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Interviews with other authors

Maxine's Musings newsletter

Stop by fellow author, Maxine Douglas's newsletter blogspot and read her interview of me for on the creation of "The Roman Phalera."  I think you'll enjoy the back story!  Here's the link:

A visit from fellow Muse Author, Sara-Jayne Townsend

Today, fellow Muse author, Sara-Jayne Townsend joins me on my Sunday afternoon blog.  Please join me in welcoming her and hearing about her background and her books. 
Sara-Jayne is a UK-based writer of crime and horror.  She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there.  She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris.  She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.   The first two books in her amateur sleuth series about Canadian actress Shara Summers, DEATH SCENE and DEAD COOL, are available as e-books from the MuseitUp book store:
You can learn more about Sara and her writing at her website at or her blog at
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Thanks so much for stopping by today, Sara-Jayne.  If you would, please give us a little insight of you, the person, not the author. A small paragraph or two will be fine. I want readers to connect with an introduction before the interview begins. Whenever anyone asks me when I became a writer, I always answer “since always”. I’ve been making up stories since before I learned how to write. As a child I had an array of dolls and stuffed toys. They all had names, personalities and family histories, and I used to make up stories about them to send myself to sleep. I just can’t imagine not being a writer. It’s part of who I am. Being a published writer, now that’s a different story, and much harder work. I was born in the North of England, lived most of my teenage years in Canada when my family emigrated there, and now live in England again, near London, with my guitarist husband and two cats.
What motivated you to become an author? It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. I’ve been writing stories since I was a child, and I knew by the time I was ten years old I wanted to be a published author. It took many years of learning how to be a better writer, of submitting work and getting a lot of rejections, to achieve that dream.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you? When the story is going well, and the words flow, there’s no better feeling.  I am in the habit of writing in a coffee shop before I start work at the day job. If that session goes well, it puts me in a good mood for the rest of the day.
What do your fans mean to you? To have fans mean people love your work so much they are prepared to pay money to read the next thing you write. There are millions of books out there. If someone’s parting with their hard-earned cash to buy one of your books, that’s very flattering. It’s also amazing to get a good review, just to have someone say, “I read this book and I really enjoyed it.” That’s the best compliment a writer can get. Who are your favorite authors? Stephen King, James Herbert, Sara Paretsky, Sue Grafton and Kathy Reichs.  Stephen King remains a big inspiration for my horror stories. I discovered him at 14, and I’ve been inspired to write horror ever since. Sara Paretsky is the inspiration for my crime series. I just love her tough-talking private eye, VI Warshawski.  Her character stands up as an icon for strong, independent-minded women.
What three words describe you as a person? Methodical. Loyal. Logical.
What three words describe you as a writer? Plotter. Disciplined. Persistent.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time? I have to fit the writing around the day job, and juggling both can sometimes be a challenge. I’m a vociferous reader, and I do most of my reading on the train to and from work. I’m also learning to play bass guitar, and I frequently play at open mic evenings with my husband, who’s a guitarist. That all keeps me pretty busy. In rare moments of free time, I like playing video games. Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Dragon Age are my favourite series of games.
How do you discover the ebooks you read? Like everyone, I have favourite authors, and I will intentionally seek them out when new books are forthcoming. But I also browse Amazon’s Kindle store for special deals, and quite often I will take a chance on a book by an author I’ve never read before, based on the cover, the blurb and the fact that it’s only 77p, or whatever. I have discovered many new authors worth reading this way.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? The very first ones, written back in primary school, all featured me and my sister, and my best friend and her sister, having exciting adventures.  I remember the first novel I wrote, at age eleven. It was about a young girl who became invisible through a witch’s spell, and as she and her older sister endeavoured to find out how to reverse the spell, she was trying to disguise her invisibility by covering her skin with foundation, wearing a wig and contact lenses, and other such antics. I had her rinse her mouth out with red food colouring and putting tooth polish on her teeth so they would be visible, too. But I also had her do all the ordinary things every day like showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast, because at that age I couldn’t stand the fact that people in books never did any of the things that ordinary people did. In retrospect I learned that these sorts of facts don’t go into books because ordinary activities make for a very boring book. That first novel really wasn’t very good.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you? There have, really, been far too many. My parents used to read stories to my sister and me before bed.  At some point I began to choose my own. We used to spend our Saturday afternoons in the children’s department of the local library, and I would choose as many books as I was allowed to check out. When I learned to read I started to follow along with the story as my mother read it to me, and if she missed a section I would pick her up on it, and by that point I was reading stories on my own as well. I don’t remember the first one, and there have been so many that stayed with me it’s hard to pick out just one. However, I remember being fond of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories at an early age. The concept of these children, who weren’t that much older than me, living an existence that was largely free of adult supervision every school holiday and having amazing adventures seemed incredible to me. To be honest, I think that’s the reason these stories are still popular, so many years after they were first written.
What do you read for pleasure? I read a lot of crime and horror novels. Reading the latest Sara Paretsky is always a special treat. I am also quite fond of Lindsey Davis’ series of novels about the Roman informer Marcus Didius Falco, and his family of formidable women. The era of ancient Rome really comes alive in these books. Falco is a likeable rogue, and there is a light-hearted tone to the books that make them easy to read. For an era where women had no real power there is still an abundance of strong-minded women in these books, most notably Falco’s wife Helena.
Describe your desk: The smallest bedroom in our house is my study. We have a loft bed in it, which is like a set of bunk beds where instead of a bottom bunk there’s a desk, so the room can be used as a spare room as well. I have my laptop docked on this desk and do most of my writing at home here. The shelf above it contains a number of items I find inspiring – including a small statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom, and a figurine of Yoda from Star Wars.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing? I spent the first ten years of my life in Lancashire, England, before emigrating to Canada with my family. We may as well have moved to an alien planet – everything was so different and unfamiliar. After eight years in Kitchener, Ontario I finished high school and moved back to England, only to discover that everything was different again. Ever since then I’ve been living in the Greater London area. What influenced my writing from these moves between countries was a feeling of always being the outsider. A lot of my early published short stories deal with feelings of isolation and loneliness. It took me quite a long time to learn that it’s OK to be different, to follow your own path, and not be like everyone else.
Where do you get the inspirations for your book(s)? I started writing the Shara Summers books because I was inspired by Sara Paretsky’s books to write a series about a kick-ass female sleuth. Only, I didn’t want to write a police procedural so I created an amateur sleuth.  I made her an actress, because I wanted her to have reason to put on a costume and play a role during her investigations in every book.
Let our readers know why your book is different from others in the same genre: The Shara Summers mysteries are marketed as cosy mysteries, but I don’t think they quite fit in this genre. Yes, Shara is a contemporary amateur sleuth, but she lives in a bit city, not a small village, and her personal life and family drama occupy much of the story. The fact that Shara is a Canadian living in London gives her a unique perspective on life as an outsider. She notices things that native Londoners don’t.
Any advice for new writers just beginning this trek down the wonderful world of publishing? Seek out a writing group – an online one if you can’t find one in real space – and heed any constructive criticism they may give you. Don’t be that writer who flounces off in floods of tears any time anyone deigns to suggest that their masterpiece might be less than a shining example of outstanding literature – and every writing group has at least one person like this. Polish your manuscript until it shines, and then send it out. When it comes back with a rejection – which it invariably will, more than once, pick yourself up and send it out again. And again, and again.  Most important of all, don’t give up. I was submitting manuscripts for nearly thirty years before that first novel contract came in. * * * * We’ll end here with an excerpt of Sara-Jayne’s latest book, its cover, and buy link.
Except from DEAD COOL 

“You just don’t get it, do you?”  David yelled.  “You don’t own the world.  You can’t swan around doing whatever the hell you please!”

“You’re just jealous because the lady prefers me to you!” Dallas shouted.

I jumped up and hurried over to the table.

David pointed a finger at Dallas.  “You’re unbelievable.  You just walk in and take what you want.  You can’t treat people that way” 

“You’re just sore because your little plan backfired,” Dallas sneered. David took a step forward, his hands clenched into fists.  As he and Dallas stood off against each other, I sidled in alongside the table and linked my arm through Astrid’s.  She offered no resistance, staring at the two men standing each other down.

 “What the hell do you mean?” David demanded. 

“Oh come on, it’s obvious.  Trying to make your ex-girlfriend jealous by making the moves on her sister.  But neither of them is interested in you and that just pisses you off.”

David emitted a noise that sounded very much like a roar, and he suddenly lunged forward and decked Dallas, hard across the chin.  Dallas fell across the table, knocking all the glasses over.

Interview with fellow Muse author, Susan Royal

I have a special treat for you all today and ask you to welcome fellow author, Susan Royal, to our Sunday Afternoons blog.  Susan writes time travel stories and they are spectacular.  Welcome to Sunday Afternoons.

Describe what you consider your ideal writing conditions.
I really envy people who can use a laptop or a tablet. They can take it anywhere and write. I learned to type in high school on a manual typewriter, so there’s a lot of force behind my keystrokes. (I have to replace my keyboard once a year because I wear the letters off) When I got my first pc, I LOVED it because I could type something like 90 words a minute. I said all that to say this. I do all my writing at my desk, with some good music in the background (Moby, Wooden Ships, Ludovico Enaudi and a host of others) coffee, Earl Grey tea or something on ice (depending on the weather) at my elbow. My ideal conditions are any time when I won’t be interrupted every five minutes, during the day or any time before 10:00 pm (Any later than that and the words tend to run together.)

What song or artist always makes you want to cry?
Just Breathe, by Eddie Vedder It’s a beautiful song about life and what we should be making of it. It makes me think of my husband and children and chokes me up every time I think of the ending. “Meet me on the other side.”

Name an author or authors who never fail to inspire you.     Susanna Kearsley – when I get to the aha moment in her stories it always gives me chills. Maggie Stiefvater—she makes me remember being a teenager—the incredible highs and lows and how it feels to experience love for the first time, and Jim Butcher—he can spin a tale that never fails to draw me in.

What is the one thing you never seem to have enough time for? Housework—not that I want to, mind you. It’s a necessary evil. I live in an old house that produces dust at an alarming rate. Somehow I can never find the time (or want to) give it a thorough cleaning.
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Susanna Kearsley is also one of my favorites, which is why your work appeals to me so much.  So, that said, let's take a look at the first two books in your "It's About Time" series.

Erin has met the man of her dreams, but as usual there are complications. It’s one of those long distance relationships, and Griffin is a little behind the times-- somewhere around 600 years.    Erin and her employer, March, are transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Something is not quite right at the castle, and Erin and March feel sure mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. But Erin must cope with crop circles, ghosts, a kidnapping and death before the truth of her journey is revealed.   Forced to pose as March’s nephew, Erin finds employment as handsome Sir Griffin’s squire.  She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty.  Yet, she must deny her feelings.  Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home.  But Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armor. 
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I reviewed the book on Amazon last week.  It is a fascinating story that engages the reader from the outset. What made you decide to write turn it into a series?
Sleep danced just out of my reach last night. After working on Chapter One of my WIP for most of the evening, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Ideas kept swirling round and round. I tossed and turned for over an hour before I got up to play FreeCell in the hopes it might make me drowsy. I checked my email and was thrilled to find a contract from MuseItUp for From Now On, sequel to my time travel adventure/romance, Not Long Ago. When Not Long Ago was finished, I began submitting it for publication, with no plans to make it into a series. A total newbie, I figured one step at a time. Tiny baby steps. Fast forward a couple of years, a lot of rejections and a lot of revisions. After I signed with MuseItUp, my daughter, Carrie, read the manuscript to get a feel for the book trailer she was creating.She read the last page and called me immediately. “That’s not the end, is it?”I felt as though I’d resolved all the major questions and ended the story in a good place. “Didn’t you like it?”“Yeah, but…you can’t stop there.”“What do you mean?”“Erin and Griffin’s story isn’t finished. I want to know what happens next!”And that’s how it became a series. In Not Long Ago, I pictured a young woman in her twenties hurrying down a busy city sidewalk. One her way past a coffee shop, she notices a handsome stranger through the window. Their eyes meet and what she sees leaves her reeling. Not only does she recognize him, she knows things about the man…but how? Who is he?  From there, the story could have gone anywhere. Turns out it did. The idea of time travel has always fascinated me. Imagine getting up close and personal with history. Experiencing what life is really like in another time. My main characters, Erin and Griffin, meet and fall in love in a medieval world.        From Now On takes up where it leaves off. Some of my favorite characters from the first book are back. Arvo: the tall gangly young man with a disreputable shock of red hair who becomes Erin’s good friend and confidant. Sir Edevane: Griffin’s fellow knight and friend. Kat: Griffin’s fiesty little sister.  Sir Griffin travels across centuries to find Erin, the woman he loves. Before they can begin their new life together, he’s sent on a mission to a strange island. When he doesn’t return as planned, Erin assembles a group of his friends to search for him. Followed by his strong-willed sister, Kateryn, they travel to Swansea and secure passage with the notorious Captain Akin.    Erin discovers firsthand how the island has earned its dark reputation when she battles freakish weather, encounters a race of little people known as “Prowlies” and experiences ghosts of the long departed.  Even worse, she discovers there are “ley lines” crossing the island’s mountain peak, creating all sorts of strange phenomena, such as time travel.

Mini-Excerpt:        I am a stranger in this world, even though I’ve traveled this way before.      Fate and not design brought me the first time. It hurled me into a distant future, with no idea how or why, taking me from an existence dependent upon modern technology to a place where people fear such things and those who use them. While searching for my way home from this harsh and sometimes violent world, my admiration for its inhabitants who valued honor and duty above all else grew into admiration and respect. I found myself drawn to one in particular, a man who saved me more than once. Only I never expected to fall in love with him.       Torn between my feelings and a longing for home, I returned to my time with only vague memories of my experience. My life went back to normal, but part of me sensed the loss of something more precious than anything I’d regained. Until one day, I saw him again.      This time I’ve come by choice, and it is where I’m going to stay.      Fate willing.
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Born in west Texas and raised in south Texas, Susan makes her home in a 100-year-old farmhouse in a small east Texas town that comes complete with a ghost who has been known to harmonize with her son when he plays guitar.

She is married and the mother of six (she counts her children’s spouses as her own) and five grandchildren who are all unique and very special. Her family is rich with characters, both past and present. Her grandmother shared stories of living on a farm in Oklahoma Territory with three sisters and three brothers and working as a telephone operator in the early 20 century.  Her father told her about growing up in San Antonio in the depression, and she experienced being a teenager during WWII through her mother’s eyes.

When she isn’t writing, she still has a day job, working in the public schools in east Texas as a secretary. She does her best to keep up with her grandchildren. Music and painting are two of her passions. Susan is a firm believer in getting what you want without breaking the bank. She loves to bargain shop anywhere there’s a sale and began repurposing long before it was popular. She paints, crafts and sews. Her office/craft/sewing room is littered with her latest projects.

Susan loves to take her readers through all kinds of adventures with liberal doses of romance. So far, she’s written two books in her It’s About Time series, Not Long Ago and From Now On. They are time travel adventures with romance about two people who fall in love despite the fact they come from very different worlds.In My Own Shadow is a Fantasy adventure/romance.

Look for her books at MuseItUp/Amazon/B&N. You can also find Odin’s Spear, one of her short stories featured in a Quests, Curses, and Vengeance anthology, Martinus Publishing, available on Amazon.

Want to know more?  Visit Susan and find out what new world she's going to visit next.