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MWN Author Spotlight with Eric B. Willis @EricBWillis


EBWillis
Today, the Motown Writers Network is putting author Eric B. Willis in the spotlight.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Detroit. I now live in Waterford, Michigan.

Tell us your latest news?

I’m currently involved with two family history writing book projects and a third one that’s waiting in the wings. My goal is to publish my second book towards the end of the year. Also in July, I will be attending a Willis family reunion in Hampton, Virginia and looking forward to sharing and receiving feedback about my current book.
When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing as a child. However, around 1997, it was reignited shortly after I began researching my family history. It was my desire to leave a legacy–to share the information that I’ve discovered about my family history–about their triumphs and tragedies, and how their survival in America continued to exist despite their tremendous odds as a black race of people with African, European, Indian and Asian ancestry.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

After I began writing about my family history and black history.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I didn’t know much about my Mississippi paternal lineage–my heritage. Also, there was an oral family historical account that was passed down about two brothers from France who traveled to this country, but I wanted to know more.

Do you have a specific writing style?

I used all four writing styles in my book–primarily expository, narrative, descriptive, and persuasive to a smaller extent.
How did you come up with the title?

The first part of the name The Willis Handbook came about over twenty years ago during a non-related discussion at a Willis family function–which was before I became a genealogist and began writing the book. The second part of the name relates to intersecting related memoirs and historical events into a family’s genealogy or a person’s biography in order to assist with reconstructing their lives and to produce more of a connection with my readers. Also, adding photographs, historical records, pedigree charts, and maps helps me to achieve this goal as well.

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

I want to encourage people of all ethnicities to become family historians and writers. Afterward, they would be able to reach out and teach their current and future generations that many of their ancestors and relatives–being aware or unaware of God’s presence and guidance–did experience many successes in the midst of their sacrifices and failures.

How much of the book is realistic?

The non-fiction book not only chronicles 168 years of my family history, but it also includes related and extensive information about African American and American History–covering such events as the American Civil War, early Black communities and educational institutions, medical histories and epidemics, the Civil Rights Movement, etc. Its use is also a genealogical and scholarly reference source. It’s like a treasured heirloom meets an encyclopedia.

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

Yes to both. The work details many experiences in my life, my family and other black family lives, and the lives of those who have had major influences–directly or indirectly–and from a local, state or national perspective.

What books have most influenced your life most?

Besides the Bible which also includes an extensive genealogical record, books that are inspirational and history-related.

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

It would be a challenge to just narrow it down to one writer. So, I would have to choose Alex Haley, John Hope Franklin, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Darlene C. Dickson–my first writer’s group instructor.

What book are you reading now?

Grace of Silence: A Memoir by the National Public Radio (NPR) journalist Michelle Norris. It’s about her family’s complex legacy and understanding those who reared us.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

I’m interested in reading Allyson Hobb’s book A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life as a part of my research for my current writing project.
What are your current projects?

I have two active writing projects– a book about my maternal cousin who was involved with racial passing–living his life as a white Jewish man and a family history about my maternal lineage. I’m also assisting a client with writing and publishing his family history.

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

The Detroit Public Library’s Burton Historical Collection staff was very helpful to me early on in my research.
Do you see writing as a career?

Yes, I do–in addition to being a genealogist, an artist, and an occasional actor.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

That’s a good question, but I would not change anything.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

As a child in elementary school, around the forth grade, I was given an assignment to create a hardcover children’s story book with illustrations. It was about a boy’s involvement with various sports. I remembered the covers being made of cardboard and wrapped in a vinyl sheet material with a sport-like pattern.

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

My second non-fiction book begins with my genealogical quest to uncover the truth behind my maternal great grandfather’s birth in the segregated town of Huntsville, Alabama during the late-19th century. His mother is black but his father is white. However, along the way, I discovered a cousin who was involved in racial passing. As a result, my goal is to take the reader on a journey through an array of notable jazz musicians, the religion of Judaism, American union leader Jimmy Hoffa, renowned entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., and a discussion of race.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I really love the research phase of the writing process, but it can be very time consuming–reviewing documentation and artifacts, reading, interviewing and traveling.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I actually have two favorite authors–John Hope Franklin and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Being a descendant from families with deep southern roots and my interest in history, I enjoy reading the works of these noted American historians, educators, and authors of southern history and racial politics.

 

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

As a genealogist and writer, I have to travel to various locations to research and obtain non-digitized information that’s not available via the Internet. I enjoy pouring through old photo albums, records at court houses, libraries, etc. If possible, I prefer to travel and conduct face-to-face interviews for gathering information for the book.

 

Who designed the covers?

I’m an artist as well, so I designed my book’s covers.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?

From a sentimental perspective, having to remove the last chapter because the size of the book had surpassed 900 pages. The chapter consists of information I’ve accumulated over the years during my genealogical research of my Willis family and during the time of the book’s completion, I was not able to establish to my satisfaction the people represented therein were related to my family. However, there is a possibility that there may be some Willis familial connections, but additional evidence is required.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Besides the wealth of information about my family history and my culture’s history, I’ve learned about the existence of so many other family members across the country–what a blessing.

 

Also, consistently dedicating some time each day towards the project kept me engaged which eventually led to its completion after ten years. Some of the days consisted of one to several hours of researching (which took on various forms), writing or both. A mixture of researching, writing and sharing contributed to my excitement level.

 

Do you have any advice for other writers?

My advice is to devote at least a half an hour to the writing process even if it’s involving researching for material. Research other successful authors within your genre to determine what contributed to their success while also maintaining your own sense of writing style. Connect (in person or online) with informative writer workshops in your region. In reference to researching and writing your family history, begin with interviewing your older relatives first because once they make that transition–that valuable information may be forever lost.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? I truly appreciate your support. Also, I believe it’s important for us to know and share our family histories–to maintain that connection with our past, present, and future generations–and to learn from the past, live in the present, and build for the future. To know our heritage is like a tree with roots.
 

whbfrontcover

  • Name of Author: Eric B. Willis
  • Name of Book: The Willis Handbook: An Intersection of Genealogy, Memoirs and History of a Black American Family – 1835-2003

 

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Bewitching Book Tour

echoescoverEchoes of Paradise
Deanna Kahler
Genre: Fiction/Paranormal
Publisher: Rose Petal Publications
Date of Publication: January 11, 2014
ISBN: 978-0615863399
ASIN: TBD
Number of pages: 228
Word Count: 54,000
Cover Artist: Cover photo by Paul Kahler
Book Description:
Does Love Survive Death? When Celeste’s one true love Connor dies, she’s left with many questions and regrets. Caught in a web of painful memories from her troubled past – and a complicated marriage to a materialistic executive – she ventures into an unknown world.
What she experiences makes her more determined than ever to find out what really happens after death and what became of her lost love. Her journey takes her to places she never thought possible. But just around the corner, danger still lurks. Will she find the answers she seeks and ultimately discover the truth?
deannakahlerAbout the Author:
Deanna Kahler is an accomplished writer and proud mom. Her work has been published in numerous corporate newsletters and magazines across the country. She began writing as a young child and enjoys the opportunity to reach others and make a difference in their lives.
Echoes of Paradise is Deanna’s second book. Her first book,From Pain to ParenthoodA Journey Through Miscarriage to Adoption, details her difficult journey to motherhood and provides tips and resources for those facing similar circumstances.
Deanna holds a bachelor’s degree in communication arts from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., where she graduated with departmental honors. She lives with her husband and daughter in a Metro Detroit suburb, where she enjoys writing, dancing, walking, and visiting parks in her spare time.
For more information about the author, please visitwww.deannakahler.com
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Motown Writers Network Author Feature~Christopher Broom


Christopher Broom
Author – Christopher R. Broom

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Southern California and currently make my home in Midland Michigan.

 

Tell us your latest news:

I’m currently working on my first science fiction dystopic novel entitled Pulse.  It centers around a young woman who is coming to grips with frightening new powers in a world who enslaves her kind.  Together with two companions she sets out to obtain her freedom and the freedom of those afflicted with the Pulse.

 

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing at a very early age…around seven or so.  I actually started out writing very horrible fan fiction in the Dragonlance universe.  I was just enraptured with the fantastical stories set in the Dragonlance world and I wanted to be a part of that.  As I got older I began creating my own worlds of fantastical design and I’ve never looked back.

 

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

That’s a really good question. I suppose I don’t really consider myself a writer, at least not in the traditional sense.  I am however a person who enjoys writing.  But if I had to nail down a time frame I would say my first year of college when I impressed my Creative Writing Professor was the first time I really considered myself a writer.

 

What inspired you to write your first book?

During college I began to gravitate towards short fiction and after trying my hand at it I found a great connection with the genre and the style.  While it may not be a “book” my first piece of published writing is “Deeper Down the Hole”, a short story focusing on a man named Lyle who is forced to come to terms with being responsible for putting his teenage daughter into a coma.

 

Do you have a specific writing style?

I don’t believe so.  I think each story demands a different style and once I begin I just go along for the ride.

 

How did you come up with the title?

When I first began drafting what would become Pulse I had no idea what to call it.  One night while lying in bed with my wife we were talking about different titles and finally she told me to just be simple and call the book what it is.  After that the light bulb switched on in my head and I knew what the title had to be.

 

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

If there’s a moral or a message in Pulse I think it would be a rallying cry against discrimination.  The tone might not be prevalent or obvious but I think it’s there especially when you consider the consequences of severe discrimination.

 

How much of your book is realistic?

Maybe a little of it is realistic.  I think the general tone of the book can be read in a way that it can mirror real world problems but it’s done in an otherworldly sort of way.

 

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

No not really although some of the characters in Pulse mirror some very close people in my life.

 

 What books have most influenced your life most?

I’m greatly influenced by the works of R.A. Salvatore, Margaret Weiss and Tracey Hickman, Jean Rabe, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Aldous Huxley, Kurt Vonnegut and Ralph Ellison to name a few.  While it’s extremely difficult to name certain books that have influenced me I feel these authors and their collected works have had an enormous impact on me.

 

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

I would choose R.A. Salvatore.  The way he writes about his characters is amazing and I would love to know how he does it.

 

What book are you reading now?

I’m currently reading “The Companions” by R.A. Salvatore as well as “Looking for Calvin and Hobbes – A Biography of Bill Watterson.”

 

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

It’s been fairly hard to keep up with new authors as there are so many but I’m always looking for new works by Jeff Vande Zande.

 

What are your current projects?

A lot of my time is spent working on Pulse and shaping the world it’s set in.  I’m also working on a collection of short stories entitled “The Deepest Part of Me.”

 

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

Outside of family I haven’t really had a lot of support.  My wife of course has always supported me but if there was one person I could count on for any kind of support it would be fellow Michigan author Robin Devereaux-Nelson.

 

Do you see writing as a career?

Isn’t that what we all want?  I would love to be a career writer but I don’t ever see it happening for me.  For now I’m just happy to write and publish what I can.  If a handful of people are the only ones enjoying what I’ve created than that’s good enough for me.

 

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

The one thing that I learned is that research is important!  I think I went through fifteen to twenty drafts of Pulse before I even had a clear vision of what the setting was.  So if I could go back and change anything it would be to do some research first and have a solid setting in place before anything else.

 

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I used writing as an escape.  In reality I lived in a one bedroom apartment in the middle of the Mojave desert with my mother and her then live-in boyfriend.  When I couldn’t get away from it all I would sit in front of a stack of paper and I would write my way to a better life.

 

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

Absolutely,

“We’re almost to the top boy, ya ready?”

Cale nodded and tapped the two bottles of water that hung on his hip.

Dalen huffed and spread his thin lips into a smile.

He was handsome once Cale noted.  He had strong cheekbones and a square jaw.  His body was muscular but not overly large, his arms and chest filled out his vest.  His face was that of a hardened survivor however.  His eyes sat deep into his skull and any life they once held was long gone.  His face was rough and marred with so many scars Cale couldn’t count them all.  It was his hands however that always caught Cale’s gaze growing up.  His fingers which should have been straight were gnarled and twisted.  The skin which should have been rough only from aging had been torn apart and stitched back together so often Cale often wondered if it was actually human skin that covered his father’s hands or something else entirely.

The rumbling of the tracks began to smooth out, a sure sign they were nearing the top as the Primary’s always took better care of the tracks the closer the tracks were to the surface.

            Dalen stood and braced himself between the wall of the boxcar and the stack of crates and Cale did the same.  The routine never changed it seemed.  One….two….three….large bumps as the train passed over the tracks leading from the Bowels to the surface always threw everything that wasn’t securely fastened down around and on more than one occasion Cale suffered for not heeding his father’s warning.  When everything settled back into place Dalen and his son resumed their seats as Dalen pulled out a small piece of cloth that had been rolled and tied neatly.  A gift from their friends he had told Cale before they left their home earlier in the day.  Cale had never been fond of his father’s ‘friends’ but he did have to admit they knew exactly where to hit.

 

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Having to create an entire world is very taxing.  While I could take the lazy-mans route and just throw together a bunch of stuff and call it a world I prefer to create a world that seems plausible.  So from religions to the economy to jobs to social issues and everything in between I want the world of Pulse to feel alive and that takes a lot of work.

 

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

My favorite author is R.A. Salvatore without a doubt.  What I love about his work is how he handles his characters especially his sole creation of Drizzt Do’Urden.  That character is so multifaceted that I can read book after book about him and always discover a new side to him that I hadn’t known before.  It’s inspiring.

 

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

Not yet but maybe someday.

 

Who designed the covers?

There is currently no artwork for Pulse but I’m always looking for artists who can bring Pulse to life in a visual way.

 

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I think one of the challenges of writing Pulse is getting the tone down.  It’s  very easy to take a book into an entirely new direction without even realizing it.

 

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

I gained a whole new respect for new and established authors who have already finished their novels.  It always seems that I’ll never finish but when I see others doing it I know I just have to keep my nose to the grindstone and get it done.

 

Do you have any advice for other writers?

To just keep writing and never stop; if you run into a block just write your way out of it even if it comes off as clumsy, you can always change it during rewrites and editing.

 

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

Thank you for your support, it means everything to me especially on those long nights when I’ve only got the light of my computer screen and a warm cup of coffee to keep me company.

 

Deeper

Dominant Recessive
Facebook Authors Page – Christopher Broom
Click here to read an excerpt from Pulse on Goodreads!
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