Hear us Roar

Maggie Smith

If you’re an aspiring author and want insights into what’s involved in launching a book into the world, this is the podcast for you. Maggie Smith, author and blogger, interviews debut novelists from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association discussing not only the inspiration behind their book, but also their insights into the writing process, the best advice they ever got, and the joys and sometimes pitfalls they encountered on their path to publication.

All Episodes

Elissa and Idiscuss how her book was informed by her lived experience of having MS as well as going through ALICE training at her job, how the Twitter events Pitch Wars and PitMad led to her finding an agent, how she wrote 2 other books before clicking with the third, and how her best marketing move has been interfacing with readers in private FB groups. Elissa is a former journalist who now works in higher education communications and marketing. Though she grew up among the lakes and trees of Northern Minnesota, Elissa now lives on the South Dakota prairie with her husband and children. Her blog posts about living with multiple sclerosis have appeared on the National MS Society online Momentum Magazine Blog. The Speed of Light is her debut novel. Her second novel, Iris in the Dark, is coming in June 2022 from Lake Union Publishing.  To learn more about Elissa, click here.

Nov 25

26 min 57 sec

Libby Hubscher describes her writing process as seeing pivotal scenes, fully formed, in her head, then writing in and around those to fill in the missing pieces. Libby landed an agent through a Twitter connection but hadn’t fully realized there was a bigger hurdle ahead – being on submission and ultimately not finding a publisher. Her first six novels, some contemporary romance, some literary fiction, failed to sell and it wasn’t until she opened herself up and wrote “the story I needed to write” that the magic happened. The book of her heart sold in two months. Libby is a scientist as well as an author. She studied biology at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine and holds a doctor of philosophy in molecular toxicology from North Carolina State University. Her work has appeared online and in textbooks, scientific journals, and literary journals. Her short story “The Unwelcome Guest” was long-listed for the Wigleaf Top 50 in 2018. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two young children, and a menagerie of pets. To learn more about Libby, click here.    

Nov 18

35 min 34 sec

Debra and I discuss how her book, featuring two sisters from Mexico who cross the border illegally to find their father, avoided the controversy that enveloped American Dirt through her attention to authenticity, her background with immigrant groups, and her use of well-vetted sensitivity experts. Another highlight of Debra’s writing journey with Luz was winning Story Circle’s  Sarton Book Award for Contemporary Fiction, since its namesake May Sarton wrote Journal of a Solitude, a touchstone of Debra’s since its publication in 1973. Luz was also named the 2020 Next Generation Indie Book Award for Multicultural Fiction. Originally from Binghamton, New York, Debra has lived in Southern California most of her adult life. She taught literature and writing at James Monroe High School, a Los Angeles public school, and English as a Second Language (ESL) to adults from all over the world. Her work as an immigrant and refugee rights advocate led her to write Luz. A lover of all creatures great and small, when she isn’t with her two horses, she is relaxing with her husband and little dog, watching all the birds and critters that visit her backyard feeders. She is currently at work on her second novel to be published Spring 2023. To learn more about Debra, click here.

Nov 11

32 min 25 sec

Our latest interview is with Sarah Penner (The Lost Apothecary, Park Row/Harper Collins, March 2021). Starting with the high-concept hook of an apothecary who provides women in 18th century London the means to take revenge on predatory men, Sarah received offers of representative from half the agents she queried and sold her book in one day.  A true-life success story, she landed a spot on the NY Times Best-Seller list and her novel has been optioned by Fox Entertainment for a long-form drama series. Hear her story of learning to write women with agency, her fascination with potions, herbs, and teas, and her decision to quit her corporate finance job to pursue life as a novelist. A graduate of the University of Kansas, Sarah spent thirteen years in corporate finance and now writes full-time. She and her husband live in St. Petersburg, Florida with their miniature dachshund, Zoe. Her book has been translated into forty languages worldwide. To learn more about Sarah, click here.

Nov 4

28 min 21 sec

Jill's dual time-line debut is loosely based on her grandmother’s story of life during the depression and finding her way into a creative career, much the way Jill has since leaving her high-tech career. And if there ever was a testimonial for what the Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association can offer a novice writer, Jill’s story qualifies – she’s a member of a critique group, she’s participating in the agent pitch event, she’s taken numerous seminars, and now she’s appeared on the podcast. Truly a writer who’s open to taking advantage of every opportunity to hone her craft. Jill’s short stories have been published in 805Lit, Oyster River Pages, The Potato Soup Journal, and elsewhere. After working for nearly thirty years as a high tech marketing and product manager, Jill now pursues her passion for creative writing full time.  She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and daughter. To learn more about Jill, click here.  

Oct 28

29 min 43 sec

Hear how an unexpected encounter in a grocery store line became the impetus for Christina Consolino's novel and how she did a major rewrite late in the process to give both her POV characters more agency. We also delve into her decision to publish with a small press, how her best marketing tool has been word of mouth advertising from groups like WFWA, and about our mutual love for the November phenomenon called NaNoWriMo. Christina is a scientist turned writer and editor whose work has appeared in multiple online and print outlets. Her debut novel, Rewrite the Stars, was named one of ten finalists for the Ohio Writers' Association Great Novel Contest 2020, and she is the co-author of Historic Photos of University of Michigan. She serves as senior editor at the online journal Literary Mama and contributing editor for Shelf Unbound, freelance edits both fiction and nonfiction, and teaches writing classes at Word's Worth Writing Connections. Christina loves to connect with writers of all stages and lives in Kettering, Ohio, with her family and rotating cast of pets. To learn more about Christina, click here. 

Oct 21

29 min 34 sec

We discuss KD's debut, a fictionalized version of a small-town murder in the late 1920’s that wound up garnering world-wide attention.and took place only two counties over from KD’s home base in southwestern Wisconsin. KD credits the advice she got from a former student as well as support from local bookstores and mentoring from women authors in our association with giving her the support she needed to produce this historical fiction which was subsequently selected as a finalist in the WFWA 2021 Star Awards for Best Debut Novel. Listen to the end to hear what infamous accused murderer lives in her family tree. Kate is a retired educator who lives with her husband in the beautiful rolling hills of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Writers Association and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association with a passion for historical fiction mixed with true crime/mystery. She enjoys her family, her flower/fairy gardens, researching her ancestry, and traveling the backroads of Wisconsin looking for a new story to tell. To learn more about KD, click here.  

Oct 14

26 min 53 sec

Jeannee delves into her love for the rich heritage of Afghanistan, which forms the backdrop of her debut and how, even at an early age, teachers singled her stories out for praise, so she’s always considered herself a writer despite years as a professor as well as a photographer. You’ll learn how she re-wrote her book several times based on feedback from both agents and other writers and why she opted for a small press over the agent/traditional publisher route. A former English professor, Jeannée Sacken is a photojournalist who travels throughout Africa, South America, and Asia documenting the lives of women and children. Behind the Lens is her debut novel. Double Exposure, her second novel featuring Annie Hawkins Green, is slated for release in October 2022. She lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin with her husband and cats and loves to make guest appearances at book clubs to discuss her novels. To learn more about Jeannee, click here.  

Oct 7

33 min 33 sec

Beatryce and I discuss about how she purposely wanted to write a book about boomers finding a soulmate rather than millennials, how she found the perfect hybrid press to teach her about launching a debut, How she lets her characters take her on a roller-coaster ride if they want, and her unique technique for capturing those novel ideas that come to all of us at 4 in the morning.   Beatryce Ruby has been an international bed and breakfast operator in Alaska and an English teacher in California. She has survived a hot air balloon crash in the Mojave Desert, an over-the-cliff and down-the-mountain auto crash in the Tehachapi Mountains, and a ski crash in Devil's Head, Wisconsin. When enjoying a more tranquil life on terra firma, she writes engrossing adult stories, fanciful children's stories, ruminative poetry, inspirational vignettes, and arresting short stories. Receiving her BA from California State University, Los Angeles, studying Romance languages and linguistics at UCLA, she completed her teacher training through the University of San Diego. Now living in the Southeast, she observes the sprawling natural surroundings and the madding crowd. With these as her inspiration, she derives fresh ideas for new stories. To learn more about Beatryce, click here.

Sep 30

31 min 27 sec

Gina spoke to us from Australia only hours after a major earthquake shook her town, but she’s used to living in danger zones. In fact, her real-life experience of living in Baghdad at the time of Hussein’s toppling and discovering a good friend was an informant for the Iraqi government was the springboard for Gina’s debut which subsequently became a Target Book of the Month pick. Moving from her previous career as a foreign correspondent into novel writing offered challenges but proved to be the unique card Gina played during querying her novel which landed her an agent here in the States. We discuss an ethical question explored in her book -- what happens when good people are forced to make choices which go against their moral code? Gina Wilkinson has been a nomad from the age of six-months, when her parents packed their belongings into an old Renault and set off for a remote gold-mining town in Australia's Nullarbor desert. Since then, she’s circumnavigated the globe many times. As a foreign correspondent, she reported from some of the globe's most intriguing and dangerous places for renowned broadcasters such as the BBC, NPR, and the ABC, before trading in her reporter's notebook for an author's pen. After 20 years living and working overseas, including eight years in the United States, she returned to her homeland of Australia. She now lives in Melbourne with her Canadian-born husband, two sons, and a furless cat called Obiwan. To learn more about Gina, click here.

Sep 23

28 min

Even though her fiction often has speculative and magical elements (she’s a life-long fan of monsters and snakes) Tiffany considers her primary goal as an author to dive deep into the “why” people behave the way they do, rather than contriving intricate plots. When it came to publishing, she took a gamble and went with a small publisher just starting out that she heard about through a member announcement in the WFWA newsletter. Turned out the owner herself was also a member and soon after signing, the press was acquired by a larger entity, offering additional resources and support.   Tiffany is writer and poet hailing from Phoenix, Arizona. Her debut novel, A Flood of Posies, was released in February 2021 with Black Spot Books. Her second book, Little Bird, releases in 2022 also with Black Spot. Her work has been published in multiple magazines over the years, including Shoreline of Infinity, Luna Station Quarterly, The Molotov Cocktail, and others. Find her online at  Twitter and Instagram @TMeuretBooks for deep discussions about small dogs and bad movies. To learn more about Tiffany, click here.

Sep 17

27 min 9 sec

Elizabeth and I discuss her experience with PitchWars (thumbs up), losing her first agent (thumbs down) and how she had to segment her marketing approach to appeal to divergent audiences (historical fiction, steampunk, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, and yes, women’s fiction) since her debut didn’t fit neatly into one genre. Even though she signed with a small publisher, her novel would up topping the charts, scored a BookBub deal, garnered rave reviews from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and is being expanded into a five-book series. And be sure to listen to the short passage Elizabeth reads from her novel – since she's a trained actress, it's an audiobook come to life.  Elizabeth makes her home in Connecticut and is a Writers of the Future Contest winner, a Golden Heart® finalist, a Pitch Wars alumna, and a member of SFWA.,  The sequel to her debut, The Brass Queen: Grand Tour, will be published in 2022.  When she's not writing, Elizabeth works as a voiceover actor and there's a rumor she possesses the world's best scone recipe. To learn more about Elizabeth, click here.  

Sep 8

27 min 22 sec

Shail  Rajan woke up on December 9th, after a difficult few months for her family, and decided to publish the novel she’d had in the drawer for years. And not just sometime in the future after she’d gotten an agent and found a publisher, but that very day. She followed the KDP instructions step-by-step, worked with her teenage daughter to fashion a cover, and before the sun went down, she hit publish. Our far-ranging conversation covers why she purposely wrote a “feel-good” book, how all the recipes in her book are vegetarian but no one but her father has ever mentioned it, and how she’s living out a true romance that started when she was 3 years old in India. Born in India, raised in beautiful Upstate New York, and now soaking up the sun in California with her family, Shail has been writing stories to entertain herself for almost two decades. Her manuscripts have been sitting patiently on her laptop waiting for the day when she'd finally be ready to send them out into the world. That day came on December 9, 2020 when she published her debut novel The Summer Breeze, a book which is a celebration of all the things that mean so much to her: family, friendships, food, and falling in love. Shail is currently working on a romantic suspense novel and the next book in The Summer Breeze series. To learn more about Shail, click here.  

Sep 2

29 min 14 sec

This week’s guest is L. Bordetsky-Williams (Forget Russia, Tailwinds Press, December 2020) whose historical fiction debut is framed around many of her family’s experiences from 1900-1980 during the Russian Revolution, the pogroms in Ukraine, and her relatives’ eventual immigration to America, and later return to their mother country once the depression hit in 1931. She’s a big believer that we’re destined to meet certain people in our lives and has stories to prove it. And because her book covers multi-generations, we discuss finding the correct structure to use, which in her case included journal and diary entries as well as the use of both first and third-person points of view. Forget Russia is an Editors’ Choice Book of the Historical Novels Review. Lisa has also published the memoir, Letters to Virginia Woolf, The Artist as Outsider in the Novels of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf, and three poetry chapbooks. She is a Professor of Literature at Ramapo College of New Jersey and lives in New York City. To learn more about her, click here.      

Aug 26

27 min 45 sec

Christina comes out of a copy-editing background but caught the novel-writing bug when a vivid dream presented her with a story she couldn’t shake. She believes young writers shouldn’t be afraid to write the book they’d want to read and that an author owes it to herself to push the envelope in terms of imagination, sensuality, and intricate plot lines instead of following trends and standard tropes. She also relished the freedom to make her own decisions on marketing and book design that going indie offered.   Christina Tsirkas grew up in New York City and has since migrated to the beautiful beaches of sunny South Florida where she lives with her partner and the most amazing cat, Kitty. She received her B.S. degree from Skidmore College in 2009 and went on to earn a full scholarship from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. She is licensed to practice law in New York State (though she has yet to exercise that right!) The Night Sender is her debut novel. To learn more about Christina, click here.

Aug 19

26 min 15 sec

After years of non-fiction and business writing, Judith Teitelman fell in love with the more creative side of the craft after a friend dragged her to a regular writing group. In this interview, we discuss how her magical realism tale is an amalgam of both her German grandmother’s life story, a long-forgotten journal from an early relationship, and Judith’s longtime interest in eastern religion. And if you think getting an agent means your book is set, listen in because Judith eventually had to go hybrid after two years of not finding a publisher who’d take a chance of her novel.   Judith has straddled the worlds of arts, literature, and business since she was a teenager and worked her first job as a salesperson at a B. Dalton/Pickwick Bookstore. Life’s journeys took her from bookstores to commercial fine art galleries to the nonprofit arts and cultural sector, in which she has worked as staff, consultant, and educator for more than three decades. Throughout this time, Teitelman continued her pursuit of all things literary, and over the years her writing has been published in a variety of formats and publications. Guesthouse for Ganesha is her award-winning debut novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three beloved cats.  To learn more about Judith, click here.  

Aug 5

26 min 44 sec

In this interview, Kathy and Idiscuss how writing this book meant Kathy had to revisit painful memories from her own childhood as well as the breakup of her marriage, why she decided to take the hybrid route rather than endure the long wait of traditional publication, and her goal to write a book to not only satisfy her creative spirit but also to help others going through the same life challenges. Kathy's eighth career as an Award Winning Author, draws from her first seven careers. From dishwasher to civilian female educator on an aircraft carrier (before women were on ships), to owning her own consulting business, Kathy has met many characters and traveled to some exotic places. For now, she is content to stay put in San Antonio, TX with her husband and crazy cat Toby and create stories out of all those experiences. Currently, she is writing the sequel to the Award Winning novel, Success Is The Best Revenge. To learn more about Kathy, click here.  

Jul 29

30 min 38 sec

This novel was eight years in the making after starting life as an award-winning short story but Joyce felt like she had to grow both as a writer and as a student of human psychology before she could do it justice.  She described parting ways with her first agent and switching to a small publisher as well as tips to increase pre-orders and suggestions for turning a novel to a possible screenplay. Joyce was born in the SE Bronx, escaped to Manhattan as a teenager and now lives in Seattle with her husband and son. Along the way to becoming a full-time author, Joyce has worked as a screenwriter, singer-songwriter, multimedia performance artist and most recently, a member of the world music vocal ensemble, Abráce. Joyce is a Pushcart nominee, whose stories and poems have been widely published. Her first Jo Epstein mystery, Ask the Dead   was selected by The Poisoned Pen as a Recommended First Novel and hailed as “Bronx noir”. The second book in the series, The Last Matryoshka  was praised by Library Journal and  takes place in Brooklyn and Moscow. Ms. Yarrow co-authored her third book, Rivers Run Back (Vitasta 2015), with Indian writer Arindam Roy and it was launched at The American Center (US Embassy) in New Delhi. Ms. Yarrow considers the setting of her books to be characters in their own right and teaches workshops on "The Place of Place in Mystery Writing." To learn more about Joyce, click here.  

Jul 22

29 min 46 sec

It’s our 100th podcast and it’s with Denny S. Bryce (Wild Women and the Blues, Kensington Books, March 2021). A former professional dancer as well as a marketing entrepreneur, Denny first got acquainted with agents who judged RWA writing contests she entered and eventually chose her agent over others because she was much more interested in Denny’s over-all writing and career goals rather than with a single book. We discuss how it’s important to get your name out in the writing community long before you finish your book, how you should always be writing other books while your first is on submission, how having her publication date delayed because of the pandemic turned out to be a blessing, and how both her grandmother’s old photos and her boss at a NY restaurant provided the inspiration for her debut. And stay tuned to the end to learn about her two upcoming novels and the now famous actor she once went out with.     Denny S. Bryce is an award-winning author and three-time RWA Golden Heart® finalist, including twice for Wild Women and the Blues. The former professional dancer and public relations executive is a book critic for NPR Books and also has written for Frolic Media, USA Today, and Harper’s Bazaar. A member of the Historical Novel Society (HNS), Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA), Novelists, INC., and The Tall Poppies, the former Chicagoan currently resides in Savannah, GA. To learn more about Denny, click here.

Jul 15

34 min 48 sec

Kathryn’s book got a new cover only days before release and published in the middle of not only the pandemic but the post-election furor and the post office debacle (it took some readers two months to receive their books). This historical novel is set in northern California in the 1960’s, with the first stirrings of the computer age (Kathryn’s brother was a classmate of Steve Wozniak), a rich Silicon Valley setting, and a plucky heroine who learns to carve her own way in life despite family pressures. Kathryn’s previous work had been in the short story genre but now that she’s discovered the novel, she’s off and running with two more books nearing completion. Kathryn's short fiction has appeared in over twenty online literary magazines and print anthologies. She is the author of a collection of short fiction, FLATLANDERS, Shire Press 2019. She received the Grand Prize in the 2020 Eyelands International Short Story Contest. To learn more about Kathryn, click here.

Jul 8

28 min 25 sec

In this interview with Melissa Hunter, we discuss how this story, a fictional quasi-memoir of her grandmother’s experiences as a teenager in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany, was one Melissa felt compelled to write but couldn’t fully embrace until she became a mother herself. Through the years, she wrote it as a series of joined short stories and even a screenplay until finally settling on women’s historical fiction as the ideal structure. We discuss working with a small specialty publisher, using the novel as an educational tool to educate young people about the Holocaust, and how a Facebook group resulted in a filmmaker using the book in an upcoming documentary. Melissa W. Hunter is a writer and blogger from Cincinnati, Ohio, with a passion for telling stories about her family and her own life experiences. Her articles have been published on Kveller.com, LiteraryMama.com, Booksbywomen.org, and her short stories have appeared in the Jewish Literary Journal. She is a contributing blogger to the Today Show parenting community, and her novella Through a Mirror Clear was published as a serial installment on TheSame.blog, an online literary journal written for women by women (now available in its entirety on Amazon.com). Her debut novel What She Lost is inspired by her grandmother’s life as a Holocaust survivor and is the subject of an upcoming episode of the documentary Generation to Generation (Fall, 2021). When not at her computer, Melissa loves spending family time with her husband and two beautiful daughters. To learn more about Melissa, click here.

Jul 1

28 min 45 sec

Florence’s background in social work as well as her own large extended family informed her decision to write a wide-ranging saga, spanning a century-worth of events, secrets, and history of a close-knit Jewish immigrant family with themes of resilience, mental health challenges, and how decisions made at a point in time cycle through and effect subsequent generations. After finding it difficult to land an agent, she decided to publish with a quality hybrid press, and has been successful interfacing with book clubs across the country as well as using Book Bub and Facebook ad placements to publicize her debut. Florence was raised and educated in New York City. With a BA in English and a Master’s degree in Social Work, she served for over thirty years as a clinician, a family therapist and eventually CEO of a family service agency before retiring to write and travel. Her own close family of 26 aunts and uncles and 27 first cousins and listening to stories around the kitchen table, coffee klatches and family parties inspired her to write her fictional, multi-generational family drama, How to Make a Life. She has published stories for children and teens, romance stories for national magazines, literary stories, and personal essays for the Westchester section of the New York Times. Her fiction has appeared in publications such as The Evening Street Press and SNReview.  To learn more about Florence, click here.  

Jun 24

29 min 8 sec

When Geeta Schrayter first signed with a small press ten years ago, little did she realize she’d have to eventually wrest back control of her debut, rework the cover and formatting including left-out pages, and re-issue it on her own through Ingram a good decade later. Her story of perseverance will inspire writers whose books deserve a second chance at success in a marketplace where indie publishing is possible given a few dollars, some ingenuity, and a lot of hard work. Geeta fell in love with the written word as soon as she could read. As a child she crafted pretend newspapers and fashion catalogs and penned short stories. In fifth grade she won her first writing competition, decided she was going to be a writer, and never faltered in that decision.  She received her undergraduate degree in communications with a journalism concentration, and over the years has been a blogger, magazine intern, freelance writer, reporter, and assistant newspaper editor.  Along with the above, she’s always had a love of fiction writing—ideas are constantly swirling around in her head and have come about from random events such as stopping at a stop light, being stranded at a bar, listening to music, and working on a puzzle with her daughter. She loves to observe the world around her, and her favorite writing quote is, “Be careful, or you may end up in my next novel.” When she’s not writing, Geeta loves to travel, read, cook, run, and savor the magic in the everyday. She currently resides in New England with her family and is working on her next two novels. To learn more about Geeta, click here.

Jun 17

29 min 22 sec

Listen to my interview with Densie Webb where we discuss the pluses and minuses of working with a small press, the value of writer networks, how readers often prefer true-to-life endings over happily-ever-afters, and how not every writer works best with an outline. Densie Webb (not Denise) has spent a long career as a freelance nonfiction writer and editor, specializing in health and nutrition, and has published several books on the topic. She grew up in Louisiana, spent 13 years in New York City, and settled in Austin, TX, where it’s summer nine months out of the year. She is an avid walker (not of the dead variety, though she adores zombies, vampires and apocalyptic stories), drinks too much coffee, and has a small “devil dog” that keeps her on her toes.   The fiction bug bit her several years ago and she now has two novels, her debut women’s fiction novel, When Robins Appear, published by Red Adept Publishing and a paranormal romance, Le Reméde, published by Wild Rose Press. She also had her essay: Boob Job Regrets: In Appreciation of Your Previously Small Chest, included in an anthology compiled by Randy Susan Meyers, titled Women Under Scrutiny: An Anthology of Truths, Essays, Poems, Stories & Art. All proceeds from the anthology go to Rosie’s Place in Boston, a sanctuary for poor and homeless women. And her flash fiction piece, The Prank, was in the top ten finalists for Women on Writing’s Summer 2019 Flash Fiction contest. To learn more about Densie, click here.  

Jun 10

27 min 36 sec

In my interview with Bhaswati, we discuss how her grandmother’s short stories about life as a Pakistani during the partition of India in 1947 provided the seed for her story, how she had to drop a fascinating plot line because she could not locate the necessary historical research, and the difference between the non-fiction writing she’s done throughout her career and the tools she needed to learn to flesh out her debut novel.   Bhaswati Ghosh writes and translates fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her first book of fiction is 'Victory Colony, 1950'. Her first work of translation from Bengali into English, 'My Days with Ramkinkar Baij' won her the Charles Wallace (India) Trust Fellowship for translation. Bhaswati’s writing has appeared in several literary journals. She lives in Ontario, Canada, and is currently working on a nonfiction book on New Delhi, India. To learn more about Bhaswati, click here.  

Jun 3

28 min 36 sec

Hear how KJ worked with Author Accelerator’s founder, Jennie Nash, for a year before querying, how her previous platform as a well-known non-fiction writer paved the way to quickly finding an agent and a publisher, and how she researched independent bookstores to identify the best candidates to receive a sample copy. And what it’s like when your editor calls you on a random Thursday evening during the pandemic to tell you Reese Witherspoon has picked your debut novel as her December 2020 book club selection. KJ Dell’Antonia is the author of the The Chicken Sisters, a New York Times bestseller, a Reese Witherspoon book club pick and a timely, humorous exploration of the same themes she has long focused on in her journalism: the importance of finding joy in our families, the challenge of figuring out what makes us happy and the need to value the people in front of us more than the ones in our phones and laptops, every single time.  She wrote and edited the Motherlode blog at the New York Times and is also the author of the viral essay Why I Didn’t Answer Your Email and the book How to Be a Happier Parent.  To learn more about KJ, click here.

May 27

32 min 1 sec

In this interview, you’ll hear how an early family tragedy provided the inspiration for her story, how her research took her down rabbit holes filled with bugs, how she made a grumpy main character someone readers still want to spend time with, and how parting ways with her first agent led to a perfect fit with not only another agent but a brand-new imprint for women’s fiction as well. Rachel Mans McKenny's essays and humor have appeared recently in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Elle, InStyle, Catapult, McSweeney's, and other outlets. She teaches at Iowa State University, and can be found @rmmckenny on Twitter, and as @rachelmansmckenny on Instagram. To learn more about Rachel, click here.  

May 20

26 min 27 sec

In this episode, Jaye and I discuss how finding her grandfather’s WWI draft card paired with the time she spent living in New Orleans provided the seeds for this historical women’s fiction, how the protagonist’s name was taken from an old Constance Bennett film, and what it requires in terms of time and energy to publish your own work. JAYE BURKE is a southern historian, genealogist, and bestselling author whose focus is primarily set in the 19th and early to mid-20th centuries. She is a member of Women's Fiction Writers Assn., Romance Writers of America, Georgia Writers Assn., and Independent Book Publishers of America. A former advertising artist and copywriter, Jaye is originally from Birmingham, Alabama, a former resident of New Orleans and Mandeville, LA, and now lives with her husband in Atlanta, Georgia. To learn more about Jaye, click here.

May 13

26 min 37 sec

In this interview, Grace and I discuss the 25 “life lessons” her older characters imparted to her heroine, how Grace used her beta readers as developmental editors for her manuscript, her decision to use two publicists for different aspects of marketing, and how her absolute best decision was making a book trailer that conveyed not only the story line of her novel in less than two minutes but lent her legitimacy when she approached media contacts and book clubs.   Grace Sammon is an entrepreneur, educator, speaker, and storyteller.  She has started and managed two for-profits and two not-for-profit companies.  For nearly 30 years, Grace and her team worked in the United States toughest institutions, the American High School.  She has worked in 32 states and with Tribal Nations, with small businesses and with large Federal Agencies.  Having written three books and numerous articles in the area of education, she is utilizing skills built up over decades as she re-invents herself with her debut novel, The Eves, which is an intergenerational story about lives lived well and lives in transition.  It is a novel that challenges each of us to ask who we want to be in the world, regardless of our age. Grace grew up on Long Island, NY and spent most of her life in the Washington, DC area.  She currently lives on Florida’s west coast with her husband and a small herd of imaginary llamas. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram at @GraceSammonWrites. To learn more about Grace, click here.  

May 6

28 min 36 sec

In this podcast Madeleine and I discuss how working how working with a developmental editor for three years was instrumental in teaching her what she didn’t know about writing, how she researched the difficult subject matter including sexual abuse which occurs in her book, and how an early childhood experience resulted in her life-long interest in true crime. Madeleine Van Hecke writes dark stories to help women navigate the shadow side of life. A psychologist, former college professor, and author of two nonfiction books, Van Hecke returned to writing fiction during her retirement years. Her debut novel, Once You Know, is a story of one flawed women’s struggle to survive betrayal and move herself and her family toward healing. Once You Know won the 2020 First Place in Women’s Fiction Incipere Award given by Entrada Publishing. To learn more about Madeleine, click here. 

Apr 29

28 min 18 sec

In this interview we discuss how Paula returned to writing after a 20-year hiatus and switched from romance to women’s fiction and why she signed up to go exclusive with Amazon’s KDP program. If you’ve ever wondered about what it would be like to publish your own books, don’t miss Paula’s advice on finding fans through newsletter subscription programs, how you need to write and edit quickly to satisfy your readers, and the joy that comes with controlling your own destiny as a full-time writer. Paula Adler is a born and raised Texan who doesn’t care what the DNA results say… she’s way more than 12.6% Scottish. If she’s not writing, she’s probably off SCUBA diving or dancing. To learn more about Paula, click here.

Apr 22

29 min 11 sec

Angela Terry (Charming Falls Apart, Spark Press, August 2020)  talks about how her novel’s protagonist was inspired by a woman Angela met casually at a bachelorette party, her decision to publish with a hybrid press rather than self-publish, and how she finds the late-night hours her best time to shut off the rest of the world and concentrate on her writing. Angela is an attorney who formerly practiced intellectual property law at large firms in Chicago and San Francisco. She resides in San Francisco with her husband and two cats. She is also a Chicago Marathon legacy runner and races to raise money for PAWS Chicago—the Midwest’s largest no-kill shelter. Her debut novel, Charming Falls Apart, is a 2020 Best Book Awards Finalist. Her second novel, The Trials of Adeline Turner, will be published in September 2021. To learn more about Angela, click here. 

Apr 15

28 min 20 sec

During a wide-ranging talk about such diverse topics as the effect of language on how we view war to a discussion on finding mentors within books themselves to what it means to nurture your creative spirit and grow your talent, Katey reveals herself to be a disciplined, intelligent writer and teacher who thinks deeply about how language and the written word can shape our lives. Katey is the award-winning author of Flashes of War (stories) and Still Come Home (novel), both published by Loyola University Maryland’s Apprentice House Press. Honors for her work include the Linda Flowers Literary Award, Indie Fab Book of the Year from Foreword Reviews, a Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America, four Pushcart nominations, and writing fellowships in eight states. Still Come Home was named 2020 Indie Fiction Book of the Year by the Chicago Writers Association. .She lives in Celo, North Carolina, and is the founder of Maximum Impact, a transformative mentoring service for creative writers that has been recognized by both CNBC and the What Works Network. To learn more about Katey and her mentoring program, click here.  

Apr 8

29 min 58 sec

Sarah's lifelong obsession with Dartmouth as well as her fascination with the challenges that faced her mother's generation of women in the early '70's sparked the idea for this historical novel, which she wrote after spending seven years on a previous one that garnered her an agent but never sold.  We discuss how she reached out directly to bookstores once the pandemic hit, the long tail of book promotion, and the difficulty of judging which marketing techniques really affect book sales. Sarah McCraw Crow grew up in Virginia but has lived most of her adult life in New Hampshire. She's a graduate of Dartmouth College, Stanford University, and Vermont College of Fine Arts. When it comes to fiction writing (and reading), Sarah is obsessed with women's lives and the drama of family life. She also loves the Seventies. She lives on an old farm in New Hampshire, and when she's not reading or writing, she's probably gardening or snowshoeing (depending on the weather). Find Sarah on Instagram: @sarahmccrawcrow. To learn more about Sarah, click here.    

Apr 1

29 min 33 sec

Mary Helen talks about the three things she was advised not to do in a debut novel (unfortunately she’d done all three), messaging her “Christmas list” one day before her pub date with specific, simple things they could do to help her, why she’s given up on Pinterest, and why she’s writing the rough draft of her next novel as pure dialogue. Mary Helen Sheriff is a co-founder of Bookish Road Trip. After 14 years in classrooms teaching elementary school, middle school, college, and professionals, Mary has taken a break from the classroom to focus on writing. She has an MFA from Hollins University, an MA from ODU, and a BA from UVA. She lives in Henrico County in Virginia with her two children, two cats, and one husband. To learn more about Mary Helen, click here.    

Mar 25

34 min 43 sec

In this interview, Regina describes how she used her childhood experiences in the Catholic church to inform her protagonist’s guilt and shame over a long-buried secret, how she changed her original title during the publication process, and her positive experience going with a hybrid press for her first novel. And be sure to listen to the end to find out what Regina has in common with the Queen of England. Regina Buttner is a registered nurse-turned-writer and the debut author of ABSOLUTION, a domestic drama about marriage, secrets, and betrayal, set in Seattle during the 1990s dot-com boom. She recently traded the snowy winters of Upstate New York for the fabulous sunshine of Southwest Florida, where she enjoys running, biking, and kayaking among the mangroves. To learn more about Regina, click here.

Mar 18

27 min 33 sec

Quế Mai shares how she wanted to write a novel set during the Vietnam War from the missing perspective of the Vietnamese themselves, specifically the women, who she felt were often portrayed in literature as having no agency, when actually they were unbelievably strong and resilient. We discuss how she wove ger country’s food, culture, proverbs and beliefs into a rich tapestry of a debut that made every best-seller list of 2020 (1400+ Amazon reviews), how her agent believed in her book so strongly she hand-carried her proposal to publishers and gave them a deadline to respond, and how Que Mai is a proponent of headstands to enhance writer’s productivity. Dr Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai (pronounced ŋwiən fα:n kwe mai) is an award-winning writer in both Vietnamese and English. Her eight books of poetry, short fiction and non-fiction in Vietnamese have received some of Vietnam's top literary awards including the 2010 Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association, the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award, and First Prize in the Poetry Competition celebrating 1,000 Years of Hanoi. Her debut novel and first book in English, THE MOUNTAINS SING, is an International Bestseller, a New York Times Editors' Choice Selection, Winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Best Debut Award, a Finalist of the Audie 2021 Best Audiobook of the Year Award, and Winner of the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for "a work of exceptional quality" and for "contribution to peace and reconciliation". The novel has been named a best book of 2020 by many media establishments including NPR and the Washington Independent Review of Books. Quế Mai is the translator of seven books published in Vietnam and the United States and has received the Vietnam Writers Association’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Advancement of Vietnamese Literature Overseas. She currently divides her time between Indonesia and Vietnam. Her journalism regularly appears in major Vietnamese newspapers. To learn more about Que Mai, click here.

Mar 11

32 min 44 sec

A child raised in both Mormon and Muslim religious traditions, Ehsaneh worked in Iran for several years and her experiences there form the backdrop to her novel about  three people whose lives are upended by the 2009 Green Wave protests in that country. We discuss how the 2020 US election echoed many of the themes she explored in her book, how she found her perfect agent, going on sub but not selling her book the first round, and how she centered her marketing efforts on activities she enjoyed, ranging from riding her bike to deliver ARC’s by hand to reviewers to setting a goal to talk to 50 book clubs in her first year of publication.   Ehsaneh Sadr is an Iranian-American novelist and activist with a PhD in International Relations. She has worked, in various capacities, on campaigns related to Palestinian human rights, Iranian sanctions, access to credit for rural villagers, and safe spaces for children in crisis. She currently works with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition to create the cultural and infrastructure changes needed to support a shift away from carbon-based modes of transportation. Ehsaneh currently lives in Northern California with her husband and two children but also considers Washington DC, Salt Lake City, and Tehran to be home. Her debut novel, A Door Between Us, has been named one of the 33neh Essential Works of Fiction by Iranian Writers. To learn more about Ehsaneh, click here.

Mar 4

31 min 11 sec

We discuss Valerie's transition from a corporate writer to writing fiction after her retirement. She’s a fan of  book clubs and built her author platform partly through becoming a regular book reviewer for the national marketing firm Book Trib. In addition to her fans in the US, she’s made recent inroads into the library market in such far-off places as Singapore and Australia. Valerie grew up in CT, graduating with two degrees from Sacred Heart University. After her divorce, she spread her wings and relocated to Boston where she earned a graduate certificate in health care administration from Simmons University (formerly Simmons College). Her thirty-year career in the financial services industry as a marketer and writer also took her to Seattle where she lived for a decade. After she retired, Valerie returned to her home state where she became a continuing contributor and book reviewer for BookTrib.com. She’s a member of Westport Writers’ Workshop, Independent Book Publishers Association, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She enjoys practicing tai chi and being an expert sports spectator. What’s Not True, the sequel to her debut, will be published in August 2021. To learn more about Valerie, click here.  

Feb 25

29 min 24 sec

Mining her personal knowledge of the Balkans from a long-ago adventure, Michele’s debut braids historical events with a young woman’s personal journey to find her roots, a journey which rang to the author personally because of her own explorations into her own Jewish cultural heritage. Praised for its lyrical beauty, her manuscript nevertheless was deemed “hard to market” before finding a home with Black Rose Writing.     Now a resident of the Tar Heel state, Michele Levy lived a nomadic life growing up, living in Wisconsin, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Virginia. Her college degree in history and her love of language and literature steered her to UNC for graduate studies, where the field of Comparative Literature provided the perfect avenue to explore all her interests. Once she moved to New Orleans with her husband, she become an assistant professor, teaching and publishing on Russian and European authors while raising three children, and eventually chairing her department. Her life-long passion for the distinctive richness and vitality of the Balkan culture, a painful amalgam of both East and West, led her to study and eventually publish on the literature and history of that region and ultimately, provided the rich background for her debut novel. To learn more about Michele, and connect with her, click here.  

Feb 18

27 min 25 sec

Anita, an Ottawa resident, describes the difference between Canadian writers and those in the US, how she channeled her own grief experience into her main character, how she believes writing is rewriting, and how embracing bookstagrammers was her single best marketing decision.   Kushwaha's road to publication included a fulfilling career in academia, where she studied human geography at Carleton University and earned an M.A. and a Ph.D as a Tri-council funded scholar, collaborating with Indigenous communities in the eastern Canadian Arctic and Ottawa on socio-cultural and environmental issues. A graduate of the Humber School for Writers creative writing program, her work has appeared in Ms. Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Quill and Quire, The Literary Review of Canada, The 49th Shelf, Open Book, Word on the Street, The Ottawa Review of Books, Ottawa Life Magazine, Apt613, Girly Book Club, BookTrib, SavvyMom, CBC All in a Day, and Canadian Living among others. Her first novel, Side by Side, won an Independent Publisher Book Awards’ Silver Medal for Multicultural Fiction in 2019. She is also the author of a novella, The Escape Artist. Her novel, Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters, was released in January 2020 by HarperCollins Canada and selected as a March Book of the Month by Word on the Street, highlighted as a “Books with Buzz” by Canadian Living, selected as an “Editors’ Pick” by The 49th Shelf, and included in the “Crazy for CanLit” reading list curated by the Giller Prize Foundation. Themes in her work include exploring the social and cultural pressures faced by South Asian girls and women, immigrant experiences, diaspora, intergenerational conflict, identity, belonging, place, and mental health explored through a cultural lens. She is a member of the Canadian Authors Association, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and is the recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Literary Creations Grant.  To learn more about Anita, click here.

Feb 11

27 min 44 sec

).  Barbara describes how her age influenced her decision to go with a small press, how her year-long engagement with reader Facebook groups proved invaluable to her book launch, and the story behind how she landed a spot on the USA Today best-seller list four months after her book release. And as a final tidbit, how a random remark she made on Twitter led to a top-drawer blurb. For many years, Barbara worked in the health care industry before opting for an early retirement, which lasted all of three months. She then accepted a finance position, for which she had absolutely no background, and four years later, she decided to write a book. But not about finance. Travel is her passion, along with reading, writing, hiking, and exploring antique shops. Her greatest love is Miss Molly, her rescue beagle. There are stories to be told about beagles, and Barbara hopes to incorporate some of them into her books. She lives in Pennsylvania, close to family and friends. To learn more about Barbara, click here.    

Feb 4

28 min 11 sec

J.L. is new to writing but she’s determined to build a career, so if you’re a younger writer, or have a teenager interested in what it takes, she'll inspire you to start right now learning your craft and putting your story down on paper. Plus when was the last time you heard a writer say they actually liked the querying process? Jenna Hanger writing as J.L. Cole resides on an ranch in Alberta, CA with her husband and two young daughters. Her debut novel, Silver Heights, was published by Black Rose Writing, and was awarded the 2020 Maxy Romance Runner-Up award. She also has been published in Dreamers Creative Writing magazine, works as the Senior Writer for a non-profit organization and in her spare time reviews books on social media.  To learn more about J.L., please click here.      

Jan 28

27 min 57 sec

If you’re a pantser, this interview is for you!  Susan is squarely in the camp of letting your characters tell you their story and she’s got the books to prove it.  She’s a prolific romance novelist who is now venturing into women’s fiction, specifically historical tales from late 1800’s America.  Her best advice? Stay true to your unique vision.  Every trope started with a writer who said “but what if I did it differently?” A voracious reader her whole life, Susan Payne loves the written word.  When reading more than fifty books per month wasn’t enough, she decided to allow her mind to take flight and write all the many stories that kept intruding in her life.  She blended her love of history and her love of words to create over eighty stories.  All historical and centering on a couple finding love and a happy ever after together. To learn more about Susan, click here.

Jan 21

28 min 12 sec

Learn how the convergence of knowing someone in a women’s prison, the popularity of Orange is the New Black, and overheard conversations at her law firm about whistleblower monetary rewards came together to inspire this best-selling novel which her agent sold in less than three weeks.   A.H. Kim is an immigrant, practicing attorney, cancer survivor, community volunteer, and proud mother of two sons. She lives in San Francisco with her husband. A Good Family is her first novel. Excerpts, interviews, and more (including blog entries about the ups, downs, and in-betweens of being a debut author) can be found on her website.   To learn more about A.H., click here.

Jan 14

29 min 12 sec

In this podcast, Tricia and I discuss how a question her daughter posed was the “what if” inspiration behind her debut, how her background in screenwriting both helped and provided challenges when she turned to novel-writing and how, despite the fact she’d landed a top agent, she eventually decided to self-publish.  Tricia’s writing career started in 1992 after the tragic loss of her brother to AIDS. Wanting to make a difference in the fight against HIV, she turned to her love of writing and wrote a dramatic play to take to high schools. The play was performed over 450 times and inspired Tricia to continue writing. She studied screenwriting at UCLA, and Rodeo Girl, a screenplay she co-wrote, is available on Amazon, Netflix, and UP.    To learn more about Tricia, click here.  

Jan 7

29 min 23 sec

In my interview with Amanda Brainerd, we discuss how her debut novel started out as an oral history before morphing into a fictional examination of her years at an elite boarding school and then NYC in the mid ‘80’s, how Fran Leibowitz was an early fan, and a fascinating story of the evolution of her book cover design. Amanda lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with her husband and three children, blocks from where she grew up. She attended The Nightingale-Bamford School and was expelled from Choate Rosemary Hall, before going on to graduate from Harvard College and Columbia Architecture.  To learn more about her, click here.  

Dec 2020

33 min 24 sec

In our interview with Lindsey Rogers Cook, we discuss how she decided after a year to leave her first agent because they clashed over editorial changes, how her training as a journalist for first US News & World Report and now The New York Times, informs her fiction writing, and how she was able to take two months off from her day job on “Book Leave” to finish her second novel which releases next year. Lindsey Cook is a data journalist at The New York Times and a graduate of The University of Georgia. She lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband and a small zoo of rescue animals. To learn more about Lindsey, click here.  

Dec 2020

25 min 25 sec

Desperate Housewives meet Mean Girls in Dr. Stephanie Newman’s debut novel, which examines mother-daughter relations, the pervasive nature of social media in kid’s lives and school bullying.  Stephanie, a successful psychotherapist, discusses how she had to learn the difference between writing therapy notes and writing fiction, what it’s like to debut on a social media black-out day, and using blog posts and non-fiction op-ed pieces to help promote your novel. Stephanie Newman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst/psychologist, Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, and public speaker. She has practiced in New York over 25 years, treating adults and adolescents and families struggling with anxiety, depression, workplace concerns and more recently Covid-19 stress.  She is the also the author of Madmen on the Couch (a psychological romp through the TV show Madmen) and is a contributor to the on line edition of Psychology Today magazine.  To learn more about Stephanie, click here.    

Dec 2020

30 min 26 sec

During her career as a high school English teacher, Pamela always enjoyed the units on writing more than those on literature so when she retired, she put her skills to use to pen her debut novel. It’s the story of a woman hoping to build bridges between the tourist population and the long-time residents of a small island off the coast of Florida and in the process, discovering it's impossible to escape our past without facing it first.   Pamela is a former teacher turned writer whose love for words turned into a love for stories. She lives in Florida where she finds inspiration for stories in everyday life. Once she discovered the writing bug, she willingly adopted it and nurtures it today. When not weeding through ideas, she loves reading and spending time with her family.  She's a member of the Women's Fiction Writers Association and bardsy.com which feed her love for writing.   To learn more about Pamela, click here.

Nov 2020

25 min 31 sec