Posts Tagged With: novel

Motown Writers Network Featured Author ~ Jean Scheffler

MeThis week’s featured author, Jean Scheffler grew up “South of Detroit”  and as a child she would sit on her Grandfathers lap at his summer cottage and intently listen to stories of his childhood adventures in early industrial Detroit. As he rocked her in front of the roaring fire, her love for Detroit’s history and its exciting past took root.

The Sugar House, Jean’s literary debut is a step back in time. Join us as we get to know more about Jean and her new historical fiction.

 

Where are you from?

I am from Trenton, MI ( Just 20 Miles south of Detroit)

 

Tell us your latest news?

I published my first novel “The Sugar House” in February.

 

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing three years ago following months (actually years) of research of the history of Detroit.

 

What inspired you to write your first book?

I was going through a transition in my life and I looked around and noticed my children were getting older and knew there were many things that I wanted to accomplish that I had not begun. The first was to write a novel. I had had the idea for “The Sugar House” for a year or so and had been developing it in my thoughts. I decided that it was the time to set aside other things and pursue my dream as an author.

I always wanted to become a writer but life had always seemed to get in the way. Or perhaps I did not make it enough of a priority. Or perhaps I did not have the confidence. Perhaps I just needed the right story.  I had tried once before but the story fell apart as I tried to put it down.  When I decided to really sit down and write “The Sugar House’ I knew I had a great story and an important one. Actually, sometimes I say the story wrote itself. I loved the story so much I was truly worried that I was not worthy enough of writing it. In that I mean that I was a first time writer and I wanted to give value and grace to such an important part of history.

 

Do you have a specific writing style?

I’m not quite sure of the categories of writing styles. I write from research and stories and imagination. I like to piece together articles, pieces of stories, historical facts and things that I have experienced or watched my children experience to make a relatable story.

 

How did you come up with the title?

The name “The Sugar House” initially came from the gangster portion of the story. The Purple Gang was originally called the Oakland Sugar House gang. But as the novel developed I saw that it represented many other aspects of the character, Joe’s life.

 

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The main message I want the reader to grasp from my novel is that a person can be stay true to themselves and their faith even faced with great adversity.  While no person is perfect and my break the rules or laws at times they can find their way to a happy, content life in the end if they remember what is important.

 

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The book is historical fiction. That is a broad title that encompasses many types of work. “The Sugar House” is a historical fiction in the strictest sense of the word.  Dates and events that are historically documented are almost all true down to the day.  Many names of the Purple Gang leaders are their actual names.  Many events that involved the Purple Gang are documented as factual.  The story in fact is based on things my grandfather told me occurred in his life. Not all the events that occur in The Sugar House are factual but many are. I tried to create a story that the reader would be able to learn from and at the same time enjoy as a fictional novel.

 

What books have most influenced your life most?

The Little House on the Prairie books were the first influential books of my childhood. I read them over and over again- fascinated by the hardships the Ingalls family dealt with but how their adventurous spirit helped drive them ahead.   Gone with the Wind was my go to book as a teen. Also Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Looking back I guess I have always had a love for great characters who live in a different time and face different adversities but reach within themselves to find a higher ground.

 

What book are you reading now?

I am currently reading several novels by new authors. I am trying my hand in reviewing books to further my abilities as a writer and give back to the writing community.

 

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

My current novel is based on my maternal grandfather who was a railroad conductor before the Depression.

 

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I have several very good girlfriends who supported my throughout the project. They were always encouraging and are very much the cheerleaders that every first time author should have. I am blessed to have them in my life.

 

Do you see writing as a career?

I would love to make writing a career. I want to be able to tell stories that people will enjoy and learn from at the same time. Perhaps change their perspectives or lives a little.

 

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

If I had to do it all over again I would not change anything about my novel (Except my not procrastinate as long as I did)

 

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

As “The Sugar House” is based in Detroit I only had to travel to the city for my research. (I did go to Windsor once for a Prohibition Whisky Tour) My next novel takes place from Michigan to Kansas so I anticipate more travel with that one.

 

Who designed the covers?

I hired a wonderful woman named Karrie Ross from California to design the cover and do the interior design of the novel. The photograph is actually a close up of the suit my grandfather is wearing in the picture on the back cover.

 

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I think the hardest part of writing is two fold. One- finding the inspiration and the time at the same time can be very difficult in a hectic life with children.  Two- once the story is written- having others read your inner thoughts and ideas and judge them.

 

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned a lot from writing my book. I learned so much Detroit history. I learned a lot about the people who made this city Great. I learned a lot about myself, about where I come from and who I am. I know it sounds a little deep but after taking years to research my ancestors, the country they came from, their daily habits, their rituals etc., I think I would only be remiss if I had not learned a whole lot about what it means to be me.

 

Do you have any advice for other writers?

I can not give advice to established writers and this is my first novel however I think that may qualify my to give advice to new and want to be writers.  Once you find the story you want to tell- be confident and tell it.  Don’t worry about what others will say. The ones who judge harshly are the ones who will never leave their mark as you will.

 

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I hope my readers enjoy “The Sugar House” and learn something about the great city of Detroit. I hope it motivates them to look into the past and see what their own ancestors did to make it in America. And I hope it  inspires them to save the historical parts of Detroit for themselves and to continue to improve Detroit for future generations.

 

The Sugar House

Jean Scheffler

“The Sugar House”

http://www.jeanscheffler.com

Amazon link: http://goo.gl/9GNYvy

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/TheSugarHouseDetroit

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JeanScheff

 

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Motown Writers Network Author Feature~Victor ‘Billione’ Walker

Billione This week’s featured author is no stranger to the limelight, so shining a light on him is something he’s used to! A singer, poet and author, Billione (pronounced bil-LEE-yon) is one of Detroit’s most up and coming people to keep an eye on. He is the author of several books, including his most recent poetic play the Birth of Mars, and No Tea. No Shade, a novel set in Detroit. His thought provoking work touches on various subjects related to being a Detroit native, LGBT experiences and examining masculinity.

Come and experience the gifted one, Billione, as we talk to him about his work!

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Detroit. Most of my writing is pulled from my experiences as a Detroiter.
Tell us your latest news?

I recently released my first work of fiction entitled No Tea. No Shade. Set in Detroit, it is a story about the dapper, charismatic Chauncey King, a successful Editor-in-chief of the Detroit Daily News. Chauncey goes from reporting the news to being the center of his own scandal after coming face-to-face with his turbulent past. His life seems to unravel until he meets Malcolm Dandridge at a local bathhouse and realizes that in order to be happy he must first face his biggest fear.
When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing song lyrics as a child. My mother kept a journal and I would read the words she wrote and sing them. What she wrote sounded like love songs, full of joy and pain.
Other forms of my writing emerged out of my love for reading. As I child, I read books about a number of things but struggled to find characters that were similar to me. After writing song lyrics, I eventually wrote poetry and eventually fiction.

 

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I first considered myself a writer when I began writing news in the Mumford High School newspaper. I didn’t particularly like writing news; my Journalism teacher convinced me that I was good at it. So, I stuck with it. When I went home, though, I secretly wrote song lyrics and poems.
What inspired you to write your first book?

After meeting one of my favorite authors, the late E. Lynn Harris, I mentioned to him how his characters resonated with me, and his writing inspired me to write my own novel. He told me to be sure to send it to him when I did. After getting news of his passing in 2009, I remembered how I never started working on my novel. Remembering that meeting, I began taking notes on ‘No Tea. No Shade,” and dedicated it to Lynn.
Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t know if I have a defined writing style, but I simply write about what I know: Detroit, being Black and gay. It is important to me to stay in my lane and offer my readers an authentic experience.
How did you come up with the title?

The title No Tea. No Shade. is a common phrase in the gay community said when you want to tell someone the truth without offending them. I heard RuPaul say it frequently on RuPaul’s Drag Race and knew it reflected the circumstances of the book.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Our lives are best spent coming to terms with who we are, building authentic relationships and getting our own truths. Life is too short to be spent trying to please others. When we face our darkest fears, it will be then that we can truly deserve to live in the light.
How much of the book is realistic?

Every character in No Tea. No Shade. has elements pulled directly from my life. Of course, there are some elements that are made more dramatic to enhance the reader’s experience, but it’s all realistic and quite autobiographical.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I pulled from everything I know: Personal experiences, things I’ve heard about and things I never read about but wanted to. No Tea. No Shade. is the type of book I would read.
What books have most influenced your life most?

Books like Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and Their Eyes Were Watching Godare among my favorite books and have helped shape my personal philosophy.  I have also been influenced by authors like George Orwell, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, and Toni Morrison.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

I consider Sylvia Hubbard a mentor. She has helped me go from a poet with a desire to self-publish to an author with multiple titles under my belt. I learned almost everything I know about independent publishing from her and the Motown Writers Network. I am sincerely grateful for the guidance and support I’ve received.
What book are you reading now?

I am currently reading an anthology of coming out stories entitled Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, edited by Derrick Tennial out of Atlanta. I contributed a story entitled Thirty-Eight, about my coming out as gay and how the messages I received through television as a child of the 80’s shaped my identity as a man.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I am inspired by a number of new authors, especially those writing poetry. Poets like Joel Fluent Greene of Detroit’s Café Mahogany days is releasing his first book of poetry this month. I am excited to celebrate him and read his new work. Also, Detroit poet T. Miller released a book called Coming Out Of Nowhere that took conversations that happened on social media to a different level.
What are your current projects?

I am currently preparing to bring my poetic play entitled The Birth of Mars to the stage. It was inspired by For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange and the Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler. Mars took 6 years to write and examines masculinity in America.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Being a poet and having the opportunity to perform in Detroit has connected me to so many people. The artist community has been so supportive and encouraging. People like Dimonique Boyd, Crystal Campbell, jessica Care moore, Legacy Leonard, LaShaun Phoenix Moore, Omari King Wise, Kalimah Johnson and so many more have supported me as a poet and fiction writer.
Do you see writing as a career?

From the response No Tea. No Shade. has gotten, I could definitely see that happening. I love writing and enjoy the process of bringing characters to life. It isn’t easy crafting a story that makes sense, but when it’s all over, I feel accomplished and successful.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Not one thing! I love my characters and the story. Well, maybe one thing… I would make it longer. The story is short, but gripping.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

My interest for writing grew out of reading. My grandmother was an avid reader and it rubbed off on me.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am currently finishing up my sixth book of poetry entitled Grand Boulevard. It is mainly about my experiences as a Detroiter. I dedicated it to the late, great Detroit poet Blair.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I am the king of the comma! For some reason, commas end up randomly in my writing, in places I am not so sure they belong. That’s what good editors are for!
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

E. Lynn Harris and Alice Walker are among my favorite authors. Their books resonate with me because they require me to face my fears related to being Black, gay and an artist. They also have the best characters!
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

I travel frequently for my books, whether to perform poetry or to discuss some of the themes in them. Sometimes other people make connections in my writing that never even occurred to me.
Who designed the covers?

I designed all of the covers for my books. I am interested in having someone else design the covers for my future publications.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The most difficult part of writing books has been keeping track of the storylines and making sure they don’t conflict with each other.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned that the process of writing novels takes time and cannot be rushed. Creativity in any form should not be rushed.
Do you have any advice for other writers?

Observe people in their environments. Find out how people move, speak and interact. I did a lot of people watching in public places for No Tea. No Shade. The descriptions in the book are real. If you go to where my characters are and do the things they do, you will see exactly what they see.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Yes. Thank you for joining me on this journey and for supporting all of the stories and words that emerge from my mind.

No Tea No Shade

Billione

No Tea. No Shade.

getBillione.com

amazon.com/author/billione

amazon.com/No-Tea-Shade-Billione-ebook/dp/B00E332LZW

facebook.com/getBillione

twitter.com/Billione

Centric

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Author Feature~Tracie ‘T Elise’ Christian

Tracie B Cyde shotThis week the Motown Writers Network shines the spotlight on Tracie Christian a.k.a T’Elise as this week’s featured author. Come with us as we get to know more about T’Elise and her latest novel.

 

Where are you from?

I from the Northeast side of DETROIT MI.

Tell us your latest news?

I recently released the 3rd and final installment of my urban reflective fiction trilogy book series, The Black College Sabbatical – SPRING QUARTER under my company B CYDE MULTI MEDIA, I am Station Manager/Program Director/On-Air Personality on 7mileradio.com, I Executive Produce, Back on the B Cyde radio show airing SATURDAYS 11am on http://www.7mileradio.com/radio

When and why did you begin writing?

I have always enjoyed writing. I have a lot to say and writing is one way to get it all out without being interrupted. I have been writing stories ever since I was about 8 years old.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Answer: When I received the first physical proof of my 1st novel, The Black College Sabbatical – FALL QUARTER in my hands. That’s when it got real for me. It was no longer a dream, it was a reality.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I had been so positively affected by my experiences attending a historically black college that I wanted to write a fiction story that would speak to how that experience can shape young people beyond the classroom.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I like to write in the first person so it feels like the character is talking to the reader. I also write what I like to call Reflective Fiction. My stories are always told in a way to pass along a lesson I learned personally, via realistic fictional stories.

How did you come up with the title?

Since a Sabbatical is a defined as (a period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel) I figured I’d tie that concept in with the black college experience, thus creating The Black College Sabbatical

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I want them to understand many of the deep rooted traditions and practices that exist at historically black institutions. I also want readers to discover how long lasting friendships are created and that the education many receive extends far beyond the classroom, thus illustrating the overall vitality of these institutions.

How much of the book is realistic?

ALL OF IT IS REALISTIC.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Absolutely. If you attended Central State University in Wilberforce OHIO, between 1990 and 1997 you will recognize several dynamics of how orientation and Fall Quarter especially were run at that time in my book. It’s reminiscent of what my orientation was like.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Mama by Terry McMIllian, Eldorado Red by Donald Goines, The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, and of course my own.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Donald Goines, Carl Weber, Terry McMillan, Dwayne Joseph and Zane

What book are you reading now?

Currently, I am reading my own first 2 novels to update the content for re-release of 2nd editions under my company like SPRING QUARTER. When that’s done, I have 3 Carl Weber books I need to get.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Janaya Black, Writer L. Bush, Monique Mensah and Shaka Senghor are my local favorites. These brothers and sisters are killing it with the pen. I Love them.

What are your current projects?

The re-release of my book series under B Cyde Multi Media, finishing my next novel, Toast to the Fool, and planning the next B Cyde Radio Luncheon-Book Launch in April 2014

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

Motown Writers Literary Network

Do you see writing as a career?

Yes. I am never at a lack for ideas and writing gives me guts to do radio and try other things. It will always be a part of my life.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Not necessarily with this book, but I would have been more patient in releasing my first book. At that time (2007), I was so hell bent on proving all my doubters wrong and putting the book out, that I hastily approved a proof of my book that clearly needed more editing. I should have slowed down long enough to do it right the first time. That is why I am taking the time to release a 2nd edition, to correct that costly mistake.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I started writing poetry and after reading a few books, I said to myself, “I want to do that.” And eventually I sat down and just started writing. Now I’m here.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

My current novel, Toast to the Fool is a story of 5 friends all at pivotal crossroads in their individual lives. Each one makes horrible choices with drastic results and now need to sift through their own collateral damage to find the lessons. Premise being: If you LOVE who You are in the present, then don’t be overly critical of the mistakes you made in your past. Give a Toast to the Fool in you of then, because that Fool took you to the Here and Now!

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Editing, now that I realize the importance of proper editing I take it more seriously. So much so that I have to learn to let the work go after several detailed editing sessions.  I’m getting better with it every book though.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Carl Weber is my favorite author because he has a knack for conversational, situational storytelling. I love it and wanted to be a writer like that.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

Not as of yet, however as I gain exposure I’m optimistic that will change

Who designed the covers?

I designed the covers for my book series, but I have made connections to some very talented graphic artists that I intended to pass the torch to in regard to covers for my future books.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Getting started. Once I got started, it’s been on ever since.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned the importance of knowing and respecting my writer’s voice. Although there are several writers that I admire, finding my voice was definitely the most rewarding part of writing my books. I want readers to remember me as an individual artist, and not the literary clone of someone more popular. I think that’s very important.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Be diligent, yet patient. Do your best the first time around no matter how long it takes. Being a writer is largely dependent upon being self motivated, knowing the only way the bus stops or goes is through you, The Driver, The Author, The Alpha and Omega of your project. Embrace this and you’ll be fine.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

I just want to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to EVERYONE who has supported my writing up to this point. Success cannot be spelled without “U”!

 

Learn more about Tracie E. Christian aka “T Elice”

Name of Book: The Black College Sabbatical – SPRING QUARTER

Author Website: www.b-cydemultimedia.com

Amazon Link:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Black-College-Sabbatical-QUARTER/dp/1493560646/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389628485&sr=8-1&keywords=the+black+college+sabbatical+spring+quarter

Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/t.e.bsidedj

Twitter Link: https://twitter.com/TEliceBCydeDJ

YouTube Video Book Trailer link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC4EgsB2byY

 

Check out this Excerpt from:

The Black College Sabbatical – SPRING QUARTER by Tracie E. Christian

The Black College Sabbatical

 

** Cierra Folsom

                “Yes Gerald I made sure to lock all the windows once I left your house.”  I whine into my cell phone as I open the door to my dorm room.

“Well did you lock the back door and the fence?”  He continues to pester me.

“Yes I locked the windows and the security fence. Damn!”

“Okay baby my goodness.  You don’t have to get so touchy.  I mean I am still gonna be gone for almost two weeks.  I just don’t want to get back and find the house ram-sacked.”  He replies defensively.  Realizing that I must have hurt his feelings, I calm down a bit.

“I’m sorry sweetheart, but you act like you’ve never left to go out of town on a recruiting trip before.  How did you make sure everything was locked up safe and sound before we got together?”  I tease him in a much more pleasant voice.

“Hell, I don’t remember much of how anything worked for me before we got together Cee-Cee.”

“Oh, that’s so sweet. But you’re talking awfully free not to be alone.  Where’s Derek?”

“He’s in the bathroom. You know, it would be sweet to me if you made sure to take care of that business we talked about before I get back.  Really you should do it as soon as possible.”

“I said I would take the damn pregnancy test Gerald and I will!  Even though it’s a complete waste of time and money because I keep telling you that I ain’t pregnant!”  I insist; getting mad all over again.

“Wishing doesn’t make it so baby.  I’ll tell you what.  If you’re so sure that you’re not pregnant; take the damn test already!  I promise you will get my full attention to say, I told you so, if you’re right.  But if I’m right, then we’ve got some heavy decisions and plans to make.  Okay?” He teases me happily.

“Yeah whatever,” I reply emotionless.

“Okay yeah whatever. Since I can tell that you’re not feeling me right now, I’m gonna go.  My flight is boarding.  Look Cierra, I just wanna tell you that I love you and whatever happens, that fact won’t change, alright?”

“Alright.”

“I’ll call you once we land.”

“Okay, I love you Gerald and please be safe.”  I remind him. Like he has a choice once he’s up in the air.

“You too baby. Bye.”  He replies before hanging up.  Once I put the phone down on the table, I start to unload the grocery bags that I brought in from the store.

As I put the milk, bread and lunchmeat in my little economy size refrigerator, I pull out that damn pregnancy test and my mind starts racing again.  What the hell am I gonna do if I am pregnant?  I ask myself.  I am not ready to be nobody’s momma.  And while Gerald’s all happy about this, he’s not even thinking about his career and reputation.  Hell, I guess people could say neither one of us has been thinking much about that.  Well Cierra, I guess you betta get your dumb ass to the bathroom and pee on the stick before Hayley gets here.  I gotta make sure I keep this on the hush.  No one can know that I even think I’m pregnant.  And once I’m sure that I’m not, I gotta get my shit together and be more protective of the man I say I love…and myself.  Leaving all the rest of the stuff on the floor, I head to the bathroom down the hall.  I’m glad not too many people have started arriving back yet.  I can get in and out the bathroom without being noticed and once I get that negative result, this will all be over.  I try to silently convince myself. I swear at times like this, I really miss Ananda’s way of showing the silver lining in a dark cloud cause Lord knows right now, I really need to see one.

 

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Unusual Writing Tips

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Developing a Voice or Style of a Writer: Creative Writing Lesson Tips 2

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How to Write Short Stories:Writing Lessons & Tips, George Weir

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Plot Tip: Dedicated Writing Time

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Motown Author Feature~ Kevin J. Garrity

This week we’re talking with Kevin J. Garrity, the author of Sparrow River. Come along as we learn about Kevin and his debut novel!

Where are you from?

I grew up in northwest Detroit, went to school in Redford, and got my degree from Wayne State.  Since then I’ve bounced around a bit, moving from Detroit to Traverse City to Seattle to Chicago, and back to Detroit again. I lived In Grayling for 11 years, before moving to West Bloomfield in 2010.

Tell us your latest news?

I’ve just released my first novel, “Sparrow River,” set in a fictionalized Grayling and a fictionalized Pigeon River Forest.  It’s a murder mystery with multiple twists.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve written all my life.  For years I played guitar in bands in Detroit and wrote most of my own material.  I soon realized I was a much better writer than I was a musician. I’ve written short stories and other things.  It wasn’t until last year that someone convinced me to try my hand at something bigger, and thus “Sparrow River.”

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think when I penned my first good song. At least I believed it was good at the time.  I must have been about fifteen years old, and when we performed, people thought the song was great.  Ten years later it was still my most requested tune.  I realized right away that if you pen your own stories, you control your own destiny.  I’m still adjusting to the idea of being an “author,” in the “I’ve got a book out” sense of the word.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I had the time to write and I had a specific story in mind.  What I lacked was the confidence to sit down and actually do it.  I had a hard time with the concept of sinking six months or a year’s worth of work into one single project, and not having any idea if it was worthwhile until it was completed.  When you write a song, you learn pretty quickly whether or not it’s any good.  With a novel, you don’t get that instant feedback. And by the time you do get that feedback, you’re probably committed to most of the book’s content.  You can make adjustments, but the gist of the story is generally what it’s going to be. My brother kept pushing me to finish this book, see where it went, and I’m glad he did.

Do you have a specific writing style?

It’s still a work in progress.  For “Sparrow River” I tried to keep things clean and simple.  I’m a lover of old crime noir and pulp fiction, and I like the fact that these authors didn’t waste words in telling a story.  I tried to replicate that style in a modern way, make every word count.  On the other hand, I’m working on a new book that’s more in the realm of literary fiction, and I think more depth and description are required to capture the essence of tiny moments.

How did you come up with the title?

It’s a play on words.  The Sparrow River is actually the Pigeon River, but I didn’t want to be married to the truth.  I changed the names of a lot of things in this book, so that I could arbitrarily change anything that might make for a better story.  The fictional names gave me the ability to lie whenever it was convenient to the plot.  There’s also a bit of an homage to Hemingway in there, his “Big Two Hearted River.”

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I deliberately created some ambiguity throughout the story.  I didn’t want it to be a cut-and-dried murder, with a nearly perfect hero and a tidy little ending.  Those stories have been written a thousand times over, and I doubted I was going to improve on the classics.  I tried to create something that is more like real life, where things aren’t always what people assume they are, and perceptions are often deceptive.  Two people can read this book and end up with very different views of what it really means.

 

How much of the book is realistic?

The setting is very real.  The town of “Rasmus” is Grayling in disguise (with a few changes when it suited the story).  Sparrow River is real, it is the Pigeon River hiding under a pseudonym.  I tried to capture the north woods and small town life as best I could.  There are pieces of the area that folks will find familiar.  Some are just plain made up.  I’ll leave it to the reader to decide which is which, or whether it even matters.  The plot itself is pure fiction.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

My protagonist is loosely based on a good friend of mine.  He is not always warm and fuzzy.  I took the strongest parts of his personality and put them on steroids.  At the same time, I tried to humanize him whenever possible.  I didn’t want to write a cartoon character: in the end, nobody wants to root for a total jerk.  In the end, you want to like him.  So I tried to create a slightly over the top version of my friend, and put him in an exceptional situation.  I also borrowed liberally from my own life and from incidents that happened to people I know, wherever it made for good reading.

What books have influenced your life most?

When I was younger, Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories.  “Babbit” and “Elmer Gantry” captured a page in time like nothing else, and let me fall in love with the use of specific language to create an environment.  Those books made me an avid reader at a very young age.   Later it was E.L. Doctorow’s “Ragtime” and John Irving’s “Setting Free the Bears” that inspired me.  I read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” when it first came out, and thought it was the best thing I’ve seen in over a decade.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Walter Mosley.  I can’t put his books down.  His primary characters are often flawed and broken souls. They’re real.  He captures dialogue like you’re standing in a bar room in Watts, listening in on a stranger’s conversation. Nobody compares. And he proves you don’t have to follow the formulas of every author that came before you in order to succeed.

What books are you reading now?

Bryan Gruley’s “Starvation Lake” and John Irving’s “In One Person.”

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

When I’m not writing, I consume novels.  Sometimes I read two or three a week.  And I’m always a little wary of calling any writer “new,” because they might have been at it for twenty years before I’ve even heard of them.  For example, someone recently gave me a copy of Jonathan Lethem’s “Gun with Occasional Music.”  It’s not a genre I’d normally choose for myself.  It’s a mystery, but with strong elements of a dystopian society.  It was printed in 1994, though I just recently discovered it.  I thought it was brilliant.  So there’s a “new” author in my world.  The good news is, he’s since created almost two decades’ worth of work, that I can read whenever I’d like.

What are your current projects?

I’m working on a novel that’s set in Detroit, more literary fiction than mystery.   The writing is a little more time consuming, because it lacks the typical construct of mystery and resolution.  I’m planning a sequel to “Sparrow River,” which I hope will be done sometime next spring.  In the meantime I try to put a new short story on my blog (KevinJGarrity.com) at least once a month, so people remember that I’m still alive.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I can’t thank the Devereaux Memorial Library in Grayling enough.  When I first discussed “Sparrow River” with them, they gave me a royal welcome and all the resources they could muster.  The NextChapter Bookstore in Northville gave me my first signing.   Libraries and independent bookstores are my friends.

Do you see writing as a career?

I certainly hope so.  At the same time, the traditional models of publishing and marketing a book have been turned upside down in the last few years.  The big publishing houses seem less and less willing to sign an unknown and then allow him a few books to build his audience.  They need immediate results. There are tools and technologies that make it simpler and less expensive than ever to self-publish, but at the same time independent bookstores are disappearing at an unbelievable rate.  And it’s hard to do a book signing at Amazon.  We need places like The NextChapter and Book Beat.  The landscape is shifting at an ever-quickening pace.  It will be interesting to see how things play out.

If you had to do it over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I joke that I should have titled it “Fifty Shades of Grayling,”  and I’d have sold another million.  But no, I wouldn’t change anything.  I’m pretty happy with  the book.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I think I’ve always been a story teller, and I’ve always written in some form or another.  I’d much rather create my own reality than try to improve upon someone else’s.  To me, a novel was the logical next step in my progression as a writer.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Earth and wood, it turned out, weren’t enough to hold back the volume of water that races through the Sparrow River in the springtime.  “Sparrow,” a misnomer if ever there was one.  In the dog days of summer it flows smooth and shallow.  It meanders through her deeper stretches, hiding cool dark holes where the big trout lay until the evening hatch.  It riffles and purls its way across the gravel bars that stretch like fingers into her current.  It wraps around corners and dumps sand from her load, only to pick up where it left off and continues upon its former course.  In the summer months hikers are easily enticed to take a dip, washing off days of sweat accumulated during their hike across the lower peninsula’s shore-to-shore trail.  Horses have watered there since before time was measured.  The Sparrow can seem gentle enough, but most of the locals called it the “Bitch River” for a reason.

 

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I have to remember that dialogue is almost never written in proper english.  People simply don’t converse in full and complete sentences. They talk in bits and chunks.  And proper grammar is usually not true to any character.  I’m getting more comfortable with dialogue the more I write.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Right now it’s Walter Mosley.  Sometimes his books are a little graphic, but his characters have a realistic grit that is lacking in mystery fiction.  There are too many books where the lead character is a former cop with one fatal flaw (he drank too much….he wouldn’t take a bribe…he failed to solve one crime and has been haunted ever since) that leads him to become an outcast private investigator.  Mosley smashes those stereotypes.  His protagonists are usually an everyman, with both good and bad inside.  Their actions are sometimes shaped by their circumstances, and tend to be more believable because of that.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book?

I’ve been traveling some, mostly to the northern lower peninsula and around the metro Detroit area.  Having to travel more would be a good problem. I’d view it as an indicator that Sparrow River is building a larger audience.

Who designed the covers?

The cover photos that I used were taken by a friend of mine from Grayling, George McKim.  The cover design itself was done by my twelve-year-old son, Teemu. He was laid up for six weeks this past winter with mono.  He was too sick to get off the couch, was sleeping eighteen hours per day.  I didn’t want him playing on an Ipod for the six hours a day that he was awake, so I put him to work.  All of the graphics, the fonts, multiple color changes and design tweaks, even the logo for Hammer Handle Press, it was all him.  He taught himself how to use Gimp and invested about 80 hours into the cover layout.  I think that by the end of the process, he’d rather have gone to school than be asked to change one more detail.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

It took me a while to find a voice for my lead character, Walt Pitowski.  I could hear Walt in my ear, but it took some serious effort to capture the right tone on paper.  I didn’t want him to be a total misogynist, yet that is certainly part of who the character is.  Once I finally figured him out, the words came quickly.

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned that, even when you have a clearly defined outline of where you want the story to go, you have to be willing to change and adapt.  Sometimes the story has a mind of its own.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep at it, and don’t be intimidated by the process of publishing.  I know too many people that have spent decades talking about the book they intend to write, “someday,” “when they have some time.”   It looks scarier than it actually is, and not every thing you do needs to be perfect on the first run.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Sparrow River should be fun to read.  It is at heart a mystery.  At the same time, I tried to weave in slices of rural northern life, with all of the prejudices and flaws and problems that accompany that world.  “Rasmus” could be any small town, and Walt Pitowski could be a lot of people you’ve already met.  He’s rough around the edges, but underneath it all he is a man that wants to find his place in the community, wants to be loved.  I tried to make Sparrow River as much about a place and time, about a person making his way in a specific environment, as it is about one single incident.

AUTHOR WEBSITE

KevinJGarrity.com

AMAZON LINK

Kevin J. Garrity

FACEBOOK LINK

https://www.facebook.com/KevinJGarrity1?ref=hl

VIDEO

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Interview w/Kai Mann – author of 30 Day Notice. @kaiology @phephi

    Yesterday, I had the pleasure of interviewing my #1Mentor and friend: Kai Mann.

    BACKSTORY:

    It was November 2010 when I went to my very first Essence of Motown Literary Jam and Conference, which is comprised of workshops, creative and talented writers and authors, and enormous networking opportunities. Kai and I happened to be in the same class when the instructor instructed us to “break out” and mingle/network with everyone in the room…AND we were not to return to our seats until we obtained at least five business cards. The rest is history!!

    Check out the interview, then click on the link to find out more about Kai.

    PURCHASE 30 DAY NOTICE.

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