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Interview with Angela Ruth Strong and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m thrilled to have Angela Ruth Strong. I regularly stalk Angela’s social media because she very openly took us on her breast cancer journey and I so much drew from her love for her husband and her faith in God. In turn, I prayed for her regularly. To have her as my guest is very humbling for me. And — she’s giving away a copy of her latest book! Read on to see how you can enter to win!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m a remarried mother of three who is almost an empty nester here in Idaho. I just kicked breast cancer’s butt, and I’m currently trying to figure out if I’ve gotten lazy or I’m still recovering. When not lazy (or recovering), I paddle board, snowshoe, and ride behind my husband on our Harley. I also like to cook and eat really good food, so I follow Hallee’s dinner posts on Facebook.

Tell us about your current release. A Latte Difficulty is book #3 in my CafFUNated Mysteries. It follows a coffee lover and tea drinker who are as different as their favorite beverages but run a shop together where they sell caffeine and solve crimes. Each book is set during a holiday, so A Latte Difficulty involves an attempted murder during the Independence Day parade. All kinds of fireworks involved.

What do you think is lacking in Christian Fiction? I know of way too many circumstances where amazing books are rejected by Christian publishers because the ending isn’t “happy enough.” This is a trigger for me, and I ranted to my agent just last week. For example, while the movie I Can Only Imagine is one of my favorites, it’s also my husband’s story…but without the happy ending. When leaving the theater, he said, “Why didn’t I get that ending? Why did my dad have to die before repenting for his abuse and reconnecting with me? Did I do something wrong? Does God not love me as much as he loves Bart Millard?” And my heart breaks for readers of Christian fiction who need to know that when everything else goes wrong, as it often does, God is enough. The happy ending that matters most is in Heaven.

With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down? I don’t. It’s only the characters who scream the loudest and the longest who get their stories told. Many ideas will never see the light of day. But according to the former president of Disney, that’s okay. Michael Eisner said something like, “If you don’t rush, then time will separate the really good ideas from those that only seemed good in the moment.” As an Idahoan, I would compare this to the story of the potato farmer taking the bumpy road to market because it made the largest potatoes rise to the top. Sometimes I have to slow down in order to offer my best.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self-publish)? It’s okay if you don’t like one of my books because I’m always trying to write a better one.

Who was your first Screen/Musical Crush? I was probably in kindergarten when I realized Han Solo was also Indiana Jones, and I was done for.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? My mom was a writer. I grew up reading her stories in Sunday school material and sometimes reading about myself in Women’s World. When I was a cheerleader in high school, I wrote about the time a basketball player dove out of bounds, knocking me into the bleachers and breaking four of my ribs. Mom helped me submit the story to American Cheerleader Magazine. After they paid me a hundred bucks and published it, I decided to pursue journalism in college. Selling a story has never been that easy since.

How did you make the initial step into writing your first novel. What were some of your major roadblocks and how did you overcome them? While I was writing my first novel in 2005, my first husband had an affair. I felt like God told me to stop writing for a year to really work on our marriage. I didn’t want to, but I wanted my husband to know he was my priority, so I did.

The following year, I finished writing the book with the help of Donald Maass’s workbook for Writing the Breakout Novel. It taught me how to write, and it’s what I always recommend to new writers.

I took that first novel to a writer’s conference where I met my critique partner, Christina Berry/Tarbochia. We bonded over shared stories of our husband’s infidelity. After that, our lives mirrored each other’s. We both finaled in writing contests, won scholarships, got agents, and sold our debut novels. Then her husband left her. I said to my husband, “I’m so glad I have you.” But a few months later he left me for another woman as well.

I was devastated but am very grateful that when he blamed my writing for our divorce, I could say, “I quit writing for a year to work on our relationship.”

But I still had to finish writing Love Finds You in Sun Valley as my own marriage fell apart. I didn’t believe in romance anymore, and I quit writing the genre after that.

Then I met Mr. Strong. He’s so amazing he makes the heroes in my novels look bad. His love changed my life. And now there’s nothing else I’d rather write about.

Though I was afraid to write again. I was afraid of making Jim feel like he wasn’t as important as my writing the way my first husband claimed. I cried in premarital counseling, and our marriage counselor said, “Angela, Jim is a different man, and it’s not going to be a problem in a marriage this time around.”

Jim has supported my writing journey over the last decade. That doesn’t mean I don’t have other roadblocks, but when you’re on a road trip with someone else, the miles don’t matter as much. I will be as content writing stories that never get published/produced as I will be in writing a NYT bestseller/Oscar winner. Either way, I have more to offer my audience because of what I’ve learned through my challenges, and I believe God will use my work if/when He wants to.

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever had a great writing idea? I outlined The Princess and the P.I. on a napkin at Cheesecake Factory.

I assume when you start a book, you pretty much have the plot laid out. Do you ever change your mind later on in the book and go in a different direction? Yes. For Lighten Up, the first chapter I ever wrote was the last chapter. Then after writing the whole novel, the ending didn’t work anymore. I completely changed it, and I’ve probably gotten more reader letters about this book than any others. Author Jill Williamson even said, “I was reading the book and was like, ‘Angela can’t do that!’ So I skipped to the end, and after reading it I said, ‘Angela can’t do that either!’ But then I read the whole thing in order and it worked perfectly.’”

Lighten Up is about the daughter of a pastor who couldn’t forgive her dad for running off with the church secretary until she fell in love with her own pastor. I wrote it before my first husband left, and reading it afterwards actually helped me heal.

What is one thing that you “never saw yourself doing” and either do it now or have done? I usually rebel against writing exercises because I want to write my own thing, but my friend Hope Lyda put together the book My Unedited Writing Year, so I’m doing an exercise every day and sharing my favorite from the week in a YouTube video on Mondays. You’re invited to join me!!! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuraamNU_Ktic_gg6DGoFgg

Here is where you can find Angela online:

Angela is giving away a copy of her book to a reader! See below how you can enter to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Interview with Dorothy St. James and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I’m so happy to have Dorothy St. James as my guest. Dorothy hails from one of my favorite states – South Carolina – and writes one of my favorite genres to read – cozy mysteries. I hope you enjoy her interview as much as I did! And, read on to see how you can enter to win a copy of her latest release!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hi! Thank you for hosting me on your blog. I’m a cozy mystery author Dorothy St. James (I also write romance under the name Dorothy McFalls). I grew up and live in the Lowcountry just outside of Charleston, South Carolina—a place with vast marshes, stinky pluff mud, and ancient live oak trees dripping with silvery Spanish moss. I love this place.

My earliest memories are of my love of books. As soon as I learned to write, I started writing my own stories, mainly adventure tales. I also love animals. I hold a degree in Wildlife Biology and worked for various governmental and nonprofit organizations to protect the environment until one day I quit in order to pursue my love of writing.

I’m known for the White House Gardener Mystery series (where a Charleston takes on Washington), the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series (set on a sea island outside of Charleston), and have a new Secret Bookroom series (also set in South Carolina) coming in September 2020.

Tell us about your current release. Bonbon with the Wind is the fourth book in the Southern Chocolate Shop mystery series. There’s a legend in the Sea Islands that before a hurricane hits the Gray Lady can be seen walking down the beach warning of doom. Charity Penn, the owner of the Chocolate Box, doesn’t believe in such silly stories, but she does believe weather forecasters. A powerful hurricane is heading their way. Joe Davies, a local treasure hunter with an unquenchable sweet tooth, claims to have seen the Gray Lady walking toward him just that morning and is terrified for his life.

After the storm passes everyone returns to survey the damage. Thankfully, most buildings survived the raging winds and rushing waves. The Chocolate Box still lists to one side like a drunk in a windstorm, but the roof held and the interior is just slightly soggy. But as Penn walks her little dog Stella on the beach, they find Joe Davies’s body washed up onshore. Did the Gray Lady claim another victim? Many on the island believe that is exactly what happened.

Penn is sure there’s another explanation. She follows the clues and hints of lost gold to discover that the truth behind the treasure hunter’s death is as much of a maze as the boating channels winding their way through the local marshes.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher (or agent or audience if you self publish)? Anxiety has affected my life in many ways. It really seems to bloom whenever I sit down to write. Those “am I good enough?” and “who am I to write a book?” thoughts can be awfully loud some days. It’s a gut-twisting feeling (similar to having eaten egg salad at a church picnic after it’s sat out too long). The anxiety sometimes makes me want to crawl back into bed and stay there…forever. I’m sure anyone who suffers from anxiety knows the feeling only too well.

But, thankfully, the drive to write novels is bigger than the anxiety. I fall in love with the characters and their ability to overcome struggles. I laugh at the goofy things they do. I cry when they are hurting. And I sit on the edge of my seat and type like mad whenever they get themselves into dangerous situations when trying to solve a murder. These are the highs that help me push through whenever the anxiety dragons come to visit.

Learning everything I can about the craft of writing has helped tremendously too. When that voice of doubt whispers in my ear, “You don’t know what you’re doing,” I remind myself that, yes, I do know what I’m doing. I’ve taken several classes to help me do what I’m doing.

And, after arming myself with all this, I keep writing.

Have you always wanted to write a book? The desire to write a book and hold it in my hands is one of my earliest memories. I have always been drawn to books. I love the stories they tell and how reading makes me feel. The more I read, the more the stories in my own head clamor to get out.

For quite a while, the thought of writing a book felt too scary, too daunting. I pursued a career in Environmental Urban Planning, because that felt safer. And yet, in my work, I was drawn to the stories of the places I would go and assist, especially the small towns. I loved telling hearing the stories of these special Southern places, places that were disappearing, and I love telling others about these places.

And then one day I decided that I needed to pursue that side of my life, I’d waited long enough. It was time to take a chance on myself and start to write novels. In 2001, I quit my job to write full-time. It was scary and exciting all at the same time. I’m so glad that I took that leap.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? I do have a pre-determined length. Publishers often have word-length requirements or guidelines. But keeping my publisher happy isn’t the only reason I like to keep to these word counts. Readers often expect a certain length novel depending on the genre. Cozy mysteries are generally around eighty thousand words long. Historical romances, in comparison, are generally around one hundred and twenty thousand words in length. Meeting reader expectations is important, especially for readers who like to read a certain genre.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Read. Read in your genre. Read books by best-selling authors. Read books by first-time authors. Try to figure out what those authors are doing to please the reader.

What is your preferred method of writing? I plot by hand in a spiral-bound notebook. This notebook is where I’ll also jot down facts about the characters, ideas that I might want to pursue later in the book, and brainstorm whenever I get stuck. It’s a very important notebook.

When I write, however, the words flow best from my fingertips to the computer keyboard. It feels as if my hands are doing the talking. After long writing days, my fingers will sometimes tingle while I stumble as I try to talk aloud. With my mouth. To real, live people.

What is your inspiration for writing? I love to do research. Reading about an area, talking with people, and researching events in history all spark the best ideas for me. The stories of people and places are my biggest inspirations. Often, the book’s setting becomes just as important as any of the characters in the book. I hope my readers feel the same way and will want to visit the places I’m writing about.

Here is where you can find Dorothy online:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/dorothy.stjames

Twitter: www.twitter.com/dorothywrites

Instagram: www.instagram.com/dorothymcfalls

Website: www.dorothystjames.com

Dorothy is giving away a signed copy of Playing with Bonbon Fire to a reader! See below how to enter to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Interview with Mystery Author Abigail Keam and a Giveaway!

Welcome to Readers Write to Know! I asked you, my readers, what questions they would ask their favorite authors if given the chance, and the authors visiting my blog answered them! This week, I am introducing you to my friend Abigail Keam. Abigail and I met in a Kentucky writers group six or seven years ago. I have enjoyed spending time with her any chance I get to see her and I’m thrilled that she’s my guest today. Abigail writes mysteries set in Kentucky and romances set in Florida – two of my favorite states! Abigail is giving away a copy of the first book in her latest series – so read on to see how you can enter to win!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Hello, I am an award-winning and Amazon best-selling author who writes the Josiah Reynolds Mystery Series about a Southern beekeeper turned amateur female sleuth in the Bluegrass.  In addition to Josiah Reynolds, I have a new heroine— Mona Moon.  I just released my new Mona Moon Mysteries1930s mystery series. I love this era and the research was a joy.  I combined real events and people into the storyline giving the stories an additional richness.

I also have written The Last Chance For Love Series where strangers from all walks of life come to the Last Chance Motel in Key Largo and get a second chance at rebuilding their lives and The Princess Maura Fantasy Series.

My first mystery novel, Death By A HoneyBee, won the 2010 Gold Medal Award for Women’s Lit from Readers’ Favorite and was a Finalist of the USA BOOK NEWS-Best Books List of 2011. 

Death By Drowning won the 2011 Gold Medal Award for Best Mystery Sleuth from Readers’ Favorite and also was placed on the USA BOOK NEWS-Best Books List of 2011 as a Finalist.

I am an award-winning beekeeper who has won 16 honey awards at the Kentucky State Fair including the Barbara Horn Award, which is given to beekeepers who rate a perfect 100 in a honey competition.  So when I write about beekeeping in my Josiah Reynolds Mysteries, I know what I’m talking about.

I currently live on the Kentucky River in a metal house with my husband and various critters.

Tell us about your current release. My current release is Murder Under A Blue Moon—a 1930s Mona Moon Mystery series.  It’s a rags-to-riches story about Mona Moon who is an out-of-work cartographer and pinching pennies when she receives the news that her uncle had died and left her a fortune plus a Thoroughbred horse farm.  Mona relocates from New York to the Moon estate in Kentucky only to discover her uncle has been murdered.  Now she has to find out who did the dastardly deed or she might be next!

To make matters more complicated, her next door neighbor is English nobility, Lord Farley, who is too smooth, too charming, and too handsome.  Mona doesn’t like him. So why does Mona’s heart beat faster when she sees him?

With all those characters in your head screaming to get out how do you write fast enough to get it all down?  It takes me about three months to write each book.  In today’s market that is not fast enough, but I want to put out a good story, and one that will outlast reading fads.  I am hoping readers will be enjoying my novels long after I’m gone.

How do you push past the fear of your writing being average and be bold enough to sell it to a publisher(or agent or audience if you self publish)?  I have seen poorly written novels make the New York Times list and excellent books bite the dust.  There is no rhyme or reason to success sometimes.  I think some writers must be sprinkled with pixie dust.  I write the best I can and hope for the best with sales.  I love my characters and my stories.  I think it shows in the writing.

What inspired you to start writing, or did you always want to write? I remember being in the second grade and wanting to be a writer.  I wrote my first story in the second grade.  It was titled Bobby Bobo Got Baptized At The Big Bone Baptist Church.  My teacher showed it to my mother and told her to encourage me to write.  However, my mother was already on top of it.  It was my mother who imparted the love of the written word.  She and I would take the public bus to the Cincinnati Library every month and bring home a shopping bag full of books.  I would read them all, and she would take me back to the library.  We did this for years.  She thought education was very important and pushed, pushed, and pushed.  I’m so thankful she did.  I rewrote Bobby Bobo several years ago and published it as well as several other autobiographical short stories.

How did you determine whether to self-publish or seek a traditional publisher? If it were 2010, I would advise to self-publish.  However, things have changed, and I tell newbies to get a deal with a publishing house if they can.  The new self-publishing authors are struggling because the writing field is glutted, and a self-publishing author must spend sixty percent of her/his time marketing.  If the author doesn’t know what she is doing then she will fail.  I know several New York Time best-selling authors who are throwing in the towel because they can’t make a living anymore.  My advice—keep your day job.

Do you have your plotline and character development already laid out before you begin writing a book, or do they develop as you write?  I have a vague outline, but I let the characters guide me.  I don’t keep notebooks or do charts.  Somehow it seems to work out all right.

Do you have pre-determined length in mind when you first begin a book? I like short, tight books.  I rarely write over 45K wordsI keep description and adjectives at a minimum. Less is more with me. It’s a pet peeve of mine, but I hate reading a book with long wordy narratives and pages of description that don’t push the story forward.  An author should be able to present a mood or depiction of a character, location, or object in a few short lines.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Stay away from “publishing businesses” which promise success in return for a large fee.  It’s most probably a scam.  I saw one such business advertising on FB which guaranteed a 100K salary in the first year for new authors.  The asking fee for their magic formula was $10,000. Not going to happen, folks.  Also get rid of toxic people in your life.  They will sabotage you and your work.

Here is where you can find Abigail online:

Official Site     www.abigailkeam.com

Facebook        https://www.facebook.com/AbigailKeam

Instagram        https://www.instagram.com/abigailkeam/

Twitter             https://twitter.com/abigailkeam

Pinterest          https://www.pinterest.com/abigailkeam/

Amazon           https://www.amazon.com/Abigail-Keam/e/B0045PEGUQ

YouTube         https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCThdrO8pCPN6JfTM9c857JA

email   abigailshoney@windstream.net

Bookbub          https://www.bookbub.com/authors/abigail-keam

Abigail is giving away a copy of Under a Blue Moon to a reader! See below how you can enter to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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