Tag Archive | Author

Interview with John Searancke

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In the hotseat today is John Searancke, author of Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands, Prunes for Breakfast, and recent release, The Reluctant Hotelkeeper

Welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings, John.
Would you please start by telling us a little about yourself and your background?

JohnMy name is John Searancke and I was born in 1943 at Derby Royal Infirmary, England, and thus a war baby. I lived my early life in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, a market town in Leicestershire, and was sent away to be educated at Kings Mead Preparatory School, Seaford and afterwards at Rugby School one of the great famous English Public Schools. Later commissioned into the Territorial Army, I have been variously an hotel and restaurant owner, director and chairman of a marketing consortium, and latterly a partner with my wife in a commercial legal services company. I have enjoyed a long working life in England and Switzerland and now live with my wife Sally in West Sussex and northern Tenerife, where for five years I occupied my retirement as restaurant critic for a Canarian newspaper.

 
You became an author late in life. How did your journey as a writer begin?

I had always wanted to write a book, but never either had the time, or felt that I possessed the skillset to do so. Only after retirement came the moment to make the dream come true.

 
What do you enjoy most about writing?

Peace and quiet on the one hand, and the taxing of my limited mental ability on the other.

 
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

“The Reluctant Hotelkeeper” is my third book, and forms the prequel to my first. It charts the calamities that befell me as I struggled to keep an old family hotel going, save it from bankruptcy, and turn it into a profitable and well-known concern. I wrote it because readers of my first book asked me what I had done with my life.

 
What is your favourite scene that you’ve written? Can you give us a peek?

Excerpt:

Meanwhile, for my part, I recalled the tale of how one morning, on the way to the new kitchen, and walking through what remained of the old original hotel kitchen, I thought that I had been transported into another lifetime, a cross between Dante’s Inferno and a Victorian Christmas. I had stopped dead in my tracks.

There at the far end of the room was an unrecognisable person covered almost entirely in feathers. Any feathers not attached to that person were swilling around the room like a cloud, all but obscuring the far doorway, before landing softly to form a light covering on the floor tiles, much as I imagine the interior of a duvet to be.

On closer inspection, the mystery person turned out to be my mother! What had got into her mind I do not know, but she had, unbeknownst to anyone else, decided that her contribution to that particular Christmas was going to be the plucking of all of the pheasants that had just been delivered. Swooping on the box of birds and snatching them away from the hapless potboy, she manoeuvred herself into a spare space, which happened to be adjacent to the top of a chest freezer. Clearly, tidiness was not going to be her watchword during this process. Feathers were pulled out, legs and heads were chopped off with gay abandon, and finally, the right hand was plunged into the bloody interior, emerging clutching a large handful of intestines, slimy heaps of which adorned the top of the freezer. Cleaning up after her was a bit of a trial, but I was glad that she had made the effort. I suppose that she could identify that with long bygone times and tasks that she had undertaken all those years ago.

 
The Reluctant Hotel Keeper

The Reluctant Hotelkeeper is being made into a movie, what music would you use as a soundtrack?

I used to play some classical music very softly in the background at one time in my hotel. When any of the staff queried it, I told them it was from Swan Lake, where everyone looked serene on top but were paddling furiously down below, unseen to our guests. Just as the staff should be!

 

 
Why do you think this book will or should appeal to new readers; what makes it stand out?

If you enjoy reading about one man’s trials and tribulations in turning an old building into a successful hotel, then this is for you. There were some hard times, and these have not been glossed over.

What has amazed me is that a number of readers have told me how humorous this latest book is. I did not set out particularly for humour, but I can see the funny side now.

 
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

I have written three books, all of which have been published. My favourite is “Prunes for Breakfast”. People have been kind enough to say that the wartime story of my father from enlistment in 1940 to capture in Normandy and then incarceration in a German Prisoner of War camp touched them deeply. It moved me too, particularly the main battle scene, which I had researched in depth on the battlefield in France.

Here are 3 very brief synopses of my books:

My first book, Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands, tells the stories of moving my family and dog to live on a small island in the Atlantic Ocean. It received much acclaim and is available in paperback and e-book formats.

Prunes for Breakfast is my second book and records the life and times of my father throughout WW2, including a cache of unpublished personal letters with details of his landing in Normandy, fighting through the bocage and later capture and incarceration in a German POW Camp. It is available in paperback, e-book and audio formats.

The Reluctant Hotelkeeper is my third book and forms a prequel to Dog Days in The Fortunate Islands. How to (and sometimes how not to) bring an old building back to life as a country house hotel. It is available in paperback and e-book formats.

 
Who designed your book covers?

All three book covers have been created by my very talented brother in law. I gave him a brief requirement of what I was looking for, and he has interpreted my thoughts into splendid covers.

 
Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.

51KI4UnREXL._SX296_BO1,204,203,200_At the moment I am reading the Boudica trilogy by Manda Scott. I simply cannot put it down, and I am in awe of her writing skill.

 
What advice would you give to your younger self?

You are only here once, so make the most of it.

 
How do you spend your free time?

We are lucky to have two small homes, one in West Sussex, England, and the other in Puerto de la Cruz, Canary Islands. We move between the two and there never seems to be a dull moment.

 

If you were ever stranded on a deserted island what would you miss and which three books would you take along?

Can I please be stranded with my wife? If so, then plenty of tea and coffee need to be landed with her. Those 3 Boudica books by Manda Scott can go along too, because I am sure that I shall read them.

 
A genie grants you three wishes: what are they and why?

I would like to see a bit more of the world, and I would like to take a holiday with my son and my grandchildren. Wives can come too, of course!

 
If you had to move from Tenerife where would you go, and what would you miss the most about it?

We love the weather and the people in Tenerife. I could imagine living for a spell in Italy though, to explore that country.

 
If you could change one thing from your past, what would it be, and why?

I regret not being closer to my father. We were estranged. All very sad.

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

Here are my three book front covers, together with the links to them. If you happen to read one, please do leave a review…I am still learning this new craft.

Dog Days In The Fortunate Islands      •      Prunes for Breakfast      •      The Reluctant Hotelkeeper

Thank you very much for joining us today, John.

 

Find out more about John Searancke and his books:

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Interview with Phyllis Staton Campbell

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My guest today, on Rainne’s Ramblings, is Phyllis Staton Campbell.

Phyllis, who was born blind, writes about the world she knows best. She calls on her experience as teacher of the blind, peer counselor and youth transition coordinator. She says that she lives the lives of her characters: lives of sorrow and joy; triumph and failure; hope and despair. That she and her characters sometimes see the world in a different way, adds depth to the story. She sees color in the warmth of the sun on her face, the smell of rain, the call of a cardinal, and God, in a rainbow of love and grace.

Although she was born in Amherst County, Virginia, she has lived most of her life in Staunton, Virginia, where she serves as organist at historic Faith Lutheran church, not far from the home she shared with her husband, Chuck, who waits beyond that door called death.

 
Phyllis Staton CampbellHi Phyllis, welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings.

Would you like to start by telling us how your journey as a writer began…?

I think my journey as a writer began before I could actually write. My sister and I made up stories, and acted them out before I even started to school

 
… So have you always been a creative soul?

Yes, I have.

 
What is your top writing tip?

Set realistic goals, and stick to them, raising the bar for yourself, as those goals are reached.

 
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

It depends on what I’m doing. I completely outline an article. When working on a book-length project, I do a beginning, decide where the conflict at the beginning is taking the end, and then often the middle, the how we get to the end sort of finds itself.

Do I stick to this beginning end middle method? Not always, sometimes things become clearer as I work.

 
Who Will Hear Them Cry -Book Cover
Which, if any, of your personality traits did you write into your characters?

Probably my determination. Kate, for instance, in Who Will Hear Them Cry, once she gets started, so to speak, is determined to get to the bottom of the deaths at the school, and protect the children.

 

 
Which writers inspire you?

That’s really hard to say. For my recent title, Where Sheep May Safely Graze was definitely inspired by Jan Karon.

 
You write columns for the National Braille Press, and for The Blind Post. What subjects do you cover?

I do a crafts column for both The Blind Post, and NBP. and a sort of general column for NBP. It covers hobbies, interesting people, book reviews, origins of holiday customs, almost anything.

 
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written six books, with both traditional and self-publishers. I’ve also done a true-crime book, under contract to the victim’s family. I’m not sure that I actually have a favorite.

 
Out Of The Night -Book coverWhich of your books was the most fun to write… ?

I think probably Out Of The Night.

 
…And which of was the hardest?

Friendships in the Dark, my memoir. It took me back to walk in memory with many whose voices I’ll never hear again on this earth.

 
When you consider your future, what would you like to make happen for you?

In a general sort of way, to live out the rest of my life with dignity and peace. As a writer, I’m not foolish enough to wish for a bestseller, but I wish for a really successful book.

 
What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don’t take life, and myself so seriously.

 
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I wanted to teach, becoming a writer came later, although I think it was lurking there in the background.

 
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

To be able to talk again to those afore mentioned people who walk in my memory, to tell them again that I love them, and ask forgiveness for hasty words or things not done.

 
If you could be any age again for a week, which would you choose?

Not so much a particular age, but the time between adolescence and adulthood. A time when life stretched before me with its hopes and dreams untarnished by life; a time when to a degree, life is ruled by passions; a time when the senses are sharper, the taste of wild strawberries, the scent of lilac and honeysuckle, sweeter; and a time when friendship and love rule one’s life.

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

Only to thank you for giving me the chance to do this interview, as well as to say thanks to those who read what I’ve said. You and the readers are among the best.

 
Thank you very much, Phyllis, and thanks for dropping in to talk with us today.

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You can catch up with Phyllis on Facebook, and find her books on Amazon

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Interview with N. Lombardi Jr

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My guest today is N. Lombardi Jr.
Nicolas is the author of The Plain of Jars, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, and the soon to be released, Justice Gone.

Hi Nicolas, would you please begin by telling us how your journey as a writer began?

author pic N LombardiI wrote my first novel in 1985. It was a catharsis for a broken heart, and it was therapy for getting over what I considered, at the time, the loss of the love of my life. It’s also a story about cultural confusion in East Africa. In the 1980’s it was much easier to get an agent, which I did, but after she submitted the manuscript 15 times, with rejection after rejection, I put it on the shelf for 30 years. It was finally published in 2014 as Journey Towards a Falling Sun, a romance adventure set in Kenya.

I began my second novel, The Plain of Jars, in 1998, and worked on it for 15 years while working as a groundwater geologist in various countries. I had no intention of writing again, but when I visited Laos and learned about the secret war the US waged against that small country (without an official declaration of war) and discovered that more bombs were dumped on that country than all the munitions dropped in World War II, I felt I just had to write about it. The novel was published as my first, in 2013.

 

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Relaxing and pondering about the story, certainly not while in the mechanical process of writing. I might be sitting with a glass of wine, and start daydreaming, and that’s the state I’m in as the narrative takes form.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing?

In the process of creating the story, I inevitably find myself getting lost in it, as if I were watching a film, and this gives me a very pleasant buzz which I carry around throughout the day.

 
JG cover jpeg

 
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

My latest novel is Justice Gone, and was inspired by a true event, the fatal beating of a homeless man in a small Californian town. This was such an extreme case, and one which did not include any racial elements, that it exposed the utter abuse of authority in which an outraged public reaction was inevitable.

 

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

When I get the idea to write a novel, I know what it’s generally going to be about, but often my initial ideas are wiped out as I go along and the story takes on a life of its own.

 

Do your characters ever seem to have a life of their own or an agenda of their own?

I guess I can interpret this question as “do my characters ever get away from me, following paths I can’t control?” This is difficult to answer, but there have been occasions when they do seem to do something in my head that I hadn’t planned on. This happens when I’m daydreaming about the story.

 
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Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

Journey Towards a Falling Sun contained many of my own personal experiences, but this is not true of anything else I have written.

  

Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Justice Gone could be considered a mystery/thriller combined with a courtroom drama, and such stories are usually categorized as legal thrillers. However, I wanted this book to have broad appeal because many topical issues such as homelessness, troubled vets, and the legal system are imbedded in the story.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Watch an intriguing film, or just sit in my backyard gazing at the mountains.

 

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

Marketing is really tough. I feel like I’m in the Land of the Giants, competing against the Big Five publishing houses, leave alone the thousands of Indies who are trying to get their book noticed. While a writer has to go with what works, the book has to stand out on its own as a unique entity.

 

Thank you for joining us today. Best wishes for the release of Justice Gone.

Justice Gone is available for preorder and is due to be released on February 22nd.
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Four on Friday

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Following on from yesterday’s interview, today I bring you four books by Ann Harrison-Barnes:

 
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A Journey of Faith

A Stepping Stones Mystery

Ann Harrison

A Journey of Faith ebookTwenty-eight year old Becca Martin witnessed a tragic accident at the age of twelve. Sixteen years later, she embarks upon a journey that she believes has somehow been chosen for her by God. During this journey, she hears a voice in the back of her mind crying, God help me!, as memories she didn’t understand as a child begin to resurface in her nightmares and during the journey itself. Was this tragedy a freak accident, or is there more to the incident that meets the eye? Can Becca conquer her fear of mountain climbing while she embarks upon this journey? The owner of Sweet Water State Park calls Zac Johnson and Jason Miller of the Tensiltown Police to investigate various incidents out on the bike and foot paths. During their investigation, Jason meets Becca along her journey and they both feel strongly drawn to each other. She longs to help the police of this small village investigate these incidents, but in order to do so, she must face her fear of climbing the rocks at Sweet Water Park, while caring for her ailing aunt and helping her uncle to run the diner. Jason vows to stay close beside her every step of the way, but can she fully trust him and the girl in the white robe that seems to pop up out of nowhere when trouble arises? Who is the real bad guy? How does God reveal what happened on that unforgettable day on the rocks with her family? Does the memory of the incident help the police solve this rock climbing mystery? Find out more as the author pulls you into the first novel in her spine-tingling, heart-warming Stepping Stones mystery series.

 

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Stories Outside the Box

Ann Harrison

box.jpgA charming little book filled with magic, ferries, music, an angel or two, and even a bit of mystery.

Fly away on the wings of a simple drop of rain with Anna as she follows the music that fills her heart.

Have you ever had a breakdown in the middle of the road and wondered how you’d get home? Read about the miraculous end to what could have been a perilous journey for Bill and his family.

Mystery buffs and techno geeks will love An Unusual Glitch, a story about a county wide technology glitch that threatens to ruin the county’s computer infrastructure, if the problem isn’t resolved before it’s too late. Enjoy a couple of new mysteries along the way.

You may be enchanted by a Christmas miracle that starts with a child’s prayer and a tinkling bell.

Ride in a sleigh carried on the wings of a snowflake, ride the wind on the wings of an autumn leaf or fly away on a swing!

There’s an adventure waiting for readers of all ages in each delightful little story.

 

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Inner Vision

An Electric Eclectic Book

Ann Barnes

InnerVisionEEcover“The past is but a whirlwind of memories,
there are those you want to capture,
and those you want to forget.
Hold on to the precious ones and let the rest spin away into the abyss.”

These are the words Kelly Dobson wrote after learning how to use her Inner Vision in order to do the creative work God has called her to do.

After awakening in an unusual hospital from an operation she never had, Kelly and her physician, DR. Markey Andrews, work together to find the reason why she ended up in a hospital resembling a hotel, rather than a medical facility.

During the process of solving the mystery at hand, Kelly has strange dreams of being carried away in a whirlwind to places which hold memories she’d rather not relive. In order for her to face her fear of her Charles Bonnet syndrome and the accident that caused her blindness six years before.

After being released from the hospital, Kelly gets a brilliant idea to draw the images she sees in her heart and mind. As she does so, her mother stands in awe as the talent her daughter once had as a child returns in full swing, regardless of her blindness.

Even though Kelly’s father doesn’t want to believe in her talent at first, through the power of prayer and her faith in God, she teaches him how to use his own inner vision.

 

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Maggie’s Gravy Train Adventure

An Electric Eclectic Book

Ann Barnes

Maggie's gravy train adventureWhen a young girl takes a ride on a gravy train with her mother, she finds unexpected adventures and mysteries waiting for her as they glide down the cookie track.

What happens to the track, and why do the biscuit wheels crumble at one point, and turn to mush near the Ferry Land station?

Who is behind the mayhem in the land of Eat-a-Lot?

Find out as this charming children’s adventure unfolds before your very eyes.

Ann also has short stories in the Anthologies; Awethology Light, December Awethology – Light Volume, and Gems of Strength.

 

 

 

Author Bio:

About me:

my profileI am the proud single mother of a beautiful daughter, who is often the inspiration for many of my stories featuring children. I have three nieces and a nephew whom I love from the bottom of my heart.

I have found music to be a great source of healing throughout rough and painful times in my life. I also find it to be a great source of inspiration through traditional means and through the world around me. 

About my blindness:

Although I was not born prematurely, I was placed in an incubator and given 24 hours of oxygen, when I should have only received eight. This excessive amount of oxygen caused my optic nerves not to develop properly, resulting in my blindness. I have light perception in my left eye, and none in my right. The right eye was removed when I was eighteen months old and I have worn prostheses since then, until recently. I have used a cane since I was about five years old, accept during the period from April 2006 to March 2009, when I worked my one and only guide dog named Star. She was a black lab Golden retriever mix from Southeastern Guide Dogs.

Where I live and work:

I currently live in Rochelle, Georgia near my parents and one of my two brothers, when he’s not working on the road. I have worked from home for various freelance clients, while writing my novels. These clients include Mia Bysinger from Rushcube, a web development company and Earnest Dempsey’s Word Matters Blog.

Why I write:

First of all, I love creating stories that will entertain my readers. Through these entertaining stories, I also hope to either share the message of God’s love or bring back childhood memories, through my Children’s books. I journal for healing and brainstorming. I am writing non-fiction to help aspiring authors self-publish their own books through Amazon

Hobbies:

My hobbies include listening to music and podcasts, reading, crocheting and sitting out on the front porch on a warm day.

Music I enjoy: I love listening to classic country music, instrumental pieces such as classical, new age piano pieces and film scores. I also find that the environment is filled with natural music.

Podcasts I find educational and entertaining: I have a variety of podcasts I listen to on a daily basis. Some of my favorites include: The Author Stories Podcast with Hank Garner, The Creative Penn, I Should be Writing, Ditch Diggers, Eyes On success, how do you Write and Writing Excuses.

My favorite authors and genres:

I love to read books by Karen Kingsbury, Janette Oke, Hope Callahan, and I love finding new authors. My favorite genres include: Christian fiction, cozy mystery, sweet romance and Romantic suspense. I’ll also read the occasional memoire.

My Faith:

I am a Christian. I believe that Jesus died on the cross to save my soul. In God’s word, Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6, KJV)

~ In the words of Ann Harrison-Barnes, January 2019

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Electric Eclectic Books

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Interview with M.L.S. Weech

My guest today is author, M.L.S. Weech, otherwise known as Matt!

Hi Matt, welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings.
Would you like to begin by telling us a little about yourself and your background?
Me

I’ve been published for about three years. I do that when I’m not enjoying my job teaching Sailors at the Defense Information School. I was raised in the desert southwest, and in my youth, there wasn’t exactly a lot to do because I essentially lived in a desert. My imagination was my most accessible toy. I grew up to join the Navy, and after ten years of service, I returned to where my career started as a civilian instructor.

 
When and why did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about 8. I’d just watched what is still my favorite movie ever, and my favorite character died. Naturally, I cried, but my biodad sort of chuckled at me and told me to write a better movie if I didn’t like this one. So started work on the sequel, and I’ve been writing ever since. I finished my first book when I was about 17. I got genuinely serious in 2009, when I joined a writer’s group and committed to writing 1,000 words a day. I love stories. I love thinking about the plot. I love the crafting of words. It has simply been a part of my life for so long I’m not sure what my life would look like if I didn’t do it.

 
What inspires your books?

My posts are usually inspired by something random. My first book, The Journals of Bob Drifter, was inspired by my family dod and my dad. My mom had a nightmare she told me about, and that inspired my second book, Caught. My newest published novel is an anthology in which my contributing story was inspired by the riots in Virginia. So usually I see or hear something, and my brain, which is prone to flights of fancy, takes it to an extreme degree.

 
Are there any particular places that help you get the creative cogs turning?

I’m a believer in work habit and ethics. I can pretty much write anywhere, but I’m most productive on my couch with my laptop and cool elevating table. (I can pull the top up so it’s even with my arms). That’s where and how I’ve written for about five years, so that’s where my body is most conditioned to want to write.

 
What is the setting and genre of The Power of Words?

The Power of Words has four stories. The first is a science fiction novella set in a world where people can virtually swim in a social media world. That world is dominated by a group of speakers called Voices. This is a world in which social media and digital lives (in this case lived through visors known as omnies) rule, and bare faces are considered odd.

The second is a traditional fantasy set in Richard T. Drakes’ Hollow World series. The story takes place at a seedy bar, and it’s essentially a hostile negotiation between an entrenched criminal and a newly risen hero of the people.

The third is the first in a post-apocalyptic series. It’s a zombie survival story taking place in San Antonio. Some might roll an eye at the idea of “another” zombie apocalypse, but this story is unique in that the main character isn’t one who’s in any way suited to survive in such a place.

The last story is my own, of which I’m very proud. It’s a dystopian science fiction heist story. A mom, who’s essentially a former policeman, hatches a scheme to take out the servers for the planetary silence protocol currently enforced. She believes in the right to speak, and, more importantly, she wants her daughter to be saved from the ruthless enforcement policies currently in place.

 
Why do you think this book will or should appeal to new readers; what makes it stand out?

The first reason would be that it’s great speculative science fiction in the vein of Hugo novels of old. There’s a clear message and meaning, which is nice in a world of popcorn scifi.

The other reason is that it’s all dedicated to the importance of communication. We live in a world where maybe sometimes people want to be heard, but they don’t want to listen so much. I think people need a reminder on the importance of hearing and speaking. Communication is what matters. These themes are wrapped stories that are engaging and fun.

 
Many authors state that their characters are portions of themselves. Is this true with you?

I don’t even hide from this. Part of my process when I create characters is that I give them one trait from myself. Sometimes it’s a good trait. Sometimes it’s a not so good trait. Every now and then, I take a positive trait to an obsessive degree to see what happens. I’ve has people ask me which character is most like me, and I do have a thought on that, but the fact is every character has a part of me. Those who know me and read my books often comment how much of myself they see in each character.

 
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Umm….(counts in his head)…five unpublished books and one half-finished.

 
What is your favourite part or scene in The Power of Words? Can you give us a peek?

I can’t give you the peek because my favorite part is the reveal in my contribution to the story. I’ve had many people complement me on the plot twist in Caught, and I think this twist is just so much better. That’s honestly my favorite part, but another part I enjoy is a scene in which the crew’s lifter, Laree, is trying to get a security badge. It’s just a cute little scene that makes me chuckle. Here it is:

A pair of glass doors whooshed open as she stepped into the lab. She kept her eyes down, but noticed a few technicians look at her. She pointed at the empty lab chair before snatching up a data pad, pretending she’d forgotten it.
Bad mark! she thought looking at the first person she saw. He didn’t have a red badge either. Bad mark! Bad mark! Two more employees displayed their green badges like wards against her plan, mocking her increasingly impossible timeline.
She walked around the monitors and holo-tables as if simply taking a leisurely route back out of the room.
Bad mark! For spark’s sake does anyone on this floor have a … there’s a good mark.
A spindly young technician in need of two meals and a gallon of anti-acne cream sat at a monitor. His red badge dangled from his white coat pocket like a pretty bow. She made a show of nearly dropping the data pad, and the helpful tech, who’d probably never seen a woman naked before, had his moment in the limelight. He heroically stood there while she plowed into him. He just managed to snag the data pad as she snatched the man’s badge.
He looked at her, and she could practically see the wedding play out in his eyes.
Oh, Sweetie, no! She hid her face with the data pad and winked at him before heading out of the lab.
That’s when her wrist communicator started flashing.
Come on, Laree! Did you really think it was going to go that smoothly?

 
Tell us about the cover and how it came about.

Power of Words Cover_FRONT_EBOOKAgain, I’m super proud of this one. I actually designed it myself. I knew I wanted a text-based cover because it was an anthology. So I took the title and played with some concepts. One of my favorite design techniques is the Gestalt principle of figure and ground. Silhouettes use this same principle. The idea is the contrast of one set of shapes on a simple background create the impression of an object or, in my cover’s case, words. I took this one step further because I used a very specific set of words as my figure (the text creating element). I keep it secret as to what those words are because I’d like to think people wonder what the words are and end up staring at them to figure out what publication they’re from. It’s a simple concept executed well. I’m not trying to boast. I’m not saying it’s the greatest cover or concept ever. I just assert it’s a solid idea done well. The real judgement of that would be the viewers though.

 
Have you done any personal appearances?

Ever? Yes. I’ve been in a few bookstores, and I usually do a book launches at a local comic book store. The owner (Bumper) is a great guy, and I like to hang out there. I don’t anymore because if I go in there, I’m going to buy rare comics, and they’re expensive. Most of my appearances (and the one I’m about to do) are at conventions. My next one (and last for the year) will be the Baltimore ComicCon Sept. 28-30.

 
What do you think makes a good story?

I honestly have a simple formula for that. Sympathetic, proactive characters + interesting plot + interesting world = good story. The key element there is the character. They can be reading a book or talking about the weather if they’re sympathetic and proactive enough. I do have to explain that sympathetic to me doesn’t necessarily connote “likable.” A character someone hates can be just as captivating as a character someone loves. The point is, the character evokes strong emotions.

 
Which writers inspire you?

Currently, I’m a huge fan of Brandon Sanderson. I think Peter V. Brett is the best with characters. Dan Wells is the most underrated author out there right now. Then there are the go-tos, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Jordan, Timothy Zahn, and Dean Koontz. I do want to give special attention to Michael G. Manning and C.L. Schneider, two indie authors who really are outstanding.

 
Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your book(s)?

The Journals of Bob Drifter is already out on Audible, and Caught is nearly finished. In fact, the Audible version of Power of Words is in production, though I’ve hit a snag there, so it might not be out as soon as I want.

 
Writing seems to be a large part of your life. Imagine a future (if you can) where you no longer write. What would you do?

Well, I’m getting married in November, so I’d probably just be an annoying dad and (hopefully) loyal husband. I’d watch WAY more football (and THAT’S saying something) and play a few more video games too. I might take up sleeping as a hobby. I’ve heard good things about it.

 
Your blog is a mixture of books (news and reviews), Book Cover of the Month and your Mum/your faith:
How/why did you come up with the idea for Book Cover of the Month?

I love top ten lists and competition and brackets. I also love book covers. So I started out just picking covers I thought were nice because that’s actually how I discovered C.L. Schneider. After I started doing that, I wondered what to do the covers. The idea for a bracket came pretty quickly after that. I just like to talk about covers. I’d like to see more voters, and I would really like to have more (professional) debates about why this cover works and why that one doesn’t. For now though, it’s really fun, and I’d look at the covers regardless. This just gives me an interesting bit of content to offer my readers.

 
Has writing about your Mum’s illness and your ‘Trial of Faith’ helped you?

The testimony is first and foremost about giving glory to God. This trial truly shaped me. It saddened me. It broke me. It humbled me. But it also helped me improve my relationship with God. I struggle with pride so much in my life. I was raised in it. I was trained in it while in the Navy (Take Charge! Be a Leader! Be Assertive!). This event was humbling because here I am, a man committed to the idea of, “There’s always something I can do!” Then I’m placed in this situation where I was simply helpless. It’s put me in a place where I’ve realized I’m subject to God’s will and God’s grace, and I’m better for it. Life was hard when I felt like it was all on me. Now I realize my life is in God’s hands, and everything he does, even this, is for good. The testimony reminds me of that. I still struggle with pride. MAN do I struggle with it, but I hope I’m improving and growing.

It also helped me to open up more. As I said above, I already fail to see what’s “interesting” about me. Combine that with the fact that I’m honestly super private and generally selfish with my time, opening up like this has helped me grow as a person.

The greatest help would be hearing, thinking or knowing that my testimony has helped introduce more people to Jesus, and through him God. I fear now that what I’m doing might be brining too much attention on myself and not enough to God (which is the main objective). I feel this way because our faith and grace are evidenced (not granted!) by the fruits of our labors. I’m not honestly sure if’ I’ve born any fruit. I’m not sure if I’ve helped anyone find Jesus or even encouraged anyone going through something similar. That portion of the blog is almost over. I have ideas on what the Sunday blogs will be, but I want them (and everything I do) to glorify God. I may fail more often than I succeed (because we all fall short of the Glory of God), but I want to try.

 
It’s time to relax! What do you do?

I write. When I’m not writing or watching football, I’m playing video games. Reading is fun. But honestly if I had more time for writing, I’d be much happier. Marketing, editing, publicity, those things just really burn me out.

 
What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

Favorites ever are: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BEST EVER), How I Met Your Mother, Stargate SG-1, and Supernatural (the first five seasons only). Current series would be Doctor Who, The 100, The Marvel TV shows, Game of Thrones, and Stranger Things.

 
If you had to choose a character from one of your books to have lunch with, who would it be and why?

Bob from The Journals of Bob Drifter. Sure, he might be there to take my soul, but he’s hundreds of years old. He’d have a ton of stories to tell me before I croaked.

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

I’m bad at sharing. Not because I’m unwilling, but because I’m really just sort of baffled at the sorts of things people want to know about. I think I’m pretty boring, so it’s hard to think about things because I just don’t know. I usually talk about my students or my kids (my fiancee’s kids, but I’ve pretty much already hijacked them).

 
Thank you for joining us today, Matt. Good luck with the release of The Power of Words in October, and best wishes for your wedding and the future.

 

Interview with Michelle Peach

Michelle Peach

Last week it was the book, Gazelle in the Shadows, that was in the spotlight. This week I turn the spotlight towards the author, Michelle Peach.

 
Hi Michelle, and welcome to Rainne’s Ramblings. No rambling from me this morning, so if you’d like to start by telling my readers and I a little about yourself and your background, that would be lovely.

Michelle Peach - Author HeadshotI’m a stay-at-home mom, married with three children and love volunteering for school activities and animal rescue. In between time, I love to write. I am a graduate of Durham University with a degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies. I worked for many years overseas in the British Foreign Office and as an executive PA for a Dubai company. I met my future husband while working in Dubai and soon after moved to America. That was twenty years ago! How time flies!

 
When and why did you decide to become a writer?

I had procrastinated about writing the book for many years but the catalyst came when my children started to ask me what I had done before marrying their father and I felt a need to tell my story for them in addition to the urging of many friends.

 
What gets your creative juices flowing?

There’s not any one thing I can pinpoint as my creativity can be sparked by listening to the radio, reading a book, taking a long walk or even in the moments before sleep.

 
What is your top writing tip?

As a visual thinker, what helped me tremendously was a story planner. I created my arc on a cork-board with index cards pinned in sequence. It was easy to switch things around and play with the chapters until I was happy to begin the writing process.

 
What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?

Hands down, the hardest part has been the marketing after my book was published. I’m not much of a salesperson so it has been a steep learning curve to push my book forward.

The easiest part was receiving my first printed paperback. Holding it in my hands, feeling the weight and texture of the pages gave me immense pride and fufilment.

 
Tell us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?

I don’t have a typical day. Some days I might write but as a general rule, I enjoy writing at night when the house is quiet.

 
Gazelle in the ShadowsHow did you come up with the title?

I searched for a title that would point to the Arabian setting of the story and remembered that the gazelle has been used to symbolize femininity and love in Arabic literature and music since pre-Islamic times. I also liked it because the gazelle, much like the protagonist, Elizabeth, is preyed upon by many predators. The second part of the title “in the shadows” depicts how Elizabeth faces the unknown where her predators operate in the clandestine world of betrayal and espionage.

 
You say the book is ‘largely based on your life’, how much is fact and how much is from your imagination?

If I were to quantify it, I would say that two thirds of it is true and the rest fictionalised.

 
What is your favourite scene that you’ve written? Can you give us a peek?

I enjoyed writing about the hammam which I visited in Damascus. It brought back many memories.

      We entered the reception area through a heavy, dark curtain used for privacy from passersby in the street. The room opened out unexpectedly into a cavernous space. There were seats along the walls furnished with rich, although threadbare, oriental carpets. In the centre, directly under the dome, there was an octagon fountain inlaid with blue, mosaic tiles. From the inside, the dome was transformed into a light show. Cracks within the bricks allowed shafts of sunlight to shine through. The illumination made me feel relaxed. Unfortunately, it didn’t smell as relaxing, as the vapoury air invaded my nostrils with tobacco and must from wet carpets.
      There were two women who were assisting us in the lobby area. One of them, a plump, short woman, was dressed in a long, black robe and colourful
hijab. She handed out some minshafa, thin towels. The other, a tall, slim woman, handed us glasses of rose water.
      “Get undressed,” Fatima told me. “And wrap this around you.”
      I timidly undressed feeling embarrassed by my body. I wished I had packed my swimsuit now. I clung onto the towel as I awkwardly struggled to pull my clothes off and then wrapped it tightly around me. I was relieved that it was large enough to cover me from my breasts to my knees. Na’imah and Suheera disrobed, unabashed by their nakedness and tied the towels around their waists.
      I was freezing as I stood almost naked in the lobby area. Fatima saw my chattering teeth.
      “This is the
barrani chamber, the coolest room. Let’s go into the next one which is warmer.”
      I happily followed her into the next, warmer chamber. Suheera and Na’iamah stayed in the
barrani chamber. I sat on the wet, stone floor next to Fatima and felt the sweat run from every pore in my body. Fatima took out some soap and face cloths, which she had brought, and began to wash herself. I began to scrub myself as well.
      In the steamy mist, I saw other women in the room. Many small groups were chatting and socializing while washing their hair and bodies. They walked around without towels. I was shocked at how open they were with each other. I couldn’t help but reflect on the two extremes of womenfolk: being concealed in the homes and covered in black when out in the street compared to the freedom and nudity in the
hammam. I could understand how they must cherish the time they spent together and the community it helped them create.
      I was eager to chat about Hama with Fatima and hear about her and Naguib. I hadn’t had a chance to catch up with her. I hoped she had changed her mind about Hussein. After all, she seemed to have enjoyed her time with Naguib.
      “The trip to Hama was great,” I said. “I hope we can go on another with Naguib and Hussein.”
      “I had a good time, but I don’t think I’ll have time to go again.”
      “Is that because Naguib and you have to work?”
      Fatima paused and looked thoughtfully at me.
      “Yes.”
      “I’m so glad that Hussein can spend so much time with me.” I suddenly realised how insensitive that sounded and corrected myself. “I mean, I’m not glad that his father died, but I’m glad he is not working right now.”
      “What do you mean?” she asked.
      “Isn’t he still in mourning?” I wasn’t entirely sure how long he would be in mourning, and I had supposed he still was.
      “I don’t know,” she said, but her tone was abrupt. It was strange that she didn’t know about Hussein’s father and I sensed she didn’t really care to talk about Hussein.
      I bit my lip, frustrated. Fatima got up and gathered her things.
      “Let’s move onto the
jouwani, the hottest chamber.”
      I had thought we were already in the hottest one, but I was extremely mistaken. The third room was like a kiln. The furnace was situated in this room. Heat and smoke passed in pipes under the floor from there into the other middle room. I realised I had not drunk enough, as I felt very thirsty and had probably lost a pint of sweat already.
      Fatima was listening in on some women talking. She was bemused by their conversation. The women were cackling loudly at each other. There were four of them, all middle-aged, round and fat. They sat in a huddle, washing each other with a clay substance. I had noticed that they occasionally looked at me and cackled more.
      “What are they talking about?” I asked, thinking they had made a joke about me, and hoped Fatima had heard them.
      “Those women are gossiping about a girl that the mother is arranging for her son to marry.”
      “What’s so funny?” I asked.
      “She brought her here.”
      “Why?”
      “Mothers-in-law always like to check out the bride-to-be. She wants to make sure she’s not got any serious, physical faults,” she explained. “One of her friends thinks the girl is too ugly for her son.”
      “That’s awful,” I said, but I laughed anyway.
      “Then the mother asked if they noticed anything about the body of the bride-to-be being ugly, and one of them said she thought she saw she had three nipples.”
      “No,” I splurted. “That’s so funny.”
      “I don’t think it’s true, but they love spreading rumours.” Fatima was laughing hard.
      After that room, Fatima took me into a cold one, which I disliked very much. It was meant to cool you down, but I found it too chilly. The stone was slippery. We returned to the middle chamber to find Suheera and Na’imah. The second lady from the reception was sitting with them, still dressed in her black robe. She was scrubbing Suheera down with a black scrubbing cloth made of goat’s hair.
      “Elizabeth, you need to be scrubbed by the
muqashshara,” Fatima said, indicating the woman with the cloth.
      The darkly clothed exfoliator beckoned me over. Her pruned and puckered hands were covered in henna designs and her nails were orange. It seemed ominous, as I lay, almost naked, in her shadow, on a rubber mat. I thought I had washed myself and scrubbed my skin, but she scrubbed harder, so hard that I could feel my skin sting.
      
“Baqraa qadhra. Ya shamootah. Ajnabia qabiha.”
      Dirty cow, I translated. Prostitute. Ugly foreigner.
      She doused me in hot water and lathered my skin with soap. Then she pummelled my skin, squeezed my muscles and pinched my flesh. I felt like a rag doll in the hands of a mischievous toddler.
      I wanted to respond to her insults, but honestly, I didn’t have the energy, or feel in a position to defend myself with barely any clothes on. When she had finished with one side of my body, she slapped me on the arm and indicated to turn over.
      The women around us clucked like hens, as they watched me squirm and gasp while I was vigorously scoured like a burnt frying pan. Strings of black dirt accumulated on my stomach, arms and legs. Obviously, I hadn’t washed myself as efficiently as I had thought. I was embarrassed, but not surprised by all the grime as I hadn’t had a decent shower since I arrived. When the woman had finished inflicting pain, both verbally and physically, I felt like a freed convict and rushed to the cold chamber to rinse off.
      “She was so rude to me,” I commented to Fatima, as I rinsed.
      “I am sorry for what she said. She is not used to seeing foreigners in this
hammam.”
      My spirit was somewhat bruised, but I stroked my fresh and clean skin while getting dressed. Within a few minutes of waiting, Hussein arrived to pick us up and deliver us back to the house.

 

For those of us who are thinking of reading your book, could you tell us what to expect?

The reader will enjoy a fast-paced story with romance, friendships and betrayals weaved around an increasingly dangerous and threatening story which culminates in an unforeseeable ending.

 
When you consider your future, what would you like to make happen for you?

I look forward to continuing to be as content as I am now.

 snowman
What is your earliest memory?

One of my earliest memories is from when I was a toddler. After a night of heavy snowfall, my brothers and I woke to a garden transformed into a winter wonderland. We bundled up in scarves, coats and gloves to play in it and I built my first snowman with them; carrots, currants, twigs’n’all.

 
How do you spend your free time?

I enjoy family time. We enjoy vacations, walking, especially with our three dogs and sometimes even our cat follows us, boating on Lake Allatoona, camping and gardening.

 
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.

I enjoy reading although I don’t get the chance to read novels as much as I would like. I spend a lot of time reading articles, blogs and news in general on the internet. Amongst my favorite authors are Philippa Gregory, Amy Tan, and Stieg Larsson.

 
Your book is being made into a movie, which star would you cast as Elizabeth?

That’s a great question as it’s my dream that the book be made into a movie. I’m not very au fait with current young actresses but I imagine a young Meg Ryan would make a great Elizabeth.

 
If you could travel to any place and time in history, where and when would you visit?

crowdLike many British subjects, I love the Royal family. I was especially fascinated by Princess Diana, who was only 5 years older than me. If I could travel back in time, I would travel to 29th July 1981, to witness the Royal Wedding celebrations along with the multitudes of enthusiastic well-wishers outside Buckingham Palace in London. As a young teenager, her fairytale wedding was one of my happiest historical memories. Sadly, as we all know, her story is tragic. I was working in Dubai the day I heard about her tragic death and visited the British Embassy to place flowers outside. Her legacy lives on in her children and I miss her humanity and grace.

 
 

Quick fire round:

Favourite Season?

Spring

 
Dream vacation?

Maldives

 
Favourite quote?

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love.” Washington Irving

 
Something unique about you?

I traveled around the world alone when I was 23 years old.

 
Favourite song?

Storms in Africa Parts 1 & 2 by Enya

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

I hope the reader will enjoy learning about some of the culture, history and beauty of Syria in my story which, in many ways, has irrevocably changed due to the ongoing war. I find myself often thinking about the places I visited, saddened by the fact that much has been destroyed and about the kind people I met and whether they and their families are still alive. My deepest wish is that somehow Syria will one day miraculously return to be a country travelers can visit and be enthralled by the centuries of history and ancient cultures within its boundaries.

 
Thank you ever so much for spending this time with us, Michelle. Best wishes for any and all future projects.

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Interview with Joan Schweighardt

Joan Schweighardt

 

My guest today is Joan Schweighardt. Joan is an award-winning author, who’s books include The Accidental Art Thief and The Last Wife Of Attila The Hun.

 

Hi Joan, thank you for joining me today. I’ll dive straight in with the first question, if that’s ok?

How did your journey as a writer begin?

Joan SchweighardtI started writing when I was a kid. I wrote poems, and later short stories. I won second prize in a college short story contest the first year I took a creative writing class. And then I had a few stories published in literary magazines. In addition to my own projects, I was always looking for jobs where I could write—press releases for a PR company, copy for an ad agency, resumes for a resume company, local newspaper articles. At some point I realized I had become a “pen for hire.”

 

What gets your creative juices flowing?

In the case of my most recent novel, Before We Died, it began with a freelance job I took speed reading backlist books for a publisher and then writing up a paragraph or two about each book for their website. One of the books I was asked to read was a thin diary of a rubber tapper working in the South American rainforest in the early 1900s. I knew nothing about rubber tapping before this little book, but after a second read I had to know more, so I made two trips to South American and began to research everything I could find on the rubber boom, the tapping process, the indigenous people of the South American rainforests, Manaus, Brazil, the hub of the rubber boom, the time period, and on and on and on.

 

What do you enjoy most about writing

Being really engaged in a project takes me outside of myself. I think we can all relate to that. When we can get the ego to climb into the backseat, the subconscious has a chance to slip into the front. And suddenly it seems like ideas are coming from out of thin air. Not all writing experiences go like that, but some do.

 

Describe what your ideal writing space looks like.

We have a sizeable den, and my desk is in one corner. Friends ask me all the time why I don’t set up in the back bedroom where there is a door I could close for complete privacy. I’m claustrophobic, I guess. I like being out in the traffic area.

 

Where do you find your inspiration?

I always worry when I’m wrapping things up on one book project that I won’t have an idea for the next one. And sometimes that happens… there’s a gap of time where I seem to be looking and looking and can’t find a single thing to inspire me onto a new project. And then something shows up, usually when I least expect it.

 

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

Before-We-Died800x1200The great thing about writing historical fiction, which is what I have been doing in recent years, is that you are gifted a setting—a time and a place—right off the bat. Boom: Amazon rainforest; early 1900s. Women did not travel to the Amazon to tap rubber trees in the early 1900s, so boom again: narrator has to be a man, a tough man who can endure the hardships of working in the jungle, probably youngish. My knowledge of the setting kind of dictated the details I would I would need to develop the plot. On the other hand, researching the historical setting also got in my way at times. By the time I was ready to write I knew almost too much about the rubber boom and life in the rainforest. When I reread my first draft I thought I was reading a text book. I had to delete a lot of the historical stuff and focus in on the characters and plot for the next draft.

 

How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

I am very bad at choosing names. I wish someone would come along and pick out all the names for me. And while I like the titles I usually end up with, it takes me forever to come up with each of them.

 

When you consider your future, what would you like to make happen for you?

I’d love to see Before We Died and the other two books in the series (Gifts for the Dead and River Aria) be made into a movie, or better yet a TV series. The books collectively cover 1908 to 1929, and they move back and forth between the New York metro area to the jungles of Brazil. WWI as seen from the docks of Hoboken, NJ, the Spanish Flu, and the lead up to the great depression are all accounted for, as are events going on in South America, including Henry Ford’s unsuccessful attempt to start a rubber tree plantation in Brazil. So that’s all happening in the background of the three books, and in the foreground my characters, Irish emigrants who settled in Hoboken, NJ and their offspring, are trying to deal with personal challenges regarding issues of love, loyalty, betrayal, power… all elements of the human condition. Great stuff for a TV series!

 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, hang out with my husband, hang out with family and friends. I love to travel. I spend hours painting, but I’m not great at it.

 

How many books have you written? Which was the most fun to write ?

81X1YZaP1VL._SY300_I’ve written eight books to date. The first three were rather similar—darkly humorous contemporary novels with female narrators. My first historical novel is entitled The Last Wife of Attila the Hun. It took a long time to research and write because it was informed by both Nordic legend and the actual history of fifth century Hun, Roman and Germanic tribes. But I loved writing that one and I’m very proud of it. When it was completed, I wrote another darkly comic contemporary novel and also a memoir. I published the latter under a pseudonym so that I could go all out and divulge all my secrets. Then I started on the trilogy, of which Before We Died is book one. During the time I was writing the trilogy, I had a zebra dream, and I woke up and wrote a children’s book based on it, and I’m excited to say that No Time For Zebras will be published by Waldorf Press in the near future.

These are all my books that I’ve written for myself. There are also several books I’ve ghosted for other people as part of my freelance work.

The most fun books were the Attila novel and this new one, Before We Died, because I love research so much.

 

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I was very creative as a kid. I always drew, and after my father bought me oil paints, I always painted. I wrote; I tried to learn to play the guitar; I made houses for my paper dolls and filled them with items from magazines. I was always doing, living more often in that state of engagement that I describe above than not. But what I wanted to do most was go to an art college and become a better artist. That didn’t work out; my family did not have the money to send me to the school. So I started taking college classes at a community college and working part time to pay for it, and after a few English lit classes, I changed course.

 

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?

I have given so much thought and attention to the early 1900s that I suppose I would visit then. I’d head right to the docks of Hoboken, where my characters are from.

 

What movie or book character are you most similar to?

Elisa Esposito(Sally Hawkins)The Shape of WaterI’m going to say Elisa Esposito, the mute janitor that Sally Hawkins plays in The Shape of Water. I’m not mute, and I’m not a janitor, but I identify with Elisa in other ways. Elisa is a bit clumsy, a bit short on social graces and self-confidence, but big on heart, always dreaming, and adventurous enough to be able to step outside her comfort zone. (I love the movie, and I love the writer and director, Guillermo del Toro.)

 

What would your warning label say if every person was required to have one?

Do not put the enclosed woman on a small overcrowded tour bus filled with strangers under any circumstances or for any length of time.

 

Quick fire ‘this or that’ round:

◊ Ocean or Mountains?

Ocean

◊ Pancake or Waffle?

Neither

◊ Tablet or Computer?

Computer

◊ Jogging or Hiking?

Hiking

◊ Couch or Recliner?

Couch

 

Many thanks for your time, Joan and best wishes for the upcoming release of Before We Died!

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 Joan Schweighardt