Mercedes Fox ~ Author

My Writing Blog

Tag: Literary Fiction (Page 1 of 2)

Meet Author Theron Ray Arnold

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Theron Ray Arnold

Theron Ray Arnold was born in Iowa and raised in Nebraska. His first collection of poetry, Geek Philosophy, was released in 2005. In February of 2017 he published his first novel, Contemplating Mrs. E, and its novella follow-up, The Cenotaph of Cedric Silkyshag (in April). He is currently working on his second novel titled Ron Quixote of Tadpole Heights, a collection of short stories titled Spider Monkey Fishlips, a short film script titled Atheist Soup Kitchen, and a screen adaptation of his first novel titled Chuse Your Inheritance.

Book Sample: Contemplating Mrs. E

               Genre: literary/visionary fiction

               Synopsis: Cedric von Silkyshag, a wannabe writer, spends twelve days at an Omaha, Nebraska, mental health facility for undiagnosed bipolar disorder upon completing his debut novel, Chuse Your Inheritance: The Adventures of Jim Bob Bach & Grampa Goose.

               Excerpt: We sat there fer a spell, neither sayin’ a word. Exchangin’ harmless looks to-’n’-fro. My eyes, nat’rally, strayin’ from hers, even if only fer a moment, off t’ her hair, her neck, her shoulders. The unbridled def’nition of her collarbone. The slightness of her bosoms risin’, then fallin’, with each bashful breath. The obviousness of her bosoms risin’, then fallin’, with each bashful breath. The slightness o’ my stare. The obviousness of her bashfulness. So I come back to her eyes, grossly engrossed. Seein’ her seein’ me seein’ her.

Why do you write? I have no choice; there’s just something inside me that insists on coming out. I ignored it for years, but it finally got the best of me.

When did you decide to become a writer? After the death of my paternal grandfather.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book? I started my first novel in late-1998 and worked on it a little here and there, along with my first collection of poetry, until early-2003. Then, in 2009, I finished it, adding one chapter. At least, I thought I’d finished it. In 2013, I actually finished it, adding new elements, but let it sit around and gather dust until self-publishing it thru Amazon in 2017. I wrote the majority of my second novel in less than a month. So, I guess, it varies.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something? After deciding I had something I really wanted to say, and after being prodded by others: friends, family members, and former teachers/professors.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured? I do most of my writing during the winter months and/or at night.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write? No, but I often read others’ books while working on my own.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? I usually start with a rough outline and brief sketches/remarks, then morph this into a list of possible chapter ideas and titles, then “let ‘er rip.”

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website? I design my own, as drawing and painting have always come naturally to me.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors? Read as much as you can, as many books, stories, poems, and articles you can get your hands on. Check out some of the so-called classics — I started with Daniel Burt’s book titled The Novel 100, then investigated other lists I found on Wikipedia and the local library/ies.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special? Though introverted and highly intelligent, he’s compassionate and empathetic. He’s also three-dimensional as he’s based on an actual person. And he’s mentally disturbed.

Where do your ideas come from? My life experiences (with a notion thrown in here and there from the reading of others’ works).

What is your favorite movie or TV show? movie: On Golden Pond or A Clockwork Orange; t.v. show: House, MD (now in syndication and available thru Netflix).

Which writers inspire you? Twain, Whitman, Dickinson, Joyce, Woolf, Nabokov, Orwell, Tolkien, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Ducornet, Kundera, Stegner, Douglas Adams, Zadie Smith, David Foster Wallace, Robertson Davies, Asimov, Beckett, Morrison, China Mieville, Ezra Pound ….

What is the current book you are promoting? Both Contemplating Mrs. E and The Cenotaph of Cedric Silkyshag.

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser? Ron Quixote is a modern-day morphing of Cervantes’ classic-of-all-classics, Don Quixote; it’s about an unemployed open-mic poet who decides to become like the action-movie heroes/vigilantes he so idolizes in order to win over his crush, a barmaid from the local tavern. Like most of my writing, it employs a great deal of wordplay (paronomasias, portmanteaux, anagrams, telling character names, etc.), allegory, literary and artistic allusions, satire, and a combination of both poetry and prose.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why? Ronald Dickinson, the protagonist, though I’m quite fond of his daughter, Samantha, and his sidekick, Firstfloor Pedro (a high school dropout and gifted guitarist). Also: Aunt Shirley (who raised Ron from kindergarten on).

Do you have any formal education in creative writing? If not are you planning to go to school? I’ve taken three composition courses at three different schools (The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Iowa State University, and Nebraska Wesleyan University). Otherwise, I simply read a lot (fifty to eighty books a year).

What is your next project? Finding representation for Ron Quixote and Spider Monkey Fishlips.

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Choosing from some of my favorite books I would have to say Huck Finn (my favorite novel), Atticus Finch (for his integrity), Jo March (for her feistiness), O-Lan from The Good Earth and Celie from The Color Purple (for their meek and downtrodden yet unbreakable spirits), most of the characters from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (namely Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Marvin), and Bilbo Baggins (for his small small size yet big big heart).

What one person from history would you like to meet and why? As for writers, I would say either Twain or Whitman. And Emily Dickinson, of course. I’d also love to meet Van Gogh.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? I wish I’d written Finnegans Wake, just to mess with everyone (writers, critics, and readers alike). And The Little Prince.  Furthermore, like most geeks, I wish I’d created Tolkien’s Middle-earth and all that it encompasses.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer? A writer must do a lot of two things: reading and writing.

Are you currently reading a book or just finished one? I just finished Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner and Nicoteane & Other Foolish Mistakes by a.j.k. o’donnell — I highly recommend both (esp. if you’re into art and poetry) — and I am currently reading The Princess Bride, Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, Ducornet’s The Jade Cabinet, and Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind.

What do your readers mean to you? Without them, I’d have to question my existence as a writer. To elaborate, the following is from my debut novel, Contemplating Mrs. E:

That which doesn’t boil

Need not be stirred;

That which isn’t shared

Never occurred.

Tell us something unique about you. Three things: when I was a child, I had one of my ears (the lobe, mainly) bitten off and subsequently reattached (this may explain, in part, why I’m so enamored with Van Gogh); I’ve served as Best Man for three different couples; my paternal grandmother’s father (my great-grandfather) and the paternal grandfather of Jerry Mathers, who played Beaver in the hit t.v. show Leave It to Beaver (1957-63), were brothers.

Is there anything else you would like to add? I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to ramble on concerning my writing proclivities; interviewing various writers (esp. those not so well known to the public) and putting the info. on a blog is a fantastic idea.

Many thanks Theron for stopping by! For more about Theron, his work, and getting yourself a copy, follow the links below:

Facebook / Goodreads / Amazon

Meet Author Pete Planisek

Hello, lovelies! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Pete Planisek

Pete Planisek lives in Columbus, OH, where he teaches English, runs Enceladus Literary LLC, and is co-host of an entertainment podcast called Hindsight is 20-20. He received his Masters from Ohio University where he founded a student literary arts magazine called Recently Eclipsed. He has published newspaper articles and is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association.  He served for seven years as adviser/co-adviser to a NCTE award winning student literary arts publication.  Frankenstein A Life Beyond was his debut novel.

He has two published works in his Resurrection Trinity series titled Frankenstein A Life Beyond (Book 1 of 3) and Frankenstein Soul’s Echo (Book 2 of 3) and won a 2016 Silver Honoree IBPA Benjamin Franklin Digital Book Award for his children’s fantasy book titled Princess Bella and the Dragon’s Charm.

Enjoy this book sample: Frankenstein A Life Beyond (Book 1 of 3) The Resurrection Trinity

Genres: Fiction, Literary fiction, Horror, Historical fiction, Romance fiction, Sci-Fi fiction

Blurb:  Ten years after the loss of his entire family to madness and death, Ernest Frankenstein finds himself compelled to return to the city of his birth, Geneva, in order to discover if his elder brother, Victor, might still be alive. Only Victor can provide the answers to questions, which have long plagued Ernest. The quest for answers will force Ernest to confront demons, both internal and external, from his past, which refuse to be at peace and which ultimately will endanger both he and his new family. Hunted across Europe their only hope may lie with a French spy, Ernest’s childhood friend, and a mysterious gypsy girl whose people believe that Ernest will lead humanity to its salvation or final destruction.

Frankenstein A Life Beyond by Pete Planisek is a direct sequel to Mary Shelley’s iconic story, Frankenstein, which examined Victor Frankenstein’s quest to both create and kill an unnamed creature that ultimately destroys all but one member of the Frankenstein family, Victor’s brother, Ernest. Frankenstein A Life Beyond explores many of the issues left open by the original, while establishing new characters and mysteries.

Excerpt:  “Your neighbor’s death was an accident, nothing more.”

So this monster had followed him back to Geneva. What all had he witnessed there?

“If his death is so trivial, then explain how he died.”

There was only the briefest of pauses.

“Fear,” was the solitary answer.

Ernest’s breath was now escaping in short bursts, and a cold sweat clung to his skin.

“Of what?”

“Of what you are seeing, right now.”

He felt it, before he saw it. A hand had reached through the curtain to clasp Ernest’s wrist. No, it was not such a commonplace sight which beset his eyes; it was anything but.

At least twice the size of a normal man’s hand, it encompassed not only Ernest’s wrist, but a portion of his arm as well. It was shriveled and mummified, the skin of a nearly translucent nature, which made visible the networks of veins and muscles throughout. The cruel nature inherent of the claw-like fingers, capped by blackened nails, was re-enforced by the strength of the grip. It felt as if Death itself clutched Ernest. Were it not for the visible movement of blood and the controlled beat of the pulse, he would have claimed that he was restrained by a corpse.

“What you seek awaits you in Ingolstadt,” the voice wheezed, “Find the clues, Uncle, so our destinies can be fulfilled.”

The pressure from the fingers increased. Ernest wanted to scream, but found himself too frightened to utter a sound.

Why do you write? It’s an essential part of who I am.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book? Honestly, it just depends on the book. Some of my writing projects have lasted years but I’ve also written a full draft of a children’s book in a single day.  A variety of factors can impact the creation time for a book but as long as you invest yourself in the process and keep writing your project will get done.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? I know when I first started writing when I was young a lot of the stories where very comedic and over the top.  I’ve always had a pretty unique sense of humor and I think writing initially gave me a means to express and explore it. As I’ve matured as a person and an author, I find inspiration from a much more diverse set of experiences, resources, artistic mediums, and a desire to explore the possibilities of being an author. I never know where inspiration will come from but I know now it’s important to embrace it when it does because you never know where it will lead you as an artist. I’ve also learned to trust myself more than I once did by trying to judge less and listen more, be it to people or my own instincts as an author.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write? I almost always write to music. I actually have entire scenes in my stories that were created around specific songs.  Sometimes I just use music to help get me in the mood to write.

What have you written? I have published two fiction novels, one award winning children’s chapter book, and a host of short stories and poems. I’ve also written for blogs and a newspaper.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? I’m much more apt to just see where an idea takes me when writing a short story or poem than I am if I’m working on a novel. Outlining is great but you also have to let a story develop as you write. Outlines can help guide and create structure but shouldn’t be viewed as an absolute. Play!

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? I’ve designed the basic concept and layout for each of my books but the final covers have been a collaboration with a photographer, Scott Coons, and an illustrator, Elizabeth Nordquest.

Any advice for aspiring authors? Your worst story is the one you don’t write. We grow by practicing and expanding our skills as writers. If you’re not writing, you tend to stagnate.  Not everything you write will be brilliant or will be something you want to publish but everything you write can help you to mature as an artist.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special? Ernest Frankenstein and the creature have some interesting parallels. They are both survivors struggling for answers about the past and seeking a way forward in their lives, both are connected and weighted down by their relationship to Victor, and they are bound in unique ways as “family.”

What is the hardest thing about writing your latest book? Writing Book 3 of my Frankenstein The Resurrection Trinity series is a bit daunting because of all the plotlines I need to resolve and because I know I’ll be saying goodbye to characters who have been with me for years.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why? Abrielle is probably my favorite character to write because she is so complex.  Her background and life leading up to the events in the books has been so dark, difficult, at once sympathetic and unnerving, and wholly interesting that it’s a lot of fun to figure out how she’ll respond to certain characters, conflicts, and situations throughout the Frankenstein The Resurrection Trinity novel series. She tends to surprise both me as a writer and the reader.

What is your next project? I have two short stories I’d like to finish before returning to completing Book 3 of my Frankenstein The Resurrection Trinity series. I also am working on getting my first children’s picture book underway.

Do you have any fur babies to brag about? I have two “fur babies.” My dog, August (Auggie) is a rescue schnauzer and I have a stray cat, Asoka. They’ve both got personality to spare and when they’re getting along (both want plenty of lap time) I call them The A-Team.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why? The Frankenstein The Resurrection Trinity series books are actually allowing me to kind of explore what I would have done if I’d penned aspects of Mary Shelley’s classic. If I had to pick another book, it would probably be either Self- Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (nonfiction) or The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (fiction) because both inherently ask the reader to go deeper into themselves and the texts.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer? Perseverance. You’ll get writers block, get negative responses/feedback, have failed marketing strategies, and face general setbacks but if you believe in your work, foster a support network, are realistic with yourself, practice patience, and adopt the right attitude then no obstacle is insurmountable.

Do you ever feel self-conscious when writing love/sex scenes? I’ve only written a few but no I don’t feel self-conscious.  My scenes are typically major turning points for character development so there’s more than just sex going on in them. I find them fun to write.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing? I think both can be viable routes for writers to get their works out to a larger audience. It really comes down to the goals of both the writer and publisher. As long as an author does their homework and makes an informed decision, and is willing to put effort into the publication and marketing process, they can be successful with either publishing model.

Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published? I think there can be. People sometimes associate self-published with poor quality, and while this can be the case for some books (traditional or self-published), more often than not, self-published books are just as well-crafted and creative as traditionally published works.

What book are you currently reading or just finished? Montana 1948 by Larry Watson and A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Is there a book you love you’d like to recommend to others? The Moor by Laurie R King and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Tell us something unique about you. I love to hike, travel, cook, garden, photography, one day I’d love to try and climb a mountain, and am great at doing different character voices spontaneously.

There ya have it folks! For more about Pete, his work, and to get your own copy, follow the links below:

Youtube / Publisher / Facebook / Twitter / Blog / Amazon / Goodreads / Barnes&Noble / iBOokStore / Smashwords / Kobo

Meet Author JA Kruger

Hola, lovelies! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author JA Kruger

JA Kruger was born in 1984 in Kempton Park, South Africa in a hospital that is now haunted. He maintains an interesting life, dabbling in things like forensic investigations and placing himself in questionable situations. Kruger has in his 32 years, died twice, lost a finger, lost his mind and found himself (mostly). There is; however, no clear proof that he had found himself when he found whiskey (as has been rumored).

Kruger writes literary fiction that explores the darker and more fascinating side of life. And although controversial, he appreciates the opportunity to vent his madness on paper and have people enjoy it.

Title:  The Gift of the dead

Genre:  Literary / Noir Fiction

Synopsis:  John Lensing is in a mental institution in Pretoria, South Africa, awaiting trial for murder and numerous other crimes. A court-appointed team of psychiatrists probe into his past to determine the cause of his psychosis.

What they find is a labyrinth of madness in a confused individual.

Raised in a strict religious household and, having been sheltered from the outside world for most of his life, John was immediately attracted to a hedonistic lifestyle of drugs and debauchery he was coaxed into by a free-spirited, tattooed goddess.

Triggered by the drugs and fueled by the abusive memories he had suppressed, John’s mental state altered as he went from socially awkward to violent and obsessive.

The psychiatrists unearth a side of John that thrives on these violent and passionate extremes and another that loves intensely – to the point of obsession.

Why do you write?  I write because I need to keep myself in touch with reality (even if it is a reality I create myself). It’s a therapeutic experience and, apparently, some people appreciate this form of therapy.

In truth though, the process of creating something and watching it become something more is scary but more real than anything else you can do. When writing, you are taking off your clothes (on paper) and telling people to look at it and comment.

When did you decide to become a writer?  I always wanted to be a rock-star, but eventually realized that my guitar-skills wouldn’t cut it. As such, I decided to find another outlet where being ‘dark and broody’ and misunderstood would be acceptable and even praised, so I decided to write instead. This was around the time I turned 13.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book?  *Scary Question* as you are forcing me to deal with that annoying procrastinating part of my personality I indulge and hate.

Seriously though, it takes me anything from two to three years to complete a book. I do a lot of research, mostly into stuff I have no knowledge of, which takes up a lot of time in front of my computer. *I am not just saying this to justify the dodgy Internet Browsing History*.

While this is going on I write, but I have never submitted a manuscript which wasn’t on the eleventh (or thereabouts) draft. I think I might be a bit too critical of my own work, which eats up the time, but that’s part of the fun (isn’t it?).

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?  I have a full-time career which includes significant overtime, so I have forgone the luxury of sleep to allow me some time to write.

And the time to write is dependent on the time the kids fall asleep and my wife dozes off on the couch in front of the TV.

So I write from about ten in the evening until about two in the morning.

And yes, this has led to me having a torrid affair with a coffee-machine.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?  When I was much younger, someone gave me advice on brewing ideas. He told me that if I had any thought or idea, to write it down in a note-book and forget about it.

I did as he had suggested.

When I read through the book again some time later, the initial idea had evolved on its own to something greater and more complex. Creativity works that way for me – the thicker my notebooks get and the more things I experience and read and watch, the fleshier the concepts are when I look at them again.

I think the subconscious mind is an incredibly underrated thing.

What have you written?  I have written my first (published) novel, The Gift of the dead, as well as several short stories, poetry and some opinion / blog pieces.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?  I plan out everything. At my desk I have timelines pinned up which shows exactly when something happens. I also write quite elaborate character profiles. Even if a character is only present for a chapter or two, I will have a profile of about four pages describing their voice, mannerisms, clothing and even history.

But, and this is in keeping with my view on creativity, luckily I manage to keep myself open for the evolution of ideas and storylines as they come about.

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website?  I designed my own. It feels too personal to have someone else do it… (another controlling and annoying little quirk).

Any advice for aspiring authors?  Write. Just write.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special?  The main character, John Lensing, is a disturbed individual.

However, writing the story in his voice allowed me to make him human to the reader. John is the kind of man you should and would detest (rightfully so?) in real life, but his child-like perception of it all makes him not only relatable but also a character, antagonist personified, that the reader can grow to love.

What is the hardest thing about writing?  The hardest thing is also the simplest thing – procrastination.

Also, trying to explain a concept to someone if you haven’t yet explained it to yourself (and then trying to remember the great points you made when you explained it so you can use them in the book).

Which writers inspire you?  Irvine Welsh; Hunter S. Thompson; and Charles Bukowski.

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser?  This is from the current novel in progress;

I don’t know what I am doing and I have no idea how to tell you what I want to tell you. It doesn’t make my story any less interesting or more interesting. It doesn’t make the words carry meaning when they should not or go without meaning in those sentences where they should. I am not in the middle of a life-changing adventure and I have not returned from one recently either. I would’ve called this purgatory but there is decisive commitment tied to that.

What this is are the ramblings of a man who is both confused and impatient. This is me; a writer, trying to find something to write and trying to write something to sell. What do I write then? A story is the obvious answer followed by someone pointing out that it has to be a good story with well-rounded characters and a clear meaning with some symbolism hidden somewhere in there.

There’s no editor waiting for me to finish this manuscript and no advance or publishing contract guaranteed when I do but there is the story. It’s a simple story but an honest one. There’s some meaning and some lessons but mostly it’s just what it is. It’s just a story.

Two months ago I picked up my guitar for the first time in a while. I cannot define “a while” but it must’ve been some time. The guitar is a classic Vester six string which is nothing special but it has sentimental value. My father had bought it for me when I was 7 and just learning to play. I was good at it as well. I can’t play the way the Spanish play and I am not as good as anyone in a rock band but I was better than the guy around the fire trying to find the chords to popular songs in the dim firelight. I had even written some songs of my own and I think they were good. But this time, when I picked the instrument up and held it close to me, felt the familiar weight of the neck in my hand and the strings beneath my fingers I realised that I had forgotten how to play.

So what did I do? Did I give it up? Did I try to teach myself again or take lessons like when I was 7? No. The simplest solution I could think of was to buy another guitar. This one would be special and stunning and inspiring. It would be something worth playing for a purpose more defined than nostalgia. My new guitar would be a Gibson Les Paul Hummingbird Koa Elite, the limited edition one in the Antique Natural finish with Abalone finger inlays and a beautiful picture of a little hummingbird on the body right by the big round hole. I don’t know what the correct term is to use for that so I will carry on calling it the big round hole. I have always been a bit skewed this way, finding solutions that do not fit the problems.

It’s nearly $5 000 which is, unfortunately a lot more than I can afford. $100 is more than I can afford so I was stuck wasn’t I?

As dreams go though, I fixated more than I should have and started looking at pictures of the instrument on the internet whenever I could. I imagined holding it and I imagined what people would say if they saw it in my apartment. Surely there was some adulation I could capitalise on.

It was through this obsessive fantasising that I had met Joel. Joel was a guitar fanatic. I’m pretty sure he would know what you call the big hole but I’ve never asked him.

Joel did not just have a great knowledge of guitars but was also a nice guy. I don’t mean nice guy like in a gangster sense and also, I do not want to take anything from him as a person by simply calling him nice. Joel was Joel. You can choose for yourself what “being Joel” means to you. This story is about him.

This story is about Joel.


If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast? Firstly, the director would have to be Wes Anderson or Guy Ritchie.

In the lead, I would cast Joseph-Gordon Levitt, or Jay Baruchel (provided he is willing to try something more psychotic than modern comedy and is willing to go slightly insane for the role). 

What one person from history would you like to meet and why?  I would like to meet Freddy Mercury.

The man was a genius!

If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?  I would like to see men who are fathers, to live up to the name “father”.

Who is your favorite author and which of their books is your favorite?  Hunter S. Thompson – The Rum Diary

(The most brilliant book the man had written)

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?  Catcher in the Rye – JD Sallinger

I think only Holden Caulfield would be able to explain why.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?  I am quite active on social media, but everything is on my website.

There ya have it folks! For more about JA and to get your copy of his work, follow the links below:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / Goodreads / Smashwords / Amazon

Meet Author Shane Joseph

Hola, lovelies! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with author Shane Joseph

Shane Joseph is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers and the author of four novels and three collections of short stories. His work After the Flood won the best fantasy novel award at Write Canada in 2010. His short fiction has appeared in international literary journals and anthologies. His latest novel, In the Shadow of the Conquistador, was released in the fall of 2015. His new short story collection, Crossing Limbo, is due out in the summer of 2017. For details visit his website at

Book sample: Extract from Paradise Revisited (short stories, literary fiction):

The first time I met Sena, I recognized him as a shanty dweller from the other side of the paddy field. We rarely went over there other than when flying kites during the day. After sunset, the men—subsistence farmers, rickshaw coolies, bullock cart drivers and casual labourers—returned drunk to their cadjan-roofed shanties.  Their women chewed betel and spat red streams into the sand outside the shacks while huddling over scraps of food cooking on wood-fuelled open-air fireplaces. They seemed afraid to go indoors to be ravaged by the men. Sex was the only entertainment inside those sooty candlelit hovels, further dulled by the effects of kassippu and toddy. Yells of lust and pain echoed across the paddies on clear nights when the mosquitoes weren’t hissing and the wind blew in from the fields.

By contrast, our burgeoning housing estate was an oasis of peace and affluence in what had once been a rural community. Available land in the city of Colombo was running out, and so my father had decided to move back to his childhood home in Kotte, to the suburbs, at the dawn of the ’70s. My grandfather had left Dad a piece of land that he built our house on. The area had received a boost 10 years later when the federal parliament moved out of Colombo into Kotte.  Bank and Mercantile executives, the nouveau-riche who had made it in the new export industries, and returning petro-dollar workers from the Middle East were pouring their wealth into new brick houses with all the modern conveniences of running water, electricity, telephones and TV, while squeezing the rural folk into the margins of shanty-towns. Resentment by the locals hovered under the surface, but it was rarely expressed in those days.

One day, a huge fire broke out in the shanty town and its inmates ran out frantically; children screaming, women wailing, as meagre possessions were tossed out of cinder box houses that were flaming like overlarge kilns. Black smoke swirled over the paddy fields sending crows squawking into the heavens.

Our housing estate’s denizens hunkered down. Opening our doors to these folk was to invite trouble—after all, they were riff-raff, and good middle-class people did not associate with them!

The fire brigade never arrived. A police jeep came by only the following day, and an inspector, aided by two constables, disembarked to walk amidst the smoking ruins and write his report. The few people who returned to their shacks began piling up whatever had been salvaged and the bolder ones had already started to rebuild their destroyed homes. They ignored the cops, as if handouts and help were things that they never expected in their lives. Shanty towns made their own rules and outsiders were not invited.

Why do you write? There are too many stories accumulated in me, from the four countries I have lived in and the 60plus countries that I have visited. To not capture these experiences would be a life wasted, I think.

When did you decide to become a writer? I had a false start when I was 17 when I had a couple of short stories published. Very soon thereafter, I realized that I didn’t have much to say at that age, that I had to do more living in order to mine experiences, and I put writing on hold for 22 years. When I started again in 2001, I knew I was ready. My four published novels, four more unpublished ones, and more than 50 published short stories have come since this second start.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? I think one evolves fastest in times of loss. Every time I left a home, a country, a job, a relationship, or they left me, I grew creatively. It’s almost as if you have to pay a tax in order to gain creatively. I started writing short stories and then moved onto the novel. Now I have returned to short stories because I find them more powerful and say much with an economy of words. As I get older, I want every word to count and I don’t want to waste my words.

What have you written? I have written two novels about my native Sri Lanka Redemption in Paradise (2004) and The Ulysses Man (2011), and a collection of short stories, Paradise Revisited (2013), set in that country. I have also written a speculative fiction novel set in North America, After the Flood (2009). My recent publication was a novel set in Peru and Canada, In the Shadow of the Conquistador (2015). I have also written two short story collections set in North America: Fringe Dwellers (2008) and Crossing Limbo (due in 2017). I have four other novels in submittable form waiting for the right moment to be pitched. In addition I have written over 450 book reviews posted on Goodreads and Amazon, and published in international literary print publications. I have been writing a blog for almost 9 years that has been syndicated on other blog sites and in community newspapers. I have done all this writing in addition to holding down a paying, non-literary day job and editing for a family-owned publishing house.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer? You can’t force a story out. It comes when it comes and sometimes that can take many years. A couple of my novels have taken eight years to go from first draft to publication. Some, although written, may never be published as their time may not be right or their time may have passed. One of my short stories was published after 30 years.

Do you ever feel self-conscious when writing love/sex scenes? These are indeed hard but necessary scenes to write because the lens bores right into the heart of the characters during sexual intimacy. I have used sex and love increasingly in my work and that tells me that my writing is maturing and my approach to the subject is bold. I am not self-conscious when writing about sex or love but I also realize that readers have different tolerance levels for “how much.” My last novel, In the Shadow of the Conquistador, has a lot of sex in it and has been labeled misogynistic by some while I have considered it my most feminist novel.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing? Both are fair game in today’s world and there is no stigma attached to either. It is clear that traditional publishing is in the business of earning a profit for its shareholders and defaults to subject matter with a broad appeal, with a focus on branding, marketing and worldwide distribution in multiple languages, with corporate money to back up these efforts. Self-publishing is a purer expression of the writer’s voice and may appeal to a narrower niche, often published in one language only, and relies more on word-of mouth than on marketing dollars. Each model reaps results according to the effort and money put in. Sometimes, the quality of what is written, and its message, whether self-published or trade published, catches the zeitgeist and goes viral – we are all hoping for such an event with our work.

Tell us something unique about you: My fingerprint, nothing else. Perhaps my retina and DNA might be unique as well. I think we should not kid ourselves that we are unique as writers. We all have stories to tell, some different than others, but they are all survival tales, or else we wouldn’t be alive to tell them. It is how we tell them that will garner us readers, or not, and make us unique, or not. So I will let my readers determine my uniqueness.

There ya have it folks! For more about Shane and his work, follow the links below:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Linkedin / Goodreads / AmazonCA / AmazonUS / BookTrailer / YouTube

Meet Author Lily Iona MacKenzie

Hola drarlins’, welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Lily Iona MacKenzie

A Canadian by birth, a high school dropout, and a mother at 17, in her early years, Lily Iona MacKenzie supported herself as a stock girl for the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long distance operator, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored her into the States). She also was a cocktail waitress at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel, was the first woman to work on the SF docks and almost got her legs broken, founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County, co-created THE STORY SHOPPE, a weekly radio program for children, and eventually earned two Master’s degrees, one in Creative Writing and the other in the Humanities. Her reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir have appeared in over 150 American and Canadian venues. Fling! was published in 2015. Bone Songs, another novel, launches in 2017.  Freefall: A Divine Comedy will be released in 2018. Her poetry collection All This was published in 2011.

Book grabber: Genre: Fling! fits under literary/contemporary women’s fiction/magical realism.

Fling! features 57 year-old Feather and her 90 year-old mother Bubbles. They travel from Canada to Mexico, making stops in San Francisco and the Isle of Skye, seeking answers to family mysteries during their odyssey. What they find instead is a whole new view of life that they hadn’t considered before. The novel is available in print, audio, and Kindle.

Lewis Buzbee, who teaches creative writing in the University of San Francisco’s MFA in writing program and has published several volumes of fiction and non-fiction, says, “Fling is both hilariousfling_frontcover_4-13-15-copy and touching, the madcap journey of an aging mother and her adult daughter from cold Protestant Canada into the hallucinogenic heart of Mexico’s magic, where the past literally comes to life.  Every page is a surprise, and ‘Bubbles’ is one of the most endearing mothers in recent fiction.  A scintillating read.”

About Fling!  When ninety-year-old Bubbles receives a letter from Mexico City asking her to pick up her mother’s ashes, lost there seventy years earlier and only now surfacing, she hatches a plan. A woman with a mission, Bubbles convinces her hippie daughter Feather to accompany her on the quest. Both women have recently shed husbands and have a secondary agenda: they’d like a little action. And they get it.

Alternating narratives weave together Feather and Bubbles’ odyssey with their colorful Scottish ancestors, creating a family tapestry. The two women travel south from Canada to Mexico where Bubbles’ long-dead mother, grandmother, and grandfather turn up, enlivening the narrative with their hilarious antics.

In Mexico, where reality and magic co-exist, Feather gets a new sense of her mother, and Bubbles’ quest for her mother’s ashes—and a new man—increases her zest for life. Unlike most women her age, fun-loving Bubbles takes risks, believing she’s immortal. She doesn’t hold back in any way, eating heartily and lusting after strangers, exulting in her youthful spirit.

Readers will believe they’ve found the fountain of youth themselves in this character. At ninety, Bubbles comes into her own, coming to age, proving it’s never too late to fulfill one’s dreams.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?  At 90, Bubbles is still feisty, curious, adventurous, lustful, fun loving, risk taking, and determined to live life on her terms. She hungers for food, travel, sex, and the other finer things in life. Unfortunately, someone Bubbles age is often overlooked in American culture, the assumption being that youth is more attractive and engaging. I personally think a good deal about aging, my own particularly! While there are adjustments we must make at every stage of life, I believe our later years make more demands on us. Of course, we can ignore our aging and pretend that the end game won’t be part of our future. But the reality is, it will. It forces us, some of us, to come to terms with what it means to be mortal. But I also believe that, if we’re mentally and physically agile, we can also find ways to embrace our infirmities at the same time as we discover new ways to transcend them. I’m a great believer in the imagination and its ability to open new doors. We will face limitations as we grow older, but even within those boundaries there is room to maneuver. I believe Bubbles grows in her own manner over the course of this very funny novel, showing the way for other novelists to feature more elderly characters, especially female!

When did you decide to become a writer?  I’m not sure I decided, exactly, and I don’t think I had any choice.  Writing is as necessary to me as eating. If I don’t write each day, I become irritable and unpleasant to live with. Ask my husband!

When I was thirteen, I started keeping a diary that I wrote in a coded language I invented so anyone who read it wouldn’t be able to enter my world. I have no idea what happened to that first attempt to keep a journal, but I’m sure it was my writing self trying to emerge. That part of me was buried though, along with the diary, until my mid-twenties when I experienced a deep depression. At that time, I started keeping a journal again. I also went into therapy, the first step in recovering my writing self.

The journal writing was my attempt to understand what was happening. I wrote daily not only about what I was thinking and feeling, but I also recorded my nightly dreams. I’ve continued this practice ever since, learning much about myself in the process. I feel that keeping in close contact with my dreams has fed my writing and enriched my imagination. At this time, I also started exploring the craft of writing, entering an undergraduate creative writing program.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?  For years, I’ve tried to write a minimum of one hour per day. I usually was able to fit in that amount of time while I was teaching writing part-time at the University of San Francisco as well as serving as vice-president of the part-time faculty union there; helping my husband raise two kids from his previous marriage; and handling the myriad other duties of running a household. During that time, I produced an amazing amount of material: three poetry collections, one of which is published; four+ novels, all of which are either published or on their way to being published; a short story collection; travel articles; reviews; memoir; and much more. To date, I’ve published over 150 pieces in a variety of venues. Now that I’m on a temporary leave from teaching, I’ve been able to add an hour or so to my daily writing schedule. Otherwise, marketing my work takes up an enormous amount of time.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?  When I start writing, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I have no idea where I’m going. That’s the fun part of writing for me: the quest. The heading off into the dark with very little light guiding me. I’m not sure I even have an “idea” at the beginning of a work. For example, my novel Bone Songs started with an image. I had read in the paper about a tornado hitting a small town near the city where I grew up in Canada. For some lily-2-book-passagereason, that image grabbed my attention, and the novel actually starts at that point, with the tornado approaching the fictional town of Weed, Alberta. The following 350 pages grew from that opening, and I discovered day by day the characters, setting, and action.

Where do your ideas come from?  I have always been a curious person, so I’m interested in many things, but especially the BIG  questions: Why are we here? What does it mean to be human? What role does the unconscious have in our lives? How can women become more equal/powerful in a world that still favors males over females? Questions, then, are the main inspiration that set me off seeking answers. I think my work so far explores some of these question and more!

What is your next project?  Over the years, I’ve written a total of four plus novels. In 2016, Regal House Publishing will be releasing Bone Songs, the last one I wrote. This work didn’t start as my other novels have with characters whose seeds come from my actual life. Instead, it began as an image. I had read in the newspaper about a tornado hitting a small town outside of Calgary, and for some reason, it gripped my imagination. Out of that came a character that has no relationship to anyone I know, living or dead. She’s a little like the goddess Athena being born full blown from her father Zeus’s head. Her name is Curva Peligrosa, and she comes from Mexico. Over six feet tall, a sharp shooter, possessed of magical powers, adventurous, amorous, sexual, and fecund, she ends up in a fictional Canadian town called Weed and creates a tropical habitat there.

Her larger-than-life presence more or less overturns the town of Weed, whose inhabitants have never seen anything like her. She’s a curiosity and a marvel, a source of light and heat, a magnet. In fact, she’s the physical embodiment of the tornado that hits Weed two years after her arrival, a storm that turns the place upside down and unearths a trove of bones of those who had lived on the land before the Weedites: Native Americans and prehistoric animals.

I’ve been spending a lot of time this fall working on whatever final editing the press suggests. I also have a collection of interlocking stories I’m working on called The Sinner’s Club. Each character is part of the same church setting and has an intriguing story to tell. The various sections offer a kaleidoscopic view of this religious community and its characters’ foibles.

In my spare moments, I also continue to write poetry, essays, and other short fiction.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?  More than one! To persevere in the face of rejections. To believe in my writing self. To rewrite. Write some more. Get feedback from respected editors. Revise, revise, revise. Keep writing. And to trust that the unconscious will turn up every day to feed me material as long as I show up too.

What are some of your favorite books and why?  It’s hard to say because I always have so many books on my night stand. I love the Norwegian novelist Per Petterson and have read all of his books except for the last one, which is now waiting for me. His prose is lyrical, and he quickly creates a unique world that absorbs his readers.

I recently finished Three Light Years by the Italian author Andrea Canobbio. Francine Prose had praised it highly in The New York Review of Books, and over all it lived up to the accolades. My husband and I spent a month in Italy this summer, so we read John Hooker’s The Italians, a wonderful overview of the country and its people. I intersperse fiction and non-fiction with poetry since that’s a genre I also write in. I’ve been impressed with Mark Strand’s Collected Poems and have been going through it recently.

Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude found me at a time when I needed a model for the magical realism approach that seems natural to me and inhabits much of my work. I LOVE that book and return to it often for inspiration.

In another mode, Roberto Bolano, a Chilean writer, has also inspired me. He diverges from the more familiar magical realist vein and creates his own genre. I’ve read most of his books now, and they evoke a world that seems like a parallel universe to ours. He also steps beyondlilymac_3-12-15_sm the usual fiction boundaries, violating our expectations of how a novel should unfold or end. I’m always entranced by his work.

And I haven’t mentioned W.G. Sebald yet, another writer who died far too young. He also invented a new genre, a hybrid novel form. Again, I’ve read all of his work, and I’m stunned by it its depth and insight in what it means to be human.

I’m sorry that all of these authors are men when there are so many female writers I love as well, including the Irish writer Anne Enright. I’ll read anything she publishes because of her sharp wit and illuminations of contemporary life. And, of course, I’ve read everything that my countrywoman, Alice Munro, has written. She is simply one of the best!

There ya have it folks! For more about Lily and her work, follow the links below:

Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Linkedin / Goodreads / Pinterest / Amazon / YouTube / Google

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