Meet the Author: Bowing to Elephants by Mag Dimond

Today we travel to San Francisco, California to chat with Mag Dimond about how travel, elephants, silent retreats, a blue leather journal, Bach, and the Dalai Lama come together as sign posts on the path of Dimond’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in my “hometown” of San Francisco, where I lived as a child and to which I returned about 15 years ago after moving around quite a bit. I was raised by an eccentric woman who didn’t much like being a mother and who was an alcoholic as well. I was an only child. She took me to Italy when I was 11, and that pretty much changed my life. I became an expatriate at a young age, fell in love with an Italian boy at 14, and grew up pretty fast.

I grew up thirsting for love and affection and understanding….

I married young and was a mother at the age of 20. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I actually completed my college education, and following that I went into teaching writing at the college level (San Francisco State). I began traveling when I was in my thirties – with my husband and sometimes with my kids. Later on, when I was on my own I traveled alone and then with a newfound partner in my life. Travel in a way was an escape from the loneliness I felt in my life and it was also a way for me to learn about who I was…

I’ve lived in San Francisco, Ohio, New York, New Mexico, and of course Italy, and I generally feel at home no matter where I find myself.

I’m close to my two daughters, my five grandchildren, and I’m working on establishing a connection with my four year old great grandson who lives in Oregon.

I have been a Buddhist for over twenty years and attended many silent retreats – my life has changed profoundly because of this practice…. I love to cook, drink good wine, knit, play the piano, write, walk with my dog, read, go to museums, and be in conversation with dear friends.

In which genre do you write?

Non-fiction/essays/travel blogs/memoir

How many published books do you have?

One published book: Bowing to Elephants (pub Sept 2019) by She Writes Press

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

When I lived in Italy at the age of eleven… my stepfather gave me a beautiful blue leather journal complete with gold trim and little lock and key. I spent most afternoons with this journal, recording such things as loneliness, hunger for experience, questions about my mother’s eccentric behavior, excitement about what I was learning in school, and yearning for love. I was an only child and I had l a lot on my mind. I remember imagining then that one day what I wrote might eventually become published work that would be widely read. I had grown up around books and literature all my life, and this seemed a natural aspiration. Since that early time I persisted in recording my life in journals and notebooks, including my variety of travel experiences in adulthood. The journals were ultimately the scaffolding of my memoir, Bowing to Elephants.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I would choose the elephant. For several reasons: the elephant represents the matriarchal culture which feels familiar and comforting, and draws me to it. The elephant has a prodigious memory, carrying information about not only its own experiences in the wild, but that of its family members. They say that the elephant has “historical memory,” which connects it to its distant past. Who wouldn’t want to have such a vast store of memory? It boils down to maternal love and memory. Growing up with a woman who couldn’t mother me, whom I tried to love, I always looked for this kind of love; in working on my book I discovered that my memory of the distant past was murky and full of holes, and this disturbed me. A therapist once taught me that when childhood trauma has occurred, it’s likely that memories of one’s early days will be lacking in detail, or may vanish entirely….

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I am a great grandmother and proud of it.
I am a terrific (gourmet) cook.
I frequently imagine these past lives: I was once a monastic studying in an Italian monastery, I was a mosaic artist in Venice who helped to create brilliantly colored church interiors…

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

It was born out of my amazing collection of travel journals (from Italy, France, Burma, India, Cambodia, Africa, Vietnam, and so on…). The raw material was all in those “diaries,” and all that needed to be done was figure out how to lay out the whole story as I wove in the important segments about my childhood.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I play Bach on my grandmother’s baby grand, I walk by the Pacific Ocean with my little dog Peaches, I meditate every day, I cook beautiful food, drink good wine, I’m addicted to British murder mysteries (Morse, Prime Suspect) on TV, I knit scarves in luscious colors, I read at least two books at the same time (currently into American history), I eat out frequently in my hometown of SF, I travel (of course!) either alone or with family members…

If you could have a fantasy tea with a famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

If I had tea with the Dalai Lama, I would ask him to share his secret for accessing happiness, given the deep and relentless suffering he has endured in his long life. All humans want happiness – it is a universal desire – and this man is the embodiment of this emotion. I would like him to share his wisdom with me.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

I’ve learned that despite my propensity for seriousness and looking into the darkness, I have a surprising capacity to be funny and irreverent at times!

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

That moment where I know in my bones and in my heart that I have grabbed ahold of an elusive, murky, and important memory from the past and have made it come alive, have made it knowable to my reader.

What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

The most inspiring thing was looking into the eyes of a giant elephant in Kenya almost twenty years ago; this humbled me, and transformed my mind and heart, and I can say I haven’t been the same since. I’ve been driven all these years to learn as much as I can about this extraordinary animal and to advocate for its survival. What I saw in those eyes: love, acceptance, gentleness, intelligence.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I had two very special friends growing up: Sue and Lynn – they were sisters. From the time I was four, we spent our days together as a threesome. They lived upstairs from me, and we alternated playing in my apartment or in theirs. We had piano lessons together with a very formal French lady, we made up plays, and we conjured things in the kitchen… They represented family to me, and their mother Josephine was a true bodhisattva, offering love and affection and food and laughter. With my friends and their mother, I felt like I “belonged.”

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

How does it feel NOT to have an obsessive brain like people have? Good??
How do feel about the job I’m doing, really?
If you could be taken anywhere, where would you like me to take you?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

My love of words. If it weren’t for my love of beautiful language (and in fact pretty much all beauty!), and my lurking belief that I had the capacity to use words really well, then my book perhaps wouldn’t have been completed. There was a sense that I owed it to myself to craft the most moving, lyrical, and honest work I could and offer it up to the world. I guess I was convinced my words needed to be read.

Tell us about the book:

Bowing to Elephants is a very intimate narrative about traveling in the world and ultimately discovering deep truths about oneself. Beginning as a series of travel essays, it then morphed into a layered memoir that peeled away layers from childhood to look at what drove me to explore the places I chose. I carried an insatiable need to find answers, connection with others, and ultimately to forgive myself for the darkness I held for my narcissistic mother. Thanks to travel, writing, and Buddhist practice, I found many of the answers I was seeking, and most importantly learned to love myself.

It was wonderful learning more about you and your history, Mag. Your book sounds fascinating! Sending you much love and blessings! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

BOWING TO ELEPHANTS, Tales of a Travel Junkie is a travel memoir… with a twist.

An unloved rich girl from San Francisco becomes a travel junkie to escape a dysfunctional family and a narcissistic, alcoholic mother.

Thanks to a journey of healing and self-discovery, the author navigates depression, loneliness, and loss while learning how to break down the false barriers that separate people.

Music, art, and food influence our hero as she finds her way to far-flung parts of the world.

By the end, Dimond accepts the death of the mother she never really had ― and finds forgiveness, peace and her authentic self in the refuges of travel and Buddhist practice.

BOWING TO ELEPHANTS is an epic adventure — Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, India, and San Francisco — that transformed the author’s life.

More than a travel memoir, readers will be inspired by one woman’s journey of self-discovery, healing, and forgiveness… as they encounter strange lands, tantalizing foods, and mesmerizing characters (including a 14,000- pound African elephant).

Pub. Date September 17, 2019 Publisher: She Writes Press 
 List Price: $16.95
ISBN: 9781631525964

Where to find the book:

The book is available in all independent bookstores –

IndieBound.com for complete information on whereabouts of such bookstores. It is also available on Amazon.

Connect with Mag Dimond:

Dimond offers her free 10 minute mediation on lovingkindness for those interested in following her and signing on to her list. www.bowingtoelephants.com/gift

Dimond’s website: www.magdimond.com/news

Facebook: www.facebook.com/travelswithmag
Twitter: @DimondMag
Instagram: magpiesbeads

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Meet the Author: The Gift of Crisis by Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley

Today we travel to Los Angeles, California to chat with Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley about how Stephen King, journal writing, volunteering with the Peace Corps, asking questions, and Bill Murray come together as part of Bridgitte’s past and current life.

In which genre do you write?

I write about spirituality and personal growth which often falls under self-help. My book is a memoir categorized under self-help and spirituality.

How many published books do you have?

This is my first published book!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

As an only child for 16 years, I loved to read beyond my skill level. I always carried a pocket dictionary while reading Stephen King books. I’ve been writing in journals since I was in the fourth grade and I still have every single one of them! Writing has always been my “go to response”. It remains my first choice of practice to reflect and give voice to what’s inside. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just didn’t know about what I would write. And then came the crisis…which brought about an unintended literary gift.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

Although I love it so much, it’s hard! I always feel such ambivalence; like there is something in me that wants to be said, swirling around inside constantly reminding of its presence. I don’t always know what wants to be said, so I wait until it’s clear or until the swirling and pushing is too intense to ignore. At that point, I start writing until I feel like there has been a purge. When it’s out onto the paper I can relax…at least until the swirling begins again.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

Neytiri from Avatar! She is all heart and means what she says. In short, Neytiri does not play around.

What are you currently reading?

I recently finished BEHOLD THE DREAMERS by Imbolo Mbue, which was an astoundingly profound and well-written read. “The novel is about the fragility of the American Dream as told through the experiences of two New York City families during the 2008 financial crisis: an immigrant family from Cameroon, the Jonga family, and their wealthy employers, the Edwards family.” This book resonated with me because Mbue lost her job in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, as did I, and was unemployed for a year and a half.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras.
I speak Spanish.
I LOVE to dance.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

In 2005, during a disturbing turn of events, my husband was hospitalized due to the onset of symptoms for a stroke. He was 33 years-old. In every way imaginable we were unprepared to deal with the long term effects of the challenges that lie ahead. The financial distress, parental responsibility, unexamined emotional wounds, blame, resentment, fear and anger unearthed elements of our psyche that nearly destroyed us and our marriage.
The loss of his ability to work propelled us into the beginning stage of what became the most prolonged and difficult period of our lives. For the next several years, we experienced the devastating loss of our home through foreclosure, ruptured familial relationships, job loss and a steady decline of our marriage.

Throughout this period there were times when I believed myself to be the victim. It wasn’t until I turned to meditation, prayer and journaling to make it through each day and began sincere self-examination, that I was ready to understand the circumstances provided an invitation for growth.

For more than one year, I sat down in a meditative state to ask questions to help me mentally and emotionally navigate the difficult and uncertain times I faced.

During meditation, in addition to periods of silence after prayer, I began to ask questions to solicit clarity and guidance into my awareness. The more I posed questions during a meditative state, I began to notice answers would indeed come into my awareness. However, as soon as the meditation session was over, I forgot the guidance which came into my awareness.

The only way to remember was to write it down. It was at that time I decided to bring a journal to my meditation sessions.

In the midst of this silent struggle, I turned within for at least 20 minutes a day to be able to make it through each day. I continued to meditate and write in my journal. Meditation grew to become the most practical, accessible and effective way I found to calm myself of the anxiety-ridden thoughts that propelled me.

At the time, I had no idea the practice I created around journaling would become my first book almost seven years later.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

Writing is absolutely a skill that can be honed. I used to think writing was an innate talent, but I now see yes, you can have a propensity to be good at writing due to interest. However, with effort, patience, practice and the willingness to allow space for something new, you can absolutely take your writing to unexpected heights.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Here is a little piece I wrote last year that sums up why I write:

There once was young girl who loved to write. It was all she thought of, day and night, how to tell stories, how she could tell stories. With her stories, she wanted to share her heart, her hopes, her dreams, what she learned, what she had seen and all she hoped to experience. This way – writing stories – is her way to connect, to go deeper within her feelings and her spiritual life. She yearned to talk, to tell, to communicate, not because she wanted to be seen, but because this was her heart’s desire – the impetus to be of service in this way. She understood the power of the written word, the way it influences the heart and mind, the way it creates shifts, movements, and awakenings. She understood this because she experienced this and nothing has given her greater comfort, joy and pull to act. Through the written word, she wanted to tell her story to help others create a new story – not just for themselves, but for everyone.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. How do you do to prepare yourself?

I wrote about this in an article for The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Here are questions of which I eagerly anticipate the responses at my book events:

Who traveled the farthest distance to attend the event? Select three members of the audience to share their favorite “word of mouth” recommendation for my book. How do they describe my book to someone who has not read it? Someone once described it as a ‘metaphysical thriller’!
Ask what was the unexpected or surprise take away they received from reading my book.

Every interview, conversation and presentation carries a different energy – an energy of its own. Sometimes I can prepare in advance and know what to expect and other times not. I find it refreshing and comforting to know regardless of what I am asked about my book, what needs to come through will come through. I don’t have to have it all figured out. Sometimes I’m compelled to say specific things and other times I’m not. I’ve learned to trust that what comes through is exactly what is needed and wanted to be said and heard in that moment.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Days with my grandmother.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

I recently watched ‘What About Bob’ with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus for the hundredth time! I love this movie so much I almost have the entire movie dialogue committed to memory. “…come on, I’ve come so far. I’m baby-steppin’! I’m doing the work! I’m baby-steppin’! I’m not a slacker!…give me, give me, give me, I need I need I need…” This is by far one of the best comedies ever made.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently sitting with the idea for my next book. It’s “swirling” but hasn’t revealed itself; therefore, during the waiting period I’m working on a spiritual sci-fi script with my screenwriting partners, continuing with my blog on Medium and hosting an online video summit!

In The Gift of Crisis Video Summit, each featured guest is the quintessential example of transformation that can take place when you undergo tough times or difficult circumstances.

While the summit title mirrors that of my book, the focus of the summit will be on 10 authors who have also undergone a crisis and share their experience and insights through writing. Over the years I have benefited tremendously from the writing of authors who poignantly demonstrate the gifts we can find and cultivate in our darkest times. It is an ongoing intention of mine to pay-it-forward by highlighting spiritually uplifting and important stories of hope, resilience, and compassion for self and others.

It’s been a pleasure learning more about your journey to a published book, Bridgitte. Thank you for being a part of MTA! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley was one of the 8.8 million people who lost their jobs and experienced foreclosure in The Great Recession. With her back against the wall, faced with challenges many of us would find hard to survive, Bridgitte realized the only place she could go was within – exactly where she needed to go. Here, for the first time, she reveals how to explore crisis as a tool for courageous change, regaining your self-esteem with self-love and self-compassion. The Gift of Crisis will show how repeated crises can serve as a catalyst to reveal the underlying purpose, and how questions posed during a meditative state can reveal answers that can redirect your life. Practical and deeply inspiring, this book shows you how meditation and prayer can assist during any type of crisis as a means to a calmer, clearer, more courageous and purposeful life.

Where to find the book:

THE GIFT OF CRISIS: HOW I USED MEDITATION TO GO FROM FINANCIAL FAILURE TO A LIFE OF PURPOSE can be found wherever books are sold AND in local libraries!

Connect with Bridgitte:

Medium: https://medium.com/@bjacksonbuckley3

Website: https://www.bjbuckley.com/

Social media links: Instagram and Facebook

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Meet the Author: A Very Important Teapot by Steve Sheppard

Today we’re traveling to Bampton in west Oxfordshire to chat with Steve Sheppard about how bingo, prison, Yackandandah, and cricket come together as part of Steve’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and brought up in Guildford in the heart of the Surrey stockbroker belt but, having failed to meet any stockbrokers, I moved to west Oxfordshire 23 years ago, where I now live with my wife, Anabel and the latest in a long series of recalcitrant cats in a quintessentially quirky, not-quite-Cotswold village called Bampton. This is of course the UK we’re talking about as nowhere else in the world can legally describe itself as not-quite-Cotswold. There used to be a son living here too, but apparently he moved out three months ago.

I have been many things in my time, including Bingo Manager, Estate Agent and Prison Officer, not forgetting many years selling unwanted goods and services to uninterested buyers. I now sit in the corner of an office four days a week making lots of coffee and trying to explain how offices used to function with just a Gestetner printer and one phone between ten people. I spend hours answering questions along the lines of: Was the whole world in black and white or was that just television? To which the answer is of course Yes.

I’m also on course to be the world’s oldest active cricketer, although active is an entirely relative term.

In which genre do you write?

Comedy fiction; in particular, as I have so far written just the one book, comedy spy thrillers, although I hope to branch out once I’ve written a couple more books in a series that has begun with A Very Important Teapot. The first draft of Book 2, as yet unnamed, although with a working title of Bored to Death in the Baltic, is almost finished. There may be some serious editing to go through, although hopefully I won’t have to knock 20% (20,000 words) off it like I did with Teapot.

How many published books do you have?

One, A Very Important Teapot, published by Claret Press, London in October 2019. Despite being older than Methuselah, I sincerely hope it won’t be the last (see above). I’d like to spend my life writing full-time but my bank manager does not currently think that is possible. Hopefully though, not too far hence.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I’ve always been a writer (probably inspired by my older brother) but it has taken me 45 years to actually turn that into an actual book. I had some poems published in an anthology back in 1972 but stopped writing poetry for good in my early 20s, advisedly as none of them were particularly good. Some weren’t awful though. My collected poetical works disappeared during a house move in the mid-nineties and the world is not a poorer place for their loss. Since then I have written short comic pieces, trivia, tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, for captive audiences (work mags, cricket clubs, drama groups, unfortunates like that). Over the years I’ve started several books that were intended to become full-length but always ended up 15 pages long. Good at starts, it’s the middles and ends that defeated me.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

It would look nothing like what it actually looks like, which is currently a small corner of the dining room with a wonderful view of a shed and the kitchen cooker. However, my son’s ex-room is being turned into a writing and music den. Somehow the room is smaller than it used to be, but at least I’ll have a bigger desk and a proper chair (and a view of the roof of the aforesaid shed).

What are you currently reading?

I only have about 20 books currently in my to-read pile. Mainly I’m reading Mick Herron. I only discovered him late last summer, so my research must be atrocious. I pride myself on my snappy dialogue but I am absolutely an amateur in that respect compared to Mick.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I was on holiday in south eastern Australia in March 2017. Literally on the flight home, I said OK, I‘m going to write from now until the end of the year and see where I get to. Don’t worry about an A to Z plot (I always managed to convince myself I couldn’t come up with a full-length plot), just do it and see. The result was A Very Important Teapot and, surprise surprise, it is very largely set in south eastern Australia. I even went to Yackandandah (yes, it’s a real place) and its folk festival, which feature heavily.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? 

No, although I did for many years through my 20s and into my my 30s. Think how many potential books those millions of wasted words equate to.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

I wouldn’t listen to a song. I’d go to the toilet a lot instead.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

I’ll let you know. I have a library event coming up in Carterton, Oxfordshire on 24 July.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Not having to answer the phone. Who the heck had a phone back then? And I mean a landline. In a house. It was a novelty when we had one installed. All my mates came round to marvel at it.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? 

I already have. Dawson is me, well for the first few chapters anyway. Except that he has more hair.

A giraffe knocks on your door and is wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?

Well, clearly he’s a wrong delivery from a company called Animazon. In case that’s a confusing answer, you may wish to read http://stevesheppardauthor.com/short-stories/giraffe …. And actually, he doesn’t say anything but he does eat some toothpaste.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

1. How the heck do you manage to sleep so much?

2. How the heck do you manage to sleep so much?

3. How the heck do you manage to sleep so much?

What are you currently working on?

I am currently desperately working on a title for Book 2. I set the titular bar pretty high with A Very Important Teapot. I need to find one before it gets published. I never expected this to be a thing. I’d come up with A Very Important Teapot almost before the metaphorical ink was dry on the first page.

It was such fun learning more about you, Steve. Love your sense of humor and the fabulous short story you wrote about the giraffe. Wishing you all the best, with much success on this book and future books! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

A Very Important Teapot is available everywhere. Obviously on Mr Amazon (.co.uk and .com) and all other online retailers in the UK, including Waterstones, Foyles, WH Smith etc, as well as many abroad (that’s abroad from where I’m sitting, obviously). Any bookshop can get it for you although only those in my immediate part of Oxfordshire will actually have it siting on their shelves. You can get it, signed if you want a damaged copy, from me via www.stevesheppardauthor.com.

Amazon UK:

US:

Kindle too!

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46690093-a-very-important-teapot

Publisher: https://www.claretpress.com/idk

Blurb

Dawson is going nowhere. Out of work and nearly out of money, he is forlornly pursuing the love of Rachel Whyte. But Rachel is engaged to Pat Bootle, an apparently successful local solicitor who has appeared from nowhere.

Then, out of the blue, Dawson receives a job offer from his best friend, Alan Flannery, which involves him jumping on a plane to Australia to “await further instructions”. But instructions about what?

This is the start of a frantic chase around south eastern Australia with half the local underworld, the police and the intelligence agencies of three countries trying to catch up with Dawson.

What is Flannery’s game?

Why has Pat Bootle turned up in Australia?

Who is the beautiful but mysterious Lucy Smith?

What is the teapot’s secret?

What has folk music got to do with anything?

And how do guns actually work?

Dawson’s life will never be the same again.

Connect with Steve:

http://stevesheppardauthor.com/

Twitter: @stevesheppard2

Facebook: @AVeryImportantTeapot

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Meet the Author: Mad, Sad Dysfunctional Dad by Stephen Gillatt

Today we travel to Faversham in the South East of England to talk with Stephen Gillatt about how country walks, mental health, escapism, writing in the maternity ward, sea lions, climbing fences, and Denise the Menace come together as part of Stephen’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Stephen Gillatt, I live in a town, my hometown, called Faversham. It’s in Kent, in the South East of England. I live here with my wife and two young daughters. I refer to them affectionately as ‘my three beautiful ladies’. I write anywhere, as long as my phone has battery! But for self-care, I like going on country walks and going fishing. As well as reading autobiographies – I like reading about the challenges, successes, complexities, struggles and beauty of life. People are staggering.

In which genre do you write?

At the moment I write non-fiction (memoirs). I’m writing what I know!

How many published books do you have?

I was lucky enough to publish my first book in July 2019. It’s about fatherhood and mental health. But also explores addiction, self-harm, therapy, relationships and suicide. I talk and write about things a lot of people won’t or can’t. My friends describe my writing as uncomfortable but important. Being a parent is such a wonderful privilege, but for so many there can be a darker side, which is felt, but rarely talked about. I try to write in a way people can identify with; that might help someone who’s struggling, and hopefully provide their partners’ with a window in the lives of the people they love and worry about.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

When I was very unwell, I started writing as a form of escapism. A lot of people say it’s cathartic, but for me, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes facing how you really feel and are, is painful and uncomfortable. But then I began to realise I might be able to use my experiences to help others.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I write at any time, any place, anywhere. I’m only bound by my phone battery! And I do very little editing. Most of my writing is ‘one-take’ so to speak. It’s literally just like putting thoughts and memories on to paper. I also wrote an entry for my first book in the maternity ward, after the birth of my second daughter. But I’m not sure whether this is quirkiness or madness …. That’s for other people to decide! If you see me on my phone, I’m more likely to be writing than texting or using social media!

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I’m a fanatical Liverpool Football Club fan! I’ve supported them for as long as I can remember. So it would have to be the (mythical) Liver Bird. Which is on the club badge.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I wrote my first book on my phone. On buses, trains, at work, before and after therapy. In bars, hospitals, everywhere. The world is my writing space! If I had the time to have a writing place; it would be sitting by the lakes near my house. The only background noise being birdsong and the lapping of the water against the bank.

What are you currently reading?

I have a ridiculously short attention span, so I have a few! Happyslapped by a Jellyfish (Karl Pilkington), The Rum Diary (Hunter.S.Thompson) Being Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) and A season on the Brink (Guillem Balague).

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I went to a full moon party in the world’s highest city – La Paz, Bolivia

I once had to eat my Christmas dinner through a straw

I swam out half a mile to swim with wild sea lions in Iquique, Chile. It was totally unsupervised. Five of them surrounded me. I felt totally safe. I was amazing.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

My second book, which I am currently trying to place, is the culmination of years of people continually saying I should write a book about my life. My friends say you couldn’t make it up. So I started writing it. And the few people who’ve read the manuscript, love it. Now I just need to find an agent or publisher who loves it! But you know what? I absolutely love it. So I might even self-publish. I want my daughters to be able to read about the ridiculous and fun-filled life I have had. And not just my first book; about my challenges and pain. People are so much more than their mental and physical illnesses.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I work full time! I work in social housing, with organisations who provide support and housing to vulnerable people in society. I also have two young children… So time is at a premium! If I do get spare time, or time for self-care, I like walking, fishing, sport and reading.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with a famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Paul Gascoigne. I was lucky enough to see his greatest goal against Scotland in 1996. I want to ask him, (after the way he was treated by the press beforehand) how scoring that goal really felt; what the rush was like. He watched his best friend die when he was ten. I’d like to ask him, today, if he has forgiven himself. Or if he still blames himself. I’d like to ask him if he thinks there is enough support for men in society today. I’d like to ask him if he lived his life again, would he change anything? Would he swap being free of addiction and mental illness for not being a professional footballer? And I’d like to ask him what he would say to men who are struggling in their lives, in order to try and help them not go through what he has. What I have.

Muhammed Ali – I’d like to ask him about the stand he took against the Vietnam War. How he found the courage, to, at the height of his career (March 9, 1966) give up everything. And if he ever regretted the way he sometimes ridiculed opponents in the build-up to big fights.

I’d also love to sit with Lance Armstrong and just ask him ‘why?’

I generally only read non-fiction to my daughters at bedtime!

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I can write poetry. I now write a lot of micro poetry, so a poem the length of one tweet. I’m not even sure how it started, but I publish quite a bit on Twitter. And some people seem to like it, although it can be very dark. But I like them, and am proud of them. Writing should make us happy.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

That I’ve found a creative avenue that helps me process my struggles, while helping people with the struggles in their own lives.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?

I’ll be honest. Despite having a short attention span; the memories I’ve used in my books are vivid. Like dreams I’ve captured and stored in my head. When I write, it’s often because I have a surge of memories (or creativity). I write them down. Then see how they fit into the manuscript I am working on. And then some random things when I reminisce with friends!

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

My first book is a diary! It was written over eighteen months. One year of daily entries, including from a set of therapy sessions. I was given permission to use exit and exit questionnaires, it’s real life. Then six months after I stopped, I experienced a very severe bought of paternal post-partum depression (PPPD). Research says about ten percent of men experience this. So it spans eighteen months in total. Which was my wife’s full labour, the birth of our second daughter, and then a very difficult time afterwards. Now my Twitter account is my (interactive) diary.

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

I was knocked over by a bus in the early hours of the morning in the car park of The Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul, after the 2005 Champions League (football) final. I traveled on my own, via Bulgaria, and it was an epic trip. I’ve written a sport travel memoir called ‘4000 miles of mayhem – An imbecile in Istanbul, and other countries’. Oh, and I’m the imbecile!

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

Well, I am lucky enough to have been invited to speak about my book at a Literary Festival on February 22nd, In Faversham, Kent. Where I live. I think I’ll have a cup of tea. Chill out, speak to a few of the people who have paid to come and see me (I’m donating all ticket proceeds to the mental health community garden where I’m speaking). As for a song? There are so many, Maybe ‘Mummy’s Boy’ by Wretch 32, or ‘Porcelain’ by Moby. I love travelling and The Beach is a favourite film of mine.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to do telephone, podcast and broadcast interviews in the last year. The first time I was nervous, but as I got used to the way things work, the nerves ebbed away. I also absolutely believe in what I am trying to do. And I really enjoy it, and remember how lucky I am to be able to talk about things that are so important to me, and that people relate to. Mental health and mental Illness (I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Depression in October 2019) has, and always will be, a big part of my life. I’m now trying to do things in my professional and personal life to help people who are living, and especially struggling with mental health problems and mental illness.

What do you miss about being a kid?

How free I felt. The excitement of waking up on a Saturday morning. Meeting my friends. Climbing over a fence, so we could play football on a crisp, immaculate, school football pitch. The crunch of the frost underfoot. Falling over, laughing at ourselves. How the sun warmed us up, and we slowly stopped seeing our breath. Imagining being a professional footballer. And during those times, sharing our dreams, and on those mornings, the three of us, making them our reality. Walking home, just feeling warm. Not because of the sun, but because of the unconditional friendships we had back then. And the laughs we had, the stories we could tell, and the memories we were creating.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

Don’t regret what you have done, your choices, and where your life it as. Be grateful for the friends you have and the memories you’ve made. Nobody is perfect, but you are trying your best to make a difference. And you still have time. But above all, do not feel like a failure.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Definitely Dennis The Menace! I wasn’t exactly well-behaved as a kid, so his antics would be right up my street!

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? If you write non-fiction or memories, what fictional character would you invite into your story and why?

As I (currently) write memoirs, all of my characters are real.

But I’d like to invite Vito Corleone ‘The Godfather’ into my world for a day. I’d like to share authentic Italian food and fine wine with him. I’d love to hear his musings about health and family, mental health too. As well as his take on respect, values, success, failure, and leaving a legacy.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

The Irishman (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci). I love reading about the history of gangsters and the mafia. I love films made about it too. This history of the Bufalino crime family is really interesting. I watch the Godfather trilogy a few times a year. It’s a masterpiece.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

He’s out of ice, and wants to go out for chilli!

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Yes, I believe in fate… I was supposed to go fishing in Morocco for my 30th birthday. I missed my flight, so traveled to Leeds to party with some friends. Shortly after being back I met my second wife. We connected instantly. Now, we have been married eight years in April, and have two beautiful daughters. There is no way I would have met my wife if I had not missed my flight. I was planning to try to get a job in Morocco, and never return to England.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

I have a cat. I’d ask what it would really like to eat? Why can’t you just sleep in the comfy bed we have bought, instead of the bloody sofa! Why do you wait until just before I want to go to bed before you want to do out! (we don’t have a cat-flap).

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Empathy. I have had a difficult life (who hasn’t) so I never judge anyone. You never really know what people are going through. You only ever know what they decide to tell you. Everyone leads a double life to some degree.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

I live on the coast. So I’m lucky to have beautiful beaches a few miles away. I love water. I suppose this is why I like freshwater (catch and release) fishing. There is also a nature walk very near my house. I have been going there regularly for the last six years with my wife and daughters, and at the right time of year, we pick wild blackberries. It always makes me happy, even when the weather is bad… We just go puddle-jumping!

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

I’d take myself to a lake. Arrive under darkness and watch the sun rise. Cast my rods out and chill out on my bed-chair. Turn on the radio or a podcast, and maybe read a little. Even have a snooze. Then bask in the glory of the sunset. Enjoying a large hot chocolate (with a little splash of something as a treat) as I’m enveloped by dusk, eventually darkness, and a star-sprinkled sky.

What are you currently working on?

Finding a publisher for my second book, and writing my third book about mental health and social media. Its working title is ‘Making mental health social’ But most importantly, maintaining my (decent) mental health, and just enjoying every minute of family life as me and my wife watch our amazing daughters grow up.

It was wonderful learning more about you, your background, and writing style. Thanks much for being a part of MTA, Stephen! All the best to you and here’s to success with your writings! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

‘Mad, Sad, Dysfunctional Dad’ is available in paperback and kindle version:

On Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mad-Sad-Dysfunctional-Stephen-Gillatt-ebook/dp/B07TVLBPGQ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=stephen+Gillatt&qid=1580309131&sr=8-1

The Conrad Press https://theconradpress.com/product/mad-sad-dysfunctional-dad/

Connect with Stephen:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/talkingcl

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-gillatt-26383816b/

Email: stephen@talkingchangeslives.org

A short television feature Stephen recently did for the BBC: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/stephen-gillatt-26383816b_mentalhealth-resilience-depression-ugcPost-6625164227432730624-HO53

About Stephen:

Stephen is a customer service, public relations and housing practitioner with twenty years’ experience across three sectors. Most recently working in income recovery within social housing and local council community development.

Stephen has been living with mental health problems for twenty-five years and was diagnosed as living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in October 2019. In his teens and early twenties, Stephen battled a gambling addiction which resulted in him dropping out of University. Six years ago, Stephen had a nervous breakdown. And two years later began writing his fatherhood and mental health memoir ‘Mad, sad, dysfunctional dad’ (published July 2019) in which he opens-up about post-partum depression, self-harm and therapy. The joys, and struggles of being a dad, and the pressure to just keep going. And how this pressure broke him. But also, how great things can come from the darkest places.

Over the last eighteen months Stephen has featured in several local and national interviews, and in January of this year, featured in a special report aired on the BBC. During this time, he also started event speaking, his first, a Housing Quality Network (HQN) which focused on income recovery, rent arears and mental health. He is now confirmed at an additional six event in 2020.

In February 2020 Stephen will be speaking about his book at the Faversham Literary Festival; and is now writing his second and third book. As well as writing for HQN in his spare time.

Stephen is passionate about mental health (especially men’s), and mental health in the workplace; recently designing and writing a set of workshops for staff, managers, students and prisoners under the banner ‘My mental MOT’. He is currently exploring other ideas to improve mental health in business and society.

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Meet the Author: Mud and Glass by Laura Goodin

Today we’re traveling to Melbourne, Australia, by way of Wollongong, to chat with Laura Goodin about how Fafnir, juggling, being a bellringer, getting whupped with birch twigs, fencing, and the Pocono mountains come together as part of Laura’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a born and raised American who has been living in Australia for the past 24 years (the first 19 in a small, gritty city called Wollongong; more recently in Melbourne, a large, eccentric, and very artistic city). While I’ve been writing since I was seven years old, and have always worked in jobs where writing was a key element, I only stared into the abyss and started writing creatively on any serious basis (meaning, I finished what I started and I submitted my work to publishers and agents) in my mid-40s. Since then I’ve published several dozen stories and two novels, and had my plays, libretti, and poetry performed internationally. I also attended the Clarion South Workshop in 2007 and received a PhD in creative writing from the University of Western Australia in 2015. I’m currently working on some academic papers (and serving as co-editor-in-chief of Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research), a novel, a radio play, a stage play, and too many stories.

In which genre do you write?

I mainly, but not exclusively, write fantasy and science fiction.

How many published books do you have?

Two: After the Bloodwood Staff, which is a humorous, genre-disrupting look at Victorian adventure fiction, and Mud and Glass, which is at once a fond satire of academic life and a manifesto of resistance against a nascent totalitarian regime, and is also funny (I’m told).

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

When I get stuck, I can sometimes get unstuck by juggling (albeit badly).

What are you currently reading?

The geekiest book in the world. It’s not a book about Shakespeare – no, no, no! It’s a 600-page book ABOUT books ABOUT Shakespeare.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I’m a bellringer (tower bells, the big ones). I have a pilot’s license (airplane, single-engine, land) and a second-degree black belt (tae kwon do). I once got whupped with birch twigs in a steamy Siberian sauna.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

The list is endless. I earn money with a mix of editing (I run an editing business that specializes in academic editing), coaching fencing, and grading assessments for one of the universities here in Australia. Non-money activities include looking after my geriatric racehorse, ringing bells, running a fencing club for immigrant kids, camping and hiking at highly irregular intervals, and generally trying to be as much like Xena, Warrior Princess as possible. I also occasionally produce plays and other performance events and sing in choirs.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

I do write in a journal. I seldom go back and reread it; the object of the game is to integrate the physical act of writing with the mental act of reflective practice. Putting words to what I’m thinking and feeling creates a still pool of understanding and perspective in my otherwise chaotic brain.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What do you do to prepare yourself?

Oddly, I don’t do much. Unlike most writers, I adore public speaking, and the most I’ll do is take a few deep breaths and make sure one last time that all the technology is in order. It’s the same when I teach: I really enjoy going just a bit over the top to make everything energetic and engaging. Moreover, I feel much more authentic when I speak candidly to groups. At one point I had a job that required me to give literally thousands of live-to-air radio and television interviews, and I got quite comfortable with public speaking. Then I started lecturing, and found that the more authentic I was, the more the students were willing to work with me. So I got to really enjoy talking to groups, because they seemed to enjoy listening to me. That’s quite satisfying, and I willingly seek out opportunities to teach, do readings, perform poetry, and just plain talk about things that are important to me.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Absolutely nothing whatsoever. Except maybe the perfect eyesight I enjoyed until I was about seven years old. I sometimes have dreams where my vision is spectacularly clear, and I can only assume it’s based on memories from my early childhood.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

I do not believe things happen for a reason, and I feel that saying so cheapens the grief and horror that people legitimately feel at the tragedies and crises in their lives. Sometimes life is just plain bad, and to try to “make it better”, especially by saying that somehow it’s “for the best”, is incredibly disrespectful toward the people who are suffering. I need to state outright here that I’m an ardent Christian, and I still don’t believe “things happen for a reason” in any way that humans can possibly make sense of. It’s almost insulting (particularly to God) to pretend we can understand what such a purpose might be. Honor people’s pain and grief. Don’t try to wish or explain it away.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

My karate teacher, who is a very wise woman, says, “Our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses.” My anxiety has been both for me: sometimes it drives me to accomplish superhuman feats; sometimes it traps me in trembling immobility. I’m still figuring out why one or the other manifests at any given time.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

In the US, there’s a small town on the Pennsylvania side of the northern Delaware River called Milford. It’s not only incredibly beautiful, set within the Pocono mountains and hard on the banks of the river, it’s also incredibly peaceful, and it has an impressive history as a retreat for creative people from all disciplines. In fact, it was one of the hotbeds of American science-fiction and fantasy writing in the 1960s and 1970s. Maybe it’s ley lines or feng shui or something. I can’t explain it. But it’s where I’m happiest.

In Australia, it’s the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, especially if you include the Wollemi National Park. Amazing, deep, uncanny scenery for as far as you care to hike.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

This is the perfect solo date I used to take myself on when I lived in Washington, DC: I’d ride my bike down to the Mall in the morning and spend all day hanging out in museums. The best weather for this was either spring or fall, because in the summer, DC gets disgustingly hot, and I’d get all sweaty riding to the museums, and then I’d get chilled to the bone once I went into the air conditioning. Then I’d ride my bike back home, and get a pizza at the neighborhood pizza place (Vace’s Italian Deli, in case you’re wondering), and spend the night alternatively eating pizza, reading, looking for interesting stations to listen to on my shortwave radio, and dancing to Springsteen records as night fell. Solitude holds no terrors for me.

What are you currently working on?

The sequel to Mud and Glass – more highjinks in academe!

Tell us about your most recent book.

I wrote Mud and Glass as a love letter to university life – the kind of university life that is rapidly being destroyed by a focus on profitability and the idea that students are, at once, customers of the university (or what’s left of it) and products to be marketed to corporations. I wrote the book as a humorous – in fact, satirical – adventure fantasy set in a second world because I wanted the freedom to exaggerate in unexpected ways (including lots of literal cliffhangers and other acts of derring-do), and thus draw attention to what we’re losing in this world with the commodification of education. I’m pretty sure I was successful: one colleage, an academic whom I asked to give a blurb for the book, read the book and promptly refused to be associated with it because it cut too close to the bone. However, another academic colleague said, “I’ve not read comedy this clever since Jasper Fforde,” a compliment that I have clutched to myself ever since. (I LOVE Jasper Fforde’s writing.)

It was wonderful incredibly interesting learning about you and your books, Laura! Thanks for being a part of MTA! Here’s to all the fun it sounds like you’ll have writing the sequel! And, I like the trailers you created! –Camilla

Where to find the book.

Anyone who loves learning and loves universities, and also loves to laugh, can find Mud and Glass on all the big online retailers.

Book Trailer:

Trailer Mud and Glass by Laura E. Goodin from Laura E. Goodin on Vimeo.

For anyone who then becomes insatiably curious about my other novel, After the Bloodwood Staff, the trailer:

After the Bloodwood Staff trailer from Laura E. Goodin on Vimeo.

I wrote, filmed, composed the scores, narrated, and edited them myself, and I’m desperate for approval.

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Meet the Author: Katherine – Tudor Duchess by Tony Riches

Today we’re traveling to Pembrokeshire, Wales to chat with best-selling historical fiction author Tony Riches about how a life-sized Henry Tudor statue, a dark oak writing desk, working as a senior project manager, riding zebras, and playing tenor sax come together as part of Tony’s past and present writing life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I write full time in Pembrokeshire, Wales, and was born close to Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry Tudor. I used to be concerned that so few people knew about Henry being born here, so a group of us raised the funds for a life-sized statue in front of the castle, which is now a popular tourist attraction.

I’ve followed in Henry and Jasper Tudor’s footsteps from Pembroke Castle and sailed across to see where they ended up in exile in remote Brittany. I then visited Mill Bay in Pembrokeshire, where they returned to an unlikely victory over the army of Richard III at the famous Battle of Bosworth, and Henry was made King of England.

In which genre do you write?

My best-selling books are all historical fiction, although I have written a number of non-fiction books, and one contemporary thriller, The Shell, based on an incident when I visited Mombasa in Kenya with my wife.

Historical fiction covers a wide range, from historical fantasy to ‘alternative’ history, but my books are all based on actual events. I spend at least a year researching original sources and visiting the real locations, so over the years I’ve become an expert on the lives of the Tudors.

A US reader recently told me her son was using my books to help with his history schoolwork, which I take as a great compliment – as well as quite a responsibility to tell the true story.

How many published books do you have?

I’ve written two best-selling trilogies, as well as three ‘stand alone’ historical fiction books, The Shell, and my non-fiction books. My current work-in-progress is the first book of my new Elizabethan series – and my tenth novel.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I worked as a senior project manager of major engineering projects, and noticed project management training was focussed on the process, so decided to ‘distil’ my experience in a short eBook about engaging the people effectively through an ‘Agile’ approach. I was amazed when my book became a best seller on Amazon US – and haven’t looked back since.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I sometimes wake up with an entire dialogue between my characters in my head, and have to write it down before I forget it. Some of my best work has ‘emerged’ this way, so I always keep my laptop by the side of my bed – just in case.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I was recently listening to author Philip Pullman talking about how he wrote the His Dark Materials trilogy. He said it was easy after he wrote the first sentence – ‘Lyra and her daemon.’ If I could choose my daemon, I’d like it to be a lion, as I’m a Leo.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I treated myself to a dark oak writing desk, with a green leather writing table, and thought it would be my ideal writing space. Instead I often find I’m writing in my lounge on my laptop with piles of books to each side of me, and a cup of tea. I try not to write when I’m on holiday, but a Greek beachside taverna in Cephalonia (where we went on holiday last summer) would be my perfect place right now.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading Ian Mortimer’s wonderfully evocative  book, The Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England. It’s full of fascinating details – many of which will find their way into my current work in progress. (For example, he points out that Queen Elizabeth’s teeth were quite yellow from a young age, and eventually turned black due to her sugar-rich diet.)

List three interesting facts about yourself.

I lived in Nairobi as a child and used to ride a zebra.
I joined the Royal Air Force when I was fifteen years old.
I played tenor sax in a pop group, where I met my wife (who played guitar and sang)

Tell us about your most recent book.

My latest book is Katherine – Tudor Duchess, about the fascinating life of Katherine Willoughby.  Attractive, wealthy and influential, Katherine Willoughby was favourite of King Henry VIII, and knew all his six wives, his daughters Mary and Elizabeth, and his son Edward, as well as being related by marriage to Lady Jane Grey.

Following Anne Boleyn’s dramatic downfall, Katherine marries the king’s best friend, Sir Charles Brandon, and becomes Duchess of Suffolk at the age of fourteen. Katherine’s friend, Catherine Parr becomes the king’s sixth wife, and they work to promote religious reform. Katherine’s young sons are tutored with the future king, Prince Edward, but when Edward dies his Catholic sister Mary is crowned queen. Katherine’s Protestant faith puts her family in great danger – from which there seems no escape.

Katherine’s remarkable true story continues the epic tale of the rise of the Tudors, which began with the best-selling Tudor trilogy and concludes with the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, in the Brandon Trilogy.

It was wonderful to meet you and learn more about you, Tony. Thank you for being a part of MTA! –Camilla

Where To Find the Book:

You can find  Katherine – Tudor Duchess on Amazon in eBook and paperback, and an audiobook edition is in production:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YCV3RJV

Connect with Tony:

Find out more at Tony’s author website: https://www.tonyriches.com/ and visit his  popular Blog ‘The Writing Desk’: https://tonyriches.blogspot.com/ . You are welcome to follow Tony on Twitter @tonyriches (where he has over 31,500 followers), and his author Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tonyriches.author

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Meet the Author: Depression Hates a Moving Target by Nita Sweeney

Today we’re traveling to Ohio in the USA to chat with Nita Sweeney. She and I discuss how coaching, sloppy handwriting, law school, the number three, Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, onions, and stubbornness come together as part of Nita’s past and present. Get your running shoes on, this one’s about movement …

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I write, coach writers, and teach classes. In May 2019, Mango Publishing released my first book, the running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink. Tantor Media released the audiobook in September 2019. When I’m not writing or promoting the book, I run with my dog, and meditate.

Ohio, USA is home. I was born in Sandusky, raised in Licking County, and attended college in Athens and Columbus. I worked in central Ohio, and, except for three years in Taos, New Mexico, have lived in Ohio my entire life. I’m a third-generation Ohio State Buckeye.

My husband, Ed, and I currently live in Upper Arlington, a suburban neighborhood of Columbus, with Scarlet, our yellow Labrador retriever. She’s a two-year-old, adorable scamp, stealing whatever she can, then dashing away to shred it. This morning she got the newspaper . . . again.

In which genre do you write?

My magazine articles, news stories, poetry, and essays have been published in online and print outlets including Dog WorldDog FancyBuddhist America, and Country Living. One poem won the Dublin (Ohio) Arts Council Poet’s Choice Award. Three novels, four other memoirs, a book of daily meditations, more poetry, and several short stories sit in computer folders waiting for me to return to them.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

As a child, I adored books so much that I wanted to write my own. I loved reading aloud and relished any chance to escape into a book. After a teacher gave me a failing grade on a paper because she couldn’t read my sloppy handwriting, my mother hauled her manual typewriter and typing lesson book into my bedroom where I typed and bound my first “published” book, Sheshak the Wild Stallion. I was 10 years old. I still have that first book.

But self-doubt is strong. Despite a degree in magazine journalism and a history of good marks on my paper, I feared I couldn’t make it as a writer. I went to law school. Ten years and a depressive episode later, I left the law firm and returned to writing.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I’m obsessed with the number three. I won’t set my alarm for 5AM, I’ll set it for 5:01AM or 4:59AM. The time must be divisible by three. The same is true of foods. If I can count them, I will take an amount of a snack that is divisible by three. Three pretzels. Three brazil nuts. Three chocolate squares. I’m currently in love with bacon and gruyere egg bites. I cut each egg bite in 12 “bites” before I eat it. Twelve, after all, is divisible by three.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

A unicorn, a sloth or Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh come to mind, but I would choose Frederick the Mouse, from the children’s book by Leo Lionni. In the story, during autumn, while other mice gather food and build shelters, Frederick sits in the sunshine. He appears lazy and unmotivated. Then winter comes and food supplies dwindle. That’s when Frederick shines. He recites the poems he was “writing” and reminds the others of the sun’s warmth. He sustains them with his words. I have a small statue of Frederick in my office.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

Our spare bedroom is the ideal office with two large windows and enough room for my giant desk. And, I can’t write there. I hear Scarlet shredding (and eating) something she shouldn’t. I want to know what Ed is reading or who he is speaking with on the phone. Shouldn’t I unload the dishwasher, pay the bills, or take out the trash? Surely those things must be done before I can write.

And so, I flee the house. My two current haunts are Colin’s Coffee, a locally-owned shop where I can hog a table for hours. Colin’s founding of the decades-old band Watershed and his musician’s mindset floods the place with creative energy. It’s a true artist’s coffeeshop. My other “office” is a grocery story. The upstairs community room in Kingsdale Market District is a bit like study hall except no one will yell at you if you talk. Plus, there’s food. Retired women play gin rummy or Mahjong while head-phoned college students crouch over laptops. I’m there so often the staff knows me by name.

What are you currently reading?

I just picked up Mag Dimond’s Bowing to Elephants, a travel memoir written from a Buddhist perspective. I’ve followed her blog for several years and find her writing fluid, deep, and insightful.

Where did the title of your most recent book come from?

The phrase “depression hates a moving target” popped into my head while I was talking on the phone to a depressed friend. She was stuck in bed. I said, “You’re fighting inertia. Depression hates a moving target. Just sit up. Sit on the edge of the bed. Stand up. Anything. You just need to get moving.” We both laughed and she did get out of bed and it helped.

“Twenty-Six Point Freaking Two” was the working title, but few people outside of the running community know that a marathon is 26.2 miles long. Brenda Knight, my editor at Mango, wanted something with more universal appeal. “Depression hates a moving target” worked beautifully.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Ed, Scarlet, and I enjoy sitting down to a meal nearly every night at 5PM. Scarlet snarfs the kibble from her dish, Ed plates whatever amazing dish he’s whipped up, and I pick the onions out of whatever he cooked. Ed and I share observations and insights from our day and, once Scarlet has finished her food, she sniffs the table until I correct her then settles at our feet. It’s my favorite time of day.

When I’m not with them, I run! Running has proven to be as good as many of the mental health medicines I was on. At one time it took six mental health medications to keep me alive. Today I am on one. Now that Scarlet is two and her growth plates have closed, she joins me on the roads for a few miles. It only took one or two runs for her to recognize my running shoes. All I have to do is walk over to the show rack and she’s glued to my side.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Cantering around the front yard, pretending I was a horse. You can’t do that in the suburbs.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

Brittany Runs a Marathon. Brittany’s story of overcoming a personal crisis through exercise is familiar and inspiring. It’s not a mental health story, and she doesn’t run with a dog, but the movie will appeal to many viewers whether they’re interested in running or not. We all need an uplifting story and that movie delivers.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be? 

1)      Which tasted best? The washcloth, the seats of my mother’s chairs, or the four, twenty-dollar bills?

2)      Is it necessary to stick your wet nose everywhere?

3)      Will you outgrow this phase?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

I’m not sure if it is stubbornness or compulsion, or maybe passion, but whatever you call the part of me that refused to give up until I found a publisher for one of my books has served me well.

What are you currently working on?

In between podcast pitches, guest blog submissions, and phone calls to set up speaking gigs, I work on a proposal for that book of daily meditations I mentioned above. This surprises people. “You already have a publisher. Why do you need to write another proposal?” While I have a shoe firmly wedged in Mango’s door, each book is its own thing. I need to describe the book, explain the market and competition, and set out what I will do to help the book sell. Mango loves books and is happy with how hard I work, but publishing is a business. The proposal helps them decide if my next book will provide a good return on their investment.

Tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it.

Depression Hates a Moving Target is a couch to marathon story with anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder thrown in for good measure. It’s a bit memoir, some self-help, and, from what reviewers say, highly inspiring.

Readers can find Depression Hates a Moving Target wherever fine books are sold! I say this in jest, but folks can order it anywhere, worldwide, in paperback, ebook, and audiobook. My website, https://nitasweeney.com/about-the-book/, has a list of buy links.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

You’ve asked great questions. I appreciate every chance to share with readers. Thank you for so much including me in your interviews and for the work you do for authors.

It was wonderful to “meet” you, Nita. I also have a thing for the number three. How synchronous! Thanks for being a part of MTA. All the best to you! –Camilla

Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink

Can running save your life?

Nita Sweeney thinks so.

After decades of chronic depression from bipolar disorder, and a single year during which seven loved ones and a cat died, an overweight, sedentary, grief-stricken 49-year old Sweeney was willing to try anything. She picked up a digital kitchen timer, leashed up her yellow Labrador retriever, and walked to a secluded ravine near her central Ohio home to jog for 60 seconds.

She didn’t want to die.

In her running and mental health memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, Sweeney recounts how, in the face of a debilitating mood disorder, and with a trusty canine companion by her side, she not only went from couch to marathon, but from a woman near suicide to one eager to thrive.

Connect with Nita:

Nita’s website: https://nitasweeney.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nitasweeney/
Facebook: https://facebook.com/nitasweeneyauthor/
LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/nitasweeney/
Pinterest: https://pinterest.com/nitasweeney/
Instagram: https://instagram.com/nitasweeney/

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Meet the Author: Walks: A Collection of Haiku by Cendrine Marrouat and See A Dream Within: Found ‘Poe’try Based On The Collected Poetry Works Of Edgar Allan Poe by David Ellis

Today we’re traveling to Winnipeg, Canada and to the UK to chat with Cendrine Marrouat and David Ellis. We chat about how sweet and savoury snacks, cuddly animals, movement, photography, being a French instructor, accepting praise, resourcefulness, uplifting others, trust, believing in yourself, and perfectionism come together as part of Cendrine and David’s writing life.

Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Cendrine Marrouat: Originally from Toulouse, France, I have called Winnipeg, Canada, my home for 16 years. I am a photographer, poet, author, French instructor, and the Head of marketing and communications at ConnexionFranco.Coop. I am also co-founder of two projects, FPoint Collective and Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal.

David Ellis: I am a UK based author of poetry, fiction and music lyrics. I have been writing poetry and music lyrics for years.

How many published books do you have?

Cendrine Marrouat: I have 13 published books in several genres — poetry, photography, social media, and theatre. I have a few more in the works.

David Ellis: I have published five books so far, with many more planned for the future! Three of them are poetry collections, the other two are short stories collections, one of which is a short story collection with stories written by myself and other writers. I aim to write and publish, in a variety of different mediums and genres.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

Cendrine Marrouat: I have never been able to work on any idea without a title popping up in my mind first.

As such, the titles of all my books existed before a line was ever written. And only one or two have been changed slightly.

David Ellis: I like to be in my own creative environment when I write. It has to be supplied with sweet and savoury snacks, endless cups of tea, and most importantly of all – cuddly animals. I have Meerkats, a kangaroo and Gromit from the animation comedy series ‘Wallace & Gromit’, along with other ornamental animals nearby too. I’m building an ornamental collection of little elephants, plus I have a giraffe sent to me by one of my dearest friends. They keep me company, while I get down to the business at hand.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

Cendrine Marrouat: Walks: A Collection of Haiku is a series of short books focusing on the idea of movement.

Movement is part of us. Even the shortest destination, such as going to our car or our kitchen, requires walking. Many people walk without thinking. As a result, they will miss many things that could have brightened their day.

As a photographer with a passion for details, I walk with intent. I pay attention to things around me and I want to help others do too.

David Ellis: ‘See A Dream Within: Found ‘Poe’try Based On The Collected Poetry Works Of Edgar Allan Poe’ is my most recent publication. It is a collection of inspirational and romantic poetry based on the entire collected poetic works of Edgar Allan Poe.

I’ve been dedicating myself to writing lots of found/blackout poetry recently and am thrilled at the results, as they can often be unpredictable, as well as being dependent on the source materials I am using. I chose to write a poetry book centred on Edgar Allan Poe’s works because of my love of his poem ‘The Raven’. I had previously written several found poems based on Edgar’s more popular poems and realised as I was drawn to writing even more of them, I could make an entire book of them, just in time for Halloween!

This poetry book gave me a good excuse to read every poem Poe has ever written or had attributed to him. I aim to do the same with all of his short stories for a sequel in the future. I feel like I am giving myself an excuse to educate and immerse myself in the world of a person I truly admire and am writing them a love letter that honours their memory, which I absolutely feel I have done with Poe. His spirit is still present after all this time, flowing in the words of my book.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

Cendrine Marrouat: Many things! I am the Head of Marketing and Communications at ConnexionFranco.Coop. This platform seeks to bring together providers of services in French in Canada so that Francophone consumers can find them more easily, no matter where they are in the country.

I am also a photographer and French instructor to adults. Finally, I co-founded FPoint Collective, with Isabel Nolasco. David and I founded Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal earlier this year. We wanted to highlight and feature uplifting and inspirational poetry, no matter the topic. Our first issue was released on October 1. You can find it at http://abpoetryjournal.com/issues.

David Ellis: As Cendrine mentions above, we are both Co-Founders & Co-Editors of Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal. We have dedicated ourselves to providing an inspirational poetry journal that brings positivity to all those who read it.

I myself provide a variety of creative type interviews, primarily Author Interviews but I also conduct Comic Book/Graphic Novel Interviews, Photographer Interviews, Singer/Songwriter Interviews & Scriptwriting Interviews. My website is a creative resource hub, providing various comprehensive lists and tools to assist a variety of artists and writers.

My website can be found at www.toofulltowrite.com.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

Cendrine Marrouat: That my voice matters because it is mine. You should never try and suppress your own story. It does not matter if it does not fit current social standards.

David Ellis: I think looking back, I doubted myself when it came to my writing when I first started out. I would look at other poets and admire their writing, wistfully thinking and wishing that I could write as well as they could. It was only when I started my own blog (after being encouraged to do so at my local Writers Circle) that I had a reason to fill up the blog with regular writing content from myself. I always had a keen interest in songwriting but I could not play any instruments, so I wrote poetry as a means to create music with words and was surprised to find that I had a knack for doing it. After I began writing and publishing, I noticed that my peers were taking notice of me, telling me how much they admired my work. This initially surprised and humbled me but I learned to accept their praise. It ended up giving me confidence in my abilities to keep striving to be a writer for my career.

I also constantly surprise myself with my resourcefulness, when it comes to my writing, finding inspiration in almost anything and everything out there, so what I feel I have learned through my own writing is what a resourceful person I am in many aspects of my life, especially when it comes to motivating others.

What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

Cendrine Marrouat: The most inspiring thing that has ever happened to me was when one of my readers contacted me to let me know that one of my books (Short Poetry for Those Who Fear Death) had saved their life.

Real art is not meant to boost an artist’s ego. It is meant to help and uplift others, to launch important conversations. Otherwise, what’s the point?

David Ellis: Wow, a tough question! I can usually remember what I had for breakfast in the morning and quotable lines from films, books and songs but everything else in between is mostly a blur, punctuated with what I am going to eat for my next meal.

I think the most inspiring experiences I have had are ones where I’ve been approached by acquaintances who tell me what a positive impact I am having or have had on their lives in these troubled times. This can be from my writing or my constant sharing on Social Media of cute animals photos and videos. It costs nothing to give out positive love and kindness on a daily basis. To this day, I still maintain that I get the biggest thrill out of giving things to others, be it positive support, kindness, hope, love and inspiration. Also, if I know what your favourite animal is then I can’t help but end up giving you gifts based around that too 🙂

As for amusing or crazy things in my life, I always feel like I’m a few minutes away from something like that happening to me, I try to bring fun and a little craziness to the table wherever I may go!

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

Cendrine Marrouat: I have done a lot of public speaking in my career. I will listen to any song from my list of favorites, Genesis’ Ripples being at the top.

I am a language instructor by profession. I always prepare myself in the same way, by considering all questions people may ask me. It is a lot of work initially, but the more experienced you are, the easier it gets.

David Ellis: For me, I have a go to band that I imagine will be obscure to virtually everybody out there but that is just the way I like it 😉 I listen to a band called The Gone Jackals and specifically their album called ‘Bone To Pick’. I became obsessed with this soundtrack after it was featured in a videogame called ‘Full Throttle’. The story in the game is excellent and cinematic (it follows the adventures of a futuristic biker gang) plus since it has elements of a hero doing cool, heroic things, whenever I hear the music, it is easy for my mind to feel confident with it playing in the background. It has a bluesy rock vibe to it, very mellow in places and empowering in others. Go check it out on Spotify, if you have time.

Before publicly speaking, I would personally recommend listening to something that relaxes you and makes you feel confident too. Any genre will do, if it makes your head and spine tingle with euphoria. Furthermore, If you’re an alcohol drinker then have one (and I stress only one to calm your nerves, don’t get drunk!). If you’re teetotal then have a tea, coffee, soda, flavoured water (again just one, any more might end up giving you too much sugar/caffeine and making your more anxious). This should help make you feel more relaxed and mellow before your performance.

I agree with what Cendrine said above, the more speaking you do, the easier it gets. Make sure you have done plenty of research into what you are speaking about. If you are reading your own material, learn as much of it as you can off by heart, as it will come out more naturally when you read it.

Start speaking in smaller groups to get yourself used to dealing with larger audiences and never be afraid to voice an idea that you have in any discussions. If anything, I feel it is better to volunteer as early as possible, so you do not make yourself nervous and feel picked on, if several other people are chosen before it gets to be your turn! I’ve found as I get older, I am less worried about what other people think of me and more concerned about getting across my messages in the best way that I possibly can. Age really does bring experience.

It is important when you are publicly speaking to constantly mentally remind yourself that what you say has value to the audience that you are speaking to, they have come to support you and are interested in what you have to say. If you fumble or falter your words, take a breath, pause and then carry on as normal, as if nothing happened. You are human, people will understand and they will respect you even more for having the courage to stand up there and deliver your speech, so have fun with it and be sure to party hard afterwards once it’s done as a reward!

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

Cendrine Marrouat: Trust the fact that life will be even better than it is right now. Continue taking advantage of every opportunity.

David Ellis: Believe in yourself and your creative talent. You are making a legacy that you can be very proud of for years to come. Keep publishing and know that you are making a difference in the lives of your readers all over the world.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

Cendrine Marrouat: Ad Astra. In this movie, Brad Pitt is an astronaut whose mission is to travel  across the solar system to uncover the truth behind the doomed expedition headed by his missing father.

I have a soft spot for the dystopian genre and anything even remotely similar to Interstellar in its premise will have my attention.

Brad Pitt has always been a great actor. But it’s probably one of his best roles!

David Ellis: I watch tons of movies and a lot of TV shows. Since we are talking about books, I shall focus on the latest film that I saw that was a book adaption, the 2017 film remake of Stephen King’s book IT. For those who don’t know, IT focuses on the small town of Derry, where children are going missing and a group of geeky teenagers band together to discover who is taking the children, while aiming to put a stop to it.

I have seen the original film version of IT with Tim Curry (made in 1990), which is genuinely frightening in places but with a lot of humour too and I’m glad they remade the original, considering how dated the effects are. The 2017 version is welcomed by me (unlike a lot of film remakes, which seem totally pointless when the films were so perfectly made in the first place), along with the significantly different take on the clown character (a superb performance by Bill Skarsgård).

I was keen to watch IT because of my passion for the TV show Stranger Things. I’m pleased to say that Finn Wolfhard (I really wish I had that surname!) who plays Mike in Stranger Things crops up here and is extremely entertaining throughout the film. The whole cast does a brilliant job of making you care for this intrepid band of geeks and losers, who take on a malevolent force of evil.

With the longer run time, the remake had to be split into two different movies, with the first film following the children and the second film following the children as adults, so we get to see what kind of nostalgia they will bring to the story, as the adults deal with Pennywise the Dancing Clown again many years after their first terrifying encounter with him.

Story is very important to me in films, with a strong, clever story, I can enjoy films and TV shows in many different genres.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Cendrine Marrouat: I absolutely believe that things happen for a reason. Call it karma, if you want. I believe in reincarnation. So everything I do, try to remember that it will have an impact on my current life or the next ones.

After completing the first draft of The Little Big eBook on Social Media Audiences: Build Yours, Keep It, and Win, I found myself stuck. I knew there was something wrong with it, but I could not pinpoint exactly what it was. So, I asked some people to read through it and share their honest feedback.

One reader tore my draft apart. He only had nasty things to say. It took me a day or two to get over the harsh criticism. Then, after re-reading his comments, I realized that, even though he could have been nicer, he had uncovered the issue.

So, with his and other people’s comments in mind, I started working on the book again. And this time, everything went according to plan. The book ended up receiving wonderful reviews and won an award.

David Ellis: I believe that if you have an artistic talent or flair for being creative, you were given this gift for a reason and it is up to you to try to share that gift with the rest of the world, no matter what the cost. Don’t let anyone ever discourage you from making your art and sharing your beauty with the world.

My father is an artist who went blind and mostly deaf many years ago due to disease but he never let it stop him from creating art. He found a way to keep making art, in spite of his disabilities and still does so to this very day. The process of making art is healing for yourself and can bring such emotional joy to others. We all have to work day jobs to earn a living but we should never let that stop us from doing what we want to do creatively.

Find your passions, make good art from them and that will give your life both meaning and reason.

You can read more about my father and see his artwork at http://www.blindartist.co.uk.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Cendrine Marrouat: In North America, perfectionism is seen as a bad thing. Had I not been the perfectionist I am, I would have had a short, uneventful career.

Instead, my attention to details and desire to achieve the best results, despite limited means, have allowed me to dive into many different fields and acquire a varied, and solid experience. Most people cannot believe that I have done so many things in only 16 years.

David Ellis: I think of myself as a very empathetic, emotional person. I am sensitive to the needs of people, which makes what I do very endearing and relatable. This has helped me to write poetry that connects with people on a spellbinding level. I also have a very determined mindset, like to do extensive, thorough research and construct balanced arguments. My former financial and business career made me a decisive individual, which when channeled with my professionalism is a powerful package. As an artist, it is extremely beneficial to take an interest in marketing yourself well, if you want to be seen by more people and if this does not come naturally to you then you should seek out others who can help market you to larger audiences.

Be generous with your time and support, these qualities will be reciprocated back to you by other like-minded people, whatever activities you choose to do in your life.

What are you currently working on?

Cendrine Marrouat: Volumes 3 and 4 of Walks: A Collection of Haiku. I wanted to release them earlier, but my schedule has been so busy!

Volume 3 is ready. Volume 4 is almost complete.

David Ellis: I have several plans and ideas in the works. I have two more collections of written poetry that I can compile/edit into full length books (one specialising in found poetry, the other original poetry by myself). I aim to be prolific as possible with my poetry writing, emulating my classical poetry heroes from many years ago.

I also want to write a book on creativity giving people inspiration on where to look in their lives for writing inspiration. I’m going to be working on more found poetry collections dedicated to individual poets, just like my Poe poetry book. I’d like to compile some writing prompt books too, in order to help writers with their muses, particularly around the time of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) and National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).

Thank you Cendrine and David for joining us on MTA! It was incredibly interesting learning more about each of you. All the best to both of you. – Camilla

Cendrine Marrouat:

Book blurb for Walks: A Collection of Haiku:

“Haiku are unrhymed poems consisting of about 17 syllables spread over three lines. This poetry form started in Japan and has been very popular in many countries around the world for decades.

Haiku force you to be concise. They teach you impactfulness. As such, they are the embodiment of the “Show don’t tell” technique. A technique that allows readers to experience stories in a more personal and meaningful manner.

Walks: A Collection of Haiku is not just a celebration of Cendrine Marrouat’s love for haiku. It is also an invitation to enjoy the flitting moments that make life beautiful…”

Walks: A Collection of Haiku (Volumes 1 and 2) can be purchased via all major outlets — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. For more information, visit https://www.cendrinemedia.com/Books.

Trailers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVm_JUdAbdY / https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PB5qAv-_SE

Bio:

Originally from Toulouse, France, Cendrine Marrouat has called Winnipeg, Canada, her home for 16 years. She is a photographer, poet, author, French instructor, and the Head of marketing and communications at ConnexionFranco.Coop. She has also co-founder two projects, FPoint Collective and Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal.

Cendrine specializes in nature, black-and-white and closeup images. Her photography seeks the mundane to capture the fleeting, but true beauty of life in its many forms.

Cendrine is passionate about haiku. She has studied the Japanese poetry form extensively and written many pieces since 2006.

In 2015, Cendrine was recognized as a Top 100 Business Blogger by BuzzHUMM. Social Media Slant, her former blog, also made Fit Small Business’ Best Small Business Blogs of 2015 & 2016 lists.

Walks: A Collection of Haiku (Volumes 1 & 2) are Cendrine’s 12th and 13th books. Other releases include five collections of poetry, three photography books, a play, two social media ebooks, and a spoken word CD.

Website: https://www.cendrinemedia.com

Email cendrine@cendrinemedia.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cendrinemedia

Instagram: http://instagram.com/cendrinemedia

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

David Ellis:

Book blurb for ‘See A Dream Within’:

Decades after his poetry and short stories were published in the early to mid 1800’s, we still respect, revere and admire the writings of Edgar Allan Poe, celebrated master of the macabre, suspense and horror. Within this collection of found poems, David Ellis has examined the collected poetry works of Edgar Allan Poe and crafted new poetry that will move you and inspire you as much as the original works themselves. In this book, you will find many new ways to appreciate the words of Edgar and his distinguished poetic works, as he influences a passionate poet who is keen to breathe modern day life into his magnificent words. Poems like The Raven, Annabel Lee, Lenore, A Dream Within A Dream, Alone and many other literary gems are used as foundations that pave the way for a whole different kind of intimate poetic experience that will surprise you time and again. For Poe fans, this collection is an essential purchase. Edgar Allan Poe may be long gone but within these pieces, his spirit continues to shine and live on.

See A Dream Within: Found “Poe”try Based On The Collected Poetry Works Of Edgar Allan Poe can be purchased via all major outlets. It is available on Amazon Kindle and in print, along with being available on Lulu, Barnes & Noble and many other places.

The Amazon Kindle version has its own unique cover that is totally different to the equally gorgeous looking print version and is priced at about one dollar/one British Pound – a bargain in anybody’s book!

For more information on all of David’s published books visit https://toofulltowrite.com/my-books/.

Bio:

David Ellis is a UK based author of poetry, fiction and music lyrics. He has been writing poetry and music lyrics for years.

His debut poetry book ‘Life, Sex & Death – A Poetry Collection Vol 1’ is an International Award winning volume, having won an award in the Readers’ Favorite 2016 Book Award Contest for Inspirational Poetry Books.

Think of him like the thriller genre in that he is fast paced, relentless and impossible to put down!

Connect with him on Facebook:- TooFullToWrite (FB)

Like his Facebook Page:- Toofulltowrite – The Creative Palace For Artists & Author Resources

Follow him on Twitter:- @TooFullToWrite

For Creativity Resources, Writing Advice, Guides, Author Interviews and Poetry, visit his website/blog at:- www.toofulltowrite.com

For more information on Auroras & Blossoms Poetry Journal, visit https://abpoetryjournal.com.

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Meet the Author: Maternal Instinct by Rebecca Bowyer

 

Today we travel to Melbourne to chat with Rebecca Bowyer. She and I discuss how Alice in Wonderland, being a parenting blogger, the feeling of certainty, and Netflix sci-fi shows come together as part of Rebecca’s past and current life. 

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

I’m an Australian writer of speculative fiction with a parenting focus – think Margaret Atwood meets Liane Moriarty. I started out my writing career in 2013 as a parenting blogger and have moved into book blogging and fiction writing. 

I live in Melbourne with my husband and two gorgeous sons, aged 7 and 9.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Alice in Wonderland! I really enjoy the delightful nonsense which also seems somehow insightful and prophetic. As an adult I’ve loved Jasper Fforde’s books which make me feel like I’ve plunged back into a similar sort of world.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

When I took time out from the professional workforce to be a stay-at-home mum I was disheartened by how invisible I’d become. It felt like the role of parenting wasn’t really valued by society. It was just a “break” until I could return and start earning money again. 

I wanted to see what our society would look like if we suddenly decided that parenting was a truly valuable role. In a capitalist society, that would mean that it was a highly paid, valued profession requiring a college degree. 

Of course, the darker side was that, in Maternal Instinct, you don’t get to raise your own child. At 6 months of age they’re handed over to the professional parents, the Maters and the Paters. 

My novel focuses on the story of 19-year-old Monica, who never wanted a baby but, now that she has one, doesn’t want to give him up. 

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

I’d turn into Monica. She’s 19 years old, she’s fearless and she knows exactly what she wants. I would enjoy moving in her skin and reliving the feeling of certainty. That feeling evaporates all too quickly with the knocks and bruises of adult life.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking?

“Baby Mine,” as sung by Bette Midler in Beaches. It always makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, in a good way.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self? 

I think younger me would tell me to slow down, there’s plenty of time! As I get older time seems to speed up, especially since I had kids, so it’s easy to start thinking that time must be running out. However, Margaret Atwood has just released a novel at the age of 82 – I’m not even half that age, so I still have many decades left to write more books (I hope!).

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it? 

I Am Mother, on Netflix. I didn’t actually choose it – I watched it because my husband turned it on (we share a mutual love of Netflix sci-fi). It was a really interesting movie and a great example of the rise in science fiction which focuses on women and reproduction.

What are you currently reading?

The Fragments, by Toni Jordan. It’s an historical fiction novel about a book, thought to be lost to fire apart from a few fragments, and the clues which may lead to its rediscovery.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

We have a gorgeous fluffy black 4-year-old schnoodle (schnauzer/poodle cross) named George. I’d ask him: 

  1. Why do you bark at other dogs walking by but lick every single strange human that gets near you?

  2. Do you get lonely when nobody is home, or do you enjoy the peace and quiet?

  3. What bargain can we strike that would stop you chewing the tops off every watering can we’ve ever owned?

What do you miss about being a kid?

I spent most of my childhood waiting to grow up, so – not much! I enjoy the autonomy that comes with being an adult.

I do, however, miss the vast tracts of empty time I had as a kid. I remember glorious entire days spent in front of the heater in winter, just reading.

What are you currently working on? 

I’ve just finished the first draft of my next novel, working title Time Thief. It’s based on the premise of what if, as a parent, you could literally buy time? How nice would that be?!

I’ll let that sit in the digital drawer and simmer for a month or two before I return to it.

Tell us about your most recent book. 

Maternal Instinct is set in a near-future world where parenting is a highly valued, paid profession. Every child is safe and no child lives in poverty. From the age of 6 months, children are raised by professional parents – the Maters and the Paters. 

For some women this works really well. 19-year-old Monica, however, will do whatever it takes to stop her infant son being taken from her. When she turns to her biological mother, Alice, for help, Alice must face her own dark past and make impossible decisions.

It was great to learn more about you, your history and how your book came to be. Deeply interesting. Thank you for being a part of MTA, Rebecca. All the best to you! – Camilla

Book blurb:

Australia 2040. No child lives in poverty and every child is safe. But at what cost?

19-year-old Monica never wanted a baby but the laws require her to give birth twice before she can move on with her life.

Now that her first son, Oscar, has arrived she’s not so sure she wants to hand him over to be raised by professional parents: the Maters and Paters.

When Monica turns to her birth mother, Alice, for help, she triggers a series of events that force Alice to confront her own dark past. Alice must decide – help her daughter break the law, or persuade her to accept her fate and do what’s best for the nation’s children?

Where to find the book:

Maternal Instinct is available for purchase at bookstores in the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Australia. Head to Story Addict Publishing for a list of retailers near you.

Connect with Rebecca:

Website: https://www.storyaddict.com.au

Social media:

To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host

Meet the Author: Stella’s Christmas Wish by Kate Blackadder

Today we travel to Edinburgh to chat with Kate Blackadder. Kate and I discuss how twins, sorting books in a charity shop, numbered index cards, red plaits, and a Viking expedition come together as part of Kate’s past and present life.

Tell us a bit about yourself. 

My name is Kate Blackadder. I was born in Inverness shire in the Scottish Highlands but now live in Edinburgh with a view of the Castle from my front window. I’ve always work with books in some capacity – firstly in the production department of a large London publisher, and then in various roles for publishers in Edinburgh and as a freelance editor.

In which genre do you write? 

I write mostly short stories (around 60 published) and magazine serials, one novel to date. Broadly speaking, these are in the women’s fiction genre but lately I have some success with short stories for a Scottish newspaper called The Weekly News which have to appeal to men as well as women. It was an interesting challenge.

How many published books do you have? 

My novel Stella’s Christmas Wish was published by Black & White in 2016. I have had three serials published in The People’s Friend (weekly readership of 400,000) and have released these myself on Amazon Kindle. They are also available in large print from libraries. I’ve produced on Kindle three collections of previously published/prize winning short stories.

Three other writers based in Edinburgh and I have formed a group called Capital Writers. We give readings around the city and have produced two e-anthologies of short stories (one from each of us) with another two in the pipeline.

So – nine so far!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame? 

I was always a reader so that was my inspiration. I first tried to write when I was about ten – books for girls, very (very) derivative of my favourite titles. Over the years I wrote poetry off and on but took up writing fiction (for grown-up girls) again sixteen years ago after joining a brilliant local creative writing class.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography? 

There are no twins/multiple births in my family but for some reason they crop up rather often in my stories. It took a writing friend to point that out to me; now I have to exercise family planning more carefully …

What does your ideal writing space look like? 

Luckily, exactly like the space I have! My son’s former bedroom, now my study, painted leaf green, lots of shelves. In the evening I like to shut the shutters so that the room is dark, and write under the pool of light from the angle poise lamp.

What are you currently reading? 

I usually have at least one novel and a non-fiction book on the go. Currently, it’s Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, one of my very favourite authors; and A Tunnel Through Time: A New Route for an Old London Journey by Gillian Tindall, an original way of looking at the history of London.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books? 

I work two days a week in a museum’s publishing department; volunteer a few hours a week sorting books in a charity shop (Shelter); read; bake; go to the cinema.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing? 

The mere thought of speaking up in a crowd used to make me nervous but gradually, through having to read aloud at writing classes etc, I got more confident and now even standing up and speaking/reading to a large audience doesn’t faze me at all (as long as I know in advance and have time to practise, see below!). So I suppose I’ve learned the only thing to fear is fear itself (now I must try and apply that to driving on the motorway … ).

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot? 

Not particularly strange but – we have a car but I got the bus from Edinburgh down the coast to North Berwick in East Lothian (about 30 miles away) as that’s how one of my characters travelled. I wanted to see the journey through her eyes.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What do you do to prepare yourself? 

I type what I want to say in full and print it out then I pick out the salient points and put them on numbered index cards. I practise over and over giving the talk with only the cards as prompts. It means I can keep my head up and engage with the audience most of the time rather than looking down. I also read my chosen passage aloud several times at home so that I know where the pauses should come and which words to emphasise.

What do you miss about being a kid? 

My red plaits. And having been brought up in a rural location with no school friends nearby, I had weekends when I read from morning to night; I’d love to be able to do that again.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why? 

We didn’t have television until I was fifteen and were a hundred miles from the nearest cinema. Don’t regret any of that for a minute!

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

I’d be Cathryn Fenton in The Family at Farrshore ( myBook.to/Farrshore ) because she’s an archaeologist involved in a Viking excavation in the north of Scotland. Uncovering a long-ago settlement would be fascinating – plus there’s a handsome Canadian film director around the place …

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it? 

The documentary Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love – because I’m a long-time Leonard Cohen fan. I was lucky enough to see him in concert many years ago in Edinburgh.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?  

I don’t have a pet now but I used to have a cat I adored called McTavish. I would ask him:

Why do you sit on the cold wall rather than beside the warm fire?

Where did you go last night?

What are you thinking about when you stare, unblinking, at me with your big golden eyes?

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why? 

I love the grandeur of the scenery of north-west Scotland. A few years ago I would have said I loved the loneliness of it too but it’s a wee bit crowded up there now thanks to the success of the North Coast 500 route.

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc. 

I had a holiday in New Zealand last year and absolutely loved it. So, on a dry, 70F, day with no wind, I would explore Dunedin – mostly on foot but taking the bus up the steepest streets, visit the museums and the bookshops and stop for (excellent) coffee and a warm date scone at The Good Oil café in George Street.

Tell us about your most recent book. 

Stella’s Christmas Wish is a contemporary romance/family secrets story, published by Black & White Publishing.

Six days before Christmas a family crisis brings Stella back from London to the Scottish Borders – and to Ross, the man she left fifteen months earlier.

One reviewer said: ‘I fell in love with the characters and actually wished they were real.’

It was wonderful to learn more about you, Kate. Your writing group sounds brilliant! I visited Edinburgh in the year 2001 and found it to be incredibly breathtaking. Adored the bookshops! All the best to you! – Camilla

Where to find the book:

It’s available (digital only) on Amazon:

http://amzn.to/2dYQOrY

Connect with Kate:

Blog +website:

http://katewritesandreads.blogspot.com/

https://capitalwriterscouk.wordpress.com/

Social media links

https://www.facebook.com/KateBlackadderAuthor/

@k_blackadder

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To support this website and the author’s interviewed, visit Support MTA for suggestions. Thank you! – Camilla, Founder and Host