Sunday, September 25, 2022

Q&A with C.K. Malone




C.K. Malone is the author of the new children's picture book A Costume for Charly. They are also an educator and literature coach.


Q: What inspired you to write A Costume for Charly, and how did you create your character Charly?


A: The reason I wrote A Costume for Charly was I wanted to add to the stories for children where having to share an identity isn't the crux of the plot. Instead, I wanted Charly to do something for themselves that brought them joy. Charly is modeled on me and my situation growing up, so I didn't have to think too hard regarding how they acted and thought.


Q: What do you think Alejandra Barajas's illustrations add to the story?


A: I love how her illustrations begin with moody blues and dark colors while Charly is attempting to solve their problem and end with vivid colors when they do. I also adore the cartoon aspect of Alejandra's work.


Q: What initially interested you in creating children's picture books?


A: They're short! I like it when items I read are concise, and picture books have only so many words. Plus, I love the illustration aspect.


Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?


A: I hope kids can see themselves in this story no matter if they identify or not. Kids have creativity and ingenuity and the ability to just wonder which I think we begin to lose as adults.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I just finished the final edits for a picture book waiting to be announced. I have an early reader series in final edits as well as a new picture book we'll be making the rounds with as well.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Continue being champions for change and support ALL marginalized artists. Continue pushing for diversity in the publishing world. 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Q&A with David Lee




David Lee is the author of the new poetry collection Rusty Barbed Wire. His many other works include A Legacy of Shadows. He was Utah's first Poet Laureate, and he taught for many years at Southern Utah University.


Q: Over how long a period did you write the poems collected in Rusty Barbed Wire?


A: Fifty years.  The oldest poem in the book was first drafted in 1972.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The title was chosen by my editor.


Q: How did you decide on the order in which the poems would appear in the book?


A: My wife, best friend and smartest organizer I have, and I sat down together and started going through all my books. Initially we decided for a chronological order for the poems. We each made a list of poems we thought ought to go into this book, let those lists settle for a couple of weeks, then went back and consolidated. 


Our first lists were much too long, so we did a lot of head-scratching and finally decided the book should not necessarily be made of the poems we liked most, but the ones that were most representative of who we were then, when I first made the poems based on our lives together. 


It was a strained and at times--for both of us--painful process, but we finally got a manuscript we both liked. We sent that to our editor and he thought what we sent was still too long, so we went through three more winnowings before we finally settled on the present book.


Q: The author Katherine Coles said of the book, “Lee carves a poetic path entirely his own, one unique in American poetry in how it joins true erudition with the deep forms of understanding laid down in the callouses and sinews of a hard-working body.” What do you think of that description?


A: Katie Coles is one of my oldest, brightest, and dearest friends. She wrote two comments for my editor, the one you have here and a longer, more detailed one. To be honest, I am delighted and honored by what she wrote.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Because of the Covid epidemic-sequestration, I have had a lot of time to write over the past two years. I have completed a new manuscript that I am letting sit, set and stew. It is a book based on jazz and the daily hours of prayer-meditation I have tried to abide. 


The title of the book is The Canonical Hours. I used seven of the canonical hours and worked my way through a symbolic day through music and meditation as metaphor for living.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Sept. 25



Sept. 25, 1897: William Faulkner born.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Q&A with Wendy Hinman



Wendy Hinman is the author of the books Sea Trials: Around the World with Duct Tape and Bailing Wire and Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey. Sea Trials focuses on her husband's family's experiences, while Tightwads on the Loose looks at her and her husband's travels. Both are now available as audiobooks. Hinman reviews books for Foreword Reviews.


Q: How did writing Sea Trials, about your husband's family, differ from writing Tightwads on the Loose, a memoir about the adventures you and your husband had in the Pacific?


A: I wrote Tightwads on the Loose first. In some ways it was easier because I was there and didn’t have to do any research.


Initially I started writing scenes that I most wanted to capture—events that stood out during our seven-year journey around the Pacific. I wrote each scene as a stand-alone and in no particular order.


Once I had crafted scenes that highlighted the journey I shaped them as a whole into a cohesive story arc that linked everything together. I think my lighthearted style built on scenes let the reader feel as though they were experiencing the journey for themselves.


One key thing I realized when I began writing was that for any series of events, it’s possible to shape them into various different stories. With an extended adventure such as this, I had to make a lot of decisions about what to include and what not to include.


There were many places where we had encounters with ships or storms that threatened to turn our floating home into kindling and thrilling experiences with nature or foreign cultures.


I kept asking myself “What is the story am I trying to tell?” From there I made choices that supported my themes and the pace of the story. I also figured if it was fun to write, then it’d be fun to read.


The writing of Sea Trials went faster, probably because I had more experience by then and it had a dramatic, clearly defined story arc. While there’s humor in the story, I didn’t feel as free to joke about someone else’s hardships as I was about my own as I did in Tightwads on the Loose so the voice is more serious.


Q: Of the various experiences you've written about, do any of them particularly stand out in your mind?

A: The many intimate moments in nature—frolicking in waterfalls, playing in the rain, enjoying a sunset—remind me that nature puts on an amazing show every day if only we stop to appreciate it.


We visited islands so tiny that maps rarely featured them and met native people who live much as they did thousands of years ago—people content with a simple way of life surrounded by family and community. That left a strong impression on me and changed the way I approach life.


I am glad that I wrote Tightwads on the Loose first because the events in Sea Trials were so dramatic, I might otherwise have considered my own sailing adventure less worthy of sharing.


In hindsight, what I realize both books show is how important one’s attitude is in defining one’s experiences and the outcome. That’s a life lesson that sticks with me.


A couple of events come to mind that demonstrate that attitude is key are an incident when I spilled spaghetti marinara all over the interior of our boat; and then a miserable, wet passage from New Zealand to Fiji during a storm. In both circumstances, when I stopped to consider the absurdity of the situations and saw the humor in them, it made everything more bearable and enjoyable.


Likewise, I think it was humor and optimism among the family members that pulled them through challenging times when they were shipwrecked, sinking, or suffering from scurvy. I don’t think any of us realize what we are capable of achieving until we push ourselves and that’s what makes life exciting.


Whenever I feel dissatisfied with life, I find I need to ask myself whether I just need to readjust my attitude to embrace a challenge. I think of a friend and fellow writer who jokes “Plot twist!” whenever life gets hard.


Q: What do your family members think of the books?


A: My family is pretty excited about my books. In Tightwads on the Loose I poked a little fun at my dad, who taught me a lot about how to tell a good story, and I’m touched that he was so proud to be featured in it. I lost him recently and I take great comfort in that.


I always thought Sea Trials was too good a story not to share and am honored the family trusted me with it and are so pleased with the outcome. My mother-in-law is so delighted to have her story out in the world, she has personally been responsible for an impressive number of book sales herself.


What I’ve loved best was being able to have them join me for a few book events and seeing how cathartic it’s been for them to experience the interest and enthusiasm for these stories.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently at work on historical fiction inspired by my relations. I have some wonderful scrapbooks and photo albums that have sparked some story ideas.


I’m a big fan of history and think seeing history through the eyes of people who lived it helps us understand the past and how it’s shaped the present. It also helps us see how people have faced what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles and found a way to overcome them.


There is so much we can learn from the experiences of the past that can help us cope with difficulties we face now. I love the challenge of working in a new genre and figuring out how to tell a new story from my imagination.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m delighted at the warm reception these books have gotten and I’ve been approached about making them into a movie or mini-series. Who knows what will come of that interest; regardless, I feel so lucky to get to create stories and share them with the world. It’s rewarding to meet readers who’ve found these stories to be riveting, amusing or inspiring.


As a lover of books, I know how important books have been in shaping the person I’ve become and helping me cope with the trials and tribulations of life.


Thanks for the interview!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Sept. 24



Sept. 24, 1896: F. Scott Fitzgerald born.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Q&A with C.W. Gortner


Photo by Erik Dubon



C.W. Gortner is the author of the new novel The American Adventuress, which focuses on the life of Jennie Jerome, the mother of Winston Churchill. Gortner's many other books include The First Actress. He lives in California.


Q: What initially intrigued you about Jennie Jerome, and at what point did you decide to write this novel about her?


A: I first became intrigued by Jennie as a boy, when I saw the television series based on the bestselling two-volume biography. Lee Remick played her in the series, and I was fascinated by Jennie’s story.


Many years later, as I began publishing my historical novels about famous, often controversial women, Jennie was on my list as a character I’d love to write. Once the opportunity came my way to actually write the novel under contract, I leaped at it. I’d published 12 novels by then, set in a variety of eras and on different subjects, so I felt I was ready to tackle her in particular, as she led a complex life.


Q: How did you research her life, and what did you learn that particularly fascinated you?


A: I read several biographies about her, as well as numerous books about her era and the people who played important roles. I visited Blenheim and other extant sites related to her.


What most fascinated me was that she was one of the first so-called American heiresses to marry into the British aristocracy, but her story doesn’t end there.


While she and her first husband Randolph Churchill had a very dynamic, interesting marriage, Jennie went on after his death to forge a new life, becoming a theater entrepreneur, an interior decorator, and of course the beloved mother of Winston Churchill. She had an enormous impact on him and the man he eventually became.


Q: How would you describe Jennie's relationship with Winston Churchill?

A: Very loving but also complicated. She wasn’t a great mother during his childhood. The Victorian tradition was that aristocratic children were raised by hired staff.


Jennie was still quite young when she gave birth to Winston, too, and she wanted to live her own life; she was self-absorbed in this respect, if no more so than other mothers in her position. She also had to contend with her husband’s erratic career, precarious finances, and a formidable mother-in-law, Winston’s paternal grandmother, who seized charge of his upbringing.


But as he grew into manhood, Winston grew very close to Jennie and there’s no doubt they kept a close, if sometimes challenging, bond that lasted to her death.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and how did Jennie's American background affect perceptions of her in England?


A: I chose the title to reflect that in many aspects of her life, Jennie was an adventurer. She defied expectations for women in her era, even scandalized society with her bold spirit.


Jennie’s American background made her an outsider, but she never let criticism define or impede her. She took English society by storm – she enthralled the prince of Wales, later known as King Edward VII – and extended her influence into politics, as she guided both her husband’s and her son’s political careers.


Jennie wasn’t born into the aristocracy; her father was a self-made man, who made millions and lost them. Though she was seen by her own in-laws in England as a parvenu, a title-chaser of lesser status, in truth, Jennie cared little for titles or money.


She could be very extravagant, even reckless, and she viewed clinging to established ways as the Victorian era shifted into the 20th century as short-sighted. She was a uniquely modern woman in her outlook, who embraced change both in her world and in her life.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: A new novel set in the French fashion world of the early 1970s. I can’t divulge the subject yet, but it’s a story I’ve wanted to write for many years.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I hope readers enjoy The American Adventuress! Jennie was inspiring in her passion for life. Book groups cam have me visit them to chat, too. Go to my website to request a chat:


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with C.W. Gortner.

Sept. 23



Sept. 23, 1863: Mary Church Terrell born.