An interview with Anna-Marie O'Brien

Welcome to an indie author, a place where you can find self-published (indie) authors and authors-to-be.

We host interviews and conversations threads, providing a place where you can read the back-stories of regular folks who have gone down the indie route. Learn, gain inspiration & make new friends here :)

Today’s interview is with Anna-Marie O’Brien.

First, some key facts about Anna-Marie:
🌏 From Phoenix, Arizona (USA)
💬 “I finally felt capable of being a writer in my early 30’s. It took me another ten years to get started.”
🖊 Right in the middle of the planner-pantser spectrum
📖 Has a published memoir, Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian (Amazon link)
😮 Wrote the book ‘in real-time’ on Instagram

Let’s dive in!


Hi there! Firstly, what do you like to be called? 
Hey Jas! My full name is a doozy: Anna-Marie O’Brien, and most people call me Anna-Marie if they can remember it, and people who know me well just call me AMO. I’m good with either.     

I love your name, I’ve not come across it before! Where in the world do you currently reside, Anna-Marie?
I live in the suburbs of beautiful Phoenix, Arizona, USA. 

Which subjects were your favourite ones as a child/teenager? Did you enjoy writing back then?
I was an early and avid reader - everything from Laura Ingalls Wilder to Judy Blume to Stephen King to Jackie Collins. I also loved all kinds of history, medieval history, Hollywood and old movie stars, and unexplained mysteries - UFO’s, Bigfoot, that kind of stuff. I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know “how” to be a writer. Nobody really pushed a creative lifestyle because we were always in survival mode, financially.

And when did you first realise that you
really enjoyed writing stories?
As a young teen, I often wrote long, colorful stories in note form to pass to my friends between classes, usually involving some famous rock star or actor. But when my 8th grade teacher started encouraging me formally, in class, is when I really started enjoying it. I wasn’t a good student at all - (for many reasons - you’ll have to read my memoir!) - so getting that early encouragement from a teacher was wonderful.

What was the earliest thing you wrote which felt meaningful, or has otherwise been memorable for you? Can you tell us a little about it?
In addition to writing lurid notes and the few things my 8th grade teacher helped me publish in the school periodical, it wasn’t until I was all the way through college and graduate school, after writing dozens of papers, that I felt my writing, cumulatively, meant something. After struggling through high school, and buckling down as an adult to get my formal education, I finally felt capable of being a writer in my early 30’s. It took me another ten years to get started.

That’s interesting. What do you feel ‘clicked’ for you to finally feel capable of being a writer? And, why did it take another ten years for you to “get started”?
Well, after my Master’s degree, I began my career as a librarian, and soon I was on a management path that had me working 50-60 hours a week, and then in the middle of that, I had two babies just a little over two years apart. So basically, I was busy with life, busy with a job, and busy with two babies in diapers - and then I burned out and hit a wall of exhaustion. When my daughter was three and my son was a year old, I quit my management job and started working part-time. It took me a year or so to unclench and relax and enjoy the breathing room. I started having deep, vivid dreams again. Being a writer had always called to me. What clicked was that I finally felt like I had something to say, a worthwhile story to tell and a little time every week to finally get it on the page. 

Why did you choose to go down the self-published (‘indie’) route?
I actually had to come to a place of acceptance with it. I don’t think I’m unique amongst writers to have grand visions of a big agent/big publisher/big paycheck - but as this particular book progressed and I started jumping through all of the hoops to query agents - well, at some point I couldn’t hack it anymore. It made me feel dirty, desperate and a little sick. The thought of the process taking YEARS to get published was just depressing to me. I felt such relief - yes, relief! - when I started looking at all of the positives of self-publishing. I had to get my ego and fantasy out of the way, and then it all made wonderful sense.

I can TOTALLY get that. I can only imagine the relief you must have felt!
It was a huge weight off my shoulders, and off my mind, for sure.

So, what was the first book you wrote?
It’s the one I just published, ‘Adventures of a Metalhead Librarian’.

Oh, I love the title! What was the inspiration behind it?
It’s a memoir, so the inspiration was a real-life adventure I had when I was 18 years old and I moved to the big city and ended up working in the music business. Some really amazing things happened, and it took me years to come to terms with it all, to put it into context. This book helped me do it.


Can you talk to us about your experience writing this first book? What was your rough process from start-to-finish? 
The process involved years and years, decades, even, of thinking about it. When I first started writing it, it was a mess. A jumbled collection of tidbits of memory, piles of complaining and wondering, mountains of pointless detail and no narrative. Post-it notes and old journals and scraps of my heart.  Feeling desperate in 2014 after two years of floundering, I found a writing coach who coached intuitive empaths, like myself. Then, using some of her suggestions, I wrote and wrote and wrote. As I made progress, I studied story structure, storytelling, scenes, transitions, dialog, themes - and I started applying some of those techniques to my story. I also studied editing, both structural and stylistic, and I rearranged chapters as I tied the backstory to the main action. I edited, and then I edited some more.  Eventually, I hired a proof-reader/editor to make sure things were tight and tidy. I sent the last draft out to a bunch of people who are in the book to get their blessings, and then I hired a formatter, and then a graphic designer for the book cover design. And after all that I took a deep breath and I hit publish. It took me five full years. (As an aside, I had a major health crisis while writing the book, so that slowed me down a bit, but it also gave me a bit of time off work. Instead of wallowing and being miserable and sick, I worked on my book and tried to make the most of an awful situation.)

You mention ‘intuitive empaths’ - I’m one of those, too! For those reading this who might not be aware of what one of those is, can you talk to us about what one of those is?
Sure. It’s a term that I’m only recently becoming comfortable with, and I tend not to want to label myself like this, but  I’ve always been aware I was a bit “different”, even as a little kid. I’ve always been fascinated by the woo-woo subject - astrology, tarot, unexplained phenomena - all things I studied out of curiosity, which made me more open and aware that I have a strong antennae and that I can “receive” information in my brain. Sometimes I just “know” things. I can tune into people’s energy and feel things deeply, I have moments of astounding deja vu, and I sometimes the dreams I have at night come true in the near future. I tend to “see” things before they happen, or to know the outcome before most people. I tend to get strong feelings about people or situations. I think most children have these capabilities and outgrow them, but I feel like my abilities are growing stronger the older I get.

You also mentioned your writing coach. In what ways did he/she help you, specifically? And why was it particularly helpful that he/she coaches ‘intuitive empaths?
I tend to be a loner, and I don’t enjoy big crowds of people, and the thought of driving all over town trying to find a writing group full of strangers sounded like pure hell to me. PURE HELL. I wanted feedback and someone to talk to about the writing and creative process. I didn’t want to bog down my own writing having to reciprocate for another writer in a group - I had to be selfish to stay focused. So, when I found a coach - Lauren Sapala - who worked with INFJ’s and other HSP, it was a real revelation. There was no “program” or deadlines or worksheets to do - just one person to talk to every few months about my project. It was such a relief to me. She isn’t a therapist, but much of it was similar to “talk therapy” and was invaluable to me. She speaks my energetic language, and she understood how it feels to be wired like this, how I receive information in my brain. She is one of my closest confidants. Having one sympathetic ear from another writer was exactly what I needed to soldier through this book, and the emotional support from her was a complete game changer. 

Do you tend to be more of a ‘planner’ or a ‘pantser’?
I tend to be right in the middle. I always do a little plotting and planning at first - just to get my brain onto paper. I think of it as a map. I am super ADD at times, and I get distracted easily - so having a map to refer back to is very helpful for me. A reminder of where I am, or what I was thinking, especially as I get started. I also think there is some energetic value to writing things down by hand - setting your intention, activating the thoughts in your brain. There is a certain magic to it.Then, after plotting a bit, I find I can “pants it” comfortably. I can let loose with the piece I’m writing because I know it has a purpose. With this particular book I planned and plotted and then didn’t look at it again for three years. When I went back and looked, I was surprised - I cleaved pretty close to my original map, without being truly conscious of it. 

I love the idea of having a ‘map’. I feel like I could probably do with one of those for my own writing… and, YES, I totally hear you when it comes to the magic of old-school pen-to-paper writing. There is something about that, isn’t there?
Yes, for sure! Manifesting your dreams requires intention and focus, and writing those things down is the first step toward a favorable outcome. Having a map helps focus those intentions. It’s a map to the next horizon, in case you get lost or distracted. 

Do you have a preference for writing for any particular genres(s), or about any particular topics or themes (however broad or narrow)?
I’ve rather enjoyed writing memoir, and I may do a few more. There are a few non-fiction topics I’d love to write about - motherhood, the writing life, music, marriage - and I have one big fiction project knocking around my head that I will need to write eventually. It’s a big one that’s been bugging me for years, but I have no idea how to write fiction. Which is great, because I’m always up for learning new things.

That sounds exciting… I’ll watch that space! :) When/where do you tend to get your best writing done?
I don’t have my own private office, and my writing desk is between the kitchen and living room in an open-plan house, so my best work gets done when I’m alone, in the mornings before the family gets up. But really, anytime I can carve out a few hours and be alone in my house is good for me to get some writing done. Otherwise, I’m in the middle of the chaos and sharing a computer with kids.  

How do you balance your writing with other life commitments?
I wrote my book while I was working part-time, and I went back to a full-time schedule about a year ago, and I’ll admit I am doing poorly at balancing it all right now.  I work full-time 45+ hours a week outside the house, plus I have two kids, a husband, house, dog. I haven’t settled in to my next project, so I’m not panicking yet. I’ll report back from the front lines as I dig in. Wish me luck.

Wow, you sound like you have a lot going on. I hope you settle smoothly into that next project of yours. 
Yes, me too! Thank you.

Speaking of lots going on what is your ‘day job’ / how do you support yourself financially alongside your writing?
My day job is working as a Youth Librarian for a public library here in the Phoenix area. It’s a good steady job in a nice community, and gives me plenty of material for my next book. I have seen a lot here, and I think people will be surprised when I write about it. 

That sounds fascinating. And it’s nice that it helps give you things to write about, too. How do you market your books?
I’ve been doing all the usual stuff. Ads, author appearances, connecting with people on my social networks. I don’t have a master plan. I do what I can, when I can afford to, and as my time allows. I’m trying not to stress myself out about it, and I’m trying not to be annoying.

Oh, what sorts of appearances have you done? For those who might not know how to ‘get into’ that kinda stuff, how was it that these appearances came about?
So far, I’ve done an appearance on a podcast with someone who found me on Twitter, and I’ve appeared at a local book festival hosted by the city I work in to sell and sign books. I also had an author event here at the library I work at. Some of it has been organic, and some of it has been me, looking for opportunities. I don’t think new authors have to kill themselves with marketing, but doing a little something every day towards marketing can push the energy in the direction you want it to go. Opportunities will appear if you do the work. 

What one thing has led to most of your book sales thus far?
I’ve built a nice following on my Instagram and Facebook, and just making sure I take the time to interact and get to know people there has been super great for sales. I wrote the book “in real time” on Instagram - so my first readers/customers were many people who had watched me write it and waited YEARS to read it.

Wow! What was “real time” writing like? Did you feel comfortable writing ‘out in the open’ like that? Did you get this particular idea from somewhere else, or come up with it yourself?
Being open on my Instagram about the writing process, and where I was at, and posting content that was interesting, really, really helped me find my writer’s voice, and my confidence as a writer. It was just me, being me, there was no “idea” behind it. People respond to authenticity and humor. I posted through my health crisis, my writing milestones, my daily life and kids, fun memories, and all of my victories and some of the challenges.  It wasn’t a calculated thing at all, very organic. There was no strategy. The support and friendships I’ve found there have been monumental to me as a writer. Truly. 

What stories do you like to read yourself? Do you have any favourite genres?
I am a non-fiction reader, mostly. True crime, mystery, biography, history - I love it. Also a ton of writing how-to, creativity, and alternate history.  I used to be a huge fiction/romance reader, but not so much anymore. 

How about favourite books and authors? (especially self-published authors/indies, but traditional is perfectly fine, too!)
Being in the fog of writing a book, I’m a bit ashamed to say that I haven’t done as much reading for pleasure for a few years. I loved David Wilcock’s The Synchronicity Key. Randy Blythe’s book ‘Dark Days’, about his time in a Czech prison. I adore Lauren Sapala and her books, especially ‘Firefly Magic’ and her writing books about being an intuitive. Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ is great for writers. Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild’ is what moved me to get serious about writing my book. My favorite old-school romance writer is Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. 

Are there any books that you’re currently working on, or planning for the future?
I have so many books planned! So many! Ha Ha. My next book is a memoir about my wayward library career and all the dirt and grit that comes from working as a public librarian. I have the book mapped out. I start writing in the New Year.

Ooh, ‘dirt and grit’ sounds intriguing. I’ll have to keep an eye out for that one! I can also relate to having lots of ideas for books.
Make sure you write those ideas down! They will go into your “idea farm”. Someday you might go looking for an idea and you’ll find those breadcrumbs and it will be like finding gold. 

Now aside from your writing, how do you like to spend your time?
I wish I could say I had some really exciting hobbies, but I don’t. I hang with my kids and enjoy family time. I love to cook. I try and get enough sleep. I write. Honestly, I like to keep things simple. 

Keeping things simple is right up my street, too. Where can we find you online (website & social media), & where can we purchase your books?
You can find me at annamarieobrien.com for my website, and I’m on Twitter and Facebook. But my main channel is Instagram @metalheadlibrarian. I consider it my main blog, and I post almost daily there. My book is available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle, or you can order a copy through your favorite small bookshop via Ingram.  

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us before you go?
I’ve had a lot of great feedback on my book, and I asked for help when I needed it. In addition to writing more books,I want to be of service to other writers, because I know a few things now. So, if anyone out there needs help with beta-reading or editing their writing projects, please feel free to contact me. I work especially well with intuitives, empaths, or other HSP who want good, heart-based feedback on their work. We need to stick together! Thank you so much for the conversation, and best of luck. 

That’s so kind of you. I’m sure other HSPs and empaths reading this will be really grateful, and find it very helpful to know that there’s someone they can come to with this stuff if they’d like any help.

It’s been a pleasure talking to you, Anna-Marie, thanks so much for taking part.


about | archive | join the indie community 👥

An interview with Thomas J Torrington

Welcome to an indie author, a place where you can find self-published (indie) authors and authors-to-be.

We host interviews and conversations threads, providing a place where you can learn from, be inspired by, and make friends with fellow writers going down the ‘indie’ route.

Today’s interview is with Thomas J. Torrington.

First, some key facts about Thomas:
🌏 Maine, USA
🕰 Initially went the indie route due to time constraints
📖 He wrote Evergreen to teach & guide his 2 young children
🖊 Wrote 1st novel draft in 4 months, writing an hour a day
⛳️ For the first 20 years of his adult life, he worked as a golf teaching professional

Now, let’s dive right in…


Hi there! Can you tell us where in the world you currently reside?
I live in the writing-friendly and wondrous state of Maine in the United States of America. It’s that too often forgotten state in the top right.

When did you first realise that you enjoyed writing?
Wow, I don’t know that I can even say I “enjoy” writing. I’ve always had some skill with arranging words. What I’ve always enjoyed is story-telling. Making up tales and sharing them has always been something that’s brought me joy. Writing was just a natural medium for me to share my stories.

That’s very honest of you, and I suspect that many will be able to relate with these sentiments!

What was the earliest thing you wrote which felt meaningful, or has otherwise been memorable? Can you tell us a little about it?
I wrote an essay my Freshman year of high school that received a “D.” My teacher was great and provided amazing feedback for me to improve. I had always been a straight-A student, and that paper was a wake-up call for me that not everything in life was going to come easily. Over the year, I worked on my writing, implementing my teacher’s suggestions. I have to credit that teacher, Mr. Lincoln, with driving my desire to become an “adequate” writer.

Wow, what a great story. Perhaps if you hadn’t received that ‘D’, you might not be where you are with you writing today…

Moving on to self-publishing now, why did you choose to go down the ‘indie’ route?
Honestly, I went the indie route initially due to time constraints. I had a novel completed for which there was a demand to buy for Christmas in 2017. The only way it was going to be available for the holiday season was to self-publish it.

Have you ever used a publisher?
No, ever since that first book, I have always self-published. I like the degree of control it affords me over every aspect of the publication. That’s not to say I wouldn’t consider more traditional publishing in the future, but it would have to be the right situation.

What ‘themes’ have you written about in your fiction so far?
I’ve written a great deal about overcoming struggle, be it personal or external. I like to integrate archetypal themes of good and evil, love, friendship, human vs. nature--things like that.

Oh, that sounds interesting, I like it. Now let’s get into your novels. What was the first book you wrote?
My first novel was EVERGREEN.

And what was the inspiration behind it?
I had a story in mind for a long time, but my inspiration when I finally sat down to seriously do some writing was to craft a story that would be something to pass on to my children. I asked myself what I would want them to learn if I wasn’t around to teach it to them. I took all of those life lessons and wrote them into the story that became EVERGREEN.

Could you talk to us about your experience writing this first book? What was your process from start-to-finish?
Like I said, I had the idea for a long time. In fact, I’d written a little here and there for over ten years. When I finally got serious, I forced myself to make an hour a day to write. Doing so, I finished the rough draft in under four months. The editing and revisions took a little over five months.

When/where do you tend to get your best writing done?
I think I get my best writing done between mid-morning and mid-afternoon, when I’m most alert. If I’m tired, I can get words down, but they’re going to need far more revision post-draft.

That makes sense - and it sounds like you understand yourself well. Of course, writing isn’t the only thing you do. How do you balance your writing with other life commitments?
That’s the trick, isn’t it? I haven’t been doing as well of late, either. For me, I have to be a little bit selfish and maybe even mean. It requires a quiet time and place, which forces me to shut my family out for a stretch of time. I’m fortunate to have an understanding wife.

I feel like more of us need to embrace that word “selfish”, and also re-frame it to see it as a good, necessary thing. Can I ask you about your ‘day job’?
I drive a school bus for my hometown. It actually functions well to afford me writing time in the middle of the day. I have several hours between morning and afternoon routes free.

How do you market your books?
I throw physical copies at people on the street and yell, “read my book.” Ha! No, I do some marketing on Twitter and utilize Amazon AMS advertising. Other than that, I rely a lot on word of mouth and local events such as library talks and book fairs. Marketing is definitely my weakness.

For those who might not be aware, how does one go about getting involved with talks and fairs? Can anyone do these, or are there certain requirements they have?
The internet is a great resource for finding out what’s going on in your area. From there, the best approach is just to ask if/how you might be able to be involved. It may require giving away a copy of a book for someone to get to know your writing, but often I find places are in search of writers to talk. I figure the worst anyone can say is, “no,” so I’m willing to take the risk of putting myself out there.

What stories do you like to read yourself? Do you have any favourite genres?
I love stories with deep themes. I’m partial to classic literature for that reason. While I find enjoyment in entertaining stories, I find myself returning to the stories that have stood the test of time. I think we are embedded in those stories in a way that speaks strongly to me.

How about favourite books and authors?
There are a ton of talented authors I’ve met on Twitter whose books I’ve loved: Carol Beth Anderson, Dawn Hosmer, and Shawn Burgess just to name a few. As for more “well-known” authors, I love Dostoyevsky, Steinbeck, Carver, and Richard Adams.

That’s a nice variety. I see some familiar names there, too, I am actually fortunate to have interviewed Carol recently (here).
I saw that. Great interview and she’s such a wonderful person and a great supporter of indie authors--as well as someone I consider a good friend from the Writing Community.

Back to yourself, are there any books that you’re currently working on or planning for the future?
I have more ideas than time. The story I’m currently struggling to work on is a multi-generational family epic. It covers four generations of two families intertwined by one fateful event. The working title is THE FOG LINGERS.

I can relate to having more ideas than time! Oh wow, that sounds quite complex and very interesting indeed. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for that one.

It’s been great to talk to you about all of this. Now aside from your writing, how do you like to spend your time?
I spend as much time as I can with my family. We enjoy being outdoors, skiing, camping, swimming, boating, and golfing.

That sounds lovely. Before I let you go, where can we find you online (website & social media), & where can we purchase your books?
You can find me at my website, https://thomasjtorrington.com/, or on Twitter @tjtorrington. All of my books are available on Amazon at https://amazon.com/author/thomasjtorrington

Great. And, lastly, is there anything else more that you’d like to share with us?
I’d just like to thank you for reaching out to me for this interview and for sharing a little about me with everyone. Thanks!

It’s been a pleasure! Thanks so much for taking part, Thomas.


about | archive | join the community 👥

An interview with KC Cowan

Welcome to an indie author, a place where you can find self-published (indie) authors and authors-to-be. We host interviews and conversations threads, providing a place where you can learn from, be inspired by, and make friends with fellow writers going down the ‘indie’ route.

Today’s interview is with KC Cowan.

Some key highlights:
🌏 Portland (OR) and Tucson (AZ), USA
🐾 Wrote a story called The Duck Who Wanted to Read in 1st grade
📖 Writes with a co-author
🖊 Fantasy; 3 young women drive each story
🎨 Enjoys walks, swimming and oil painting

So, let’s dive right in…


Hi there! Firstly, what do you like to be called?

I’ve always gone by my nickname - KC. It’s my initials. And I use my maiden name professionally. So -- KC Cowan

It’s nice to meet you, KC. Where in the world do you currently reside?

I am currently splitting my time between Portland, Oregon and Tucson, Arizona. My husband can’t abide the rain in Oregon anymore (it rains a lot, but worse, you get months of gray skies…) so we winter in Tucson. It’s a University town so there’s lots of culture and we love the sunshine!

Oh, how lovely that you get to flit between the two. I’ve been to Portland - I loved it there. Which subjects were your favourite ones as a child/teenager? Did you enjoy writing back then?

I always enjoyed English class, because writing came easily to me. And teachers always picked me to do “creative” stuff, like write a school play, so I was encouraged to be creative. I also loved choir and drama -- I was in every play and musical all during high school.

When did you first realise that you really enjoyed writing stories?

I wrote so much when I was a child and even into college, but creative writing took a back seat when I became a news reporter. After writing all day for the news, my energy was rather tapped out, so I stopped. It was when I was no longer a reporter and my co-author, Sara, asked me if I still had the “novel” we wrote in college and I dug it out and we began collaborating on fantasy stories that it hit me how much I LOVE living in my head and putting it down on paper.

What was the earliest thing you wrote which felt meaningful, or has otherwise been memorable for you? Can you tell us a little about it?

I remember writing a story called, The Duck who wanted to Read in first grade. It was about a duck who wanted to learn to read, so she went to a bookstore, bought a book and took it home and sat down and read it. Despite the lack of a good story arc, my story was one of a couple chosen from my class to go and read to a 3rd grade classroom. Now, that was a BIG DEAL!

Why did you choose to go down the self-published (‘indie’) route?

I had a small publisher for our first book as well as the sequel, but the company folded and I bought back the rights. After trying to go the traditional route with no luck, I decided to just go Indie and it has worked out pretty well.

That’s interesting, I’m glad it’s worked out well in the end. What was the first book you wrote?

I was hired to write a book about my hometown, Portland, Oregon. It was called, The Riches of a City, which is part of a quote on an 1800’s fountain in the city that reads: Good Citizens are the Riches of a City.  I was terrified at the thought of writing 20,000 words, so I broke it down to 2,000 words each for the ten chapters, and told myself, “Well, that’s just equal to five news stories” and that made it manageable in my mind. I also wrote: 20,000 Brilliant Words on a slip of paper and put it on my computer where I could see it every day.

I like the title a lot. What was the inspiration behind it?

That book came out of the blue - a phone call with a job offer. I think because I was a known TV personality and reporter, they figured people would answer my calls for interviews and they were right!

Can you talk to us about your experience writing this first book? What was your rough process from start-to-finish?

At the time I wrote “Riches” I was working in radio as a morning news anchor. I would get up at 3:00 AM, then do my shift, but I was done at 9 AM. Then I would go home and write, or go do interviews, or make calls to set up interviews. By 2 PM, I was tired so I would just do something easy, like edit. When I had a finished chapter (each chapter had a different topic, like history, education, the arts) I’d send it to my editor and start the next one. 

Do you tend to be more of a ‘planner’ or a ‘pantser’?

Writing with another person puts a whole different spin on it. Sara and I get together and talk about the possible characters in the next book we do. Who are they? What do they want? What are their challenges? Then we figure out what the main story arc will be and how it will end. But since we each still write a complete chapter and send it to each other, we have been known to come up with an idea we didn’t talk about before that might take the book in a different direction! 

Do you have a preference for writing for any particular genres(s), or about any particular topics or themes (however broad or narrow)? 

I like fantasy a lot -- But at the heart of all our books, are the three young women who are driving the story. And I find I like to READ stories with strong capable women, so I guess that’s why I like to write about them, too. 

When/where do you tend to get your best writing done?

I like writing in the morning when I still feel fresh. However, if an idea strikes, I will run to the computer any time of day and dive right in. I LOVE getting lost in my writing and looking up and seeing 3 hours have flown by!

And how do you balance your writing with other life commitments?

I’m semi-retired now so it’s easy. Plus, while I’m waiting for Sara to finish her chapter, I’m under no pressure, and have the time to “day-dream” ideas for what I’ll do when the story comes back to me.

So I’m glad you mention Sara. How did your relationship come about? And when/how did you decide you would write together? I’d love to know more about how this works in practice.

Sara and I met in high school in Portland, Oregon. We were both in choir and involved in theater along with our other friend, Nancy. All three of us went to different colleges, but kept in touch. Sara is the one who started the whole thing by deciding to write her own fantasy novel. She made herself a character: Irene, Princess of Cabbage. She turned Nancy Danner into Nan the Dancer and I became Kay of the Crystal Seas. She is really the reason it began and we still do it as we did originally -- alternating chapters (Nancy dropped out kinda early). 

So, after I write as far as I want on a particular chapter, I send it to Sara and she advances the various storylines she wants to work on. When I get it back, I get inspired by what Sara wrote and it really makes me excited to dive in and move it along. Throughout the book, we meet often to discuss how it’s going, kick around some ideas and figure out problems. 

Once the book is “done” I get the job of editing and moving things around. For example, Sara may have advanced one plot point just a little bit -- a few paragraphs, and in my next chapter, I might also write just a bit. When I edit, I often decide to combine those two bits into one chapter. 

What is your ‘day job’ / how do you support yourself financially alongside your writing?

I still do voice work. I have a client for whom I narrate educational/training videos for, plus I enjoy narrating other authors audiobooks. (check me out on ACX.com!) 

Oh, I’ll have a look on there! And how do you market your books?

I have tried a LOT of different things. I got several TV, Radio, and Print stories about our first book, because I was a former TV reporter and well known. Didn’t seem to boost sales, though. I’ve done some FB ads, joined local writers groups, etc. but I think connecting with other writers on Twitter has been the most helpful. I learn a lot from others that way.

Well that’s very interesting. Do you have any sense of why TV/Radio/Print didn’t seem to work? Did FB Ads work better?

I guess the reason TV and Radio didn’t work is that my “target” audience ( teens, mostly although many older woman like our books) doesn’t read newspapers and watch TV news! I think I did a little better with FB.

In what ways has connecting with other writers been so helpful, marketing-wise?

I get some ideas from other writers about marketing. Other authors are so willing to help others! But also, the writing community on Twitter is always trying to boost other authors and I’ve had a couple of book bloggers reach out to me about our series, which is great!

Have you ever used a publisher? What was your experience like working with them?

I enjoyed working with my small publisher. In fact, I still use her to do my covers!

What one thing has led to most of your book sales thus far?

Book signings at local book stores. We sold 49 of the first book!

Have you ever used a publisher? Which one, and how did the relationship come about?

I just submitted to Ravenswood and she accepted me.

Can you share more with us about this publisher? What sorts of books do they publish? Who are the team behind it? What’s the experience of working with them been like?

She’s now become a vanity press, sadly. 

Oh, that’s a shame. So am I right in saying that, since then, you’ve been publishing by yourself (i.e. without a publisher)?

Yes, I reformatted the books while recovering from ankle surgery (lots of time on the sofa!) and put them back out on Amazon. One thing I did to help market is print postcards for each of the books. One side is the cover, the other is info about the story and how to buy it. I ALWAYS keep them in my purse, so when talking to someone, if books come up, I ask if they like fantasy and if the answer is yes, I give them the cards. Guerrilla Marketing at its best!

What stories do you like to read yourself? Do you have any favourite genres?

I tend to gravitate towards female-centric books, novels or nonfiction. I’m an omnivore!

How about favourite books and authors? (especially self-published authors/indies, but traditional is perfectly fine, too!)

I love Amy Tan, Elizabeth Gilbert, Isabelle Allende, Nicole Mones to name a few. One book I keep recommending to people is Mistress of the Vatican. It’s a true story about a woman who maneuvered her brother in law from parish priest to Pope! And she was the “gatekeeper” everyone had to pay off to see him. She was a scandalous woman and the story reads like a novel. 

Are there any books that you’re currently working on, or planning for the future? (writing-wise)

Sara and I are working on book four, but she’s had some health issues and hasn’t written for a while. So, to keep busy, I’ve been writing the prequel to our first book, Journey to Wizards’ Keep.  

Aside from your writing, how do you like to spend your time?

Love to take walks in the desert when we’re in AZ, and go swimming. I adore antiquing even though I certainly don’t need anything else in our home. And I also am a hobbyist oil painter!

Where can we find you online (website & social media), & where can we purchase your books?

Our books are available on Amazon.com.  You can learn more about our books and read “extras” that didn’t make it into final books at our website: www.irenenankay.com (names for our three heroines!)

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us before you go?

After a full career working in television, it’s really a joy to find a “second” career with writing. I hope to keep on making new adventures with our heroines for some time!

I’m so pleased you’ve found such a joyful “second” career, and may you continue to keep making adventures - and going on ones of your own! Thanks so much for taking part, this has been really fun.


about | archive | join the community 👥

An interview with Blair Denholm

An indie author from Brisbane, Australia.

Welcome to an indie author, a place where you can find self-published (indie) authors and authors-to-be. We host interviews and conversations threads, providing a place where you can learn from, be inspired by, and make friends with fellow writers going down the ‘indie’ route.

Today’s interview is with Blair Denholm.

Some key highlights:
🌏 based in Brisbane, Australia
🐾 well-travelled
💼 works as a Russian language translator
📖 has written crime, & also for children
🖊 pantser
📺 enjoys The Office (US), Black Books & Father Ted

So, let’s dive right in…


Hi Blair! Thank you for taking part in this. So, can we kick things off by finding out which part of the world you grew up in?

Hi, Jas. I was born and grew up in the beautiful subtropics of Brisbane, Australia.

It looks like your work has taken you to lots of interesting places. Where have your travels taken you?

I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of travelling over the years. My first trip abroad was a cruise around the Pacific Ocean with a group from university. Not long after that, I went to St Petersburg and Moscow for a month, and then I spent an entire year in Russia studying the language. I made several trips to Russian after that, most recently in 2015. My partner and I try to visit Europe once a year, and the list of countries is too extensive to name them all. Favourites are Holland and Croatia. I’ve also lived and worked in New York and Dubai.

I don’t often don’t delve so much into this next question, but your work really does look fascinating. Can you give us a glimpse into some of the translation and political work you have been involved in? And your current firm looks interesting; what do they do?

I work for an organization with a long name - the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. The shorter and easier version is CCAMLR (pronounced “kamel-ar”). The Commission was set up under the UN to look after animal life in the Antarctic. In particular, it regulates fishing and monitors research activities on seabirds, seals and other fauna. I work as a Russian language translator. Most of the documents we translate are scientific papers and reports, correspondence and legalistic texts. To be honest, it sounds much more exciting than it actually is. Fiction writing is my passion.

At what point was it you realised that you enjoyed writing? 

I’ve enjoyed the process of writing since I was very young. But it’s only been in the last ten years or so that I decided to do something about it in a serious way.

That’s interesting, what was it that made you finally take action in a ‘serious way’?

There a couple of reasons. Firstly, I realized writing is what I’m probably best at (apart from snacking and watching TV on the couch). Secondly, I thought perhaps if I put my heart and soul into it there’s a chance I could get some financial rewards for the effort I put it. So far those rewards have been modest, but in 2020 I’m hoping to see a big uptick in that area.

Do you recall the moment when you felt brave enough to call yourself a ‘writer’?

I’d say it was when an actual publisher - albeit a small one - accepted the draft of my noir novel SOLD that I decided “the moment” had arrived. It was that “confirmation” that many writers crave.

Can you recall the first piece of writing you did that is particularly memorable, or otherwise feels significant?

I remember once at primary school we were given a bunch of essay topics in English class. I struggled to choose, but then I noticed one had a typo in it. It was something like “What I like to do in my lunch hour”. I went on a rant about below-par educational standards and what we should do with teachers who can’t spell. I think I got an A!

Before we dive more into your writing, your website bio mentions that ‘He voted in a foreign election despite having no eligibility to do so, was almost lost at sea on a Russian fishing boat, and was detained by military forces in the Middle East. I don’t know where to start here… can you give us some more context with regards to one of these stories? :)

Let’s start in order. Back in the day I happened to be in Russia when there was an election on. Someone close to me, an old babushka, was too frail to make it to the polling station. She gave me her passport and asked me to vote on her behalf. I waved the document at the guy on the door, mumbled a few words in Russian, and he let me inside where I cast the vote according to babushka’s wishes. Quite a nerve-wracking experience!

The second adventure happened when I asked if I could tag along with some fishermen on a Russian fishing boat. It was sailing from Hobart, Tasmania, to New Zealand to have its hull repainted. A day out and a huge storm struck, almost capsizing the vessel which had lost steering capabilities at the peak of the tempest. The only thing stopping the ship from tipping over was the huge amount of sand in the fish-hold that was being transported to NZ to sand-blast the hull. Another couple of degrees of list and she would have sunk, no doubt.

The last episode relates to a job I had in the middle east (I won’t name the country). I was with some colleagues, driving around the desert, when one of our team decided to snap photos of a piece of infrastructure guarded by soldiers. Before we knew what was happening, we were all arrested and detained on an army base. We were held there for more than seven hours, given nothing to eat and the occasional sip of water. Our passports were confiscated and we collected them a week or so later after signing a paper in Arabic and promising not to be naughty like that again. 

Your novel Sold looks fascinating. Before this, though, I understand that you wrote a children’s(?) book called Escape from Passing Winds. I love the title! How did writing this come about?

About fifteen years ago I took a correspondence writing course and ended up with a kids’ book, Trouble Brewin’. Two years ago, I rebranded it as Escape from Passing Winds (a kind of double entendre based on the name of an old folks’ home), stuck a decent cover on it and put it up on Amazon.  It’s sold a few copies, so I’m happy with that.

I love the name of that kids’ book. With regards to Sold, what made you choose the Crime genre?

I’ve always loved detective stories. The first books for grown-ups I read were the Agatha Christie novels. I must have read them all by the time I was fifteen. In my own writing, I like being able to throw up all kinds of clues, put in twists. Crime seemed to offer the best medium for me to do that.

Those
Agatha Christie’s are classics.

What was it like to write your 1st novel? Can you go back in time a little for us and paint a picture of it was like, and how it felt? Did you follow a particular ‘process’?

Writing SOLD was a labour of love. I got the idea and even the title for the book from my partner, a real estate agent. As most writers with day jobs can attest, finding the time to write can be the biggest challenge of all. Therefore, my process was kind of haphazard. I would grab an hour here, two hours there, and shut myself in a room and just write.

I think a lot of writers will be able to relate to those sentiments. So how long did it take to finish your 1st book, from start to finish? 

It took way too long for my liking. Two and a half years or so. The sequel, called Sold to the Devil (out very soon, make sure you get a copy!), took a little less time - two years. But I’ve recently learned how to write faster and I’m planning on smashing out several works in 2020. Writing “The End” is always a joy!

And it looks like you have published with a small, independent publisher -
Clan Destine Press. How did this relationship come about?

Good question. I attended a local book launch here in Hobart and had a chat with the author at the end of the event. He put me onto Clan Destine and they were amazing. Even though it was officially out of their stated submission time-frame, they had a look at my manuscript and liked it enough to take me under their wing.

That’s great. How long did it take them to get back to you, and how did they contact you to give you the good news?

There was some toing and froing via email between us over a few months. At one point I wasn’t sure whether they’d take a chance on me. It was maybe the 10th email where the publisher finally said congratulations, we’ve decided to offer you a deal. It was a hugely exciting moment for me!

Did you consciously choose to publish through a small publisher, rather than look for a traditional publishing house or else self-publish alone?

To be honest, I was lucky enough for the first publisher I approached to accept the work. So I didn’t go looking at the big publishing houses. Self-publishing is something I’ve done and am going to do more of in the near future.

What is it like to have the ‘backing’ of a small, independent publishing house? Are you expected to do your own marketing? What do you feel are the advantages? Are there any disadvantages?

My publisher is very approachable and helpful. That’s a huge advantage. You’re given that extra personal attention. Especially when it comes to editing drafts. And yes, I am expected to do my own marketing. Even the Big 5 demand that of their authors these days. Unless you are Stephen King of JK Rowling.

So, let’s dig into your writing process. Do you keep to a writing schedule? What does this look like, if so?

My writing process is evolving. From totally chaotic to only mildly so. My aim is to allocate a set amount of time each day, but it never works out like that. When it comes to my method, I’m definitely a pantser rather than a plotter. I’ve recently read a fantastic book called Writing into the Dark, all about writing your story with no outline. Exactly how I do it!

That book sounds right up my alley, I’ll have to check that one out.

It appears that some of your interesting, international experiences through your professional work have inspired some of your fiction writing. Could you talk more about this?

Whether consciously or not, there seem to be Russian characters in most of my stories. Goodies and baddies. I’ve also drawn a little on my experience of living in New York for my book of comical sketches featuring NYPD cops Officer Boyd & the Sarge. These two guys were born of a Twitter word-prompt hashtag (#vss365) and have drawn a bunch of fans from around the world. 

How is it you balance your writing with your work and other commitments?

This is very hard to do. Work and other boring stuff gets in the way of lots of valuable writing time. I also like to run and lift weights when I get the chance, which helps keep my mind alert. Kind of.

I think carving out that time is one of the most challenging things for any writer.

Did you always plan a follow-up to
Sold? Please talk to us about the follow-up novel.

The publisher wants three books in this “franchise”. The second one is nearly completed and will be out in the world early next year. It has the same detestable anti-hero Gary Braswell, as well as a bunch of new compelling characters, including a talking Tasmanian devil.

And do you have any others works planned?

I sure do. The first is my new series of indie thrillers, Revolution Day, starring Investigator Viktor Voloshin. It’s based on real events centering around the covered-up murder of an African student in Moscow. There will be three in this series, more if it takes off. Fingers crossed it will. But before that, I hope to have Boyd & the Sarge out before Christmas 2019.

Are you going to continue to publish through Clan Destine Press?

If they will have me, sure. I’ve at least got the third Gary Braswell book to do for them. After that, who knows?

I’m sure it’ll work out well for you, whichever way you go!

Aside from your fiction novels, do you have any other writing to tell us about?

Earlier this year I did a short spell as a feature writer for a start-up magazine, The Gold Coast Chronicle. Some of my short stories have been included in anthologies.

Do you have any favourite books/authors?

My unchanging answer to this is: Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky and The World According to Garp by John Irving. I’ve got two indie writer friends everyone should check out: Chris Johnson (Dead Cell) and Aza Clave (You Don’t Know Me).

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo this year (2019), or have you in the past?

Yes. I started late this year (5th November), so getting to the goal may prove difficult. But taking part is the main thing.

What advice do you have for your younger (writer) self?

Don’t be afraid of writing a terrible first draft. Start earlier, like, as a teenager!

That sounds like solid advice!

Outside of your writing, what does your life look like? What do you spend your time doing, and what else is important in your life aside from your writing?

Reading, reading and more reading. I love traveling around the world, meeting new people and enjoying different cultures. I can watch most types of football for hours on TV.  I used to play a lot of golf, but haven’t for years.

Oh, I enjoy my sports too. I also notice that you’re a fan of television … any favourite shows that you’d offer to share?

Indeed. US version of The Office, Get Smart, Father Ted, Black Books. I’m enjoying an amazing Australian political miniseries at the moment called Total Control.

The US Office is one of my all-time favourites, and I love Father Ted. They show it every year in the UK around Christmas-time, and I always try to watch an episode or two.

Where can we find you online (website & social media), & where can we purchase your books?

You can get all my books here: https://www.amazon.com/Blair-Denholm/e/B0719RW45X

I’m getting a website makeover right now, but the domain name will be the same: www.blairdenholm.com
Also Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blairdenholm/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/blairdenholm
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/blairdenholm/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16940478.Blair_Denholm ]

Well, this has been great fun. Do you have anything else to share with us before we wrap things up?

Only “watch this space”. I intend to write lots of quality books in 2020, and also interact with more authors from all over the world.

We’ll certainly be doing that! Thanks so much for taking part, Blair, this has been great. :)

It’s been a pleasure!


about | archive | join the community 👥

An interview with Patricia Correll

Indie interview #9

Welcome to an indie author, where you can find interviews with self-published “indie” authors - a growing community.

These interviews are curated by Jasraj (hi!); you can find him on Twitter @Jasraj0 - he’d love to connect with you!

Whether you’re a writer, reader, or both, I hope you enjoy this week’s interview with Patricia Correll.

- - - - -


Hi Patricia! Thank you for taking part in this. So, can we kick off by finding out which part of the world you grew up in? And, where do you live currently?

I am from the U.S.! I grew up in Kentucky and lived most of my life there, but two years ago my family moved to Western Alabama. We went from the south to the South, with a capital S. 

At what point do you realise that you enjoyed writing? Do you remember ‘a moment’ that this happened, or is it a passion which has evolved over time?

I don’t recall any specific moment. I was always a storyteller, and started writing stories down as soon as I knew how. I was in college before I realized it was a potential career and not just a hobby, though.

Speaking of which, can you recall the first piece of writing you did that is particularly memorable, or otherwise feels significant?

I remember my parents coming in my room and being annoyed because I was supposed to be asleep, but I was sitting at my little kiddie table ‘writing’ instead. I say ‘writing’ because at that point I was 3 or 4 and couldn’t actually spell, though I could write my letters. So my ‘story’ was just a jumble of random letters. But I had a plot and characters and everything in my head!

When do you get your best writing done? Are there any ‘ingredients’ which are conducive to you having a ‘good writing session’?

I write best with some background noise, usually a murder or occult podcast (don’t judge me!). I usually have to get out of my house to write, because if it’s not my family bugging me, it’s the pile of unfolded laundry in my peripheral vision.

Do you have a writing schedule? What does this look like, if so? Do you set planned time aside for your creative writing?

For the moment I’m lucky; I’m a stay-at-home mom with one kid in school full-day and one in preschool half-day. So I get around 2 hours to write in the morning while they’re both occupied. Next year when the younger one is in full-day kindergarten, I plan to find a job outside the house, which will cut into my writing time (but I look forward to interacting with adults again!).

Aside from your stories, do you do any other writing?

Just answers to interview questions and the occasional blog post or short article, when I’m invited!

Did you start writing novellas before novels? Please tell us about the first novella you wrote - how the idea came about, and what writing it was like.

I originally began with short stories, then novels. It’s only recently (in the past three years) that I started writing novellas. My first novella was “The Corpse-Eater”, which is based on a Japanese folktale. I just twisted it a bit; instead of a male samurai, I have a teen girl samurai and I set it during the Meiji Restoration, a time period I find fascinating.

When did you start writing your novel The Unseen World? How long did it take to write it, from start to finish? Please describe the process for us.

I am a slow writer. It took me around four years to complete it, from draft to editing (and more editing, and more editing) to shopping it around, to more editing, and finally choosing to self-publish.

Please share with us the names of the stories you have written, and whether they are short stories, novellas or novel :)

Currently available on Amazon are my Lovecraftian short story, “Beneath Black Ridge”, my novellas “The Corpse-Eater” and “Peony Lanterns”, my novel The Unseen World and a novella collection, Late Summer, Early Spring. You can also find a couple of my shorts online for free, “Inheritance” (on the Lovecraft Ezine site) and “Faithful” on the Luna Station Quarterly site. I’ve published so many shorts over the years, I couldn’t begin to list all the titles!

How have you balanced your career/day-job/other life commitments with your writing?

I’m sure most writers can tell you it’s not easy. I had to give up the idea that writing requires at least two hours of total solitude and silence so the muse can flow or whatever. These days I write during my kids’ swim lessons!

How have you found the Amazon publishing process? Was there anyone/any resource(s) that helped you with the self-publishing process, or was it more a case of figuring it out as you go?

Hugh Howey’s blog (author of The Martian) was a huge help. He laid out a lot of useful information, like formatting, marketing, etc. His posts on cover design were the best. A lot of it was learning as I went. Mistakes were made, but I finally feel like I have a pretty good handle on it.

How do you do your marketing? Which social media do you use; which do you enjoy most, and which has been the most effective for your book promotion?

I’m still working on learning the marketing aspect. I’m naturally shy and don’t like being noticed, so I really have to push myself to attend events, talk up my new releases, etc. I have an author page on Facebook (I’m old), one on Goodreads and a Twitter account. My sales actually went up after I started engaging people on Twitter; there’s a large community of authors who all support each other. 

Are there any specific tips you would share for writers who are hoping to get better at the whole ‘marketing thing’?

Engage with people, befriend other writers! Look for writing groups and events in your area. I fell in with some local authors who have lots of connections and it’s been fantastic. Don’t be afraid to approach local bookstores, newspapers, book bloggers or reviewers. The worst they can do is say ‘no’.

What advice do you have for your younger (writer) self?

Quite a lot of writing is not actually writing at all. You’ll never use that anthropology course, go take a marketing and business class instead!

Outside of your writing, what does your life look like? What do you spend your time doing, and what else is important in your life aside from your writing?

I have a husband, two kids and a cat, and as the stay-at-home parent I’m 99% responsible for cooking, cleaning, appointment-making, event-planning, school runs, extracurriculars, etc. When I’m not running around, I read, watch TV (it takes me four days on average to watch an entire movie; thank you, Netflix), run a family-friendly board-gaming group, and make silly little keychains and bookmarks out of Perler beads. 

Are there any other authors/stories (especially indies!) you enjoy who you’d like to give a shout-out to?

I’ve made a real effort to read more indie and small press books this year, and I’ve come across a couple gems. I really enjoyed Drew Melbourne’s Percival Gynt and the Conspiracy of Days. It’s a seamless blend of SF and fantasy, and is alternately funny and dark. I’ve also enjoyed books by E.H. Night, R.J. Sorrento, and Jerry Gerold. My big name discovery this year was Robert McCammon. I’m obsessed with him right now.

Where can we find you online (website & social media), & where can we purchase your books?

I’m on Twitter at @Author_PCorrell

My Goodreads page is https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6727899.Patricia_Correll

And you can find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/authorpatriciacorrell/

You can look me up easily on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Correll/e/B07BCQQ3KB?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1571166851&sr=8-1

Late Summer, Early Spring is also available on the DSPP store: https://www.dsppublications.com/books/late-summer-early-spring-by-patricia-correll-144-b

Thanks so much for taking part, Patricia, it’s been great to interview you :)


about | subscribe | more interviews 

Loading more posts…