Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Very Different Book - Violette Between

I met Alison Strobel Morrow online, through ACFW--a recurring theme throughout my blog posts. I think you'll enjoy getting to know her better through this interview as much as I have.

Alison, Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

Quite a bit, I think, at least into certain characters. Grace, the heroine in my first novel, had my personality, and even a little of her backstory was autobiographical. I have to work sometimes to not write aspects of myself into my characters; I don’t want for all my protagonists to start looking and sounding alike!

What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I tend to be VERY literal. Someone asked me once what frozen pizza I liked, to which I replied, “Ew, frozen pizza, why on earth would you eat frozen pizza?!” My dad once asked me to hand him the phone (back in the days before cordless handsets), and I took the entire unit off the wall. Unfortunately, I do that kind of thing all the time.

Interesting. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I started writing down stories in first grade. Composing narratives has always been something I’ve done; I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories, if not on paper, then in my head. I think it really hit me that writing was a passion when, in fourth grade, I went through every writing prompt my teacher had in the “writing folder” in about a week. Kids started asking to read the stories I’d come up with, and I thought, “Hey, I really love this!”—not just the writing, but having people want to read what I’d written, and seeing them enjoy it so much.

I know what you mean. I'm that way. Maybe it's my drama background. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I tend to stick with plain old fiction, although I also love the occasional science fiction story, especially by William Gibson. I always snatch up the newest releases from Amy Tan, Douglas Coupland, and Jodi Picoult—they’re definitely my favorites. And once in a while I get into a biography; I have Kate Remembered in the car, and I read it when we’re out driving and the baby falls asleep and my husband has to run in somewhere. It’s taking me awhile to get through, as you can imagine!

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

Other than a truly embarrassing teen saga I wrote over the course of a year’s worth of junior high homerooms and algebra classes (math has never been my strong suit), all of my books have been published.

Check her out at How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I refuse to let the world rush me. My husband and I both work from home, so we don’t have to work on anyone else’s schedules but our own, and that definitely helps. And given that our daughter is still just a baby, we don’t have one of those zany extracurricular schedules for her yet—I’m sure the time will come, though, when I feel like I’m running a taxi company!

Oh yes, I remember feeling like the chauffeur for the world. How do you choose your characters’ names?

If a name hasn’t hit me already when I start to write, then I get out a baby name book and start flipping through it. Usually the sense of a name just fits with a character’s personality, and when I hear it, I just know that’s it. However, in Violette Between, I chose the names of the main characters based on the names’ meaning in French. I chose Violette because I think of that as a strong but fun color, and that combination meshed well with the main character. Saul means ashes, Alexine means helper, and Christian means redeemer, and once you read the book, you’ll probably be able to figure out why each character has their particular name.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Actually finishing two books. I had started many, many books in the past, but never once did I get all the way to the end of one until I finished Worlds Collide. It was quite a shock to realize I’d completed an entire novel. Then, with Violette Between, I ended up deleting (on purpose) my entire manuscript—about 140 pages—three months before my deadline, because the story just wasn’t working. So finishing that book on time was also quite a shock.

I know what you mean. I'm really proud of a friend who had been a book of the month author, starting a new book every month and never finishing any. She's nearing the end of her second completed novel. A very good feeling. Let's turn another direction. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A cat, probably—and I’m not even much of a cat person! But, like cats, I like to lie around and just chill, and then, once in a while, I’ll get a burst of energy that sends me tearing around the house (usually cleaning, however, and not chasing mice or little lights).

What is your favorite food?

Right now, anything with bread or processed sugar in it is my favorite food, because those are the foods I’m trying desperately to avoid. I’m borderline hypoglycemic, and for the past four months I’ve been trying to completely revamp the way I eat. I’ve been a cereal and bread girl my whole life, and I’ve always had a wicked sweet tooth, so going from that extreme to the high-protein, high-fruits-and-veggies end of the spectrum has been a real challenge.

I'm sure it is. Now what would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Violette Between
asks the question: If you had the chance to relive your life with someone you’d lost, would you take it, even if it meant giving up your future? The story was born out of a friend’s loss—her husband of just a few years, who was only 30 at the time, died of an undetected heart defect—and “The Painter Song” by Norah Jones. One of the song’s lyrics is, “If I were a painter, I would paint my reverie, if that’s the only way for you to be with me.” I heard that song just a couple weeks after my friend’s husband died, and one day I got this image of a widowed painter painting her deceased husband into a mural, and then getting pulled into the mural to be with him. That was the original idea for the book, but you’ll see that I took quite a different tack when I started over.

Readers, I told you this is a different book. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy. But if you don't win, you must buy one and read it.

Alison, thank you for this peek into your life. I hope you're busy writing the next one.

A New Winner!!!

I just love announcing winners, and I'm sure you are anxious to know who this one is. Susan Page Davis just won a copy of Hell in a Briefcase by Phil Little. Congratulations, Susan, please send me your mailing address. There's a link to my e-mail under my picture in the right column of this blog.

Every week we have a new winner. Any of you who stop by could be that winner if you leave a comment on an interview. I know a lot of people come by and don't. There's still time to leave a comment on Max Elliot Anderson's interview.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Max Elliot Anderson, Prolific Author of Young Adult Adventures

Max, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

I was a pretty wild kid growing up. It used to be said of me that I may not have been the cause what just happened, but I was never very far away, and probably had something to do with it. I grew up in a family of seven children. I was number five. In that position, a person does all sorts of things in order to get noticed.

When I write, I literally enter the scenes and become one of the characters. Since these are children around the ages of eleven or twelve, a lot of that childhood experience and background finds its way into the story and dialog. That’s a pretty scary thought since there is quite a bit of crime in my stories. Makes a person wonder what might have happened if God hadn’t gotten a hold of my life from a very early age.

One of my goals was to construct stories that would reach out to boys who might not have a father in their lives, or a positive male role model. I know that this is one aspect of myself entering the stories. But I believe that, during the writing process, this is an unconscious element from my perspective.

I also never read a manuscript until the first draft is finished. So I get pretty surprised sometimes when I see some of these things carefully woven into the story.

I could never do that. I reread and edit what I wrote in the last session before starting writing for the day. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

One of the definitions for the word quirky is, “A sudden sharp turn or twist.” So it would have to be the fact that I ever started writing in the first place. I never would have charted this course, but I had no choice after 9/11. That event caused most of my professional video production clients to disappear. I had to do something, and decided to research why it was that I didn’t like to read. Based on my findings, after evaluating over 200 children’s books, I began writing the kinds of books I would have liked as a child. Just one of these findings resulted in my writing books where the characters are completely different in every manuscript. The setting and plot for each book are different also.

Sounds like the kind of books we really need published. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I should have seen this earlier in my film and video production career. It was in that arena, over more than a twenty-year period, that I wrote countless proposals and scripts for my clients’ video programs and TV commercials. In the same way that I never thought of myself as a salesman, as I was negotiating for each job, I didn’t think of myself as a writer either. I was a video producer and director, and these were simply steps, in my mind anyway, that needed to be done in order to produce the programs.

Then, as I mentioned above, 9/11 occurred. In the midst of my research, I kept hearing a reoccurring voice, in my mind, saying, “Why don’t you write THE SCARECROW?” This was the title of a screenplay I had written over twenty years earlier that was never produced. I battled this “voice” for several weeks. Then I finally gave in. What happened next is nothing short of a miracle as I believe God has sent each story through me. They come fully formed with the main character, the setting, plot, location, and the moral or spiritual theme. And this has now happened over thirty-four times.

So, I think of myself more as one who simply records each story. The fact that this is done with words on paper makes me a writer I guess, or is it the huge rejection file I keep?

All of us writers have one of those. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

This is the place where I see most people’s jaws drop open, followed by… “Really!” And it’s true. I grew up hating to read. My father published over 70 books during his lifetime, and I never read any of them. This is why I believe that I am uniquely qualified to write for others who don’t like reading.

This past week I had the opportunity to speak before a number of PhDs, professional educators, and teachers about what I am writing and why. Even though I have a degree in psychology, I could hardly believe that I was standing in the same room, speaking to these people. My session lasted two hours, and I found that my writing is right on target for the needs in the public schools where they teach.

I should say that one of the few books I read all the way through, when it first came out, is The Purpose Driven Life. That’s because I can focus on reading when I’m interested in the material.

What other books have you written, whether published or not?

As mentioned earlier, I have written 34 manuscripts of action-adventures and mysteries for boys. Seven of these are published: Newspaper Caper, Terror at Wolf Lake, North Woods Poachers, Mountain Cabin Mystery, Big Rig Rustlers, Secrets of Abbott's Cave & Legend of the White Wolf, are compared by readers and reviewers to Tom Sawyer, The Hardy Boys, Huck Finn, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Scooby-Doo, Lemony Snicket, and adventure author Jack London.

My father died this past March. But he and I collaborated on a manuscript about humor for the adult market. That is under consideration at two CBA publishers now.

I have also written two picture book manuscripts. One of those is also at two CBA publishers right now.

There are at least another dozen stories I could still do in the action-adventure/mystery genre. I also sense God directing my thoughts to a couple of fantasy projects. One of these is a trilogy. I’ve dictated all the story elements for these and am just waiting to see what project elbows its way to the front of the line. They always do.

How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

Are you accusing me of being sane? I think all writers live a little closer to that line than they’d like to admit. We tend to view the world differently than other people. But it’s when I’m actually writing that everything seems in balance. I arrange my schedule in such a way that distractions are kept to a minimum. Our children are grown and out of the house, so this helps. I have tremendous respect, especially for moms who have children at home and still they find a way to make writing work. I’m not sure I could do that. And God must have known that, too, given the way that He has worked everything out in my writing life.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

The character’s first names usually denote the personality type. I also consult some of the Internet lists of most popular names for girls and boys. Last names have come from the phone book or my old, and I do mean OLD, high school yearbook.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

It has to be when I hear from parents or readers who write to tell me how my books have made an impact like this.

“I can't believe it the concerned mother of two struggling readers...who is also the daughter of a children's librarian ... I think I have purchased EVERY book recommended for reluctant readers HOWEVER, they have ALL fallen short UNTIL today. We were able to purchase Newspaper Caper...and we're hooked!!!”

Earlier this week a boy wrote to tell me he liked my books as much as Lemony Snicket. For an author, who grew up hating to read, these are pretty special, every time they happen. And even though my books were first aimed at reluctant reader boys, the fact that they enjoy reading them, along with avid readers, girls, and adults is something I’m very proud of, though I don’t take the credit for it.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

That’s a tough one because I love animals a lot. I enjoy the Character Sketches series from Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts. These books draw comparisons in scripture to the traits of different animals. In that context I’d like to say it would be a lion for his strength and courage, or, a fox for his cunning. But I’d have to choose the lowly badger instead. He is depicted in the book as, “Devoting all my energy to a course of action which I know is right.”

This journey of mine into the world of publishing is so outside my comfort zone. Along with it come personal appearances and situations that are contrary to what I might selfishly like to be doing. If I could just write in anonymity, that’d be fine with me, only it doesn’t work that way.

My husband and I love the Character Sketches series, too. We used them in raising our children. What is your favorite food?

Pretty much anything with shrimp in it. But, when it comes to dessert, that would have to be lemon meringue pie…served cold of course.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

You mean besides the fact that the first draft was finished in less than three days? I began writing at around 6 in the evening, and the next thing I knew, it was morning. I just kept on writing because the story continued to flow.

Something very interesting happened to me while I was doing research for this book. Years ago, I was one of those opposed to placing wolves into Yellowstone. I nearly produced a video program for a group of Wyoming ranchers who were also opposed. As I researched the wolf for this new book, my opinion completely changed.

I learned of the high esteem that Native American Indians had for these magnificent animals. Because of this respect, Indians would seldom kill a wolf. They hunted together where wolves helped to herd elk or other animals out onto the ice so the hunters could get them. Wolves mate for life and live in families. I could go on and on.

But the biggest thing was that wolves are not indiscriminant killers. They primarily hunt only to eat. A thirteen-year-old boy from Hawaii just wrote to me about Legend of the White Wolf.

"I just finished all 7 of the books we bought from you. The books are superb. Legend of the White Wolf is a really touching story. My mom cried.”

Reviewers have added:

1. Few good books exist intended for 8- to 12-year-old boys. “Legend of the White Wolf” offers fast-paced adventure, clean content, delightful humor, and likeable characters. Trust and truth prevail in this well-told story.

2. Even though Legend of the White Wolf is intended for readers 8 to 12 years old, and primarily for boys, it can be enjoyed by all readers. Readers will be rewarded for time well spent in this delightful, very believable story.

3. Max Elliot Anderson weaves this story of adventure and trust with deft fingers, bringing the story to life in a fulfilling and meaningful way. “Legend of the White Wolf” should be included on every young boy’s bookshelf.

4. No one can walk away from LEGEND OF THEWHITE WOLF without being satisfied in your heart, soul and mind.

Like all of my books, Legend of the White Wolf, is filled with humor, lots of dialog, and heart-pounding action.

More information can be found at and nearly 50 pages of reviews at

Max, thank you for the fun and intesting interview.

Readers, go to Max's web site and check out all his books, and don't forget to leavea comment for a chance to win a copy.

Our Newest Book Winner Is

. . .Jennifer Y. She will receive a copy of Lessons From the Heart by Dorothy Clark when she e-mails me her mailing address. Congratulations, Jennifer.

Would you like to win a free book. Be sure to leave a comment on Phil Little's interview for a chance to win Hell in a Briefcase.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hell in a Briefcase

Let me introduce you to Phil Little, author of the Matt Cooper mystery, Hell in a Briefcase.

Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

The plot is taken from my experiences or what I see as a possible event in the future based on my background in counter terrorism. Then, throughout the book, real events that have happened on cases are woven into the activities of Matt’s life.

Wow, that sounds interesting. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

One time in Mexico, thinking I was alone in a hotel suite with my wife, I came down the stairs doing a strip tease and as I whipped off the towel to my surprise some of my staff was in the room. I retreated with great haste.

I'm sure you did. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

I have had to write as part of my work as a detective in doing reports and I always enjoyed taking some facts and being able to weave it into a story that would impress the client. Friends had told me for years I should write about my experiences but I replied that I was not a writer and couldn’t see myself, an action person, sitting down for weeks and writing a book. That all changed in October 2003 when I was at lunch with a long time friend and support, John Tayloe, who suggested I do an outline for a seminar and start with that. I did and suddenly something clicked. I envisioned 20 chapters of a book. Since then I have published three books and I am working on my fourth.

Good job! Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

I like mysteries, action books like the Jason Bourne character, westerns and faith-based books.

You'd probably like to read my friend Terry Burns' books. They're faith-based westerns. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

My first book, Counter Terrorism Handbook was published in September 2004. My second book, Hostile Intent ,was published in 2005, and my third book, Hell in a Briefcase, was published in June 2006.

They all three sound interesting. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I pray a lot. I try to spend time just getting away and having quiet time with just me and God. God is very important in my life and He helps me stay focused and keep my head on straight with so much travel and excitement. Right now my life is intense with a TV Pilot we just did for a show about my life as a Hollywood P.I. and all the interviews around the Middle East conflict and the London Bombing case.

Be sure to let us know when the TV show starts so we can watch it. How do you choose your characters’ names?

Most come from people I know or those I have worked with. The characters in Hell in a Brief Case came from the staff at West Coast Detective Int’l. I used first names and changed the last. The characters were based a lot on the personalities of the real person in the job.

What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Being able to deliver my daughter in natural childbirth. She is now 15 years old, and we have a special bond because of it. She is Matt Cooper’s daughter in the book. I have two older sons and when they were born the hospital wouldn’t let you in the delivery room. Running a close second to that is the selection of my current assistant JJ. You can see her on my blog, .

Sounds like you've lived a very intersting life. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A Lion. The Lion is bold and sure of himself. He is unafraid and King of the forest.

What is your favorite food?

A perfect white fish, Sea Bass or Halibut, baked in a nice white wine sauce with a bottle of Montrachet.

What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

It is a look at a real life International Private Security Agency, and the reader gets a rare glimpse inside the life of an International P.I./Counter Terrorism agent.

Phil, thank you for sharing this time with us.

Readers, be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Hell in a Briefcase.

Woo!!! Hoo!!! Another Winner

Ronie, you have won a copy of A Sounding Brass by Shelley Bates. Please contact me with your information.

There's still time to leave a comment on Dorothy Clark's interview.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dorothy Clark - A Wonderful Author

Have you ever wondered about how an author looks when they are working. Here is my good friend Dorothy Clark in her working environment. If you haven't read any of your books, you'll want get some right away. She writes books that will keep you turning pages.

Thanks for spending time with us Dorothy. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.

I don’t consciously write any of myself into my characters, but I’m afraid bits and pieces of me sneak in there in spite of my efforts.

As a fellow author, I know how you feel. What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?

I’ve spent some time thinking about this and I can’t come up with a thing. LOL I’m stuck with being boring. I just don’t do quirky.

I guess you leave that up to people like me. When did you first discover that you were a writer?

When God told me—and I’m not kidding. One day in church a visiting pastor said, "The Lord would have you write down all that He gives you." A short time later a sentence came into my head and wouldn’t go away. I wrote it down and that act of obedience opened a floodgate. Words poured into my mind and 120K words later, I had my first book, Beauty for Ashes. When (again in church) He spoke that I was to write a second book–Hosea’s Bride–I began to suspect this wasn’t a one shot deal, and He was leading me on a new path. Until that happened, I hadn’t a clue as to what the Lord had in store for me. I certainly never dreamed of becoming a writer. I’ve been richly blessed.

What a wonderful story about how God moves in our lives, and I loved both of those books. I know how you feel. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.

Gracious! That’s a wide range. I won’t read what I call "downer" books. There’s too much suffering and sadness in real life for me to read about it in the name of entertainment. Other than that, I’ll read most anything except horror or Sci-fi. My apologies to those who write them, but they’re simply not my thing.

No need to apologize. We all have our preferred types of books to read. What other books have you written, whether published or not?

My first four books: Hosea’s Bride, Beauty for Ashes, Joy for Mourning (sequel to Beauty for Ashes) and Lessons From the Heart, are all published. I am now working on another contemporary romance and an historical set in 1763.

I can hardly wait for them to come out. I've been one of your greatest fans. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?

I don’t run. Through a series of personal and family health problems, I learned to say no. Also, our home sits on a wooded hill, surrounded by nature. I’ve only to step outside to feel God’s peace. It’s a wonderful way to slow down when I’m "running" inside.

How do you choose your characters’ names?

So far, they have simply come to me. But if/when I do have to choose one it will probably be old-fashioned. I like common or Biblical names. Oh, and it will be easy to type.

That last bit of advice is good. The book I'm working on has a heroine with a first name that is spelled a very different way. It adds to the writing time. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?

Forty-eight years of marriage to my own hero and best friend, and three wonderful children who do us proud.

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A horse. Why? Hmm. I guess because a horse is so beautiful. majestic and powerful when it is running free, yet submissive and useful, willing to carry someone weaker than itself when there’s a need.

Good observation. What is your favorite food?

Another gracious! How do you choose one? Okay, I’ll fess up. I couldn’t survive without potatoes. LOL How mundane a choice is that? But I love them in all the multitude of ways you can prepare them–especially scalloped or mashed or made into chips! There have been moments when I was quite certain manna was a potato chip.

Very funny. What would you like to tell us about the featured book?

Lessons From the Heart is about the battle between flesh and spirit that every Christian encounters. It’s about choosing to obey or to ignore God’s Word. In the book the struggle for the Christian heroine centers around her love for a man who wants no part of God. Does she obey God’s word and walk away from the relationship? Or does she ignore God’s admonition to not be unequally yoked and reach for the forbidden fruit? My prayer is that the Lord might use the book to spare any readers who are looking with hunger on whatever forbidden fruit is tempting them years of agony or heartache.

I just read that book this last week, and it is wonderful. The subject was handled realistically, but with compassion. Readers, if you don't win it, you'll want to get a copy anyway. But one of you will win a copy, so leave a comment for a chance.

Dorothy, thank you for spending this time with me.

Candice Speare

. . .you are the winner of Arms of Deliverance by Tricia Goyer. Please send me your mailing address.

Readers remember, there's always at least one winner of a free book every week. It might as well be you, so be sure to leave a comment on each interview.

There's still time to leave a comment on my interview with Shelley Bates for a copy of A Sounding Brass.