Friday, December 28, 2007

Take Ten with Bestselling author Che Parker

(NOTE: Listen to an audio interview with Che Parker by clicking here.)
Che Parker is one of those authors who you just know will last a long time in the literary industry: he’s calm, cool and collected—and not satisfied with anything but success. His book, The Tragic Flaw, is something that all people can relate to, but not all will admit to seeing themselves within the characters.

In December 2007, Che confirmed that he will be visiting with Conversations in 2008.
In this frank discussion we touch on everything from his beginnings, race in the literary industry and why the adage of ‘reaping what you sow’ is all too true.

I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri and although I've lived in Virginia for seven years I still consider KC home. I have a very loving and supportive family and I wouldn't be here today without them. I never know how much detail to provide so I'll just say that I really like cold beer, I love barbeque and I'm a really big fan of the Kansas City Chiefs.

I'm not sure my life has changed all that much at this point. I'm holding book signings and interacting with people a lot so that's all new. Having a new book out can definitely be a full time job with promotions, and signings and events. It's been fun, though. It's been a blessing.

My day job is in public relations for a very large company, so communicating with people is what I do on a daily basis. In addition to that my jobs have always had a writing aspect, be it as a journalist, or a staff writer, or a public relations professional. So I've been able to bring a professional writing aspect to my fiction. My undergraduate degree was in Communication Studies and I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Writing at Johns Hopkins University, so I'm constantly trying to gain more knowledge and perfect my craft.

What's interesting to me is that I just wrote. I just wrote what was in my heart and what was in my head. In fact there were instances where I had no idea where something came from. I didn't think about the audience or the genre or how the book would be categorized. In that way the first book is easier because there's no pressure, no deadlines and no specific expectations. I do think The Tragic Flaw is different than a lot of fiction out there because of what I bring to the table and how I approach the subject matter.

ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW YOUR BOOKS---AT LEAST I CAN SAY HERE IN THE SOUTH---ARE CROSSING OVER RACIAL LINES SIMPLY BASED ON THE STORY LINE? I can't really say I'm surprised. I think what surprises me more is that reading and literature is still segregated. Do we really need an African American section at the bookstore? We don't have a Caucasian section. Some people may say that it's helpful that we have a separate section, but I'm not so sure about that. I think when you have a section like that some people may avoid it because they may feel it's not for them. I think we're writers first, and we just happen to be black.

The Tragic Flaw is about one man's thirst for the power and the flaw that leads to his downfall. For me it's a modern tragedy with a twist. Basically you reap what you sow. The bad guys are cool and dangerous and the women are too.

When I was searching for a book deal I would often look at the Book section of the Washington Post and find out which authors would be in town for book signings or talks. I saw that Zane would be a Howard University's bookstore making a rare public appearance (at the time), and I decided to go check it out. Turns out her editor was also there, and we struck up a conversation about writing, submitting work, and so forth. I sent her my material and a few weeks later she e-mailed me saying that she loved it and that they were interested in publishing me. The rest is history...

Zane has an amazing fan base. It's primarily women but it's really diverse and they love her. With that being said, at signing events when Zane is present there will be crowd, and she has been great in promoting her authors and allowing us to shine and write material that's creative and true to us.

I'm working on my next novel now. Completely different characters and storyline. It's about how an ideal marriage can end tragically (I guess I have a thing for the dark side of life). But it's new characters, new setting. It will probably be based in DC or Maryland, but I'm still working on that part. And for the record it's not about my marriage (laughs). Just wanted to put that out there. I also enjoy writing short stories so hopefully I'll be able to pursue that one day.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME, CHE. IF READERS WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOU, YOUR UPCOMING WORK OR JUST WANT TO SAY HELLO, HOW CAN THEY REACH YOU? Thanks for having me. Your readers can visit my web site at, or e-mail me at They can also check out my myspace page at Shoot me a note or send me a friend request.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

TAKE TEN: Our interview with author Jonathan Richardson

In August 2007, Conversations Book Club debuted its "Non-Fiction" chapter of the brand. The first book to be discussed by the group is THE COMPLICATED LIFE OF THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN MAN by author Jonathan Richardson.

To read our "Take Ten" interview with Richardson click here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

TAKE TEN: Bestselling author Dywane Birch

With the release of SHATTERED SOULS, bestselling author Dywane Birch showed why he was handpicked by Zane to be apart of the Strebor family. He has a way with words that many authors would love to obtain, and the humility that will go along way in the literary industry.

This interview will encourage you to see why some issues are best handled in the beginning instead of allowing them to fester and grow.

Dywane, thank you for talking with Conversations. I have alot I am going to try and get into this one interview, but I wanted to start at the beginning: Tell us a little about who Dywane Birch is.
You're very welcomed. However, the thanks really goes to you for allowing me the opportunity to share with Conversations. So, is truly appreciated!
Okay, a little about me. Wow...this is always a hard one since I'm an extremely private person. Let me see. Well, I'm a graduate of Norfolk State University and Hunter College with a masters degree in psychology. Over the last sixteen years, I've worked in a variety of settings, from prison to community-based programs, that have afforded me an array of professional experiences. In addition, to my novel Shattered Souls, and it's sequel, From My Soul to Yours, which releases Nov 6, 2007, I'm the self-published author of When Loving You is Wrong. I live in Jersey, but divide my time between here and Maryland (and, if all goes well, San Diego will be added). Other than that, I'm just a man who is still learning, and growing, and evolving; a man who is not without fault or flaws, yet still strives to be the best that he can be.

For some writing was a form of therapy. For others it was an escape. What role did writing play in your life?
Honestly, neither. I didn't choose writing. It chose me. And, as a result, has evolved into a means for me to educate, enlighten, entertain, and, hopefully, inspire.

Are you from a family of readers? How have they responded to the career you have been able to weave together through words?
Yes, I do. Fortunately, they have been extremely supportive of my writing career, but I'd have to say my mother is probably my biggest fan. However, over all, I've been truly blessed.

In doing research on your career, I read where some reviewers said you were being "slept on". Why do you think it took the world so long to catch up with your talent?
It was my own doing that has kept the world in the dark about me as a writer. I honestly was very comfortable and satisfied with being an underground writer. I really wasn't ready, personally or professionally to see my literary work go to the next level. But, now I am. And I'm ready to share my talent with the world.

SHATTERED SOULS is the only book I have read of yours up to this point, so let's talk a little about it. As the back of the book explains, it tackles "the lingering effects of childhood turmoil on four thirty-something friends... all four are struggling with demons, striving to mask the deep emotional wounds they sustained long ago." I could relate to the book on alot of different levels: being in that age range and having my own obstacles to deal with in my youth. Why did you feel as though this was a story that needed to be told?
When I wrote Shattered Souls in 1999, I was the director of an adolescent crisis shelter, and a social worker at a youth detention center. I'd been at each job seven and six years, respectively. And during that time, I had seen and heard first-hand the pain and the hurt and the scars of psychological, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I had heard the cries, and the pleas for help, for healing, for love, and forgiveness; I saw the shame and the guilt and the embarrassment; heard the feelings of neglect and rejection and abandonment. And, not once, did I ever consider putting pen to paper to write these experiences. It was through a series of dreams over a three-night period that the voices and the images began to take shape in my mind. It was at three a.m. in the morning when I saw the title, Shattered Souls, amongst shards of glass that I woke up, got out of bed and started typing to set these nameless faces, and unfamiliar voices, free. was a force much greater than me that said this was a story that needed to be told.

Did you know when you were writing the book SHATTERED SOULS that there was something special about it?
Yes. There was definitely a part of me that had this "knowing" that there was something remarkable about Shattered Souls.

There seems to be an underlying message of accepting one's truth---regardless of what it is---and walking in it. Would you agree, and why do you think it is so hard for us to sometimes let the real us shine through?
Absolutely. I believe fear is what keeps many of us from being who we are. Fear of rejection, fear of ridicule, fear of isolation (and the list goes on)...these are the things that keep many of us stuck into being who and what others expect us to be instead of being who we really need to be for ourselves.

Just as I have my own story as to how I can relate to the book, I'm sure you have heard many others from readers. Can you share some of the experiences about the impact of the story?
Yes. Over the years I've heard from both men and women who speak of how reading Shattered Souls forced them to remember things about their own pasts that they believed (or thought) they had forgotten or neatly tucked in the back spaces of their hearts and minds. I've had women email me and say after all these years that after reading my book that they now know and see what they've been: A shattered soul. And I have been thanked for touching them in a way that allowed them to cry and scream and laugh and cheer the characters on because they felt connected to their pain, their experiences were their very own realities, and they too want to heal and forgive and let go. And for me, that has been the most beautiful part of this journey.

Your book was released by Zane's Strebor Books. How did that relationship come about and how has that opened new doors for you?
Interestingly, I met Zane in 2001 at a book event in Memphis. Unbeknownst to me, she had already read the self-published version of Shattered Souls and had nothing but great things to say about it. Over the years, we developed a deep admiration and respect for each other, and she has been one of my biggest supporters and fans from the beginning. She actually wrote in one of her acknowledgment sections that publishers were crazy for not re-releasing Shattered Souls .***laughing*** Honestly, I'm glad they didn't.

In 2005, I was asked if I wanted to be a contributor to Zane's anthology, Breaking the Cycle which won the 2006 NAACP Image Award for outstanding fiction. In March of the same year, I was offered a contract for the re-release of Shattered Souls, and a contract for it's sequel, From My Soul to Yours. I am. ***smiling***

Thank you so much Dywane for your time. How can readers find out more about
you and your collection of works?

Again, you're extremely welcomed. I've enjoyed the interview. I appreciate the support and the opportunity you've extended to me. And from my soul to yours...I thank you for wanting to share my work with others. For anyone, who may be interested in knowing more about me and my literary endeavors, they can check me out at or I can also be reached via email at:

Thanks again, for everything. Until the next time...peace, love, & happy reading!

Monday, July 16, 2007

TAKE TEN: Bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins

He is one-half of the most successful writing team of our generation. Jerry B. Jenkins and Dr. Tim LaHaye, the authors of the bestselling LEFT BEHIND series, are responsible for a phenomenon that has both sparked discussion and a renewed passion in reading. Though impressive, this is only part of Jenkins’ story. Apart from the partnership with LaHaye, he has penned almost 200 books, many of which are biographies, selling millions of copies worldwide.

In this exclusive discussion, Jenkins takes time from writing his newest novel to discuss everything from the success of his religious thrillers, why people fear Bible prophesy and the Harry Potter books.

Mr. Jenkins, we appreciate your taking time out of your writing season to answer a few questions for us. When I am discussing the LEFT BEHIND series with others one of the things we always comment on is how real the world you describe is. Has it ever saddened you to think that so much of mankind will choose to walk away from God?
Yes, our capacity for sin is amazing. God created a perfect garden, and Adam and Eve sinned. He set up a system of laws and sacrifices, and His own people chose to go their own ways and to worship other gods. He sent Jesus to die for our sins, and He was despised and rejected of men. He will rapture His church and still people will decide against Him. God will rain down 21 judgments over 7 years, all prophesied in order, and despite that the Bible says no one will be able to doubt He exists, still people want what they want. Then comes the Millennial kingdom with Jesus on the throne, and by the end of that time, Satan will still be able to tempt the nations. It's mind boggling.

The Bible book of Revelations is avoided by so many Christians today. Why do you think its prophetic message evokes so much fear?
The biggest problem is the temptation to try to interpret it symbolically or figuratively when much of it is best understood literally, as it is written. We don't advocate a wooden literalism where it is obviously evocative. For instance, we don't believe the sword in Jesus' mouth is a literal sword but rather is His word. But where the revelator says, "I looked and I saw..." we take it literally, use it in our stories that way, and it seems to have brought the Book of Revelation to life for people.

Your work has made history on so many levels in the literary world, but how has it affected you personally? Do you see writing as part of your ministry?
Writing is my ministry, as it is my only gift and thus I feel obligated to exercise it. I don't sing or dance or preach, so I'm currently working on my 172nd book, more books than I've read. (smile) The Left Behind series had much the same impact on me as it did on the readers. I am much more aggressive about my faith and more expectant of the return of Christ.

I have heard it said that the mere thought of the end of the world is fearful to some, including those who say they are Christians. Why do you think the final battle between Good and Evil raises so many different opinions? There should be no fear for the believer, as the Scripture promises we will be delivered from the worst of it. But we are no longer people of the Word for the most part, and so many -- even believers -- live in fear.

In Mississippi we have battled apathy towards reading for many years among young and old. What advice would you give to someone who is interested in the subject matter that you write about but may be hesitate to pick up the book?
We have made our books available on unabridged and abridged audio, dramatic audios (with original music, sound effects, actors, etc.), and even in graphic novel (comic book) formats. It's in some format for anyone.

When I initially contacted you in June 2007, I found out that you have written quite a few non-fiction books as well, including a biography about one of Mississippi's own. Tell us about some of your other work?
About 80 of my books have been nonfiction, including marriage and family titles, documentaries, and many biographies. These include working with people like evangelists Sammy Tippit, Luis Palau, George Sweeting, and Billy Graham; musicians Christine Wyrtzen, Bill Gaither, and B.J. Thomas; and athletes Hank Aaron, Walter Payton, Meadowlark Lemon, Orel Hershiser, Nolan Ryan, Mike Singletary, Joe Gibbs, etc.

There has been much discussion about how books and movies that feature supernatural characters affect the minds of especially the young people exposed to them. What is your opinion? Is it enough that they are able to find books and reading material that hold their attention, or should we be concerned about the subject matter they are drawn to?
If you're referring to Harry Potter, I don't have a major problem with it. If parents believe their children are too young to understand that it's fantasy, they should restrict them from reading it, or read it with them. Most people were raised on similar stuff, like The Wizard of Oz, which had every bit as much supernatural magic stuff in it and yet was plainly understood for what it was. Oz and Harry teach that good wins over evil, etc.

With the release of the final book of the LEFT BEHIND series, was it hard to see it end?
Sure, it was bitter sweet after almost 12 years, but it was time.

What is next for you on the literary front?
Dr. LaHaye and I are in the middle of The Jesus Chronicles, fiction based on the gospels. John's Story was released last year, Mark's Story will release this October, Luke's Story next year, and Matthew's Story the following year. Plus I have a 15-book, ten-year exclusive deal with Tyndale, the first title of which will release in March.

Thank you again for taking out a few moments with us. Do you have anything you want to say to those who might be considering reading one of your books for the first time?
Probably best to start with Left Behind.

© 2007 All Rights Reserved
Conversations Magazine®, a subsidiary of Shadow Play Publications®

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"TAKE TEN" w/Bestselling author Stuart Woods

(Originally posted on "Reading My Lips" website. Interview took place on Wednesday, June 27, 2007.)

Over the past seven months, we have met a great deal of authors. So many in fact that there is always a problem of being able to schedule them for a 30 minute or hour discussion! Because of this, we have begun a new phase of Conversations Book Club. It is called "Take Ten". What is it? Well, to put it simply "Take Ten" is an interview of 10 questions that we can get answers to quickly without having to really schedule any of the author's precious time.
The interviews will be featured in print publications, online and in the Conversations Magazine.

This week we are featuring another one of our history-making interviews: Bestselling author Stuart Woods. Few writers hae been able to have such an impact on the world of fiction like Woods, and with over 20 titles under his belt---many of them New York Times Bestsellers---there is no way for him to be slowing down soon.

Enjoy the interview and look for it to be featured in the July 2007 issue of the Conversations Magazine!

Mr. Woods, thank you so much for your time. Looking back over your career one of the questions that immediately comes to mind is about your relationship with words. Have you always found it easy to tell a story?
It was harder in the beginning. Experience builds confidence, and confidence is a wonderful thing.

How much do you rely on your feelings about a certain situation or occurrence in the news dictate the story you tell us in your novels?
I have to construct the feelings to fit the scene.

Your career has spanned many years and has been filled with critical acclaim. Does it ever surprise you that you evolve such a eager anticipation for each new release?
All the time, but I like it.

In Mississippi where most of our readers are based, we are faced with a critical case of apathy towards reading and writing. What are your feelings about how the general attitude of books seems to have shifted over the years?
It's my experience that there are more readers and more books than ever. I get a lot of mail from people who tell me they never enjoyed reading until trying one of my books, and now they read all the time. That's very satisfying.

And the electronic age? In talking to librarians in our state, the consensus of visitors are coming to use the internet and not checking out as many books as they would have been 8 or even 10 years ago. In your opinion is that just a sign of the times?
I honestly don't know what that is. My guess is that those people wouldn't be coming at all, if there weren't an internet.

Tying in your books, there always seems to be a sense of morality, no matter what side of the law the characters find themselves on. Do you think this shows it's true that "There is some good in everyone" and are we being too pessimistic about the fate of our youth?
Yes. Normally, you need morality to separate the good from the evil, although I once wrote a book, L.A. Times, in which I set out to make not one of the characters a decent human being (it was set in Hollywood), and people still rooted for the protagonist.

From visiting your site, I know that you get quite a few requests for advice from aspiring authors. Who was inspirational to you in your literary endeavors?
All the writers I read, particularly Mark Twain.

Some of the authors we have talked to, Mr. Woods, tell us that in the beginning it was surreal to go into a store and see their name on books or posters with their face plastered in stores or in magazines. Has there been such a moment for you when it really hit home the magnitude you have made on the literary community?
It happened so gradually that I got used to it over the years. It's not like I was all over the bookstores right away.

Without giving away the plot to our readers, are you able to tell us about your upcoming release?
It brings together most of my continuing characters, including Teddy Fay, in one book.

Thank you again for your time. Anything you want to say to your fans that might be reading this interview?
I thank them for reading my books and making my career possible.

You can learn more about Stuart Woods by clicking here.