Author Interview: N.L. (a.k.a. Nicki) LaFoille

I am thrilled to inform you all that the author of Nautical Miles, N.L. LaFoille, joins us to talk about her novel! Before we meet her, let’s take a quick look at her book’s synopsis:

After being kidnapped by pirates, Rachel Starling expected the worst. But the Captain’s motives are less dangerous than thought, at least toward her. Upon the ship, Rachel mourns the loss of her life on land, marred by the betrayal of those who were supposed to love her most. She adapts to her new, dangerous life and all its adventures, including swordfights, vengeful pirates, a trip to the New World and a handsome first mate who threatens to steal something she’d thought too broken to ever give again.

(Intriguing, isn’t it?)

Without further ado, here’s N.L.!

NLLafoille Profile.JPG

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in a small town in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula (Pop. 3,010).

I moved to Colorado with my husband in 2010. We enjoy hiking and rock climbing, and much of our time indoors is spent gathered in the kitchen, cooking and hanging out.

I studied Apparel Design and Journalism in college and am currently a freelance sewing instructor for Sew News magazine and NationalSewingCircle.com, but mostly I just run around with my 2-year-old daughter, having adventures with her dolls and making pretend soup out of leaves and sticks.

We like to travel with our menagerie of children (one human and two terriers). In fact, this year we’ve only spent 4/9 months at our home base. The rest was spent bouncing around the country, from Arkansas to Michigan to Washington state.

2. Why did you start writing?
I had such a vivid imagination as a kid and was fascinated by the different, exciting worlds presented in books and on TV. I was constantly making up stories in my head and realized if I wanted to remember and revisit them, I’d have to write them down.

3. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
I initially titled it Starling, which is the main character’s last name. I even had my artist make up the cover with it. But then I did a belated Google search and realized there were actually other books with this title! It pays to do the research on that first. So I changed it to something catchy with a seafaring twist: Nautical Miles.

4. Does your story have a moral?
It’s not really a moral, but the main thread tying the book together is the journey toward discovering your inner fortitude and bravery. Humans are hardy and are built to endure trial after trial, and if we can hang in and believe in ourselves, we can come out the other side stronger and better for the experiences.

5. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
My favorite character is actually the protagonist from my upcoming novel, a historical romance set in the American West in the late 1800s. Abby is the most obviously flawed of my characters. She’s hot-headed and stubborn, apt to throw herself into a fight before fully thinking through the ramifications. I think we all have a little bit of that in us at times, and it was fun and satisfying to write her maturing from that scrappy spitfire to a strong, determined woman who learned how to wield that passion and fire to her advantage.

6. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Nautical Miles.
Brave, kind, willful, resourceful, optimistic.

7. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
It’s such a private thing for me, I do most of my writing in my head first, down to the specific sentence structure. Washing dishes and walking are perfect opportunities for this. I need privacy so no one can see my screen and see the horrible, terrible first rough draft. I’m a mom so I don’t get much dedicated time to sit and write, it’s usually in one to two hour blocks while she’s sleeping.

8. What is your favorite book genre?
I love reading any book with good character development. I don’t care if it’s a suspense or a contemporary romance, I live for deep characters.

My favorite genre to write is historical romance, though I prefer to call it Historical-Adventure-with-a-Romantic-Subplot.

9. What are you currently reading?
I somehow acquired Sail Upon the Land by Josa Young, and I’m still making my way through A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.

10. What is your favorite book?
Since high school, it’s been The Hobbit. Maybe it’s partially due to the memories I have of my life while I read it for the first time, but the story always makes me feel so adventurous. Bilbo had a rough time of it, but that experience shaped him, for better or worse.

11. Any project in the works?
Always! My next novel is about 95% completed. Set in the American West in the late 1800s, it follows Abby Fraser on a trek across the desert, running from the law and the pain of her past. She meets up with a man who has even more trouble on his tail than she does. They do their best to carve out a little peace alongside the Brazos River in Texas, but their demons and the floodwaters upset the tenuous quiet and send them on adventures that test their resolve and bring out their best and worst. I hope to launch sometime in early 2017!

12. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
For me, a story has to make me feel some feelings. Delight at the lyrical flow, pain, fear or sadness for the protagonist, or ideally, warm, fuzzy and giddy at the happy ending.

13. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Just write. Seriously, practice, practice, practice. Oh, and read! Reading books is the best education for a writer! And not just in your genre. If you read mostly historical romance, take a sci-fi for a spin, or paranormal thriller, and don’t forget to pepper in some non-fiction to round you out.

And now for a game of “Which (Do/Would) You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books, no question! If a book is made into a movie, you know the book is always better. You get so much more depth and understanding of the characters when you can be inside their head, and when you’re not limited to 2.5 hours of screen time.

2. Dogs or cats?
Dogs, all day every day. Give me all the dogs.

3. Summer or winter?
Summer. Winters in the U.P. were harsh–6 months of biting cold and slushy sleet. Yuck. Even though the winters in Denver are incredibly mild, it still gives me flashbacks to snowbanks higher than my head.

4. Ebook or physical book?
Ouch. This is a tough one. I have such a weakness for beautiful old books. The feel, the smell, the look of them. But realistically, I can’t have a house full of books, especially with our travel lifestyle. Ebooks are great because I can amass a collection and carry them all in my purse at once.

5. Living in the city or living in the country?
I grew up on 60 acres of field and forest. It’s in my blood. I love the peace and quiet of empty spaces. While I do enjoy forays into the city, and suburb life isn’t too bad, my heart lives in a log cabin shaded by oak trees.

6. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telekinesis for sure. I’ve thought probably too much about this. I wouldn’t want to know what other people are thinking. Bad for my ego. But to be able to move whatever I wanted? I could do so much good with that kind of power!

7. Travelling by car or travelling by airplane?
Road trips are so much fun! You can stop off at tiny little towns along the way, find cool shops and parks. Sure it takes longer, but the journey is also the reward, not just the destination!

8. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Camping! Give me a tent and a cook stove and I’m all set!

9. Losing all of your money or losing every picture you’ve ever taken and every picture that has ever been taken of you?
Toss the pictures, I don’t care. Toss the money too, come to think of it. I’ll have the memories of my life (most of them anyway), and the lessons those experiences taught me. And as long as I have my family, I’ll be alright without money.

10. Reading or writing?
Reading is more enjoyable at the time, but writing is more rewarding in the long run. If I could only choose one for the rest of my life, it would be writing. I just couldn’t not write.

11. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
Austen quotes! Can you imagine walking around all, “For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors and laugh at them in our turn?” I might test that out for a day, it sounds fun.

12. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
Busy expressway! I have a fear of breaking down in the middle of nowhere at night and the schizophrenic who broke out of the nearby psychiatric hospital kills my companion and hangs him in a tree so his feet thump against the hood while I huddle in the backseat until morning. The campfire stories that stick with you.

13. Losing your ability to speak or losing your ability to hear?
Losing speech. I could find other ways to communicate, but to never hear my daughter’s voice again would be way worse.

14. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Never watch another film. Has anyone ever chosen the other option?

15. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
TWD. Zombies don’t sneak around and try to jump out at you. They’re straightforward that way. Plus, I’d be a stellar zombie killer. Just call me Michonne.

Thank you for joining us, Nicki!
Readers: want to connect with Nicki? You can find her on Facebook, Goodreads, and YouTube. Also, be sure to check out her author website and blog.

Exciting News

Hey, everyone! It’s Jessica. A most curious idea floated into my mind a few weeks ago. Yesterday, I gave form to said idea and created…(wait for it)…a YouTube channel!😀 That’s right. Your eyes don’t deceive you. I’ve decided to start vlogging. Why? I figured that it’d be a great way to share with others that which I’ve learned about the publishing world — namely, self-publishing.

If you’d like to visit my channel, click here.

Here’s my channel’s trailer:

And here’s my first video:

Like what you see? Feel free to subscribe!😀

Author Interview: Bill Aitken

253643991916. Britain is deep in the grip of the Great War, spilling the best of its blood in Flanders’ fields. Morale at home is low. But one thing is certain: war minister Lord Kitchener will see things through. So when Kitchener is assassinated by the IRA, how will the public react? How will British troops at the Front take it? It’s up to MI5 to handle the situation, and quickly. Lieutenant Chris Hubert’s suggestion of lookalike Colonel Henry Farmer staves off the announcement of Kitchener’s death. But when ‘Kitchener’ is sent off on a mission to St Petersburg, it’s in the interests of friend and foe to ensure he won’t come back. Now, only Hubert and Special Branch officer Anne Banfield can save Farmer from a torpedo in the cold, dark waters of the Pentland Firth. The U-Boats are waiting …

Blackest of Lies is an exciting story of how the British Secret Services aim to murder an unsuspecting military doctor to hide the news of Kitchener’s assassination at the hands of the IRA. It is uncomfortably close to historical events. Just how close is for you to decide.

Coffee with Architects of Worlds Afar is excited to announce that Bill Aitken, author of Blackest of Lies, is here today. Please put your hands together and join me in welcoming him!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up in 1960s Glasgow, Scotland, and qualified as a secondary school teacher of Biology in the mid-70s.  Then I joined the RAF as a pilot and had a great time, serving in the UK, Cyprus, Norway and the US.  In the latter half of my career, I was trained in systems analysis and computer programs – fields in which I still have a great interest – and that’s what took me to Norway, attached to NATO.  A few years later, I had left the Armed Forces and I was designing bespoke courses for industry.  Now, I live and work in the Middle East, as a competency architect for the oil and gas business.  I like to paint and write code – both creative pursuits in my view.

2. When did you start writing?
I really started writing in the 1980s by researching and writing the history of the station in which I was serving at the time.  It had a very strong link to the Great War and I had the privilege of interviewing many pilots of that era as part of the research.  I then went on to write several other RAF histories throughout the remainder of my career but my first foray into publishing was in 1990 with my first programming book for the burgeoning personal computing market.

3. Why did you start writing?
In the case of the aviation histories, it was because I had a real interest in the twists of history – not the standard views of those not even alive at the times but the individual stories of those who actually witnessed the events in their own lifetimes.  To hear an elderly Royal Flying Corps pilot describe to me how he was left clinging by his knees almost upside down in his biplane with no parachute (they weren’t issued at the time) left me breathless.  Or reading an account written by a mechanic in 1916, serving on the same station as myself, telling how he had been given a severe headache by spinning the propeller of a fighter and being struck by it.  It gave me the chance to walk alongside them, in the same place but separated by 80 years or so in time.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
Oh yes.  In NATO, Oslo, there was a little library – a tiny little thing – and that’s where I first read a book by Donald McCormick called The Mystery of Lord Kitchener’s Death.  It was a piece of investigative journalism written in the 1950s when many of the witnesses to events were still alive.  It made great reading and so many questions were thrown up by his writings that I began to think of alternative ways in which Kitchener’s last weeks might have played out.  This was around 1991 and I published the book last spring.  That’s what I call a real gestation period.  Over the years, I picked it up, wrote a bit and then put it down again.  Several times, I re-wrote it from the start.

5. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
The book is called Blackest of Lies, which is part of a line by Tennyson from his poem The GrandmotherBlackest deals with the British security services (particularly MI5) in the Great War, a field not greatly mined by other authors and it gives me that “odd” angle into great events that I like.   As you can imagine, the security services are rather good at duplicity.  They deal in half-truths and the storyline revolves around one in particular involving Lord Kitchener and his death.  Were it to be revealed to the public, it could cause public morale to sink so low as to lose the war.  As Tennyson says “The lie which is half a truth is ever the blackest of lies” because it is a harder matter to fight.

6. Does your story have a moral?
I don’t know about moral, as in teaching that right always wins or lessons of that sort.  It’s more about ‘choice’, particularly when it comes to loyalty – to one’s friends and country and the conflict such choices bring in wartime.  EM Forster is famously quoted as having said “If I had to choose between betraying my friend and betraying my country I hope I should have the guts to betray my country”.  This is the central dilemma for the book’s ‘hero’ – Christophe Hubert, a French-Canadian, gassed at Ypres and seconded to MI5, having been made unfit for active service at the Front.

7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
Oddly enough, it isn’t the central character – Hubert.  Instead, it’s Doctor (Colonel) Henry Farmer of the Royal Army Medical Corps, who treats Hubert during his long convalescence after returning, gassed, from Ypres.  The storyline needed a person of the right age to carry out some work for MI5 and I described Hubert thinking of Henry and visiting him at his little hospital to ask him if he would help out.  I showed how Hubert waited in the doctor’s office for him to return from completing his morning’s rounds of the wards and, as I typed, Henry just walked right on to the page, fully formed and speaking exactly as I needed him to do.  It was quite a surprise.  Until that moment, I had no real idea of how he would walk and talk.  It was as if Henry had walked right up to me and introduced himself.  I had read of other author’s experiences of this sort of thing and thought it exaggerated or even invented for effect but I can assure you it does happen.

8. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Blackest of Lies.
Courageous, principled, flawed, funny, loyal.

9. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
I don’t think I have one.  My life is a busy one, travelling a lot around the region.  I snatch moments when I can but I do like silence.  I know other writers enjoy music playing in the background but I have never been able to concentrate like that, even in my student days.  I do a lot of research to ensure that the storyline is woven as tightly into real historical events as I can make it.  I would say that research takes up two or three times as long as the book writing takes.  This seems to resonate with my reviewers – several have said how they felt compelled to Google every single character to see if he or she really existed.  But, in general, I just like to settle down in an armchair at home (usually mid-morning) with a cup of tea and my laptop and pick up where I left off.  Usually, I expect to write 1500 words or so in a session.  Of course, many of those will fall by the wayside during editing.

10. How do you feel about outlines?
Outlines are an absolute necessity for me.  I may have 10 important characters weaving in and out of historical events at any one time so I have to have a clear idea of what’s happening.  An Outline allows me to block out the book and its individual chapters to give me a clear idea of what is going on, where and when.  You can see that in Blackest, since it takes the form of little vignettes showing the actions carried out by the key players as they gradually converge towards the climax of the storyline.  This is difficult to achieve – or, at least, it is for me – unless I have a clear idea in advance.

11. What is your favorite book genre?
As you might imagine, it is historical fiction, both reading and writing, although I also enjoy straight social history, too.  In my youth, several centuries ago, I had a taste for science fiction/fantasy, and I still have the outline for a story in that line.  Someday, maybe …

12. What are you currently reading?
Actually, I’m currently re-reading Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series.  They are well researched and he’s not afraid to own up his departures from true events in his end-of-book notes.  I once read an interesting article written by him in The Writer’s and Artist’s Yearbook where he said you should try to get things as correct as you can.  Your research should not be sloppy because this is how many people actually learn history.  That was already my own view when I read those words but it really underlined them for me.

13. What is your favorite book?
I hesitated about this question but I must own up to being an Austen fan.  Pride and Prejudice, for me, is a triumph of characterization and I cannot count the times I’ve read it from end to end.  The style and wit are endearing and still so relevant today, if you would only use text speak and throw in a slack handful of expletives.  I also enjoy Trollope and have just finished re-reading Doctor Thorne in the wake of Julian Fellowe’s entertaining 3-part production.

sweesorrowcover14. Any project in the works?
Yes, indeed.  I am currently working on the sequel to Blackest, called Sweet Sorrow.  It carries on a few weeks after the first novel ends with Hubert, Special Branch and MI6 being sent to New York, ostensibly to help curtail the efforts of saboteurs working out of the German Embassy, but primarily to hunt down a particularly dangerous individual working for the German Secret Service.  Almost all of the characters existed and acted as described.  The result was a very close call for Europe which would still be affecting us to this day – and yet, it is virtually unknown.  You’ll have to read the book to find out what.

15. How long does it take you to write a book?
It largely depends on the subject.  If it is a programming book, it’s already in my head.  I wrote several books on the subject, each taking me around 6 months.  But writing historical fiction is a very different matter.  Not only does the historical context have to be researched very carefully but the characters have to be determined and placed within it.  I would normally expect to complete a book of that sort in a year – 80,000 – 100,000 words.

16. In your opinion, what makes a book ‘good’?
It’s ‘good’ if I care about the characters.  One of my reviewers said that she had actually shed a tear at one point in her reading of Blackest.  That made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up because it told me that she, at least, had thought the book ‘good’.  She had cared about the characters.  She never identified the actual scene, but that comment made my whole week.  If you cannot feel yourself emotionally invested in a storyline, what is it for?  To say a book was ‘OK’ is the greatest damnation I can offer.  As Sir Percy Blakeney once said, “Nothing is so bad as something that is not so bad”.

17. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
That’s a tough one, as I consider myself as ‘an aspiring writer’.  It took me a long time to complete Blackest.  When I look over its history, I realized that it was because I thought I couldn’t do it.  I knew that I could write technical books – I had written about a dozen – but fiction was a very different matter.  I never really knew how different until my friend of half a century – David Nielson (check out his book, The Prussian Dispatches – another historical novel with a twist – and see his interview on Rebecca’s blog) – took me in hand and helped me put the infant chapters into some sort of order and structure from the dramatic point of view.  There are two pieces of advice I would give, simply because they figured so prominently in my own work.  The first is ‘keep going’.  Try to write a little bit every day.  It soon mounts up.  The second caused me a lot of heartache – Point of View.  It has to be understood or you lose all dramatic impact.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or Movies?
I thoroughly enjoy both but I must confess to being a movie nut.  I can tell you the kind of ice cream Zeppo was serving in A Day at the Races.  My favourite has to be Casablanca, because I am a soft touch, as my wife’s shoe cupboard can attest.

2. Dogs or Cats?
I love dogs.  At one point, we had 5 of them.  I can bear cats but they just don’t give as much back.  You’ll know the coffee cup wise-crack “Dogs have owners, cats have staff”.  It’s perfectly true.

3. Summer or Winter?
It’s ‘winter’ for me.  I loved my time in Norway and very nearly stayed there permanently.  It wouldn’t have taken much.  Magical place.

4. Car or Motorcycle?
I love cars, particularly classic ones.  I have an MGB GT at home.  My retirement project.  I would also love to have a motorcycle – always have – but her indoors won’t let me have one.

5. eBook or Physical Book?
That depends.  I like old books.  There’s nothing quite like heavy quality paper, old typefaces and the smell of book cloth.  But, for modern works, the material are very perishable and they just don’t have the same feel.  I own a Kindle and treasure its abilities to hold an entire library.  I find it easy to read from its screen, although I concede that not everyone can.  I know that it has had an effect on the traditional market but there are only so many trees in the world.

6.Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
Got to be ‘the past’.  What would I give to have a glimpse of Henry the Eighth or Queen Victoria?  To be able to chat with Charles Dickens?

7. To find true love or to win the lottery?
Well, I’ve already found the former so it must be ‘to win the lottery’.

8. To be drawn into a tornado or to be drawn into a whirlpool?
Got to be the tornado (if I had to choose).  No great lover of the sea.

9. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
Actually, I had no internet access at my house for 8 days a couple of weeks ago.  I hated it but it didn’t stop me watching movies every night on my laptop.  Man cannot live by internet alone.

10. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
You can keep coffee.  I only drink it when there’s nothing else.  I love good tea.  Chocolate used to be a real luxury for me but I have grown distant from it for some years now.  It certainly isn’t the centre of my universe as it is for my wife.  So my choice, a weak one, would be ‘never to drink another cup of coffee’.

Thank you for joining us, Bill!
Readers: want to connect with Bill? You can find him on Facebook.

Author Interview: Steen Jones

Looking for your next fantasy read? Perhaps you’ll find what you’re looking for in The Door Keeper. This novel seems intriguing on multiple levels. Check out its blurb to see what I mean:

Eden Saunders is a single mother who has learned to accept tragedy in her life. Her mother died during childbirth and her husband was killed just three years after they married. Eden’s existence revolves around raising her ten year old daughter, Gabby. But when she is curiously prompted to look into her unknown lineage, Eden finds herself desiring things she has suppressed most of her adult life: adventure, love, and destiny.

In discovering where she came from, Eden inherits a key from her deceased mother that opens doors to worlds beyond her imagination, including the world that should have been her home. The only thing stopping her from exploring them is the fear of leaving her own daughter behind. The Door Keeper explores the circle of mother/daughter legacies, and the bond that unites them – a bond that even death can not break.

Interesting, right? The Door Keeper hits shelves in just a few months; it’ll be available for purchase starting 23 January 2017. Today, its author — Steen Jones — is with us in the virtual studio.

Steen Jones

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in Woodstock, Georgia and currently live just a few miles north of where I grew up. I am a wife, mother, writer, business owner, and artist; mostly in that order. I married my husband super young, so my adult life has mostly consisted of raising my two amazing, special needs kids. Fun fact: I like to sing my activities. “Washing the dishes…these plates are disgusting!” (You can imagine your own tune…)

2. When did you start writing?
I actually just started writing within the past 2 years. It has always been something I enjoyed, but for whatever reason never thought about pursuing it as a career.

3. Why did you start writing?
I finally decided to begin writing when this book idea wouldn’t stop developing in my mind. One day, while driving, I saw a door on the side of the road that sparked my imagination. The more I drove past it, the more notes I would jot in my phone. Before long, I had developed the main characters and plot. To be honest, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it.

4. How different is the final product (the book) from your original vision? That is, did the structure and content of the novel change with the passage of time?
It is absolutely different than I had originally thought. In my current book, the main character finds out she is connected to doors that lead to other worlds, worlds that have existed for centuries. In the first couple book ideas, she actually created the worlds beyond the doors, which would have lead to tensions between her imagination vs reality. It could have been an interesting concept, but my current story just felt more relatable.

5. Does your story have a moral?
Yes! There are actually a couple. One of the main morals is the importance of balance. Balance within yourself, as well as family dynamics. The main tension of the novel is motherhood; more specifically, the tension between being a mother and fulfilling a destiny outside of your family/children. Can you do both well? Do we have to sacrifice one for the other? These are the questions my main character wrestles with, and honestly, questions I think all mothers wrestle with at some point. I know I did.

6. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
I would have to say, Gabby, my protagonist’s daughter. The main reason is that I based her largely on my own daughter; the most beautiful, talented, and funniest kid ever. She deserved to be immortalized in the written word, so I was happy to oblige.

7. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in The Door Keeper.
Artist, Widow, Adopted, Mother, Independent.

8. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
Ah, I love a good writing sesh. I either like to write in the morning, in my cozy basement, after my coffee with music playing. Usually something instrumental and European (The Album Leaf or Sigur Ros.) ­-OR-­ I like to write in bed late at night after my kids have gone to bed with a glass of wine. Writing wise, I need to be alone. But, I do love to brainstorm and world build either outside, in nature, or in public places.

9. What is your favorite book genre?
I love fantasy and science fiction. In truth, I just love a good escape. Using my imagination and reading about a new fictional world is one of my most favorite things. Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia are some of the best world building in my opinion. I could, and have, gotten lost there for weeks on end throughout the course of my life.

10. What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading Grey, book 1 of the Romany Outcast Series by Christi J. Whitney. She is another author from North Georgia: us locals have to stick together.

11. Any project in the works?
I’m enthusiastically working on the sequel to The Door Keeper.

12. How long do es it usually take you to write a book?
I wrote The Door Keeper in a year, but editing could have lasted forever had I let it!

13. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
To be honest, anything I get lost in, can’t stop reading, and think about for the next couple days after finishing. Those 3 things tell me it was a good story. The writing isn’t as important to me…but story is everything.

14. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If this is something you really want to do; patience is key. No one likes to hear it, but it’s true. Write what you love, and don’t stop. Don’t attempt to do it for the money or you will give up or burn out. Just do it to tell a good story, then you will always be satisfied, regardless of the outcome.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Believe it or not, movies.

2. Dogs or cats?
DOGS!

3. Cake or ice-­cream?
Um, both…mixed together. It’s a thing.

4. Making a phone call or sending a text?
Text! (Emojis)

5. Losing all of your money or losing every picture you’ve ever taken and every picture that 
has ever been taken of you?
Lose the money, for sure!

6. Being Spider­-Man for a day or being Batman for a day?
Batman, I think. Only 51% 
sure.

7. Reading or writing?
Writing.

8. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to 
speak and understand every language known to animals?
Humans, just so I could speak 
Italian.

9. Being drawn into a tornado or being drawn into a whirlpool?
Worst question ever! Tornado.

10. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
Middle of nowhere; could lead to a good book idea.

11. Staying awake for forty­-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty­-four hours (also continuous)?
Staying awake for 48 hours.

12. Drinking a glass of expired, curdled milk or eating a bowl of cold, slimy worms? (Note: the worms would be dead, though not cooked.)
Cold slimy worms, at least it’s protein.

13. Spending half a day locked in a coffin (there would be a hole for air, of course) or spending two days trapped at the bottom of a well?
Half a day in coffin…

14. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?
Two inches tall.

15. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
Doesn’t matter, cause I’d be the first killed either way.

Thank you for joining us, Steen!
Readers: want to connect with Steen? You can find here on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram. Also, be sure to check out her author website.

Author Interview: Sara Marks

If you could only choose one, which would you prefer to have: love or a career?

If you chose the latter and were given a second chance to obtain the former, would you seize it?

So is Emma Shaw’s predicament in Modern Persuasion, a romance novel (set to be released on 20 March 2017) inspired by Jane Austen’s similarly titled Persuasion. Please join me in extending a warm welcome to the author of Modern Persuasion, Sara Marks.

Sara  Marks

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a librarian in Massachusetts, but I grew up in Miami. I work at a local university library teaching students how to think critically about information sources.  I do a lot of work with Wikipedia as an editor and a researcher.  I am an avid reader and have been almost all my life.  I am also a knitter and periodically design my own patterns.  I love the color purple, unicorns, travelling, and the city of Paris.

2. When did you start writing?
I started writing as a child, but in 2004 I participated in my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing month run each November). Now I write during NaNoWriMo and related events.  I have won NaNoWriMo every time except my second year.

3. Why did you start writing?
I had a story to tell and it was stuck in my head. I need to write it down to be able to move on.  Sometimes even that isn’t enough.  There are stories that I keep turning over in my mind and adapt as I flesh out the original idea.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
I was in New York City for two conferences: the Book Expo Conference (the big publishing industry conference) and a small Wikipedia Conference. I kept playing with the idea of two people who reunite at Book Expo.  I realized it was the same plot of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  I had just written a modernization of Pride and Prejudice (that is what I am editing right now), but I became obsessed with this new idea and needed to see it through.

Things really didn’t change between my drafts, but I made changes to the original Austen novel. I wanted my characters to be truly modern.  I didn’t simply want to take each character and put them in the 21st century. I even changed names, removed unnecessary characters, and dealt with issues I felt Austen overlooked.

5. Does your story have a moral?
I wouldn’t call it a moral, but the theme of regret is a big one. Austen’s story was about a couple getting a second chance.  Regret is a massive part of that type of story.  I personally feel that mistakes from our past shape the person we are now and we are unfair to ourselves when we live completely immersed in regret.

6. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
I have been doing short character profiles for my blog. I share things you won’t learn about the characters from the novel.  While I love Emma and Fredrick, I realized they take a back seat to Emma’s parents.  Her father, Walter, falls apart when her mother dies.  Even Emma doesn’t realize his hurtful behavior is how he is stuck in his grief.  Even now I am shocked at how similar Emma and Walter’s stories are.

7. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Modern Persuasion.
Emma is: detail oriented, organized, nurturing, and Ravenpuff (Google that).

8. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
I have to get out of the house to write. There are too many potential distractions at home.  I make playlists for characters, pairs, and even the entire book.  This one became a Pandora list I called Indie Pop-Tarts and was something I got from a friend.  Then I just write.  I am typically writing as part of National Novel Writing Month so there may be other people with me.

9. What are you currently reading?
I am re-reading Northanger Abbey in various forms to get ready for this November’s National Novel Writing Month. I am trying something new by co-writing a modernization of Northanger Abbey with a friend.  We are playing with ghost hunting and imagined hauntings.

10. Any project in the works?
I have 12 years of NaNoWriMo novels to edit and publish! Right now I am most focused on a modernization of Pride and Prejudice.  It is in the middle of being edited right now.

11. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
The writing takes me about a month. It could take me years to build the idea to the point where I am ready to write though.  After I write, it goes away for months or even a year before I am ready to edit.

12. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
Good is completely subjective. I have disliked plenty of stories everyone thought were good.  I have loved and then eventually hated books.  I have hated and then loved books.  Good depends on the story you need to read.  The stories I enjoy are the stories where I connect emotionally to the characters.

13. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write in any way you can. Write a blog, write fan fiction, write non-fiction, write poorly, but just write

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Nights out or nights in?
I am an introvert, so nights in.

2. Living in the city or living in the country?
City living is far better than country living, but I prefer smaller cities where there is plenty to do, but far fewer people.

3. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
I have always wished to have both and sometimes I want telepathy if only to talk to people in through our minds. In the end, it’s too much and telekinesis would be the better between the two.

4. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
Travelling to the future creates too many problems. I would much rather see the past to understand events and people better.

5. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Oh, I am a complete princess! Hotel any day.

6. To find true love or to win the lottery?
Despite the fact that I am writing romance, I would much rather win the lottery. I could pay off my student loans and my mortgage and take care of my parents and family.  It would be great.

7. Being Spider-Man for a day or being Batman for a day?
Wonder Woman

8. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
Given what I write, easily quotes from Jane Austen books.

9. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Every language known to humankind! I could travel the world and never worry about not understanding the local language, especially in India where there are hundreds of dialects.

10. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
I feel like I would get help quickly on a busy expressway, but being in the middle of nowhere is the beginning of a horror story.

11. To never speak again or to never eat solid food again?
I would never give up my ability to speak, so I am going to have to live on milk shakes, soup, and pudding.

12. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Never watch another film. I feel like there are far too many books in the world and I have probably seen enough films to be fine with giving that up… but only if I had no choice.

13. Finding yourself caught in the middle of a hurricane or finding yourself caught in the middle of a snowstorm? (Note: in both scenarios, you’d be outdoors and have no access to shelter.)
Having lived through both, but with shelter, it really depends. The hurricane could be nothing more than rain and wind.  You could probably be fine, unless it was a higher category… Sorry, my father researches hurricanes so I know more about them than the average person.  With a snow storm, as long as I have a nice heavy coat, a hat, a scarf, mittens, and boots on then that would be fine.

14. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
I would give up coffee since I don’t drink it anyway! I drink tea, but I would even give that up to keep chocolate in my life.

15. Have every day be Saturday or have every day be your birthday?
I would probably always go with every day being my birthday. I know it would probably lose it’s thrill and excitement, but the same can be said for everyday being Saturday.  I would get bored either way.  It helps that I love my job 75% of the time.

Thank you for joining us, Sara!
Readers: want to connect with Sara? You can find her on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. Also, be sure to check out her author website and blog

Author Interview: Thomas Bruce

What do the six eighty-something-year-olds who comprise Table 21 have in common with aspiring Olympian — and drug-addict — Levi Jorgensen? Chelsea Manor. The former live in the elderly care facility. The latter owns it…and desires to sell it. The Lodge at Bristlecone Pines relates the “heartwarming, hilarious adventures” of Table 21 as they embark on an ambitious journey to shed light on the less-than-legal doings of Levi Jorgensen, and thus, save their home.

Coffee with Architects of World’s Afar welcomes Thomas Bruce, author of The Lodge at Bristlecone Pines.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

  • Where are you from?
    I was born in Pennsylvania but grew up in California.
  • Where do you currently reside?
    I reside in southern, CA.
  • Do you have any hobbies?
    I love writing, sailing and kayaking with my beautiful wife and daughter.
  • What do you for a living?
    I am a police investigator.
  • Give us a fun fact about yourself.
    I was a baker before I became a police officer.

2. When did you start writing?
I started writing in 2014.

3. Why did you start writing?
I was inspired to write by my mother who was a published author of eight young adult novels.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
Yes, we were driving to the airport after just leaving my father in-law at an assisted living facility. It was then that I realized there had to be a better way to take care of our elderly parents besides just housing them. I knew I had to write about it in: The Lodge at Bristlecone Pines.

5. On a related note, how different is the final product (the book) from your original vision? That is, did the structure and content of the novel change with the passage of time?
Bristlecone Pines is much different from the original version. It was too Pollyanna at first. I needed to show what the world is really like. I had to grow with my novel by learning empathy.

6. How did you arrive at your book’s title?
I wanted the title to denote strength and ever growing, always producing no matter what the age of our parents. I searched the internet and found the Bristlecone Pine tree which lives for some 4,000 years or more and still produces. It never gives up and falls over even after death.

  • Were there other titles which you were considering?
    No, that one was a gift from God.

7. Does your story have a moral?
Yes, that our parents need to be respected for who they are, what they’ve accomplished in life, what they’ve learned. We need to learn from their life perspectives. We need to allow them to continue to grow and be productive no matter their age or ailment.

8. What do you want readers to take away from your novel?
You’re never too old. Never too old to live, to give, to learn, to challenge yourself, to be productive and to share your life perspective. That is what Table 21 learns during their time at The Lodge at Bristlecone Pines. They were sent there to die but they weren’t ready to give up on life. Share this book with elderly family and friends and those that care for them. It’s inspirational, heartwarming and funny.

9. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
My favorites would be Babs, Maddy, and Robert.

  • What makes them stand out to you?
    Babs was based on my mother. Maddy is just spunky, devious, and lovable. Robert is a retired police detective after my own heart.

10. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in The Lodge at Bristlecone Pines.
The Protagonist would be Babs. She is somewhat shy, very imaginative, loving, funny, sneaky.

11. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
A full day in front of the computer.

  • Do you listen to music as you write?
    No
  • Do you have a specific location that you go to when you want to write?
    Our den
  • Do you like to write in public places, or do you seek out isolation?
    Isolation
  • Do you set daily goals for yourself (in terms of word count)?
    No, it’s wherever the inspiration leads me.

12. How do you feel about outlines?
I’m for outlines.

13. What is your favorite book genre?
Inspirational fiction and crime novels

14. What are you currently reading?
Limitless Life

15. What is your favorite book?
I’m not sure yet.

16. Any project in the works?
Yes, two real life crime novels

17. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
With all the rewrites, one to two years.

18. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
A gripping, heart wrenching, heartwarming story with a message that helps us change for the better.

19. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Just start writing!

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books

2. Dogs or cats?
Dogs

3. Summer or winter?
Winter

4. Car or motorcycle?
Car

5. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telekinesis

6. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
To the future

7. Making a phone call or sending a text?
Phone call

8. To find true love or to win the lottery?
True love, my wife Sue.

9. Being Spider-Man for a day or being Batman for a day?
Spiderman

10. Reading or writing?
Writing

11. Bungee jumping or going on the slingshot ride?
Bungee

12. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Animals

13. Being drawn into a tornado or being drawn into a whirlpool?
Tornado

14. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
Abandoned road

15. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?
Staying awake

Thank you for joining us, Thomas!

Author Interview: Carissa Lusk

With us today is Carissa Lusk, author of the NA paranormal-romance novel After the Fall. We’ll acquaint ourselves with Carissa in just a moment. Before we do, let’s take a look at her novel’s synopsis:

After the Fall

Amity cries out into the darkness that surrounds her, hoping for a solitary voice to provide direction; she hears two.

Amity knows she loves Alexander, yet the loneliness brought on by the miles that separate them can only be curbed by the cryptic affection of Marcus Riley. She can’t understand the strange familiarity she finds in the wild blue of Marcus’s eyes, but she will soon learn his secret.

Plagued with dreams and memories of lives beyond her own, a tragic fate will emerge from the ashes of a love scorned. Eventually, she will discover the dark truth that will leave her running for her life, and she will learn who sacrificed everything to save it.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born and raised in southern WV, and I’m still sticking around despite my love of the ocean. One day I’ll live by the beach, though. I credit my love of reading and writing to Kate Chopin, Emily Bronte, and my mom. I graduated from Concord College with a Bachelor of Arts in English, and I loved it there so much, I made it the setting of After the Fall.

2. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
My novel is based on several dreams I had when I was a kid. Years ago I imagined how they could all be tied together, and the idea for After the Fall emerged.

3. On a related note, how different is the final product (the book) from your original vision? That is, did the structure and content of the novel change with the passage of time?
The novel went through about ten drafts. Though the story itself didn’t change, the writing changed completely. I also changed my main character’s name in about the 9th draft from Christiana to Amity.

4. How did you arrive at your book’s title?
The book was titled After the Fall probably before the first chapter was even written. I’d always considered it a working title, but I couldn’t find anything that better suited it. The title, I think, has a different meaning as the story progresses.

5. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
I don’t use outlines. I keep in mind a general idea for the story, but part of the fun is seeing where the story takes me.

6. What are you currently reading?
I just started A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah Maas. I read the first book in the series a couple of weeks ago and fell in love with it.

7. What is your favorite book?
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. It’s a classic. There is no better love story than Heathcliff and Catherine, and one of my favorite lines is from this novel. “He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”

8. Any project in the works?
I’m currently working on the prequel to After the Fall, and occasionally I’ll work on the first book of another series that’s been swirling around in my head for a while.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
The book is always better.

2. Summer or winter?
Summer! I read a poem once that said “I was born in summer and it stamped itself on my heart.” That’s so true for me. (poem is by Hannah Nicole)

3. Cake or ice-cream?
Cake isn’t just my favorite dessert. It’s my favorite food.

4. Car or motorcycle?
Car. I’m not very adventurous.

5. Ebook or physical book?
Both. I love the ease of reading on my smartphone, but there are times when only a physical book will do.

6. Making a phone call or sending a text?
Text definitely. I hate phone calls.

7. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
I’m a hotel girl all the way. I hate the very thought of camping. I hate bugs, campfires, tents, and campground bathrooms.

8. Being Spider-Man for a day or being Batman for a day?
I would choose Batman. This would be the only day my niece, Olivia, would think I’m cooler than her Uncle Buddy.

9. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
I would love to be able to understand animals. Talking to humans is overrated anyway.

10. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Again, books are always better. Who could live without them?

11. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
I would give up chocolate. I could still have vanilla cake, strawberry cake, and peanut butter cake. But nothing could replace coffee.

12. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
I’m choosing the universe of The Walking Dead. My reason? Daryl Dixon exists in that universe.

Thank you for joining us, Carissa!
Readers: want to connect with Carissa? You can find her on Goodreads and Facebook. Want to check out After the Fall? Click here.