Wednesday, December 16, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: April Bostic, Author

April Bostic says THE HOWLING HEART is primarily a romance—with a unique kind of werewolf. She enjoys werewolves and shapeshifters but intended for hers to be different and to support the romance in her story.  She also believes that although werewolves are involved, it’s important that the main characters be relatable to the reader. One reviewer says, “This is the top of my list for paranormal.”

THE HOWLING HEART is Bostic’s second novel, and she has also published several short stories—adult romances frequently with a supernatural twist. When she’s not writing, she’s dreaming about one of her stories being made into a film, playing computer games, or spending time with her family.

Q: Your book, THE HOWLING HEART, features werewolves. How did you become interested in writing about werewolves? Do you consider THE HOWLING HEART primarily a romance, thriller, or ????

April Bostic: I was inspired to write THE HOWLING HEART after watching the film “Blood and Chocolate” and the television series “Wolf Lake”. I’ve always enjoyed werewolves and shapeshifters, and these are two of my favorites because of how the werewolves were portrayed. I decided to try my own take on werewolf mythology when I wrote my book to see if I could create something unique that I’d never heard or seen before. I’m also a hopeless romantic, so there was no question in my mind that the book would primarily be a romance story.

Q: Fans and readers of shape-shifters appreciate your approach to “a different side of werewolves” and say it’s “not your typical werewolf story.” How is THE HOWLING HEART different from a typical book on werewolves? What makes it unique?

April Bostic: I think THE HOWLING HEART is unique, because my werewolves are actually wolves that can take human form instead of vice versa. They are born wolves and must sleep as wolves. They have to learn how to take human form when they’re young. They are not a wolf-human hybrid. Their origin is unique in that they’re descended from a wolf in 13th century Scandinavia that was blessed by Norse gods with the ability to take human form. The reason he was blessed is also unique, because it began from a long-term bond and love for a human. I even think their name---Varulv—is unusual. It’s the Danish and Swedish translation for ‘werewolf’.

Q: How do you create credibility for your werewolf characters? How do you engage readers to care about them? Are there any rules for making a paranormal story credible? Or perhaps it doesn’t matter?

April Bostic: I think it’s important to make the main character relatable to some readers. I also think it’s key to ground some of the story in reality. Authors of this genre ask their readers to suspend disbelief, but I think there needs to be some reality so it’s balanced. Otherwise, the story becomes too unbelievable and over the top. That’s when some readers have a lot of questions because things don’t make sense. I understand that some things in the paranormal universe can defy logic, but again, there should be a balance where the author explains how certain things are possible.

Q: Reviewers say they “couldn’t put it down!” What makes them want to keep turning the page?

April Bostic: It’s good a feeling to know I kept some readers engaged in the book. I hope they couldn’t put it down, because they enjoyed my writing style, and that I wrote enough action and suspense to keep them wondering “What’s going to happen next?”

Q: How helpful was the setting (a small village) to telling your story? Would it have been the same type of story if set in New York City, for example?

April Bostic: Most Varulv live in small, isolated communities because it’s safer for them and humans.  There aren’t any packs living in big cities because it increases the risk of exposure and humans discovering their secret. Especially with pups who really have no self-control. It’s not a good idea to let them socialize with humans when they’re still learning to control their shifting. Varulv live in close-knit packs so they can protect one another and elude humans if the situation arises. I don’t think THE HOWLING HEART would’ve been as effective if Paige discovered a pack in her city. The city is too familiar for her. The setting had to put her out of her comfort zone to the point she feels helpless and has to rely on werewolves to survive.

Q: Did you write THE HOWLING HEART strictly to entertain, or did you embed a few messages in it?

April Bostic: I don’t think I intentionally embedded any messages, but if anyone can take something valuable from the story, then I think that’s wonderful. I wrote THE HOWLING HEAERT to share with others and entertain those who enjoy a good romance!

Q:  Does the concept of “heroes vs villains” apply to THE HOWLING HEART? How would you define an effective villain?

April Bostic: I definitely think the conflict of heroes vs villains comes into play.  With THE HOWLING HEART, Paige sees one person as a villain who turns out is really not. The person who is the true villain doesn’t reveal themselves until later. I think an effective villain is to not make them obvious from the beginning. Make the villain intriguing for the reader. Many characters in my book are not always who they seem to be. I also made sure not to fall into the cliché of the male always being the hero and rescuing the “damsel in distress”. There are moments when female characters display very brave and heroic characteristics.

Q: Would you recommend THE HOWLING HEART to those who do not typically read paranormal or space-shifter literature? Why or why not?

April Bostic: I would recommend my book to anyone who enjoys adult romances, because even without the paranormal element, the story is mainly a romance. The fact that there are werewolves and Norse gods doesn’t distract too much from the main theme of the story. I don’t think the story is about werewolves; it’s about two people who met as children and one of them fell in love and never stopped wishing for them to be reunited so they could be together forever.

Q:  What’s next? Will you be writing more paranormal or romance novels?

April Bostic:  I have an idea for another paranormal romance novel, but it’s in the early stages. I’ve also been considering a sequel to THE HOWLING HEART, because I feel there could be more story to tell my readers. I haven’t published a book in two years, and it’s difficult to get my creative juices flowing again. It takes a lot to motivate me to write, so I really have to find something to give me the push I need.

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

April Bostic: I’m a big dreamer, and I find myself dream-casting my characters when I watch movies and television programs. My mother is the only other person who does this, because she’s read all my books. We like to choose different actors and actresses and talk about why they’d be a good fit to play a certain character. I think the main reason we do this is because we’d both love to see one of my stories get adapted for film one day. I’d say that’s probably my biggest dream. I think THE HOWLING HEART would make an amazing movie…with the right director of course! When I’m not writing, you’ll usually find me watching television, spending time with my family, or playing computer games. I’m a very laid back person.

About April Bostic

April Bostic is a New Jersey-based, Adult Romance author who enjoys unleashing her creativity and letting her imagination run wild. Her love of romance books inspired her to become not just a reader, but also a writer. In December 2008, she self-published her first novel, a contemporary romance with a supernatural twist entitled "A Rose to the Fallen".

Her first short story, "Right Here, Right Now", released in January 2012, is an erotic romance with a dash of S&M. The following year, she released two more short stories: a romantic urban fantasy inspired by the Greek myth of Eros and Psyche entitled "Eros, My Love", and a sexy romantic comedy entitled "Love Addiction".

After five years, she released her second novel, "The Howling Heart" in August 2013, a paranormal romance that delves into the mystical world of werewolves and Norse gods. To end her busiest year in publishing, April also released her fourth short story in December 2013, a historical paranormal romance entitled "A Dark Scandal".


Paige Donovan is an ambitious college graduate who aspires to reach the top of the corporate ladder. She’s climbing fast when given the promotion of a lifetime at a prestigious fashion magazine in New York City. Her bright future comes to an unexpected halt after news of her father’s death. She inherits his old cabin in the Colorado Rockies, and just when she thinks her luck couldn’t get any worse, she has a car accident in the mountains and awakens in the small, remote community of Black River.

Soon, she’s engulfed in the mystical world of Varulv---wolves descended from 13th century Scandinavia and blessed by Norse gods with the ability to appear human. Paige is desperate to return home, but never expects to fall for her rescuer, Riley Gray, a charming young werewolf from England who offers her an alternate future with his pack.

Now, she must choose between the career she’s always wanted and the love she’s always dreamed.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: John Pearce, Author

John Pearce, Author
John Pearce’s recently-released LAST STOP: PARIS is an international suspense thriller and a sequel to his previous thriller, TREASURE OF SAINT-LAZARE. Set in Paris, LAST STOP: PARIS intends to pull the reader into the city as the protagonist works to identify the black-market seller of anti-aircraft missiles.

A former journalist for the International Herald Tribune, Pearce knows Europe well and particularly Paris, where he lives off and on when not in Sarasota, FL. In addition to writing and traveling, Pearce writes a blog He is currently working on a third novel that will combine the characters from the first two novels.  

Q: Reviewers describe your newest release, LAST STOP: PARIS, as an international mystery, full of suspense and adventure. What are the elements that make it a mystery? Or would you describe it as more of an adventure than a mystery? A thriller? What makes it so?

John Pearce: I was amused that Kirkus, in its rather fulsome review, had trouble characterizing it. The first book was clearly a historical mystery (and in fact won a national “best-of” award for the category). In LAST STOP: PARIS, the mystery is the identity of the ultimate bad guy, who was responsible for the misery in Eddie Grant’s life but always seems just out of reach. The thriller part is very topical – the black-market sale of deadly anti-aircraft missiles known as manpads, which Eddie and his sidekicks must thwart to prevent the physical and financial carnage that would result if two loaded airliners were shot down at De Gaulle Airport.

Q: Why did you decide to write a sequel to TREASURE OF SAINT-LAZARE: A NOVEL OF PARIS? Did you leave some loose ends in TREASURE?

John Pearce: I intended to write one book, but after no more than two or three chapters I realized the story was bigger than that. It would have been a very large single volume.

Q: How helpful is Paris as a setting to create suspense, intrigue, and/or romance? Would these two stories be different if set in New York, London, or San Francisco?

John Pearce: I write about Paris because that’s the big city I know best, it’s where I live for part of each year, and I am a true fan. While I could set similar a story in another big city, it wouldn’t have the flavor of Paris. Eddie is a dual national, at home in both the French and American worlds. He distinguished himself as a military officer in Operation Desert Storm, and proudly wears the ribbons of both his Bronze Star and his Legion d’Honneur. His father, and all the Grant men before them, were also military officers, and his father was an American military spy behind German lines in France and elsewhere in the world (that’s another book).

Q:  How did you create your protagonist, Eddie? Is he based on someone you knew? Would you describe him as a “hero?”

John Pearce: Like all my characters, Eddie is an amalgam of people I know and people who live only in my imagination. I’d be very surprised if there is a person alive who would see himself clearly in Eddie.

Eddie would not consider himself a hero, but his friends would. His goal is to be an ordinary man living an ordinary life, but outside forces make that impossible and he always rises to the occasion, with a little help from his friends.

Q: Is the concept of “hero vs villain” relevant to LAST STOP: PARIS? Do you define your villains clearly, or are they a mixture of good guy/bad guy?

John Pearce: The concept is very relevant. The villains are the type of people I consider most villainous – people willing to injure, even kill, simply for financial gain. The true villains in both my stories are genuinely evil, but be careful jumping to quick conclusions about any of them. There’s at least one major surprise on the horizon.

Q: How helpful was your career as a journalist to develop the plots and characters for your novels? Were you able to transfer the skills required for writing non-fiction articles on economics etc. to writing fiction?

John Pearce: Journalism taught me to gather information and organize it so it can be used to construct a story. Learning to write in the long form was a challenge, so much so that I shelved the novel for a year and dug deeply into the art and craft of writing novels. When I came back to it, the writing went much more smoothly.

Q: How do you create suspense? Again, what enabled you to write a thriller after a career as a journalist?

John Pearce: Suspense comes from putting people into difficult situations and watching how they dig out. Sometimes I have the resolution in mind before I begin to write, but it’s amazing how many scenes develop themselves organically only after I start to put words on paper.

Good journalists, good novelists and good short-story writers have one trait in common: they are good story-tellers. They can communicate the facts of an event or a situation in a way that readers can understand. The journalist of the type I was (just the facts, ma’am) has less freedom of writing style, while the truly literary novelist is free to create elegant phrases that flow smoothly across the page. As a novelist, I’m somewhere in between, I think.

Q: Did you write your PARIS novels strictly to entertain or do you sneak in a few key messages?

John Pearce: Entertainment is my main goal, but I also want my readers to feel like they’re physically present in my scenes. One of the most charming reviews I received for TREASURE said something like, “I’ve never been to Paris until now.” That reviewer understood what I was trying to do.

I didn’t set out to make any political or social points, but several reviewers thought I had. Of course, it’s the rare writer who can create a story free of his own experiences and viewpoints. But my stories aren’t tracts of any sort.

Q: What’s next?

John Pearce: I’m about 40% finished with a third novel, which will reunite the characters I assembled in the first two books, plus or minus. As I envision it now, it will have more of an espionage flavor to it.

After that, I want to write the story of Eddie’s father, Artie, a Harvard-trained lawyer who FDR lured out of the business world in the 30s to become a military spy (at a time when it wasn’t done for someone of his class to join the military). If it works the way my preliminary outline says it should, it will be a sweeping yarn.

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

John Pearce: I read quite a bit. You can’t write novels unless you read them. I like music – my wife Jan and I live in Sarasota, an arts city on the West Coast of Florida, and we have a pretty full schedule of concerts through the winter this year. We travel, to Paris and elsewhere. This year we’ve been to Chattanooga and Knoxville for the Civil War history, plus New York and Washington. The opening chapter of the next book takes place in Miami, so we’ve gone there a couple of times, including a great long weekend at the Miami Book Fair.

And I look for interesting things to do. In Paris this year, for example, we were “discovered” by the casting director for a film the Paris Opera Ballet was producing and wound up playing the part of rather stereotypical American tourists, with speaking roles, no less. I wrote about the experience and linked to the film a few weeks ago on my blog,

For someone who’s a fan of music and the arts, the best part of it was the opportunity to spend an entire day on the stage, in the rehearsal halls, and in the seats of the Opera Bastille, one of the great houses of the world.


About John Pearce

John Pearce is a part-time Parisian but lives quite happily most of the year in Sarasota, FL. He worked as a journalist in Washington and Europe, where he covered economics for the International Herald Tribune and edited a business magazine. After a business career in Sarasota, he spends his days working on his future books - The new one, LAST STOP: PARIS, is a 2015 project. It is a sequel to TREASURE OF SAINT-LAZARE.

For several months each year, he and his wife Jan live in Paris, walk its streets, and chase down interesting settings for future books and his blog, They lived earlier in Frankfurt, Germany, which gave him valuable insights for several of the scenes in Last Stop: Paris.

Summary of LAST STOP: PARIS (from Kirkus)

When readers last saw Eddie Grant in Treasure of Saint-Lazare (2012), he was hot on the trail of Nazi war loot in the company of his on-again, off-again lover, Jen. As readers return to Eddie’s shadowy world of undercover deals and thugs in the employ of crime bosses, they find a quieter, more mature Eddie, now married to Aurélie, a scholar of some note, and living in pleasant domestic bliss. Onto this romantic scene come several of Eddie’s friends, who alert him to suspicious activity within his social circle, involving a man with criminal intentions and an interest in gold. Shortly afterward, a mysterious murder implicates another character from Eddie’s past. As he looks into the matter, Aurélie soon finds herself in danger; at the same time, Jen reappears in Eddie’s life, and he’s simultaneously drawn to her and eager to avoid falling into bed with her again. Soon, he and his comrades must track down another ring of criminals and protect themselves from fatal retribution. Although sequels often suffer by having less energy than first installments, Pearce’s second foray into Eddie’s world has no such trouble. The pacing races from chapter to chapter as characters become more fully fleshed-out—particularly those in Eddie’s ring of friends. Jen provides a nice foil as an engaging modern woman who can take care of herself. Pearce again accomplishes every thriller writer’s aim: creating characters that the readers can root for and a believable, fast-paced storyline. The climax and denouement bring the storylines together neatly, but fans will see that there may yet be room for another book in the series. 
An exhilarating journey that will satisfy the most avid thriller reader.
-Kirkus Reviews
Extract from LAST STOP: PARIS (Ch. 8)

        Aurélie ran for the métro, certain she could lose Max in the maze of tunnels that connected three subway lines.
       “Help me!” she called out, as loudly as she could. “He’s trying to kill me!” Heads turned, first toward her and then toward Max, who hesitated for only an instant.
        Two steps at a time, she ran down the stairs to the platform, only to see the red lights of a departing train recede down the tracks ahead. The sign above the platform told her the next wouldn’t arrive for two minutes. She calculated quickly that she could run the length of the platform to the complicated system of transfer tunnels that make up the station, but after twenty yards the heel of her left shoe broke. In the few seconds it took to remove both of them,         Max caught her arm in a viselike grip.
        “End of the line, lady,” he gasped. He was panting hard from the run.
        As people arrived for the next train they started to gather around the curious sight. Most backed away when they saw the knife in Max’s hand — except for one shabbily dressed young man who had been asleep behind the row of chairs lining the station wall.
        Aurélie was strong and in better condition than Max was, from lifting weights and the long runs she and Eddie made frequently along the Seine, but she knew she could not beat him in a knife fight, so she played for time. She grabbed Max’s wrist with both hands and pushed the knife away while the young man moved in with his backpack. She flexed her toes and gripped the rubber buttons of the warning strip, pushing hard to keep Max off balance until she felt the cold wind that every arriving train pushes ahead of it, then heard the sound of brakes as the train entered the station. The sound rose an octave as the driver saw the fight and began a full panic stop.
        A second before the train passed, she planted her foot behind Max’s ankle and pushed him with the last of her strength. He dropped the knife so he could hold her with both hands, but it was too late — by then she had tipped him beyond the point of no return. She released her death grip on his right wrist and he tumbled headlong in front of the hundred-ton train. His anguished scream died abruptly as the first car rolled over him.
        The young man grabbed Aurélie tightly around the waist to pull her out of the way, but even with his help they bounced a dozen feet along the side of the slowing train.
        She turned to look at him. “You are a brave man. Thank you.”
        “I am a soldier, or at least I was. Where did you learn to fight like that?”
        She picked one of the blue plastic chairs lining the station wall and sat down. “It’s the second time I’ve been threatened by a man with a knife,” she said. “After the first I swore I’d never be the victim again, so I made my fiancé teach me. He was also a soldier.”
        “It worked. What did you say to that man just as you pushed him in front of the train?”
        “I told him to tell his friends in hell that I sent him.”

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Monday, December 7, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Joshua Braff, Author

Joshua Braff, Author
Joshua Braff uses both truth and fiction to bring us his THE DADDY DIARIES, a story about a stay-at-home dad who moves with his family from California to Florida where his wife has a new job. Braff’s family and his relationships with his family motivate his writing. Humor is crucial in his novels, and he considers flawed humans to be real.

Braff has written two other novels, THE UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS OF JACOB GREEN and PEEP SHOW, and you can find his works in The Huffington Post. When he’s not writing, he paints large canvases with acrylic and oil, has sold his art, and has had two studios. He is currently working on his next novel.

Don't miss the giveaway opportunity following the interview.

Q: THE DADDY DIARIES concerns a family who moves from San Francisco to Florida, a situation that causes me to shudder (apologies to my friends who live in Florida. You know I’m a Californiaphile.) How did you conceive of such a plot? Is your novel based on real events?

Joshua Braff: Yes, I use both truth and fiction in my writing. This story was based on us, a family of four that left the SF Bay Area for St. Petersburg, FL, for a job. My wife’s job. I was and am the stay-at-home Dad in our life. When we arrived the kids were off to school, the wife to work and I was still wearing my Pacific Northwest jeans in the 106 degree weather. I bought shorts and found the best air conditioning I could fine. Starbucks. I started writing “pieces” about my observations of my children throughout their lives. From the perspective of a writer that focuses on the human condition and families, my creative well was full. The Daddy Diaries is the result. I love the book.  

Q: You focus on family life in your books. Is this a theme that is especially important to you? Why?

Joshua Braff: When I began writing short stories in grad school in 1995, I saw the process as an art form only. The notion that I’d attempt to also get paid and contribute to a nest egg was not going to come from my “hobby” of writing tender sketches about Americans. When I got good at it the result was an ability to tap into fictionally structured moments that seemed to emit a level of importance. Perhaps literary importance. Moments like this to readers of short stories are rare and feed the soul well. So, the topic of family and relationships within the family is at the crux of all my motivations.

Q: Your reviewers mention how much they enjoy your use of humor. How helpful is it to tell your story?

Joshua Braff:  Crucial, in novels. Not important in short stories. Again, short stories, to me, are pure art. Novels cannot be assessed without taking into account you’re selling them to a mass amount of people. The people have needs, focus group needs. I want to make them laugh, cry, giggle at sexual stuff we all face and recognize themselves in the sentences. I’ve always described my thoughts of structure to involve, humor, pathos, pace, and us much dialogue as I feel like. Dialogue can be funny just for sounding so real. My characters are partially  “defined” in dialogue. I love when good characters speak in novels. Not everyone can write humor.  

Q: Reviewers also claim that you “highlight both negative and positive points of the family.” How supportive are flaws or negative sides to building a relatable story?

Joshua Braff:  I’d say I’m nothing without fully realized, three-dimensional characters. No human comes without flaws. My game is to make you see elements of your own real, adult life. So the warts are just as important as the porcelain skin. It won’t come off true if the characters are either mired in doom, or smiling all day long. The best day of your life is not the day I write about. But if I did, I’d be sure to recognize the moments in the fleeting perfection that remind us of our vulnerability.  

Q: How do you create interest or suspense in a story about a family? What keeps your readers turning the pages?

Joshua Braff:  I’d say the unknown. I’m in control with the “volume knobs” of the tempo and vibe of the moment. This too is earned in how you open the book and introduce characters. But when you write about kids and you draw them to be real, isn’t the reader now in a vulnerable spot, not yet knowing what happens to these kids you care about. Same with the adult characters. If you’re relating heavily to a character and I place her in a place of possible trouble, you’re going to turn the page to see what happens. We all come from family. I sometimes play with dangers that never come to fruition. The reader will turn pages, just to see if everything is going to be okay.  

Q: Did you write THE DADDY DIARIES strictly to entertain your readers or did you also embed a message or two in the story?

Joshua Braff:  I believe strongly in one’s ability to bring all of themselves to parenting. There is adequate parenting, detrimental parenting, a sort of “dial it in” vibe that comes off the American dad, etc.  I am not perfect but I work at and construct ways in my mind to connect with my kids, now teenagers. I know they love me but are also in the process of finding their independence. This definitely involves rolling their eyes at me. My openness to being told, “You’re wrong, Dad,” is at the core of an ability that is lost on certain parents. People too caught up in the “life lessons” they feel must be imparted to attain decent citizens. Life is messier than that. Without the ability to forgive and be able to apologize, you’re just going to end up clashing. Because I’m a writer, home, I raised them both, hands on. I am a much richer person for the experience of raising my kids.

Parenting and marriage are not classes Americans are required to learn. P.E. is. Chemistry. I think people marry quickly to assuage their parents. I think people see weddings as a big-old-queen-for-the-day party but not the beginning of all that much. The parachute for getting out of marriage is as easy as getting out of bed. So, the institution of marriage reads as solid as our country’s infrastructure. Brittle at best. So, I’d say, there’s  work to be done in appreciating that childhood is fleeting and culminates in adults that represent us as a people. Do better when they’re very young. Sew your oats so you’re not in competition with the babies you brought here with your loins.  And yes, I Iove entertaining my readers. 

Q: What tip[s] would you offer to ‘Dads’ about their role in the family?

Joshua Braff:  Be both the alpha, the guy who takes the reigns when the lights go out. But also be the child you remember being. Join in on the silliness of our existence, the amazing and unique path of your children as they look to you for answers in your every move. Go easy on yourself, it’s very hard at times. But it’s one of those miracles that never stops to amaze. You and a once stranger made these babies. They stay babies for about 3 seconds. Now you’re looking at someone who may or may not be your friend. It’s up to you. It’s an opportunity to forge a life long relationship. Many people mess this up. Let the child grow to know she’s safe and always in a routine of unconditional love. 

Q: You write for the Huffington Post as well as contribute to anthologies. What else have you written? Do you prefer writing articles, short stories, novels, fiction, non-fiction?

Joshua Braff:  I love writing essays. The Huff Post likes my work so they post everything and then I use the links to reach anyone out there with an internet connection. I haven’t tried a short story in years. They are so fulfilling but there’s a strong sense, these days, that it won’t be read. The attention span is rough for pieces that open on a porch in Georgia.  A question then arises, who cares? One day I will write creatively without the intention of posting or publishing. It will be for me, my friends and family. There will be something so freeing about it. It all began as an artistic outlet.   

Q: What’s next?

Joshua Braff:  Excited about the next novel. Haven’t ever been this excited to write. It’s related to my age, I think, and my success in taking control of the business end of my career.

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

Joshua Braff:  I paint large canvases with acrylic and oil. The genre is known as Color Field, Abstract Expressionism or The New York School. Pollock, Rothko, Christenson, Noland, Newman, Motherwell are some of the heavy hitters. I’ve sold pieces, had two studios and for months at a time have forgotten about writing completely. It is a respite from words. A very rich respite. I am also way into photography and music. I play guitar, drums and some piano. 

About Joshua Braff
Joshua Braff is the author of three novels, THE UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS OF JACOB GREEN, PEEP SHOW, and THE DADDY DIARIES, published May 5, 2015. THE DADDY DIARIES is a memorable take on contemporary fatherhood and a clear-sighted look at how the upending of traditional marital roles can affect the delicate balance of familial love. Braff's work can also be found in The Huffington Post and in multiple anthologies. He has an MFA from St. Mary's College and lives in Northern California with his wife and two children. Visit his website for more information.

THE DADDY DIARIES is a humorous and poignant novel about a relationship between a stay at home dad and his two preteen kids. When his wife goes to work full time in a beach town in Florida, Jay must acclimate to life in the south. With a rich but stupid older brother, a lunatic townie friend and a teen son who’s ready to know what a “threesome” is, Jay’s world is thrown about as far as California to Florida.

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2nd Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card and ebook or paperback copy of The Daddy Diaries
3rd Prize: ebook or paperback copy of The Daddy Diaries

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Geetanjali Mukherjee, Author

Geetanjali Mukherjee, Author
Geetanjali Mukherjee writes non-fiction books on a variety of topics--from an overview on Hitler’s “architect,” Albert Speer, to a collection of poems. She produced her latest book, ANYONE CAN GET AN A+: HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION, REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR GRADES, as a result of her educational experiences in India, the UK, and the U.S. She intends for the book to help “empower” students to do well.

Mukherjee, who has written a total of six books, has a law degree from the University of Warwick UK and a Masters' in Public Policy from Cornell University.  When she is not writing, she most enjoys reading (although she confesses that she loves to binge-watch TV and pretend it’s research.) Currently she is living in Singapore, working on a book of essays and one of narrative non-fiction.

Q: How did you come to write your latest book, ANYONE CAN GET AN A+: HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION, REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR GRADES?  Why did you decide to write on this topic?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Firstly, thanks a lot Joyce for having me on your blog! I actually had the idea for this book many years ago, when I was in school and learning and applying a few of the tips myself. I had always been a good student, but in high school I found myself struggling with the technical subjects, science, mathematics and computer programming. I was barely passing in some of my classes, and had to completely overhaul my study habits, and get some additional help. My efforts paid off, and in the O-level equivalent exams, I received top marks and became class valedictorian. I went through similar experiences during my Masters' program, and I became interested in how to turn around grades and learn to do well in subjects despite struggling initially.

I wrote this book to share my own tips and success strategies, as well as those I picked up from reading some of the most recent research into how our brain works, and how to harness that knowledge to study and learn more effectively. I could see that so many students, especially in competitive societies where a single grade can have a huge impact on their future, are stressed out and overwhelmed by the pressures of schoolwork. I wrote this book in the hope that it could empower students to believe that they could do well in their studies without burning out or giving up.

Q: What age group will most benefit from reading ANYONE CAN GET AN A+? Is it targeted at adult students only?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Actually the book was written primarily aimed at college or high-school senior students, but the advice can be implemented by younger students in middle school or younger and even those in continuing education, returning to school after a few years gap, or juggling the roles of student and parent or employee simultaneously. Being able to become more effective with the time you spend studying and get more out of it are topics that can benefit any student regardless of age.

I also wrote this book hoping to encourage those students who avoid certain careers believing that they lack the ability to excel in those subjects. It is an accepted fact that most countries are struggling to improve their diversity ratios in the fields of technology, science, and medicine. At the same time, the range of free and low-cost educational resources that are now available to students worldwide are incredible. I believe that anyone, with the knowledge of improved study strategies, can learn to master any subject and follow any career path that they choose.

Q: You have been educated in India, the UK, and the U.S. Do you believe that students from all three countries or anywhere else can benefit from ANYONE CAN GET AN A+?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Obviously as an author I have drawn on my own student experiences, and therefore the book would resonate more with students with similar experiences. However, the strategies I describe in the book are universally applicable, even if my own personal experience might differ from readers from other countries. In the book, I describe ways to harness our brain's capabilities based on scientific research, much of which I learnt after I stopped formal education; these tips would help any student, no matter what their specific curriculum or school requirements.

Through this book, I wanted to provide an alternative to the brute force school of studying, without advising overly complicated 'hacks' which some authors of study guides prescribe. Anyone can pick up my book and start to apply its principles, without the need to set up elaborate systems and methods. I have tried to break down everything that I learnt into simple tips, and I am sure that every student can find something to apply from this book.

Q: You have written other books that span a wide range of topics from an overview on Hitler’s “architect” Albert Speer to a collection of poems. How do you select your topics? Is there a theme that runs through them?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Well Joyce, that's actually a question I asked myself recently. I mostly write about topics that interest me. Most of my current books started as research for school or college projects or papers, even the poems were mostly written during my time at university. One theme that runs across all my work (barring the book of poetry) is that they can all be helpful to students, albeit across literature, history and political science / law.

Additionally, although I didn’t notice this at the time of choosing my topics, most of my work has the theme of social justice and human rights running through it, in some form or other. My first book was a critical analysis of some of the late Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney's poems, many of which were influenced by the Northern Ireland conflict and referenced those themes. My books on Albert Speer and the Convention on Cluster Munitions have obvious connections to war and conflict. Finally, in my latest book on study skills, I realized the main driving force behind my writing this book was to encourage students who may not have the environment that allows them to believe in themselves, or are struggling in school and don’t have the support to get the help they need; I want to show these students that everyone has the ability to do well in every subject, and they should never give up on themselves. This is a topic I feel really strongly about. 

In terms of how I decide what to write about – it is whatever I am obsessed about at that moment. Writing a book is hard - they take a long time, and I never really feel that I am getting it right, and sometimes I can be very difficult to live with while I am writing one, but I write because something propels me to. I write all the ideas that occur to me down in an ideas file, and when something just refuses to leave me alone, I decide to pursue it further.

Q: Do you prefer writing poetry or non-fiction? Do you find that you can say something with poetry that you can’t in prose? Have you considered writing fiction?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: I haven’t really written much poetry since I wrote the poems that are part of Illusions. I believe that poetry is the most pure form of writing, and you can convey emotions and thoughts in a completely different way through poetry. I would like to write more poetry, but unlike with non-fiction writing, I have to admit I wait for inspiration to strike to write poetry. And of course that isn’t the most prolific approach towards creating anything.

I am currently writing my first novel actually as part of Nanowrimo. I have tried to write fiction before, but other than a play I wrote that was performed locally, I have never been able to complete any work of fiction that I started. I am hoping that changes with this one, which I am privately calling my "drawer novel" in that I will probably relegate it to a drawer when I am done. I do have a few more ideas, so I hope to write novels for publication at some point in the near future.

Q: Do you try to deliver key messages or to educate your readers? What is your primary goal when you write?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: I remember reading somewhere that even if you have a message to deliver as an author, you should hide it very subtly within the story, and above all, seek to entertain. I am not sure I have achieved that yet, but I definitely keep that advice in mind when I write. Since I write non-fiction I guess it is acceptable to try to educate my readers, but my goal is really for the reader to gain a new perspective on the subject, or to ask more questions and think about the topic even after they have finished reading the book.

I guess my ideal goal would be that my books are read by those who have only a passing interest or even none at all in the subject, and my book kindles a deeper interest in them, or they feel that they have learned something unexpected from it. Personally, I have always had absolutely no interest in astronomy, I don’t even know where most of the major constellations are, but I happened to read this one book on the demotion of Pluto, and it kindled this passion in me for astronomy. Now I am hungry to read more books on the subject, and learn more about it. That’s the power of non-fiction, and that's really what I am aiming for, although probably not quite getting there, yet.

Q: What tips can you offer about “being creative and productive every day?”

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Well this is a pretty vast subject, one that I feel I am only scratching the surface of. I write about being more productive and creative on my blog, to share what works for me and good advice that I come across elsewhere.

The most important advice I guess I could give would be a derivation of a quote from Ira Glass, the radio personality. As creative people, our ability is far less developed than our taste, and so what we create may well be far worse than we would hope for, at least initially. I used to personally get discouraged by this, and give up. What Ira Glass suggests, and I concur, is to keep doing the creative thing, whatever it is, no matter how bad it is. At some point, it stops being bad, and moves to tolerable, and sometimes, it is even good. And then, when you keep at it long enough, suddenly you are really good, and on some lucky days, even great. Believe that that moment will come for you. And my unique take on this advice – find whatever productivity hacks that help you to keep at it, even when it is hard, or when the work feels hard, or when you're sure it is intended for the stink pile. With some rare exceptions, most of the greats in your chosen field got there because they learned how to get through the really bad output, the really bad art, and keep going till they got better.

Q: What do you find to be the most challenging topics to write about? Why?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: I find every book I write challenging. I used to think that meant that I wasn’t really cut out to be a writer, but thankfully I have since come across advice from successful, famous writers who have similar concerns. I suppose each writer has one area or maybe more that they find easy to write about – in my case I found writing  Anyone Can Get An A+ somewhat easier than my previous books. This could be because I was writing partly from my own experience. Now that I am trying my hand at fiction, I find that this is the hardest thing I have ever tried to write.

Come to think of it, I could have answered this question with one sentence: I find that the book I am writing currently is the hardest one to write, and the book I have just written and all the ones before were far easier. And I feel the same way for each new one.

Q: What’s next?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Well, right now I am focused on completing Nanowrimo. I have also started work on a book of essays and a work of narrative non-fiction. I have plans for a few other books in the pipeline as well, but nothing definite yet.

Q:  Tell us about Geetanjali Mukherjee. What do you like to do for fun when you’re not writing?

Geetanjali Mukherjee: Read. I read even when I am supposed to be writing, and like all writers, I have a longer list of books to read than time to get through them all. I also hold a leadership position in a community Buddhist organization, and we have events and monthly meetings to discuss topics related to peace in society and personal happiness. Through this organization, last December I performed in a choir at a concert to promote friendship and cultural exchange. I've lately taken up yoga and Zumba as well, because although butt-in-chair time is great for my word count, apparently it's terrible for my arteries. My guilty pleasure though, is binge-watching TV shows, pretending it is research!

About Geetanjali Mukherjee:

Geetanjali Mukherjee is the author of 6 books, and her latest book ANYONE CAN GET AN A+: HOW TO BEAT PROCRASTINATION, REDUCE STRESS AND IMPROVE YOUR GRADES was written to help students of all ages improve their study habits and get better grades with techniques based on the latest scientific research. She has a law degree from the University of Warwick UK and a Masters' in Public Policy from Cornell University. Geetanjali currently lives in Singapore. You can connect with her at her blog Creativity@Work, and on Twitter or Facebook

Do you wish you could get better grades? Do you struggle with certain subjects and believe that maybe you're not cut out for them? Do you want to spend less time studying and still get good grades? Maybe you think that some subjects are just not for you. Maybe you don't like to study, because you secretly believe that you just don't have what it takes, so why bother? Maybe you are a parent, worrying about your child's grades, worrying whether they will be able to qualify for the opportunities you want for them. 

Studying for tests and exams can be stressful, not just for students, but also for teachers and parents. Grades in school exams and standardized tests can seem to determine your entire future, and yet many students are not able to get the grades they think they need to succeed.

This book draws on research from the fields of psychology and neuroscience, and gives you practical advice that you can implement right away, to overcome procrastination, make the most of your study time and improve your grades significantly. ANYONE CAN GET AN A+ contains 39 tips on various aspects of studying and preparing for exams. In this book, you will learn:
·       How best to prepare for exams
·       What is the top mistake most students make when doing exam preparation and how to avoid it
·       How to overcome procrastination and use your study time wisely
·       How to break down larger assignments into smaller chunks
·       How to use small segments of time effectively
·       How to get help for understanding difficult material

ANYONE CAN GET AN A+ is available for free on Amazon from Nov 16th – Nov 19th


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