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Bookish Banter Valentines Day Special – Featured Author – Phoenix Rainez

Published February 14, 2015 by Laura Crean Author

With Valentines Day on everybody’s minds I thought it would be great to feature a romance novelist here on the Bookish Banter today.  With the imminent release of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie there seems to be a real frenzy around the genre.  Everybody loves a bit of romance – after all Love makes the world go round, doesn’t it?  So snuggle up in front of a cozy fire, with a nice bottle of bubbly and some chocolates and get ready for a story to set your heart a fluttering; but if you were expecting a run of the mill, boy meets girl, falls in love and sunset ending romance story, then think again.  Let’s turn the heat up a few notches… (this book is strictly 18 years + so please be aware of that fact)

Introducing today’s Spotlight Author…

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Phoenix Rainez

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Phoenix Rainez is the pen name of Angie Neto, a loving wife, mother and carer from Norfolk in the United Kingdom. By day she is an extremely dedicated and caring lady who looks after those that need a large hearted home carer and by night she takes to her laptop to become Phoenix Rainez, sizzling romance novelist.  I interviewed Angie, AKA Phoenix Rainez, to find out all about her début novel and her experience of writing.

What part of this beautiful planet do you call home?

Norfolk, UK.

Hey, it’s nice to have a fellow Brit on the Bookish Banter for a change – doesn’t happen often.  Let’s have a cuppa tea and settle in for the rest of the interview…

Which genre do you prefer to write in?

Romance of course.  I’m an incurable romantic from the tips of my toes to the ends of my hair.

Of course!  Just right for today.  Tell me – why do you write?

Because it’s like living a dream, a dream I create and control.  Well, I try to until the characters take over.

My writing takes me into a place of amazing places and interesting characters, who live through so many emotions that I often shed a tear while writing that scene.  To lose myself in chapter after chapter of a story I am writing is magical for me.  I feel the highs and lows of every scene I write as if I was really living each moment.  For me there is nothing more exhilarating than writing a story I want to tell and reading it back afterwards is quite an adrenalin rush.  To think I really came up with those ideas.

Ah yes, the thrill of writing.  There’s no other feeling like it is there?  

Is there a particular book that you are promoting at present?

Yes.  Second Chances.

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Could you tell us a little bit about it?

It’s no ordinary “girl meets boy” love story but a romance that starts at the end and ends at the beginning.  What I mean is, their “happily ever after” happens right at the beginning and needless to say ends where the story would normally start…

A girl after being dumped at birth and growing up in an orphanage , suddenly finds herself fast forwarded into a world  of fashion, fame and bright lights until she meets him…her dream Prince Charming, but not to give away any spoilers, she soon discovers love is not all she dreamed it would be.  As you read you witness the emotions and changes that take place in her life and how she struggles and almost fails to overcome them.

The whirlwind romance she lived with her Prince Charming is now a scar on her heart.  Her pain is too deep to ever love again.  But fate is not done with her yet, and life still throws her curve balls, as she has to face the loss of people she loves and somehow find the courage to face another day.

Phew!  It sounds like quite a ride.  Doesn’t it?  I had a sneaky peek at some reviews of Second Chances and here is a snippet of those…

HERE IS PART OF A REVIEW FROM FEATHER STONE –
click on www.amazon.com/dp/1501022539 to read the rest of her review.
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
“The book cover. Amazing. It is impossible to just glance at this book cover. Immediately, a reader wants to pick it up, get a closer look.  It shouts intrigue and romance.
As I fell into the plot of Second Chances, my first reaction was that this is a sweet romance story. Then Phoenix Raines turned up the heat – a lot. Oh my! I was hooked. As the plot moved on, I felt the darkening mood. As the crisis enveloped me, I went without sleep to get to the last chapter. I had to. The characters had become so endearing, so real, that I needed to know how the hell they were going to resolve their troubles. Then Phoenix turned out the lights. OMG! Survival became paramount.”
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
Well I couldn’t leave it at that could I?  So I don’t do this with all my Bookish Banter Authors, but I just had to pick up a copy of the book.  Now I’m afraid I’m a real book gal!  No electronic downloads of ebooks for me.  I just have to have the real deal in my hands.  So I waited feverishly for the book to land on my welcome mat and as soon as it came I tore into the package.  The cover was stunning and when you start to read the story, you really start to picture the girl on the front cover.  I’m not going to give anything away.  The story is explosive from the get go.  The characters tell it themselves through the wonderful relationships and the pace is quick – life really move for these characters and you just get caught up in the whirlwind and just have to ride it yourself to see where it goes.
So Angie is this part of a series?  (I ask in anticipation)
No!  Is the simple answer she gives me.  But don’t be disheartened there is more writing to come from this romantic soul.  For a sneaky peek at what she’s up to just check out her website and especially her works in progress on Wattpad.
So are you working on anything else at the moment?
Yes.  My next novel due for release towards the end of 2015, will be my fantasy romance The Colour of Love.  Two strangers meet in their dreams and try to find each other in the real world.  Or are dreams just fantasies of the mind, never destined to come true?
Oh my goodness!  I can’t wait to find out…
Have you had any major stumbling blocks to overcome?
Sadly yes.  There was the crucial period where I could not face another page of editing Second Chances.  I really had lost the plot and if it had not been for my unbelievably committed beta reader Jae’s  inspiring words that brought me back on track and I quote “You really must start viewing editing in a more positive light!  Think of it as another chance to be creative in the world of your finished story.  Yes you need to check for plot holes and typos, but it’s also a chance to take your shoes off and run barefoot through the meadow of a world you haven’t been for a while.”
Great quote.  He sounds like a very inspiring guy to have around you when you feel like throwing your manuscript out Angie.  Someone you need to keep you on track when writing becomes a drudge to help the magic flow again.
Does your work require you to do research and how have you approached it?
Not really as all my stories are from my imagination, although reading other romances and watching romantic films , has given me a guideline to work from.
Yes.  I agree with you there Angie.  I think even if you don’t need any official research on your novel, at the very least you should keep reading while you are writing, because it keeps those imaginative juices flowing.
How do you plan out your story?
Plan, who me?  I am definitely not your regular type of writer.  I have no plan in mind when I start writing and write as it comes to me.  An idea drops into my cogwheels and I write a couple of paragraphs or maybe a chapter and then do the unspeakable.  I write the ending and sometimes write word for word the last paragraph, and I work towards that.  If I do feel I am getting lost half way through then I will sit down and write a brief guideline  for each chapter to the end.  Which will also give me a vague idea how many chapters are left to write.  An odd quirk of mine is that I don’t like to finish on an odd chapter number, it just has to be an even number, otherwise it just doesn’t feel right.
Sounds like a plan to me Angie.  Every writer works differently, you sound like you have a good strategy for getting from A to B and it works for you.  You would probably be surprised at how many authors just start writing and see where it leads.  I mean how many times have I been told, if you have writers block – just write!  You can’t finish a novel if you don’t start typing!
Do you use an Editor to help you?
Yes.  I don’t think any writer should work without an editor.  I have a very patient editor, Desray Rowe and my beta reader who I mentioned previously.  They will go through chapters over and over again till we are all happy it reads just right.  Not forgetting the all-important proof  reading required just before you publish.

 Indie or old school?

At the moment I am an Indie publisher but hope to submit one of my books to a traditional publisher in the near future, just to test the waters and see what it all entails before I decide whether or not to stay indie or attempt further traditional publishing.

Do you belong to any writer’s groups or on-line writing forums and do you think they help?

Yes I do and I find that the support I get from other writers is so encouraging.  They are open to helping with advice and suggestions to improve your marketing and help you reach a wider field of readers by tweeting and promoting your books on their websites.  In particular I’d like to mention the WP-Indie Authors and BooksGoSocial.  I have met so many amazing authors and made lasting friendships.

That’s great Angie.  A real advert for getting social and sharing your love of writing with others.

Who is your favourite author and how do they inspire you?

I don’t have any one in  particular but the authors that have inspired my writing would have to be Stephanie Draven, Judy Feather Stone and Nikki Kelly.  From reading their incredible novels I discovered that in my genre of  fantasy, paranormal romance, there are no limitations to your imagination and you can create any world you want and your characters can be anyone and do anything as long as its believable.

What do you do to relax?

I read and write poetry.

Do you have a promotional video or trailer?

Yes on YouTube     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygMGVxlf7OE

Have you got any tips for writers of your specific genre?

As this is my debut novel and my first experience in publishing I can only say at this moment in time, read as many books as possible.  If there is an author you particularly like, follow them on their websites and see what makes their books stand out from the crowd.

How do you think your writing has improved since you started writing your first novel?

A vast improvement.  Especially after working through my debut novel, Second Chances, with my editors, beta readier and proof reader.  I have learnt so much from them on where and how I went wrong and what I should do to improve the quality of my writing.  When I look back at how Second Chances was originally written I actually cringe to think I let people read it that way.

I have learnt there is more to writing a story than just putting words onto paper or a screen as in my case, but there is this whole other side I did not know about.  The “show and tell”  syndrome.  This was my most valued lesson.  Readers want to be shown what is happening, not told.  My descriptions of scenes had to be more acute so as to take the reader into the places and emotions the characters were experiencing.  I learnt to put my senses into play when writing scenes, putting myself into my character’s head and behind their eyes and describe what they are seeing and feeling.  It was an exciting learning curve for me.

Thank you Angie or should I say the scintillating Phoenix Rainez, for taking the time out of your busy schedule this Valentine’s day to tell us all about your exciting life as a Romance novelist.  For anyone interested to find out more about Phoenix Rainez and her books here are her links:-

Amazon –  http://www.amazon.com/dp/1501022539

Angie’s Website – https://angieneto.wordpress.com/

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/phoenixraines20

Tumblr – http://phoenixrainez.tumblr.com/

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/phoenixrainez

Wattpad – http://www.wattpad.com/phoenixrainez

Twitter  – https://twitter.com/PhoenixRainez

Enjoy your Valentine’s weekend everyone and don’t forget to pick up a copy of Second Chances to get those pulses racing…

❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

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Bookish Banter – author/artist Spotlight List 2015

Published January 3, 2015 by Laura Crean Author

Bookish Banter

I am always interested in interviewing fellow authors, artists, poets and possibly musicians for the Bookish Banter Spotlight.  So please let me know if you would be interested in an author spotlight in 2015.  If you are an author, poet, artist or just want to generate interest in what you do – then please talk to me.  Let’s make our creativity shine this year and share each other’s wonderful work here on WordPress.

Also I would love to be able to do a blog tour myself as I  haven’t done one yet.  If anybody would be interested in hosting me, please let me know.

❤ Laura ❤

Eastbourne book fest – come and feed your imagination

Published May 23, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

Eastbourne book fest - come and feed your imagination

It is the start of the Children’s half term holiday, the sun is shining and they are looking forward to some fun in the sun. Maybe a trip to the seaside, picnics, ice-cream, rambling in the countryside? Children should be free to explore the world around them at times like these. They need to get out of those stuffy nurseries and schools, get off of those computers and consoles and stretch their legs and imaginations, play with other children and… be free to have fun!

When I was a kid, I loved nothing more than watching the holiday kids’ TV on a school holiday morning and then escaping out to the park with my bike and possibly a book and a picnic, play with my friends or sit under a tree and read – just let my imagination soar.

What better way this school holiday to combine all of that than to come to Eastbourne, enjoy the sun and the seaside and join in the book fest festivities. Whether you are 3 years old or 93, Eastbourne book fest has it all, poetry readings, fiction readings, workshops and story time in the park for the little ones. Dust off those reading glasses, dig out the sun cream and feed your imagination…

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‘My Writing Process’ Blog Tour

Published May 18, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

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It seems I have been invited to join in with a blog tour.  I have never been a part of anything like this, so I want to thank Jean Reinhardt for asking me to participate in the ‘My Writing Process Blog Tour’.  To see Jean’s answers to the blog tour questions and find out more about her work you can visit her blog by clicking on her name in this introduction.  Since I haven’t had the time to organise any Bookish Banter interviews recently I thought I would include this post in the Bookish Banter category.

Jean: What are you currently working on?

Laura: Well Jean, you know I’m always working on a million projects at once, that’s why it takes me so long to finish anything! Procrastination is my middle name.  If you check out my novels in progress section you will see that I have a few different novels in the making.  However, I am trying to concentrate on a Young Adult book called Atlantis and the Dolphin of Knowledge at the moment, as well as a children’s book about aliens landing in the school playground and a book about dreams.  I don’t know when my next book will be published but I’m in no hurry because I enjoy the writing process, it’s my hobby, I really do get lost in the story.  I’m also a bit of a perfectionist so it might be a while – watch this space…

Jean: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Laura: That’s quite a question.  I think I actually find writing for a particular genre quite difficult.  I have an idea for a story and I just start writing, it may turn into a science-fiction story or a fantasy story or a mix of both.  My stories usually have some kind of spiritual component because I am quite a deep person, I’m on a journey just like any of my characters, like any writer actually and those deep burning questions that are in your heart just tend to come out in your writing.  I find writing for children and young adults easier because I think I’m really quite a simple person myself.  I don’t like to read, write or watch on television any violence or sex or anything too graphic.  I think that’s why my novels are perfect for young adults as well as the older generation.  Also my work with children over the years has naturally given me the love of story telling, and that even includes for toddlers.

Jane: Why do you write what you do?

Laura: I write whatever is in me to write and usually I have a feeling that I have something to share with others.  I might not be as ingenious as some writers, but I think I have a pretty vivid imagination.  I really am there in my story, viewing it unfold as if it were a real place and the characters were real people – like a day-dream I suppose.  I just try and write what I am envisioning.  It’s an addictive thing writing, once you are in the zone.  It is my little bit of escapism from the pressures of every day life, much like reading, only I’m writing down the story as it happens – or drawing it, with the kiddies’ books.  If I can sneak in a little of my own pearls of wisdom about life, the universe and everything – well, that’s an added bonus, I just hope it inspires someone at some point.  I write a lot of poetry too, and the process works just the same for poetry as it does for a short story or a novel – if you have something to say, write it however it needs to come out.  Why does anybody write?  Because we all have something to say!

Jean: How does your writing process work?

I am a really disorganised writer.  Sometimes I try to make a plan and other times I just start writing and then just see where it takes me.  I would say being an organised writer works better, since the only novel I have published so far, my first children’s novel The Realm of the Purple Dragon was meticulously well planned.  It had to be because the story was woven around the Norse runes and each one needed to come out at the right point in the story.  The reason the second book in the series The Fire Giants and the Heart of Ice is taking so long to be written, is because it needs more planning than the first story and I need to be in a very organised place in my life to be really focussed with the planning for the book.  It will be worth the wait, don’t worry about that!  So basically my writing process is all about writing when I am in the zone and really making the most of those moments of inspiration, because I think that is when my best writing happens.  Also not worrying about how other people think I should write, because a writer’s work comes from somewhere deep and personal and only you know where it is going.

I enjoyed that – thank you for the chance to chat about my writing Jean.  Here are some links for my work and of course you can explore my blogs as a lot of my writing comes in blog post form.  I will think very hard about which other authors I will invite to carry on this tour and post their tour posts here on the Bookish Banter when they hop on board the tour bus…

Links:

Laura’s Amazon Page

Lulu Profile

Goodreads

Facebook

Twitter

The Well in the Garden

 

Something different – a book review of “Encounter in Rendlesham Forest”.

Published May 11, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

Time Travellers United

A good documentation of the history of the UFO phenomenon leading up to Rendlesham Forest,

but it lacked substance! – 4 out of 5 stars

I thought this was a very well researched, organised and written book. I was especially impressed with the research of historic UFO cases and the official documentary evidence. I think the Rendlesham case is a particularly interesting one, especially because of the rank and professional status of those involved. I also think the evidence was very fairly looked at by Nick Pope and the overall linking to the UFO phenomenon and how officialdom has treated this subject was carefully covered. I was however a little disappointed with how little of the actual Rendlesham incident itself was covered in the book, and felt that it was more of a documentation of the history of the UFO phenomenon itself according to Mr.Pope, which although very interesting, did…

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Bookish Banter – Featured Author – George L. Duncan

Published May 3, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

Saturday 3rd May 2014

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Bookish Banter is proud to present today’s Featured Author…

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George L. Duncan

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What part of the planet do you hang your hat?

In Loveland, CO, although I’m a native of Florida. Climate is a bit different here. Plus there are mountains in Colorado. Don’t have any of those in Florida. Highest we get down there are speed bumps. But besides those irritating floods and snowdrifts of eight feet high, it’s not a bad state.

Why on Earth have you chosen to be a writer – in this digitally obsessed age?

Because my golf game was not nearly good enough to get me on the PGA tour. Oh, well… As with many authors, I had an inclination to write since childhood. I was scribbling stories when I was ten. My first story was a Western, if I remember correctly. The second was an episode of a popular television show “77 Sunset Strip.” Of course, these were not very good stories but… So I’m not sure I chose writing, writing may have chosen me.

What genre do you prefer to write in – the mystery thriller stuff or the Christian oriented genre?

I basically combine them. “At Play in the Seas of the Lord” has a Christian theme but is a thriller, a modern-day treasure hunting tale with action, adventure and truly evil bad guys. And features the only female heroine in Christian fiction who looks fantastic in a bikini. Or at least the only female heroine who wears one. I enjoyed my two political thrillers “The Scorpio Directive” and “The Gemini Apocalypse,” but I lean toward the Christian genre.

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 Where did the idea spring for your latest masterpiece?

My latest masterpiece is “Last Stand at Lighthouse Point,” and it’s at the publishers. It went through a number of modifications. There is not much left of the initial draft. It’s a retelling of the story of Job, which I think is misinterpreted by many in the Body of Christ and by secular folks too. There is no greater or better plot than the classic good vs. evil. When the forces of evil team up to kill or destroy a decent man, you have a good novel.

Give me the low-down – I’m guessing Miss Scarlet in the living room with the spanner – oh wait that’s Cluedo – well dare I ask – is there a twist in your tale or a red herring or two?

Have a few twists in my aforementioned political thrillers but “Last Stand” is pretty straightforward. But the climax will take your breath away.

Did you spend months buried in books, article cuttings and pages and pages of interesting internet stuff on your chosen subject or have you got an old detective friend feeding you cold cases?

I’m a former reporter so I have experience in covering odd police cases, such as a crossbow murder case. That was made for fiction. Then there was the case of the woman who shot her husband seven times and (this is true) left a suicide note with the body. Of course, she wrote the suicide note first and planned on shooting him just once. But he kept moving so…

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction! :O

How do you think you are getting better at this writing lark?

Well, a number of people have told me “At Play” was a one night read. They picked it up and could not put it down until the final page. So I figured maybe this writing thing isn’t a passing fad after all.

Well the fans should know, always great to have great reviews…

Any stumbling blocks in your latest novel?

No, actually “Last Stand at Lighthouse Point,” went relatively smoothly. I was helped by the fact that my critique partner is an 18-year-old genius. Well, she hasn’t told me her IQ but I suspect it’s about 160. Two of my main characters are a 19-year-old former beauty queen contestant (the pageant was rigged so she lost) and a 13-year-old girl with an apostle’s faith. Jayln gave a thumb’s up to both of them and really liked the characters.

Having an 18 year old genius on board has got to be good, a particularly great target audience I think!

Come on tell me – Why do you love this craft so much?

It must in the genes. It can be exasperating. But so can golf, and I haven’t given it up yet.

Are you a plotter or a planner, or do you just jump in head first with nothing but a torch, a badge and a bottle of whiskey for company?  Oh no wait – that’s a character from one of your books isn’t it?

I don’t outline. I jump write in. Dean Koontz, a fantastic writer, said once that an author must outline because he has to know where his book is going. I agree with that 100 percent – I’ve just never been able to do it.

Ha-ha! I love Dean Koontz’s writing but I have to agree with you 100% on that one George! 😀

Do your fans help out with your ideas?

No, the lazy bums haven’t suggested anything. What can you do?

Indie or Old school publishing?

The latter. I’ve always been fortunate in that I’ve found a publisher for my novels. “At Play” was sold to “Moonshine Cove Publishing,” which I thought was a great name for a company publishing a treasure hunting tale.

Yes – had to be fate!

Is this book just one in an amazing series?

There may be a third book in my political thriller series. The two books have the same two main characters.

Which author got you hooked on this mysterious adventure called writing?

Initially, the authors of the Hardy Boys mysteries. Really enjoyed those books. Then I read the classic science fiction novel “The Dragon Masters” by Jack Vance and “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” by Ray Bradbury. I was forever hooked on science fiction and reading.

Book trailers – to do or not to do and do you have a cool one?

I don’t have one but may get one with my next novel.

Do you relax between caffeine-fuelled writing episodes.

More like coca-cola fueled episodes.

Ha-Ha!  I hear ya, Coke is a favourite of mine too – oh wait!  I think that classes as caffeine-fuelled too! 😀

Do you have a friendly bunch of peers in an AA meeting to motivate you? – sorry that’s the character again – I meant writers’ circle of course!

Not here. Although I recommend writing groups. When I was an editorial writer in Virginia, I was in a writing group and enjoyed the critiques and conversations.

Do you have an awesome sidekick, er, editor to help you?

I Have my aforementioned critique partner, Jayln, who is awesome and of course my wife, Denise, is wonderfully awesome, but doesn’t do a lot of editing.

Wives and husbands are often too close to be good editors I think – maybe they are meant to be there just to bounce ideas off of and scream and shout at when the writing isn’t going so well!  A Hardy bunch, the writer’s spouse! 😀

Tips / secrets / covert plans? – wait!  I’ve turned into a spy!  Tell me everything and I’ll give you the antidote for the poison I just put in your tea!  Ahhh I gave you the wrong cup!

Well, I did have a covert plan to take over the world but I gave it up. I’m semi-retired now and I just didn’t want another nine to five job.

Give us all your links – every one in your carefully constructed chain…

Blog is –  http://endtimestavern.com/And you can find all my books at Amazon.

Well all that’s left to do is thank George for being our fabulous guest author today.  If you would like to be featured on the Bookish Banter please drop me a line at laura.crean@yahoo.co.uk and put ‘Bookish Banter’ in the title.

❤ Laura Crean ❤

 

Bookish Banter – Featured Author – Laurel Bill

Published April 26, 2014 by Laura Crean Author

Saturday 26th April 2014

This week’s Bookish Banter is a little different.  My Featured Author, Laurel Bill is such an inspiring person I really wanted to get your attention and let her tell her amazing story, which is a story of her family’s love of history – specifically the history of their home – Alaska!  This truly is a generational story and I just hope that lots of you will see this post and be inspired as I have been.  Please share her story but most of all – enjoy it…

Bookish Banter

Feel free to introduce yourself…
Hi, I’m Laurel Downing Bill.

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Please can you tell us where you are from?
I’m a third-generation Alaskan, on both sides of my family. Great-grandfather John Couch Downing was a sea captain who piloted steamships from the West Coast up to Alaska all through the 1890, early 1900s. Great-grandfather Robert Burns Mathison arrived in 1896 and helped settle the little gold mining community of Hope, about 90 miles south of Anchorage.

I was born in Fairbanks in 1951 when Alaska was a territory of the United States. We moved to the state capital, Juneau, when Alaska became a state in 1959. I married a fisheries biologist in 1973, and he moved me to King Salmon (there were only about 350 people in the settlement and it was only accessible by air). We lived there for 23 years. I raised three children and worked as assistant general manger for the local telephone cooperative. My husband and I retired into Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, in 1997.

 How long have you been a writer?
I became a writer late in life. When my husband and I moved to Anchorage, my sister gave me my Alaska historian aunt’s body of work. Phyllis Downing Carlson, my father’s older sister, died in 1993 and had spent her life researching and writing about Alaska’s colourful past. Her articles appeared in national publications and she won many national awards for her stories. When I saw what she had compiled, I knew I had to do something with her life’s work.

Laurel Bill headshot Vol 4 Cover

So I went to collect to get the tools I knew I needed to do the job right. I earned my degree in journalism, with a minor in history, in 2003 at the age of 52. Then I began organizing my aunt’s work chronologically. When I spotted holes in the history she had covered, I then researched and wrote stories to fill in those blanks. For instance, she had never written about Juneau and I thought the people of Southeast Alaska might be a bit miffed if their story was not included in Alaska’s history!

As I put the first book together, which features the history from early arrival of the indigenous people up to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898, I thought that photographs would really enhance the storytelling. I searched through the archives of universities, libraries and museums to find just the right historical photos to go with the stories in that book. I ended up with more than 300 photographs that really help make the history pop!

I continued with the entertaining, short story, narrative style storytelling in my subsequent volumes in the series and each book now features close to 350 historical photographs. So far, the Aunt Phil’s Trunk Alaska history series takes readers up to 1960.

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
I currently am writing the fifth, and final, book in the history series. I hope to have it finished by summer 2015.

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I could have ended the series with Alaska becoming a state. But then people wouldn’t get “the rest of the story.” For instance, in 1964 the largest earthquake in North American history struck Alaska. I felt the stories of those who went through that disaster really needed to be told – as well as the stories of those who went through discovering the massive oil field in Prudhoe Bay in 1968, building the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline during the 1970s (through 800 miles of wilderness) and the devastating oil spill of the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound in1989.

Did you have to do a lot of research for your latest work or is this a field that you are already working in?
Each of my books has taken enormous amounts of time in research. Volume 5 in the series is no exception. In fact, it is taking me much more time because so many people still are alive who lived through this period in Alaska’s history. Each person has a different memory of the same event. And while their recollections help fill in some of the blanks, the actual facts of the various events must be accurate. So I spend a lot of time verifying.

Do you think your writing is improving the more you write?
Absolutely. The more one writes, the better one becomes. Practice, practice, practice!

Did you have any problems during the writing process of your latest work?
My biggest problem is finding time to write. Life just keeps intervening with family medical issues, new grandchildren being born and other life events that take me away from my research and writing. But that’s life. Remember when you were young and thought time seemed to stand still? Remember how your mother told you time would fly when you got older? She was right. Time does fly by faster as we age. And when we hit the 60s, time begins racing past at warp speed. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all I want to do!

 Why do you feel the need to put your books out there and who do you think will benefit most from them?
I began writing the Aunt Phil’s Trunk Alaska history series as a tribute to my aunt. But as each book builds on the next, I am realizing that I am writing for the people of Alaska. This series, which has been wildly successful with ages 9 to 99, shares our common past and highlights the ups and downs of the people who made/make the Last Frontier their home. But anyone interested in Alaska enjoys these books, as well.

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How much planning goes into a book? Do you spend a long time planning or do you just start writing and see where it leads you?
Ha, ha, ha! I thought I was planning out my work when I began this project back in 2003. But I just kept coming across the most incredible stories and felt compelled to share them. My one book has turned into four, with a fifth on the way. So I guess I’ll have to say that I now just write and see where it takes me!

Do you get ideas from personal experience or from people or events around you?
Well, with the Alaska history series my ideas come from what others have done/experienced and the events of the past. I did write another book, a sourdough cookbook, in which I relied on my own experiences and experiments. Remember that gold-mining great-grandfather I told you about earlier? He may have lost his gold, but he kept his sourdough starter alive and I have it.

After my husband’s triple bypass heart surgery a couple years ago, I began baking with less sodium, sugar and fat and created incredibly tasty sourdough recipes from that starter. Sourdough itself is so healthy for our bodies. I tested my concoctions on about two-dozen folks who lived around us and tweaked the recipes until they were perfect.

The end result was a selection of recipes that include treats like cranberry chocolate cake, white chocolate cherry muffins, breads, pancakes, pizza dough and even dog biscuits. My Sourdough Cookery cookbook debuted in 2012 and comes with a dried starter that began with great-grandfather Mathison in the gold fields of Alaska in 1896.

Once Volume 5 in my series is published, I would like to write a humorous account of my life in rural Alaska based on my experiences. I had a humour column titled A Slice of Life that appeared in some Alaska newspapers a few years ago and people said I was a cross between humourists Erma Bombeck and Tom Bodett. I’m looking forward to developing that idea.

What is your experience of the Publishing industry?
I did a lot of research into publishing when I started down this path. What I found was that if a mainstream publisher decided to take on your book, which is highly unlikely, it would take years before your book went to print. I also learned that writers, in general, don’t get the big cash advances as in the past; only get a few cents off each book sold; and have to market their books themselves (unless you are a famous star or political figure).

So I decided, if I was going to spend a ton of time writing a book and have to market it myself, then I wanted to be the one to benefit financially from that effort. I began my publishing journey with an on-demand publisher. When I got the proof of the first book in December 2005, I hand carried it to all the bookstores and gift shops in Anchorage. When almost each shop pre-ordered several copies, I knew I had done something special.

But I had a problem. My cost for the on-demand book was close to $12 per book. My books would have to retail for close to $30 each to make the project profitable. Authors need to remember that bookstores take a 40- to 50-percent discount and distributors take from 50 to 60% off the retail price to sell the author’s book.

That means a book, which retails for $30, that is sold to a distributor and discounted by 60 percent, earns $12 for the author. If the author paid $12 to make the book, he/she receives nothing as a profit.

As I was driving back home with my head spinning from doing the math and relishing the shopkeepers’ compliments, I passed by a print broker and pulled in to see what that company was all about. I learned they sent out bids to printers to get good deals so authors could publish their own books.

I had the company manager send out bid requests for my book, with the only stipulation that my books had to be printed in America. I didn’t want to be responsible for another American loosing a job. And since my books are all black and white text and photos, the bids between American printers and overseas printers are quite competitive. It’s when books are full colour that there is a substantial savings with using printers from overseas.

The bids came back at such a low cost for a couple thousand, that I jumped in with both feet. I ordered 2,000 copies and was able to lower the retail cost to $19.95, which was in the ballpark for other books in its category in the stores, and I could make a little money as well.

Volume 1 in the series was such a hit, that my initial order sold out within three months. I had to order several thousand more. To date, that volume now is in its fourth printing and has sold more than 20,000 copies.

The drawbacks to becoming my own publisher and ordering large quantities of books is the initial large output of capital and having to find storage space for that many books. I rented a storage unit for a couple years, but recently moved to a house that has a big double garage.

But I have never regretted my decision to become a self-published author. With four Alaska history books, a historical puzzle book and a cookbook published so far, I am happy I chose the self-publishing route and became a publishing company. I have complete control from start to finish, the books are selling like the proverbial hotcakes and I don’t have to share my revenues with another publishing house.

Is this book a part of a series? Where is it going?
Yes, my books are in a series. Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume 1 goes up to the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898; Volume 2 features stories from 1898 to 1912, including tales of early law and order (or lack thereof), building the Iditarod Trail and the great eruption of Novarupta that created the Valley of 10,000 Smokes; Volume 3, which covers 1912 to 1935, showcases the Alaska Railroad, Anchorage, the Matanuska Valley (where giant vegetables grow) and the fatal airplane crash of famous aviator Wiley Post and humourist Will Rogers near Barrow; and Volume 4, from 1935 to 1960, is filled with stories from World War II, the Cold War and Alaska’s struggle for statehood.

Have you had some good reviews for your book?
The reviews for my series have been amazing. Our local NBC station in Anchorage interviewed me for five hours! The resulting 7-1/2-minute news story was aired in three different time slots. Several newspapers across the state also have interviewed me and many have reviewed the books over the years – they all gave 5-star reviews.

Also, last year, Midwest Review gave my books a thumbs up and Volume 4 received finalist status in the Eric Hoffer Excellence in Independent Publishing contest. That’s a huge honour.

But for me, the best reviews come from my readers. They absolutely love the series. I have a list of several thousand who are patiently awaiting the arrival of Volume 5!

Your favourite Author is…
This is going to date me … my favourite author is Agatha Christie. I love murder mysteries.

What do you do to wind down?

I like to swim, golf and play with my grandchildren.

Do you belong to a friendly writers group and does it help?
Yes, I do belong to a local writers’ group in Anchorage. It’s always a good idea to surround yourself with other authors and bounce ideas off each other.

 What is you experience of editing and polishing your manuscripts?
During my last two years of college (2002-2003), I accepted a position as a copy editor with a newspaper company that printed seven weekly newspapers for villages across Alaska. I got quite good over the five years I spent editing news, feature, business and human-interest stories. I learned what bad and good writing was at that job. However, just like physicians should not treat themselves, a writer should not be his/her own copy editor.

I hire a professional copy editor to go over my manuscripts. It is money well spent.

 Any tips for all our budding authors out there wondering how to get started?
First, I would advise any budding authors to dig deep and discover their motives. If they want fame and fortune, then the writing world is probably not the path to take. If you just can’t help yourself and find you must write to feel whole, then you are on the right path.

It’s been said that there is a book inside each and every person. But while many folks say they want to write a book, few actually do. The prospect of filling a book with thousands of words is daunting.

However if you write a few words a day, pretty soon you will have many pages filled. Start with an idea and flush it out with an outline. Be flexible. Revise and rewrite often. Then share your work. Find a writer’s group. Many bookstores are the meeting place for writing groups. By sharing your work with others you will see how your creation is received – like a test group. And please hire a copy editor – not your mother, spouse or friend. A good copy editor is worth his/her weight in literature gold.

When your manuscript is close to finished, check out forums online to see what others are doing for publishing. There are several groups of published authors out there who are happy to share tricks of the trade and help up-and-coming authors avoid publishing pitfalls. LinkedIn has several groups, including book marketing, book review sharing and more.

Link city – as many as you need to guide us round your historical internet trail…
To learn more about my Aunt Phil’s Trunk Alaska history series, go to http://www.AuntPhilsTrunk.com

To read my Alaska history blog, check http://www.AuntPhilsTrunk/Alaska-history-blog/

To join my fan page on Facebook, where I share cool historical photographs and tidbits about the 49th state, go to http://www.Facebook.com/LaurelBillAuthor and “Like” my page

To follow me on Twitter, my handle is http://www.Twitter.com/LaurelBill

To follow my Pinterest boards, head to http://www.Pinterest.com/LaurelBill

Other connections: http://www.LinkedIn.com/LaurelBill, http://www.plus.google.com/+LaurelBill and you can always email me at auntphilstrunk@gmail.com

Thank you so much  for joining us here on the ‘Bookish Banter’ Laurel and taking time out to give us such an interesting insight into your writing world.  It’s been an absolute pleasure having you guide us around the historical trail of your family’s  and of course Alaska’s very colourful history.  Please come back and keep us updated on your wonderful series of history books.
Xx Laura Crean xX

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