Interview with Author Clarice Williams


Clarice Williams whose pen name is C. JoVan Williams, was born and raised in Chicago, IL, but now resides in New Jersey as an Air Force spouse, with a blended family of six. She credits her writing inspirations from her experiences as a military spouse, mother, college graduate, Government worker, silly daughter, and an overbearing older sister to many.  She also writes for Military Spouse Magazine. Her books are available on Amazon. Email:

Stephanie: Hello Clarice! Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Veggie’s Bully.

Clarice: Thank you! It’s the second book in my Chef ReCee Jay & Friends book series. This story is different from other bully books where everyone is shaking hands and becoming friends in the end. Veggie’s Bully children’s book shows the anger Veggie feels about being bullied, her friend who wants revenge, and the voice of reasoning who helps them see her situation a bit differently. For some events, I also sell Uncle Bear and Carb Monkey plush toys along with the book. I’m still searching for a vendor to help me with Veggie Bunnie.

Stephanie: I really admire the premise of your story and find it inspirational to many. You touch on a subject that is a serious problem in our world. When did you decide to write your book and to use the idea of animals for your characters?

Clarice: There were a series of stories that popped in mind when I began this series and I knew since the beginning I was going to touch on bullying. It’s not just happening in a children’s playground or a high school anymore. Social media has made bullying easier than ever, even in our adult lives, it continues to occur.  So, it’s my hope that, whoever picks up this book, will remember to value how they feel about themselves, versus obsessing about how others think of them. I’ve seen children gravitate towards animal stories and wanted to reach as many readers as I possibly could.


Stephanie: Have you written other children’s books with important themes and morals?

Clarice: My first book, Our Picnic Surprise, talks about trying to balance life and really hits home with me, because I’m still trying to balance it! But the story focuses on Veggie Bunnie introducing healthier foods to Carb Monkey and Chef ReCee’s already sugar filled lifestyle! The third book in the series talks about another character in the series, Uncle Bear, who received a gift, but does not have any money to reciprocate his appreciation. So his friends help him make something for his mystery Valentine. I hope some readers can relate to having to be resourceful when you can’t afford to buy presents for everyone you would like too.

Stephanie: How do you promote your book and what are some of the ways you discuss your book to others? Such as, do you visit schools, libraries, bookstores and so forth?

Clarice: Currently, I’m in a few indie and professionally published author groups who travel and promote books at various fairs, bookstores, and libraries. Right now I’m putting myself out there to visit schools, whether it is in person or on Skype in the classroom, I’m available! So put it out there!

Stephanie: Have you had any reviews on your book? What are some of the positive things people have said about your book?


Clarice: I’ve gotten great feedback in person and from reviewers on Amazon. After winning the BRAG Medallion, the company sent me a letter with multiple reviews from a classroom who read the book, and it was very humbling. There were comments about what the story meant to them and also what they are currently dealing with now.

Stephanie: What book project is up next for you?

Clarice: I have a few in the works now. The next one in the series will be about Carb Monkey on a search to find the Tooth Fairy! There is an unexpected twist at the end about the mystery and magic behind the Tooth Fairy. I also have another children’s book, titled What IF…that is coming out and Miley Cyrus was my inspiration. It deals with questions my daughters had after witnessing a few things that has been popular on social media lately.

Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?

Clarice: Yes! It’s not for the faint of heart though!

Stephanie: What advice would you give to a writer who wants to write a children’s book?

Clarice: Join author/writer groups. Use the internet as you would an all-night open library. Read the kinds of books that you would like to publish. Read the author’s bios too. Look at their editors, publishing companies, and agents to get an idea of how they built their platform. Create a plan for yourself. Learn to accept criticism and apply it. I’d like to bring up something, Daymond John, the CEO of FUBU, said, When looking at trends I always ask myself basic and timeless questions about business, and the one I seem to always come back to is, ‘How is this different than anything else in the marketplace?

When I came up with Veggie’s Bully, I didn’t want to tell a story of how they all became friends at the end, because life doesn’t always happen that way. I wanted to talk about what to do when the Bully keeps teasing you and all you have left to figure things out is just you.

Stephanie: Before I forget. Does your book have illustrations and who was your cover artist?

Clarice: Jen Chappell is an amazing illustrator, who did the art for Veggie’s Bully, Uncle Bear’s Mystery Valentine, and also does my comics for my website and Facebook fanpage. She helped me out when the illustrator of Our Picnic Surprise could no longer illustrate for me. Her professional email is

Clarice, thank you so much for chatting with me today. I have one more question. How did you discover indieBRAG?

Clarice: I’m always looking at other self-published children’s books that are doing well and stumbled upon ‘Bellyache: A Delicious Tale’ by Crystal Marcos with the BRAG Medallion on it. I was truly honored to receive the recognition from BRAG, especially after reading this book by Crystal Marcos. I appreciate what BRAG does for indie authors!

To contact the author, please visit:


“This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed and I recommend it to anyone
who has small children. The bully situation has always been and always will be,
and having a book like this one will surely help children love themselves more
and have more confidence in what they do. And I can’t leave out the
illustrations; they are awesome and wonderful and fit so well with the story.
The vivid colors and adorable people will capture your children’s hearts and
keep them choosing this book over and over.” – Reviewed by Joy Hannabass for
Readers’ Favorite

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Clarice Williams, who is the author of, Veggie’s Bully, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Veggie’s Bully, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author Christopher Angel

mona Lisa

Christopher, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion for your book, Mona Lisa Speaks and thank you for chatting with me today. What a fantastic title for a story! Sounds so intriguing. Please tell me about your book.

Christopher: Thank you for hosting this chat!  The Mona Lisa Speaks is a fictional art heist story, about a Canadian computer programmer hired by the Louvre to update its computer systems.  However, he’s forced by a mastermind of the French criminal underground, to replace the Mona Lisa with a perfect copy to save the woman he loves.  I also write a part for the Mona Lisa herself, who “speaks” to us in the grand tradition of magic realism.  Writing her was a lot of fun!

Stephanie: Okay, I have to ask. What was the inspiration for your story and how did you come up with/decide for Robertson Ross, to be an outdoorsy Canadian computer expert? What a great combination!

Christopher: First, I was inspired to write this story by my own visit to the Louvre.  I left wondering why the Mona Lisa was the most famous painting there – there are many great works in the Louvre – and went back to my Paris hotel and Googled “why is the Mona Lisa so famous?”  The answer was news to me – she was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 and went missing for two years.  The theft and her return catapulted her to worldwide fame.  The more I read about this theft, the more interested I became in telling this story.  I decided to update it to modern times because I felt like technology has so much to say about how we value and enjoy works of art.

As to Robertson Ross, my main character, I chose to make him a Canadian because I myself am Canadian, and I felt I could really capture his voice and character.  I also know many outdoorsy computer experts in real life – the old stereotype of the shut-in programmer is changing, I think – so I wanted to depict them in the novel as well.

Stephanie: Without giving too much away. How does his skills help him in his adventures he will embark on?

Christopher: Obviously, stealing the Mona Lisa might be the most difficult theft possible.  Without his inside knowledge and control over many of the systems of the Louvre, he wouldn’t have a chance.  That is why Jacques, the criminal mastermind, choses him.  But I like to think that his real challenges begin once he steals the Mona Lisa, and has to rely on wits and instinct to survive and save his love.

Stephanie: Were there any challenges in writing your story?

Christopher: A big challenge, but also a really fun part of the process, was researching the security systems of museums like the Louvre, and also looking into how computers and scanning technology could help someone create the “perfect” copy of the Mona Lisa.

In terms of the writing process itself, one of the hardest parts was trying to figure out how to realistically depict a couple falling in love, while not taking too long to get to the fun heist action.  I found this a very challenging balancing act.

Stephanie: What about research? What made you decide on Mona Lisa as the art he Robertson would have to steal?

Christopher: I thought about other works of art, but kept coming back to the reality of the Mona Lisa’s theft in 1911, and the fact that seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre inspired me to write this story.  The more I read about the actual theft, the more interesting details turned up. Without giving too much away, there are rumors of a criminal mastermind and a love interest in the real story of the Italian craftsman who actually stole the Mona Lisa.

Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story and what is up next for you?

Christopher: It took about four years, although this was not full-time of course!  I’m hoping to be much quicker this time as I write the sequel to this story that continues with Robertson Ross and Mathilde in Madagascar.  This next book will be called “The Sapphire Screams.”

Stephanie:  Could you give me a little background of your writing journey?

Christopher: I started writing not long after I returned home from the trip to Paris where I saw the Mona Lisa.  I was in Paris for two weeks, which was a perfect time to soak in the feel of the city and imagine myself living there for a more extended time.

My favorite part of writing is imagining the thoughts and feelings of others, and creating interesting characters on the page.  I also love writing foreign and beautiful settings.  It’s like a repeated mental vacation, all from the comfy confines of my local coffee shop.

Stephanie: What made you decide to self-publish?

Christopher: For this novel, I ended up partnering with a small, independent publisher, Over the Edge Books.  It was a natural fit – they were looking to expand their offerings from music and urban books to broader genres, and I love having their marketing acumen and knowledge of the publishing world on my side.

Stephanie: Who designed your book cover?

Christopher: The book cover was designed by a very talented artist named Miko McGinty,  who has a small company devoted to designing and creating books for artists, many of which you can find in museum bookstores. She kindly agreed to help me with my cover, and I think the result is fabulous and so interesting.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Christopher: For a physical book, Amazon:

For e-books, (Kindle)

Barnes & noble


Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?


Christopher: My publisher had heard about indieBRAG, and submitted my novel for me. And I’ve been so impressed by everything indieBRAG has done and the great books on the website.

Author Bio:

Emmy nominee Christopher Angel was inspired to write The Mona Lisa Speaks, his first novel, during a visit to the Louvre, where he dared ask, “why is the Mona Lisa so famous?”  The answer, in part, surprised him: few know that the Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911, and went missing for two years.  Wondering what happened in those intervening two years launched his own fictional update of the story.

A professional film-maker, Christopher’s most recent movie as a writer/director is This Is Not A Test – a satire about domestic terrorism that aired on Showtime. He was nominated for an Emmy for his work on James Cameron’s documentary, Expedition Bismarck, and won a student Academy Award for his short film, Mr. October.  Christopher received his B.A. from Yale University, where he was a Humanities major, and an MFA in film-making from the University of Southern California.

Author Website:

Book Trailer:

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Christopher Angel, who is the author of, Mona Lisa Speaks, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Mona Lisa Speaks, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author Jane Lowy

Jane lowy

Jane Lowy is an enthusiast of 19th century British literature, who has loved writing since childhood. She also enjoys singing/songwriting/electric bass guitar playing and is certified as a cytogenetic technologist. Jane lives in Houston with her husband, David, and their son, Orion.


Stephanie: Hello Jane! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. I must admit when I saw the title of your book I thought it was a humor book of sorts. I was pleasantly surprised to read the book description and to discover your book is Literary Fiction. Please tell your audience about Wobbly Barstool.


Jane: Thank you for having me, Stephanie! I feel very honored to have received the BRAG Medallion for Wobbly Barstool and am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss my novel.

While the book is certainly infused with a fair amount of humor, that is only one of its many ingredients. Pathos, adventure, complex exploration of familial, romantic, and platonic relationships, and a bit of mystery are also included in the mix! I tried to create a fun, intellectually stimulating and genuinely moving story that follows the title character as he grows and develops from birth to early adulthood in nineteenth-century England.

Stephanie: Character development in a story is important. Please tell me a little about Wobbly. What are his strengths and weaknesses?

Jane: Wobbly is anything but! He is a staunch friend and is unwavering in his purpose of winning the woman he loves despite numerous impediments and the passage of years. He does, however, tend to be a little too trusting and assumes that everyone is as honest and open-hearted as he – at times to his misfortune. Wobbly is also blind to his own abilities, though readily recognizing those of others, and must blunder through as best he can until he discovers his place in the world and his true worth.

Wobbly Barstool

Stephanie: I believe you touch on a few emotional and moral themes. Were there any challenges to writing some of the scenes or the characters personalities?

Jane: I tried to place myself in my various characters’ shoes as I wrote and would often become elated, tearful, or frustrated as they did during the course of the story. It was fun experiencing life through the different personalities of my many characters and to focus on each to sufficiently differentiate between them all. I did find it difficult to live in the principal antagonist’s head and heart, because it is such a terrible place to be! It was always a relief when the scenes involving Mrs. Baddonschilde were completed so that I could relax and be with friends again.

There are some moral and ethical themes in the story. The challenge in the final scenes was to delicately present a particular moral dilemma in a way that was thought provoking and that dealt with the ramifications and benefits of a controversial choice. I wanted readers to question (just as the characters and even the author did) whether or not they would feel comfortable with the decision made, given the outcome, and to draw their own conclusions as to its morality in that instance.

Stephanie: What was the inspiration for your story?

Jane: My husband David and I were seated at the counter of a diner, when he began to tip back and forth.

“Wobbly barstool,” I said.

“Sounds like a Dickens character,” he said.


Stephanie: Why did you choose the Victorian-era for the time frame of your story?

Jane: As my inspiration involved attempting to formulate a novel that evoked Dickens’ writing to some degree, Victorian England was the natural setting for the book.

Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story?


Jane: I began writing when my son was four years old, working at irregular intervals over six years to do the first draft, then spent the next three editing it with my husband. Our son is in his teens now!

Stephanie: Who are your literary influences?


Jane: Charles Dickens, first and foremost, as well as other nineteenth-century British authors such as Anthony Trollope, Jane Austen, and the Bronte sisters.  P. G. Wodehouse is also a big influence.


Stephanie: What book project are you currently working on?


Jane: I am currently working on a kind of sequel to Wobbly Barstool that focuses on another of the Barstools and is set in the Edwardian era. It will be written in something of a different style from Wobbly and should be interesting. Still early days on that one though!


Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?


Jane: Definitely! I love the freedom of self-publishing and the creative control that it gives me. I think that self-publishing allows more creative, greater quality work to emerge than might ever be considered from the largely commercial viewpoint of traditional publishing. Sad but true! The trick for indie authors is to find a way to adequately publicize their work, of course. I am grateful to you and indieBRAG for helping authors do just that.


Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?


Jane: I believe it came to my attention through Readers were kind enough to recommend my book for the medallion.


Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?


Jane: The hardcover version can be purchased at my website: or at


The ebook version can be purchased in various formats:


Visit me on goodreads: @JaneLowy or @WobblyBarstool




A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Jane Lowy, who is the author of, Wobbly Barstool, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Wobbly Barstool, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.


Interview with Author Becca Lawton

Becca Lawton

Stephanie: Rebecca Lawton is an author and naturalist whose essays, poems, and stories have been published in Orion, Sierra, The San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Shenandoah, Standing Wave, THEMA, the acorn, More, and other journals.  She has received the Ellen Meloy Fund Award for Desert Writers, three Pushcart Prize nominations (in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry), and residencies at The Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska, and Hedgebrook Retreat for Women Writers in Langley, Washington. Becca was among the first women whitewater guides on the Colorado River in Grand Canyon and on other rivers in the West. Her essay collection on the guiding life, Reading Water: Lessons from the River (Capital Books), was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and ForeWord Nature Book of the Year finalist.  Her novel, Junction, Utah, set in the beautiful and resource-rich Green River valley, was released in early 2013 by van Haitsma Literary as an original e-book and later in 2013 as a softcover book (Wavegirl). With Geoff Fricker, Rebecca is co-author of the forthcoming Sacrament: Homage to a River (Heyday, 2014), and her first collection of short stories, Steelies and Other Endangered Species, is due out from Little Curlew Press in 2014.

Hello Becca! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. Please tell me about your book, Junction, Utah.

Becca: Hi Stephanie! Thank you for hosting me. I’m thrilled to receive the BRAG Medallion, as it’s clear from the Indie BRAG website that the books you recognize are very high quality. I’m happy to be among the honorees!


Junction, Utah, is a romance and adventure story set in the river valleys of Utah and other parts of the West. It’s based on my years as a river guide and a geologist working in some of the settings in the book. It’s also a work of ecofiction. I became concerned as I worked out there that oil and gas exploration as it was being conducted was going to ruin the place—both the fabric of the community and the integrity of the wilderness. I wanted to tell a story that would draw readers into the lives of characters based on real people and wildlife living in these places time had otherwise forgotten—and where the way of life is as beautiful as the land.


Stephanie: Sounds wonderful and I do like stories that are based on real people and places. Please tell me about your character Madeline Kruse. What are her strengths and weaknesses?


Becca: Madeline is a twenty-nine year old river guide who, even at that relatively young age, is a long-time veteran of rivers. She’s never known her father, who has been missing since going to fight in the Vietnam War, and her concern for her mother’s fragile health sends Madeline on a bit of a quest. She finds her way to Junction to work a season as a guide and discovers that many of the issues she’s run from in her home state of Oregon are in full play in Utah as well. She’s a fairly voiceless character through much of the story, and she undergoes transformation, as any good protagonist should.


Stephanie: Is there a moral to the story? What would it be?


Becca: We’re more alike than we think, in this fractured, dangerous time for our planet. Working together is the only way to save our race and other creatures. Truly.


Stephanie: I would agree with you. What was your inspiration for your story?


Becca: I didn’t want to preach, but I did want to create awareness about the fragility of our wild world. One thing I’d learned through years of working as a river guide and scientist is how vulnerable natural systems are to change—much more vulnerable than I thought as a young person just getting to know them. A single road cut into a wilderness area causes a stream to start incising, or deeply eroding, its bed. Really, we humans have been changing the world for a long time. We’re only now understanding how unstable nature is in light of our impacts. The changes that come to community, too, are just as intriguing to me, and important. I wanted to write about both.


As a friend of mine has said, however, the novel is not “thinly veiled proselytizing.” It’s a story first and foremost, with three acts, a narrative arc, characters who become real to the reader, and settings you’ll never forget. It’s a page turner above all.


Stephanie: What do you find most challenging about writing?


Becca: Sitting still. Some writers have figured out how to write while walking on treadmills, riding stationary bikes, you name it. I write well while strolling in nature with a notebook in hand. But some of the hard work just has to be done indoors at my desk, and that’s been a tough transformation for me, an active person, to have to put myself in a chair and stay there for periods of time.


Stephanie: I would have to agree with you. It is even hard for me to sit still while reading sometimes. Most of my reading is while I am on my stationary bike. When I write, I get up and pace while thinking about what I want to say next or how I want to structure my next paragraph or scene. How long have you been a writer? What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about becoming a writer?


Becca: I started writing the character sketches for Junction in 1979, for a creative writing class I was taking while living in the Rogue River Valley, Oregon. Scenes from both Utah and Oregon made their way into the book, and they stuck. Before then—really, as far back as grade school—I’d written articles and stories for school publications, and then for adventure/river journals once I became a river guide, but nothing book length.


Good advice: figure out how you’ll happily support your habit, in case your books don’t cover the rent. Achieving balance with other work is critical. Maybe you’ll be one of those writers who doesn’t have to keep her day job. If so, wonderful. But be prepared to be good at something else as well.


Stephanie: That is sound advice, Becca. What book are you currently working on?


Becca: I just contracted with Little Curlew Press in Florida to publish Steelies and Other Endangered Species, a collection of short stories about water and our relationship to it in a changing world. We’ll have a lot of work to bring that out together, and I’m looking forward to it. Meanwhile I’m adapting a play from the title story from that collection, “Steelies.” I’ve written plays before, but this is the first one I’ve worked on that I feel certain will be produced. Meanwhile I have two nonfiction proposals in mind that I hope to have circulating among the markets in early 2014.


Stephanie: How wonderful! Looking forward to hearing more about your projects. I do love non-fiction! Tell me what you think of the self-publishing industry.


Becca: As varied and capricious as the traditional publishing world. There is incredibly good work in both industries, and there is incredibly bad stuff in both. One thing self publishing has done for authors is allow them creative expression despite the gatekeepers in New York, who have a fairly lock-step view of what’s good literature. Just as I don’t agree much with the views of those in Hollywood who dictate what constitutes good film, I’m not in alignment with the few traditional publishers who are left standing about what the public ought to be reading. But it’s up to those who self- publish to dot every, ”I” and cross every T in book writing and publishing, and to do a good job, and that’s a rare thing. The books recognized by Indie BRAG are excellent examples of how it can be done.


Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?


Becca: For me, releasing Junction first as an e-book issued by my agent and then as a print version published by my own small press has been the right journey for this particular book. Earlier versions of it were accepted by small presses, but it wasn’t really ready and those acceptances never resulted in a signed contract and a collaboration with a publisher that might have given it the editorial love it needed. After two or three false starts, I gave up on Junction more than once—and only picked it up after dreaming that an agent urged me to get back to work on it now. This was only after my agents at the time, Mike Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada (who I love and owe a huge debt of gratitude for championing my first book), decided to pass on representing it.


In getting the Junction manuscript ready for acceptance by another agent, I had to put it through arduous revision. That’s a story in itself, and I love to tell it when I teach at conferences and workshops. It took two years of revision after those first drafts that could have become a book—a different book—earlier on.


Stephanie: Please tell me some of the goals you have set for yourself as a writer? It can be anything.


Becca: I write every day, at least an hour but more commonly two. I rise on the early side, generally 6 a.m. or earlier, so I can write my wild, creative work before moving on to contract work that brings me more immediate cash. It’s a fairly tenuous existence at the moment, as I recently left a long-time job to work on my own in all arenas, so . . . it’s a grand experiment. Not sure how it will evolve. But, for me, the daily writing goal seems to work best.


Stephanie: I need to follow your writing habits. How did you discover indieBRAG?


Becca: I believe I conducted an internet search of “awards for independently published books” or something similar. I somehow found my way to Indie BRAG. I loved the look of the books that BRAG champions.


Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?


Becca: I always urge readers to go to their local independent bookstore first, to help keep their neighbors in business. If that doesn’t work, it’s easy to buy through my website,, where you can purchase through me or be linked to the online bookstore of your choice.

Author Links:

Facebook: Rebecca Lawton
Twitter: LawtonRebeccaC


A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Becca Lawton, who is the author of, Junction, Utah, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as Junction, Utah, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author Kaylene Johnson


Kaylene Johnson is a professional writer and long-time Alaskan who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. She has written five books about Alaska and the people who live there including her memoir A Tender Distance: Adventures Raising My Sons in Alaska.  Her award winning articles have appeared in Alaska magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Spirit magazine, Parish Teacher. Winner of the B.R.A.G. Medallion for her book, Canyons and Ice. She holds a BA from Vermont College and an MFA in Writing from Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky.

Stephanie: Hello Kaylene. Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion and thank you for chatting with me today. I see that your book is non-fiction and I do enjoy reading in this genre. Please tell me about your book, Canyons and Ice.

Kaylene: Canyons and Ice is the biography of Dick Griffith, a legendary wilderness traveler who has traversed more than 6,000 miles across the continent alone and unassisted. He is also a pioneer of river rafting on the Colorado and Green Rivers long before rafting the Grand Canyon became a recreational pursuit. Until the book was published, most of his travels were unknown except to people who know him personally. He recently received a commendation from the Alaska State Legislature for embodying the spirit of adventure on the Last Frontier.

Stephanie: How amazing and inspiring!  


How did you come upon this writing project?

Kaylene: I met Dick Griffith at a Sunday dinner at his house after someone suggested he and I meet. (I wrote another biography of a famous Alaskan.) When I saw his journals and diaries, I told him he MUST compile them into a book. The stories were riveting and the photos were captivating. Eventually he decided rather than edit his journals, I should write his biography in third person. It was a privilege and I thoroughly enjoyed the task. I describe our weekly meetings which took place over the course of a year as “Tuesdays with Morrie” meets “Into Thin Air.”

Stephanie: How fascinating and what an honor to be ask to write his biography.

 canyons and ice final

Griffiith must have had a substantial about of writing from his experience. How much of it was recorded?

Kaylene: He used a diary. He had more than 500 pages of typed, single-spaced journal entries from which to draw. I also interviewed him weekly as I wrote. I was fortunate to have this kind of access to my subject. I also interviewed people who knew him and researched the history of the times. He grew up in the Great Depression, an era that helped shape the person he would become.

Stephanie: Where there any challenges writing about his adventures? 

Kaylene: Mark Twain wrote, “Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography itself cannot be written.”  Those words gave me courage when at times the task seemed overwhelming. I told myself that if I could not capture the essence of Dick Griffith, then I at least hoped to write the clothes and buttons that suited him.

Stephanie: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Kaylene: I learned a great deal about independent-publishing and the amount of time it takes to get the word out, fulfill orders, and be a publicist and appointment secretary for a person who was suddenly in high demand as a speaker. That’s a great problem to have, of course. The book sold out of the first printing within six months of publication. More than a year later, Griffith continues a rigorous schedule of speaking engagements. Along with having walked and skied farther than possibly any person on earth, he is a self-effacing and entertaining speaker.

Stephanie: Did you have to do any traveling concerning your book? 

Kaylene: Not specifically, but I fortunately had been to some of the places that Griffith traveled prior to writing the book, specifically the Brooks Range of Alaska. I had a keen appreciation for the remote beauty of the place and felt a kinship to the landscape that he so loves. One place I longed to see first-hand was the Grand Canyon from the viewpoint that Griffith saw back in the late 1940’s. I was fortunate enough to raft the Grand Canyon with Griffith himself this past October (2013). At 86 years of age, Griffith is the oldest living river runner on the Colorado River. We had a remarkable time as he narrated the places he and his late wife had explored along the way. With a cigar clenched between his teeth, Griffith was at the oars for most of the 226 miles of river that we rafted.

Stephanie: What are you expectations for this book?

Kaylene: My hope is that the book will find a wide reading audience and that Griffith’s amazing accomplishments would be recognized beyond circles of the outdoor adventure elite. Griffith is a remarkable man and his story is a testament to a person’s ability to push the limits of human possibility. He walked and skied all of those miles not for accolades or to achieve any kind of notoriety, but as a personal quest, a drive that he himself did not fully understand. His story is inspiring not only for his achievements but also for the ways in which he failed (sometimes spectacularly) only to return and try again.

Stephanie: What is your next book project?

Kaylene: I am finishing up a book about the Alaska Railroad in time for Anchorage Centennial Celebrations in 2015. I will start a new biography in 2014 about another Alaska pioneer with a different kind of story. (Stay tuned!)

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG? 

Kaylene: I read about indieBRAG online.

Stephanie: Will you self-publish again?

Kaylene: Yes. I’ve learned so much and may as well put that learning to good use. I now have a number of distribution outlets in place for future publishing endeavors. Book publishing is undergoing big changes, and independent publishing is one of the biggest movements in the industry. In many ways, it has democratized publishing, allowing voices that might not otherwise be heard a chance at the podium. The challenge is to stand out in a sea of new work by new authors. That takes a commitment to excellence and determination to get the word out about one’s book. Many thanks to indieBRAG for choosing Canyons and Ice: The Wilderness Travels of Dick Griffith as an indieBRAG medallion winner!

Thank you for chatting with me today, Kaylene! It was a pleasure!!

Author Websites:

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Kaylene Johnson, who is the author of, Canyons and Ice, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Canyons and Ice, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Interview with Author Barbara O’Connor

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Barbara O’Connor lived on a small ranch on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, where she attend public schools.  She graduated from Robert E. Lee High School, attended the University of Texas at San Antonio and McNeese State University in Lake Charles Louisiana.  Her first short story was published in The War Cry, and she wrote a features column for The Leon Valley Leader.  She also published country and western songs with her partner Jimmy Harris and wrote and performed stand-up comedy in San Antonio, Austin, and Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Her first novel, Goodbye, Paris Nash, received a B.R.A.G. medallion after a friend submitted the book for consideration.  She is currently working on her novel, The Resurrection of Elizabeth Moss.

Barbara lives in New Braunfels, Texas, with her husband and two furred family members.

Stephanie: Hello Barbara. Congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion. It is a pleasure to talk to you today. Please tell me about your book, “Goodbye, Paris Nash.”

Barbara: Hello Stephanie, It is my pleasure to share my experience writing “Goodbye, Paris Nash” with you.

Many times in life, I’ve been surprised by the impact a chance meeting has had on me. Since I am a believer in the adage that all things happen for reasons we do not understand, I used that as a thread in developing the characters of Siobhan O’Shaunessy and Paris Nash.

Goodbye, Paris Nash is a story about a friendship that develops in the face of adversity. There is a fifteen-year age difference between the two main characters: Paris is a fifteen-year-old girl who grew up in a loving family on a ranch in the Texas Hill Country; Siobhan is a thirty-year-old reporter who is divorced, and was abandoned as a toddler by her mentally ill mother to be raised by her grandfather. When Siobhan covers the judging for the Grand Champion Steer at the Alamo City Livestock Show and Rodeo, the two meet, and though they have little in common, they experience an immediate trust, respect and eventually, love for one another that changes their lives.


Stephanie: What are some of the themes you touch on in your story and is there a message you want your readers to come away with while reading your story?   

Barbara: There are three main themes: (1) We can make a difference in the lives of people we meet; (2) Everything happens for reasons we cannot understand, and (3) Love lives forever. The last line in the book and a gesture Paris’s boyfriend Charlie discovers in the book was the gesture that actually saved my life. I was so depressed after my son’s death that I thought I’d end my life. I couldn’t imagine going on without him. After a day of reflection and conversation with my God, the idea came to me that I didn’t have to leave him. I felt I had to keep thoughts of him uppermost in my mind, that to forget him even for a minute was to abandon him. So when Siobhan watches Charlie stop next to his Jeep each morning, touching his finger tips to his temple, to his lips to his heart, she asks him the meaning. He tells her it’s how he can go on. He takes Paris from his mind, symbolically kisses her, and tucks her into his heart so she is with him always. That becomes Siobhan’s gesture and the last line of the novel.  I’ve heard from many people that after reading about the gesture in my book, they have used and shared the gesture with grieving friends and family members. They let me know that it to helps them deal with the loss of their loved one, makes them feel they are keeping their loved one near.

Stephanie: Was there any research involved?

Barbara: Since the story is told as a retrospective, I did a lot of research to make sure the dates, event and activities were accurate. Years ago, when I first conceived of the book, I asked the news director for our local CBS affiliate if I could follow a news crew around. That gave me the information I needed to accurately portray the portions about KWNK where Siobhan is employed. As a representative of a beer company for thirteen years, I learned about the operations of a distributor, and actually won the Grand Champion Steer in fierce bidding at the San Antonio Livestock Show on several occasions. My Grandfather was a third generation rancher and I grew up around animals on acreage outside of San Antonio. I guess I’ve been researching all my life.

Stephanie: Tell me about Siobhan O’Shaunessy. What are her weaknesses and strengths?

Barbara: Siobhan’s weakness is her lack of self-confidence. Her friend Phyllis is always trying to bolster Siobhan’s self-image with makeovers and helping with wardrobe selections, but Paris helps change Siobhan’s self-perception more than anyone else does. Siobhan’s greatest strength is her belief in destiny. She has a determined spirit, takes risks, makes decisions, and allows herself to experience life to its fullest because she is purposeful.

Stephanie: Who or what inspired you to write your story?

Barbara: Back in the late eighties I became aware of a young girl who was, as Paris is, diagnosed with terminal melanoma. Her family was unwilling to accept the diagnosis and the girl went through chemo, radiation and all the means available to treat her disease, all to no avail. I wanted to write a story that gave that little girl a happier end of life. That is also the primary reason for telling the story in retrospect. Today there are some advances is the treatment of Melanoma that often, but not always, provide a better outcome


Stephanie: How long did it take you to write it and what made you decide to self-publish?

Barbara: It took years before I could actually sit down to write without interruption. Once I began in earnest, the process took about two years.  My mother was the impetus that urged me to self-publish. She is approaching ninety years of age and wanted to see my book in print.  It was the correct decision.

Stephanie: What is the most single challenging thing about writing?

Barbara: For me, the single most challenging thing is keeping it real. My goal is to maintain authenticity of setting, of character, of plot, of voice…of everything. I owe that to my reader.

Stephanie: Are you working on a book project now?

Barbara: Yes, I’m currently working on another novel set in Texas. The title is: “The Resurrection of Elizabeth Moss: It is a more personal story about two families struggling to survive the loss of their children.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Barbara: A friend and fellow writer submitted my book. He told me after the fact and I was thrilled.

Stephanie: What is your favorite quote?

Barbara: My favorite quote is what I live by. It comes from “De Profundis” by Oscar Wilde…this is paraphrased, “I have to make everything that has happened to me, good for me. To deny my experience is to inhibit my growth.”

Stephanie: Thank you!

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Barbara O’Connor, who is the author of, Goodbye, Paris Nash, one of our medallion honorees at . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Goodbye Pairs Nash merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.