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text 2014-10-07 10:29
Author Talks: Nina Milton


Please welcome Nina Milton to Author Talks!


Nina Milton is a British writer of children's books, short fiction and now crime stories. She's won many literary competitions, including the Crossroads Competition, Kent Festival Prize, and the Wells Literary Short Story Competition. 


You can visit her blog and follow her at BookLikes: Sabbie Dare and Friends, and win her title on BookLikes. 



Have you always wanted to become a writer? How long have you been writing?


When I was five, my infant school teacher Mrs Marsden read a story to the class. It might have been the fable 'The Mouse and the Lion', but I can't really remember. Then she asked the class to write a story. I was dumfounded. For the first time I realized that the books I loved had actually been written by real human beings. Before that, I believe they must have fallen from some sort of story heaven. It was a revelation - from then on I was scribbling down stories all the time.


I started to write a novel at the age of fifteen. It was chock full of angst and I never finished it. I then took to writing short stories, which I began publishing a few years later in women’s magazines. Once my children were at school I made a big push to start some children’s stories.



Your first published works were books for children, you also enjoy writing short stories, and now you focus on crime novels. What’s your favorite genre to write?


I do love writing crime. I love the mystery aspect, trying to puzzle the reader while keeping them on the edge of their seat. I stay awake at night, trying to sort out all the permutations of each novel. I’m not sure I value that as much as the actual writing, though...the creating of strong characters, for instance, or the creation of a lyrical ‘voice’ for the narrative, but perhaps I should.


A revelation has been writing a series; the characters become so entirely real, and their lives, past and present, open out. I’ve had such fun writing my shaman ‘sleuth’, Sabbie Dare. She’s like a younger sister to me now.



The second installment of your mystery series is out, Unraveled Visions has been released in UK on October 5. Congratulations! Can you tell our readers more about the title and A Shaman Mystery series?

In the Moors was the first of the Shaman Mysteries published by Midnight Ink last year and available online and from bookshops and libraries as a paperback or hardback large print book. It’s   also an ebook and available on Kindle. Unraveled Visions continues to follow Sabbie’s adventures as she runs a therapeutic shamanic business in Bridgwater. She’s still seeing Rey Buckley, the maverick cop she sparked with in book one. And she’s still as cock-eyed and gutsy as she was in the first book, even though, yet again, her investigations hurtles her towards a dark and menacing place.


The idea for my Shaman Mysteries, and In the Moors in particular, came to me when Sabbbie Dare. She walked right into my head and  spoke directly to me - sort of - ‘hi, Nina, I’m Sabbie, I’m 28 and I’m a shaman, which means I walk in the spirit world to help my shamanic clients. I love my job, but sometimes very strange people come into my therapy room...’


Sabbie gains the strength to get through life with her pagan beliefs, but still struggles over the memories of her difficult childhood which left her as a very angry young teenager. But she has an open heart, and is adept at inviting trouble into her life. In Unraveled Visions, a gypsy is looking for her missing sister and a neighbour is terrified of her husband and as aways she has a hard time keeping away from danger. As she says in In the Moors I’m the sort of person who has to poke their finger into all the holes marked, ‘do not insert’.”



Before A Shaman Mystery you wrote books for children. Was it difficult to switch to another genre and audience? A Shaman Mystery is quite dark.


I loved writing for children, and, once I’ve found the voice to my main character, I don’t really notice much difference between writing for adults and children - apart from the amount of swearing! I’m certainly hoping to write more for children and young people in the future. In my books for eight to thirteen year olds, I still have a central mystery to the story.


The Shaman Mystery series will continue to have a dark, atmospheric edge. Sabbie has a mysterious past herself, which she’s only just beginning to unravel.



How do you invent the story? Does it happen spontaneously or is it a long lasting process?


Like most writers, I’m fascinated by the way ideas, characters and entire scenes drop into a writing place in our heads, which becomes increasingly real to us. Characters seem to appear from nowhere, or from a muse, as the ancients would have it. They have conversations in houses that don’t exist, or stand gazing out from headlands, the salt spray on their lips, while the writer is actually under the shower.


I call it ‘walking in your imagination’, because you can travel to any place or time or the mind of any character you chose. In this slower state of thinking, you naturally enter the relaxed, twilight world where vivid imagery flashes into the mind’s eye and we become receptive to information. To create this sort of trance state, hypnotists use a swaying crystal, therapists use a soothing voice, and shaman use the beat of a drum - Sabbie Dare uses a drum to enter her otherworld.


Writers, on the other hand, mostly use their legs. As far apart chronologically as Dickens and Drabble, writers are known to swear by the afternoon walk, disappearing after lunch to walk in the woods, allowing the beat of their stride and the beauty of the surroundings to let their minds drop into the world of story.


In my experience it doesn’t much matter where you walk (although scenery can be inspirational in the most surprising ways), but it’s important to walk alone. I have beautiful Ceredigion countryside to walk through, and I use that a lot when I’m creating new stories. Once the characters are talking to me, I start serious plotting; making charts and lists and timelines and investigating possibilities. I also spent time plotting carefully. I don’t dry up half as often as I used to nowadays.



Do you consult the crimes you want to put in your books with the police, detectives, doctors?


I have two very friendly and helpful relations who are in the police force and keep me up to date with things. And I know a lot of shamans, as I’m a druid myself. I’m also in touch with people in the medical profession and have a good grounding to start with as I was a nurse before I became a full-time writer.



Which authors influence your writing and your works?


I actually like reading contemporary fiction which contains mystery at the core, like  Kate Atkinson, Patrick Gale, Ian McKewan, Sarah Waters, David Mitchell and Kazuo Ishigor.


But I also love crime, of course, especially Raymond Chandler, PG James Francis Fyfield and Elly Griffiths, to whom my work has been compared (Library Journal).



Do you prefer writing novels or short stories? How is the process different?


I’ve just been writing a degree-level course about writing short fiction for the Open College of the Arts. But yes, writing short stories is very different indeed. You need a tighter timeline (hours, preferably) less characters (two, preferably) and a single core theme - the cleverer the better.


I have to say I’m more comfortable writing 100,000 words than 1000, but inbetween my crime fiction I can’t help be drawn back to the genre. My favourite short story writer at the moment is Geoffrey Ford and my most recent short stories can be found in the anthology Unchained (Tangent Press) available from Amazon uk.



What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?


The best thing is the sheer creativity and the way you can lose yourself in the writing when it’s going well. The worse thing is sitting on your butt for so long! (Especially when the sun’s shining.) It’s good to get out, meet other writers, go to events.



You’re participating in “Books Are My Bag” which supports local bookstores and writers. Is it easy to be a writer nowadays? How can readers support local authors?


Yes, if you’re in the UK on the 11th October, I’ll be launching Unraveled Visions the 2nd Shaman Mystery Novel from Midnight Ink in a Bristol bookshop - Foyles in Quaker’s Friars - as part of the Books are my Bog weekend. I'll be there from 2pm to 7pm at this drop-in event, signing my new book, and reading from it. I'll also be holding a short workshop for writers. So if you’re around do come to meet me, check out my writing, and also meet a lot of other Bristol writers.




What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not writing?


Gardening. I love growing veg and I would love growing flowers, if I could get the hang of it! I also love transforming the things we grow into food, and I’ve just been part of a project for writers who bake. The book is out now on Amazon; it’s called Bake, Love, Write.  



If not writing than what? Who would you like to be if you couldn’t be a writer?


I would have loved to be a dancer. Maybe a ballroom dancer. The idea of swirling gracefully around a floor to a rush of beautiful music is tantalising. Sadly, I don’t swirl gracefully. I trip over my feet and crash onto the parquet. 



What are you reading now?


I’ve just finished The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, which deserves every bit of praise - characters who are real and unforgettable and deep, clever Theme with a brilliant twist towards the end. I’m now reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which carefully explores themes of race and belonging. Not such an exciting read, but a very meaningful one.



Paper books or e-books? Why?

I do own a Kindle and I do use it, but you can’t beat holding a book in your hand.



What are your favorite books?

Please recommend some must read titles for our readers.


I couldn't put The Hours, by Michael Cunninham, down, It's the perfect accompaniment to Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. It is also a great achievement in itself. Written somewhat in the Woolf style, it moves deftly, never making a shortcut, through a single day in the lives of three women. 


In 1923 Virginia Woolf, living in countryside Richmond, but longing to go back to London, is setting out to write the first words of her new book, about a woman holding a party. In 1951, in Los Angeles we meet a woman with a small son and one on the way. Laura Brown is reading Virginia Woolf, struggling with her husband’s birthday cake and contemplating suicide. In 1990  in New York, Clarissa Vaughan a middle-aged woman with a grown daughter and a female partner, is planning a party for her friends, to celebrate her early love’s recent literary award. But Richard has AIDS and doesn’t want a party in his honour. I saw the film before reading the book, but the book itself is the revelation. Stunning.



What advice would you give to aspiring writers?


Get yourself a writing buddy; someone who can read your work and comment honestly, and someone who has fallen into all the writing pitfalls you’re likely to encounter. It should be someone who can buy you a consolitary drink when there’s bad news and join you in champaign cocktails when there’s good news!


What are your favorite quotes?


Show, don’t tell - Chekhov said…

Don’t tell me the moon is shining;

show me the glint of light on broken glass…


Characterization - Ernest Hemingway said…

A writer should create living people; people not characters. 

A character is a caricature.


Description - Proust said…

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,

but in having new eyes…


Follow those three pieces of advice and you’ll hit the ground running.



What’s your favorite writing and reading spot?

(our readers would love to see some photos).


My garden (the bench where I sit is just out of the picture), my office, and the countryside I walk in.



Thank you, Nina!


And here's a surprise from Nina Milton: 

enter the giveaway to win Unraveled Visions!

You can find Nina Milton's books on BookLikes:


and more on Nina Milton's author page. 


Read other talks on BookLikes

Author Talks on BookLikes: 

Author Talks: Tony Talbot

Guest Post by Warren Adler: The Title Dilemma

Author Talks: Libby Fischer Hellmann

Author Talks: Lauren B. Davis, Part One

Author Talks: Lauren B. Davis, Part Two

Author Talks: John Biggs

Author Talks: Ned Hayes, Part One

Author Talks: Ned Hayes, Part Two

Author Talks: Elizabeth Watasin, Part One

Author Talks: Elizabeth Watasin, Part Two

Literary Inspirations of Rayne Hall


Blog Talks on BookLikes:   

Book Blog Talks: Parajunkee

Book Blog Talks: The Happy Booker, Part One

Book Blog Talks: The Happy Booker, Part Two

Book Blog Talks: Happy Books, Part One

Book Blog Talks: Happy Books, Part Two


Photos courtesy of Nina Milton.

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text 2014-09-30 11:12
Author Talks: Tony Talbot

Please welcome Tony Talbot in BookLikes’ Author Talks!


Tony Talbot is a British Young Adult author. Inspired by the novels of Australian author John Marsden, he took up writing in 2008 and hasn’t stopped since. You can find Tony's books on BookLikes, follow his blog at: Tony Talbot and win Tony Talbot's book! Read on to know more. 



It is said that our dreams reflect our lives. In your situation it was a dream that made you become a writer. Could you tell our readers more about it, and have you ever thought of becoming a writer before that dream?


There was a film made in the 1970s – Capricorn One – where the first mission to Mars is faked in the desert. There's a scene where feet approach the capsule, seen through the window. In the dream I had, it was someone's face through the window when they're re-entering earth's atmosphere from a moon landing. That didn’t really work, so I changed it to someone without a helmet or spacesuit appearing in a moonwalk. Back in mission control, two reporters are there and happen to catch it on camera.



I'd thought about being a writer before then, on and off, but never had the nerve to get started. I'd dipped into a few writing books, most notably Stephen King's On Writing, (which is the best writing book ever written. Read it!). I decided to give my story a go and see if people liked it. Which they did, which gave me confidence to keep going.



You write mainly short stories. Why have you decided to choose short fiction?


Short stories are a blast! I love writing them, making everything small and compact and neat. It appeals to me to work small as well as on novels…and not every story has the potential to be 60,000 words. Just walking through a short story with one character can be a lot of fun, and it's a great way to keep things interesting.



We can read in your bio that your wife is an American, and you’re from UK. Do you experience any cross-cultural differences which then become inspirations for your stories?


Not differences, but when I was casting around for a book, my wife suggested Japanese-American internment during World War Two. She's from Washington State, one of the places affected. I didn't know anything about that part of American history, and was shocked at the number of Americans who don't either – and the result was American Girl.



Your writing is a mix of various literary genres with the majority of YA. How do you know in which genre the story will end up? How does you writing process look like?


I try and make a decision what genre the book will be before I start, but I don't try to follow the conventions for it. Whatever writing style works best is what I try and go for. Writing in sci-fi or historical fiction genre are really secondary to what's going on to me...which is the characters in that world and how they interact.


My writing process is very seat-of-the-pants. I don't pin a character down and demand to know what their favourite colour is or what they're going to be doing in chapter four. I like to let them get on with it and make their own mistakes.



Your first science fiction book Medusa is out. Congratulations! How did you come up with the idea for the book? Was Sci-Fi difficult to write?


I subscribe to a science magazine full of speculative ideas, and one article was about immense floating cities. An image popped into my head of a girl riding a jet-ski towards one a few weeks later. I didn't know anything about her or her world until I started writing.


SF wasn't really difficult to write, but it was important to me to get the details right – so my characters don't use days or weeks as a measure of time, and the science in the book is grounded in reality...just a far future reality. I asked some friends to come up with some new swear words as well, which was a lot of fun.



How long does it take a write a novel / short story for you?


It takes about a year from draft zero to finished product, including the cover and beta-reads and endless, endless edits!



Can you point one favourite character from your books, and tell our readers why?


It would have to be Jenna from Over the Mountain, my first book, because she's very much like me: Loves rainstorms and is quite reserved.



Do you have any writing habits which help you keep the story going?


I try to work on a story as often as possible when I get rolling, or self-doubt starts to set in. Sometimes I have to walk away when I get blocked with it though...I start to write slower when I can feel one coming on.



Could you tell our readers which authors inspire you and your works?


I've read a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and from them, I learned characters and the trials you can put them through. All the cards are on the table with   those two, they don't hold anything out of their reach. My wife told me about Australian author John Marsden, and I'm always blown away at how good he is, even on a re-read. I've been digging into Patrick Ness recently; When a Monster Calls beguiled me with its simple language and then sucker-punched me to tears with the ending.


There are so many good authors out there, and I learn something from all of them.



In your recent post you write that the author’s imagination is a gift but also a curse. What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?


I love being to create a world from scratch and make it believable enough that it feels like you've been there. To step into someone's fictional shoes and to walk around, and then translate that onto a page. Worst part is thinking that I'll never write anything that good again. The weight of my own high standards!



What are you working on right now? Do you have any new books in development at the moment?


I'm thinking of a coastal sea-side town, quite isolated, as the galaxy comes to an end: The stars are going out, millions every night, and for some reason Earth is being left until last...



What are the characteristics that each author should have? Any advice for aspiring writers?


Patience and persistence! No one expects a pianist to be able to perform Mozart overnight, and writing is an art like any other: don't expect to be great first time. Keep practicing, and you'll get better. Read everything you can, good and bad. And read On Writing by Stephen King, the most encouraging book on writing out there.


What are you reading now?


My wife wanted to buy "Kenobi" by John Jackson Miller, because she liked the cover! She read it and enjoyed it, and I'm about seventy pages in and feel the same way.



Paper books or e-book? Why?

I love them both. I love being able to carry the complete works of Dickens in something so slim as a Kindle, but the weight of a hardback is reassuring as well.



Some authors cannot read books when they are writing.

Do you read books while writing a novel or short story?

I couldn't read when I wrote my first book, but then I realised I'd probably never be able to read again if I stopped every time I started writing!



What titles won your heart? Recommend must-reads for our readers.

Most recently, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. As I said, it suckered me with its simple language and powerful ending. Old classics work best for me: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank. Must reads for everyone.





Your favorite quotes?

Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. – Allen Saunders

Books are a uniquely portable magic. – Stephen King


What’s your favorite writing and reading spot?

(Our readers would love to see some photos ;-))


I read everywhere I can find a spot, so here's my writing space in the spare room:

The little TARDIS beside the computer is a USB hub that makes the "materialisation" sound when you plug something in. And the light flashes on the top. ☺


All those toys on the upper shelf...


My wife makes these business cards for me as a little matchbook:


...and my work in progress!

 Thank you, Tony!



And here's a candy from Tony Talbot: 

30 e-book copies of Medusa!


You can find books by Tony Talbot on BookLikes: 


 and more on Tony Talbot's author page


Read other talks on BookLikes

Author Talks on BookLikes: 

Guest Post by Warren Adler: The Title Dilemma

Author Talks: Libby Fischer Hellmann

Author Talks: Lauren B. Davis, Part One

Author Talks: Lauren B. Davis, Part Two

Author Talks: John Biggs

Author Talks: Ned Hayes, Part One

Author Talks: Ned Hayes, Part Two

Author Talks: Elizabeth Watasin, Part One

Author Talks: Elizabeth Watasin, Part Two

Literary Inspirations of Rayne Hall


Blog Talks on BookLikes:   

Book Blog Talks: Parajunkee

Book Blog Talks: The Happy Booker, Part One

Book Blog Talks: The Happy Booker, Part Two

Book Blog Talks: Happy Books, Part One

Book Blog Talks: Happy Books, Part Two

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text 2014-09-16 11:05
Guest Post by Warren Adler: The Title Dilemma



by Warren Adler



Like every author on the planet, I've spent endless hours mulling over creating titles for my work. One strives, of course, to be both memorable and honestly descriptive of the content.


There are also marketing aspects to be considered. The marquee value cannot be neglected since the book, especially fiction, must compete in the market place and be "discoverable" to the searching eye of the browser and the impulsive book buyer who scans bookshelves of those bookstores still remaining and interminable book cover images that clutter the e-reader "shelves."


Another wild aspiration that motivates the author is the possibility of a movie production of their novel and the limitations of the actual movie marquee. Anything more than a four-word title could be a dream killer. Imagine any great movie or TV adaptation based on a novel where the title of the novel is changed. I have been lucky in that regard with three of my works The War of the Roses, Random Hearts and The Sunset Gang.




The title's suggestion to a cover artist was, and perhaps still is, an aspect that had to be taken into account. The book cover design and illustration has always been an integral part of the marketing process and many fine prize winning designs have been an essential marketing tool for books in both fiction and non-fiction categories.


For books in categories such as romance, science fiction, mysteries, fantasy, zombie and vampire stories, young adult and children's books and all their sub-categories, the titles and covers must reflect the specific genre to clearly designate its content.


But for the author of mainstream fiction whose story line is not in any genre category, he or she must face the agony of choice. Many famous authors chose to name their books after a main character, and one can point to many successes such as David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre, Anna Karenina, Daniel Deronda, Nana, Mrs. Dalloway, Lolita, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, Rebecca, Tom Jones, Clarissa, Robinson Crusoe and the most enduring of all, Don Quixote.



Some authors have chosen place names, countries, houses, streets, neighborhoods, destinations, bars, modes of transportation and myriad other categories as titles, too numerous to mention; Wuthering Heights and Tales of the South Pacific are typical.




Many of these, obviously, are classic novels that have stood the test of time but there are many character named titles that have passed on to obscurity.



Then there are the titles that are lifted from lines of poetry that the author believes are an apt choice to illustrate a theme of the novel, some of recent vintage like The Lovely Bones. Among the better known are A Handful of Dust, Of Mice and Men, Far From the Madding Crowd, Remembrance of Things Past, Endless Night and many others.




One title that always intrigued me was Catcher in the Rye, which takes its inspiration from Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet whose "Comin' Thro' The Rye" was a poem with obvious sexual overtones, a subject  much on the mind of the main character in the book. Another is To Kill A Mockingbird, which takes its title from a snippet of dialogue from its main character declaring that to kill a mockingbird is a sin. That title truly encapsulates the theme of that novel.


Believe me, I have had many sleepless nights trying to come up with titles that accurately nailed the content of my work. I've taken them from snippets of poetry and quotations from Shakespeare whose work is a gold mine of fantastic possibilities. Indeed, I found the title of my latest work, The Serpent's Bite, in that famous quote by Lear, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child!" It hits the mark about the content of this novel with deadly accuracy.


I've always admired the titles of Hemingway, masterpieces of accuracy, nuance and subtlety. Few are better than A Farewell to Arms and For Whom The Bells Toll, and an all-time favorite of mine is Gone With the Wind, which is beautifully said and chillingly accurate. Another all-time favorite of mine is The Red and the Black, by Stendahl, subtly delineating the central focus of the main character's ambitions, the red of the Army and the black of the clergy.




Thomas Hardy was a master of titles: Jude the Obscure and The Return of the Native to mention just two of many. Some wonderful titles stick in my craw, not because they are not brilliant but, for some reason, I could never fully master their content. They are One Hundred Years of Solitude and Under the Volcano.





But then, by and large, a great title is an art form unto itself. Indeed, a great title does not necessarily signify a great book and vice versa.


It has always been a source of great curiosity to me to understand the psychology of "titling." Do titles really help in making reading choices or are they merely identifying pointers? I'd like to hear what you think.



Treadmill by Warren Adler 

Published: September 15th 2014 by Stonehouse Productions


Jack Cooper is an unhappy man; mind, body, and spirit. In the blink of an eye, he lost his job to the bad economy, his mother to a fatal illness, and his wife to her secret lover. Beaten, broken, and crippled by tragedy, he withdraws into total isolation, maintaining the simplest of routines in order to block out his pain. Cooper’s day begins with a strenuous workout at the Bethesda Health Club—his personal oasis where his mind and body are free—and ends inside his bare apartment, where Cooper escapes into his library of novels until he finally loses himself in sleep. Nothing more, nothing less. That is, until he meets the enigmatic Mike Parrish. 


Stolen from the hospital as a newborn, and passed around from household to household, Parrish has no official identification. To the government and the world at large, he

does not exist. He is an anonymous drifter, but also the first person who breaks through Cooper’s emotional confinement. Cooper finds solace in his friendship with Parrish, a man who understands his plight and is sympathetic to his pain. 


But then Parrish suddenly disappears, leaving Cooper to search for a virtually invisible man. As he looks for clues as intangible as ghosts, and chases leads as fleeting as shadows, his search leads him back to the one place he called his refuge: the Bethesda Health Club.


How much can be taken from a man before he has nothing to lose?

The book is available at Amazon






Stolen from the hospital as a newborn, and passed around from household to household, Parrish has no official identification. To the government and the world at large, he does not exist. He is an anonymous drifter, but also the first person who breaks through Cooper’s emotional confinement. Cooper finds solace in his friendship with Parrish, a man who understands his plight and is sympathetic to his pain.


Win Treadmill by Warren Adler





AMERICAN QUARTET is the first book in the Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series. soon to be made into the new TV Series CAPITOL CRIMES.


When a string of inexplicable murders rocks the hallowed streets of central D.C., Fiona finds herself charging through shadows of a mysterious conspiracy. Faced with an investigation with no leads and a rising body count, Fiona's reputation as top investigator of the Miami Division is called into question.


Win American Quartet by Warren Adler  







  view all book on Warren Adler's author page


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text 2014-08-26 11:08
Author Talks: Lauren B. Davis, Part Two


It's time for the second part of the interview with author Lauren B. Davis. Are you ready for great book recommendations, quotes and advice for aspiring writers? Let's get started. 


If you missed the first part of the interview, go here: Author Talks: Lauren B. Davis, Part One




You write mainly literary fiction. Do you read books from the same literary genre?


I read just about everything.  Literary, memoir, thriller, essays, history, fantasy, poetry, horror – in fact I just finished a marvelous collection of horror short stories called Lake Monsters of North America by Nathan Ballingrud, in which all the monsters are really some psychological aspect of the characters’.  


I care not a fig about genre limitations; I care only about great writing.



Do you read books during your writing process? Do they influence your work?


I read masses for research.  Against a Darkening Sky demanded a very long reading list, well over a hundred books.  But apart from that, I don’t ever stop reading.  My Best Beloved laughs at me, since I always have a book by the bathroom sink, to read while brushing my teeth, applying body lotion and drying my hair.  Short stories are excellent bathroom reads.  


Does my reading influence my work?  I hope so, since I love reading writers I admire.  



What are you working on right now?


My novel, Against A Darkening Sky, will be out with HarperCollins Canada and ChiZine Publication (US) in April 2015, and so I'm fiddling around with the last bits of that.  


All the major editorial work has been done, but there are always last minute things, and the cover and publicity and so forth.  It's an exciting phase, and at the same time utterly psychosis-inducing, while one waits. . . the book is set in 7th century Northumbria and is the story of Wilona, a seeress and healer whose life and way of being in the world are threatened by the coming of Christianity; and Egan, a young monk from Eire whose visions may have brought him to Christ, but whose experience of the sacred puts him at odds with the Roman church.  


It's full of magic and mystery, and explores what happens when one’s experience and beliefs clash with those of the people in power.  It was great fun to research, and involve a trip to England that My Best Beloved refers to as The Angle-Saxon Forced March Northwards.  You can read a little bit about it here and here and here and here.  Hard to believe it's really been six years since that trip.  Books take a long time to write.


I'm also completing a third draft of another novel, called (for the moment) The Grimoire.  This one's inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen as well as the deaths of my brothers (they both committed suicide, which I've written about here.) I can't say much more about it just yet, as I haven't handed it off to my agent.  But I will say that it involves a woman who is the guardian of a bookstore no one goes into unless they are fated to do so and the name of the bookshop is The Grimoire.  I suspect this mirrors my belief that readers find the stories they're meant to find.


I'm also making preliminary notes on another novel, about which I cannot speak.  It's quite dangerous, I find, to talk about a novel until at least the first draft is out.  If I talk about it, it diffuses the energy of the words on the page.  I've watched in horror as a book or two slipped through my careless fingers this way.


On top of that, I'm working on two short stories.  I can't talk about them at all, since they are still so unformed. I just got back from the 13th Annual International Short Story Conference in English (the longest name in conferences), and I have a head full of stories all pushing and shoving and trying to get out.



You run a writers workshop - this sounds like a hard work and a lot of fun. What have You learnt during your workshops?


Teaching keeps me connect to craft, and it gives me a community of writers.  Having to explain to an emerging writer why their piece isn’t working forces me to consider the same things about my own work!  


And I also enjoy reading books about the craft and preparing the lecture notes – all that contributes to my own development as a writer. Besides, it’s inspiring to see emerging writers improve, to watch their work take shape and mature.  



What advice would you give to aspiring writers?


If you can NOT write, you should probably do that.  But if you MUST write, then approach it as a concert violist approaches music, or an Olympic athlete sport; in other words, expect to study long and hard and practice long and hard.


Don’t be in a big rush to publish. I know it feels urgent, but it’s not. There’s time, and publishing too early, before the work is ready, can be so discouraging you might never publish again. Then who knows what might have been lost because you rushed.  It’ll say it again: study your craft.  Practice.  


Focus on the writing, not on the publishing.  Publishing is an entirely different beast than writing.  One writes because it is a way of living, a way of processing experience, of making meaning and, at least in my case, of staying sane.  Publishing is business.  


And you must read. I can’t tell you how many students come to me and when I ask them what they’re reading, they tell me they don’t like reading.  They are unlikely to become writers. Read. Read. Read.


To be a writer, you must be disciplined.  You must get yourself to the page and you must fill the page with words and do that over and over and over again.  There is no magic ritual to help you with this.  It’s your desire, our self-discipline and perseverance that will make the difference.  


Expect to edit, edit, revise, revise, revise, often for years.  If a student tells me they only like writing the first draft and then don’t want to be bothered with a story or novel again, just like the person who doesn’t read, they are unlikely to become writers.


Lots of people publish books.  Few people are writers. Being a writer is a point of view, a way of being.  Writing is a practice, like meditation or prayer. You have to keep at it day after day, even when it seems like absolutely nothing good is happening. Perhaps especially then. 



Are you a book collector or a book giver?


Collector and recommender. I want people to buy books. It supports authors and publishers.  



What books won your heart?

Which titles would you recommend?


So many wonderful books out there – here’s a smattering of books that have impressed me in the past year or so…


  Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.  A debut novel set in Iceland, about the final days of a woman about to be executed for murder.  Yes, it’s dark, but it’s also beautifully written and psychologically complex, drawing the reader in as an active participant to the moral quandary at the novel’s heart.


A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon by Anthony Marra.  Another debut novel that introduces a terrific writer.  The setting here is Chechnya and the moral dilemmas are profound.  The point of view ought not to work – digressing as it does for even the minor characters – but it does work, in part because it makes the book much larger than the narrative itself, almost turning it into a work of philosophy, or theology. Impressive.


The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy – Although I originally read this a very long time ago, it remains one of my favorite books. Perhaps the greatest depiction of the repercussions of untreated alcoholism and the 'dry drunk' I've ever read.


The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative By Thomas King --It should certainly be required reading for anyone who cares about stories, First Nations people, history, religion or politics (and particularly the #IdleNoMore Movement).


Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese -- A wonderful book. Subtle, profound, deeply moving and beautifully written. It should be on everyone's reading list. He has a new one coming out in 2014, which I can't wait for, and I've another of his books on my to-read list.  What can I say?  I'm a fan.


The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating: A True Story by Elisabeth Bailey -- As astonishing as it may sound, reading about seriously ill woman finding companionship with a wild snail who lives next to her sick bed is an experience both profound and moving. It is a meditation on life with the microcosm of a gastropod's life serving as the symbol for the majesty, mystery, tenacity and downright lushness of existence itself. A slim volume which is far greater than the number of its pages, it's a book I will no doubt read again. In truth, I became surprisingly attached to the little snail.


My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer by Christian Wiman -- This is an utterly astonishing book -- complex, thoughtful, elegiac, Wiman's book of essays are a profound medication on faith and poetry and the search for meaning. 


All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville-West -- Beautiful book. Just as inspiring and relevant today as when it was first published in 1931. 




 A Lost Lady by Willa Cather -- Cather's perfect novel. Not only a portrait of a disturbing, complicated woman, but also a vivid, haunting evocation of a disappearing vision and way of life.


The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin - There's no doubt this book will offend some folks, but that's a pity. What a glorious, earthy, REAL woman Toibin has created in this Mary. She's so much more than the bloodless virgin of myth.


The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy -- Every library should include a copy of The Death of Ivan Ilyich, every serious reader should read it, at least once. 




Any favorite quotes?


Many, but for now, I’ll stick with two:  





Thank you Lauren! It was great. 



You can find books by Lauren B. Davis on Booklikes:



Read other talks on BookLikes

Author Talks on BookLikes: 

Literary Inspirations of Rayne Hall

Author Talks: Elizabeth Watasin, Part One

Author Talks: Elizabeth Watasin, Part Two

Author Talks: Ned Hayes, Part One

Author Talks: Ned Hayes, Part Two

Author Talks: John Biggs

Author Talks: Lauren B. Davis, Part One


Blog Talks on BookLikes: 

Book Blog Talks: Happy Books, Part One

Book Blog Talks: Happy Books, Part Two

Book Blog Talks: The Happy Booker, Part One

Book Blog Talks: The Happy Booker, Part Two

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text 2014-08-21 13:03
Author Pages on BookLikes & Announcement

Great news for the readers and authors: Author Pages. They are here. BookLikes is happy to present author pages where you can look through author's books (including different language versions), reviews, meet the readers, and find & follow BookLikes Authors. Plus, more new is coming.


Let's get started. To go to author page click author’s name in the book pop up.


It's always great to get to know the author you enjoy reading.  The Author Page shows a short author's bio with additional information, like other webpage, and, of course, a list of books.


There are also new discovery paths on BookLikes. Author Pages present the titles which were shelved most recently on BookLikes, and readers who recently looked up the books. The discovery boxes can be seen on the right. 


You can also easily spot what book genres the author is writing in and find other books from these categories (click the category name to go to BookLikes' Book Catalog).




Author pages of BookLikes Authors also present a link to their blog on BookLikes. You can easily find and follow them to stay up to date with their reading and writing. And we're preparing more special features so don't go far. 




If you wish to see more books by a given author or shelve a book in a different language click see all books on the main Author Page to view all the titles with the language filterBookLikes' author page will present you the books in eight language versions: English, German, Dutch, Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian.




The information on the author pages will be updated gradually, and we're in the middle   of works on new options, like new search via author name, and new features for BookLikes Authors so it's definitely worth to stay close :)


If you notice that some data should be corrected, let us know at bookfix@booklikes.com.





Get ready for Monday reading! On Monday BookLikes will be down for maintenance for several hours. Don't worry and don't go far. We'll be back packed with new energy and ready for new book adventures.

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