Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Ellie Midwood, Author

Ellie Midwood, Author
Ellie Midwood, born and raised in Moscow, Russia, brings us THE NEW YORK DOLL, a fictional account of a young woman’s experiences surviving in New York City. Although fiction, Midwood tells us that the book is intended to be a realistic account of what a young immigrant faces and how well-educated women from good families turn to exotic dancing to pay the bills. She draws on her own experiences as an immigrant in New York City—a city that she depicts as a character in the novel—to tell her story.  Although Midwood says that this is a book for adults, shekept the language very clean and there’s no strong sexual content in the book.”

Midwood is an avid fan of New York City, loves to involve her friends in conversations about current events, and lives with her boyfriend and Chihuahua in New York City. She is currently writing another novel, “The Brooklyn Boys' Tales" about the lives of one of New York’s mob families.

Don’t miss the excerpt from THE NEW YORK DOLL following her interview.

Q: How much did your real life experiences influence your writing in THE NEW YORK DOLL?

Ellie Midwood: I was originally born and raised in Moscow, Russia and right after I graduated from the foreign languages faculty in my University I came to the United States. So the first few years in this country and in New York in particular were put at the base of my book THE NEW YORK DOLL. This is my personal story that basically describes everything I had to go through within the first two years here. 

Q: Why did you write THE NEW YORK DOLL?  Did you intend to deliver a message? Or strictly entertain? Or educate?

Ellie Midwood: First of all, so many books were written on the related topic, but none of them were written by a non-resident of the United States, and that’s what makes it really stand out among the competing titles. I wanted to tell a story from an immigrant’s point of view and to show my readers how hard it is to make it here if you don’t have any papers.

And second, for me the main reason for writing this book was to make the readers understand the real reasons why even well-educated girls from good families sometimes find themselves in a gentleman’s club. Because let’s face it, mostly all the people who I was talking to prior to writing this book, especially those who have never been introduced to the night club world, have this stereotype in their head: all exotic dancers are shameless, uneducated home-wreckers who don’t know any better than to dance almost naked for money.

Well, all those people would be very surprised if I told them that I personally know so many girls who have to dance to pay tuition for their higher education. Those are the future doctors and lawyers, interior designers and fashion journalists for whom dancing is the only opportunity to pay for their dream career choice. For most of the dancers a gentleman’s club is only a phase and normally a very short one, then they move on, get their dream job, get married and have kids and nobody would even know what they used to do.

I wanted to break that stereotype for everybody.

Q: How relevant is the concept of “villain” and “hero” to telling your story?

Ellie Midwood: I’m thinking of this novel as a very realistic one, and just like in real life there are no positively good people with no flaws, and that’s the main reason why I didn’t want to create a perfectly likeable main character. She is a very sweet girl, but undergoes some changes that can make her or her choices unattractive to some readers. But at the same time, I tried to explain that in this particular situation it was the only possible option for her; Mila is just a human being with all her weaknesses and strong sides, she is just fighting for her dream and that kind of a fight has never been perfectly clean and nice for anyone. As for the villains in my story, there are only few negative characters, one of them is Mila’s aunt who is constantly trying to rob her own niece of her hard earned money and at some point takes Mila’s dog as a hostage. I would call her the only real “villain”; the rest of the negative characters are very life-like and that’s what makes this story so appealing to the readers. Some of them probably encountered similar situations (who has never been cheated on in their life like Mila was? Or who hasn’t been tricked by a real estate agent – the situation very common among New Yorkers?), and can easily relate to them. 

Q:  Why will readers care about your protagonist, Mila? How does she engage readers?

Ellie Midwood: You can’t help but to sympathize with this character, she’s so honest about everything she does and says that it makes the reader root for her and hope that everything will work out in the end. The transformation of Mila throughout the story is also very interesting: from a very good mommy’s girl with very high moral principles, who gets offended when the manager confuses her for a pole dancer instead of the waitress job she was applying for in the beginning of the story, but she gradually gets stronger, more cynical and acquires that New York street-smarts so necessary to survive in this concrete jungle. Very na├»ve and unexperienced in flirting before, Mila soon creates an alter-ego Milana, who knows how to easily manipulate customers, and soon becomes one of the most popular girls in the club. She also takes her stand when it comes to dealing with her greedy aunt, who was trying to jump on Mila’s gravy train and to get every dollar she could from her niece:

“- You know, you’ve really changed since I first met you, Mila. You were such a nice, quiet girl, with no attitude, always so polite and respectful, and I don’t like what you’ve become.

“-You don’t like that I became a self-sufficient person who can take care of herself and finally say something back, and not a foot rug that I used to be. Then yes, I’ve changed. And good for me!”

Mila’s character development due to the circumstances and the new environment she found herself in is very truthful; the readers can easily put themselves in Mila’s shoes and that’s what makes them sympathize with this character even more. She’s very, very realistic.

Q: How important was honesty and realism to THE NEW YORK DOLL?

Ellie Midwood: Even though THE NEW YORK DOLL is classified “fiction”, it’s a very realistic story, which the readers can easily relate to. That’s why for me it was very important to be as honest as I could while delivering the message to the audience.

This story is not a pretty one, but it’s very realistic; this is what happens to those illegal girls, the so-called J-1 girls (it’s a kind of a student visa for the international students) who have no choice but to start dancing in New York and New Jersey clubs to pay their bills and to create a future in this country. All of them are fighters as it requires a lot of psychological strength to get undressed for the first time in front of the whole club full of men they’ve never seen. And don’t forget, these girls come from good families, most of them are either students or already graduated from universities, and most of them have never seen a gentleman’s club from the inside before.

Most of the readers don’t know this side of this business, that’s why my goal was to depict each character and every situation as real as I could. By the way, the book is rated R due to its content (obviously it’s an adult audience oriented novel as half of the story describes a gentleman’s club), but I kept the language very clean and there’s no strong sexual content in the book: my main goal was to tell the story of hardship of an immigrant girl, not the story of a typical stripper.

Q:  How helpful is the setting of New York City to telling your story?

Ellie Midwood: I would say that New York City is one of the characters of the book: the City is the reason why Mila decides to stay in the United States as she falls in love with it right away. In the first chapters she describes New York City as someone would describe their lover, the way it makes her feel, the look, the smell, the sound; she talks about the City with such adoration that even if you’ve never been there you’ll most certainly want to visit it after reading THE NEW YORK DOLL. New York takes part in Mila’s character development: first it’s trying to break her, keeps pushing her away, but just to find out if she’s strong enough to have the honor of being called a real New Yorker. This City will break your spine if you are not ready for it, it’ll chew you up and spit you out. And Mila overcomes all the challenges on her way to prove her right to stay in her beloved city.

One more interesting detail in the book that’s probably going to appeal to a lot of readers is the description of the disaster caused by the hurricane “Sandy”. When it strikes, Mila and her best friend Mikky find themselves witnessing the terrifying consequences of “Sandy.” The day after “Sandy” hit the City, they walk on Emmons Ave in Sheepshead Bay (an area in Brooklyn surrounded by the ocean) and describe the devastation it caused as the whole area got almost completely wiped out (it took almost a year for Emmons Ave to rebuild; some stores and restaurants however are still closed). A lot of New Yorkers are still suffering from the consequences of the hurricane and I thought it would be important to raise this topic in my book, as well as the shortage of gas and food that followed “Sandy.”

Q:  Who will most benefit from or enjoy reading THE NEW YORK DOLL?

Ellie Midwood: THE NEW YORK DOLL is an adult audience oriented novel, and everyone who’s interested in stories revealing the truth about certain aspects of life or businesses will enjoy reading it. I like to compare THE NEW YORK DOLL to THE NANNY DIARIES by Nicola Kraus and Emma McLaughlin or THE TWINS OF TRIBECA by Rachel Pine, but instead of revealing an ugly marriage and child raising problems of the Upper East Side moms or showing the real face of the movie-making business, THE NEW YORK DOLL exposes the inner world of a gentleman’s club business, it tells the story behind each character, both good and bad, it dwells on the question why the whole industry is so popular among men and why even the richest brokers of Wall Street who can afford everything, are complaining about their life and trying to find comfort in the arms of these beautiful dancers.

Q: What element to do you think is most important in creating a compelling story? Do you think it’s different across genres?

Ellie Midwood: As an eager reader, I always find the development of a character the most interesting, especially when he or she is taken from their normal environment and has to respond to new circumstances. For example in THE ALCHEMIST by one of my favorite authors Paulo Coelho the main character Santiago chasing his dream finds himself in a completely different country, the language of which he doesn’t even speak. He gets all his money stolen and doesn’t have a place to go. And nevertheless he doesn’t give up and keeps following his path. And I think a lot of people find it very inspiring. That’s why I wanted to create a similar story, with a strong character development that would be appealing to the readers. The main character Mila wouldn’t survive in New York if she would remain the person she used to be. She has to evolve, transform herself in order to fight for her dream and I hope the readers will enjoy following her transformation.

Q:  What’s next?

Ellie Midwood: I’m currently working on my second book under the working title THE BROOKLYN BOYS’ TALES, which depicts the life of several people connected to or members of one of the New York mob families. It’s very different from all the books on the related topic as it tells the real stories of real people that you won’t find in Wikipedia or in the police protocols. It’s going to have a very Brooklyn tone and accent, with a lot of real places mentioned, but all the names will be changed of course to protect the “story-tellers”. Here’s a little blurb from it:

“Some of them were away for several years; some just never got caught. A lot of controversy surrounds them: rumors, tall-tales, some of them are true, some are created by the vivid imagination of the crowd. But once a wise guy enters the room, everybody feels his presence. And even when you get too intimidated, you can’t show your fear; they have the senses of a wild animal and will tear you apart right away. Feel free to show your respect though, they like it, and if you happen to gain their trust and establish a friendly relationship with one of them through offering some free services or helping them out with something, you won’t regret it in the future. Just like in “The Godfather”, one hand always washes the other, and believe me, when you get in trouble you want that hand to be there for you.”

Q: Tell us about Ellie Midwood. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Ellie Midwood: I’m pretty much always writing, whether it’s a new project or a post for my blog (it’s also called “The New York Doll” and you can find it here: Ellieellechka.blogspot.com). I really enjoy doing restaurant reviews for my friends and also for the new hot spots that I discover in New York. Besides writing, I’m very into yoga and a healthy lifestyle and trying to be as active as I can. My best friend Vladlena and I once walked all the way from the Battery Park to Central Park; I’m really into New York City and even though I currently live in Brooklyn, I enjoy going there and finding new places. Sometimes I like being a tourist in my own city, it always inspires me and puts me in a good mood even if I’m upset or stressed out. I also love the process of the never-ending educational process for myself (I think so far I’ve been to every museum in the City, some of them I visited several times) and really enjoy reading new historical and medical articles (my grandmother is a doctor and my childhood books were replaced by medical encyclopedias). I’m very into politics as well and can’t help but to involve people into a conversation about the current events.

About Ellie Midwood

Ellie Midwood came to the United States after graduating from the faculty of foreign languages in Moscow, Russia. Her impressions from the first years in New York were put at the base of her book THE NEW YORK DOLL. Ellie is currently working on her upcoming book "The Brooklyn Boys' Tales" that depicts the lives of several powerful members of one of New York mob families. Ellie currently lives in New York with her boyfriend and their Chihuahua.

This is a story of a young girl of Russian-Jewish heritage Mila, who came to New York in search of true love and the American Dream. But after struggling to survive and keep a roof above her head, she turns to an option that she never even considered before: she becomes an exotic dancer. On her way she meets a lot of people, both good and bad, and she depicts every single one of them with incredible honesty. She falls in love with the owner of the club, the powerful Italian-American mobster R., and now they both have to fight for their bright future together.

This is the story of love and hatred, of friendship and betrayal, and everything else that takes place behind the closed doors of a gentleman's club.


“One of the myths about this business is that all strippers are whores, or gold diggers, or both combined.  Probably in certain cases you would be right, but 80% of the girls simply have temporary financial difficulties and they are hot and open-minded enough to resolve them quickly and pain free. Some of the girls are dancing to pay off their fake marriages for papers, oh well, let’s be honest, that’s the majority of the whole strip club population. That was the reason why Mikky spent three years in different clubs and now she is a happily divorced legal American citizen with a nice bank account and plans on buying an apartment in Manhattan.

“Some of the girls, however, don’t have the papers yet and that’s the only nicely paid half-legal job that they can find at the time. That’s the case of most of the Brazilian and Puerto-Rican girls who are lucky enough to have prettier faces and rounder butts than those who have to clean hotel rooms 24/7 or babysit some spoiled rotten Park Avenue toddlers.

“Some girls are paying off their tuition by giving lap dances and doing champagne rooms, since they are not that attracted to the idea of being a 30 year old lawyer with a huge debt to pay to the truly fascinating American educational system. These are mostly American girls from the lower middle class families who do this so that their daughters won’t have to.

“You know, when you think of that, I truly admire all these girls and women who actually have a very structured plan on what they want to do with their lives and what are they going to be in 3, 5, 7 years and how much it’s all going to cost. It amazes me what great accountants, managers and personal life coaches they are.”


 Twitter: @EllieMidwood

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Euphonos Aus, Author

Euphonos Aus, Author
Euphonos Aus has just released the second volume of WINGS OF EMOTION. Reviewers tout her books of free verse and narrative poems as a “compilation of deep and thought provoking poems,” particularly about romance. Euphonos says “If readers can feel the love in their heart and remember the ones they love, my job is done.”

She currently lives in Melbourne, is an engineer by profession, and loves to stay at home and watch TV for relaxation, when she’s not reading, writing, or blogging.

Don't miss the short excerpt from her most recent book following her interview.

Q: Reviewers of your previous book PIECES OF TIME say “this author has a knack for writing romance.”  What makes a good romance? How do you succeed with WINGS OF EMOTION VOLUME II?

Euphonos: The whole spine of the “True Love” series is romance and true love. I think good romance is more about the intimacy that develops in time beyond the world of reasons and practical decisions.

Perhaps the reviewers wrote this because the romance in PIECES OF TIME surpasses the expectation of novel-romance. I should tell you, there is no iota of passion or excitement but it is a love story of trust and belief in search of her true love and whether destiny will bind them together.

My new book is a sequel to the first poetry book WINGS OF EMOTION VOLUME I. Well, the poems reflect raw emotions dealing with love, grief, loss and your inner soul. As always, I pour my heart out and write bluntly what’s in my mind and hope I have succeeded.

Q: How did you conceive of the story for your newest book? What inspired you to write it?

Euphonos: There’s no story in poetry but there’s a story in every poem I wrote in this volume undoubtedly. My thoughts I can say are true source of inspiration. The thought to feel free from the heaviness, the pure reflection of my soul and the ones around me made me write these poems.

Q: You write both poetry and prose. Do you prefer one over the other? Does writing poetry help you write prose?

Euphonos: Readers are the best judges, I must admit. Since my first book is a collection of poems written like a conversation in a natural language, more prose-like but sounds less than the usual poetry substance equated with so-called rhythmic element here and there. Yet, there is a similar pattern of recurrence that’s present. Nevertheless, I cannot definitely agree or come to a conclusion as to what I really write, poetry or prose. All I can say is it is a language I discovered for myself to tell the world what I feel.

Q: How helpful is setting to telling your story?

Euphonos: Well, the poetry does not really have much to do with the setting. Every poem I write, the image flashes and pictures keep me going. Like the poem, “BLUE EYED ESCAPE” from my next book which talks about a girl who is trying to escape while the boy admires and falls in love. So, I only see the characters and the sense of feeling than the time or place or period. On the other hand, PIECES OF TIME has got a lot to do with the setting. The whole story that revolves around the protagonist, Linda happens in Gladstone {small town I created}. So, it is a definite helpful factor, I believe.

Q: Why do readers care about your characters? What do you do to help readers engage with them?

Euphonos: I think characters are the driving force for any story. So, if readers can relate to any of the characters, they will find it more engaging and keeps them interested to the core. I feel connected with some stories when the main character is challenging and energetic rather than playing the victim. I feel attached when there’s emotional aspect and values. It might differ from one to other but certainly it is in the hands of the writer to make the story come alive.

Q: Does the concept of “villain” vs “hero” apply to your stories? Who are the heroes in a romance?

Euphonos: Hahaha!!! So far, there’s no villain in my story. Ian Baker, the high-school crush of Linda closely justifies the sense of “villain” maybe!!!

Q:  You are a “techie” by profession. How do you bridge your creative and techie selves? Do they ever interfere or help with each other?

Euphonos:  Surprisingly, the techie geek in me is dormant while I am writing. So, I never really had to try bridging between my professional front and my writer’s world. Maybe, the urge to write from a very young age and the love for books, the classic characters is an imprint of who I am and what I am doing today.

Q: Do you write to entertain your readers? Educate? Deliver a message?

Euphonos: I am sure there is a strong reason to carve every beautiful story. Also, in today’s world, people have wide variety of choices for entertainment. For me, I grew up reading books and so fond of every book I read, I never feel there’s a bad book out there or there’s a book with no message.

I strongly believe every book has a message, something we can learn from and entertaining in my opinion is purely an individual’s perception. Some might get entertained watching a movie while others would enjoy spending time with friends and so on. People who read books are so fond of them that there’s no scope for entertainment but a sense of joyous way to spend their time.
My books have a story to be told. There is a message in every book I write. If readers can feel the love in their heart and remember the ones they love, my job is done.

Q: What’s next?

Euphonos:  Hmmm…I have a couple of projects in mind but it is in the interest of my heart and time I get to bring them alive. Long before I began PIECES OF TIME or the just –released second volume of WINGS OF EMOTION, I was writing a children’s story “Poppy & Granny”. Perhaps, I will resume working on that. It is very close to my heart. I am sure the kids will enjoy this short story about a girl “Poppy” living in the woods with her Granny and a cat.

Q: Tell us about Euphonos Aus. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or working?

Euphonos: I love watching television and just cherish being at home. Sometimes when the weather isn’t tricky, I go fruit-picking and basically I just adore nature. Also, my interest is settling for photography and knitting. So, that will add onto my leisure hours.

About Euphonos by Euphonos

“I am an avid reader, blogger and author of  WINGS OF EMOTION Volumes 1 and II and PIECES OF TIME. Growing up reading classics has always fascinated my belief in fairy tales. Also, I always had the flair for writing when I was a kid. I am an Engineer by profession. But, there is a born writer within me who has great passion to pen what I believe in.

I live in the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, a very happening place. Yet, I am one of those who enjoys sitting at home in my pajamas and watching television. I love living my life the way it is and for who I am and have no regrets. Now, don’t fall for that!!! I do have regrets. Nevertheless, the curiosity to live my life and wish for something miraculous has never left me peaceful. Also, you will always find me with a book in hand.

“My first work includes poetry intertwined with human emotions of love, grief, loss of loved ones in a free verse equated with rhythm and sometimes my writing is breezy. You’ll find me lovable.” 


What lies beyond the poet’s mind?
 A chance of unknown fate, Poems that speaks one’s life, regrets that come    uninvited while living a wonderful imperfect life with a sense of happiness and wishful ways to spend rest of our lives is what it is all about the second volume.

A profound testament to unconditional love, loss and hope, this free flowing verse paints a picture of the first breathless moments of new love to the heartache of letting go.  Each word is a swath of elegance and grace that will linger in the halls of your memory for years to come.

You can reach her @AeuphonosBook
Instagram: aeuphonos
Pinterest: aeuphonos

Thursday, July 31, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Chrissie Parker, Author

Chrissie Parker, Author
UK author Chrissie Parker just released her latest novel, AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES, a suspense story with threads of romance inspired by an occurrence on a Greek island in World War II. She wanted to tell a “raw and real” story about her main character Elena, whose life was typical of what happened to Greeks during WW II. She also wanted to attract people to visit Greece, a country that has had “such a hard time lately.”

Parker, who lives in London with her actor husband and two cats named appropriately after Roman goddesses, enjoys ancient history and archeology. She has also published the thriller INTEGRATE, and is working on two sequels to it along with two historical novels set in Egypt and Jordan. In addition to writing, she likes making spiral beaded bracelets.

Q: How did you conceive of the story for AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES?  Is it based on a true story? Or on characters from your family?

Chrissie Parker: The entire book is based on a conversation I had with a Greek local while on holiday in Zakynthos, Greece in 2005.  During the conversation the local told me all about something that happened on the island during World War Two (I can’t tell you what it as it’s a huge spoiler for the book!).  Needless to say, the conversation stayed with me and I decided to write about it.  I also wanted to set a book on the island of Zakynthos as it’s a beautiful place and Greece has been through such a hard time recently.  I wanted to write something that would inspire people to visit it.

Q: How would you characterize AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES? Is it a “coming of age” story? Or romance? Or suspense?

Chrissie Parker: AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES is Historical Fiction.  It is very definitely a suspense, but there are aspects of romance weaving through it.  I think in essence the book is about change, and dealing with things in your life that you can’t control.  Both Elena and Kate are faced with things that they have to deal with head on.  It’s about strength of characters and doing the right thing for ‘you’ as well as others.

Q: How helpful was setting to telling your story? Thinking about events in Greece during WW II invokes all kinds of possibilities. Could you have told this story as effectively at any time in any place?

Chrissie Parker: The setting was crucial.  As the story hinges on this one piece of information I heard, Zakynthos was the only place it could have been told.  If you then combine that with the main character and the isolation of the island and its idyllic nature, I don’t think the story would have worked as well anywhere else.

The thing that surprised me the most was the lack of researchable material that remains.  Most information about what happened on Zakynthos in World War Two, came from a limited number of sources, either word of mouth, or from one book in the island’s library. Many records of what happened were destroyed during a big earthquake on the island in 1953. 

Q: How did you assure historical accuracy? Is accuracy important for credibility and believability? Or for enhancing the story?

Chrissie Parker: I did a lot of research.  I love history, but I’m more into Ancient History than modern, so World War Two was a bit of a learning curve for me.  I read books about the war, the Greek resistance, and women’s roles during the war.  I watched a lot of documentaries on the subject and also visited some museums.  I also had to do a lot of research about Greece in general.  For this particular book, accuracy was incredibly important, as the chapters set in Greece are chronologically set from 1938 to 1944, so I needed to make sure that any world events mentioned, that impacted the story, fell in the right place in the book.  

I wanted the book to not only tell a story but to be raw and real.  It is rumored that what eventually happened to my character Elena actually happened to Greeks for real during the war.  I needed to understand why, so that I could write in the best way possible without sensationalizing it. 

Q: What did you do to help readers engage with your characters in an historical setting? Why do we care what happens to them?

Chrissie Parker: I think Elena is an important character.  She is a woman, she is expected to act a certain way for a woman of her time.  She breaks with conventionality in many ways in this book.  Everything she does is for others, she is completely selfless and I love that about her.  She is strong willed, has a big heart and is also very feisty.  In a way I feel that what happened to her was always meant to be.

Q: Did you write AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES strictly to entertain? Or did you also want to educate readers? Or deliver a message?

Chrissie Parker: I wrote it to both entertain and to send a message.  In fact there are a few messages in this book.  War is hard, it changes life, but Elena fought for everything she believed in, people are strong and will do everything they can to protect those they love, and whether we are at war or just living life normally, we should always look after those we love and protect them the best we can.  There is always an answer to your troubles if you search hard enough, and I think all of that comes across in the book. 

I also wanted to show people what a wonderful place Greece is.  As I mentioned above, it has been through a really hard time over the last few years and if people read the book and choose to then visit it, it means that it is helping the people who live there. 

Q: Does the concept of “heroes” vs “villains” play an important part in AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES? Do you need a villain to have a hero? What makes a good villain?

Chrissie Parker: Very much so.  There are a number of villains in this book, and a few heroes too.  War changes people and people have to choose sides whether they like it or not.  In this book we have the typical villain, Italians and Germans who have invaded the island and taken away the freedom of those who live there.  There are also people who have unintentionally become villains by choosing to align with the enemy as a way of self-preservation. Sometimes in life people don’t always pick the right side, and they unintentionally then become a villain, but if there is good in them, they will do something heroic in the end.  There is a definite need for hero and villain in AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES, the war was full of both, and it very clearly comes through in this story. 

In the case of this story a good villain is one that suppresses the masses, one that takes away their freedom, that leaves them scared and afraid, with no choice but to fight against the oppression.  This in turn makes the islanders heroic, they fight for their family and their neighbors and for their ultimate freedom.

Q: Are you in control of your characters, or do they take over occasionally and make you write something you never intended?

Chrissie Parker: Most of the time I am in control of my characters but I struggled a lot with Elena.  She is such a feisty and headstrong character.  She led me down paths I was least expecting. I knew what I wanted from her, but she really did break all of the boundaries, and ended up being much braver and more determined than I could ever have imagined.  I also struggled with a few others too, Kate Fisher was hard to predict, in the book she receives a big shock, and she handles it very badly, she definitely suffered with mood swings during the writing process!

Q: What’s next?

Chrissie Parker: I am currently working on two sequels to INTEGRATE called Temperance and Retribution, both of which will be released next year.  I also have two works of historical fiction in the pipeline that I need to revise, they are set in Egypt and Jordan.

Q: Tell us about Chrissie Parker. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Chrissie Parker: I am married to an actor, and live in London (UK), and we have two cats that are named after Roman Goddesses.  I’m a history and archaeology geek, and I have completed a 6 month Egyptology course and a 6 month Archaeology course with Exeter University. I love collecting and reading history books and watching documentaries about ancient history too.  I also make beaded spiral bracelets.

- I always write with a green pen
- I can’t say the word anonymous – it comes out as anomynous
- My favorite sandwich is cheese and orange marmalade – everyone thinks it’s odd

About Chrissie Parker

Chrissie lives in London with her husband and is a freelance Production Coordinator working in the TV, documentary and film industry. 

Chrissie is also an Author.  Her thriller INTEGRATE was released in October 2013.  Chrissie is currently working on two sequels to Integrate called Temperance and Retribution.  Both will be released in 2015.

Other written work includes factual articles for the Bristolian newspaper and guest articles for the charities Epilepsy Awareness Squad and Epilepsy Literary Heritage Foundation.  Chrissie has also written a book of short stories and poems, one of which was performed at the 100 poems by 100 women event at the Bath International Literary Festival in 2013.

Chrissie is passionate about Ancient History, Archaeology and Travel, and has completed two six-month Archaeology and Egyptology courses with Exeter University.   She also likes to read, collect books, make bracelets and listen to music. To find out more about Chrissie visit her website www.chrissieparker.com

Elena Petrakis adores living on the Greek island of Zakynthos. When World War Two looms her way of life is threatened. Left with no choice she joins the island's resistance to fight for what she believes in; her family, her home, and her freedom.

Decades later, thousands of miles away in the Cornish town of Newquay, Kate Fisher prepares to celebrate her twenty-first birthday, but her joy is fleeting when she learns she is adopted. Abandoning life in England, Kate flees to Zakynthos, where she is forced to acknowledge a life she has struggled to come to terms with, one that will change her future.

From the beautiful crystal turquoise seas of the Ionian Islands to the rugged shores of the Cornish coast, AMONG THE OLIVE GROVES  is a story of love, bravery and sacrifice.


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Author Links
Twitter - @Chrissie_author

Sunday, July 13, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: A.R. Williams, Author

A.R. Williams created The Camellia Trilogy as a result of a conversation with a friend about superheroes and their origins and the realization that “There's always some accident, some government-engineered scientific mishap.” Reviewers of the first book in the trilogy, THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE, say it’s an entertaining and interesting read… of mystery, survival, conspiracy, and adventure” and “a dystopian future in a society obsessed with hygiene.”

A.R. Williams has always wanted to write, and she embraces the politics and available opportunities offered by living in Washington, D.C. She also appreciates making a “killer” salsa.

Q: How did you conceive of the plot line for THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE? Is it a story that has to be told?

A.R. Williams: THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE started as a strange conversation with a friend back in 2009.  We were talking about writing naughty stories and he suggested superheroes having sex.  As the conversation evolved, that turned into superheroes and their origin stories.  There's always some accident, some government-engineered scientific mishap.  Why not a virus, and since we're talking about superheroes and sex, why not a STD?  

I wish I could claim JK Rowling's discipline when it comes to plotting, but the plot and the ideas behind it have evolved over time.  I started writing in November of 2009 and the last big idea fell into place in the beginning of 2012.  As a writer, this is the story that hasn't let me go. From my perspective, it had to be told.  

Q: What draws you to write in your genre? Would you characterize THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE as SciFi, fantasy, dystopian fantasy?

A.R. Williams: It is probably a cop-out, but I never set out to write in a particular genre.  It was the characters and the world they live in that came first.  Then it was a focus on "oh dear, I've got to live up to this concept."  Where the book would fall in the groupings at Barnes and Noble was the last thing on my mind, at least while I was writing it.

That being said, it turns out that the trilogy falls solidly in the dystopian fantasy genre.  

Q: How do you create credibility for a world set in 2044? How important is back story?

A.R. Williams: Back story is crucial.  Where we come from sets us the parameters for where we can go next.  Our history informs everything.  Our assumptions about the world we live in, the things we take for granted, everything rests on the foundation of what comes before.  In the writing process, the back story weighs as much as the current activity.  I think that will become more evident as we move into the second book.

As for creating credibility, I may have taken the easy way out.  A pandemic flu wiped out most of the population in 1987, an event that was followed by the disintegration of the constitutional government of the United States.  That's pretty much going to grind technological progress to a halt. I didn't put myself in a position of having to build a world where flying personal space suits are the norm.  I think that puts the burden of credibility with the characters living in the culture with its norms and expectations instead of adequately describing the technology.  

Q: What makes us care about Willow Carlyle as a character?

A.R. Williams: Well, I've found out that Willow isn't universally likable.  She's been a bit sanctimonious and judgmental, she doesn't understand herself very well, she thinks she has things under control and she doesn't.  But what happens to her - not just the specifics, but the experience of hitting rock bottom - is a pretty universal experience.  She gets to this thing that she never thought would happen to her, this experience that is the end of her world, and it doesn't kill her.  Much to her surprise, she keeps going, imperfectly, of course, but she keeps going. 

Some readers can't stand Willow, but really like one of the other characters.  Which is okay with me, because although Willow is the introduction to the world of the Camellias, it is a bigger world than just her.  

Q: Are there villains in THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE? What makes an effective villain?

A.R. Williams: There are villains, but it depends a little on your perspective.  There are people in the book who do bad things, who hurt other people carelessly, who kill.  Back when Veronica Mars was still on TV, the actor that played Logan (Jason Dohring) said about his character "no one thinks of themselves as the bad guy."  The quote is paraphrased because it's been so long ago even Google is having trouble finding the exact quote, but that idea really stuck with me.  I think he was right.  We all do stuff other people don't like, but none of us thinks of ourselves as bad people.
From the internal perspective of a "villain," you're just doing what you have to do, right?  We all have our reasons.  When you cut someone off in traffic, you never think of yourself as the asshole, it is always the other schmuck that wouldn't let you in.  

So to me, an effective villain has some ambiguity, believes in whatever course of action he/she is pursuing, and has moments of likability.  

Q:  Why write a trilogy instead of just a standalone book?

A.R. Williams: There are two answers to that question, one has to do with the story itself and the other has to do with impatience.  

The trilogy structure, at least as I'm planning to use it, allows me to widen the aperture to this world a little with every book.  Willow's perspective is the first one we meet, and THE CAMELLIA RESISTANCE is about her understanding of the world she lives in. Books two and three will each take a step back, widening the perspective until the whole big world, back-story and all, comes into view.  

As for the impatience, my experience with the real world has taught me about the importance of getting started.  You can do something now or you can wait and do everything later, but if you're going to do everything later...  well, later never shows up.  Now is here.  Now is about all you can count on.  I've spent too much time waiting for the perfect conditions, waiting to have everything 100% ready, and really, that's just fear talking.  Do what doesn't take permission.  Do it now.  To quote Janis Joplin, tomorrow never happens man.    

Q: Do your characters push you around and lead you to write something you never intended? Or do you stick to your outline?

A.R. Williams: I'm not much of a planner, but I did start out with ideas about who my characters were - and pretty strong ideas at that.  Sometimes they comply, sometimes they don't.  Ianthe started out as a side-kick, Marshall started out as a nice guy 100% of the time.  Warren, at least, was always Warren.  And then some characters showed up wholly formed without invitation.  I keep talking about Morrigan, who shows up in the last half of the book.  She arrived all by herself and pretty much pointed her cane at me, waved her joint around, and said "listen lady, this is how it is going to be."  A lot of things have happened in the process that I didn't intend, but that's why you write...  as much as the reader, I want to know what happens next.  

Q: Do you write to entertain your readers and/or do you want to deliver a message or educate?

A.R. Williams: The two aren't mutually exclusive in my view.  We engage with stories to entertain ourselves, but that doesn't mean that the entertainment doesn't contain a thread of truth or doesn't serve a purpose in our lives.  Some of the best stories we've got teach us that we can survive, that others have experienced what we're experiencing - again, rock bottom is pretty universal - and have found a way to carry on.  Other authors have been with me through that rock bottom experience, have held my hand and shown me that it is possible to keep going.  If I can be that for someone else, even just a little bit, then I can count myself as a success.  

So if there's a dogma to be found in the book, it is in the value of showing up, as imperfect as you are, as ill equipped as you may be.  It is in making peace with the way life is inevitably going to scar you, and learning to find the beauty and the strength in those scars.  It is that living unafraid is going to get you hurt, but hurt and alive is better than walling yourself off from everything because you're afraid of pain.   

Q:  What’s next?

A.R. Williams: I'm about 75% done with the next in the Trilogy - The Camellia Reckoning.  Then there is the editing and the re-writing and the early reader feedback and the perfecting to do.  That should keep me busy for a while, and when I'm done with that, book three.  I'm booked for the foreseeable future.  Literally.  

Q:  Tell us about A.R. Williams. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

A.R. Williams: I'm afraid the most interesting part of me is what happens when I'm not paying attention to what the thoughts in my head are up to.  Other than that, it is all pretty normal.  Work.  Swimming.  Music.  My 13 year old dog that has no idea she can't see, can't hear, and can't smell anymore.  Making a killer salsa.  This is another quote I can't find, and I don't even know who said it, but it applies: I live a restrained life so my imagination can run wild.    

About A.R. Williams

A.R. Williams is obsessed with language and myth, not just playing with words and making up stories, but with the real-world impact that our words have on the way we live. Words are the only puzzle that never gets boring, and writing is the only thing she has wanted to do consistently. Other interests, such as sewing and photography, become alternate means to feed the writing habit.

Ms. Williams feeds her obsession with curiosity: people, philosophy, technology, psychology, and culture. Living in Washington D.C. is a good source of inspiration. From the sublime heights of arts and achievement available for free at the Smithsonian to the bureaucratic banality of Beltway politics and scandals, it is a great city for fantasy, possibility, power, and consequence—ideal fodder for the fictional life. She lives between an ordinary external life filled with time cards, meetings, and deadlines; and an extraordinary imaginary world where anything is possible and everything is fueled by music.

2044. Willow Carlyle is the youngest cultural epidemiology research director in the history of the Ministry of Health and is on the fast-track for further promotion until a night of passion shatters her carefully constructed life.

Marked and unemployed, Willow falls in with a band of dissidents. Everyone wants something. In the process of discerning friend from foe, Willow begins to unravel secrets that will shake the New Republic of America to its foundation. 


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Author Links

A.R.'s Blog / Twitter / Google + / Goodreads

Follow the entire Camellia Resistance tour HERE   

* This tour is brought to you by Worldwind Virtual Book Tours *