My husband and I met, married and raised our two children in Southern California where we still live. Our oldest is married and has three grown sons. The other is an aerospace engineer who made watching The Big Bang Theory seem oddly familiar. I started writing when a co-worker challenged me to write my own book after I complained about a disappointing story. At the urging of friends and critique partners, I entered the Golden Heart Contest for Unpublished Writers, and Silent Song was one of six finalists in the short contemporary category. It eventually sold to Kensington Publishing. Between my day job as a high school teacher and family obligations, writing was put on hold for several years. Once I retired, however, characters and story ideas began dancing in my head again, but now they danced to Regency music. The Wolverton World is the result of letting them dance onto the manuscript page.
Jann: Tell us about your road to publication?
Leslie: My road trip was long, winding, and a bit rocky at times. My first book (a contemporary), Silent Song, took 10 years from first concept until Kate Duffy bought it for Meteor Publishing, then for Kensington when Meteor was sold off. By that time, my day job and growing family obligations pretty much took over and I set aside my writing for several years. When I retired, I had time to immerse myself in reading for pleasure, and it wasn’t long before the “what if” ideas started popping up again. I rejoined RWA to get caught up on the changes in the market and started writing once more. I completed Scandalizing the Duke and Chasing Scandal before I started submitting to the traditional houses. The long waits between submission and check-backs, the almost-but-not-quite editor nibbles from contest entries and the black hole of Covid lockdowns finally made me decide that I didn’t want to wait another 10 years to see my book in print. I researched all the “new” stuff and asked lots of questions, then uploaded Scandalizing the Duke through Draft2Digital and set my release date. I’m still learning, but I’m back on track.
Jann: What motivated you to write Regency romance?
Leslie: I decided to focus on historical in general, and Regency in particular, for their unlimited shelf life for readers. Contemporary stories quickly lose their freshness which can limit their appeal to new readers. Readers of historically set stories embrace the time warp instead of being distracted by it. I also write what I like to read, and I love historical fiction.
Jann: Historical romance readers look for accuracy from the author. What are your favorite sources for research and how much time did you spend on research? Do you research before, while you write a first draft or after?
Leslie: I tend to research as needed while I write. I usually begin with overview information off the internet for key events for the time period when the story will be set. I use historical study sites like universities and English history sites that I come across, then cross check for accuracy. I look for events that might impact my characters or move the story in a particular direction. I’m also a member of Regency Fiction Writers and we share a lot of links and sources, so I can often verify information that way. One of our members (Kristine Hughs) has recently completed an exhaustive research book on Waterloo in which she has read reams of primary source letters and dispatches, etc. to include. I know I’ll be able to rely on the accuracy of that book for both facts and flavor of the time period. My third book, Scandal’s Choice has an amputee hero, and I read the biography of Lord Oxley as well as researched recovery times, the history of prosthesis, and interviewed a man about the actual sensations of using and wearing one. Every story has a different research component, so I use whatever seems appropriate at the time.
Jann: Where did the idea come from for this series? Did you think of character, plot or theme first?
Leslie: I always think of people first. My first concept for the series was a what if–what if a widower returned to London with three daughters to launch and one was a bluestocking, one was a rescuer, and the third an intuitive, and what if the mother of one of his suitor’s mother caught his attention?
Once the writing/plotting began the bluestocking, Elizabeth, became a woodworker and enters a marriage of convenience, the rescuer became Charlotte in Scandalizing the Duke, and the intuitive has yet to emerge from the schoolroom. The widower papa doesn’t show until Scandal’s choice (Elizabeth’s story) and he has remarried when he does. First concepts never make it past research and revisions.
Jann: How long did it take you to write Book One?
Leslie: About 6 or 9 months initially. I think of book like babies: 3 months of trying, 9 months to delivery.
Jann: Book One, Scandalizing the Duke, from your new series The Wolverton World, debuted in February of this year. How did it feel?
Leslie: Fabulous, exciting, and scary.
Jann: Tell us about your main characters, Lucien, Duke of Wolverton and Charlotte Longborough. What major conflicts did you set for Lucien and Charlotte to work through on the way to their HEA?
Jann: Charlotte is a compulsive rescuer whose determination to rescue her former neighbor’s wife from his abuse will surely spell disaster and scandal if she is caught.
Lucien is determined to see that scandal never again attaches itself to him, or anyone under his roof.
Charlotte can’t achieve her goal without help, and Lucien can’t take the chance that she’ll act on her own.
Jann: I see you have Book Two, Chasing Scandal and Book Three, Scandal’s Choice, set to publish soon. Can you share what these two books are about? Will you have more books for this series?
Leslie: Book 2, Chasing Scandal, is about Lucien’s illegitimate brother Tristan who is an agent of the Crown. His mission to uncover a traitor is complicated by an abducted child and the woman who believes he is the kidnapper. To protect the child, the two of them must work together though their journey leads to unexpected discoveries and rewards.
Book 3, Scandal’s Choice is Charlotte’s sister Elizabeth’s story.
Known among the ton as the odd sister, Elizabeth has decided two failed Seasons are as much as she can tolerate. But her plan to return home and run her father’s household is shattered when he remarries, and an unfortunate incident at a local assembly limits her prospects even more.
Faced with war injuries that resulted in amputation, Major Warleigh hates the idea of being dependent on anyone, especially his brother and sister-in-law. Their overwrought sympathy and plans for his invalid care make him shudder. Neither of them like the prospect of returning home, nor do they have many choices in the matter. What began as a flippant remark grows into a genuine proposal for marriage of convenience. They discover loyalty, honor, and love are more than ideas, and marriage is more than spoken vows when a woman claiming to be his fiancé arrives, unannounced, at their door.
One on my beta readers asked for Anne’s story (Lucien’s sister), and I had originally planned on her book being book 2, but I realized I didn’t know her fears and secrets yet. Her personality is a lot like the heroine in my current work in progress, but her background and goals don’t fit, so she’ll have to wait.
I do want to do a book for the Duke of Everham (I affectionately call him the doggie-duke). There is a good reason he prefers dogs to people.
Jann: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?
Leslie: Satisfaction. I want the reader to like the people in the stories and root for their journey to happily ever after. I don’t begin with theme as my goal, but certain ones tend to show up. Family is always a part of my stories since the support or absence of family impacts how we deal with life and the goals we form for ourselves.
Jann: You also have a new series, Hazardous House Parties, coming out in the future. What can you share with us today about the series?
Leslie: Several guests at Lady Kirkwood’s birthday house party deal with accidents a bit more frequently than normal. The first book is currently titled Braxton’s Vow and is a second chance trope that evolved from friends to enemies to lovers.
Jann: In your books, who is your favorite character and why?
Leslie: My favorite character is the one I am developing at any given time. Charlotte was eager and hopeful, Julia was braver than she realized, Elizabeth is a creative who cannot deny her drive. In Braxton’s Vow, Arabella is clever, inquisitive, and daring.
Jann: What’s your all-time favorite book?
Leslie: Only one?? How does anyone pick just one? I’ve read Pride and Prejudice every other year since I was in the 4th grade, so I guess that’s it, but I cherish so many stories and the authors who’ve written them. It is like asking who’s your favorite child. Always for different reasons, but always equally.
Jann: Where can we get your books?
Leslie: You should be able to get my books at all the major vendors by typing in the title of the book. This lets you select the vendor you prefer to make your ebook preference. The paperback should be able to be ordered from any of the vendors. (Editor’s note: see below for buy links.)
Jann: Congratulations Leslie on The Wolverton World!! It’s been a real pleasure talking with you today. Take care and stay healthy!!
Nancy Brashear lives in Orange County, California, with her husband, Patrick, and their rescue dog, Goldie, where her grown children and seven grandgirls have supported her writing adventures. A professor emeritus in English, she has published short stories, poems, academic articles, textbook chapters as well as website content and writing projects with educational publishers. Gunnysack Hell is her debut fiction novel and was inspired by a true-crime event. And, yes, she did live off-grid with her family in a homestead cabin in the Mojave Desert when she was a child.
We’re here today talking to author, Nancy Brashear, about her debut psychological thriller novel. Gunnysack Hell has received fantastic reviews. So let’s see what all the excitement is about.
Jann: Tell us about your journey to publication?
Nancy: I’ve always loved to write. I vividly remember the experience of writing a poem about sitting in the fog on a bench and searching for just the right word to express a specific feeling when I was only about-eight-years old. In more recent times, as a professor in Education and English, I’ve published many academically-related writings along with occasional short stories and poetry. However, Gunnysack Hell is my first full-length published novel, and I’ve had to learn much about the craft of writing longer works of fiction to get this debut novel published.
Jann: Gunnysack Hell made its publication debut in February. How did it feel?
Nancy: It felt great! I signed my contract with The Wild Rose Press in April of 2020 (with a big thanks to Ally Robertson, my editor, for being my advocate and steward), and, now, less than a year later, it’s been released world-wide. It’s been exciting to introduce my “baby” to the world during the pandemic, and I’ve gotten a lot of support from my writing communities, especially my critique group, Serious Scribblers.
Jann: How long did it take for you to write this story?
Nancy: I began writing Gunnysack Hell when I was working at a more-than-fulltime job and had to set it aside. Once I picked it back up in calmer times, I worked on it, on and off, for about three years including taking it through beta readers, multiple edits, and the publishing process. I’ve learned a lot through this process about how to write, polish, and publish a book. I have a few other projects backed up in the pipeline waiting for the same treatment—but on a quicker timeline!
Jann: Will you give our readers the premise of the story? I understand the idea for the book came from a childhood stint in the desert.
Nancy: My story was inspired by a true-crime event in my family when I was young and our family lived in my grandmother’s homestead cabin in Apple Valley. A predator who had been terrorizing our desert community stopped my sister and me when we were walking home, a mile and a half down an isolated, dirt road. Needless to say, this led to a lot of drama in our family!
Jann: Why multiple points of view?
Nancy: It didn’t start out that way. I began writing this story from a 3rd person POV, focusing on the young girl, Nonni. About a third of the way in, I discovered she had her own story she wanted to tell in 1st person. However, after I made this conversion, I discovered that her limited perspective was too restrictive to tell a full story. Other characters were bursting with their own secrets. In the long run, I think it made for a much richer story to have rotating 1st person POVs—but it wasn’t an easy task for me to accomplish, and it took a lot of rewriting to get it right.
Jann: Which character has the biggest arc?
Nancy: Although there are several adult characters in the novel, Nonni, the older child, probably experiences the most dynamic growth in this thriller, which was definitely not written for children. Through her personal epiphany, the truth will set you free, she emerges a much wiser young woman who finally finds her “voice” and can finally take action.
Jann: In your acknowledgment you mention your mother, Peggy Powell. Do you mind sharing with us today about her and how she inspired you?
Nancy: Although my mom had a challenging childhood, throughout her life, she fully embraced the idea that life was an adventure, even the gruddy parts, and, with a little faith, you could get through anything. This attitude embodies Claire, the mother in Gunnysack Hell. At my website (www.nancybrashear.com), my free prequel short story, “Dare to Wish Upon a Star,” is based upon Claire, as a ten-year-old living in Santa Ana with her mother, a singer in a 40s girl-band who also runs a boarding house out of a Victorian mansion. This backstory was also inspired by my mom’s young life, and provides insight into Claire’s personality.
Jann: What motivated you to write Ready or Not, A Creepy, Retold Fairytale for Grownups?
Nancy: I enjoy writing twisty things with elements of psychological suspense, and this short story for adults was inspired by “Hansel and Gretel.” At this point, I’m planning to continue this series with short-story retellings of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Little Mermaid.”
Jann: What’s next?
Nancy: I have a couple of rough draft novels completed, awaiting some tender, loving care. Probably the next one out will be Love on the Fly, a psychological thriller about a flight attendant who becomes agoraphobic after losing part of her family in a mysterious housefire. That’s all I’m saying for now.
Jann: What’s the best thing about being an author?
Nancy: I love letting my mind run wild as I create the interior landscapes of characters and put them into impossible situations in which they have to use all their resources to survive.
Jann: How can we learn more about you and your writing?
Nancy: Please sign up for my newsletter and blog (author interviews, reviews of books for children and adolescents, and other topics) at my website; follow me on social media! Email me if you’re interested in featuring Gunnysack Hell in your book group (as a SoCal-based thriller) and/or would like to do a Zoom author talk with me.
Jann: What sound or noise do you love?
Nancy: Bird songs (lots of them in our back yard)
Jann: What sound or noise do you hate?
Nancy: People chewing.
Jann: What profession would you hate to do?
Jann: What is the one thing you have never been asked, but you wish someone would?
Nancy: What it was like to live in a UFO commune, as a child, for six months
Jann: What‘s on your To-Be-Read pile?
Nancy: The psychological thriller, You Should Have Known, by Jean Hanff Korelitz (the novel that inspired the short Netflix series, The Undoing)
Jann: Favorite song?
Nancy: “I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles
Jann: What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Nancy: I taught for a month in Zimbabwe during a period of deadly civil unrest, and my family and I were almost kidnapped on our return to the airport afterwards.
Jann: If you could travel back in time with whom would you like to meet and why?
Nancy: I’d like to meet Christopher Wren (1632-1723, distantly related) and talk to him about his contributions as an architect in the rebuilding 52 churches in London after the Great Fire of 1666, his anatomical and autopsy work, and his connection to other events that happened in Great Britain during those years. (And my son’s name is Christopher Wren Brashear.)
Thank you Nancy for your time here today. It’s been an adventure getting to hear about Gunnysack Hell and your exciting life. Stay well!!
A California native, novelist Tracy Reed pushes the boundaries of her Christian foundation with her sometimes racy and often fiery tales. After years of living in the Big Apple, this self-proclaimed New Yorker draws from the city’s imagination, intrigue, and inspiration to cultivate characters and plot lines who breathe life to the words on every page. Tracy’s passion for beautiful fashion and beautiful men direct her vivid creative power towards not only novels, but short stories, poetry, and podcasts. With something for every attention span. Tracy Reed’s ability to capture an audience is unmatched. Her body of work has been described as a host of stimulating adventures and invigorating expression.
Jann: What inspired you to write The Good Girl series?
Tracy: This is a very easy question, sort of. I was asked to be in a box set and needed a book. The box set was focusing on heroines in their twenties. I had a possible book, but the heroine was older and it wasn’t possible to make her younger. I kicked around a few possibilities and then I got an idea for a book. A young Christian woman gets her dream job and how she handles the possible ethical and moral challenges. I kicked the idea around some more and started writing.
Jann: How long did it take you to develop your characters, Gabriella Townsend and Phillippe, and plot for the series?
Tracy: I’m a pantser, so all I had was a basic idea…an office romance. I develop my characters on the fly as the story unfolds. I write books with faith and sex. In all my books someone is wrestling with their hormones, urges and faith. I call it real life. People of faith or Christians are not super heroes. They face the same challenges and temptations as anyone else. It’s how they handle them that’s different.
Since I use a basic template, it didn’t take long for me to develop this story. The biggest challenge is to keep Phillippe’s identity a secret. I think I handled that pretty good. I didn’t want Gabriella to come off as naive or not bright although she’s very perceptive. She knows he’s keeping something from her, but she hasn’t been able to figure it out. I sort of address it, by having him tell her there are things about his employment contract he can’t divulge.
I knew the characters had to be the opposite of each other. Gabriella is petite, curvy, pretty and has curly hair. She loves God and has a heart for people. She values character more than money. In the beginning of the series she sounds a little immature, but when she is exposed to Phillippe’s world, she grows up fast. Her dream is to work for Morgan Grant, eventually earning a VP position and a corner office.
Phillippe is a triple threat…handsome, smart and rich. To make him even more appealing, I made him very tall, dark, part French and African. He often slips into French when he gets excited. Which makes some of the love scenes very interesting. Gabriella refers to this womanizer as a walking sex dream. He’s amassed a fortune of his own, but heading Morgan Grant isn’t something he expected to do until much later.
Jann: The Good Girl Part Trois makes its debut this month. What major conflicts do your leading characters have to work through in this book?
Tracy: The way I write books is a little sadistic. I rope you in with a semi-sweet story and slowly turn up the heat throughout the series.
This book is no different. On a scale of one to five flames, I think this is about a 3.95. Gabriella is wrestling with her emotions and raging hormones. She’s promised herself she would save herself for her husband, but that’s a lot difficult to do when your boyfriend is a walking sex dream…your boss…and neighbor. She’s adjusting to her new life, feelings for her boss and convincing it might be possible to have a future with Phillippe. There’s just one thing gnawing at her, what is Phillippe hiding?
Phillippe has been hiding his identity from the outset of the series. He’s terrified if Gabriella finds out before he proposes, she might leave him. Oops, I let one of the cats out of the bag. The reader has known from book one, who he is, but not Gabriella. In a way it seems like their relationship is built on lies, but it’s more like half-truths and secrets. Phillippe is trying to figure out why his grandfather is insisting he get married before taking over the company and why is his ex-girlfriend back in town.
Without giving too much away, a quiet vacation in Anguilla changes the course of their relationship forever.
Jann: Part One and Part Deux in The Good Girl series are novellas, why is Part Trois a full-length book?
Tracy: Book one had to be a novella for the boxset. As I was writing, I thought it was going to be a one and done. But something happened towards the end. The characters took a turn and I really wanted to see if they could make their relationship work.
In book one, the relationship happened quickly because I was on a deadline. Once I got to the end, I did a horrible thing and ended it with a cliff hanger confirming there would be another book. When I started book two, I read something about the power of cliff hangers for sales. So that’s what I did. I amped if the sexual tension and left it with a cliffhanger. I immediately started writing book three and a couple of people and a highly respected author told me no cliffhanger. Readers don’t like them unless the next book is available.
When I started the third book, I really thought it would be a novella too and that I could tie up everything. Once I started writing, the story kept going. I wish I could tell you what happens. If you’ve read the series, I don’t think you saw the ending coming. I know I didn’t. I have to admit, I was tempted to make Gabriella pregnant, but I thought that was expected. Instead I did something else while keeping Phillippe’s identity a secret from her.
Jann: How many books do you plan for this series? If there is a book four, when will it be out?
Tracy: Yes, there’s a fourth book and I think it will be the end. Book four is a result of what happened in book three. The Good Girl is now a sophisticated businesswoman engaged to her boss. That’s the only spoiler.
I’m writing the last chapters now. My goal is to release it a few months after Part Trois.
Jann: What do you hope readers will take away from this series?
Tracy: Good question. You don’t have to sacrifice your beliefs for love. Or as some would say, It’s just as easy to fall in love with a billionaire as it is to fall for the average bloke.
Jann: I understand you’re planning on rebranding your Alex series. Tell us about the series and what’s involved to rebrand it.
Tracy: The Alex series are the very first books I’d written. The series is about five best friends and a pact they made in college to never get involved with any of their exes, employees or relative. Unfortunately, they break the pact.
It was originally written as a chick lit. It was the book I used to get my agent, I had. While it was being shopped around, I wrote another book and started reading a lot. [Early in my career, I was told not to read anyone else’s work. I later found out that was some very bad advice.] The more I read, I more I knew the series needed work. I did a major rewrite.
I stand by this series. I received an Amazon review from a reader who got my style. “Book one of the series was set on simmer, but book two was a rip roaring inferno. The word used incessantly throughout the book, passion, tells you all you need to know. My favorite couple, Alex and Moses, finally get married, and boyyyyyy they dang near tear each other’s clothes off with their teeth!!! Y’all know that feeling!!!😁😁😁 The second part is just as good as the first part, but be warned, there were some unresolved issues that cropped up. There may be a book three, SURPRISE!!😄😄😄 incess. Buy it, read it and enjoy!!”
Sales have been slow and the few reviews have been pretty good. I believe in this series but know it’s time for a new look The new covers scream contemporary, which is what I want. The female body image is being replaced with man chest. I’m also changing the fonts and updating the blurbs. I’ll be testing the covers with my reader group later this month.
Jann: You’re a multi-published author. How do you stay motivated? What drives you to keep writing?
Tracy: Good question. The answer for both questions is the same. I like telling stories.
Jann: Thanks Tracy for sharing with us today. Good luck with The Good Girl Part Trois!!
As a young girl, Linda was often found lying on her bed reading about fascinating characters having exciting adventures in places far away and in other time periods. In later years, she read and then started writing romances and achieved her first publication–a confession story. Married with 4 adult children and 2 granddaughters, award-winning author Linda writes heartwarming contemporary and historical stories with a touch of humor and a bit of sass from her home in the southern California mountains.
To start the new year, we’re spending time with author Linda Carroll-Bradd, who will talk with us about her latest story and more.
Linda: I absolutely love doing the research for a historical story because I always include ethnic elements for at least one of the protagonists. The time period in which I write is the second half of the 19th century, which was such a melting pot time in America. I also rely heavily on my own ethnic makeup of Scandinavian/Irish as a way of exploring my ancestry and those customs.
Linda: Before I became an author, I always spent the month of December reading only Harlequin Christmas stories. When I had less time for reading, I watched Hallmark holiday movies. An opportunity arose to write a contemporary in a multi-author series. Almost from the moment I agreed to write the novella, an idea started building, and it came together so fast because I had a smaller amount of research to accumulate.
Linda: Jada received an infertility diagnosis and just wanted to get through the holidays avoiding children. She rents a cottage in a Colorado resort town and believes she’ll find joy again by working through assignments from a self-help book. Fulfilling her first exercise, she encounters the hero who turns out to be a single parent. Graham has already had one bad experience by getting involved with a tourist in his hometown and doesn’t want to repeat that mistake. But being in a small town meant they kept running into one another. In a way, both characters had to work past their prejudices to give the other one a chance. As I wrote, I kept in mind all those Hallmark movies, as well as my favorite book Pride and Prejudice, and I balanced high moments with low ones. I actually teared up a couple times as I created scenes, which hasn’t happened often as an author.
Linda: I felt honored to be invited to contribute a story to Debra Holland’s Sweetwater Springs Christmas anthology in 2013. I’d been editing Debra’s stories for a couple years before being invited to participate in the Montana Sky Kindle World. Writing in a story world that I was familiar with encouraged me to create my eight-book series, “Entertainers of the West.” That first invitation is what sent me on the path of writing thirty-three historical novellas (plus five contemporary ones) since 2015.
Linda: Each is special in its own way, but the first one, Laced by Love, set up the backgrounds for three vaudeville troupe members who ended up being the heroines of the first three titles. The Laced by Love heroine, Cinnia, makes a decision that ends up affecting the lives of her sister, Nola, and friend, Dorrie. Also, that first book establishes the hero, his two brothers, and introduces the hero of the second story. I hoped the initial story would spark others but never thought the total would be eight with another story plotted.
Linda: My next novella to be released in February 2021 is a historical and part of the “Cupids and Cowboys” series. Amata, who was an infant in Grayson, from the “Bachelors and Babies” series, is all grown up, and her romance is initiated by a child who brings together the hero and heroine. The setting is Cheyenne, WY, and Amata helped run her lawyer father, Grayson’s, campaign for state senator then went to teacher’s college to learn how to help her brother who suffers from a learning disability. The rancher hero’s son has a similar problem and the boy’s the one who contrives to get the two adults together.
Linda: Throughout my writing years, I’ve kept on track by the need to submit to a critique group. For several years, my daughter, Shenoa, my husband, and Sheila Hansberger met two Tuesdays a month at a Panera Bread restaurant. With COVID, we switched to Zoom, went to weekly sessions, and usually averaged three per month. I might have only created five pages but the group created a deadline. I also participate in an online group where I submit new pages on Friday night or revised and enlarged versions of the Tuesday critique pages. But when I’m in crunch writing time, the groups might see only the first two chapters of a story before I finish and release it.
Linda: During the first five months of this year, I wrote 4 novellas and then just stopped. The COVID restrictions kept me from being with family and prevented any vacation to look forward to–both just blocked my creative energy. I did a whole lot of crocheting as an outlet. I usually start plotting the next project when I’m halfway done writing the current story, but I just couldn’t. So over the summer, I read–mysteries, romances, thrillers, non-fiction writing craft books. The next story on my schedule was to be a love triangle plot, and I’d never written one, which I think was part of the block. Then practicality set in. I checked my preorder deadline, divided the word count by the remaining days, and sat at the computer to start with those daily word requirements in mind. Sheer determination pounded out that first chapter, and the block broke.
Linda: I took a career evaluation test in the eighth grade that scored Librarian as the job most suited to my abilities. At the time, I didn’t connect with that profession and focused on business classes in high school then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. I went on to work in administrative support positions for many years in the educational field and then in a land survey business. When we moved back to California after a dozen years in Texas, I organized the books on our shelves by the Dewey Decimal system…just because I could. I’m happy with being a freelance editor and not looking for a new profession, but the shelves in my office burst with non-fiction books I’ve read as background for stories I’ve written.
Jann: Thank you Linda for being with us today on A Slice of Orange. Snowflake Cottage is a wonderful holiday story. You also had two historical releases in 2020–Between Two Beaus and A Promise for Christmas, which are also great. We’ll be looking forward to your historical release in February. Have a wonderful 2021!!
(Click on the covers for buy links.)
Marianne H. Donley writes fiction from short stories to funny romances and quirky murder mysteries fueled by her life as a mom and a teacher. She makes her home in Tennessee with her husband, son, and a new puppy. Marianne manages the multi-author blog, A Slice of Orange. She’s a member of Bethlehem Writers Group, Romance Writers of America, Music City Romance Writers,Sisters in Crime, and Charmed Writers.
You can find all her social media links at https://linktr.ee/mariannehdonley
We’re here today with an amazing woman of many talents: Author, Editor, Wife, Mother, Friend and the woman who is the creator of this wonderful blog site—A Slice of Orange. She’s a featured author in the newest anthology from the Bethlehem Writers Groups’ awarding-winning “Sweet, Funny, and Strange” series of anthologies, FUR, FEATHERS AND SCALES!
Jann: You have two adorable tales in Fur, Feathers, and Scales, which made its debut yesterday. The first, When I Was Your Age and the second, Why Children Have Their Father’s Last Name. How did you come up with the ideas for your stories?
Marianne: From life! When I Was Your Age was based on my grandmother (my dad’s mother). She had so many stories about growing that got worse every time she told them. Why Children Have Their Father’s Last Name is totally about my husband and my sister, and they were not the good little bunnies.
Jann: I love the book cover. It’s perfect. Who did it?
Marianne: Well, now I’m blushing. Thank you. I did the front cover, and my partner-in-crime, Carol L. Wright did the back cover for the print version.
Jann: All the stories are remarkable. What was the experience like being one of the Editors for the book and one of the Authors?
Marianne: Well, we have rules.
Rule number one—you don’t edit your own stories.
Rule number two—all the stories (with the exception of the contest winners) must be workshopped by Bethlehem Writers Group at one of our semi-monthly critique meetings.
Rule number three—editing is not writing. Just because I wouldn’t write a story the way you would write that story does not mean you are wrong. Different is not wrong. We have to let the author’s voice shine through. I hope we have done that.
Rule number four—writing is not editing. If the editor makes a suggestion to me, I need to have a really good reason not to follow that suggestion.
Jann: This book has everything from unicorns to wolves to bunnies. However, the one with ants hit home with me, as I have been battling those beasts for years in my home. Tell us about how this anthology came about and the authors who are contributors from the Bethlehem Writers Group.
Marianne: Ah! The ants–Six Feet Under by Dianna Sinovic. I must say I related to that story as well. Every summer in California—ants.
When we’re brainstorming the “theme” for our next anthology our members all throw out ideas, and we debate the merits of each idea. It’s a pretty lively discussion because we have all stripes of authors–children’s, fantasy, humor, inspiration, literary, memoir, mystery, paranormal, romance, science fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult.
We look for themes that are appealing to most of the members. We also run The Short Story Award in conjunction with the theme of our anthologies. So, we look for ideas that we think will attract the interest of other authors. We always interpret the theme—broadly—so there is a lot of creative leeway for the authors to come up with a sweet, funny, or strange story.
The first anthology was a natural—A Christmas Sampler—because we’re based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, The Christmas City. Animal stories, I believe, was suggested by Jeff Baird. He writes very heart-felt stories about the dogs in his life.
Our next anthology, scheduled for 2022, is An Element of Mystery, Sweet, Funny and Strange Tales of Intrigue. The Short Story Award opens for entries on January 1st.
Authors interested in submitting to The Short Story Award might like to read some of the finalist for Fur, Feathers, and Scales to see what we like. The second place, third place and honorable mention stories will be published in the 2021 Winter Issue of The Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, our online magazine—also available January 1st. You, Jann, will recognize one of the honorable mentions—Louella Nelson! (I may have shouted when her name was announced.)
Any member of BWG can submit a story (or two or three) to our anthologies, providing it has been workshopped by the whole group. Any member can elect not to submit a story. Since we’re working on our seventh anthology, I think we have a system that works.
Jann: I know you write short stories, romances and murder mysteries. Is any one of these genres your favorite? What are you currently working on?
Marianne: I go back and forth. My mysteries always have a romance sub-plot and my romances usually have a dead body somewhere. Probably from all those Mary Stewart and Elizabeth Peters novels I read over and over. Currently, short stories seem to be the easiest for me to finish. Right now, I’m working on a cozy-ish novel with a romance and plotting a short mystery.
Jann: With everything going on in your life, how do you keep it all together?
Marianne: That made me laugh. So . . .
1) Don’t look in my closets.
2) Dennis does the grocery shopping and birthday shopping and Christmas shopping. He wraps the presents, too. (Okay sort of—gift bags are his favorite and he hates bows. But since I don’t have to do it, I’m good with this.)
3) I only need about 6 hours of sleep every night. No matter what time I go to bed, I walk up 6 hours later. I do work on thinks when everyone else is sleeping.
4) I have a lot of friends who help out. Look how seamless A Slice of Orange ran when my son had a medical emergency this Spring.
5) I have a lot of family who are also willing to help. All I have to do is ask.
Jann: This was so much fun. Thank you, Marianne, for spending time with us talking about Fur, Feathers, and Scales, which is available now, and you.
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