The Shadow Hour. With the book now published, it has been more difficult than expected to get used to the self-promotion aspect of sharing my story. After much recent encouragement, though, I have decided to start an Instagram page to promote The Shadow Hour, as I take many book recommendations from the Instagram reading community myself! 

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

I would tell any aspiring author that writing requires practice – if you have an idea, try to get a first draft onto paper. Don’t be disheartened if it’s imperfect. You can rewrite the story as many times as you want, and each time holds endless room for improvement. I rewrote The Shadow Hour in its entirety three times before submitting it to the Secret Kids Contest. I then edited the manuscript over several rounds, rewriting as many as a hundred pages in some edits. Each editing round and rewrite was a chance to practice and to improve, so if you’re looking to write a book, get the first draft down and don’t worry about the details. 

My second biggest piece of advice is to be open to criticism. The more opinions you receive about your writing, the better. Bringing in new perspectives is always helpful, even if it is scary. I had to move past that fear when working with an editor and sharing my book with family and friends, and found that I improved much faster when I began taking feedback. There is always room for improvement with writing, and outside opinions make those improvements much more obtainable. 

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

I have quite a few Google Docs filled with story ideas and some longer projects that are more complete. I’m not sure which I’ll end up pursuing further, but I certainly want to share more stories with the world in the future! 

I’ll be starting college next year as well, and I’m looking forward to more formally studying creative writing and honing my skills. I hope to be able to take what I learn and apply it to the projects I’ve already started. Writing is certainly not leaving my life anytime soon, and I’m eager to see where my current projects take me in the coming years.


About the Author

Anya Costello is a teen author whose manuscript won first prize of the International Writing Contest of Stone Soup magazine and Mackenzie Press.

Anya says: I have been writing stories since the age of four and at age ten, I attempted my first full length work of fiction, The Shadow Hour. I have always been drawn to writing fantasy and fiction. Building worlds that follow different rules from our own, like the Shadow Realm, and creating the characters that live within them allows me to put aspects of my own life, experiences, and thoughts in an entirely new context.

Anya has been presented at the Frankfurt Book Fair and has received a citation from United Sates Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III.

Anya was born and raised in Massachusetts where she currently resides with her family.

Local Teen Author of ‘The Shadow Hour’ Joins Studio 10

Author Anya Costello On How To Write A Book That Sparks A Movement

‘The Shadow Hour’


Interview with Author Paul Justison 

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

I had always wanted to write, but so many things got in the way – family, kids, work, career. I did try though, but never found a project that excited me that gave me an incentive to keep going. After I retired, two of my kids asked me to put together a timeline of my youth. They just meant dates for – starting different schools, dropping out, moving to Haight-Ashbury, meeting their mother, etc. But it finally hit me – the project I could sink my teeth in was right in front of me. The sixties were a crucible for me. They were also one of the most intense periods in American History. Lenin said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.” Well, in the 60s we had lots of weeks where decades happened. So, between my own crucible and the events happening all around me back then I had plenty or material to draw on for the book.


2) What inspired you to write your book?

After I had the idea of a book about the 60s, I looked at many of the books already out there about the sixties, and I thought two elements were missing. Most of the books were by or about famous people from those days, they didn’t give a picture of what it was like for 95% of the people, the non-celebrities. Last and most important, the sixties were a time of incredible energy and movement. And I didn’t read a single book that had pace, that conveyed the velocity of the times. So, I was inspired to make my contribution to sixties literature by creating a work with pace and where the characters were not celebrities, but regular denizens of the times.

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

The message of the book is simple – Here is a vivid portrait of the sixties and the counterculture.

4) What drew you into this particular genre? 

Coming-of-age was a natural fit for a story that drew heavily on my experience as a youth.


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

I’ll have to defer on that question for a few months until my experience gives me an answer.

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

The best answer I can give is a quote by James Baldwin: “Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance.” I would just stress endurance. I started my novel in 2013 and it’s coming out late in 2022.

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

I’m continuing to write, and I have a project that motivates me. It’s a novel about a family dealing with the dementia of a loved one. It’s personal.


About the Author

Paul Justison dropped out of high school in 1966 and fled to Haight-Ashbury, spending most of the next two years there and in Marin County engaging in all the pleasures and follies that magical time had to offer. After the sixties ended, he went to college, started a career, and raised a family. He has been published in The Rumpus, The Gambler Mag, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Fiction on the Web. Lost and Found in the 60s is his first novel.


Interview with Author George Veck

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

I was born in Hastings but grew up in North West Wales, mainly living rurally. I started writing when I got the urge out of nowhere to learn how to write screenplays, slowly after getting tired of struggling to get any of these made or funded – other than those that could be done on a micro budget – I decided to give it a go converting some of them into novels. One of which became my first novel One Visit‘.  


2) What inspired you to write your book?

A lot of my own experiences of living in poverty, seeing people routinely being let down by the system, and different mental health issues I’ve both suffered and seen others suffer with. 

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

That if you see signs of abusive parenting, even if said parents appear like respectable people through glib charm then do everything possible to help those children before their well-being becomes permanently affected. Also hopefully they’ll take away and have sympathy for the riveting affect and trauma of having your house taken over by drug dealers.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I love the raw nature of kitchen sink drama and have always found books/films that portray poverty in a relatable way fascinating. Having a way of highlighting often misunderstood stigmas around mental health and addiction while being able to hopefully contribute in some way also drew me to this genre. 


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

Both Instagram and Facebook are decent. Facebook’s litany of different book sharing groups are invaluable, especially when you have a free promotion on. Reddit is especially good as well when a free promotion is on your book. 

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

Don’t get beaten down by your first draft and its imperfections. That was the hardest thing for me to get over before going through the process enough to be able to power through the first draft while aiming for momentum more than perfection.

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

I am nearly through the first draft of my second novel Spurious Scrapper, a revenge drama also set in rural north west Wales. Once that is finished, I aim to write a novel comprised of a few short stories loosely intertwined and set in North Wales, all centring around the inequality of modern-day Tory induced poverty.  


About the Author

I grew up in rural North West Wales, where hardships and a lack of opportunities spurred my passion for tackling tough subjects, such as poverty, addiction and mental health. Currently studying a masters degree in screenwriting at the University of South Wales, I’ve written and directed three short films. One Visit was the first feature-length screenplay I ever wrote, and through the exposure of this novel, I hope to garner interest and funding to turn it into a film one day. For news regarding my future novels and films, follow @vecks_gems_productions on Instagram.