Author Chat with Emma Donoghue (author of ROOM)

Just yesterday I finished reading the newly released book by author Emma Donoghue, ROOM.  Now today I am delighted to have her here at Book Journey to share with us a bit about herself and the book that’s being talked about everywhere.  Please give a super warm welcome to Emma Donoghue.

Emma Donoghue

Welcome Emma!  I am so delighted to have you here today.  First off, it is a tradition that I ask you how you take your coffee?

Emma:  Caffe latte only.  Which means that when staying in luxury hotels, as I am on this US book tour, I have a lot of trouble getting hold of my morning brew, because a latte is the one thing most hotels can’t provide!

You are right Emma, being a plain black coffee drinker,I hadn’t thought about that!   When did you first find your love for books?

Emma:  A male babysitter (a ‘spoiled priest’, meaning one who dropped out of the seminary) read me the entire CHRONICLES OF NARNIA when I was about four.  Bless him for ever!

Oh, I love that!  What a great memory!  What would you consider to be a favorite book you have read and why?

Emma:  Recently… SKIPPY DIES by Paul Murray, the other Irish writer on the Man Booker Prize long list.  I’ve no idea why it didn’t make it onto the shortlist because it’s the most dazzling study of an Irish boys’ boarding school with some of the funniest dialogue I’ve ever read.

ROOM is such a powerful read.  Where did you get the idea to write such a book?

Emma:  From being a mother, really.  Because when I heard about the Fritzl case in Austria, the idea for ROOM sprang fully formed into my mind: a child’s story of growing up in a single room and mistaking it for the whole world.

I remember that story Emma, it was horrifying.   Was there any part of this book that was harder to write then the rest?

Emma:  I had to sweat over the middle section (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here!) to make it plausible in every detail, and to capture the sensory shock of it for Jack.

What would you hope that your readers experience when they read ROOM?

Emma:  Utter involvement, not just in Jack’s consciousness but in that of Ma – and to achieve that they have to do all the work of figuring out what Jack doesn’t know yet.

Emma you have written several novels.  I have only had the pleasure of reading ROOM so far, what would you suggest I read next of yours?

Emma:  Well, they’re all very different, but my 2008 novel THE SEALED LETTER is quite a page-turning courtroom drama about a notorious Victorian divorce.

Thank you Emma, I will take you up on that, it sounds good!   Where do you enjoy doing your writing and do you have any sort of rituals that go with it?

Emma:  No, I just flip open my cracked-screen laptop wherever I happen to be and go to it. My only ritual is, get the kids off to school and daycare first!

Is there a fictitious character  that you would like to be friends with and why?

Emma:  I’d love to meet Emma Woodhouse, heroine of Austen’s novel, partly because I was named after her but mostly because she’d be a sparkling conversationalist.

Great pick!   It is customary that I ask each author I chat with to share a little known fact about themselves.

Emma:  Well, all that springs to mind is a negative fact, but it’s unusual given that I’m Irish: I can’t stand the taste of alcohol.  So I’ve never had a drink, which on the plus side means I’ve never lost a day to a hangover, but on the minus side means I have to ask friends for advice whenever I’m writing a scene with any kind of intoxication in it.

Emma thank you so much for time today!  I appreciate you chatting and sharing here with us at Book Journey.

Readers, you can see more of what Emma is up to here at her website.  Also – for those of you who have read this book, I had one more question I asked Emma, but that is going to have to go on the spoiler page.  If you have read the book, be sure to check that out.

Enter Here

Author Chat with Sarah Ockler (Author of Twenty Boy Summer)

Earlier this summer I RAVED about a book I had read AND an author I had met while in New York for BEA.  The book, Twenty Boy Summer, was such a  fun read and if you read my review you know I gushed…. and gushed…. and maybe gushed a bit more.

I had kept in touch with Sarah Ockler… anxiously anticipating her next book and around her busy life she found time to chat with me a bit about the first book, the second book…. and well… why now just see for yourself.

Please welcome Sarah Ockler.

Sarah Ockler

Well Sarah, I am so glad to have you here today.  I enjoyed Twenty Boy Summer immensely and I know many of the Book Journey  readers did as well.  Thanks for chatting with me today.  How do you take your coffee?

Sarah:  Soy milk, no sugar. If I’m out in a coffee shop, I’ll usually just do a plain soy latte.

Twenty boy summer was your first novel, how long would you say it took to write from the first idea, to the moment you had a publisher?

Sarah:  From idea to book deal? 8 years. But it’s not as scary as it sounds!
The idea for Twenty Boy Summer started developing a few years before I actually started writing it. I was working for the National Donor Family Council, an organization that supports families whose loved ones died and donated organs and tissues. I met so many grieving teens, and somewhere inside, I knew that if I ever wrote a book, I wanted to share a part of those stories. 4 years later, I started writing. 3 years after that, balancing  a full-time job, graduate school, and fear that prevented me from committing to writing a book, I finished. 3 weeks later, I had an agent. Less than 3 months after that, we sold the book. So really, once I accepted the fact that I was a writer, and that I *had* to finish the book, it all came together very quickly.

Wow!  I almost fell out of my chair when you said 8 years!  Would you say that time period was exciting, frustrating, or all of the above?

Sarah:  Mostly exciting, but there are always moments of frustration with any creative pursuit. Some days the ideas just don’t flow as well, or the story doesn’t seem to make sense anymore, or the self-doubt creeps in. But overall, it was an exhilarating time, and I wouldn’t trade any of the ups and downs! It’s all part of the process of writing a book.

I have heard some authors say they do not read reviews on their book.  Do you?

Sarah:  I read reviews when they first start coming out, but after the book has been on the shelves a while, I try to stay away.  I like to know how the book is being received by readers, and I also like to think about what I can do better for the next book. At the same time, reading reviews can be damaging, and they’re not a real indication (or definition) of a book’s success. What one person hates about a book, another person loves. What one person loves, everyone else hates. Some people will give a book a negative review just because they don’t agree with a character’s choices. Others will love it because they identify so strongly with that character. Others will love only the writing style, but hate the setting. Before I sold my book, I heard this advice from pubbed authors all the time, but I didn’t get it until recently: “Don’t read reviews. The best thing an author can do for her career is to just write the next book.”

That sounds to me like it was good advice.   What made you choose to write YA books?

Sarah:  I like to say that YA chose me. 🙂 It’s just the voice in which my stories come out. I think it’s partly because I was so expressive in my journals during high school — in many cases, they were like a best friend that never judged me, never scolded me, never dropped me. The issues, the emotion, the choices — all of those things from my own teen years really stayed with me. The first time I took a YA writing class, I read contemporary young adult authors like Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Laurie Halse Anderson, and I knew that’s what I was meant to
do. I can’t imagine not writing YA!

I felt you really tapped into the teen vein.  When Anna and Frankie were going through the hard times, I hurt along with them.  I think this is a real gift for YA authors.  How do you feel you create such realistic young adult characters?

Sarah:  I think it goes back again to my own teen years. It’s such a time of intense emotion, and it’s always stayed with me. When I write teen characters, I basically revisit high school. I remember what it was like. I put myself in the character’s shoes and think, what would I have done here? What would my best friend have done?  What about my opposite, or someone I could never relate to?  What did that breakup feel like? What about that fight with my parents?  What about when that person died? What about that awesome party?  Then, I observe teens interacting today (not in a stalker way. Usually not anyway. 🙂 ) and see how the dynamics are, the language, the cues, the clothes. And then I mix it all up and write it. 🙂

I am so excited about your next book coming out in December of this year, Fixing Delilah.  Can you tell us a little about this book?

Sarah:  Fixing Delilah is very much a mother-daughter book. I remember having such a difficult, complicated relationship with my mother back then — I hated her. I loved her. I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be nothing like her. I remember thinking that she must’ve been born a grown-up, because she clearly had no idea what it was like to be a teenager. I really wanted to explore that through Delilah and her family. The story opens with Delilah and her corporate workaholic mom
traveling to Vermont to settle her grandmother’s estate. After a
family fight 8 years earlier, no one had spoken to or about the
grandmother, and now that they’re heading back to the house after her death, Delilah struggles with her memories of what happened and the role her mother and aunts played in the estrangement. The story explores generations of women and all of the secrets, hopes, and fears mothers and daughters keep from one another, and how the assumptions and misconceptions can really tear us apart. There’s also a really cute boy in the mix, but I’ll let readers meet him on their own. 🙂

Oh I can not wait!  I have drooling over this book since I seen the cover, and that I know more about it, I am putting  the release date on my calendar.  What is coming up for you?

Sarah:  I’m currently working on another YA story about one girl’s struggle to find and follow her dreams, to see beauty in the places we call home, and to finally discover what it means to be part of something bigger than ourselves. Unlike Twenty Boy Summer and Fixing Delilah, this one is set smack in the middle of winter. 🙂 More details soon!

It is tradition that I ask each author I chat with to share a little known fact about themselves.

Sarah:  I always wanted to play the clarinet, but when it came time to pick instruments in 4th grade, the band conductor told me that since I’d probably need braces, I couldn’t play clarinet. Devastated, I picked the violin instead. I was actually pretty good, winning competitions and playing in the all county orchestra. But I always secretly longed to play the clarinet. I never ended up needing braces, but you know who did? The lead clarinet. Didn’t seem to interfere with her lead chair status in the least.

I quit violin in high school, but every once in a while I pick it up
again. I totally suck at it now. 🙂

Thank you Sarah for your time!  If you are ever in Minnesota give me a shout!

Me and Sarah Ockler, May 2010

Readers, you can find Sarah Ockler at her website, Sarah Ockler:  Making Stuff Up. Writing It Down.  and at the lovely new website The Comtemps which is a group of YA Authors who are passionate about realistic fiction.  Check this spot out there are author stories of the teen years, special events, book and they even have a fun challenge going on!

Author Chat with Marjorie Hart (author of Summer At Tiffany)

Hey all, as promised earlier this week, I am back with the lovely Marjorie Hart.  Marjorie is the author of Summer At Tiffany, the book that we just read for the online book club Wordshakers.  The book was wonderful and my pre-chatting with Marjorie was as well.  I am so excited to have her here and ask you all to warmly welcome Marjorie Hart.

Marjorie Hart

Welcome Marjorie!   Right off the bat I have to ask my signature first question, how do you take your coffee?

Marjorie: Wonderful to be here–only cream, thank you.

When you were back in New York in 1945, did you and Marty have a coffee spot you frequented or were you not really coffee drinkers?

Marjorie in 1945, the year of Tiffany's

Marjorie:  Interesting question, for I don’t remember any coffee spots on Manhattan that summer.  In any case, a luxury we couldn’t afford.  We stirred our pwd. Nestle’s chocolate with water!

You probably get asked this all the time but I am so curious, what made you decide to write this book about your summer at Tiffany’s?

Marjorie:  I was really inspired by my children and grandchildren to write after I had told them bed-time stories about Tiffany’s and that amazing summer.  I wanted to leave a personal history as a  legacy for them. I feel passionately about everyone writing their story.

Book Signing!

Did you approach Marty with the idea of this book, and if so what was her reaction?

Marjorie:  Marty was an incredible help when I was writing and very excited when the book was published. Though we lived on opposite coasts, can you imagine the fun we had reliving that summer over the phone?  Her memory of our costs–like the train trip from Iowa–was accurate to the dime!

At the time you were in New York, did you realize that you were living in a time that would have such huge historical significance?

Marjorie:  We were at war all during my college years and  war casualties were heaviest that summer.  What a total surprise when the atom bomb was dropped– that secret bomb– and the war  ended in August.   VJ Day, was, to us, the greatest historical event ever!

Marjorie, I can only imagine! Do you have any favorite memories of New York in 1945?

Marjorie:  I’ll  never forget the thrill of entering Tiffany’s, wearing our Tiffany-blue dresses and waiting for the diamond rap on the glass counter from the salesmen. Every day was a glamorous event!

When you went back in 2004, what really stood out to you from the New York you remembered?

Marjorie:  So many landmarks were gone! No Astor Hotel, Bonwit Teller,  Automat or Schrafft’s to name a few. Thankfully, there was–and is– the wonderful art-deco Tiffany building  on  Fifth Avenue and 57th St.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the whole brandy sniffing memory.  For me, I learned a little bit about brandy from reading your book.  Did you ever put that lesson to use in the future?

Marjorie:  I still laugh when I think of that day!  I’ve never owned a brandy snifter, but a friend in our writing group did and he loved to demonstrate the best way to swirl brandy!

Book signing have to be interesting and from other authors I have heard all sorts of funny stories.  Do you have any funny or interesting happenings while doing a book signing?

Marjorie:  I hear wonderful stories, but  one that stands out  was in Coronado at Bay Books a few years ago.  A lady told me she had been working that summer in the Empire State Building  the morning the bomber crashed into it. She was one of the fortunate to survive.

Wow, Marjorie that is quite the memory!  It is tradition that when I chat with an author I ask them to share a little known fact about themselves.

Marjorie:  As you know, I play the cello. What is unusual, is that I play with three other cellists and we have a quartet. This morning we played a great arrangement of Eleanor Rigby which attracted the dog-walkers passing by!

Oh I love that Marjorie!  Thank you so much for stopping by, sharing a cup of coffee with me and chatting about your book!
The tea kettle as mentioned in the book, was a going away gift from her co-workers at Tiffany
Readers, you can see more about Marjorie on her website and her blog.  Her twitter is @tiffanylady

Oh and be sure to sign up for a chance to win a copy of this delightful book in hard cover and signed!

Author Chat with Colin Sokolowski (Author of The Accidental Adult)

A couple of weeks back I reviewed a book called The Accidental Adult.  The book which was a sometimes humorous look into growing up was one I was curious about knowing more about our author.  I contacted Colin and asked if he would be willing to share a little about his accidental adulthood with me as well as you my readers and after a round of rock, paper, scissors, he obliged.  (Just kidding!  😉 )

Please give a warm welcome to Colin Sokolowski.

Colin Sokolowski

Colin thanks for coming and chatting with me today.  I have to admit, I was a bit nervous having you here… I mean…. you might spill something on my books or break a cup.  I try to keep a pretty neat and tidy blog here.

Colin:  Yeah, that whole “accidental” adult thing?  It’s not that I’m clumsy or reckless. I’m more accidental in the sense that I have unintentionally joined adulthood. But just to be safe, I’ll use a coaster.

*Whew!*  Thank you.  Colin, how do you take your coffee?

Colin:  Black and decaf. I know some adults don’t really consider that coffee at all, but caffeine does a number on me. TMI?

What made you decide to write a book about accidental adulthood?

Colin: I started writing a series of essays that were really personal and more like a memoir. After a while, I realized a theme was developing in every essay. I’m this reluctant grownup, an accidental adult, who still thinks adults are other people, and I’m simply occupying space in their world. As I’d share my essays with others, their reaction told me I was on to something. Now I’m convinced. Accidental adults may be in the minority, but there are more of us hiding underneath a professional, adult exterior than most people would realize. This book tells people it’s ok – it’s even encouraged – to embrace accidental adulthood, and I even give the reader some tips on how to navigate life’s most challenging adult situations without totally selling out.

That is funny how you say that you think adults are other people.  That’s the way I feel when I am at a family gathering and witting with my aunts and uncles.  I still feel like a kid sitting at the grown up table.  How does your wife Kelly like living with an accidental adult?

Colin: I think she appreciates that I don’t take myself too seriously. But I’d say there are many days when she’d like a glimpse at life with a handy man as a husband. Maybe she’d just settle for living with a guy who will always make sure she has a full tank of gas in her car. But in fairness (to me!), we dated for six years before getting married, so she really knew what she was getting into.

What has been a recent “accidental adult” moment?

Colin: I just recently learned the difference between having my shirts laundered and having them dry cleaned. That revelation came about 20 years later than it should have.

Do you have any favorite fictional characters you would love to be buddies with?

Colin: I’m more interested in authors than their characters, and I read a lot more nonfiction than fiction. On the fiction side, I’d love to hang out with Tom Perrotta. I really liked his book Joe College, and he was super cool to me by responding to an e-mail I sent him months ago – especially when he didn’t have to reply. My nonfiction bud would be Rob Sheffield whose latest book, Talking to Girls about Duran Duran, is really fun and funny. I love immersing myself in anything well done like that, especially if it features plenty of 1980s pop culture and musical references.

Colin what is next for you?

Colin: I continue to post blogs at and I also share news and skewed insights on Facebook at Maybe I’ll write a regular column from The Accidental Adult someday in either local or national media. But I also am spending more time with Kelly and our kids these days. I know that answer sounds really lame, but for me it’s true and it’s really important and rewarding.

It is tradition for me to ask each author I interview to share a little known fact about themselves.  As much as you share in the book, I would really be interested to hear what yours is.

Colin: So I’ve already shared in my book that I used to perm my hair in college, I came close to soiling myself while running a marathon and I once voted for a senate candidate simply because his wife is hot. And you really want me to share more? I might need some real caffeine coffee before I open up any more . . .

Thank you Colin for stopping by today and chatting with me.  Readers Colin has linked to his blog and Facebook above.  If you would like to know more about Colin or his book, these links would be the next stop for you.

Author Chat with Barbara Richardson (author of Guest House)

A while back I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a wonderful book called Guest House.  I enjoyed the characters in this book and was able to catch up with author Barbara Richardson, to chat a bit about the book.

I hope you will welcome to Book Journey, Barbara Richardson.

Barb, I am thrilled to have a chance to talk with you!  First off, do you prefer Barbara or Barb?

Barbara: Either is fine. Barb usually comes in once I know a person awhile.

Ok.  Second important question.  How do you take your coffee?

Barbara: I don’t! I am naturally caffeinated, so drinking coffee is a little scary. How to wind down, that is the question. Right now, gin and tonics say “summer” and “slower” and “ahhh.”

No coffee?  Wow.  I may need a moment her to compose myself…  Guest House is your debut book.  Can you share with me a little about how the idea for this book came to be?

Barbara: Five years ago, two characters entered my head, with seemingly nothing in common. At least in their outer lives.  Melba Burns, a successful real estate agent, and Matt Garry, a shy ten-year-old whose blue collar parents do not want him. Divorce stalks his childhood like a hound from the start. I had no idea how these two strangers would intersect and connect. I did know that no matter how dark Matt’s journey became there would be beauty in the darkness. Melba is the caretaker of that beauty.

Melba Burns is quite the character, first driven, then hidden;  does Melba represent anyone in your life?

Barbara: Two fantastic women combined to make Melba. The first is my cousin Christy, a librarian whose solo life shines. She’s a consummate professional woman with a brilliant mind and a wide open heart. The second woman, Audrey Egli, adopted me when I first moved to Portland. A real estate agent, Audrey gave me my first six months of clients for my new business; she helped me purchase a home and then launched my career in landscape design. Both women garden with a vengeance and love books. I am so grateful for their sanity and strength. I’m thrilled to be loaning them to the reading public!

I have heard you have an interesting story about the gorgeous cover that adorns Guest House.  Please share that story.

Barbara: I’m glad you like the cover. It’s a love letter from the universe. Last October, I was struggling mightily to find a cover image for my novel. Floundering better describes it. I had a deadline and mounting desperation that kept me searching online professional photo sites for hours each night. Little did I know the universe had been poking my college boyfriend to find me, and close a gap of thirty years. Jeff said hello on Facebook and asked what I was doing. I said hello right back, I’m searching for a cover for my novel Guest House, waddayathink of this one? I sent him an image I’d set my heart on, a scrawny haunted out-of-focus apple tree in an empty green field. He said, I’m a graphic designer, how about this? Never having read the novel, Jeff produced the heart-red cover of a farmhouse and ancient lichen-covered apple tree branches which caused me to cry for three days, and then say, Yes. We’ve sent 2,665 emails. And we are going steady. It’s great when life dwarfs the things you think are so profound and important!

Oh wow!  That is an amazing and so sweet story!  You sound like things are really working out well.  What is coming up next for you?

Barbara: Well, I just finished a 1,750 mile road trip touring truck stops and reading to truckers. I drove my mother’s Buick Century! Guest House involves a trucker, Matt’s father, and the novel has a half-dozen road trips in it, so I took the novel to the people who populate it. Quite wonderful, and I’m beat. Promotion has been a full-time job since Thanksgiving. We just made a great little video called Truck Stop Tour 2010, which I hope your readers will enjoy: Next up, Guest House will sell its first print run so I can start writing again.

An article about Barbara's Truck Stop Tour

I love the reading to truckers idea!  It is tradition that I ask every author I chat with to share a little known fact about themselves.

Barbara: Horrible nickname: Screechy Spice. I won’t even tell you that story!

Oh!  LOL, that is going to bug me!  Barbara, I really appreciate the time  you took to join me at Book Journey!  I am hopeful that all your book dreams come true.

Readers, please check out more information on Barbara and on the Truck Stop Tour, on her website.

Author Chat With Claire Cook

Hopefully you have read my review that I posted earlier today on The Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook.  I had a fun little story about how I discovered the book and broke land speed records to get to the book store before the last copy was snatched up.

Today I am enjoying an iced coffee because its summer and it sounded good, while I prep for my chat with Claire Cook.   Claire has already turned out to be an amazing author and I really have just met her through her book I just read and through a couple emails.  I am so excited not to get to learn a little bit more about this author so please welcome, Claire Cook.

Claire Cook

Claire, first off, I need to know how do you take your coffee?

Claire:  I take it right up to my office as fast as I can and get to work!  Oh, wait, I get it.  One percent milk, no sugar.

We are chatting over coffee today to discuss your book Seven Year Switch.  I simply adored this book and you really brought out the “foody” in me with all the foods you describe from different parts of the world.  What was the idea behind putting this side job for Jill in the book?

Claire:  Thanks so much, Sheila! I’m so glad you enjoyed Seven Year Switch and I’m thrilled to be having coffee with you. All seven of my novels are about women reinventing themselves in one way or another, and readers always tell me how much they enjoy my characters’ jobs and how these jobs often given them ideas for their own lives. Jill’s life didn’t turn out quite the way she planned, so I knew that instead of jetting all over the world as a cultural coach, she’d be doing something much less glamorous. Teaching Lunch Around the World classes just seemed like something she’d do, and I thought my readers would enjoy both the cultural info and the food!

I really did enjoy the cultural references!
In Seven Year Switch, Jill works for a company called Great Girlfriend Getaways, which of course is totally where I want to work when I grow up!  Do you like to travel or prefer to leave that to your characters?

Claire:  I know, too bad GGG doesn’t really exist — I want to work for them, too! I went to Costa Rica for research for Seven Year Switch — tough work but somebody’s got to do it! I also went to a fabulous lavender festival in Washington state as research for The Wildwater Walking Club. I love to travel, especially for my novels, and I try to pick places I think my readers would enjoy!

I am a total cover snob and LOVE LOVE LOVE this cover.  Do you have any say in the covers chosen for your books?

Total beach read!
Total beach read!

Claire:  Thank you! I love the Seven Year Switch cover, too! I have a wonderful publisher, Hyperion Voice, and they’re very open to my input. As soon as I saw this cover, I knew it was perfect!

What is coming up next in your world?  (another book, life happening…)

Claire:  The revisions for my next novel have just arrived via FedEx, so I am about to disappear into author land again. I can’t wait till everyone can read it — it’ll be out in the summer of 2011. I’ll post more about it at and do some fun giveaways, as soon as it gets a little bit closer!

You currently have seven novels that are published.  Out of all of your characters that you have created, which one would you most likely be friends with and why?

Claire:  I would totally hang out with all of my characters! Otherwise I wouldn’t have let them into one of my books. And I’d never be able to pick a favorite – I’d worry too much about hurting the rest of their feelings!

Claire that is an awesome answer – it sounds like something I would say!  I hate to admit this, but this is the first book I have read written by you.  I have seen and own the movie Must Love Dogs, but have not read this book.  Since I am now excited to read something else you have written which one of your other books would you recommend to me start with and why?

Claire:  That’s okay! I’m always thrilled when a new reader (and a talented blogger!) discovers my books! I find that if someone enjoys one of my books, they usually like them all, so you can jump in anywhere. But if I had to pick one, I’d say The Wildwater Walking Club – it’s about a group of neighbors who start walking together as they figure out their lives, and I think it’s a fun and inspiring summer read.

Claire Cook Groupies!!!

I ordered that one today on your recommendation, it also has a fabulous cover!  Claire, you are having a pretty exciting giveaway on your website, could you tell us a little about that?

Claire:  I’m giving away a beach bag filled with all 7 of my novels, plus a beach towel! Head over to for more info. I love doing giveaways, so make sure you sign up for my newsletter while you’re there, so you stay in the loop for the next one!

Coolness right?

I am so on that!  I love fun giveaways!  It is tradition for me to ask every author I chat with to share a little known fact about themselves.  Spill it Claire!

Claire:  A zillion years ago, I was one of the country’s first certified aerobics teachers!

Thank you so much Claire for your time!  If you ever come Minnesota way give me a shout!

Thank YOU, Sheila — and thanks for the coffee! I’ll definitely look you up if book tour (or research!) takes me to Minnesota!

Readers, I hope you will find time to stop by and check out Claire’s Lovely Website as well as the fun giveaway she is having!

Author Chat with Beth Solheim (Author of At Witt’s End)

Recently I completed a fun cozy mystery called AT Witt’s End.  Author Beth Solheim is a fellow Minnesotan and the creator of Reading Minnesota, an online publication where Minnesota authors connect.   I am excited to chat with her today about her book and what’s coming next.  Please welcome, Beth Solheim.

Beth Solheim

Hi Beth!  It’s wonderful to have you here!  How do you take your coffee?

Beth:  I’m actually a die-hard tea drinker and dip a tea bag or two with my coffee friends. Earl Grey, green teas, or once in a while a good caffeine-kick tea are what I prefer.

Good to know!  I like tea as well.  Beth, you and I first started chatting over an article for Reading Minnesota.  This is a pretty cool blog that I frequent often.  Please share a little about what this blog is and what your role is in it.

Beth:  My Reading Minnesota Blog came about when I picked up a Seattle newspaper and read an article on a blog that featured Washington authors in various genres.  That led to developing my Reading Minnesota Blog. I also thought it would be important to feature other venues in the literary process. I started with Minnesota authors and then added publishers, interviewers, illustrators, and bookstores. In the near future I’d like to add Minnesota libraries that are hosting special events. I maintain this blog on my own with contributions from lots of talented Minnesota folks.

The response has been wonderful. The Minneapolis Star Tribune added my blog as a link on their website in the Entertainment/book section – Literary Links.

I really enjoy Reading Minnesota and have connected with several authors there.  Growing up did you have any authors or books that really spoke to you?

Beth at an author signing
Beth at an author signing

Beth:  My interest was in mysteries. As most young girls, I was hooked on the Nancy Drew series. Fascinated with puzzles of any kind, trying to solve the crime before Nancy did was always my goal. Most often, Nancy outsmarted me, but I learned plotting, character development and found that I went back for a second read to make notes.

When I read Witt’s End, I remember you described it to me as being a little like Janet Evanovich and I picked up on that right away.  How did you come about writing a funny, witty, tale of a Minnesota resort combined with an outrageously larger than life woman, Sadie Witt, who helps guests move on in the afterlife?

Beth:  The love of the elderly with their flamboyant nature and ability to get away with things because of their age led to several story ideas. After working for years in a nursing home, one particular eighty-year-old resident tickled me and kept revisiting my memory. Her hilarious quirks were perfect for a character in a book. I developed a storyline around her and then made her a bit younger (sixty-four years old) so she would be physically capable of crime-solving escapades.

Because I live in northern Minnesota, I wanted to draw on what I knew best. I named my character Sadie Witt and made her a co-owner of the Witt’s End resort based in fictitious Pinecone Landing in northern Minnesota. Sadie is hilarious, outlandish, spunky, sassy, and sees the dead. In fact, she’s a death coach—but not for the living, for the dead. And boy, oh boy, she manages to land in one predicament after another, including solving a murder.

In 2011, we will have the opportunity to venture into the second of this series, Outwitted.  Can you hint a little about what we can expect from Sadie and the gang?

Beth:  Sadie Witt continues her adventures counseling guests from Cabin 14 on their final journey.  To add to her quandary, she assumes the role of funeral director’s assistant after the untimely murder of the previous assistant. Unexpected mayhem abounds when Sadie’s resort manager unwittingly rents Cabin 12 to the funeral director’s ex-husband, Clay, a raucous character who causes one outrageous funeral mishap after another. Sadie attempts to resurrect the respectability demanded by the profession, but only adds to the chaos caused by Clay’s high jinks. When uninvited guests arrive at Cabin 14, they will be shocked to learn the flamboyant Sadie is their conduit to the hereafter.

After one of her guests discovers skeletal remains under Cabin 12, Sadie and her sister set out to solve an infant abduction and reveal the secret that ties a prominent community member to a notorious crime operation.

Do you know how many books are planned for this series?

Beth:  I’ll continue with the series as long as readers enjoy Sadie’s antics. The third book is written and I’ll begin editing this fall. I hope it will be released in early 2012. I’m open to unique title suggestions—it must have some form of witt in the title to follow At Witt’s End and Outwitted.

What is currently happening in your life?

Beth:  I continue to work full time at a great job in human resources at the hospital. This summer is busy with book edits and a cover decision for Outwitted, promoting, library and book fair appearances, writer’s conferences, etc., as well as two high-school reunions and two birthday-milestone family celebrations. I keep a tight schedule and reward myself with favorite TV programs and Dove caramel filled candy only if I complete tasks on my daily to-do list. A stern talking to is sometimes in order, but I most often am able to stay on task.
Do you have any current authors/books that you really are drawn to?

Beth:  Harlan Coben and Karen Slaughter. I’m currently reading Undone by Karen Slaughter. It’s riveting. Karen has a way with intrigue that prevents me from putting her books down!

I really like Harlan Coben too.  It is tradition that I ask every author I chat with to share a little known fact about themselves.

Beth:  Probably two things:

  1. 1. Flying over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter on my 43 wedding anniversary. Tummy rolling, but absolutely breathtaking. The beauty from above the canyon is indescribable.
  2. 2. I feed a female gray fox who frequents my patio daily. Living in a wooded, rural setting in northern Minnesota provides the luxury of wildlife roaming our property (deer, bear, raccoon, fox). Three years ago Foxy Lu scavenged under my bird feeder licking up fallen sunflower seeds. I tossed a bread crust scrap under the feeder and when she came to get it, I talked softly to her. At first, she was skittish. As she gradually got used to my voice and didn’t run away anymore, I inched bread scraps closer to my patio door. Eventually, we agreed that eight inches was an enjoyable distance and for the past three years, she’s feasted on day-old bread from the bread store (actually six-day-old, non-salable bread jammed into a brown bag for a buck). I can almost reach out and pet her. Almost!

Foxy Lu has introduced three batches of her new kits before chasing them out of her territory. She’s a busy gal and we’ve watched her teach them to hunt. Gray foxes mate for life and we’ve also met her kinky-tailed mate. He has an odd kink in his tale. I thought it was from a dreadful encounter, but two of this year’s kits have the same kinky tail. Genetics are strong in all realms!

Thank you, Sheila, for including me in your coffee chat. Sadie Witt has taken me on a grand journey and I hope it continues for years.

Thank you Beth!  I  appreciate the time  you took to join me at Book Journey!  I am hopeful that all your book dreams come true.

Readers, if you would like to learn more about Beth – you can catch her at her home page:  Beth Solheim, her blog Mysteries and Chit Chat as well as at Reading Minnesota.

Author Chat with Andrea Busfield (author of Born Under A Million Shadows)

Earlier today I posted my review of Born Under A Million Shadows.  The book had a positive impact on me and I am now delighted to bring in author Andrea Busfield, to share with us a little about this book.  Andrea had first experienced Afghanistan when she was dispatched there to cover “a war on terror”.  As Andrea says in the article she wrote for New Statesman, her parents were horrified.  In this article Andrea speaks of how she was right in the midst of the war, sleeping on dirt floors, washing out of a bucket, and even shot at!  The Afghans who took it upon themselves to protect her during this time were largely Pashtuns from the east who wielded heavy guns and old-school charisma with devastating effect.

It touches my heart when she says “I was humbled by the hospitality of those who have nothing.”

I know that feeling from my time in Honduras and knew that I wanted to know more about Andrea’s story.

Please give a warm welcome to Andrea Busfield.

Andrea Busfield

Welcome Andrea!  Am I right to understand that I am currently chatting with you from Austria?  What is your weather like?

Andrea:  Hello Sheila! Yes, as we speak I’m in a lovely little spa town called Bad Ischl in Upper Austria. And, surprisingly, the weather is hot! It took a while for the summer to kick in but for the past week it’s been sweltering.

I love warm weather!  My absolute favorite time of year is now.  Before we get into books, how do you take your coffee?

Andrea:  The journalists’ way – strong, black, no sugar.

Oh yes, that’s the way I take mine as well – I knew I was born to write – ha ha!  Are you a reader as well as a writer?

Andrea:  Yes, I do read – sometimes for research, sometimes for pleasure – and the authors who consistently make me smile as I race to turn the page are; Louis de Bernières, Isabel Allende and John Irving.
As you may have guessed, I like intelligent, imaginative story-tellers! I’m also rather partial to books billed as ‘darkly comic’. In short, I like to enjoy my reading time. I like to be entertained.  But I think that’s the same with everyone. I can’t imagine anyone picks up a book hoping they won’t like it, but literature – like music and art – is subjective. Sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. It doesn’t make the book good or bad, simply different to what you, personally, were looking for.

Is there any one book that really sticks with you?

Andrea:  To be honest, there are too many to mention. I remember being floored by Catch 22 when I was a teenager; moved to tears by A Kestrel for a Knave; laughing until I cried reading The Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime; and being horrified, educated and upset by Possessing the Secret of Joy. I know there are many more great books I have read that have had a massive impact on me, but if I try and go through them all our coffee chat will roll into lunch and then dinner… and probably breakfast tomorrow. (That’s not a pick-up line, by the way!)

You mention wonderful books here.  As you know, I just recently finished your book, born under a million shadows.    You had so many experiences while in Afghanistan, your book could have been about anything really. What made you decide to write this book?

Andrea:  I love Afghanistan, I cannot stress that enough, and like anything you love you want others to appreciate it too. There is so much negativity surrounding Afghanistan, be it in the headlines, film or literature, and I simply wanted to correct the balance. Afghanistan is an amazing country and ordinary Afghans are a truly wonderful, hospitable, warm, generous and funny people. In the nine years I have been traveling to Afghanistan – and the two-and-a-half years I lived there – I don’t think I’ve ever smiled so much.  Therefore, in an effort to convey that side of the country I decided to write a story about love and friendship, which are the greatest gifts I took away from Afghanistan.  Actually, I also came away with a boyfriend and a dog, so I did quite well all told.

Andrea posing with an Afghan National Army soldier outside the bombed out Darulaman Palace in Kabul

Fawad is a funny character.  At first I found that surprising and then I found, I really liked it.  Why did you decide to go with a character with such a great wit despite his circumstances?

Andrea:  I know some readers prefer their misery untouched by laughter, but sometimes it’s the only way to claw your way through the horrors of life. Most of the Afghans I know have a particularly dry sense of humor, and a shocking (to us) acceptance of death. When I was writing Born Under… I knew I couldn’t ignore the darker side of Afghan life because poverty, abuse and violence are a daily reality, but not unlike the Afghans themselves, I didn’t want to dwell on it. I didn’t want to pull the reader down, I wanted to show the bad with the good, the loss with the hope – Fawad seemed to be the perfect tool to do that because the character is young enough to be innocent, but old enough to question. Incidentally, some of the scrapes he gets into I stole from the childhood stories of my Afghan friends.

Why did you decide to take a lighter take on a book such as this?

Andrea:  So people would come away with a feeling of warmth in their heart for a people and a country that deserves our continued support.

You had one child that really caught your heart during your time in Afghanistan.  I know from my experiences in Honduras how that one child can really stick with you.  Could you share here a little about this child?

Andrea:  From the very first word I wrote, I had the face of one little boy in my mind, a very real little boy called… Fawad.

Real Fawad is a little younger than Fictional Fawad, but he shares the same charm and sense of fun as my character. I first met him in 2005 in the tourist hub (yes, Kabul does have one) of Chicken Street. He was eight years old and he insisted on carrying my bags as I walked from shop to shop. He explained, in perfect English, that he would be my bodyguard for the day. Obviously, he wasn’t only after my company, he was after my money, but from that day on we became friends.  Then, when I thought about writing a book about Afghanistan I decided I wanted my hero to be as brilliant and clever and funny and beautiful as real life Fawad and seeing as he was my inspiration I saw no reason to change his name.

The real Fawad

Is Fawad’s story done at the end of this book or might we see him again some day?

Andrea:  Some people have asked me whether there will be a Born Under II, but I don’t think so. At the moment my characters are living in a happy ending – and that’s the way I want them to stay!

I heard that you are writing a second book.  Can you share a little about this?

Andrea:  Actually, my second novel is now published in the UK, hopefully you will get to see it sometime in America! The book is called Aphrodite’s War and it is a love story set in Cyprus between 1955 and 1974. I chose to write about this island because it is another country I have lived in, and loved, and the history is tragic. Cyprus is an island that was divided by war and politics, and which remains divided through politics and hurt. It’s a very sad situation that not too many people know about and I wanted to explore that.

It is tradition to the Author Chats that each person I chat with shares a little known fact about themselves.

Andrea:  Hmm, what to reveal. I can play Greensleeves on the recorder very fast; I can do the Rubiks Cube a little slower; and I was once charmingly told by an Afghan host that the meat I was eating was ‘sheep’s bum’.  Other than that, I nurse a life-long crush on Clint Eastwood.

Thank you Andrea – I am so thankful for you to taking the time to chat with me!

Andrea:  My pleasure, Sheila. Thanks for the opportunity.

Author Chat with John Betcher (Minnesota Author of The Missing Element)

Recently I had the privilege to dig into a wonderful mystery, The Missing Element.  One of the draws for me to this book was that author John Betcher is a fellow Minnesotan.  As Johns story centers around Minnesota areas I enjoyed reading about areas I was familiar with first hand.

What started out as a “I want to read Minnesota authors!” goal…. became more as I found elements, if I may use your word of choice John, in this read that I have missed in may other reads of this genre.  With a bit of humor and a refreshing look into marriage, I found myself really liking the characters that John had placed into his book.  His characters…. have character.  🙂

So – with no further raving and babbling by me….  I am thrilled to share Book Journey space today with author John Betcher.

John Betcher

John, welcome.  I am so glad you were able to make time to join me today and talk books.   Before we get down to business,  how do you take your coffee?

John:  Thanks for the offer, Sheila.  But I picked up a Diet Mountain Dew on the way in.

John's beverage of choice

Nice touch John…. note to self…. John likes Diet Mountain Dew.   When did your writing career begin and what was your first publishing?

John:  Other than 25 years of legal writing as a private practice lawyer . . . I started writing for publication about 5 years ago.  My first published materials consisted of three feature articles in Coaching Volleyball magazine, the AVCA Journal.  The last of these, in 2009, was a cover story. I jokingly say that U.S. Men’s Volleyball Olympic Gold Medal Coach, Hugh McCutcheon, had to wait until the next issue to get his picture on the cover — Hugh and the Olympic team were, indeed, the cover story for the following issue.

Were you a reader when you were younger?  If so, what genres drew you in and do you have a favorite (or two) book/author?

John:  I was an avid reader during my pre-school and elementary years.  I credit my mother, a reading teacher, for that.  I used to love the Boxcar Children and the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  In Junior and Senior High I read a lot of historical biographies.  Now I enjoy mysteries and thrillers.

I have many favorite authors: John Sandford, Brian Haig, Jeffrey Deaver, Kurt Vonnegut . . . the list goes on.  But the author I was reading the most of right before I began writing fiction was the late Robert B. Parker.  Must’ve read about 20 of his Spenser detective books in a row.  I would have to say that Parker’s writing has had the greatest influence on my own style.

John as you know, I really enjoyed The Missing Element.  As a fellow Minnesotan, I enjoy reading about areas I am familiar with.  What reasoning did you have in choosing the area that you did for this book?

John:  Well . . . I’m also a native Minnesotan and current resident of Red Wing.  Having spent all of my life here, Minnesota was the natural choice for my book’s setting.  I’m familiar with not only its geography, but its people, history and culture.  I tried to draw on those familiarities to add texture to the book.

Beyond these reasons, the Twin Cities are widely known for their contributions to high-technology.  3M, Seagate, IBM, Medtronic and many other prominent technology companies operate, and were even founded, here.  The University of Minnesota also has widely respected computer security experts on its staff.  Since the book has a rather large cyber-espionionage component, what better location for the technological suspense?

I really enjoyed your characters The Becker’s.  I am very curious what made you decide to go with a married couple, almost “dynamic duo” for this suspenseful read.  I thought it was an unusual move, as most main characters are out saving their world alone or with a “love interest” but not a spouse.  I found it to be a refreshing way to create your characters.

John:  One of the aspects of the Parker novels I always enjoyed was the loving relationship between Spenser and his S.O., Susan.  I just took that relationship a bit farther in The Missing Element.  Having a strong and loving marriage of my own for the past 27 years was also a factor.  And I love strong women in fiction.  While Beth may not feature quite as prominently in future books, their relationship will always be there.  I suspect she will continue to add her own expertise, intellect and support to all of Beck’s activities.

I also enjoyed Beck’s friend and big help throughout the book. Bull.  He was a handy guy to have around.  Does Bull represent anyone in your life that you would consider to be that “go to always has your back” guy?

John:  Bull is a guy who is very much like Parker’s “Hawk” character in the Spenser series.  Nebulous but intriguing background.  Always willing and available to help out.  Very effective in providing “muscle” (and many other special skills) when necessary.  Loyal . . . but mysterious.

So the answer to your question is, “No.”  He’s more based on a American Indian version of Hawk than on anyone I know in real life.  Thank goodness my life is mundane enough to not require Bull’s sort of assistance!  Haha!

The 19th Element is your new release and I was pleased to see that this as well has  James Becker.  I am curious about the title – as you went from The Missing Element to the Nineteenth Element.  What does this title mean and how does it tie into The Missing Element?

John:  The use of the word “Element” in the title of the Beck series of books is intended to be a sort of “branding” of the series — like Sandford’s “Prey” series, or Janet Evanovich’s numerical sequencing. Beyond that, just as “The Missing Element” has a meaning in this book, “The 19th Element” has a specific meaning in the second book . . . one that I’d rather not disclose at this point.

What is currently happening in your life?

John:  As a self-published author, I’m spending a lot of time marketing my two new books.  The publishing industry has changed so much in the last year or two, and will likely change even more in the next couple years.  I’m trying to get ahead of the industry and target my marketing efforts — local, regional and national — where they will work most efficiently in this new environment.  Part of my marketing effort is maintaining a blog at Self-Publishing Central Blogspot and a website at  Suffice it to say that all of this is a formidable challenge for a small town writer — especially one who is trying to keep his day job.

I do have another novel in the works — not a Beck book though.  But if Beck catches on, it’s a series I would love to pursue.
And I continue to do research into areas that I think might be interesting for Beck, et al to explore.  My next interview is with a law enforcement specialist about drug enforcement and trafficking.  Just two days ago I interviewed a geneticist to see what interesting plots might arise out of the arcane knowledge in that area.
Can you tell I love to learn?

John it is a tradition for me to ask the authors I chat with to share a little known fact about themselves.

John:  I probably hold the highest level of volleyball coaching certification of anyone you know.  I’ve even had the privilege of studying with the gurus at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

I published the second book in the Beck Series before the first.  The real Book One of the Series is THE 19TH ELEMENT.  I had reasons . . .

Ooh – now I am curious!  Thank goodness I just received The Nineteenth Element in the mail and  get some answers to the mysteries.  Thank you John for your time today.

John:  Thank you, Sheila.  I appreciate you inviting me for this chat.

Readers can find out more about John Betcher and his books at:

Author Chat: Lauren Oliver (author of Before I Fall)

Today I am straightening up over here at Book Journey – fluffing pillows, watering the plants, and making sure the coffee is on!  Why all the primping?  Today – I am chatting with the author of Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver.

AND – here she is!  Please give a warm welcome to Lauren Oliver.

Lauren Oliver

Lauren – first off I need to know how you take your coffee?

Lauren:  Large, please, with lots of milk! No sugar.

Let’s talk about the YA years for yourself.  What was your favorite read and why?

Lauren: Oh, man. I’m not sure I know the answer to that question. I’ve always been such a voracious reader. I discovered Jane Austen when I was thirteen and must have read Pride and Prejudice about 87 times in one year; but, you know, I think To Kill A Mockingbird, which I read in high school, remains one of my all-time favorite books.

Before I Fall is such a unique YA read.  How did the idea for this book come to be?

Lauren:  It came from a bunch of different places, really. I really wanted to write a book about change; I wanted to explore themes of redemption and evolution in the context of a character who, at the start, is kind of mean and petty and self-involved. I tried to brainstorm a set of conditions that would enable a girl like that to begin to grow and expand and see herself in a broader context—ultimately, that became the mechanism of having Sam relive her last day. But that part of the book was almost incidental to the character, in a weird way.

Ooh…. I like that.  The characters that Sam hangs out with, are not the nicest chicks on the block.  Do these girls represent girls you knew?

Lauren:  I didn’t base the characters on anybody in particular, but I did base them on my understanding of how people can behave. Although Sam’s friends aren’t necessarily sympathetic, I do think they’re recognizable; we’ve all met people like that. We might have even been people like that. And over the course of the book I did try and reveal more of the characteristics, fears, and anxieties that motivated their behaviors. Even mean girls aren’t just mean; there are always layers and layers, and I think it’s important to recognize that.

Lauren, I like how you said that – even the mean girls are layers and layers.  There is usually something stemming the mean – and I think you bring that out in Before I Fall.  What is the overall message you are going for in the book?

Lauren:  I wasn’t going for any particular message, necessarily, but I think some of the themes that are important to the book are themes of connection—we are all fundamentally interrelated—and, again, the celebration of the fullness of other people. Empathy is probably the most important message of the book.

I see you have a book coming out in 2011 called Delirium.  Can you tell us a bit about that?

Lauren:  Sure! Delirium is very different from Before I Fall, but I’m very proud of it. It’s kind of a dystopian Romeo-and-Juliet story. It takes place in an alternate society: in this world, love has been declared a contagious and deadly disease—and scientists have figured out how to cure it. Delirium is the first book in a trilogy, which I’m very excited about.

That sounds good!  Lauren I am dieing (no pun intended) to know, what’s happening now for you?

Lauren:  Well, I’m currently working on the sequel to Delirium, which, as I mentioned, will be the first book of a trilogy. I’ve also started dabbling in some middle-grade, and my first middle-grade book, LIESL AND PO, will be released in Fall 2011, so I’m working on edits for that. I also recently started a development company with my friend and former colleague Lexa Hillyer (check us out at, which enables me to really foster new writing talent and grow new book ideas. So I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire!

But what is next for me right at this very second is a burger and a dip in the ocean—it’s the 4th of July and I’m in Cape Cod!

Cape Cod?  I am jealous!  That has to be awesome!  It is tradition for me to ask you to share one little known fact about yourself.

Lauren:  Hidden talent? I can sing “Part of That World,” from the Little Mermaid, absolutely perfectly. And I also make the world’s best hamburgers; I learned the secret from my dad.

Thank you Lauren for hanging out and talking  with me – I will let you get back to your wonderful time in Cape Cod! Readers, you can find more about Lauren and what’s happening at her website.

Lauren Oliver and I - Author Carnival, New York May 2010

Oh – and for those of you who have read the book…. I asked Lauren a certain question I just wanted to know….  and the question AND the answer are both to be found on the Before I Fall Spoiler Page.