I would like to introduce Alan Cooke. Author of, “Naked in New York.” Alan, how would you describe your book to a group of artist?
Congrats Jill for winning the BRAG Medallion. Please tell me about your book, ” Quail Fried Rice.”
Quail Fried Rice is a love story featuring two middle-aged, professional women who end up in the same small West Texas town due to varying life circumstances. The novel explores the themes of life transition, dealing with change and death, living a life of meaning, and finding true love. Although it’s a love story between two women, its written is such a way that it appeals to a broad audience. Many of my readers are heterosexuals (both women and men) and they have given it positive reviews.
That is an interesting title. Tell me how you came up with it and how it connects to your story.
The title comes from a recipe that Elena Rios, one of the main characters, develops for use in the camp kitchen that she and her business partner, Tori Reed, run for their ranch guests. The recipe captures Elena’s simple elegance, which appears in both her person and in her food, and evokes the tones and textures of the West Texas experience their ranch offers to their guests.
Are there any scenes you have written based own your own life experiences?
The novel is not autobiographical in any way–none of the characters are rooted in my own personal life, or mirror my life. However, much of the novel is rooted in my own experience as a lesbian who has found a life partner and soul mate (for 11 years now), as a former landowner in West Texas, as a bird hunter, as someone who lives deeply sensitized to the natural world around me, as someone who seeks to live a meaningful life consistent with my values, and as someone who believes in love as the most important quality in life.
How do your characters voices come to you?
They come from composites of all the people I’ve met and remember, from the details I remember about them–the way they wear their jeans, the crinkle at the corner of their eyes, their distinct dialect or way of stringing words together, the aura they project when they are at their best as well as at their worst—-I tend to observe people and the world at this level, so these type of things naturally make their way into my characters, and their personas emerge from these details.
How do you start your writing process?
I brood about the general storyline and arch of the novel for a while–weeks, months, and in this case, years. But, I don’t really have all the details down pat when I sit down to write. The general storyline is set, but the winding trail that gets us to the end emerges in the actual writing. It’s a very different mode of writing than what I’ve done for most of my academic career and currently do as a freelance journalist. Academic and journalistic writing is more planned, outlined and researched down to the minute detail–at least the way I’ve done it. Fiction writing, so far, feels like writing in the dark much of the time.
Were there any challenges you faced while writing your story?
I started the story 7 years ago, wrote 2 chapters and then let it sit and didn’t go back to it until November 2012. At the time, during those 7 years, I called myself procrastinating. But, looking back, I had life experiences–like fighting cancer, deepening my relationship with my partner, quitting my job– that rounded me out as a person. Without those experiences, I couldn’t have written the novel I ended up writing. I used the structure of NaNoWriMo to write the first 50K words, then took another few months to finish it (at almost 150K words). I really liked the NaNoWriMo structure–it helped me avoid the usual obstacles writers deal with all the time that are just part of being a writer (writer’s block, finding time to write, staying on task, etc.).
In your book description on BRAG you said, “Quail Fried Rice is a romance novel written in a somewhat literary style outside the usual “romance” formula.” How so?
Genre romances, in both straight and gay subgenres, are written mostly according to a formula in which the two protagonists are set up to be opponents, or rivals, or at least not to like each other. The erotic sparks fly between them, however and they are forced to admit (and consummate to some extent) their attraction or love for each other. But, a huge obstacle (circumstance, personal trauma or baggage from the past, etc.) threatens to doom their love forever. They collapse into a huddled ball of misery until something happens that allows them to fully embrace their love and they live happily ever after. In many instances, the plot line that follows this basic narrative functions merely as the scaffolding that gets the reader to the best parts, namely, from one sex scene to the next. QFR does not follow this narrative format at all with regard to the two protagonists. Also, I wrote the novel with a dominant “third” protagonist, and that is the West Texas landscape itself. The novel has a strong and distinct sense of place and location, and both main characters come into themselves and into each other in the midst of a rootedness in the natural world. So, this lends a philosophical or spiritual component to the novel that most genre romance novels don’t concern themselves with. Thus, QFR fits more in a literary category than in a straight genre romance category.
Also, QFR is much longer than most genre romances–twice as long. It’s a slow, soaker of a novel rather than a faster-paced, more action driven style of novel that dominates genre fiction. Those who prefer faster paced novels won’t like QFR (and have said so on the Amazon reviews). Others, though, who like to linger with characters as they work through the situations in the story, and like to spend a weekend reading just one book, will like this novel (and say so on the reviews).
Where can a reader buy your book?
Where do you see the Self-Publishing market in five to ten years?
I suspect that self-publishing will continue to have much of the wild, wild West flavor that it has today; however, I think that certain controls or standards will have been developed to help readers sift through the deluge of self-published books in order to get to the “good stuff” more easily. I also expect to see more self-pub presses emerge: not just authors, but entire imprints or presses that partner with authors to publish work in a way that will help the work stand out from the crowd. It’s an exciting time to be a writer, or a creative of any sort. There are so many ways to reach audiences, and so many of the barriers of the past have been removed. I feel fortunate to live at this precise moment.
What is your favorite quote?
From QFR? Not sure . . . . My favorite scene, in terms of when I felt myself to be writing at a high level, is the death scene when Elena lays next to her mother on the bed as she passes.
My favorite passage, with regard to writing, creating, putting yourself out there despite obstacles, comes from the forward Friedrich Nietzsche wrote on his birthday during a year in which he was very ill, but during which he wrote several of his most important books:
” On this perfect day, when everything is ripening and not only the grape turns brown, the eye of the sun just fell upon my life: I looked back, I looked forward, and never saw so many and such good things at once. It was not for nothing that I buried my forty-fourth year today; I had the right to bury it; whatever was life in it has been saved, is immortal. The first book of the Revaluation of All Values, the Songs of Zarathustra, the Twilight of the Idols, my attempt to philosophize with a hammer–all presents of this year, indeed of its last quarter! How could I fail to be grateful to my whole life?–and so I tell my life to myself.”
I love this quote because of its joyful, grateful stance toward life itself, toward the gift of one’s own life, and toward the opportunity to express oneself through creative work.
I am a freelance writer and scholar who lives with my partner, Nishta Mehra, and our son in a suburb of Houston, Texas. I hold a Ph.D. from Rice University in philosophy of religion and spent much of the last 25 years as a university professor and scholar. I left academe 4 years ago and now work as a freelance journalist for the Houston Chronicle, as a program consultant for the American Leadership Forum-Houston/Gulf Coast, and as a speaker/expert on topics of religious diversity in America. I also write fiction–Quail Fried Rice is my first novel.
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I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing David a couple times before about his wonderful stories and I have asked him to come back to visit Layered Pages and tell me a little about his personal interest in the literary world. Thank you David! First tell me, What is your favorite all-time movie?
Probably Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgunday. I was tempted to go for something historical but this film makes me laugh too much to be ignored!
What are you currently reading?
An old copy of Moby Dick I found in my father’s book cabinet. Strangely, I’ve never read it before.
Any bad habits? Do you tend not to finish books? Skim? Scribble in margins? Fall asleep while reading?
Plenty of bad habits! I couldn’t be bothered to read the Harry Potter series so I picked up the last book when it came out and read the last few pages. Job done.
Have you ever read a book and afterward wish you never read it?
Once or twice. If I dislike a book I tend to put it down long before finishing it.
What is the truly last great book you read?
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope.
Describe the perfect novel.
That’s an almost impossible question. If I knew the answer I would be trying to write it, ha!
What is your favorite event in history?
Another difficult one. Possibly the Renaissance?
Who is your least favorite person in history?
A neat toss-up between Hitler and Stalin, for reasons that should be obvious.
If you could meet any writer, dead or alive, who would it be? What would you want to know?
Shakespeare, and I would want to know how he worked and from where he derived his endless inspiration.
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use in judging a book is whether or not they would recommend it to their best
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In 1891, spinster librarian, Olive Wilkins, is shocked to learn of her brother’s violent death at a saloon gaming table and her sister-in-law’s subsequent murder, traveling far from her staid life to rescue her niece and nephew, now orphans. She arrives to find the circumstances of her brother’s life deplorable and her long held beliefs of family and tradition, shaken.
Accustomed to the sophistication of Philadelphia, Olive arrives in Spencer, Ohio, a rough and tumble world she is not familiar with, facing two traumatized children. Her niece and nephew, Mary and John, have been living with a neighboring farmer, widower Jacob Butler, the father of three young children of his own and a man still in pain from the recent loss of his wife.
Real danger threatens Olive and Mary and John while Jacob and his own brood battle the day-to-day struggles for survival. Will Olive and Jacob find the strength to fight their battles alone or together? Will love conquer the bitterness of loss and broken dreams?
Publication Date: September 25, 2012 | BookBaby | 191p
1867 . . . Southern lawyer and Civil War veteran, Reed Jackson, returns to his family’s plantation in a wheelchair. His father deems him unfit, and deeds the Jackson holdings, including his intended bride, to a younger brother. Angry and bitter, Reed moves west to Fenton, Missouri, home to a cousin with a successful business, intending to start over.
Belle Richards, a dirt poor farm girl aching to learn how to read, cleans, cooks and holds together her family’s meager property. A violent brother and a drunken father plot to marry her off, and gain a new horse in the bargain. But Belle’s got other plans, and risks her life to reach them.
Reed is captivated by Belle from their first meeting, but wheelchair bound, is unable to protect her from violence. Bleak times will challenge Reed and Belle’s courage and dreams as they forge a new beginning from the ashes of war and ignorance.
About the Author
Holly Bush was born in western Pennsylvania to two avid readers. There was not a room in her home that did not hold a full bookcase. She worked in the hospitality industry, owning a restaurant for twenty years and recently worked as the sales and marketing director in the hospitality/tourism industry and is credited with building traffic to capacity for a local farm tour, bringing guests from twenty-two states, booked two years out. Holly has been a marketing consultant to start-up businesses and has done public speaking on the subject.
Holly has been writing all of her life and is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction, particularly political and historical works. She has written four romance novels, all set in the U.S. West in the mid 1800’s. She frequently attends writing conferences, and has always been a member of a writer’s group.
Holly is a gardener, a news junkie, has been an active member of her local library board and loves to spend time near the ocean. She is the proud mother of two daughters and the wife of a man more than a few years her junior.
The giveaway is for one eBook of either book (winner’s choice, ePub, mobi or PDF) and open internationally. And will run today and end on April 8th. To enter please leave a comment with your email address where you can be contacted. Thank you!
The most important thing to do when reviewing is to read the book first of course. You must understand what you are reading in order to write a good and honest review. Here are tips I use when reviewing, everyone has their own method, but I have found that this works best for me. Some people highlight passages, or scribble in the margins. I, however- do not want to mark up my precious books, so I keep a notebook. As I read each chapter, I jot down what stood out to me and my feelings of what I’ve just read. After reading the entire book, I wait a day to gather my thoughts before sitting down to start on my review. I start by writing a few sentences. Then I take a step back and ponder on a few things more.
First, I ask myself, if the author wanted me to get an idea from the book, what would it be? How does it compare to the world I know? What has the author accomplished in writing their story? What is the subject matter or topic of the book? Does the author cover the subject adequately? For instance, if it’s historical fiction, is it true to time and place? Is the voice of the characters true to the language of the time? Does the author use intelligent and eloquent prose? I look at the overall layout of the book and for any editing problems I might see.
Second, take care of your reader, don’t write a spoiler. Giving the plot away ruins the appeal for a potential buyer of the book. I discourage this strongly, you want to attract the reader’s attention to the story, not write a book about the book. The art of writing a good review is to build a bridge between the book and the reader.
Third, too often I see insulting, crass and downright rude reviews. It turns many readers-such as myself- off to wanting to read anymore reviews by that person. Please keep in mind that the author has put so much time and effort into their story. Instead of being crass, give constructive criticism, show actual examples of the problems you had with the book.
(“Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. In collaborative work, this kind of criticism is often a valuable tool in raising and maintaining performance standards.”)
If you feel you cannot give a good report of the book without being insulting, then it’s best not to write the review. Just because everyone else might be trashing the book, it doesn’t mean you have to step in line and do the same. Just move on to the next book
You may also find my article here: http://www.bragmedallion.com/blog/authors-reviews-trolls-and-the-fight-goes-on
Thea, congrats on winning the BRAG Medallion for your book, Throwing Clay Shadows. Please tell me a little about your book.
TCS began as part of a larger 3 time framed novel. Because it had reincarnation theories as its base, it explored the lives of five characters over three lifetimes and how they connected.
It was really way too large a project to be considered a single novel.
When I began to self publish through ebooks, I broke the book into pieces because I realized they could stand alone and not be connected to each other. TCS became a single novel about a girl who loses her mother in 1800s Scotland. Maggie comes to think she is the cause of her ma’s death and carries the guilt of it while she struggles to make sense of her father’s new marriage to a woman who is different than her ma.
TCS had a sad ending at first because it was connected to the other novels, but when it became a single entity, I discovered the ending needed to be changed. It has its dark parts, as most of my novels do, but these characters come to a clear happiness at the end, so I think many chick-lit readers who enjoy historical settings and much angst might enjoy it.
What was the inspiration for your story?
For me, the inspiration was really the setting. Well, that and still feeling like I wanted to explore reincarnation theory, so I wrote until I felt I’d exhausted my exploration.
Is there a character in your book you connect to?
I actually like Angus the most, and really enjoyed examining his grief and guilt.
How long did it take for you to write, Throwing Clay Shadows?
That depends. The full 3 part novel took a little over a year. When I re-edited it for Kindle, it took an additional month to make it stand alone.
Who designed your book cover?
That would be me, with a little help from William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
Of the books you have written, which is your favorite?
That would have to be Anomaly. I truly enjoyed writing it and I really enjoyed the two main characters. J was a surprise for me, and so was Molly in so many ways. I still feel like J is waiting for another storyline.
What is your favorite literary genre?
Hmmm. I don’t think I have one: I’ve read shampoo bottles before. But I CAN say it isn’t medical thrillers. Nope. Not at all.
On average, how many books do you read per year?
At least a dozen, sometimes way more. Depends on how much I feel like procrastinating or the weather, or the wine, or the ….well, you know. It varies.
Do you have any advice your an aspiring author?
Don’t give up. Read lots. Help others. Write in as many genres as you can.
How did you discover indieBRAG?
That would be thanks to Kindleboards. Love that forum!
Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction; call it what you will: she prefers to describe her work as something akin to the left of mainstream. Her characters often find themselves in the darker edges of their own spirits but ultimately manage to find the light they seek.
She has been an editor, a freelancer, and a teacher, but fiction is her passion. She now blogs and writes and twitters. Not necessarily in that order.
Please visit her blog for ramblings, guest posts, giveaways, and more
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