Thursday, December 2, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Charles Yu

For most of us, the future is something that is to be looked at with excitement and wonder, not knowing what can happen next. But what if you did know what was going to happen and how your own actions could alter it for the good or the bad? That is one of the lines of thought in author Charles Yu's book HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE*, however, you might be surprised that it's not the only one that readers will pick up on---and Charles wouldn't have it any other way.

After a fascinating interview with Cyrus Webb on Conversations LIVE Radio, Charles Yu gave more of his time to Webb for this Take Ten interview to talk about the premise of the book, how the main character got to share his name and what he hopes is the legacy his children will take away from what he is accomplishing as a writer.

This is their conversation...

Charles, what makes you feel better about being a published author: the response of the readers or how it makes you feel as a writer?

That's a really hard question.  On the one hand, the work is the work, and regardless of whether ten people or ten thousand people have read it, at the time I finished it, I felt like it was a real thing.  Not a perfect thing, but something that I had unearthed, relatively intact, from wherever books come from: The ether?  My heart?  The collective unconscious?  On the other hand, I would be lying if I said that the response of the readers wasn't invigorating.  And I mean both the positive and the negative ones.  To be engaged with people, to have written something that they are responding to emotionally, critically, etc., that connection is sustaining for me.

Are you in any way surprised by the way people are responding to your debut novel HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE?

I think I'm most surprised at how different people's readings of the novel have been.  Some people focus on only the time travel, others on the quantum mechanics/parallel universes, others on the immigrant story, others on the father-son story, others on the fact that it is, in large part, also a story about writing.  It's really been great to hear from people, and to see how varied their responses are.

Take us into the writing of the book. I had the pleasure of interviewing you for Conversations LIVE on the radio and you shared part of your story there. Why did you decide to name the main character after yourself?

Well, the truth really is that I put my own name in as a placeholder, and the story started to develop from there.  After a while, I thought about changing the name, but it felt wrong, like I'd be ripping something out of the fabric of the novel that was too tightly sewn in there.  Plus, it's another layer to the meta-fictional nature of teh story.  Which is not to say it's all (or even mostly) an autobiographical story.  "Charles Yu" and his parents are definitely fictional characters. 

Relationships between people are an important aspect of the book, but so are relationships between man and technology. Do you feel that the advancements we have made in the world have somehow adversely affected the way we deal wih one another?

At the risk of sounding like I'm saying nothing, I'd say that technology can isolate people, can create environments, social, physical, and mental environments, whose net effect is to decrease empathy.  On the other hand, there are technological innovations (maybe some of the same ones) that allow for modes of communication, connection and collaboration that feel new.  Yes, I straddled the fence pretty well there, I think! 

Charles, we sometime hear people talk about if they could go back and undo something in their own lives they would. Have you had that thought, and what would you like to do over if given the chance?

It's hard to say, now that I'm married to the woman of my dreams, and we have two kids.  If I changed anything from before the moment I met my wife, maybe I wouldn't have met her, you know?  What I think about now, on a semi-frequent basis, is how I'm acting today toward people close to me, how I want to act in a way that I'll be happy with at some point in the future looking back.  You know, like making sure I'm taking the time to maintain my relationships with family and friends, that I'm never taking anything, including the luxury of time, for granted.  I know that sounds like a Hallmark card, but I'm for real about this.  Maybe a less cheesy way to say it is that I try to live in a mode of Anticipatory Regret Avoidance.

I have shared with you some of the points I got from the book. As the story's creator, what do you hope people take away from it?

I don't know, really, because I wouldn't want to limit what's in there.  Even though I wrote it, I'm not sure I have any privileged access to the contents of the story or even my own mind.  Readers have repeatedly surprised me with takes on the book that are so insightful and creative that I almost feel like they're doing more of the work in reading than I did in the writing.  It's a family story about time, memory and regret, that's about all I feel comfortable saying!

As you mentioned, you are also a husband and father, Charles. When you look at your children and they see what their dad is doing with your talent,what do you hope that inspires in them?

Above all, I hope that I'm teaching them how to be empathetic, how to see other people.  A lot comes from just that one thing, empathy, right?  Both in terms of how we live and work with other people, and also in terms of producing creative work.  I hope it doesn't sound like I'm moralizing, although maybe that is what I'm doing.

As a published author you are seen as an authority on topics. One of course is the matter of success. What do you say to aspiring writers who want advice about their own careers?

That's kind of you to say, but I hope no one is really looking to me as an authority on anything other than perhaps how to feed a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old at the same time.  And even on that topic, I'm not really an expert (that would be my wife).  My advice for writers starting out is to only work on things that feel absolutely necessary to you, and to do it with conviction.  And lots of rewriting. 

What's next for you?

I've got a couple of things I'm kicking around, but mostly I'm working on another novel.  Too early to say much about it, as it's changing on a daily (or hourly) basis!

Thanks again for this opportunity, Charles. If our readers want more information about you, where can they find you?

Well, speaking of technology, I'm reachable on any number of social networks, including Facebook ( ) and Twitter ( ).  Thank you very much for allowing me this opportunity, Cyrus.  It's been a pleasure. 

* To listen to Webb's interview with author Charles Yu about the book on Conversations LIVE, visit this link: Yu's title was also chosen by Conversations as one of its Top 100 books of 2010. To see the complete listing, visit

Monday, November 29, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author K. D. Koratsky

When you have an idea, it's important to never let anything stop you from pursuing it. Ask author K. D. Koratsky. He has been able to take a seed that was planted in him at the age of eleven and almost two decades later transform it into the book LIVING WITH EVOLUTION OR DYING WITHOUT IT. A native of Redwood City, CA, he talks with Conversations' own Cyrus Webb about the events that shaped his youth, why the word evolution can spark raging debates, and what he hopes readers of his book take away from it.

LIVING WITH EVOLUTION OR DYING WITHOUT IT was chosen as one of Conversations' Top 100 Books of 2010. Here is their conversation...

K. D., thanks for spending a few moments with us. Your first book LIVING WITH EVOLUTION OR DYING WITHOUT IT has been many many years in the making. We will talk about it in a moment. First, I want to discuss your evolution. How has your way of approaching the project changed since the idea for it was born to the time it was published?
My way of approaching the project actually has not changed at all. I began by committing myself to following the evidence wherever it took me, and that will never change. Indeed, I want readers to show me where my conclusions are wrong, so we can all get closer to the truth, and therefore closer to optimal solutions for dealing with life's challenges.

The word evolution has become somewhat of a bad thing to many people, especially people of faith. What do you think is the cause of that?
Generally speaking, people of faith have the same problem with evolution today as they have had with reason and science in centuries past. Ongoing discoveries concerning the natural world have increasingly challenged the traditional religious descriptions of reality that people like and have grown comfortable with. However, specifically speaking, evolution theory is now invading the areas that had been the cordoned-off preserve of the church, including the essences of consciousness and morality. This is a particular problem for people of faith not just because it threatens the last bastions of the theological, but because most fear they will not like the reality that evolution theory defines, in both the existential and social realms.

But, ironically, it is those on the far Left that hold beliefs most defiant of evolutionary principles especially in terms of relativism. Here is it held that there can be no better or worse when it comes to anything involving humankind, including perceptions of what it real. This logically means anything can be considered true, which means that everything can be considered true, or nothing can be considered true; in effect, truth in the eye of the beholder, which means that humans can create a world of their choosing. Needless to say, this concept is at serious odds with the institution of science that assumes there can only be one truth to discover and make use of to the greatest degree possible.

When I was reading the book, K. D., I couldn't help but think that man's evolution has been for the good and the bad. What has struck you the most about how the rise of technology has affected mankind?
What struck me the most about human technological advancement is how it is merely an extension of the technological advancement trends for species overall, and how along the way humans have reproduced, in many cases consciously copying, the technologies possessed by many other species that have been produced in one form or another many times over by natural selection.

This serves as confirmation for what would become the central theme of my book: that there are universal and timeless evolutionary principles that not only dictate all species follow the same basic set of priorities, but that technological advancement will inevitably follow along certain lines in tending to these priorities. Humankind has indeed accelerated these trends, as higher intelligence has allowed for particularly rapid and sophisticated technological development, but the trends have remained fundamentally unchanged.

Let's get to the book. What was your goal when you initially started to write it, and did you see that evolving during the process?
I was born to and raised by a Jewish father and Catholic mother who decided to keep religion out of the family equation to avoid conflict. I was taken to a multi-denominational church once when I was about nine, so I could see what it was like. It was shortly thereafter that some friends asked if I would like to join them in attending Sunday school. While listening to the teacher as she was describing a story in the Bible she came to a part that did not make any sense to me, and I told her so. She told me that was the part I had to take on faith. I asked if that meant that something became true if someone believed it to be true. She said yes, and I knew at that very moment that religion would not be for me, as I simply was not capable of the faith that was required. Even at the ripe old age of nine I sensed that one should have a reason to draw a conclusion about something.

Then it was over the next couple of years that I noticed disagreements on faith were leading to death and destruction all over the planet. And it was around the age of eleven that I concluded there had to be a better way, and I promised myself that someday I would write a book that described rules for human interaction based only on the best evidence available, so that faith-based differences could be transcended and global cooperation could be established using something tangible.

When it was time to begin researching and writing the book some 19 years later, the goal remained the same. I decided upon the history of religion as a jumping-off point since religions of various kinds claimed to have monopolies on the knowledge related to greater truth and morality. Then, it was while reading A History of Religious Ideas, by Mircea Eliade, that I found the history of religion, most ironically, had all the earmarks of an evolutionary progression my first real eureka moment. For while religion became transformed through the ages, most spectacularly with the dawn of agriculture and the rise of tribal mergers, the core principles and themes remained constant throughout the process.

With this I added the works of leading evolution theorists to my research agenda. Certain seemingly workable themes began to materialize right away. But I had another eureka moment a year or so later, when my contemplation surrounding the essence of natural selection paid off while I was dead asleep early one morning (unfortunately my mind works on this stuff 24/7). It came to me that logically natural selection must apply to all that exists including all the features biological structures possess, and all non-biological structures as well because all exists by virtue of its capacity to repel surrounding threats as material self-organization runs its course, as it has from the beginning of time. My project instantly become much more than a quest for rules for human interaction: it became a search for the proverbial big picture by which I could also tease out the optimal rules for human interaction. From here I had to delve into all serious disciplines to see how they would fit into the framework provided by my new grandiose insight. I then spent around 10 years piecing it all together, and another 10 years attempting to tear the thesis apart, so no one else would be allowed the pleasure after publication. The current product is what has been left standing.

How have those in your family and even your friends responded to your finally writing the book?
It has been such an over-the-top undertaking, which has taken so long, I am sure that most everyone figured I would never complete it. My wife has never understood what could possess me to take on such a project and not give up on it. I suppose most are amazed that I made it happen, and to tell you the truth, so am I as I look back on what the entire process has entailed.

Speaking of technology, one of the things that have really taken off over the past few years is social networking, especially sites like Facebook and Twitter. How have they helped you in getting the word out about your book and yourself?
I have not made use of Facebook and Twitter as of yet, but I did just start up my blog which will have posts that show how the vast majority of, if not all, current events and cultural topics can be explained generally using just handful of evolutionary principles. My blog is also designed to be a forum for all to contribute to the cause of creating the most functional policies possible for human groups and individuals alike.

What has surprised you the most about the response to the book, K. D.?
On the positive side, I am surprised by how well reviewers have received it, as I thought its controversial nature would put many off, even though I attempted to be as diplomatic as possible in the presentation of the material considered taboo by most.

On the negative side, the level of reception for certain segments of the population has left me aware of just how polarized American society is. At one end of the spectrum are those on the fiscal and/or social right who are religious to one degree or another. They not only see evolution theory as a threat to their religious sensibilities, but to the American way of life as a whole. For most see socialism/communism, godlessness/atheism, and evolutionism as part of the same package. Meanwhile, the leftists at the other end of the spectrum including progressives, socialists and communists think they are in line with evolutionary reality but they are not, as evolutionary principles very much support the vision of the European Enlightenment thinkers and the founding principles of the U.S. including limited government, free-market capitalism, the standard of merit, and personal responsibility, as my website clearly expresses. So I have quite a marketing challenge on my hands with regard to getting past such perceptions. But overall I am confident that with a little persistence I will be able to break through before long.

I mentioned faith earlier. When a person of faith ask you what they could get from the book, what do you say?
A person of faith will get the same thing from this book as any other: a better understanding of the world around him or her, including the principles that have dictated and will continue to dictate what occurs, including competitive outcomes. Many will choose to reject this knowledge, but this will occur to their detriment, as one will always make better decisions using the best information at hand. So, overall, those who embrace the ideas in my book at some level will likely leave their bloodlines in better shape than they found them. In short, I think people of faith who read my book will feel they have gained more in practical benefits than they have lost in emotional satisfaction and/or in having to question the basis for one belief or another.

Like yourself there have been many individuals who have held on to a dream or goal for some time. What would you say to them about pursuing it?
I have declared many times that I still have trouble wrapping my head around the odyssey I embarked upon so long ago and persisted in for so long thereafter, all while having only fleeting doubts that I would someday be successful. The whole thing probably qualifies as bizarre in any number of ways. And while I won't recommend that others attempt feats so extreme, the result certainly proves that dedication and industriousness can pay off for those who wish to accomplish something significant, even against long odds.

Thanks for your time. How can our readers find out more about you, the book and even how to get their own copy?
All who are interested can find more information about my book, my event schedule, etc., at In addition, the latest reviews can be found at Books can be purchased from all major booksellers.

TAKE TEN: Author Kristina Kilbourne

California native Kristina Kilbourne* has taken a life-long love of reading and books and transformed it into her own literary series. Her first book SHADOWS OF TRUTH is a tale of love, lies and deception that culminate in death and the revealing of secrets. The author spoke with Conversations' Cyrus Webb about her upbringing with books, what guided her to writing and her advice for those who believe they have their own story to tell.

Here is their conversation...

Kristina, when did you realize that you enjoyed books?
I have enjoyed books since I was a little girl. Every night my mom would read to me and I never wanted her to stop.

If I were to have visited you at home 5 years ago, what would I have found on your bookshelf?
The Bible first and foremost, but you would have seen Melody Carson¡¦s "Guitar Girl," "Stephanie Meyer¡¦s "Twilight," and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins series "Left Behind, The Teen Series"

I should let our readers know that you are involved in other areas of entertainment as well. How important is it for you to find avenues to share your talents?
It is very important especially with my music and my plays. The Industry is in this "Do It Yourself" phase and whether you like it or not it is the best opportunity for an artist to have control over who they are and how they are portrayed. For me I like to find ways to incorporate my music, my books, and information about my plays within the same venue or event. If you don¡¦t find avenue¡¦s to be heard then you won¡¦t be.

For many writers the idea for their first book comes from things they have heard about or personally experienced. What about you? How did Shadows of Truth come about?
Shadows of Truth came to me about two years ago. These characters kind of flooded my mind all at once. Honestly, I know that it was God birthing this great seven book series in me, because it was as if I was watching a movie as I was writing it out.

Were people close to you surprised that you were writing a book?
Some were but not my parents. I have been writing since I was a little girl probably just as long as I have been singing.

Writing for many is one thing, but sharing it with the public is sometimes a bigger challenge. How did you make the decision to publish your book?
It took me a while to put Shadows of Truth out because of the fear of sharing it but it got to the point when God had to sit me down and say "Your gifts and talents aren¡¦t about you. You are the vessel carrying them but they¡¦re for the people." I started to realize I was horting stuff that wasn¡¦t mine and that¡¦s pretty selfish so I just stepped out on faith and did it.

Kristina, there are some authors who enjoy the writing process but aren't as excited about the marketing and promotion involved in a book's success. How have you balanced the creative side of writing with the business side?
What a lot of authors don't understand is that they are really one in the same. No one will be a better promoter than the author. Its totally in our hands to set the tone for the promotion and what is great about being creative is it doesn¡¦t have to stop with the last page of a book. Its up to us and should be fun for us to find creative ways to make our books come alive through promotion.

What do you hope people take away from your debut novel?
I hope that people can see a piece of themselves in Shadows of Truth, I hope they laugh, I hope they cry, I hope to inspire forgiveness and spark even the smallest amount of change. It was and is my continued prayer that readers are affected and infected by Shadows of Truth.

Any advice for those interested in getting into print or publishing in 2011?
Do it. If you have a voice that you want heard there is nothing more powerful then a pen and a piece of paper.

Thank you for your time, Kristina, and continued success to you. How can our readers find out more about you?
I am available on my website

* Kristina Kilbourne was also a guest on Conversations LIVE Radio with Cyrus Webb. Listen to her discussion about Shadows of Truth here:

Monday, October 4, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Mikki Zimmerman

by Cyrus Webb for Conversations Magazine (

If you are looking for a book that is sure to be a discussion piece, I would suggest you take a look at Monroe, LA native Mikki Zimmerman's "CAN I GET A WITNESS? 21 Frustrations of Black Women (Including Me)". Packed with issues that people around the world are dealing with, Zimmerman takes her conversations with black women from across the United States and addresses issues that she feels need to be addressed.

In this conversation she talks about her direct approach, why she singled out black women for her subject matter and how the internet is helping her to spread the word and reach a new audience. 

Mikki, thank you for taking out the time to talk with Conversations Magazine. First,  when did you realize that you had an interest in writing?

I would have to say my freshman year in college - Fall '91.  My professors always complimented me on my writing skills and a few even suggested that I pursue writing as a career.  The interest was there but I eventually took the business route.  Even though I stumbled back to writing a few years ago.

Have you always been a person who didn't mind sharing their opinions on issues?

Always!  I have never been shy about giving my opinion.  I've been called "judgmental" quite a few times in my life; but my family and real friends know that I am a very passionate person.  Not judgmental at all.  Just real passionate about my beliefs. 

Of all the things you could have written about, why the issues of frustrations for women of color?

Great question Cyrus!  Keep in mind, I conducted the research for the book in 2006.  This was one year after the destruction of Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast.  Talk about frustrations!  You could see it in the faces of African-American women everywhere.  Even through my online research.  They vented to anyone who would listen.  Basically, the need was far too great for me to ignore the subject.  And I had a few frustrations of my own, so I threw those in the book as well. 

Mikki, you and I had the opportunity to talk on Conversations LIVE about your book and the topics you address. I mentioned to you that I thought men and women of any race could appreciate what you had to say. Have you heard similar things from others?

Actually, I've heard it from a few people.  My mom's physician, who is white, was intrigued after a 30 minute conversation about the book and he stated, "You could have deleted the word 'Black' because white women have the same frustrations too".  I chatted with a few of my white readers as well.  And they echoed the same setiments.

Now that the book is out and people are talking about it, what would be success for you in the way the book is received?

Being recognized as an author and getting lots of attention from readers is great but that is not the reason I wrote the book.  Success for me is getting people to really understand black women.  I mean fully understand us.  Like I said in the book, everyone is so quick to talk about angry black women.  But no one is willing to take the time to find out why many of us (not all) are so frustrated.  Getting readers - men and women of all races - to see black women in a different light after reading my book would definetly fullfill the purpose of my writing this book.

Outside the traditional booksignings and literary events, do you see yourself doing speaking engagements about the topics in the book or hosting panels to create some real dialoge about the topic?

Defintely.  I have already spoken to administators with public libraries throughtout Northeast Louisiana to do workshops on this topic as well as others.  I've also been asked to do a workshop at my church for our Annual Women's Day Conference.  I've spoken to a few radio personalities about appearances.  So yeah, I have a few speaking engagements lined up in the near future.

I want to talk about your promotional campaign for the book for  moment. How effective have social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter been in getting the word out about your book as well as just meeting new people, whether its readers or fellow authors?

For me, social networking has been great!  I don't have a Twitter account but I live on Facebook!  My book sales have increased dramatically since advertising on Facebook.  And I have connected with so many authors and old friends and classmates.  I just love it!

There were many topics you didn't get a chance to address in your first book, Mikki, so is that your setup for the second one or do you plan on going in another direction?

Actually, I am working on my second book.  This one is geared toward teens and young adults.  It's more a manual than a book and it addresses conflict resolution.  I am so tired of seeing young black men waste their lives behind bars or buried six feet under prematurely.  I am a single mother to a young black male so this subject is near and dear to my heart.  So again, I will pour all of my passion and emotions into this one as well.  Stay tuned!

Any advice for aspiring writers that you would like to share based on your own experience with publishing?

Wow, where do I began?  I would start by saying this publishing business is RUTHLESS!  If you cannot handle rejection, you are in the wrong business.  You must learn to take rejection first. . .because you will receive it.  And it may come from family members or even friends.  So be prepared to face it.  Secondly, never give up!  I don't care if no one else believes in your project except you.  Never give up!  Your dream of becoming a published author will come true.  Keep believing and continue to move forward. 

Thanks again, Mikki for this opportunity. How can our readers keep in touch with you online?
Thank you Cyrus for everything you have done in helping promote my book.  May God continue to bless you!  I can be found on Facebook, of course.  My book is available at Amazon and  It can also be purchased at the publisher website which is or by calling 888-795-4274.  And you can catch my bi-monthly column - Back and Forth with Mikki - on  Thanks again!

TAKE TEN: Author Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

I have been a fan of New York Times bestselling author Nancy Taylor Rosenberg for quite some time, so I saw it as a privilege to have the opportunity to interview her not just for my radio show but Authors Take Ten as well. Over the years she has captivated readers of both sexes, giving the world stories that are as intriguing as they are addictive. The Dallas, Texas native moved to West Hills, CA this year and also released her latest page-turner called MY LOST DAUGHTER.

She talked with me about her writing career, what inspired one of the themes of the new book and had a surprising response to what she would tell aspiring writers today.

Here is our conversation:

Nancy, it is an honor to have this time to talk with you. I want to first ask you if you are at all surprised about the fact that you have been able to transition so well from a fulfilling legal career to a literary one?
I always thought I could write a book, but I never dreamed I would actually be published and that my first novel would hit the New York Times Bestseller list. As far as transitioning, as a criminal investigator I wrote what could be referred to as mini novellas. A prosecutor once said I could "write a man into prison."

Do you remember when you realized that you had a book in you that you wanted to share with the world?
About ten years before my first novel, MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES, was published I wrote a novel in longhand. After asking a few friends to read it, I became discouraged and the book was never published. I knew MITIGATING was something special because I stood up to type the ending, which in itself isn't an easy thing to accomplish.

What about support? How has it changed from your beginning of your decision to pursue writing until now?
I took a “Novels in Progress” course at UCLA and had a brilliant professor named Leonardo Bercovici. He told me I could write a good book and I believed him. My husband and family didn't support me until the money started coming in. I wrote my first book on a Smith Corona word processor. As soon as I got my first contract, my husband bought me a new computer, a new printer, and a fax machine.

For five years I have been a fan of yours, and it seems as though men and women are enthralled by your work. Was there any expectation of that in the beginning?
I suspected I might attract both male and female readers because my books are somewhat of a hybrid. Because of my background in the criminal justice system, my thrillers are very authentic and at that time women were mainly writing softer books. But I always incorporate romance as my characters have real lives. I also write sex scenes.

Nancy, you have catapulted into one of our most respected authors in the industry. What does that level of success mean to you, and what kind of pressure does it bring with it?
I enjoyed having my books on the bestseller list, but it was terribly stressful. We would get a copy of the list every Wednesday and if my book had fallen off, I would run to my room and sob. I also wrote fifteen hours a day, which was exhausting and later damaging to my spine.

Publishing has changed quite a bit since you first burst onto the scene. Some who were around when you first were published aren't still in demand as they once were. What do you think has been the key to your fans and new readers gravitating to you?
I’m not certain they have as my numbers have steadily fallen. But I’ve written thirteen novels, and had my big successes. It’s all about how much a publisher is willing to spend promoting you, and right now, they’re not willing to spend big money. The recession has hit the publishing industry hard.

Talk to us about the new book.
MY LOST DAUGHTER is a thriller, but it also deals with the greed and corruption in the private psychiatric industry.

Are parts of MY LOST DAUGHTER based on your own experiences?
In 1990, I went to the ER thinking I was having a heart attack. After waiting all night to see the doctor, someone in a uniform came to get me in an ambulance and took me out of the hospital with a blanket over my head. I later realized I had been kidnapped by an unscrupulous and corrupt private mental hospital who received kickbacks from various ER doctors for referring patients. The only requirement was that they had insurance. When I got to the hospital, they administered dangerous, mind altering drugs. I was restricted from making phone calls to my family and friends, and they were in turn told that I refused to speak to them or see them.

Since I was a probation officer at the time, I was horrified that something like this could happen and that a patient in a mental hospital had fewer rights than a prisoner. The hospital was later investigated by the attorney general's office for what they called "patient snatching." At the time, unknown to me when I was kidnapped, this was common practice throughout Texas.

There are men and women who are in one profession, have a true love for writing but don't know if they have what it takes to make it. What advice would you give them?
Many agents say they are looking for people who feel “compelled to write.” I think this is a good sign of talent. I felt this way. I simply couldn’t stop writing. With the recession and the state of the book business right now, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone try to break into the business. On the other hand, a person who has never been published who writes a terrific book might be more appealing than someone who has had a few flops. It’s all about the numbers.

Since books becoming movies is the dream of so many authors today, which one of your books would you like to see brought to be big screen if you had your way?
They made one of my novels into a movie and it was awful. My name wasn’t on it, so I was lucky. Most novelists don’t like the way Hollywood adapts their novels.

Find out more information about Nancy by visiting her website:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TAKE TEN: Director/Author Gary Hardwick

Gary Hardwick is the very definition of a creative powerhouse. The Detroit native is the man behind some of the great movies of the past decade including The Brothers and Deliver Us From Eva and hit tv shows like Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, but there is more to him than what you see. He has even been an integral part of what we read as well, producing several books over the years that have sparked conversation and satisfied readers.

Candid, approachable yet undeniably a force to be reckoned with, the Los Angeles, CA resident talks to Cyrus Webb of Conversations Magazine about his career in entertainment, how he balances his various roles and what all aspiring creatives need to know about the business.


Gary, thanks for talking with Conversations. Let's talk first about your career in the arts and entertainment as a whole. What has surprised you the most about what you have accomplished? 
That I actually accomplished it. I was very naive about Hollywood. I thought it was a place where all you had to have was talent. There is so much more to it, like hard work, perseverance, politics and yes, luck.

Take us back. When did you realize that you were good at telling a story?
I was 12 and one of my teachers read one of my stories in class and there was silence. All these knucklehead kids just shut up and listened.

Was it something that was encouraged by your family and those around you?
No and you'll hear this from most writers. No family wants their son to be a writer because it seems like a pipedream. And your friends? They never want anyone to achieve more than they have. I hate to sound cynical but it is hard to have a public dream. Most of us kept it quiet until we couldn't anymore.

When it comes to a big break, Gary, what would you say it was for you?  This is a tough one because looking back it could have been many things.
But I'd have to say it was being selected by the Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program. There were 1,000 or so entrants and only four of us made it in.

Some know you because of your work on movies, but you have had a great deal of success as an author as well. Have you found that your being diversified as also brought you different fans for each project?
Yes and I am trying to get them to consolidate! My film fans say "You wrote a book?" and I say "I've written eight." Book fans never quite put me together with the movies.  I've spent so much time trying to get one of my books made into a film. So far, I've sold three but none have made it to the screen.  I think that when it happens the two camps will come together.

All of us experience highs and lows. How do you stay motivated when things don't go our way? 
I write. I just sit down and create something new.  Writers are the only people who don't need anyone else to get their job done. We are self-originating you could say.  Fan emails and posts on Facebook also help.

Talk to us about the next book you are getting ready to release.
It's titled Darktown Redemption and it's a mystery thriller set in 1967 and '68.  There was a riot in Detroit in 1967 then Dr. King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated and the Black militants came into the city to stir up a violent revolution.  In my novel, a boy is killed after the riots and his brother a Vietnam Vet turns detective to find the killers while history swirls around him.  The book is based in part on true events and I hope everyone will read it in Black History Month 2011.

What advice do you have, Gary, for individuals wanting to break into Hollywood? 
Go to college, become educated, get married have a life. Experience life and have something to write about. These days everyone wants to write a screenplay and cash out. It just doesn't work that way no matter what you've read. They make up so many b.s. success stories out here. No one stumbles into success. You work for it or it's given to you because of who your parents are.  That's just the plain honest truth.

What about for writers? What do you normally tell those who want to know the secret of being published?
There is no secret anymore. The publishing business is a wreck. Self-publishing, regional publishing, digital books, e-readers are the future of our medium. The publishers are trying to compete with Hollywood by creating franchises and bastardizing our most artistic undertaking. If you want to get published the best way now is to prove it to them by doing it yourself.  Point of fact, Darktown Redemption caught the fancy of two major publishers but both wanted me to change the story in opposing ways. So, having already had success in publishing a novel under my own imprint, I decided to do it again and keep all the money.

Thanks again for your time. How can our readers keep up with everything you have going on?
They can go to my website and look under the title "What's Going On." they can also join my FaceBook page and read my blog at

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

TAKE TEN: Actress/Author/Entreprenuer Cherie Johnson

There is only one word that truly describes the young woman that is Cherie Johnson: Driven. After starring on shows like Punky Brewster and Family Matters as a chid, she has blossomed into a creative force to be reckoned with, not only acting, but executive producing, writing songs and balancing her love of work in front of and behind the camera.

In 2010, Cherie added a new title to her name, that of author. And if the rest of her life is any indication of what will happen in this new arena, the world better watch out.

On Tuesday, September 7, 2010, Cherie joined Shadow Play Entertainment's literacy campaign called TAKE TIME TO READ as the national spokesperson, sharing her thoughts on why reading is so important no matter what your career. She took out time out of promoting her first book Around The World Twice to talk with Cyrus Webb of Conversations Magazine about her journey, her success and what's next for her. 

Cherie, I know you are busy, so I really appreciate your taking out the time to speak with us. Many of our readers will know you from television, so let's start there. Looking back on it all, what has surprised you the most about where you came from and where you are today?

 Thank you so much for the interview. I think what surprises me most is this right here. The fact that people would want to interview me, that what I did 27 years ago on Punky Brewster would turn into a career. I honestly did not realize that I was working, or I was what people call "famous". I was just having fun doing what I love and feel so blessed that I have continued that.

 Did you expect the road of success that you have been blessed with while growing up?


       I knew very early on I was going to strive to be successful. I didn't know it would come through entertainment. I had plans on becoming an architect, and an author.


When did the stars seem to align for you? What project seemed to be your big break and what happened next?

 For me the realization click in 2005 while I was Co-executive producing and acting in a film called "Dead Tone". I have loved horror films since I was a small child, and here I was on set not just acting but producing. I was tickled. I went through a major reflection period on my life. From there on out it was simple I have the power to make all my dreams come true. Since then I have produced 5 other projects and wrote 1.


With some child stars it seems as though we always want to remember them that way and don't expect them to really grow up. Did you have any fear of what would happen to you as time went by and you got older?

 Never a fear but definitely have a point to prove to make people see me as the 34-year-old woman I am.  When I was working on Punky Brewter and Family Matters I never thought about it at all. I was a kid I didn't even realize I was working much less the impact that I was making on my own life as well as the life of other peoples. I never got into the habit of being an avid TV watcher so I didn't understand fully the impact it has on other people lives. I still don't think I fully comprehend it and I am floored daily when approached by people who either liked or disliked characters that I have played and the fact that people have a really hard time depicting between what is fact and fiction. People believe I am the character's I get paid to play. "Its crazy" but it's a compliment because it means I am doing my job well.

 Being in the public eye at any age is not easy. How did you avoid some of the pitfalls that have overtaken so many throughout the years?


       My job doesn't define who I am as a person. Fame is one of the most addicting drugs ever. I have never sought fame nor am I addicted to anything! I love what I do its my passion, if my passion is ever taken away God forbid I have many other goals. My mom told me early on the only stars in the world are in the sky.

  The reason we are speaking to you know is because of a new career you have begun this year, that of author. How did this come about, and when did you realize that writing was something you were interested in?

                            When I was 5 years old I made my mother a book out of paper and yarn. She told me it was the best book she had ever read! I promised her that one day I was going to have books in the library. See the library was really important to me when I was little. We didn't have one in my hometown Duquesne PA because white people burnt it down in 1968 because they didn't want black people to swim in their pool.

My mother would take me two towns over every week to check out a book. I was in love with the building. It was huge, white with pillars and had more books than I could count. The library was the most beautiful place I had ever seen (I'm from the hood). I always knew I wanted a piece of me to live in that building. 30 years later my dream is coming true.

The first book was recently released. What is the title and tell us what it is about?

 Around The World Twice is a story about two best friends whose lives are synonymous, despite the different social circles they traveled in. It is a story of true friendship in which both ladies, together, contribute to building each other up in order to become better and stronger women, as well as triumphant for love of self and one another.

Ashley is a successful half Black-half Latina female living a glamorous lifestyle of a Hollywood movie star, or so it would seem, if you were on the outside looking in. Truth is, she is tired of failed relationships and is fearful of being alone. She struggles to find love and begins to question herself.

 Lillian cashed in on the normal life of a housewife early...marrying the guy all the girls wanted back in high school, house, white picket fence, etc..she was living the American Dream. Her dream life soon becomes one that resembles a nightmare, leaving her vulnerable.

After an invitation and a lot of persuasion from her friend Ashley, Lillian decides to leave the security of her long time home in New York and move to Los Angeles. It is there that she realizes maybe she has more in her life to change than she may have initially thought...

 From what I understand, you have been signed to publish seven books. Some aspiring writers would be happy with just one. Do you feel any pressure for this phase of your life to be a success?


 I don't feel pressure; I think success comes when you love what you do. I love writing and the power if gives me to convey my story to an audience. The reward for me is then receiving their feedback. It's all about having fun and I enjoying being able to share my life with others. The real success is when I get to hear I have touched someone else's soul because a piece of my work stays with them forever.


Outside of the writing, what's next for you?


I have more films I will be producing and a TV show in development. This new chapter in my life is providing lots of opportunity that I will not let slip by. Sky is the limit!

 Thanks again for the time, Cherie. How can our readers stay updated on everything you are doing today?

Thank you so much I appreciate you for giving me this platform. I keep everything updated regularly. I can be found on  or .

Thursday, August 19, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Nigel Barto

Though he has been writing for some time, Silver Spring, MD native Nigel Barto is enjoying incredible success and recognition with his second novel Nick, Dontae, Gus and Jack.The book deals with the lives of friends who are still discovering things about themselves and each other as they pursue success and happiness---yet there are also personal demons they have to overcome along the way. The author can relate to the plight of his characters as he strives to live authentically in his own life from day to day.
In this interview with Cyrus Webb of Conversations Magazine, Nigel talks about all of this and even gives some advice for aspiring writers as well.

Nigel, thanks for taking out time to talk with us. Before we get into the new book, I want to give our readers a little background. When did you realize that writing was something you were interested in?
I think writing was always my thing but I didn't realize it until much later. In the second grade, I began writing "Rose are Red, Violets are Blue" poems to my mom. As time went on, I wrote little stories and poems, and jotted notes and ideas down in books and journals. After college, I took a trip to Paris to study for a few months. I was a "starving student" (laughs) living on little, and did some travelling outside of Paris, but was naive about getting in and around countries. When it was time to leave France to return to the US, I decided to visit family in London before attempting to fly from Belgium back to Washington, DC. With visa issues, no money, heavy luggage, and no return ticket in hand, it was to be picked up in Belgium, my journey turned into quite an ordeal. When I made it back and saw my mom, a flood of words spilled out about my experiences. I recounted the whole trip and she said, you know Nigel, you should write a story about it. And so I began. I wrote a piece called "Returning Home", and fell in love with creating stories. I eventually wanted to write novels, but also at times it was a good enough release to write anything whether it was an email to a friend, a note to myself, or just writing about what I saw and heard on the bus or in the streets.

Was there a thought in the beginning that you would take that love of words and actually translate that into books that people would buy?
Books that people would buy...calling myself a writer and an know, I'm still stepping up to that plate. Sure, folks have bought my books and I am an author. But did I imagine when and how I would be here? Not exactly. I'm a dreamer and I hoped I would still be writing, but where that would take me I wasn't sure. Firstly, I write for me, and I try to embrace what comes. You know, I have a few plays sitting in a trunk still to be produced, and a bunch of ideas and no stories yet. So I experience the world around me until words come and take over.

Alot of people talk about writing a book. You have actually done it twice. What do you think separates you from people who just talk about doing something instead of actually doing it?
Well you have to want to see it through to the end. It's creative and rewarding and cathartic, but it's work nonetheless. You have to give time and discipline to it. It's you by yourself with your characters. That's not always a fun night (laughs). You also need to balance that with social interaction and living outside of your home or the place where you write. And of course life can get in the way, right?

I have read your second book Nick, Dontae, Gus and Jack, and there are quite a few social issues that you address in it. What was your first book called, and what led you to write it?
My first book is called, "Private Sessions". I was living in Los Angeles when I began writing it. I used moody, lonely, out of control, not in control, and striving to succeed feelings I had bottled up, and channeled those energies into writing and this story took over. I used to listen to other authors being interviewed on like Oprah or some other show. They would talk about their characters as though they were real people outside of themselves and say how a character wanted to do this and a character decided to do that, etc, and I used to think how crazy. Didn't they write the story? How do they not know the whole story? The characters are talking to them? But, I have to say I had that experience time and time again with "Private Sessions". I would wake up in the middle of the night and think, omg, Jordy is about to do this or this thing is about to happen to him. Jordy Blackwell is the main character in the book. He experiences death, loss, pines for the girl he loves, and finds himself in between careers. Besides my mom, I had a couple motivators along the way. A small publisher in Florida wrote me a two page letter giving me positive feedback on the story and that was inspiring. And an editor in Atlanta made me dig deeper. She said to me, Who gives a f*ck about Jordy?, why do we want to know him?"

Recording artists talk alot about the sophomore jinx, especially when their first product seemed to do well. Did you worry about that yourself?
No I didn't worry about the sophomore jinx with my second novel. It's just a different story I wanted to share.

Tell our readers about Nick, Dontae, Gus and Jack.
My second novel is about friendships, relationships, and choices we make in life. Nick, Dontae, Gus and Jack are friends who met years ago in school. They've graduated, and they're working and living on their own. It's summertime, and while folks want to get away to the beach, the friends are grappling with live, love, career, and being true to who they are. Nick dreams of having his first love Manny again like the first time. Dontae tries to hold on to his current love Drew while working in the entertainment industry. Gus wants to find love and his mother, and in the meantime writes songs and pursues a career in music. And Jack strives to balance work and home life by doing things that hopefully makes her partner Piere happy. The friends live, hope, dream, and try to be true to themselves.
Nigel, one of the biggest points I got from the new book is the importance of knowing who you are inspite of what you might achieve or happens around you. How do you apply that principle in your own life, and why is that something readers should consider as well?
I'm definitely a work in progress. That sounds cliche but it's true. I change my mind and sometimes I'm unpredictable or I'd like to think so. But that being said, my journey is still to live authentically, to be me, and live as me: the best me I can. I think we should strive for that. We need to figure out what we want and need, what our likes and dislikes are, and love ourselves first.

What else do you hope people take away from the new book?
Love isn't easy but it's worth it. You have to work at life and relationships. And also, I hope for more acceptance and openness as LGBT and straight lives evolve. It's different and the same, it's everything and anything, and for some, nothing at all. It just is. It's a part of everyday life, often times smoothly and seemlessly showing up among the living and the dare to live.

Any advice you want to share with aspiring writers who might be reading this conversation?
Write! Start writing! Keep writing! It's a message I heard years ago and I believe it. Practice your craft and do what you love to do.

Thanks again for taking out this time, Nigel. If our readers want to find out more about you or keep up with you online, how can they do so?
I welcome readers to find me on Facebook or send me a tweet on Twitter.
(NOTE: Listen to Nigel Barto discuss his career as an author and his new book on Conversations Magazine here:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Juan Gomez-Jurado

International bestselling author Juan Gomez-Jurado is living the dream of many aspiring writers at this point in his life. His first book GOD'S SPY was a runaway success, garnering the attention of critics and eager readers. Now his second novel THE MOSES EXPEDITION is mesmerizing some of the biggest names in the literary world along with others who are finding out about this skilled wordsmith.

Conversations' own Cyrus Webb had a chance to ask a few questions of the author* just as the book was being released in August 2010, covering how he feels about what he has accomplished, what it feels like to be so well-received and even what he would say to those who feel as though they have a book inside of them but haven't taken the steps to bring it to life.

Juan, thanks for taking out the time to talk with us. Before we talk about your latest book, I want to first of all congratulate you on your success.Are you surprised at how your work has been received all around the world?

Thanks a lot and yes, actually! When I finished writing my first novel I thought that my wife and my parents would be my only audience. That feeling was fortunately wrong. 

I know that before you were a published author you were a journalist. When did you realize that writing was something you were interested in and that you had a love affair with words?

When I was a small kid I always said that I wanted to become a journalist. When people asked "Why?" I always said "Because Clark Kent is one". In Spain there's an old refrain for that kind of situations: God writes straight with twisted lines.

Was writing something that those around you initially supported?

Yes, actually I would be nothing without my father. I grew up in a very poor family. When he came back home from his second job, he found me in bed. He was so tired that he always had black circles around his eyes, but even so he always came to my room and told me a story that he invented on spot. A different one, everyday, since I was born till the moment I was able to read by myself. He never repeated a plot. I think that my father was the biggest narrator I've ever met.

With your first book taking off the way it did, were there any worries with the release of the new book when it came to the expectations game?

Great question! There were worries. Tons of them. I'm still worried! You know, I met once the Nobel Prize Camilo José Cela. He was in his eighties and was literally swimming in money and awards. After a couple of hours of conversation I asked him about his new novel, coming out the following week. He told me that he was scared to the bone about it. How do you think that a 32 years old author can feel about his sophomore book?

The newest release is called THE MOSES EXPEDITION. Tell our readers about it.

It's the biggest adventure novel since War and Peace. No, seriously, it's a thriller about an expedition to the Jordan Desert in search of a big secret buried in the sand for centuries. Let me tell you something: this Expedition is based in a thorough research and many real facts. And I will tell no more!

The discussion of religion and politics is one that all of us are involved in from day to day. How much do your own personal views of the two influence the world you create for your characters?

I've visited 37 countries and counting. I've lived in tents in the desert with bedouins, eat rats in the Amazon, rode camels in Saudi Arabia, prayed in the Ganges and watched the Jerry Springer Show. I had a full life! I mean, the more you travel and see other people and cultures you discover that we are all the same. Finding differences between a bedouin and a Manhattan lawyer is harder than it seems. I think that a little bit of this can be found in the book, along with explosions and SUV chases in the dunes.

Like the first novel, it seems as though THE MOSES EXPEDITION is garnering great reviews from not just critics and avid readers. Your own literary peers are singing your praises, too. What does that feel like to have authors you respect enjoying your work?

That means I have a lot of dinners to pay. Just joking! I think that Atria Books, and specially Johanna Castillo and David Brown did an amazing job asking well stablished authors to read The Moses Expedition. It happens that months ago I was a mere fan of people like Brad Thor, Matthew Pearl or Steve Berry. When I see their names in the cover of the book I still feel amazed.

Aspiring writers are always wondering what advice authors like you have for them in their careers. What do you normally tell them?

Write, write and write. What elsa can be said? The only way to publish a book is to write a good book. If your first book don't find an audience, write another one and so on. Obviously is easy to say than to accomplish. But hey, who said that good things in life were free. 

For some success would have been having one book published and available in stores. You now have two. How have your ideas about success evolved, and what is the definition of success for you now?

I think that books are a success of their own. I mean, I have a good idea and write a good story. That's nice. But then it cames an incredible process in which you have very little to say. Editing, designing, promoting, distributing... and if you are very very lucky, the book, one between thousands, it happens to sell. And that's why I always say that success is not mine, but reader's. There are 3 million of them out there, and I only can give them a big THANK YOU!

Thanks again, Juan. How can our listeners keep up with you and your upcoming work online?
Thanks to you Cyrus! You can always follow me in Facebook:  or check The Moses Expedition website ( I would like to share with you also the booktrailer:  and the making of The Moses Expedition: (

*Thanks to David Brown at Simon & Schuster for making this interview with the author possible.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Electa Rome Parks


Bestselling author Electa Rome Parks has been thrilling readers for years, yet her newest book is not only causing a buzz because of her incredibe writing, but for the issues it raises as well. The Atlanta native talked with Cyrus Webb of Conversations Book Club and Conversations Magazine about her journey in the literary world, the messages of her new book DIARY OF A STALKER, how sex is used today in selling readers on a book and what's next for her.

Here is their conversation:

Electa, thanks for taking out the time to talk with Conversations. I want to start off by talking with you about your journey as an author. What has surprised you the most about your success over the years?

Thank you for having me. Wow, Cyrus! This is a hard question and I have thought about how to answer it for a few days now. I have never, ever, been thrown by an interview question before:} I guess there is a first for everything.

I think my biggest surprise about my success has been how deeply readers embrace and react to my characters. My imperfect, flawed characters become real to them and readers ask about them at signings or via email as if they are real people. That connection, that bond of my readers to my characters is magical to me. Absolutely priceless!

Your newest book DIARY OF A STALKER is just the latest in what has been an amazing career for you. For those who might not know your other titles, run them down for them.

My titles are The Ties That Bind, Loose Ends, Almost Doesn't Count, Ladies' Night Out, These Are My Confessions, Diary of a Stalker and coming soon, True Confessions (January 2011)

I think you would agree, Electa, that with each new challenge we face, there is some form of uncertainty. When it comes to the road you have travelled as a writer, has there ever been a time when you thought that maybe this wasn't going to work for you?

I admit I have questioned the politics of the literary industry but I have never, ever questioned my strong desire to write. Failure has never been an option.

Cyrus, this is a great, timely question because I have discovered or should I say confirmed many facts about myself during the course of writing and completing Diary of a Stalker. First of all, let me say, I think this was one of the quickest books I have ever written. It was like there was a passion and fire lit underneath me that consumed me, that burned from within and I couldn't tell the story fast enough.

Lessons learned: I've learned that writing is a critical part of my very being, much like breathing. No matter what changes the industry may bring, I'm still going to write. That's an absolute, undeniable fact. I've learned that I truly do love writing and it loves me back ten-fold. I'm faithful to it and it rewards me by bringing unbridled joy and happiness to my life.

I've learned that I can try to run and hide, but it's always going to seek me out, find me, much like a stalker, and remind me who and what I really am. That can't be denied or taken away or diminished. Just like I'll die an African American woman, I'll also die with the spirit and soul of a writer.

I've learned that writing speaks to me like no other regardless of whatever goes down, even if I have to write for free and for my eyes only, I'll still rise because if you know who you are---all the rest doesn't even matter. What's meant for me is meant for me and no one or any entity can take that away. With a strong voice meant to be heard, I'll strive and survive.

With every book there seems to be not just a great read but a message that the reader can take away. In DIARY OF A STALKER there are many messages. Where did the idea for the book come from?

Diary of a Stalker: a best-selling male author gets more than he bargained for when he meets a fanatical female fan. What starts out as a one-night stand quickly spirals out of control and into a dangerous game of obsession and pain. �@

Since it had been a couple of years since my last novel, Ladies�f Night Out, dropped, I wanted this new release to be something a little different from my previous novels. Yet, I wanted to maintain the core elements that my books are known for. So the drama, the fast-paced nature, the steamy relationship-based elements are still alive and well.

I attend a lot of literary events such as conferences, signings, workshops, etc. After awhile, I started to notice a pattern no matter what city or state I was in. Even though the avid readers, mostly female, poured much love my way, I noticed the male authors received an extra dose. Maybe because there aren�ft as many male authors? And I noticed, if I attended a large event, I would see some of the same female readers around the same male authors. Hmmmm. So then, I started thinking about how groupies follow rock banks, rappers, professional athletics and entertainers. Why wouldn�ft this exist in the literary arena as well? Throw a few over the top "what if questions" into the mix and Diary of a Stalker was born.

It is hard to find one of the main characters in DIARY that doesn't have some form of baggage and is�@without fault. Was one of the messages you wanted to get across, that no matter what our backgrounds or what we have that we still have the same problems?

No, that wasn't one of my intentional messages, but it certainly could be a message pulled from Diary of a Stalker. I feel Diary of a Stalker had so many messages, much like all of my books. My main point was that men and women shouldn't be so eager to immediately have an intimate relationship without really getting to know a person first.

Your book also touches on an issue with the writer Xavier Preston that is discussed quite a bit in the entertainment industry: the using of sex and sex appeal to push products. Have you found that to be something that readers have picked up on and that has resonated with them?

Yes, it has resonated with many readers. My readers went into reading Diary of a Stalker, I think, feeling that the storyline was going to be cut and dry. Xavier was good and Pilar was going to be bad. However, that wasn't necessarily the case; it wasn't that black and white. Many thought Xavier received exactly what he deserved.

Writing about sex is one thing, but I'm curious as to what�@your personal thoughts about authors using their own sexuality to get attention.

The old adage that sex sells is very true, even in the literary industry. Literally. I have seen it up close and personal at various literary events and conferences I have attended over the years. Personally, I have never used my sex appeal or sexuality to get attention. I believe an author's talent or an interesting storyline should be the lure to encourage a reader to pick up a book. That should speak for itself. The literary industry is similar to the music industry in many ways; after all, both are part of the entertainment industry. These days authors have to have the total package (good looks and charm doesn't hurt) to stand out from the overly saturated marketplace.

However, I try not to be judgmental, so I say to each his own.

I want to shift to your role as an example and mentor for others. What would you say to authors that are just starting out and wondering how they can mirror the success and longevity of someone like yourself?

I know this is going to sound sappy, but so be it. Follow your dreams, believe in yourself and never give up. Picture where you want to be a year from now, five years from now and claim that space. We all have stories to tell, but there are only a few of us who actually sit down and put pen to paper. That makes you unique in itself.

Believe in your gift and use it every day. Network and surround yourself with people and places that uplift and promote your creativity. Listen to your inner spirit. The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your own thinking.

And last, but certainly not least, write "something" every day. And remember, it's true; you can't please all the people all the time. If you believe in what you write and you're passionate about what you write, readers will pick up on that aura.

Keep the faith and it will come.

Success definitely comes in different forms. What does success look like for Electa Rome Parks today?

Good question. Personally, I define success as being able to do something you truly love on a day to day basis, getting paid for it in the process, giving back to the community (to whom much is given, much is expected) and being the best person you can be which enables you to sleep peacefully at night. To me, those combined elements make you a successful person. And if you place God and your family first, the sky's the limit!

Thank you for your time, Electa. If our readers want to keep in touch with you, what is the best way to reach you online?

My readers (I'm so possessive) can stay abreast of my world at any of my sites below. I also adore chatting with my readers because I greatly value and appreciate their feedback and support. They can drop me a note at

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

TAKE TEN: Author Michael Dillon Scott

He might be one of Ireland's favorite sons, but international bestselling author Michael Dillon Scott has become a worldwide phenomenon. With over 100 titles in print over the past two decades, he has managed to garner a readership that expands the young and old, male and female, and it's obvious that in the process he is loving it just as must as those who buy his books. While in the states promoting his latest release, Scott took out some time to answer some questions from Conversations' Cyrus Webb discussing not only his beginnings as a writer, how he has kept himself going over the years and also gives advice for aspiring writers. This interview truly has something for everyone.

Michael, first of all thank you for taking out time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. You have been a piece of the world's literature for over two decades. Are you surprised at the body of work you have amassed over the years?

It constantly surprises me.  I never set out to create a body of work.  It sort of crept up on me over the years.  Twenty-five years ago I wanted to tell a series of Irish folklore and legends which had not been told for a very long time.  That collection became Irish Folk & Fairy Tales.  It led to a second collection and then a third. I think all my work has flowed naturally from the previous books.  Folklore leading to fantasy fiction, then  into historical fiction and horror, before ultimately leading to the new series which is a mixture of just about everything I've read and studied over the past twenty-five years.

Your journey as an author began in the early 80s. What was it that first drew you into writing in the first place?

There were really three factors.  I was working as a bookseller in Dublin, Ireland.  Every day boxes of books arrived, most of them by authors people never hear of.  It was those writers, who did book after book, year after year, who really brought it home to me that it was possible to write successfully for a living. 

The second reason was that I had become aware of a vast body of Irish folklore that was either not available or only available in out-of-print Victorian collections.  I wanted to bring those stories to a modern audience.  In my rather youthful ignorance (or maybe arrogance), I thought I could do that.  I mean – how hard could it be?  I discovered just how hard very quickly!

Thirdly, I was a reader, a voracious reader and if you are a reader, then sooner or later, you will want to try to tell your own stories.

At the time when you started writing there were still a number of people especially in the states that believed you couldn't achieve real success as a writer until after you were dead. Did you have people telling you in the beginning that it wouldn't work out well for you, and if so, what kept you going?

People said that all the time, indeed, some still say it.  Really it is how you define success.  I would suggest that getting one book published is a success.  For others, it can be just completing a book.

However, it did take me a long time to make the huge leap into earning my living as a writer.  That's the big step.  That is when the safety net is removed and suddenly not only do you HAVE to write, it has to sell.  It changes how you write and I do believe it even changes what you write.

When you are writing, there will always be people who tell you that it is an impossible dream, but every day, every week, every month, more and more books are published.  And someone has to write them.  The trick is to ignore the nay-sayers and keep writing.

One of the problems some writers grapple with, Michael, is that of staying relevant. Do you believe that your writing in various genres has kept you in front of fresh eyes and your loyal readers coming back for more?

Absolutely.  I have always fought against being categorized as particular type of writer.  The problem is, of course, that some publishers want you to write in a particular genre, especially if your last book sold well. Then you become a "horror" writer or a "romance" writer, and once that label is applied, it becomes difficult to remove it.

I've written across several genres - folklore, fantasy, horror, romance, both adult and young adult.  I've published both fiction and non-fiction.  I tend to write what interests me and lots of things interest me.  Often there is no cross-over between readers of my work, though it is true that readers of my Young Adult fantasy writing will move onto my adult fantasy.

I was introduced to your work last year, but I just began following you regularly this year because of the social networking site Twitter. Have sites like Youtube, Facebook and Twitter help you connect with fans and prospective readers?

Yes, absolutely.  I am of the generation of writers who have instant access to their readers – in exactly the same way that readers have access to their favourite authors.  Previously writers would have waited weeks or months for reviews and comments about their books to arrive.  Now, it happens within hours of publication.  If you write to me on Twitter or Facebook or through the fan site, there is a very good chance I will respond – especially if you're asking me an interesting question.

On the fan site, for example, readers spend a lot of time dissecting the stories and doing their own research into the characters.  That is incredibly gratifying, but also a little bit scary: if I get it wrong or make a mistake, then they'll tell me!

Also, because I write everything to music and I often tweet about the music I'm listening to (right now it's Stream of Passion's album, Embrace the Storm), readers recommend music to me all the time.  I've been introduced to music I would never have encountered through my fans online.

There is a downside of course.  If is often very frustrating to find full synopses of the books on Wikipedia, revealing all of the carefully placed revelations and clues. 

The latest book in your new series is The Necromancer. Tell us about it and what readers can expect.

This is the fourth book in the six book sequence.  I really recommend that you read the first three, which sets up the story, because this is really a book where everything you've learned thus far is turned on its head.  As in the rest of the series, the only two created characters are Sophie and Josh, two ordinary fifteen year old American twins.  All the other characters are drawn from history and all the creatures from mythology.

You are read all around the world now, and in the eyes of many you have a successful career. I'm curious how after 20-plus years in business you measure success for yourself.

Very simply: being able to earn my living as a writer.  For most of my writing life I had other jobs, which was the safety net, but now there is no safety net.

I also believe you are only as good as your last book.  Every book I write has to be better than the last.  As a bookseller one of the most interesting lessons you learn is about the often short writing careers of many writers.  Authors who were huge even ten years ago, are unknown now.

Along the line of the last question, Michael, what is it like to have readers tell you how much your work as meant to them? Has it really sunk in the influence you have on some just doing what you love?

Having someone tell you that your book inspired them to be a writer is an incredible tribute.  When people write and tell me that one of my books encouraged them to read again is also extraordinary.  It is one of the great advantages of being a Young Adult writer: fans write.  And I try and answer them all.

Writing is an incredibly private job.  You spent six or nine or twelve months sitting staring at a screen, with no idea (or very little idea) of what's happening to your books in the real world.  And then, for a few weeks you go on tour, and suddenly you realize what's been happening to that book.

Two weeks ago I had the honor to be a guest at the 100th Boy Scouts Jamboree.  Young men lined up for two hours to get their books signed and many had brought all their books for signing.  Now, given that they were carrying their tents, clothes, boots and kit, it was an huge compliment to discover that they'd also carried 3 or 4 heavy hardbacks with them.

There are aspiring writers who look to authors like you for guidance. What would you say to someone who loves to write but hasn't taken any steps to see themselves in print?

The rules are very simple.  You have to read.  Then read some more and then, do a little more reading.  I have never met a writer who was not a reader.

You have to write.  Every day.  It doesn't matter if you throw it away the following day, but you have to write.  Start with something small – a short story.  And finish it.  So many writers never progress because they fail to finish a piece.  I always find it's incredibly useful to write the ending first.  That gives you a destination.  Once you've completed a short piece, then begin a longer piece – a novella – then a novel.

Do your research.  Find out how long a novel should be (The Necromancer is 90,000 words for example, The Sorceress a little bigger at 100,000).  See who is publishing your type of book.  Do not, for example, send a romance novel to a science fiction publisher. 

And be patient and persevere.  Every writer is rejected.  Some have been rejected many, many times.  If one publisher rejects your work, it just means it was not right for that house at that particular time.

I always add that you should get a really comfortably chair – you're going to spent a long time sitting in it!

Thanks again, Michael, and we wish you continued success. How can our readers stay in contact with you.

Thank you so much.  My website is a good jumping off place: I post on Twitter just about every day as @flamelauthor and I'm on Facebook with the same name.  But the best place for information about me and the books (and they often have information even before I have it) is the official fan forum: Flamel's Secret:  and the portal site:  Flamel's Immortal Portal: I'm on the fan site just about every day and I usually answer the questions posted there.