Thursday, July 11, 2019

Interview with history and romance novelist Pamela Gibson

I’m happy to welcome novelist Pamela Gibson here today. She and I are chatting about her new Regency historical, Scandal’s Bride.

During her virtual book tour, Pamela will be giving away a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Author of eight books on California history and twelve romance novels, Pamela Gibson is a former City Manager who lives in the Nevada desert. Having spent the last three years messing about in boats, a hobby that included a five-thousand-mile trip in a 32-foot Nordic Tug, she now spends most of her time indoors happily reading, writing, cooking and keeping up with the antics of her gran-cats, gran-dog, and gran-fish. Sadly, the gran-lizard went to his final reward. If you want to learn more about her activities go to and sign up for her blog and quarterly newsletter.

Welcome, Pamela. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Scandal’s Bride is the sequel to Scandal’s Child and follows the story of characters introduced in the first book. Lady Gwendolyn Pettigrew needs a husband and it won’t be the old rake her father has chosen. John Montague needs a wife with a dowry, but is sure no one will want to marry a penniless second son. When it’s suggested by the characters in the first book that they could solve each other’s problem, they agree to a marriage of convenience with certain stipulations. It seems perfect, until they discover there’s a catch. Gwen treasures the independence she’s been promised, but she also wants to be a mother. John, who spent months researching mental illness and looking for a suitable place to care for his deranged mother, does not want to bring children into the world. He believes madness may be inherited and after the horrors he’s witnessed, he refuses to take a chance. As the characters become friends and gain each other’s trust, their mutual attraction also grows. This becomes a major conflict in the book as their sexual tension is set among secrets and lies while battling an outside force that wants them to abandon their home in Yorkshire and return to London.

What inspired you to write this book?
This is my second Regency novel. The first was Scandal’s Child, intended to be a standalone. But while writing the epilogue an idea began to take form about a book for Lady Gwendolyn, a friend of the heroine in the first book. I also wanted to bring back the younger brother of the hero in the first book. I had planted a few seeds that could sprout into an intriguing plot. Scandal’s Bride was the result.

Excerpt from Scandal’s Bride:
He removed his waistcoat, laying it over the topcoat, and sat down opposite Gwen. “Gwen . . .”


They both laughed, and it was a good feeling. He drained his wine glass. “Drink up. I want to talk to you before we retire.”

Her eyes widened, and her breath seemed to catch. Was she feeling faint? He certainly was. Why had he left this so long? Most people consummated their marriage the first night.

She picked up her glass and took a hefty swallow. Her cheeks were as pink as her dress, and she looked as good as an iced sweet in a bakery window, something he’d like to swirl his tongue around and gently taste.

Get on with it.

He took a deep breath, scooted his chair closer to hers until their knees touched, and took one of her hands in his. Her fingers were long and well-shaped. He wondered what they would feel like on his . . .

“Gwen . . .”


They laughed again, and their merriment gave him an opening. He placed his hand behind her head, leaned in, and took her bottom lip in his mouth, nibbling as he watched her face. She was as wide-eyed as he was, not even trying to move away. Then her lashes fluttered, and her eyes closed as she moved closer, inviting him to deepen the kiss. She moaned as his lips closed over hers, and he was totally undone.

What exciting story are you working on next?
The third book in the Scandal series is barely underway, but I’m already excited to be working on it. It’s about a man who returns from the Napoleonic Wars, depressed and defeated, and the woman who helps him want to live again. It’s called Scandal’s Promise and will probably not be available until next year. I’m also working on my first contemporary mystery, part of my Love in Wine Country novella series and I hope to release the second book in my Mission Belles series called Return of the Fox. This series takes place in California’s romantic rancho period, just prior to the Gold Rush.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was in the fourth grade, my class visited a theme park based on the American West. I was so impressed I wrote a long poem in iambic pentameter chronicling that visit. I was eight or nine years old. During high school and college, I worked as a newspaper reporter. I guess that’s when I really felt that I was a writer, although reporting is very different from writing fiction. Because of my journalism background and my major in history, after graduation I was contracted to write several history books on local topics. It wasn’t until years later, when I was close to retirement, that I began studying the craft of fiction and sold my first novel although I had dabbled in fiction before then.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am now retired and my days are filled caring for a disabled spouse. My writing time is from five to eight o’clock in the morning, grabbing an hour here and there during the day. When I worked outside the home full time, I wrote during holidays and vacations. I once took a week off, holed up in a friend’s cabin, and wrote twelve hours a day to meet a deadline. I can’t do that anymore, but I’ve written entire chapters while sitting at a bedside or in waiting rooms in doctor’s offices. Writers find time in bits and pieces, even when it isn’t convenient.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
When I’m working through a plot problem, I pace. Then I stand in front of the refrigerator or cookie jar and I graze on whatever is there. Then I pace some more. Then I sit down and see what appears on the screen of my laptop. I’m not sure how moving my jaws and my feet relate to stimulating my brain, but it seems to work.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a cowgirl. I rode around on a broomstick (maybe my subconscious wanted to be a witch and I didn’t know it). The broom was my horse. One Christmas my parents gave me a cowgirl outfit with hat, skirt, and vest. I was six. It must have made an impression because I remember it in great detail. I’d ride around the back yard on my broom, hiding near the garage, looking for outlaws. I don’t recall having a shiny six-shooter, but at some point I acquired a tin star. I probably made it myself out of aluminum foil.

After the fourth grade I definitely wanted to be a writer, although detective was right up there when I discovered Nancy Drew. Nurse came next with the Sue Barton nurse book series.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I first started reading Regencies when quite pregnant with my first child. I was told they were great ways to escape. They were and I still highly recommend books written in this period. My favorite Regency author is Mary Balogh who wrings emotion from every character. It is my greatest hope to be able to do the same. I want my readers to feel what the characters are feeling, live what the characters are living. It is a gift. I hope someday to have it.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you for having me.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Interview with debut novelist Caroline Flarity

Debut author Caroline Flarity joins me today and we’re chatting about her YA paranormal (for older teens), The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter.

During her virtual book tour, Caroline will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!.

Caroline Flarity is a web content producer living in NYC. Her fascination with fringe topics and love of scary movies led her to begin her writing journey penning creepy screenplays. Her debut novel The Ghost Hunter's Daughter started life as a feature script, placing in the finals of the StoryPros Awards and as a semifinalist in Slamdance Film Festival's writing competition. She enjoys pitting her characters against both supernatural and cultural evils.

Welcome, Caroline. Please share a little bit about your current release.
“Supernatural meets Mean Girls” in this dark, YA paranormal mystery for older teens.

Sixteen-year-old Anna is the grieving daughter of a paranormal investigator. Anna is bullied at school because of her father’s profession. She wants nothing to do with his job, but it turns out that she has a knack for the family business.

When a parasitic entity invades her town (and mind), she must harness its evil power before it destroys the only family she has left. To do so, she’ll have to keep her increasingly dark urges at bay.

What inspired you to write this book?
To me, spirituality and the paranormal are closely connected. They both revolve around the idea that consciousness extends past the body, which I believe. The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter is a creepy paranormal tale, but it’s also the metaphysical coming-of-age story of a teenage girl. I’ve always been fascinated with the paranormal and have long researched hauntings, near-death experiences, reincarnation and reports of entities with non-human origins. This book encapsulates a lot of what I’m passionate about as far as the supernatural and spiritual. It also tackles socials issues like the bullying, abuse and harassment that sadly many kids have to deal with.

Excerpt from The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter:
“Want a new nick name?” Sydney asked. “How ‘bout Frankenskank?”
            Damn. Anna had spent so much time on her eye makeup that morning that she forgot to cover her scar. Her fists clenched. She was microseconds away from smacking Sydney right in her perfect face. Her palm actually tingled in anticipation of the after-slap burn.  
“All dressed up and no place to go,” Lyric sneered, indicating the cleavage exposed by Anna’s scoop neck.
“Except maybe a whorehouse!” Sydney yelled, attracting the attention of everyone in the commons who wasn’t already watching.
            One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. Breathe. Anna restrained herself, knowing that in her current state of mind one slap wouldn’t be enough. In fact, while the river raged, she might also decide to go ahead and slam Sydney’s head into one of the metal lockers, perhaps several times. Nausea rolled in Anna’s gut. She was disgusted by the burst of pleasure the violent fantasy brought her. She took her eyes off of Sydney’s smug face and scanned the commons. Was there a portal here, too? There must be, but Bloomtown High wasn’t on Saul’s list.
Anna forced herself to walk away from Sydney and Lyric, ignoring their parting sneers. Was she being paranoid or was everyone in the hallway gawking at her? Anna picked up her pace, her heart dropping into her churning stomach as she passed a blur of scornful faces. Everyone was looking at her, and the worst part—she thought about Craig’s snub that morning—was that she might know why.

What exciting story are you working on next?
My next book is a psychological thriller with a sci-fi element about a woman who discovers the terrifying secret behind her family’s generations of criminal behavior.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Strangely, I’ve always considered myself a writer even when I didn’t write for long stretches.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I’m a freelance writer of event-related and entertainment web content. I try to work on my new book in spurts of three to four hours at least a few times a week. I tend to write at night and always produce more when I have a deadline. That’s why I’m in a writing group. Deadlines are a must for me.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My handwriting is atrocious. But I still do the majority of my edits by hand and then enter them into my master word doc on a PC. I often have trouble reading my own writing, and this is quite frustrating. But there’s something about printing out my work and writing edits by hand that sparks my creativity. I’m forever scribbling new ideas into the margins of my printed pages and then struggling to decipher them the next day.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer!

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
The Ghost Hunter’s Daughter is on Kindle Unlimited until July 11. I’m also running a promotion on amazon: the ebook will be 99 cents from June 28 through July 4.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog!
Thank you for hosting, Lisa, and great questions!

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Interview with debut mystery novelist Gregory Sterner

Debut mystery author Gregory Sterner joins me today to chat about his suspense novel Solving Cadence Moore.

Gregory Sterner is inspired by the great storytelling presentations of National Public Radio, including This American Life and Wiretap, as well as novels by Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, and many others. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Albright College and is currently completing his Master’s in Philosophy at West Chester University while working as a supervisor for Penske Truck Leasing. He lives with his wife Abigail in Reading, Pennsylvania, and has four children: Jordan, Austin, Alexis, and Jack. His debut novel Solving Cadence Moore was released on November 7th, 2017. It is available for sale on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other retailers. Readers can connect with Gregory on Facebook and Goodreads. To learn more, go to

Welcome, Gregory. Please tell us about your current release.
My debut novel is Solving Cadence Moore, a mystery novel about a ten-year-old cold case. Cadence Moore was a famous young singer who disappeared without a trace in western Pennsylvania in 2002, never to be seen again. The case has recently been brought back to prominence by a smash hit documentary that has played fast and loose with the facts and many die-hard followers of the case believe the mystery remains unsolved. Public radio juggernaut UPR produces a podcast series and live midnight special to capitalize on the notoriety of the documentary and brash conspiracy radio host Charlie Marx is the unlikely choice to host the series. Charlie comes up empty in his efforts to solve the mystery until he starts taking crazy risks and telling big lies all in the pursuit of getting live on air with the long elusive truth. Readers will ride a roller coaster of suspense on their way to finding out if the real truth of Cadence Moore is finally revealed or whether Charlie Marx’s career will go down in flames live on air.

After a very long process of writing, editing, pitching, and re-writing, the book was published by Aperture Press, LLC (the realization of a life-long dream for me) and is now available at Amazon and all other major online retailers.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was attempting to write what was (in my mind) a horror novel about a girl who disappeared ten years ago and the haunting memories which torture her old boyfriend. I quickly realized I was not a horror writer and this book was not working. I kept turning the story around in my mind, trying to figure out a way to bring it to the page in a believable way. This was years before I completed the book. I was exposed to Ira Glass’s show This American Life on NPR. The way he broke down stories into “acts” and did a slow reveal on crucial facts made me realize that my own story could be told in the same way a “radio play” was put together. As I was deeply into the writing process and even as I pitched my first draft of the novel to publishers and agents, the podcast Serial became a super-successful hit. As I re-wrote my novel (initially incorporating my eventual publisher’s structural changes) I decided a topical change was needed and the podcast series and live radio special structure was introduced into my existing story and everything really came together at that point.

Excerpt from Solving Cadence Moore:
Chapter 1 – The Pitch
Charlie Marx sat with his arms crossed, refusing to visually sell his reaction to the sales pitch he was getting. As a successful conspiracy radio show host, Charlie had learned to trust nothing but consider everything, qualities which had made him very effective throughout his career.

His boss (as well as his mentor and friend), Tyler Reubens, had been in the public radio game for fifteen years, becoming a national celebrity by hosting a hugely successful syndicated show covering everything from intimate personal stories to murder mysteries called United Way of Life. Tyler, while still sitting at the helm of United Way of Life, was also now a big player at the executive level as a senior producer for WHHW (his home station) and programming liaison to UPR (the public radio juggernaut of which WHHW was an affiliate).

Tyler’s superiors were looking for on-demand content for various multimedia outlets (a trend the entire entertainment world had already been moving strongly toward for five years and public radio had been one of the first to plant a flag in podcast land, but had never had a smash hit). Tyler was reaching out to the one person who in his mind had the one show he was almost positive would connect with a large audience for the podcast mini-series UPR was prepared to push to the moon (or so went Tyler’s initial sales pitch).

The one man with the one show also happened to be a personal protégé of Tyler Reubens himself, Charlie Marx. Charlie was a former college DJ and conspiracy newsletter writer. Tyler had plucked him from obscurity and offered him an assistant producer job for United Way of Life, simply because he liked his work and was impressed by the buzz Charlie had managed to drum up for his conspiracy rag. Charlie produced a few conspiracy oriented segments for United Way of Life during anniversary years of the Kennedy Assassination and the Apollo Moon Landing. These segments had garnered such positive reviews that Tyler lobbied for Marx to be granted his own time slot on WHHW with a conspiracy-themed show called Underground BroadcastUnderground Broadcast eventually became one of the most popular programs on WHHW and had been considered at least on two occasions for national syndication over UPR stations, although that had never actually come to fruition.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have two big irons in the fire, both of which I’m about 20% through at this point.

The first book (working title: Tomorrow in Twenty-Nine Palms) is about a dying man who in his last act hands a small leather bound book to a total stranger as he utters his dying words, “It has to be you.” The total stranger is Jack Hayes, a lying con man looking for his next angle in life. He soon finds himself embroiled in an unbelievable situation, and before the night is over, dangerous men who want the book back are chasing him all over town. All roads eventually will lead to Twenty-Nine Palms, CA and the secrets that may be found there.

The second book (working title: The Gallem City Limits) is about a charismatic young man who has worked his way into amassing a large number of troubled young people into his circle and indoctrinating them into his philosophy of life, which revolves around “balance” at all costs. Before long, he and his followers will balance the karma of long-ago atrocities (the mass scapegoating murders in Gallem centuries before is his starting point) by staging current ultra-violent atrocities (only this time with the “good guys” and “bad guys” on different sides). Danny Drake is about to become the most notorious cult leader in America and Gallem is the site of his National emergence.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have been writing since I was a kid, starting with stories of me and my dog having adventures in space. I started my first novel when I was about 22 years old and got about 100 pages through it before I lost all of it due to the floppy disc it was saved on becoming corrupted. I was too foolish at the time to have backed it up so it became a very demoralizing experience. I later decided to try again and just write a story for myself, to make myself laugh, and to show the finished product to my friends. That put some of the joy back into the process. After that, I began tossing around the bare bones of what would become Solving Cadence Moore. I felt, while writing it, that I was a writer. I felt, while pitching it, that I was a writer. But I did not feel like a “real” writer until the publisher agreed to publish the book. It’s sad that many writers feel the need to be validated by someone else saying they will invest in producing our novels for mass consumption to feel like we’re actually legitimate “real” writers but that seems to be the way it is.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I became good at balancing family life with a full-time job and college education over the last 10 years. This gave me some perspective on the amount of time someone needs to dedicate to complete something and complete it well, with quality in mind. I have brought the same approach to writing. I feel like a writer has to pick their spots so they do not alienate their family in the process of creating their “masterpiece.” That is my take anyway. It also helps to have an encouraging and understanding wife.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I seem to really like having characters drink and smoke as they go about their adventures. I think this might be my way of working through not being able to do these things myself, or at least not as much as I’d like to, so I live my former bad habits through my characters. This is a healthier approach than a writer drinking heavily and smoking like a chimney while writing. My advice: write it- don’t do it. You’ll survive longer and write more books!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a pro-wrestler my whole childhood. I seemed to ignore the sad fact that I had the athletic ability of a bow-legged kangaroo while I was dreaming this dream. I think what I was really attracted to was the pageantry and presentation of a spectacular story being told in the ring and around the ring. I realized later I could do most of this on the page and then writing became my passion.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I have learned so far in my brief membership in the worldwide club of published authors that it is wise to listen to feedback, especially from publishers or agents who have had more success than you. One has to be flexible and open to collaboration in order to move forward in the process of getting your novel published. I think it's important to embrace inspiration when it comes and don't be afraid to take risks, as long as you do so in the parameters of good writing. It can be easy to push things too far if you don't have in mind what a potential wide readership might enjoy. I'm still learning and feel lucky to have been granted the opportunity to get a novel published.


Thanks for joining me today!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Interview with writer Kelly J. Beard

Writer Kelly J. Beard is here today and we’re chatting about her new creative non-fiction (memoir), An Imperfect Rapture.

Kelly J. Beard practiced employment discrimination law in the Atlanta area for two decades during which time she was recognized as a “Super Lawyer” and one of the nation’s “Preeminent Female Lawyers,” and received a Certificate of Recognition from the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence. In 2016, she earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work appears in Creative Nonfiction, Santa Ana River Review, Five Points, Bacopa Literary Review, and others. An Imperfect Rapture is her first full-length memoir.

Welcome, Kelly. Please tell us about your current release.
Let me paraphrase a couple of the authors who offered early blurbs for my memoir. This works for me, in part because it’s a complicated story that doesn’t quite reduce to an elevator speech, and in part because I love what they’ve said but it would be impolite to say these things myself. Harrison Candelaria Fletcher said, “An Imperfect Rapture is a story of personal grace and self-realization; it’s the story of one woman’s path through the shadows of a fundamentalist youth. The memoir itself is a kind of prayer, a kind of promise, in which the vibrant prose shimmers.” And this, from Andre Dubus III: “What Kelly J. Beard accomplishes here is stunning: by stepping nakedly back into her youth as the daughter of Christian fundamentalists, a life-long couple whose love for one another never seemed to wane, she also steps back into violence and neglect, poverty and the shame of the poor, the striving for one’s very selfhood when few seem to be able to help or pay much attention. And Beard renders all of this, and more, with a poet’s clear-eyed search for the truth. An Imperfect Rapture is a plaintive hymn of forgiveness, and it moved me to tears many times over.” And this from the Contest Judge, Janisse Ray, who I adore: “Haunting in its recall, this elegiac book spins through a galaxy of fundamentalism, poverty, and mental illness. Instead of “coming of age,” it’s a “coming to terms” story, burning with desire to cut loose from a demon-possessed past. It’s an eyewitness account of what happened inside a dark house. Beard’s writing is vast, engulfing, accomplished. In many ways, An Imperfect Rapture is itself a faith healing.”

What inspired you to write this book?
I’d been practicing law for about two decades when my daughter (and only child) left home for college. I’d been preparing myself for her departure (I took up pottery and also started participating in an on-line fiction writing course) because I knew it would be a difficult transition for me. I was not a happy empty-nester, to say the least. She and I – as far as I knew – had been really close all her life. Even in high school she was kind to me and we often hung out and watched movies or enjoyed each other’s company. She was never snarky or mean, the way we always hear about girls of a certain age being. Well, she made up for that when she went to college. In hindsight, she was doing exactly what she needed to be doing (and probably should have done a few years earlier) which was individuating. For my perspective at the time, though, I felt completely shut out from her life, and our relationship seemed frayed and tenuous, at best. Despite my intent to buffer myself with those other activities, I spiraled into a serious depression. I’ve experienced a lot of cyclical depression in my life, and when I say it was serious, it was. In an effort to relieve the pain I was feeling, I went in to therapy, this time I chose a Jungian therapist. The therapist was an elderly man who had studied in Zurich and with one of Jung’s proteges, June Singer, and he was brilliant. During one of our early conversations, I asked him if he thought I should write my daughter a letter telling her how sad and abandoned I felt, and how I wanted to stay involved in and relevant to her life. I expected him to say what a great idea! Instead, he looked at me and asked, “But what about any of that doesn’t she know? What would you tell her that shed doesn’t already know?” That question ended up being the catalyst for the memoir. I realized I had never shared my early life experiences with her – in fact, just the opposite. I’d hidden them from her and from everyone. That’s the story I needed to tell.

Excerpt from An Imperfect Rapture:

[Opening Pages]

Palm Springs, 1960s
I learned this while curled at her feet, eavesdropping on her conversations during Bible Study. She and three other women from Desert Chapel huddled around our kitchen table cross- referencing the standard King James with the red-letter Schofield Bible. Afterwards, they prayed for everything from straying husbands to Rock Hudson.
That day, my mother told the circle of women about a call she received the night before. A boy. A teenager who came home from Youth Services to find his mother naked, thrashing in the shallow end of their swimming pool, gurgling like a baby. I hugged my knees to my chest, curled at the center of their shuffling feet, listening to my mother concede defeat. Even with the strongest man in the world beside her, the demons won that night. They spewed curse words in three voices, she said, all deep, like men.
Coffee cups settled.
She sniffed, reached under the table and scratched her leg while telling the women how she and Dad stayed all night, praying with the woman in the pool.
The whole time she’s flinging spit and the nastiest things at us. And this awful, foul odor.
She took a shuddery breath that ended in something like a hiccup. Blew her nose, and wadded the tissue into her apron pocket. We did everything we could. There were just too many of them. They were too strong.
The women sighed and sucked their teeth. Sister Busby snapped her gum.
I thought about Mama waking me the night before, how I’d listened to Daddy peeing in the tiny turquoise and white tiled bathroom across the hall while she told me they were leaving to
pray for a lady. I begged to go along. No, she said, we think she’s demon possessed, we can’t let you get that close. The toilet flushed. She disappeared into the dark.
I lay awake the rest of the night, my cotton gown sticky as I listened to my sister’s rhythmic huffs in the bunk below. She slept through everything. The ceiling had gone from black to a pale blur by the time the car crept back across the gravel drive.
My mother held a mystical place in my small world, her presence so pervasive those first years I believed I was her shadow, a sightless thing always at her heels, following her around by day, lolling at her feet until she put me to bed at night. After the three older kids left for school, she’d crack my door and with a quick snap my small soles reattached to hers. All day, I drifted behind her, skimming the nubby carpet while she vacuumed, hovering against pale green walls while she made beds, bobbing in the greasy puddles on the floor as she scoured pans soaking in the sink. Sometimes she napped, and I lay flat against her back.
While the women prayed and wept, I felt a chill of evil lurking outside the circle of legs splayed under the table. I shrunk into my skin, listening to the women comfort my mother for her failure. When Sister Fee started talking about a demon-possessed man who roamed naked through a hillside cemetery, I thought she meant someone we knew until Mama finished the story.
He chewed right through chains the villagers used to tie him to the tombstones.
Villagers, I thought, not people I know! Still, this fact didn’t relieve the crawl of dread that threaded through my veins while she finished the story, describing how a slew of demons wheedled a concession from Jesus, how he’d agreed to let them pass from the man into a herd of swine feeding nearby. No one explained why the pigs chose death over demons. No one divulged why the demons had to beg to possess pigs but not people. No one revealed how to avoid falling
for them. I knew they wore disguises, knew that what looked beautiful or enticing was most likely of the devil, but I didn’t know how to protect myself. I took precautions. I didn’t look Brother Pine in the eyes. I crossed to the center of the street fifty yards before reaching the terra cotta colored house with the tiled roof and flowering Saguaro cacti, preferring the mortal danger of passing cars to the spiritual hazard of getting too close to the house where my mother saw demons flickering behind the windows. I never took the Lord’s name in vain.
But I knew I was vulnerable. This knowledge kept me pinned to the floor at her feet, week after week, my cheek pressed against the cream and black speckled linoleum, the yellow ties of her apron dangling out of reach. Her feet made a papery sound when she rubbed them together. A blue vein draped across her ankle.
Now, in late middle-age, I still see that little girl prostrate at her mother’s feet, her lower lip nearly bit-through with fear. She doesn’t know yet how the demons lurking beyond the table’s circumference will be nothing like she imagines. They will not swirl around her in ghostly bodies with blood-red eyes. Instead, they will appear in fires and floods, in her family’s fractured lives, and in the carnage of their violent faith.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m grateful to be able to say that I have a few readings lined up and that I’m focusing on getting the book into the hands of readers just now. That said, I’m also working on an essay collection that I hope to finish by the end of the year. After that’s out the door, I’m looking at writing another full-length memoir, but you know what they say about how it saps the energy of a creative project to talk about it talking prematurely, so I’m just letting that gestate in the dark for now.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It’s funny because since this is a second (or third) career path, and since I practiced law for so long, I still usually respond with “lawyer” when people ask about my profession. I’m intentionally changing that, but it feels strange because when you have a vocation like being a lawyer it’s very clear, right? You are one or you aren’t one, and it doesn’t matter what you say about it or what you call yourself. With rare exceptions people don’t say they are lawyers when they aren’t, i.e., when they don’t have a license to practice law. When you’re a writer you don’t get a license – all the MFAs and whatnot do not make a person a writer. writer, or at least most people are. notwithstanding, those aren’t what make a person a writer. In some ways, I think the label is both overly narrow and overly broad (aren’t we all storytellers and writers trying to communicate our sense of the world?) But that said, I didn’t start really thinking of (or calling) myself a writer until after my memoir won the Zone 3 Press Creative Nonfiction Book Award. I remember looking through the list of finalists (including a number of writers whose work I knew and loved) and thinking, wow, maybe I really am a writer!

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I once read that Virginia Woolf could only write for two hours a day. After that, she didn’t have enough creative energy to warrant staying at the desk and writing. At the time I read this, I was heartened because I was still practicing law and I thought, well, great, writing two hours a day is doable. That’s what I did the entire time I was in the MFA program and finishing the memoir. I thought when I stopped practicing law I’d stretch those hours out to 4 or 5 or maybe even 8 or 10, the way I understand some people do, but I couldn’t. I think she onto something.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I like to write from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, to be facing a window that looks out onto a tree or something green and older than I’ll ever be, and I try to always open and close my writing sessions with a prayer or meditation.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A grammar school teacher. I still sometimes think about how fun and rewarding it would have been to teach little kids. I love the early grades, when they’re still sweet little sponges, and I have a huge soft spot for kids, especially kids who don’t have much privilege or for other reasons are at risk.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Fun fact: I share a birthday with Oscar Wilde and I used a quote from De Profundis as my north star when writing An Imperfect Rapture, and used it as my epigram. It’s a perfect mantra for anyone writing memoir about hard relationships.

Thanks for being here today!