She’s an actress, assistant director, journalist, an award winning novelist-and she’s also a dear friend. Gay Yellen has a shrewd eye for detail, in fact I wanted to hire her as my editor, she didn’t have time (I mean look at her credentials she’s a busy lady) but encouraged me to really go through my manuscript.
Later I still had to hire an editor, but at least my tenses were correct, and without Gay encouraging me to tackle my greatest writing fear-editing- I wouldn’t be as strong as a writer as I am.
I’ve had the pleasure of having my poetry published along with hers in the collection IN THE QUESTIONS from Spider Road Press and we were in the same critique circle for several years which was educational and fun. I highly recommend her Samantha Newman mystery series (her Samantha is much different from my Samantha Locke in ‘Blood On The Potomac’ in which we joked often during cc) not only does it keep you on the edge of your seat, but Yellen’s descriptive quality, especially with food, is so precise that your mouth begins to water. Needless to say I think that she needs to come out with a cookbook.
And now I’m going to introduce you to the woman who’s done it all, and now is sharing her stories with the world, thankfully I had the chance to live during the same time as her thus able to meet her characters.
Twenty Questions with Gay Yellen
Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours? I can’t really pick one. Writing seemed to be a natural extension of reading, and as a child, I read voraciously. Family lore has it that when I was a toddler, I would turn magazine pages and babble words as if I were reading them.
How old where you when you started writing? In my baby book, my mother recorded a poem that she swears I made up at the age of three.
Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with. Anthony Doerr. Hank Phillippi Ryan. James Michener. Theodore Geisel.
What would you eat? Fries. Vanilla malts. Maybe Green Eggs and Ham.
How do you plot out your work? I’m not much of a plotter, except for the bare-bones structure. Once I have the main characters and what the story is about, the rest more or less falls into place, although it takes quite a while to get to The End.
Do you write in the morning or evening? I start in the morning and work as long as I can.
Is there music on? Not for my mysteries. I’m also working on a historical fiction, and I use music of that period to help immerse me in what is otherwise a distant and underexplored era.
What inspired your last story? After The Body Business was published, I regretted cutting the ending short, leaving readers hanging. I wrote The Body Next Door to continue the story. Now that it’s won the international Chanticleer Mystery & Mayhem Award, I’m glad I made that decision.
Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak.
What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? TV has some of the best writing ever. Veep, Silicon Valley, Life in Pieces, Better Call Saul come to mind.
Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece? Emma Stone would be a perfect Samantha Newman.
Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? The next one.
Which was the easiest? The Body Business. I’d just helped the author of an international thriller polish his book, Five Minutes to Midnight, which did very well, according to The New York Times. That success led me to try writing one of my own.
Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? I love to hear from readers, whether they leave a question for me on my website, or I get to meet them in person at a book club or other public appearance. It’s a thrill for a writer to learn how the characters on the page come alive in a reader’s imagination.
What are you working on now? Book 3 of The Samantha Newman Series.
What story do you have to write before you die? The historical fiction has been in my heart for years. I started it years ago before my first mystery was published. The opening chapters actually won Best Historical Fiction in a Houston Writers Guild contest in 2013.
What’s your best fan story? I love meeting new fans who tell me that my book brightened a few hours of their lives. And when a long-ago friend discovers my books and reconnects with me, it’s a plus I hadn’t counted on, and I love it. That’s a long way of saying I have no best fan story, just a lot of wonderful encounters with readers.
What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? Here’s one from The Body Next Door. Samantha is talking about the little girl she’d befriended a few days earlier: Anyone but Lizzie would have annoyed me beyond endurance, but somehow, we vibrated at the same frequency.
Have you ever based characters off of real people? A writer’s head is filled with experiences, some we’re conscious of and some that seem to bubble up from nowhere. I’ve never consciously based an entire character on any real person, but some character traits may resemble those of people I’ve observed.
Who’s your favorite character? Lizzie, from The Body Next Door. That sad, lonely little girl in need of a friend. I have no idea where she sprang from, but I fell in love with her at first sight, as did Samantha Newman. I think that relationship helped define Samantha in a good way. I still think about Lizzie. She’ll definitely be in Book 3.
Maybe I’ve said it before, but I’m a real big fan of Jas T. Ward. She is known for her romance but I love her shorter pieces. A collection called ‘Bits and Pieces: Tales and Sonnets’ is by far my favorite, although Ward admits that some of the stories are ‘rejects’ I find them illuminating.
Ward has had literally and figuratively every punch thrown at her, and yet she comes back strong in her writing. Her characters share her resilience, lust for life, and are truly unforgettable. She has over eight titles available for you guys to check out, as well as a coloring book that lets you tap into your own artistic abilities.
Jas is a dear friend, and I’m proud to be one of her stalkers. Now it’s time for you to hear from her….
20 Questions with Jas T. Ward
Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours? You may find this odd, but it was the children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit. Something about it pulls me in today. It has a low word count actually, but the emotions behind the words. Amazing. I wanted to do that. I wanted to put emotions behind the words, draw a picture without having to be artistic, and have people feel. With words.
How old where you when you started writing? I wrote my first story when I was about 8 years old. Pictures and everything. I spent days gluing those notebook paper pages together. It was not a work of art. LOL. But I’ve always written and I don’t see that changing. Sure, the audience may change and the scope, but no. I’ll probably write my goodbye on my death bed.
Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with. Well, I’ve already met you and would love to have eats with you again. But four I haven’t met to share the meal. Hmmm… Amy Tan, Ken Follett, Penelope Reid and Colleen Hoover.
What would you eat? Has to be a Chinese food with huge trays of food made for the masses. I think you can tell a lot about what choices creative people when it comes to a selection of food. For me? Sushi, dumplings and coconut shrimp. Oh, and spring rolls. 🙂
How do you plot out your work? I don’t. I have tried to use all the tactics – outline, story boarding. But none of it worked. Or it just went unused. The only two things I do is know my beginning and my ending. Then, the challenge is to make them meet up with what ever flows in the middle. Otherwise, I just start writing without a clue how that’s going to happen.
Do you write in the morning or evening? I am inconsistent as all get-out. Some days it’s one and other days it’s the other. I think it has to do with my brain just goes on overdrive without warning. It’s a curse and a blessing so I’m not complaining.
Is there music on? Not usually. I do have a movie or TV playing as white noise for the side of my nature that balks at having to write. But every now and then there is a soundtrack needed and when there is, it’s usually Linkin Park.
What inspired your last story? That’s a complicated question to answer. My upcoming book releasing 06/13 – Soul Bound: The Warrior was inspired by real life events of my own. Some dark tragedy and loss. I still can’t really talk about it personally, but I was able to tap into it to write this fictional story. I see that as progress and it actually brought about some closure. Though I’m not really sure I’ll ever completely have that. But it’s nice to know I can go there… if only a little bit.
Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. Oh wow, that’s a toughie… hmm. Any of the Pillars of the Earth books by Ken Follett. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan and The Dark Tower by Stephen King.
What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? I was just having this conversation with a author friend of mine. I don’t know if you or any of your followers remember a show called ‘The Red Shoe Diaries’, but that show was amazing in how it told a different story every week from the view of one man reflecting on love. Another one that I think is incredibly well written and produced is ‘The Story of Us’. Also, the limited series ‘Big Little Lies’ was AMAZING. It needs every award there is for acting, directing and story. Movies? I love big budget movies. Deadpool was genius. Different, a thrill ride, dark elements and sex. It remembered me of my books. 😀
Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece? My reader club had this discussion. They all saw a younger Gerard Butler when discussing Jace Camden from Soul Bound. Brooding and intense with a soul you wanted to know, but it wasn’t going to be easy.
Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? Soul Bound, without a doubt. It was just so personal. And there’s some scenes in the book that are not fiction. They happened. I’ll leave it up to the readers to decide which.
Which was the easiest? Partly because his foundation had already been solidified in the first books of the series but also because he was just so much fun to step into the skin of. I had a lot of fun writing that book even though it was a paranormal, thriler book. Jess Bailey is something else.
Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? Madness, pretty much. The main character, Reno is so flawed. But he’s so good natured with a big heart. And mental special – he has a split personality and a much darker side. And he’s driven from forces beyond his control, literally and figuratively. I think the people that have gotten to know me, know I’m the same in a lot of ways.
What are you working on now? Now that Soul Bound is at the formatting stage, I’m working on another ‘Romance – The Ward Way’ titled – ‘A Little Pill Called Love’. Which means it’s quirky, fun, has some love and intimacy but some series twists in it, but also takes on social issues in a background way. The reader goes in and realizes they learned something or found something in themselves without it being preached or lectured about within the pages. The characters took them there without even realizing it. This book will deal with severe bi-polar disorder and love.
What story do you have to write before you die? My own. And considering how slow it is getting it out and on paper, I better live a LONG time. But I think I’m getting closer to being able to it. Soul Bound proved I could go there. I just hope it continues.
What’s your best fan story? Ah, I have so many. The readers are amazing and how they have come to love the characters, many who have actual, interacting profiles on social media thanks to people who wanted to fan-fic/role play them, they love them even more. But I made the mistake of killing off Reno. And meant for it to be for good. Bad idea… They went ballistic! They sent me hate mail and inboxes of anger. They went on my wall and posted the meanest memes. Some they even created of “Bring Our Candyman Back!” And others threatened to boycott me and my books. Heck, there was a petition started with thousands of signatures. I was FLOORED. But, due to that love the Shadow-Keepers series was born and I am so grateful for that. I think that’s when I realized that not only are the voices of our characters rattling in our heads real to us in a way, they are also the same for our readers. It’s something we should always keep in mind. We want our readers to believe the escape we’re giving them—and the people that live there.
What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? .. that’s a hard one and I would probably spend days in all my books to find the very best one. I think, if I have to have one sentence it would be – Don’t judge me or the world I’m showing you until the ride is over. Then, you’ll understand. If not, sorry, no refunds. 🙂
Have you ever based characters off of real people? Not yet. But when I write my real story? Oh yeah, They’re in there.
Who’s your favorite character? Easy and the fans would revolt if I didn’t say it – Reno Sundown. I love that character so much. My inner child given life. As a hot badass doesn’t hurt.
As Women’s History Month is upon us I couldn’t help but think of all the women who’ve helped me through my writing career.
I’ll highlight some of them, but this by no means includes all of the powerful women that I’ve come across since I’ve joined the writing community. They know who they are, even if I do carelessly forget to mention them, they will forever be a part of my life, and I’ll forever be grateful for you.
I’ll begin with ‘the dream team’ as we often call ourselves which includes Andrea Barbosa, Chantell Renee, and myself. We’re all award winning authors, and have sometimes placed in the same contest thus giving us another opportunity to be together. Throughout the years we’ve worked on anthologies together including ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ that Chantell and I published together.
Next of course would be Fern Brady who’s not only my publisher Inklings Publishing, sometime writing partner, but a dear friend. Without her my debut romantic thriller Blood On The Potomac wouldn’t exist. She helped shape me into the writer that has a fan page.
Next is the amazingly talented Patricia Flaherty Pagan who founded Spider Road Press which has published work from all the before mentioned authors. She’s a fantastic author in her own right, highly intelligent, and a highly dedicated mom. Patty is not just a strong female writer, she’s a life goal achiever.
Finally I’d like to highlight, Rebecca Nolan, an author I was a fan of before we worked together on my upcoming YA novel ‘Everything That Counts’. She’s been an amazing mentor to me and has given me the drive to work harder than I ever have before.
I know a lot authors, but Jessica Raney was the first in which I was the published her work. So keep in mind no matter how many rejections one might get, there will be someone who appreciates your work, and wants to give you the ability to share your voice. It was my pleasure to be that springboard for Jessica.
In the anthology ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’ compiled by myself and Chantell Renee we were excited in include Jessica’s pieces (including my favorite The Middle Part which although horrifying is perfect for Valentines Day).
She’s accomplished in her own right long before she met me, including BFE Podcast in which she, along with two friends, interview interesting people (including myself and Chantell during The Amazing Comic Con which you can listen to here.)
Jessica reading a section of her piece Cold Comfort from ‘Hair Raising Tales of Horror’
And now for Twenty Questions With… Jessica Raney
Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?
Hmm…well I feel like I’ve been writing and reading forever so it’s difficult to decide which book, but I probably have to go with “Gone with the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell. I read it when I was in 4th grade, which is waaaay too young for that, but I was highly unsupervised as a child. The good news is it’s a pretty tame book. The bad news is it led me to read a follow-up book that I found in my mom’s closet that promised, “In the spirit of GWTW,” called “Sweet Savage Love” by Rosemary Rodgers. It was not so tame and yeah…that made me want to be a writer too. In addition, to find sweet, savage love with a scoundrel on a cattle drive across the American Frontier.
How old where you when you started writing?
Really young. Probably 7 or 8. I wrote a short story called “King Bong and Rose” which is a delightful tale about a crappy king who taxes the hell out of his people until a girl named Rose uses magic to threaten him with harm unless he adopts a more sensible economic strategy. I also wrote a play called “The Passing of a Pork Rind King” about a dude who builds a pork rind empire and is murdered in a washing machine. Go figure.
Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.
Neil Gaimen, Chuck Palahniuk, Margaret Atwood, and Beverly Cleary
What would you eat?
Whatever Beverly Cleary wanted.
How do you plot out your work?
Notebooks, diagrams, list upon lists upon lists. Then I toss them all and just write. I wish I were more organized about it but, meh.
Do you write in the morning or evening?
Usually in the evening, but sometime all day if I have the time. One of my favorite tricks is to set a timer, write for 20 minutes, and then go do something like clean for 20 minutes. I get a good groove on and words just seem to flow better. Also, things get cleaned, like WHOAH.
Is there music on?
Nope. I prefer silence.
What inspired your last story?
I think the last one I wrote was “Moonlight Serenade.” I was on a trip to New Orleans and I saw a for rent sign in the French Quarter. It advertised that the apartment was haunted so the story is an answer to the question, who wants a haunted apartment?
Name three books so good you wish you wrote them.
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (A master of character and dialogue), Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (one of the most unique and brilliant spec fic books I’ve ever read), and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (No reason needed)
What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well?
Game of Thrones is amazingly well written and produced. Anyone who can trim GRR Martin down into manageable TV is a great writer. Parks and Recreation was one of the most brilliant TV shows of all time. For movies, I think Stardust is amazing. It’s so good it makes me forget I always want to punch Claire Danes. For albums, I would say Rumors by Fleetwood Mac. Breakups and cocaine apparently make for genius songwriting.
Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?
Most of my projects are short stories, but I am working on a zombie apocalypse novel. I don’t know whom I see as the main character, hopefully whoever replaces Jennifer Lawrence as badass/hottie/sensitive girl, but for the villain, I see Helen Mirren because I think Dame Helen Mirren with a machete would be quite something to behold.
Which of your pieces was the hardest to write?
I have a short story called “To Stray From the Path” that is a take on a fairy tale that was hard to write. The first draft veered pretty far away from what I intended because I was caught up in sensory descriptions. As a result, I lost the point of the story. I fixed it but it was tough. Revising anything is always a pain.
Which was the easiest?
“The Middle Part” just sort of plurpted out. I knew exactly what to write and how to mess up the order of events. I did have revision help from my loyal beta readers so that helped but I pretty much got it right the first time.
Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it?
I’ve had people tell me that “Cold Comfort” freaked them out and they were wigged when their cat jumped in bed with them, so I would call that one a success.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a vampire comedy about the least suave and debonair vampire of all time. I hope that by this time I also have a short story collection about various horrific love stories complete.
What story do you have to write before you die?
I’m going to finish an epic vampire series before I die. And if I don’t, I’m going need a vampire to bite me and give me immortality so I can finish it. I hope that it’s a cool vampire. Not that gross Nosforatu dude or that sparkly douche from Twilight. Like Eric Northman or Pam. Yeah…Pam.
What’s your best fan story?
Do I have fans? I don’t know about that but I can tell you that the first book you ever sign for someone is a trip.
What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style?
“You’re never going to finish that puzzle. Fat Larry ate the llama’s nose piece.”
Have you ever based characters off real people?
Absolutely. However, I can’t go into details because I’m afraid they’ll want money.
Who’s your favorite character?
Of mine? Hmm…probably the ghost in “Moonlight Serenade.” I admire tenacity and fabulous style.
I spoke with an author who told me that he’s falling in love. It instantly made me think (and say aloud) “Oh it will be wonderful when you die, and years from now, when someone reads your poems to her, your love will live on in your words.”
Hopefully that reads less awkward then it sounded.
Either way the end result was this poem, a genre I haven’t written in since high school when I pledged to write a poem everyday. The ten journals full of prose will be the handprint I leave for the future to enjoy, and long after I’m gone the love stories I lived will become immortal.
All the Men I loved
All the Men I loved
Not just because they had me
Nor that they could touch the edges of the flame inside of me
But because I loved them through prose
Each of them differed
Like leaves on a tree
Changing in color from
Green, yellow, orange, a hint of blue
But it started the color of coal
With the first I was uneasy stilted
So I forgive him
How was he to understand that I’d take his pain?
And make it my own if I could
When I couldn’t find the words myself?
But the rest of them didn’t get me
Never truly understood the passion in my belly
Or how it would continue to bubble
Until my fingers began their work
That whether it was ink to paper
Or typing on a screen
It was really my blood on the page
All the Men I loved
Live on in my work
As does our story
Those tatterd and worn sheets
Torn out of my notebook
Which I handed them in-between classes
Shoved in the bottom of their backpack
They took my words for granted
Didn’t bother to deeply understand
The way I let words tell me
All the Men I loved
Never knew how fervently I loved them
How I could see through their skin
Past their smiles which were brighter than the sun
Deep into the color of their eyes
Blue like the sea, green like
freshly cut grass, darker than the night sky
Even alternating, with no reason, like
a broken mood ring.
All the Men I loved
Were never carried away by my words
Never wrapped in the warmth of my tone
All the Men I loved
Left my poems in a crumpled mess
Torn and mismatched like they left my heart
All the Men I loved
Never really loved me