Interview with Maria Mayer, author of “Crone”

Eerie, Ominous!

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Maria Mayer

Today I’m delighted to have Maria Mayer, author of “Crone”, here on my blog. Thanks for agreeing to be on the author spotlight!

I’m so excited to be a guest on your author spotlight. Thank you so much for having me.

Leigh: Your bio says you’re a Michigan native. Tell us a little about yourself and about Michigan.

I grew up in a suburb just north of Detroit. We witnessed the Big D’s rapid deterioration after two of the three automakers pulled out. That was the beginning of the end, but I do have fond memories of concerts, festivals, incredible fireworks displays, and outdoor ice skating at Hart Plaza, with my mother constantly reminding us ‘not to make eye contact’, ‘don’t open your purse’, ‘put toilet paper on the seat’, you get the idea. When it was still called the Detroit Zoo, we used to go with regularity. Me being an animal lover, I stooped to pet the cute little chipmunk sitting near one of the animal enclosures. My father grabbed my hand just as I was about to pet a giant rat! Hey, I was only 5.

The neighborhood was reminiscent of the burg Janet Evanovich describes in the Stephanie Plum novels – everybody knew everybody, and it was a gossip-cigarette-bourbon fest at the Bingo fundraisers instead of the beauty salons. We lived in a typical middle class, brick, ranch style home complete with creepy basement….where it all began, muhahaha!

Leigh: “Crone” is based on an urban legend in Michigan. What do the legends say about her? Have there been any sightings?

My sister and I always had pajama parties, and part of the festivities in addition to junk food and giggling all night were the story circles. We couldn’t wait to jump into the latest rumors, sightings and shrill screams heard coming from the uninhabitable stretch of woods behind the local elementary school. That despicable hag is real. I’m here to tell you there is something to the legend!

Yes! There have been evil faces in bonfires, but that was before the advent of cell phones. Still, some faces have been captured and can probably even be Googled. There were ominous black shadows and people gone missing after sitting in the cemetery calling to her. The UL goes back more than 6 decades. I referenced true-to-life events and embellished them like any imaginative writer would, lol, but I swear to you I heard the sinister laughing. My whole body went primal and I felt like a small rodent being stalked by a predator. It’s a feeling I can’t shake to this day when I’m alone in the dark.

Leigh: How has your professional and educational background helped you write?

Funny you should ask. I started out like any other aspiring pre-med student, but jumped ship to Pathology, earning a BS degree in Mortuary Science. Freaky me, I soon realized I was more interested in the science and technical end of things. Before long I was assisting then Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Werner Spitz, who was an expert witness in the OJ Simpson trial! Guess who was privy to all the evidence, documentation and court testimony…that’s right! I did a post-secondary training circuit at a huge medical facility in Oakland County, Michigan, where I learned how to perform autopsies. No! Bodies do not sit up randomly or move involuntarily, just in case you wondered. The rest is just my obsession with all things paranormal and a lot of humor to get through life.

Leigh: “Crone:” is the first in the Scarlet St. James series. What do readers have to look forward to as the series continues? Anything you can tell us without giving too much away?

I love the recurring characters in the Scarlet St. James series. Everybody knows that two Seers can’t co-exist for any length of time, right? Dum dum duuum, one of the Seers must go! Since both Scarlet and her 7-year-old niece Olivia have the gift, I had to come up with a solution. I love Scarlet and Crone because both antagonist and protagonist are formidable and fierce in their own right. The next novel has an equally strong female antagonist the readers will not soon forget.

Because Scarlet is a paranormal PI called in on special cases, there is a wealth of eerie, haunting, evil supernatural events ordinary people have experienced that can lead to inexplicable deaths to choose from. Rest assured Scarlet’s support systems, both dead and alive, will not abandon her on her next case. I scanned some of the newspaper obits and wrongful deaths reported in Michigan, where I will base the majority of my stories out of, and let my wild imagination do the rest.

Leigh: Which authors have influenced your writing the most? Do you have a favorite author?

At some point I started following Ken Follett, Robert Ludlum and Patricia Cornwell, back when “following” meant something different. I love the diversity. To be honest, The Thornbirds was my childhood favorite, then I grew up and discovered Michael Slade – by far my biggest influence. The novels had all the elements a horror fan could want, and all were based on actual cases in Canada.

Leigh: Zak, Nick, or Aaron?

Zak man, hands down. All 3 are amazing, but I’ve always had a secret thing for ZB. Too bad he won’t give me the time of day. I gave him a shout out on the Acknowledgements page in my book, offered to send him a free signed author’s copy, reached out to him on Twitter and nothing, lol. Crickets chirping.

Leigh: What TV shows and films do you enjoy?

Of course, I loved Bates Motel and am so disappointed the last season was on Netflix, boo! I’m an avid Columbo fan, and watch Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Lockdown pretty much every weekend. I love Shark Week, am addicted to the Planet Earth series, and don’t laugh – Finding Bigfoot! There are so many undiscovered species, who are we to think we know of every living creature out there? That’s my justification and I’m sticking to it.

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Come to Florida and hang out with me is one option. I’m a pretty private person and lie about my age, height and weight every chance I get, but I do have a Twitter address, FB page, Google profile. I’d stay away from trying to connect with former teachers and bosses, they all hate me, lol. JK not sure if they do or not.

Website: Novels by Maria Mayer

Facebook: CRONE, Book Series

Twitter: @realMariaMayer

Lnkedin: Maria Mayer

Amazon Author Page: Maria Mayer, author of Crone

Maria Mayer (fyi, there are 2 authors with the same name)

Goodreads: Mayer, Maria

Thank you, Maria, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

It was my pleasure and a true honor. Thank you for the opportunity to connect with your fan base. You have changed my life.


Interview With Sojourner McConnell


Leigh Holland’s Interview with Sojourner McConnell

Today I’m delighted to host the author of “Who’s That in The Cat Pajamas?”, Sojourner McConnell, at my author spotlight. Thanks for being here!

Leigh: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am delighted to talk to you and share about myself and my work. I am a writer, and I am also a mother of 3 grown children and grandmother of 13 ranging in age from 16 to one year.  I am also the dog mom to Beau. He is my Australian Shepherd and my little time keeper. He keeps me on schedule.  When I am not writing, I am enjoying a good book, writing reviews on them, or blogging.  It is a favorite pastime to find fun things to blog about, funny moments, exciting events, favorite memories, and cute dog and kid pictures.

Leigh: Why did you decide to write children’s books? What attracts you to this genre?

I love children’s books. If you look on my Goodreads pages, you will see I love children’s books and always have. I still love a good Nancy Drew, The Secret Garden, and new releases. They make me happy and I do not have to write in a way that makes me uncomfortable. I am not a romance writer, or a mystery writer.  I write about hope and fixing problems basically.  I am now very happy to call myself a children’s writer.

Leigh: Where did the inspiration for the story behind “Who’s That in The Cat Pajamas?” come from?

I was requested by one of my granddaughters to write a book she could read. I took that request to heart and started writing a book about a fairy. A fairy that helps children with problems and troubles. When two of these grandchildren had to leave Kentucky and move to Michigan, it was hard on us all. This book is how I would have liked to help them adjust to the idea if they had been older, and I had been a fairy.  Many parts of the story are true in the adjustment period they went  through and Dolcey was able to help them see how fortunate they are to be living in this modern age.

Leigh: What is the first book you remember reading as a child? How do you feel about that book now?

I remember my very first book that I fell in love with was Mike Mulligan and The Steam Shovel. It was in a weekly reader pamphlet and my Grandparents bought it for me. I cherished that book and the illustrations. My sister and I still talk about Mike and his steam shovel.

Leigh: How is writing a book for children different from writing a book for adults?

My first book was a bit of a Young Adult book and I wrote about more mature subjects.  Sadness was more emotional and the storyline was a little darker.  Still with hope and difficult choices. Writing a children’s book gave me the opportunity to embrace the innocence of childhood. The problems are just as real for children, but they see things in a more black and white sense. The solutions need to come from their own decisions with prompting and guidance. I believe Melanie in The Path of the Child would have loved a fairy to help her see the light at the end of the tunnel. Both age brackets have a power and a beauty to me.  It is just the characters that are allowed to join in the telling of the story.

Leigh: Has being a Kentuckian shaped your writing? If so, in what ways?

I enjoy giving hints about Kentucky. I am from Alabama originally so I have used both places as the background for books and stories. It allows me to write in a southern accent so to speak. With southern rather old-fashioned ways. I find it is a gentle way to view life. I have been asked if I really say things like by George, dad gum it, and dog gone. I do, and my characters do.  My children talk like that too. I didn’t realize no one else was saying it.

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

 Website: Http://





Pinterest: Pinterest Link

Amazon Author Page: Amazon Author Page for Sojourner McConnell

Smashwords: Smashwords Profile

Book Links:

Amazon -Sojourner McConnell

Goodreads: Sojourner McConnell at Goodreads

Thank you, Sojourner, very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Laura Pritchard

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Laura Pritchard

I’m delighted today to be able to host Laura Pritchard, author of “Monarchy”, on my author spotlight! Thanks for being here, Laura!

Thanks so much for having me Leigh!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Laura Pritchard and I am from a small town in the South Wales Valleys in the United Kingdom. I am a teacher by day and an author by night! I currently teach music to children who have been expelled from school. I have written for as long as I can remember! I have distinct memories of filling notebooks with stories from a very young age.

Leigh: “Monarchy” seems to me to be similar in some ways to other YA Dystopian fiction, such as “The Hunger Games”. How much have other Dystopian writers influenced your work? What are your favorite novels in this genre?

I have always read young adult fiction as I found myself unable to move on from that genre. My favorite authors like John Marsden and JK Rowling are still firm additions to my bookshelves. Reading so much YA meant that my novels naturally fell into that genre and dystopia is one of my favorite YA adult settings. I think that my favorite modern dystopia is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as it has all of the elements of a classic dystopia and her world building skills are first class. I came up with the initial story for my novel about 2 years ago and have put all of my time and effort into perfecting it since then. Being a mum to 2 young children and a secondary school Music teacher alongside means I have become a professional life juggler and I try to fit as much writing time as I can!

Leigh: What draws you to the Dystopian genre?

One of the first dystopian novels I ever read was The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Attwood. I was assigned this book for the reading section of my English Literature A Level and read it so many times during that time but always managed to find something different after each read. It is what introduced me to the idea of dystopia and how worlds can be controlled in so many ways and also taught me about the theme of rebellion. It is definitely something that has featured as a huge inspiration for Monarchy, my first novel.

Leigh: Which actors would you like to see playing the major characters in “Monarchy” if there were a movie made of it?

What an amazing question! I can imagine Constance being played by a soft, willowy actress but with a firm mind. Someone like Emma Watson or Amanda Seyfried. For Calloway, someone quite self-assured who would be able to throw some power into the role. If we are talking ideal world then it would have to Ryan Gosling!

Leigh: What are some of your favorite films and tv shows?

I love to watch (and read!) gritty crime dramas. My partner and I have recently finished watching Designated Survivor starring Keifer Sutherland. Similarly, I’m have just finished the second book in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy by Steig Larrson. I love complex crime plots that keep you guessing until the very end. Similarly, I hope that my books take on that characteristic. I love cliff hangers and have ended Monarchy on a huge cliff hanger. I want the audience to be thinking about what happens after the novel has ended.

Leigh: What’s your favorite motivational quote?

Tying into my earlier answers, it has to be “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum” which is taken from The Handmaids Tale. It has resurfaced recently due to the novel being made into a TV drama in the US. It is definitely a motto for my life and for writing in particular. Stay positive no matter what. This is such a tough industry to break into and you will be knocked down time and time again. The main thing is to have belief in what you are doing and to keep going as there will be so many points when everything seems worthless. Have passion in what you write and use that passion to drive you onward with your ideas.

Leigh: Why did you choose the Indie route over traditional publishing? What advantages did you find in this publishing route?

I self-published simply for the fact that I wanted people to have access to my novel. I have so much love for it and wanted to be able to share that with people. To me, having my work read is much more important than having my work sold and having reviews showing people sharing that love for my writing makes me feel like I have succeeded.

Leigh: If you could meet one famous person from history, who would it be and why?

Again, another good question! I’d love to meet Anne Frank. I recently holidayed in Budapest and spent a lot of time visiting WW2 sites. In particular, something that struck me was the Jewish graveyard which was the burial place of so many young children who were killed in the Holocaust. The fact that Anne Frank wrote about her experiences during such an awful time is heroic and I find her novel fascinating.

Leigh: What are your hobbies?

In my spare time, I run a children’s choir and an adult’s choir. I love singing and arranging music so it’s one of my favorite things to do. We sing in the local community in churches, schools and private venues. We’ve also ventured into weddings this year! I also read as much as I can. Books are an evening pastime for me and I prefer a good book than sitting down to watch TV!

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and your work?

My novel is available on Amazon and Smashwords. I am in the process of building my social media platform so keep an eye out for my Facebook and Twitter pages soon!

Amazon Author Page:


Goodreads: Laura Pritchard on Goodreads

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview, Laura!

Interview with E.A. Minin, author of “Monoland: Into The Gray Horizon”

Leigh Holland’s Interview with E. A. Minin

Today, I’m delighted to have E. A. Minin, author of “Monoland: Into the Gray Horizon”, here on my blog. Thanks for joining me!

Good day Leigh. Happy to be here.

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Eugene: As it’s the informative part of my bio, I’ll talk numbers. Eighty four – the year I was born. One – number of children my parents had (one little egoistic child I am). Five – my age, when got into a first love triangle, back in kindergarten. Four – number of schools I changed during, before got into the university. Six – months I studied in university. Eight – jobs I had and I still work in the IT sector. Thirteen – age, when I decided I want to work with storytelling. Forty – approximate amount of failed and dropped series treatments, episodes and few feature film scripts in last six years. Twelve – months ago I decided to focus on book writing and produce stories I have in my head in book narration.

Leigh: What inspired you to write a book that takes place in Purgatory, or ‘the Gray Horizon”?

Actually I find afterlife a same pop-genre as writing about vampires or elves or passionate billionaires (probably last ones beats them all nowadays). Everyone has a fantasies or his vision on how it would be on the other side. I just wanted to share one of those I had in my head. Can’t say it’s the only one. First try was actually a movie script about human souls that work on assignments in our world, being our guardian angels, following their code and while not on assignment have their routine in Empyrean world as they call it. Maybe one day I’ll rewrite it as a short story or a novel.

Back to Monoland. I had a kind of a panic attack or an urgent need to drop words on paper. It ended up with first draft of three chapters. I came back to it in a year or so, and decided to go on with this story.

Leigh: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

It’s a craft. It can make you feel calm or mad at times, but it’s still craft. You work on it, you become better. Part when you find an idea, a lump of threads, then start slowly untangle it into something that becomes character’s arc or a plot or a twist – that can be called a spiritual practice. Moments when you stop being you.

Leigh: What book are you reading currently?

Machiavelli – The Prince, Terry Pratchett – Soul Music and Hegel – Science of Logic

Leigh: What are you currently working on? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Currently I work in co-authorship with Dim Zimin on a fantasy book for children. It initially was planned as a animated series (and work on it still progresses). After that one I plan to get back to second book of Monoland and in parallel finish satiric-fantasy book (also first in a series) with working title Too old for this. Third part of the Monoland is to follow and I aim to close the trilogy in the beginning of 2018. There are lots of projects to follow.

Leigh: What one thing would you give up in order to become a better writer?

Probably pride. It’s important for me to get critics in order to grow. Yet as for any human being critics and truth it holds, sometimes awakes excuses powered by pride, that holds me from changing, adapting, looking for a better turns in plot or character development.

Leigh: Do you write full time or part time? How is your writing day structured?

Part time. I write about 4 hours a day and 6-10 on weekends. Sometimes I need music to keep thoughts going and each story has its playlist to keep mind focused. Other than that, I just sit in my crafting corner. Typewriter on my left, plant, wooden skull on my right and a magic chair, that switches me to writing mood the moment I sit in it.

Leigh: Who designed your book cover?

Dim Zimin. Friend of mine and a great artist. I hope he will design covers for all the books I plan to write and publish. He has an instagram account, where he shares his works – Dim Zimin on Instagram

Leigh: How do you relax?

Reading, bathtub and reading in bathtub.

Leigh: How can readers find out more about you and your work?


Lnkedin: LnkedN EA Minin

Amazon Author Page: E.A. Minin Amazon Author Page

Book Links: Monoland: Into the Gray Horizon

Goodreads: E.A. Minin on Goodreads

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Thank you for the invitation. I was flattered to have this opportunity.

Interview with H.A. Callum (Author of “Whispers In The Alders”)

Leigh Holland’s Interview with H. A. Callum

Today I’m delighted to interview the author of “Whispers In The Alders”, H.A. Callum. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for my author spotlight!

Hi Leigh! It’s great to be here, and thanks for the invite!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Let’s just talk about the book. Just kidding! All joking aside, I like to think that I’m a pretty down to earth guy, but intense at times. I have an amazing family who are all very supportive of me as a writer – especially my wife. Spouses of writers certainly understand what it’s like to live with us, and the crazy hours we keep. But outside of writing, I love to read, and most importantly spend time with my wife and daughters.

Leigh: What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Letting go. I don’t want to say the writing was easy, but accepting that it was done – final – no more edits – and sending it out into the world was the hardest part. I could have spent months editing and revising, but after five major revisions I had to put it out there. So yeah, knowing when to say when was the most difficult part of getting Whispers in the Alders on the path to publication.

Leigh: What was an early experience where you learned that words have power?

Not to get too personal, but books became an escape for me at a young age. I was always reading. In books I could find answers, or a correlation to what was going on in my life. The ability for a writer to connect on a personal level with the reader was very apparent to me early on, and I think this has shaped who I am as a writer and how I choose to reveal a story to my readers.

Leigh: Do you read much? If so, who are your favorite authors?

I love to read! I hate limiting myself though, and I have so many authors that should be on this list. My favorites are Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, John Updike, Harper Lee, Philip Roth, and Maile Meloy. British Literature has always been a favorite of mine, and I couldn’t imagine a library without Virginia Woolf and Thomas Hardy. There are so many greats though – far too many to mention. Who did I miss? I know I’m going to catch flack for this!

Leigh: What famous person, living or not, would you like to meet and why?

That’s hard to pin down – there are so many people I could name. I tend to gravitate towards those who choose to remain outspoken rather than seek the safety of silence. Our nation’s short history has a long list of names – from the Revolution through the Civil Rights Movement. Their work is still ongoing, and without their sacrifices, where would we be today?

I was very fortunate as an undergrad at Penn State to have had an English professor who was a founding member of the Toni Morrison Society. Her class was amazing, and of course we covered several of Toni Morrison’s works. I’ve always admired Morrison’s work, especially her style of story-telling. Few authors can weave tragedy and beauty so closely. The darkest depths of humanity are felt in some of her works, yet as a reader, I always felt the pull toward the positive side of the human experience after reading her novels. If I ever have the opportunity, I would be honored to meet Toni Morrison to talk just a little about writing, but more so to be in the presence of a person whose humanity I’ve come to adore.

Leigh: Was it difficult writing from the perspective of someone of the opposite sex?

Of course it was! And it was something from the beginning that I took very seriously, and took great care to do my part to get it right. I knew Whispers in the Alders had to be told from the female perspective early on. My biggest fear was not coming across as appropriating the female perspective from a male point of view. I think (hope) I succeeded there with Aubrey. I spent many hours reading works written from the female teenage perspective, just to try and get Aubrey’s voice down. So far, readers seem to be connecting with her, and that’s a positive sign.

Leigh: Do you write full-time or part-time? How is your writing schedule structured?

Part-time, but of course some days I put in eight or more hours writing, editing, and submitting. My writing schedule is structured between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., give or take an hour on either side of that range. I think my Twitter feed is a testament to that! Family is always first, so once the kids are asleep off I go. And I know I’m not the only one doing this. Writing is a passion, and well worth the sacrifices made in its pursuit.

Leigh: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Just write. I see people throwing word counts out on Twitter and Facebook all the time. But is that quality? So, for aspiring authors, just be consistent in writing every day. Every single day. Word count doesn’t mean much if you’re not writing, right? Go at your own pace and see that project through, whether it’s a piece of short fiction, a poem, or a novel.

It is important to network though. I have an awesome base of supporters on social media, they are my online writers group. We motivate each other. Likewise, I also belong to a local writers group where I can workshop with other writers. If you’re an aspiring author you must be around other writers and you must workshop. It’s the best way to get critical feedback and learn to accept criticism. That criticism will also thicken your skin and serve you well when it comes time to query. For me, querying wasn’t a negative process because I had learned to accept real criticism long before I started the process. Agents and publishers sometimes offer that same level of criticism when you query. Workshopping gets writers to the point of welcoming criticism of their work.

Leigh: What hobbies do you have? What do you do to relax?

When I’m not reading, I love watching movies. I’m also a runner, although not as fast as I once was! Running always recharges the battery and improves mood, helping to keep me centered. Oh, and it’s summer time – so I know I’ll be out tending the grill!

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and your work?




Amazon Author Page:


Once again, Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Leigh, I can’t thank you enough for having me here today! It’s been a real pleasure, and I look forward to catching up with you and your readers more on social media!

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Natalia Vereshchagina

Quirky, Innovative

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Natalia Vereshchagina

Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed for my blog, Natalia!


Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Natalia: I was born in the former Soviet Union, in Moldova, although ethnically I am Russian. I studied biology at Saint Petersburg University where received a Master’s degree in genetics and much later a PhD in the same field. At the end of the 90s I moved abroad to continue doing research studies. And had a chance to work in different labs and different countries: the UK (University of Oxford), France, Singapore and Germany.

Leigh: When did you decide to become a writer? Why do you write?

Natalia: Science to me has always been the world where creativeness of life nurtures human creativity so that to bring life in turn to a whole new level. And I was lucky enough to see the bright sparks of brilliant science throughout my career. Unfortunately, however, I also worked in the environment that would be defined by me as a poor substitute for research, ugly commercialized and fouled with mediocrity and cunning race for privileges. It was then that I felt the urge to write a book, not with a view to composing an accusatory manifesto, but simply wishing to take a chance to speak in favour of true science, the one that influences our destiny and destination.

Another thing that prompted me to turn to writing was the lack of intellectual satisfaction I always felt after reading conventional detective/crime stories. No matter how captivating they are, once finished reading them, I always put them aside like a squeezed orange or the inner wrapping of chocolate bar, having no desire to return to those pages again (“The name of the rose” by Umberto Eco remains a stunning exception of it). It started a train of thought to attempt to compose such a novel whose content would be found by avid readers simply irresistible to stop feeding spiritually on it. Well, it was and still is just a dream of mine.


Leigh: What inspired you to write a scientific mystery centered around physicists?

Natalia: As I’ve already mentioned I have a PhD in science and also many years of research experience in Academia, but I am not a physicist, only a geneticist; and that fact of my education obliged me to be (in my novel) as accurate as possible in stating the scientific facts that are far beyond my expertise. Nor did it give me any right to be critical about the famous Nuclear Research Centre (CERN, as you correctly noticed), where I have never been and never worked, and whose research does not deserve to be doubted.

I have chosen this particular setting for my narrative because the exciting research at the Collider is one of the most functional elements in the development of my mysterious and tragic story. And secondly, in the background predetermined to reveal to the utmost the beauty, mystery and greatness of the Universe, the perception of greedy and cunning nature of human minds becomes especially strong.


Leigh: Which writers have influenced you the most over the years and what about their work inspires you?


Natalia: I would say that both “The name of the rose” by Umberto Eco and “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov had a profound impact on my writing. The former inspired me with the concept of a cross-genre fiction, so ingeniously developed by Eco to show how little, if any, human nature has changed over time. While the “love affair with the English language” in Nabokov’s Lolita turned out to be too contagious with all its tenderness and “aesthetic bliss” to resist the intolerable temptation to dream of going through the same.



Leigh: How has publishing your first book changed your writing process?


Natalia: Had I written my novel “Dating a chance” in my native language, which is Russian, I believe, I would have felt pretty confident about the book. But after publishing my English version of the novel, I’ve realized that I am standing at the very bottom of a literary Everest; and if I really want to reach its peak or, at least, get closer ever, I’ll have to make tremendous efforts.


Leigh: What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

Natalia: I would name “The Gift” by Vladimir Nabokov.

Leigh: How many hours per day do you write? Do you have a set time to write, a set number of words?

Natalia: As long as I am not busy with doing something else, like eating, working, sleeping or taking a shower, I am writing.


Leigh: What were you like in school?

Natalia: A ballerina who worshipped Sherlock Holmes, felt in love with Captain Blood (a main character from Rafael Sabatini’s adventure novel), and was entranced by sci-fi books.


Leigh: What are your ambitions for your writing career? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Natalia: I would like to create a masterpiece, including one that might come through scientific writing, for, if to cite the thoughts of Richard Dawkins, the author of “The selfish gene”, “If you push novelty of language and metaphor far enough, you can end up with a new way of seeing. And a new way of seeing can in its own right make an original contribution to science.”


Leigh: What do you do to relax?

Natalia: I enjoy walking and prefer to do it far away from cars, pollution and city noise; just trying to be close to nature.


Leigh: How can readers find out more about you and your work?

Natalia: I believe my answer to this question will make the readers’ eyebrows travel dashingly “all the way to the back of their heads”, for I do not have any accounts on any of them. Actually, a year ago I had an account on Goodreads, but not sure if it is still functional.

Interview with Ann Heinz, author of “A Light Within”

Thank you so much, Ann, for being interviewed on my blog today!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, where life flowed as deep and tranquil as the Cedar River that divided east from west and the neighborhoods were safe for children to play outside until after dark. I was fortunate enough to be born into a family where books were collected and revered. My earliest memories are of the sublime pleasure to be had from reading, first cuddled next to my grandmother in her big stuffed rocking chair as she read the children’s classics aloud, then curled up on my own as I graduated from story collections and Little Golden Books to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and finally to the contemporary and classic novels in my mother’s library. I was already a lifelong book junkie, the first step on the road to becoming a writer.


Which writers inspire you?

My favorite authors are those whose command of the English language allows them to draw compelling word pictures, create convincing characters, and pull me into a mesmerizing plot. In short, those from whom I can learn.

I have read two books recently that fulfill these qualifications. The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristi Cambron is a lyrical look at one of America’s oldest entertainment icons, the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. It deftly weaves historical fact with the story of several fictional characters, bringing them and their circumstances alive in a way that is magical. The second is Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, a psychological thriller that is truly impossible to put down. Again, the author has drawn such persuasive characters and placed them in such realistic settings that one can overlook certain implausible characteristics of the plot.


“A Light Within” is set in 1859 in Pennsylvania. Could you tell us how much research was involved in bringing that time and place to life?

This was my third novel set during the decade before the Civil War, and I had already done extensive research about that era in terms of general background. For this book, I researched medical education and knowledge of that time as well as the main locations where the story takes place: the cities of Sacramento, San Francisco and Philadelphia and the Isthmus of Panama. I obtained period street maps and photos and used them to visualize my characters as they moved about in the story. Doing this research was like completing an intricate puzzle, and I found it highly entertaining and stimulating.


Where did your idea for “A Light Within” come from?

My second and third historical novels each took a minor character from the prior novel and developed a story unique to that person. I was intrigued by Cora, who was a girl of sixteen in Refiner’s Fire, because she was a fiery rebel even at that young age: a feminist, abolitionist, and believer in the right of each individual to determine his or her future regardless of class or station in life. Since she expressed an interest in medicine in Refiner’s Fire, I decided to develop that theme. Needing an extra boost of tension and conflict, I decided to place her in juxtaposition to her twin brother, who was following a traditional path even though his “inner light” nudged him toward the arts.


Give us an insight into Cora Fielding. What drives her passion for medicine?

Cora has been assisting her physician father at his clinic in Sacramento, California for several years. She finds the human body and its ailments fascinating and has studied every textbook she could get her hands on. The fact that women are not readily accepted in the medical profession only sharpens her resolve that she will allow nothing to stand in her way from choosing her own path through life.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on presently?

I am currently rewriting a book first published many years ago. This is something of a stopgap activity until my personal “light within” sends me in a new direction.


What’s the hardest thing about writing?

For me, the hardest part of writing is sustaining the flow once the initial excitement of beginning a new project fades. There comes a time in every manuscript when my momentum slows and I must grind out the progression of the plot, always relying on my characters to give me the necessary direction.

By contrast, the conception, planning, and writing of the initial chapters as well as the completion of the final pages provide an emotional high that is impossible to describe. The entire process is very much like riding a virtual roller coaster. At the end of the ride, I never fail to find joy and immense satisfaction.


What actors could you see playing Cora, Carl, and Peter?

My mental image of these people is so strong and unique that I cannot imagine them being played by anyone else. Were I ever so fortunate as to have this book made into a movie, someone else would have to make that decision.


How can readers discover more about you and you work?





Amazon Author Page:

Once again, thank you very much for appearing on my author spotlight today, Ann!

Interview with Catherine Milos

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed today for my blog, Catherine!

My pleasure and thank you for having me, Leigh!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been writing and editing professionally for over ten years. My passion for the creative pen began as a creative crayon scribbling stories in colored wax. I am Canadian and live with my husband and three rescue cats. I also have a basement troll I get along with relatively well. Occasionally, I take in strays. I hate brussels sprouts.

Leigh: How do you select the names for your characters?

Usually the characters appear in the story with a name, often spoken by another character. It isn’t uncommon, however, for me to use random name generators or find the right name for a character in the oddest places. As an example, for one story which is not published, I found the name carved into a public bathroom stall.

Leigh: What were you like in school? Were you always good at writing? When did you know you wanted to write professionally?

School and I have a love-hate relationship. I was a decent student, but I found school got in the way of real learning, and took to darn long.

Good is such a relative term. I guess I could say I was always good at writing; I did have some natural talent. However, I had to learn to be better, still have to. Good writing comes from practice and dedication. I also love editing, which I think helped keep me in the business.

I have wanted to be a professional writer for as long as I can remember, but since that wasn’t a ‘real’ job, I let other things get in the way. In spite of trying to be a million other things, I kept writing and even turned it into a business. The best thing about writing, I get to be in every job I’ve ever wanted. I hate the idea of having one career for the rest of my life, but I like a bit of security too. Writing allows me to research and do whatever I need to for a manuscript. If a character is an ecologist, like Madison in Demons and Destiny, I get to follow ecologists around, and, get to be an ecologist for a day or a week.

Leigh: Do you outline your books first or just see where the ideas take you?

As a discovery writer, most of my work is done letting the story take me where it needs to go, but to keep me focused, I do a high-level outline of the plot. Sometimes, when I’m really struggling with a character or chapter, I will outline more in-depth to get things right. While the creative process can be intensely rewarding with this discovery method, it’s not uncommon to have to re-write a lot of the book. Once, I had to rewrite 50,000 words (30,000 words in 4 days) of a book that was 65,000 words.

Leigh: Tell us a little bit about the series this book (Demons and Destiny) belongs to.

Angels and Avalon is a paranormal fantasy series set in present day Canadian prairies. Each book is divided into two parts. The first part of each book tells the tale of a past-life of the main character (MC). For Elizabeth, that’s Avalon, for Tyrel in Demons and Destiny that is a Viking settlement on a Celtic land. The past-life drives some of the motivations the MC’s present life which makes up part two. The series follows a group of friends as they battle their demons (literally and psychological). Meddling gods don’t help the situation. Nor does the fact that most of the characters used to be Angels or Nephilim. Each book focuses on one or two characters.

The next installment is slated for 2018, and I’m also working on a mini-series spin off.

Leigh: Who designed your book covers?

Streetlight Graphics designed the covers – I was actually referred by another amazing author Becca Andre.

Vivienne Gucwa, one of the most talented photographers I know, provided a background photo for Angels and Avalon.

You can learn more about them from their websites: and

Leigh: What’s your favorite motivational saying?

“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” James T. Kirk

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Readers can visit any of the below sites, or contact me directly through my website or social media. My books are sold at most online book retailers and some select retail locations.

Website/ Blog: (author) (journal) (for writers and readers) (editing)




Amazon Author Page:





Book Links:

Angels and Avalon








Demons and Destiny







Thank you very much, Catherine, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Thank you Leigh for having me!


Interview with Jo Sparkes, author of “The Birr Elixir”

Today, I’m interviewing Jo Sparkes, author of “The Birr Elixir”. Thanks so much for your time today, Jo!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Born in Maryland, I’ve lived in various parts of the U.S. Delaware, Houston, Dallas, Connecticut, Phoenix. I’m in the great Northwest at the moment. Married a Brit, got a dog. Still root for the Arizona Cardinals.

Leigh: How would you define success as a writer?

A good day of writing.

No matter what else happens after that, I still can find my smile.

Leigh: Which writers inspire you the most?

One of my teachers was a man named Robert Day, author of ‘The Last Cattle Drive”. He had such a deep appreciation of people, of characters.

An example is in an article that appeared in the Washington Post, a humorous story about himself. The opening paragraph was along this line (and I’m butchering it horribly):

“My father died when I was 17. Mother kept his ashes on a shelf above the dryer.”

What a wonderful opening.

Leigh: For your own reading, do you prefer e-book or paperback?

Early on I only read paperbacks. My life had enough electronics. But when we traveled to Europe, I realized I could carry all my books in that one slim device. And, when the eyes got a little tired from plane travel, I could magically transform it to bigger print.

And the purse was lighter sans magnifying glass.

Leigh: What advice would you give to your young author self if you could go back in time?

Listen to others, take in all the wisdom and advice to help see the pitfalls and bright spots. But you – and only you – can forge your particular path.

No one may walk another’s journey. And, when it’s all said and done, only our own true path takes us where we truly wish to go.

Leigh: I absolutely love the sport “Comet” in your book. What inspired your design of the game?

There was a time I wrote about NFL Football (the Arizona Cardinals). Competition is inspiring – all the highs and lows, the joy of pushing your limits, and the lessons you discover if you only accept defeat as temporary.

I hoped to find a way to share a little – just a little – of that feeling.

Leigh: What do you think of book trailers? I loved the one for The Birr Elixir. Do you have any other favorites?

For some reason, I’m all about the music. The words are important, of course, but the mood the music stirs makes or breaks it for me.

I had the good fortune of the talented Abhiraj Rajadhyaksha, of Experimental Films, do mine. I’ll confess, I watched it preparing for the books to follow.

Leigh: What are some of your hobbies?

At the moment, yoga and decorating my home. Both leave me twisted into knots.

In the past I’ve skied, scuba dived (dove?), played blackjack and backpacked around Europe.

That last was pure joy to the soul – and fodder to the writing brain.

Leigh: How can readers find out more about you and your work?






Amazon Author Page:

Book Links:







Thank you, Jo, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.