Fleur Bradley – Agatha and Colorado Book Award Nominee

Hunting ghosts and solving the case before checkout? All in a weekend’s work.

Fleur Bradley is the author of the spooky middle-grade mystery Midnight at the Barclay Hotel (Viking Books for Young Readers, Aug. 2020). She’s passionate about two things: mysteries and getting kids to read. Fleur regularly does (virtual) school visits and speaks at librarian and educator conferences on reaching reluctant readers. Originally from the Netherlands, Fleur now lives in Colorado Springs with her family and entirely too many rescue pets.

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel – When JJ Jacobson convinced his mom to accept a surprise invitation to an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway at the illustrious Barclay Hotel, he never imagined that he’d find himself in the midst of a murder mystery. He thought he was in for a run-of-the-mill weekend ghost hunting at the most haunted spot in town, but when he arrives at the Barclay Hotel and his mother is blamed for the hotel owner’s death, he realizes his weekend is going to be anything but ordinary.

Now, with the help of his new friends, Penny and Emma, JJ has to track down a killer, clear his mother’s name, and maybe even meet a ghost or two along the way.

Other titles of Fleur’s: Super Puzzletastic Mysteries (anthology story, mystery for kids), and the Double Vision trilogy (HarperCollins Children’s)

Do you write in more than one genre? I write mysteries, mostly for kids, but I also like to write short stories. In fact, for the first ten years or so of my writing career, that’s mostly what I wrote. I try to still write a few every year—they’re fun to write, plus the time investment isn’t as huge as a novel-length work. Short stories are also a great way to flex your writing muscle—they’re tough to write.

What brought you to writing? I was a new mom (many years ago!), and I really wanted to do something that was just my own. As an avid reader, I decided to try my hand at fiction writing since all I needed was a pen and paper. I still love that most about writing: I start with a blank page and can make it anything I want.

 What, if any, distractions do you allow? Right now, I write at the kitchen table mostly. It’s so unglamorous, really… Sometimes I try to find a different corner of the house to work in just to break the monotony. Covid times being what they are, writing at a coffee shop or library is still off the table. Once I’m into the story though, I forget about everything else. I can write anywhere.

Tell us about your writing process: I usually have the spark of an idea—whether it’s a broad feel of a book (for Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I wanted to write an Agatha Christie-style mystery for kids) or a good twist or even just the start of the story. Then I let that bounce around my brain a while, until I feel I have all the ingredients to the story figured out—so the mystery, tone, setting, characters. Then I work on an outline and sample chapters that I would eventually send to my agent. She’ll tell me what works, what doesn’t, and I tweak that and write the rest.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The most challenging part is the analytical part of my brain that needs to produce a solid plot and outline, and the creative part that just wants to get writing already to see where the characters take me…. It’s truly a battle of wills some days! But that outline is necessary to keep me on track.

What are you currently working on? I’m finishing edits on my next mystery for kids, and I’m getting ready to write the first draft of a YA mystery. I always have several projects going at once—it keeps me from getting bored.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I like to take a real location and then create a fictional version of it so that I can write my own rules. For Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, I created the Barclay Hotel based on the Stanley Hotel (from the book/movie The Shining) in nearby to me Estes Park, Colorado. I took some of the elements of the Stanley—the beautiful architecture and woodwork, the ghost stories, the Colorado setting—and amplified them to make for a more exciting story material.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I’m hoping to be able to in-person school and bookstore visits again—I miss seeing people in person, like everyone else I’m sure. The mystery for kids I’m working on now should be out from Viking/Penguin Random House in summer 2022, and then I plan to write another mystery for the 8-12 age group—it’s been such a joy to write mysteries for kid readers, I expect I’ll be writing lots more.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? To toot my own horn for a minute: I was honored to be nominated for an Agatha Award and the Colorado Book Award for Midnight at the Barclay Hotel. If any blog readers get a chance to read the book, let me know what you think!

For more information on Fleur and her books, visit www.ftbradley.com, and on Twitter @FTBradleyAuthor.

7 Comments

  1. Marilyn Meredith

    Fleur, we met long ago at I think a Bouchercon conference in Seattle. What your are doing is so exciting! I will definitely recommend your books to all the mom’s I know for their kids. Will try Midnight at the Barclay Hotel for myself.

    Reply
  2. Tammy Qualls

    Thanks for this blog post! I will be picking this book up for my 9 year old at our local bookshop!

    Reply
    • Fleur Bradley

      Thank you, Tammy! I hope your 9 year-old enjoys the book.

      Reply
  3. Margaret Mizushima

    Love Midnight at the Barclay Hotel, Fleur. We hope to see you in in-person meetings again soon, too!

    Reply
    • Fleur Bradley

      I can’t wait to see everyone again in person! Feels like it’s been forever…

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    I have read Midnight at the Barclay Hotel and can say that I’m certainly not a young adult, I thoroughly enjoyed Fleur’s book. I’ve read her short stories, too and can say that she’s a really good writer who can write entertaining stories for reader s of all ages. I look forward to her next one.

    Reply

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Nanci Rathbun – Author of Crime Series Set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A murdered metal sculptor. A Russian mobster on the hunt. Can a talented PI outsmart a vindictive killer who has her in his crosshairs?

I’m a lifelong reader of mysteries – historical, contemporary, futuristic, paranormal, hard-boiled, cozy … you can find them all on my bookshelves and in my e-readers. I honed my logic and planning skills while working as an IT project manager. Still, my characters and dialog benefited greatly from my second career as a Congregationalist minister. (No, I don’t write Christian fiction, but I confine myself to mild profanity as needed for the character and avoid any explicit sexual scenes. No judgment on those who do. It’s just my preference.)

I grew up an Army brat, living in Germany, France, and Korea, and several states in the U.S. After my dad retired, we settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I raised my daughter and son there while working at AT&T.

My Maltipoo Teeny and I now live in Wellington, Colorado, a few miles south of Cheyenne, Wyoming. One of my greatest joys is hearing my three granddaughters shout ‘Nana’ when I come in their front door in Fort Collins, Colorado. No matter where I make my home, I will always be a Green Bay Packers fan.

Do you write in more than one genre? I’m a mystery/crime thriller gal, through and through. That said, there are a gazillion sub-genres under those two big umbrellas, and I’m looking forward to exploring a few. I’ll start a historical spin-off series to my Angelina Bonaparte books next. And there may be a dog in one or two of those. Or even a paranormal element. We’ll see.

What brought you to writing? I was always the kid with my nose in a book. I just love to read. Back then, I used it as a way to escape reality, and I still do. In the late 1990s, as I planned to enjoy a pre-bedtime chapter or two, I once again got that feeling of ‘I could do better than this.’ So I put my money where my mouth was and started taking classes. Then I joined a local writers’ studio, where I learned accountability (pages due!) and where creative feedback and encouragement really energized me to write. From there, I worked up the courage to send my baby, Truth Kills, into the world.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I have a micro-office in one corner of the guest bedroom – comfy chair, computer cart to hold my laptop and monitor, and the biggest distraction in the world – my Maltipoo, Teeny. She’s a senior dog now, but she does demand intermissions from me for potty breaks, feeding, and a few minutes of toss the toy. If not for Teeny, my neck would probably be more cranked than it is, so I don’t complain.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I remember being afraid to enter a writer’s group at the beginning. What if they don’t like my work? What if someone steals my ideas? What I found was a place where I could safely fail and start again. A place where I was told that I was good enough—a place that felt like home. I wouldn’t be a published writer without that kind of support, and one of the first things I look for whenever I move is a critique group.

How long did it take you to write your first book? It seems like it took forever because I worked full time at a demanding IT job and raised two kids as a single mom. Besides, I was learning the process as I went. (Thanks to patient critique partners and a writing coach.) Truth Kills was published in 2012, after more than a decade of work on it. Since then, I’ve averaged a book every two years. I’m certainly not the fastest writer out there!

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? I’ve never killed a main character in the series arc, but I did kill a sympathetic character in Honor Kills, book four. The story called for it, and I could find no authentic way to end it happily. I will say that I got mixed reactions from readers, who to this day tell me that I need to resurrect the dead. I love that the readers really related to the character and I, too, feel the pain of letting him go.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I started out as a pantser exclusively, but now I’m more of a hybrid. After two books that required extensive rewrites because I created big plot holes without realizing it until the end, I learned my lesson. Now I follow James Patterson’s recommendation in his Masterclass – I lay out a high-level outline and write one paragraph per intended chapter. Of course, there are still a few kinks. In Blood Kills, I moved the exposure of the murder victim as an assassin (but was he?), which resulted in a cascade of edits to keep all the pieces in place. So I don’t strictly adhere to an outline, but I find that a general sense of how the story will unfold keeps me from needing to start over.

What kind of research do you do? I hate to be caught out in a factual error, so I contact experts (who are surprisingly willing to help), run internet queries, ask online groups for help, and, of course, talk to librarians. And some lovely readers even do occasional research for me. Typically, only about 10% of the research ends up being used in the book. However, it is still very useful in guiding the actual writing.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? My PI Angelina Bonaparte Crime Thrillers series is set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I grew up after my dad retired from the Army. I use the local landmarks and the Milwaukee slang and cultural group accents (think Polish- and Italian-American) to flavor the stories. Like P. D. James, I treat setting as another character in the novel. Of course, Wisconsinites love it, but a reviewer from New Zealand even mentioned that she felt as if she ‘knew’ Milwaukee after reading the books. Love that!
What is the best book you ever read? The Lord of the Rings trilogy. So deeply layered, with characters (even the villains) that just leap off the page. I was delighted that the movies were largely faithful to the books.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? At the end of Blood Kills, Angie asks her papa for more information about her mother, who died when Angie was a child. She’s surprised when he stonewalls her, and her Aunt Terry tells her to look to the future and not the past. The last line in the book: Well, I thought, if they won’t help, I’ll have to do some investigation on my own.

This leads into my new spin-off series that follows Angie’s mother (involved in uncovering WWII espionage), grandmother (1920s journalist), and great-grandmother (post-Civil War feminist and astronomer). I see lots of research in my future!

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? Let me just say to all those people who always wanted to write a book, but whose lives got in the way, it’s not too late! I’ll reveal my age and say that I was in my early sixties when my first book was published. I’d had two careers before then: IT project manager and Congregationalist minister. At every step of my life, I was able to take what I already learned and leverage it for a new adventure. If you’re willing to put in the work and realize that it’s usually a slow process to publication and an even slower process to build a reader base, you can make it happen.

How do our readers contact you?

Website: https://nancirathbun.com
Email: contact@nancirathbun.com
Links to each book across all retailers: https://tinyurl.com/NanciRathbunBooks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorNanciRathbun/
Twitter handle: @nancirathbun
Twitter link: https://twitter.com/NanciRathbun
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7199317.Nanci_Rathbun
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nanci-Rathbun/e/B00E9E7QCI
BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/nanci-rathbun

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    You sound like you have plenty of good ideas for stories, and your outlining procedure is spot on. It’s virtually the same as mine. Best of luck to you with your writing.

    Reply
    • Nanci Rathbun

      Thanks, Michael. All the best to you, too – although by what I see on Amazon, you’re going full steam ahead. Still, good wishes always help.

      Reply
  2. Francelia Belton

    Hi Nanci!

    I enjoyed reading your interview. Good luck with your book launch! 🙂

    Francelia

    Reply

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Sabrina Flynn – Explorer – Swimmer – Author

Sabrina Flynn is the author of Ravenwood Mysteries, set in Victorian San Francisco.

When she’s not exploring the seedy alleyways of the Barbary Coast, she dabbles in fantasy and steampunk. She has a habit of throwing herself into wild oceans and gator-infested lakes.

Her new historical mystery, Beyond the Pale, is the eighth book in the Ravenwood Mystery series. An innocent accused. An infamous hotel. And a murder everyone wants to hide.

While recovering from a brutal beating, Atticus Riot is arrested for the murder of his ex-agent—the same agent who left Riot for dead. His wife and partner, Isobel Amsel, watches helplessly as he’s taken to San Francisco’s notorious ‘sweat box’ for interrogation by an inspector with a grudge.

Desperate to save her husband, Isobel seeks out the one ally they have—only he’s in the infamous Hotel Nymphia, neck-deep in a murder investigation with a ghastly corpse and over three hundred suspects. In exchange for the inspector’s aid, Isobel agrees to work as a consulting detective on his case.

Now Isobel needs to prove Riot’s innocence while tracking down a killer no one wants to be caught. The diverging trails lead to an old friend, a tangled web of secret lives, and one all-consuming question: where’s the line between justice and murder?

Do you write in more than one genre? I feel comfortable writing in all genres. I’m currently published in historical mystery, epic fantasy, Gaslamp fantasy, and have a WW1 thriller I’m editing along with a planned contemporary mystery series. It’s always hard for me to pin a genre on the novels I write. Ravenwood Mysteries is a mix of mystery, history, romance, action and adventure, wild west, Victorian, and noir.

Tell us about your writing process: I just tell myself a story. I’ll start at a point or with a vague idea, and that’s pretty much it. My writing process is a lot like hiking to a distant mountain. I know the starting point; I know where I want to end up, but I have no clue what lies between those two points. And sometimes, the twists and turns and obstacles along the way take me to an entirely different mountain. But that’s all right. It’s the journey that’s exciting.

*Note from George: I love Sabrina’s example of hiking from a point to a distant mountain and all the obstacles one faces.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I’m an organic writer. So my characters definitely run the show. I don’t know what they’re going to say until I type it, then end up laughing at whatever joke they cracked. There have been numerous times when I want them to do one thing, and they just won’t do it. For example, in the first book, Atticus Riot showed up with a gentleman’s walking stick. I didn’t know why he had a walking stick. I tried to make him limp, but he wouldn’t limp. So I tried to take it away from him, and that didn’t work either. I said, ‘Fine, keep the stick!’ And it wasn’t until halfway through the book that I was like… ‘Oooh, that’s why you have the stick.’ Then in book three, I discovered the stick had sentimental value, so I’ve learned to just go along with the unexpected.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? I grew up with four brothers, so I actually find writing feminine women difficult. It’s hard for me to connect and understand women (or men) who are stylishly dressed, are worried about breaking a nail, or getting sweaty because it will mess up their hair. I’m not big on talking about feelings in my prose either. I’d rather show it than tell it. So I think that’s something my readers notice pretty quickly with my writing. Several readers have compared Ravenwood Mysteries to some classic noir authors like Raymond Chandler.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? Death is the end of a story. It’s a common everyday occurrence where life goes on for the living. So it’s not something that’s thrilling to me or even shocking in a book. It’s just… death. It’s much more interesting to me as a reader (and writer) to read about people who survive against all odds. Writing characters who live and thrive despite difficult circumstances is the hard part. Death is easy to write.

In my epic fantasy series, I came to a place where the hero could have died this epic death that would’ve been perfect for him, but I found keeping him alive left more of an impact.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Oooh, do I ever. I come from an epic fantasy background, so I naturally write overarching storylines into my mystery series. I plant seeds throughout my books for future books in the series. For example, the first sentence in the first chapter of the first book (From the Ashes) isn’t explained until book four of Ravenwood Mysteries. I did the same with another subplot that’s been woven throughout the series, and that will finally be addressed in book nine. I usually have multiple storylines and mysteries going at once, which keeps things interesting.

What kind of research do you do? Lots of reading. And not just from one source. Newspaper archives are great, but they can be slanted one way or the other, so I look for other sources as close to 1900 as I can find. It’s a great way to pick up the actual language of the time and not fictionalized vocabulary and slang.

I’m also very hands on whenever possible. When I lived across from San Francisco, I tried to visit whatever place I was writing about. But so much of San Francisco was destroyed in the 1906 fire that most places have changed locations or were destroyed. Isobel, one of my protagonists, is big on sailing, so I took a sailing class in the bay to get a better feel of it. And when my protagonist was learning lock-picking, I bought a set of lock picks to practice with.

But I think my most drastic bit of research was when I tossed a protagonist overboard into San Francisco Bay, and a beta-reader claimed she would’ve drowned, been eaten by a shark, or died of hypothermia. So I jumped off a ferry at Alcatraz and swam to Aquatic Park in San Francisco sans wetsuit. She didn’t argue with me anymore.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Hopefully, lots of ocean swimming, trail running, and writing!

Where can we find you and your latest work, Beyond The Pale: http://www.sabrinaflynn.com

My books are on all the major online retailers. Here are some links.
Website: http://www.sabrinaflynn.com
Bookbub profile: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sabrina-flynn
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/beyond-the-pale-25
Apple books: https://books.apple.com/us/author/sabrina-flynn/id747418916
Indiebound.org https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=author%3AFlynn%2C%20Sabrina

 

 

 

17 Comments

  1. Glenda Carroll

    If only that Beta reader knew that Bay swimming is one of your favorite things! Great interview.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      That’s actually how I got into ocean swimming, Glenda! Before I did the Alcatraz swim, I’d only swum in lakes and jumped in the waves at beaches. I wasn’t even that used to cold water at the time, except for once-a-year camping trips.

      I got double calf cramps from the cold on the swim too…

      Reply
  2. Darlene Dziomba

    OMG you jumped off a ferry at Alcatraz? That’s going above and beyond to prove you’re right. I love your spunk and spirit.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      Thank you, Darlene! Considering the things I did as a teenager and young adult, it’s amazing I made it to adulthood.

      Reply
  3. Lani Longshore

    Tell us more about that WWI thriller –

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      An American spy goes missing in occupied France, but his 18-year-old daughter, Emily Locke, refuses to admit he’s dead. Keeping one step ahead of the British Intelligence agent sent to bring her back, Emily finds herself behind enemy lines with a hunter on her heels and fearful whispers of a White Lady.

      It’s currently untitled, Lani. 🙂

      Reply
      • Lani Longshore

        Sounds cool! I look forward to reading it.

        Reply
  4. Madeline Gornell

    Great “meeting” you, Sabrina! Fascinating life, and fascinating books that I’m now looking forward to reading.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      Thank you, Madeline. Hope you enjoy the series!

      Reply
  5. Rich Lovin

    I was often in the Bay area while in the Navy and found Sabrina’s details to be accurate.
    She includes threads between her books that help expand a character’s personality.
    I quickly learned to get comfortable and devote time to her books because once I started
    I would not stop. There is no fluff in her books. Every detail is important.

    Reply
  6. Marilyn Meredith

    I loved this post! You must be very brave to jump into the bay and swam to shore. When I was younger I was a strong swimmer, and loved to swim in the ocean–but don’t think I’d have tried that one. And I agree, that the characters tend to do their own thing even when you had other ideas for them.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      So glad you enjoyed it, Marilyn! SF has a huge open water swimming community, so there are a ton of events and races. It’s a lot of fun. 🙂

      Reply
  7. Nanci Rathbun

    I really relate to Sabrina’s writing process and to the way her characters sometimes take over. It’s happened to me more than once. Glad to learn that I’m not in need of mental health intervention (at least, it’s not the reason I need it :;).

    Reply
  8. Thonie Hevron

    Thanks for this insightful interview. I’m fascinated by Sabrina’s process and her genre-bending fiction.

    Reply
  9. Michael A. Black

    You must be a pretty strong swimming to having made that trek from Alcatraz. I took the ferry on a tour and thought about how difficult it might be. So after having done that, what’s your thoughts on the three convicts who made the escape? Did they drown or not? Good luck with your writing.

    Reply
    • Sabrina Flynn

      Thanks, Michael. 🙂 And I definitely think the convicts made it as long as they were fairly good swimmers before they were incarcerated. The air temperature is often cooler than the water in SF, so they would have time to acclimatize to the cold.

      Today there are open water swim race events with hundreds of swimmers all the time in the Bay. Alcatraz is only 1.5 miles. I’ve since swum the Golden Gate three times, and swam from the Golden Gate to Bay Bridge. Love being in the water!

      Reply

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Bob Doerr – Air Force Veteran – Award Winning Author

Thank you, George, for having me on today. I’ve been writing now for twelve years and have to admit it; I enjoy writing. I guess it’s the storyteller in me. My background has helped me come up with ideas, as I spent nearly thirty years in the Air Force in a career field with a mission very similar to the FBI. I spent another eight years as a financial advisor before becoming a full-time writer. Both jobs gave me a lot of insight into people’s behavior.

In all, I’ve had sixteen books published, two more that I’ve self-published, and one that I co-authored with three other writers. I’ve also had a few short stories published in anthologies. Most of my work has been in the mystery or thriller genres. However, I have four fantasy, adventure books published in the juvenile fiction series.

I have never found writing in different genres difficult. It might be because for years, I wrote short stories for my three daughters as they were learning to read and then for my grandchildren.

In the Air Force, I wrote or reviewed hundreds if not thousands of criminal and counterintelligence investigative reports. While none of my books are based on true crime or actual intelligence reports, my experience gave me thousands of ideas and plots.
I have a fairly strict writing process that includes leaving home before eight each morning, finding a spot inside or outside a coffee house, and writing for about an hour and a half. If I can keep this pace, I find that I can produce a 70,000-word book in around nine months. My first book took longer as I lacked discipline and confidence. My advice to any beginning author is to stay with it, despite any initial disappointments. My first book is admittedly my worst edited. I’ve learned since.

Writing at home has always been difficult for me as I find myself too easily distracted by the refrigerator, the television, or some other project that comes to mind. The noise around me at a Starbucks, for example, I can ignore. In fact, I sometimes describe a character after a customer that catches my eye. I sometimes wonder if a lot of authors aren’t people watchers, too.

I never start with an outline, although I often find myself reading what I’ve written after about sixty or seventy pages and taking notes to ensure I haven’t changed names or descriptions of characters or gone too astray in my plot. After that, I try to remember to add to my character list as I go, but I still find myself mixing up who did what or names. When I finish the entire manuscript, I read the entire story and make a number of changes. About the third or fourth time, I feel the story is good enough to have other people read it to identify mistakes or recommend improvements.

My protagonist in my Jim West mystery series, my first series, is a retired Special Agent from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. While I am too, that is where the similarities between Jim and me (or any other person) ends. Giving Jim a background I could relate to, and have him living in a state where I also lived for years, made the stories easier to write. After writing five books about Jim, I started my second series: the Clint Smith thriller series. I alternate now between the two series.

The Treasure, my newest book, is the fourth book in the Clint Smith series and is set to be released in April. Clint is a “hunter,” the nice word given to him as a job description that more accurately should be government assassin. The small office to which he belongs is so buried under layers of classified cover mission descriptions that only a few in the government know what they really do.

In The Treasure, Clint heads to Las Vegas on vacation after a successful mission in South America to dig up a stagecoach strongbox he had found in the desert earlier but had left unopened. Upon inspection, he finds several well-preserved old documents. He gives the contents of the strongbox to a lawyer to find buyers. One of the documents, unfortunately, creates a maelstrom of violence and murder, and puts Clint squarely in the crosshairs of some Chinese assassins. Clint leaves Las Vegas to keep out of the spotlight, only to find himself going to Alaska in an attempt to rescue a female police officer assigned to protect him in Las Vegas.

I have always been a big reader and have really enjoyed the works of many authors. Some like Ian Fleming, Rex Stout, John D. MacDonald, Robert Ludlum, I grew up reading. Their work still influences me, while I have since moved on to more contemporary authors.

I will continue to write until my eyes, or my fingers go. I do enjoy it, and if your followers choose to read one of my books, I’d love to receive any feedback or comments they may have. My website is www.bobdoerr.com, and I have an author page on Facebook (20+) Bob Doerr – Author | Facebook
Thank again – Bob Doerr

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    Thanks for this interesting interview. I had no idea Bob was such an accomplished author. Great fun to read!

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    I’ve known Bob Doerr for years and he’s one of the nicest guys in the writing business. I’ve read some of his books and he’s an excellent writer, too. His military background gives him a perspective that few have, and he’s a natural born storyteller who knows how to spin a good yarn. If you’re unfamiliar with Jim West or Clint Smith, do yourself a favor and check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

    Reply

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Ursula Pike – Karuk – Author – Peace Corps Volunteer

Ursula Pike’s debut book is An Indian among los Indígenas: A Native Travel Memoir

At the age of 25, I stepped off a plane in Bolivia to begin two years of service as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I assumed that connections with the people of South America’s most indigenous country would be easy because I’m Native. The truth was much more complicated. This is my debut book.

Deborah Miranda (Ohlone /Costanoan-Esselen) author of Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir, said this about the book, “The Indigenous peoples Pike lived and worked with speak loudly from these pages, challenging many of us to check privileges we didn’t know we had, demanding the right to be complex, strong, and human. This book is all heart, all vulnerability, as a young California Indian woman makes family far from home.”

Do you write in more than one genre? Creative Nonfiction is my favorite genre to write in, and by that, I mean memoir and essays. However, I have a few short stories I’ve written. I have a story about a Native Elvis impersonator who dances in powwows in his Elvis regalia.

What brought you to writing? Writing has always been my strategy for dealing with life. Writing in a journal is a mindfulness exercise. I never knew that when I started, but that’s exactly what it is. Writing requires me to focus on the moment I’m in. All the brutally honest writing I filled my journals with helped me develop a clear voice on the page. I learned to write for myself and never thought I’d show my writing to anyone else. An online writing class at Austin Community College helped me have the courage to share my writing with others.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? A library is the absolute best place to write. During the pandemic, I’ve really missed libraries. Not only are they usually bright and quiet with comfortable chairs, but I am also surrounded by books. There is nothing as inspiring as looking up from my writing to see a book that looks terrible and think, “If that book was published, maybe mine has a chance.”

Tell us about your writing process: There are times when I feel inspired to write, or an essay idea pops into my head, but, honestly, deadlines are the thing that makes me actually sit down and write. In Austin, I used to read at a monthly open mike event, and the pressure to produce something good to read terrified me. I was always motivated to get a good five-minute piece ready by the deadline.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? The very first revision is incredibly challenging. I am comfortable with churning out the crappy first draft. But turning that imperfect lump into a chapter or essay that I might want to show someone else is daunting. My computer is littered with first drafts that I never went back to because I wasn’t sure what to do with them.

Who’s currently your favorite author? Right now I’m reading Toni Jensen’s Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land and loving it. It is beautiful, honest, and humorous in a sly way that makes me want to read it slowly to enjoy the stories.

Do you travel and visit the settings used in your work? My book is set in Bolivia during the two years I lived there in the late 1990s. But I did travel back to Bolivia in 2018 while I was writing the book. Bolivia is a stunningly beautiful country, and the trip helped me beef up the descriptions of the landscape and the people. During my return, I also paid attention to how Bolivians speak and revised some of the dialogue in an attempt to more accurately reflect conversations.

How long to get it published? I queried agents for over a year with no luck. Then Heyday Books, a small publisher in Berkeley, California, began accepting submissions after being closed for a while. They liked the book outline I sent and asked for the full manuscript. A few months later, they made an offer to publish the book. In total, I spent about 18 months trying to get the book published before finding Heyday. Then I spent another year and a half working closely with two editors revising the book.

How do you come up with character names? Naming the people in my book was a difficult issue for me because it is a true story. But I didn’t want anyone else who is part of the story to be easily identifiable. For this reason, I changed everyone’s name except my own. I even changed the name of the town. Bolivian newspapers were a great resource for finding realistic names because they are full of quotes by people listing their names.

Do you have subplots? The revision process helped me with the subplots. The editors I worked with pointed out ways that I could strengthen the subplots. For example, there’s a subplot about an important friendship I had with a volunteer from El Paso. In earlier drafts, the description of the friendship was primarily in one or two later chapters. My editors suggested I add scenes earlier in the book to develop those subplots more. They also helped me discover a few subplots that needed to be cut out entirely.

What kind of research do you do? People might think that writing memoirs doesn’t require any research because the author is writing about their life. And it is true that the eight blank journals I filled with my recollections while a Peace Corps Volunteer in Bolivia were the first source of information for the book. But, in my case and that of most memoir writers I know, research was a critical part of the writing process. I read books and academic articles about Bolivia, the Peace Corps, and even about my own tribe, the Karuk. Not all of this research ended up in the book. Still, it helped me better understand the historical context I was writing about.

Looking in the future, what’s in store for you? An Indian among los Indígenas: A Native Travel Memoir came out on April 6th, and I’ll be promoting that during the spring and summer. After that I will be finishing my next book, which details the years after the Peace Corps when I lived in Eastern Mississippi, broke and pregnant, teaching English at a chicken processing plant. The working title for that book is House, Mississippi, although my teenage daughter thinks I should call it Radioactive Chicken Baby.

Order Book: An Indian among los Indígenas: A Native Travel Memoir

How do readers contact you?https://ursulapike.com/

Twitter: @urs_pike

IG: @ursulapike_in_austin

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Michael A. Black

    I’ve known a few people who served in the Peace Corps. I salute you for your dedication and courage in helping to make this world a better place. Good luck with your writing.

    Reply

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