Reviews Published

Monday, September 29, 2008

Susan Wingate’s Interview with Yvonne Walus

Today we're hosting Susan Wingate, whose e-book "Bobby's Diner" was published on 1 September 2008. Tell us about your publisher, Susan, why you chose them and whether it was a good decision (e.g., do you enjoy working with them, do they stick to deadlines, did they consult you on the cover, etc.)

Hello, Yvonne. This is a great opening question. It’s one that hasn’t been asked yet. The publisher is It’s a subsidiary of Write Words, Inc. and, yes, the publisher has consulted with me at every level of publication from cover art (which I absolutely love) to the editing decisions they’ve made. They kept to their anticipated release date of September 1, 2008 and the book was available as promised on their website And, to answer your question if I’ve enjoyed working with them, yes, they are considerate, honest, reliable and professional and I respect them very much. The publisher is Arline Chase. Shelley Chase-Rodgerson handles the ebook line and the cover art (hooray Shelley!). Arline handles the print line but I’ve worked with them both. It’s been a very positive experience.

That's great to hear! Most of our readers are already e-book converts, but for those who are not, can you do a quick plug about why e-books are so popular?

The obvious reason: they’re easy to get. You don’t have to leave the house to run to the bookstore. But, I also believe they make carrying books around with you very light. I travel quite a bit and it’s nice to be able to flip open an iPod and read a novel. It’s much easier than toting pounds of bulky books around with you. It’s a wonderful solution for readers who commute or travel extensively but that’s only one reason. I could write tomes of reasons why ebooks are so popular!

I agree. Now, "Bobby's Diner" has been compared to Fanny Flagg's fabulous "Fried Green Tomatoes". Why?

I think because it “feels” similar to Flagg’s wonderful novel. And, by the way, it’s quite a compliment for my story to be compared to hers. But, the primary reason, the one reason we can actually bite into (forgive the pun) is that the women characters – who have reasons to hate one another – are faced with dire problems and then made to figure out how to resolve each problem. Plus, it’s set at a diner and so the setting is of course like Flagg’s cafĂ©.

Quoting from your press release, the themes discussed in "Bobby's Diner" include "Adultery, divorce, love, love lost, love reborn in others, family, murder, deceit and crime." Would you say it's a murder mystery or a crime fiction book, or is it more correctly classified as women's fiction?

It’s correctly classified as women’s fiction but it has an element of crime and mystery woven into the story. My first novel, Of the Law, was a mystery – no haggling about the genre with it – but with BOBBY’S DINER the plot gave way to women involved in some pretty sticky circumstances and the crime and mystery elements floated up to the surface. It was great fun to write and seemed to segue well from the mystery I’d written the year before. But, my writing these days has gone the way of women’s fiction and family drama.

Sounds scarily like my own writing. And I see you also use settings the way I do. Tell us about Arizona, the setting of your book. What are the people like? The weather? What would you say to a tourist who wanted to visit the state for a week?

Oh, there’s so much to tell about Arizona. Well, I don’t like to speak of people in generalities but, well, they’re all cowboys! Not really. Arizona is one of the 4-corner states in the US and has several different climates. The north is very cool in the summers and cold in the winters where it snows and has pine trees and all that glorious green we think of when we think of northern settings.

As you travel south and approach the mid-section of the state it starts to become desert-like – it’s the upper desert of the state and the ground turns dryer and browner with less pine and more mesquite, creosote and scrubby-looking shrubs. By the time you reach Phoenix, it’s all about the desert – it’s hot, dry, brown, gritty and has a huge sky.

Phoenix sits in a bowl of surrounding distant mountains and is flat until you reach those mountains so all you see for miles and miles (except for a few distant hills) is the vast sky. And, that sky puts on these amazing shows in the early morning and around sunset. Spectacular colors of indigo turning to crystal blue and smattered with baby pinks that reflect off any available horsetail clouds. In the evenings the show reverses but with dazzling golds and iodine colors that will knock your socks off. It’s a painters dream come true, those skies. The weather is hot. What can I say? We have spring in the winter and summer for about 9 months there -

LOL, here in New Zealand we have spring in the summer and winter in the winter. But I interupted you...

Arizona has cowboy-loving-charm. If you’ve ever done any research, Arizona is home to Tombstone – where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday made history. The people are like people anywhere else in the world. If you were visiting Arizona for a week in the summer, take a bunch of shorts and t-shirts and sun block, lots of antiperspirant and drink plenty of water. If you’re visiting during the late fall to early spring – take a light sweater for the evenings and shorts and warm weather clothes. If you play tennis or ride bikes, go to Arizona in the cooler months, from November to February. Also, you should get a rental car and take day trips to places other than Phoenix. Remember, the Grand Canyon is in Arizona and that’s some gorgeous country up there.

Wow. Is that why this book is so close to your heart?

BOBBY’S DINER is my second novel and the writing of it really went off without a hitch. It seemed to flow out of me. But, also, it’s a poignant piece of writing mixed with tolerance and struggle and isn’t that what life is all about. I can see how it will be a meaningful read at any point in time but especially now with all the warring in the world. I love this book because it came from something in me that I cared deeply about. The women are charming and the title character, Bobby, is fashioned in part after my own husband, Bob. Note the similarity in names? Ha! My husband has been appearing in more and more of my work lately. He’s quite a character himself. He’s in my heart and, so, he’s in my books.

And now, who would enjoy reading "Bobby's Diner" and where we can buy it.

I think most people who enjoy a good story with juicy conflict and a little bit of tears will enjoy BOBBY’S DINER. Also, there are hefty male characters and, actually, my ex-husband loved it so, there you go. I think a lot of men would enjoy this story and definitely women will enjoy this book.

And, thank you, Yvonne for having me here on your blog today it’s been a pleasure.

Susan Wingate’s website -
Susan Wingate’s blog -
For more information about Susan Wingate’s virtual book tour and her full schedule at
To order your copy - For more information visit -

Friday, September 26, 2008

A new Philippa Gregory?

Adventure and love has always come from books for Jayne Seatoun until she wins a competition to visit England. But breaking and entering a crypt wasn’t on the agenda, nor was traveling back nearly five hundred years and being caught up in the politics of King Henry the 8th’s Court as she searches for a way home and ends up running for her life.

Tired of battle and bloodshed Lord Callum Broderick’s loyalty is divided. Does he save his sister, his lover or his neck from the executioner’s block? Love, honor and loyalty are codes Callum lives by...until he has to choose.

"Love in Waiting - a tale of eternal love, nearly lost in time. A wonderful new read from historical romance author, Jane Beckenham." (Melody Knight, author of GlassWorks, In Trysts, Of Dragons)

LOVE IN WAITING - Read Excerpt
Jane Beckenham
Publisher: Cerridwen Press
ISBN 978 14199 17653
Release date: 31 July 2008
Buy now!!!

Chat on LASR

Yvonne Eve Walus will chat at LASR Yahoo Group on 1 October 2008 (all day, all time zones).

Pop in for a chance to win her books:

Friday, September 19, 2008

Interview with bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson

Some of you may remember my reviews of Joshilyn Jackson's books: "gods in Alabama", "Between, Georgia" and "the girl who stopped swimming". Those who don't, please have a look before you read on:
Joshilyn knows how much I love her books, so she kindly agreed to be interviewed on this blog. Big mistake. Big, big, BIG! I sent her about 2 million questions, and not of the quick "what’s your favourite ice cream" kind, either.

The interview below is a compromise between Joshilyn’s satisfying my curiosity and writing a new novel, LOL.

Yvonne: Because I spent 16 years living in South Africa, what struck me most about the book was the deft way in which you wrote about inter-racial relationships and racial prejudice. A southern belle, a black boyfriend, her family's reaction... what made you choose this particular topic as a conflict-builder?

Joshilyn: Strangely enough, I didn’t choose it. It HAPPENED. Arlene and a then un-named Burr were very minor characters in a short story I wrote a good ten years before I started gods in Alabama. When I wrote the book, Burr already WAS black and had been for a decade. In the original idea for the novel, Burr was a minor character who did not go to Alabama with Arlene. He was a very different guy---artsy type with long braids.

Luckily, I never seem to stick to the original plan when I am writing a book. The characters take off in odd directions I haven’t planned, and that’s when things seem to get good. Burr became Burr and he was dern well going to go to Bama with her, and the plot grew organically from who he was as a person.
If you are interested, the short story is up on my website:

Yvonne: I’ve read it, and now the analytic in me wants to re-read “gods in alabama” to do a character comparison. But before I do that, let’s look at your second book, "Between, Georgia" (for our readers, Between is a place in Georgia). The narrator's adoptive mother is deaf and has a hearing twin who becomes her first interpreter. The setting, this foreign world of sign language, is beautifully incorporated into the plot. How did you decide to explore this particular community and how did you do your research?

Joshilyn: Once again, this was not the plan…I knew I wanted my narrator to be raised by spinster sisters in a symbiotic relationship. I wanted Stacia to be physically dependent on Ginny, and Ginny to be emotionally dependent on Stacia. Originally, I planned for Stacia to be deaf, but as Ginny’s problems became more clear (she has severe OCD), I realized the relationship was not equal. I thought then that Stacia would be born deaf and blind, but that made her highly representational art work impossible, and Stacia’s porcelain dolls were already becoming important to the story.

I asked my friend Mr. Google how a person could be born deaf and become blind later without including some sort of freak bee accident. (I already had a freak bee accident in gods in Alabama, you understand…) Mr. Google told me about Usher’s syndrome. At first I thought Stacia would only appear in the first chapter, do a little drive through baby stealing, and then retire, so my research was minimal. But like Burr, she slipped out of the noose of my plan and started taking over the book. It got to a point where I realized she was a main character, and doing things that I was not sure a person with Usher’s syndrome was capable of doing.
I realized I had to be respectful and thorough if I was going to write about something so far outside my own experience. I wanted to get it right, you know? The deaf-blind community here in Atlanta adopted me and let me hang out at their parties and come to their homes and see how they live day to day and let me test drive the technology that helps them lead more independent lives. They were awesome to me, especially a woman named Alice Turner, who was Stacia’s age and grew up in the same kind of small town Georgia where Stacia grows up.
Hanging with Alice, I came to I realized that I wasn’t letting Stacia do TOO MUCH – I was limiting her in ways real people with Usher’s syndrome are not limited. People are amazing.

Yvonne: That sentiment is apparent throughout the novel: this politically correct idea that deaf people are exactly like non-deaf people... except that it comes from the heart, not from a set of social rules. I admire the way you can write about race and physical disability without all the usual hang-ups.

I also admire the way you write about motherhood. The strength of a mother's love (not necessarily a blood mother) is the theme of all three books, though it's most noticeable in "the girl who stopped swimming". Were you already a mother when you wrote about it in "gods in alabama"?

Joshilyn: Oh yes. I wrote most of gods while pregnant with my second child. I had written two novels before that, but they did not sell.Motherhood changed me in a thousand fantastic ways, and one of those ways was, it made me a better writer. I think before my children were born, my writing was colder and less personal. I was fearless, but I suspect I also was somewhat heartless in my work. Well, maybe not fearless, but I wasn’t at all prone to the bone deep unending terror that comes with loving something so perfectly itself and separate from you and small and helpless. These days, I am driven to story telling by three parts love and one part fear---motherhood’s cocktail.

Yvonne: I know the cocktail well, and I do believe it is what makes your novels unforgettable. Which one of them is your favourite?

Joshilyn: Oh it’s always the book I am going to write NEXT. The book I am going to write NEXT is always perfect and lovely, because it is purely in my head and I do not have to actually WORK ON IT. The book I am writing NOW is always my least favorite, because I am trying to get it out of my head and on to PAPER, and that is a very long ugly fraught trip with mis-steps and frustrations. Sometimes, it goes beautifully, but never for very long, and then I have to grind and flail around until I find the path again.

Right now I am writing a companion book for gods in Alabama – A minor character from that book, Rose Mae Lolley, wanted her own book, and she was loud enough in my head to get her way. It’s not a sequel---there is very little character/plot overlap---mostly it is Rose in Texas and California, after she has graduated high school and left Alabama. She’s nuts and she’s broken in a lot of ways, but I am rooting for her, hard. We’ll see how she turns out. The NEXT book, the book after this one, that’s the book I love best right now – I think about it as a way to relax my brain when writing Rose gets too hard.

Or did you mean, which book do I think is “best?” I am most proud of THE GIRL WHO STOPPED SWIMMING. I think I made a leap there, and I was writing about things I care deeply about---at its heart this is a book about poverty, both earthly poverty and poverty of spirit. Also, the character of Thalia cracks me up. I cackled like a maniac while writing every scene she’s in, and then I would begin composing apologetic notes to my mother for perpetrating her dialog.

Yvonne: Joshilyn, you’re a darling. Thank you so much for talking to us. Joshilyn’s website is and she has a cool blog going off it on where she writes about her life and family and the books she likes. It’s a great read!

BTW, you can get her books in paper on Amazon or electronically on EbookMall.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Making Lemonade from A Slipping Release Date

In our virtual studio today, with have Jane Kennedy Sutton, whose debut novel, "The Ride", caught my attention months before it was published. The reason? Simple. The scheduled release slipped and the author cleverly ran an online competition for readers to guess when the book would finally be out. I didn't win, but I thought the promo opportunity superb.

YVONNE: Jane, how did you come up with this idea?

JANE: When I heard my publisher utter the word ‘soon’ in the same sentence with releasing The Ride, I translated that to mean ‘in the near future.’ I didn’t realize that in the publishing world, ‘soon’ could also mean sometime within the next millennium.

I immediately ran out and started telling all my friends and anyone else who’d listen that my book would be available soon. One day, after months of hearing the question, “When?” I jokingly replied, “Your guess is as good as mine,” and the idea was born.

YVONNE: That’s a prime example how to make even bad news work for your promo. Now that The Ride is finally released, I’m sure you want to talk about it. Tell us about the book.

JANE: Barbie Anderson’s journey begins in California where she finds her life spiralling out of control when a death reveals shocking family secrets and an unexpected inheritance. After confrontations with her self-cantered husband, Ken, and a chance meeting with handsome stranger, Michael, she suddenly finds herself away from her own backyard and on the ride of her life down historic Route 66.

Excerpt from The Ride:

She meant to say, “Thanks, but I have to go now.” Somehow the words her mouth formed were, “I’m drinking Jack Daniels.”
Barbie followed the stranger to a table while picturing Aunt Pat gathering up enough cosmic energy to levitate her urn, bash out a car window, fly out of the car, float into the bar, and knock her upside the head. As if waiting for the impact, Barbie hunched, tucking her chin, silently promising Aunt Pat she would eat her fries quickly and go home.

YVONNE: LOL. Where can we buy it?

JANE: You can read a sample of the The Ride and purchase it at It’s also available from Amazon and other Internet booksellers. In America, your favourite local bookstore can order it if it’s not on their shelves, but I don’t think that applies to New Zealand stores. At least not yet.

YVONNE: I’m not sure about the New Zealand bookstores, but I did ask my local library to get a copy of The Ride and they’ve ordered it through their channels. Now, in the process of requesting the book, I looked at the publisher’s website and noticed the unwelcoming submission guidelines. So... how did you land the contract?

JANE: Discouraged after wasting a year with an inept and uncommunicative agent, I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I met Robert Gelinas of ArcheBooks Publishing through a local writing group. Although ArcheBooks only accepted agented submissions, he agreed to look at my manuscript after hearing my tale of woe involving the agent. A couple of months later, I received an email notifying me that a contract was in the mail.

YVONNE: Wow. It confirms what I’ve always refused to believe: what counts is networking, contacts, knowing the right people, taking your chances. Speaking of chances, you now have a chance to be published again, so what are you working on at the moment?

JANE: I am currently working on my second novel, titled Reigning Cats and Dogs, although I use the term ‘working’ loosely. Since the release of The Ride, I haven’t found much time to sit down and write. I know have to learn how to divide my time between writing new material and marketing. Maybe you can offer some suggestions on how to find a balance between the two.

YVONNE: I’m afraid it’s something we all struggle with. Oh, except for the likes of Mark Billingham: he writes for 9 months a year, and for the remaining 3 months his publisher sponsors his travels around the world to promote his latest book. The only suggestion I can offer to those of us who are not Mark Billingham is to make writing the new book our top priority, and to use our down-time, thinking time and writers’ block to do the marketing tasks.

What do the readers think?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Mark Billingham: “Crime fiction is better than sex”

Mark Billingham is doing New Zealand this month. (While that sounds a bit like “Debbie Does Dallas”, his author talk in the Takapuna Library this evening managed to paint a very low-key image of Mark in that particular arena.) It’s always a pleasure to listen to this stand-up comedian turn crime novelist, so I’ll do a show-don’t-tell for you.

Mark Billingham on his readers’ comments: “9 out of 10 complain about the swearing. Violence is fine. Child abuse - no problem. But don’t give them swearing!”

Mark Billingham on the folly of paying a fortune for wedding dresses (don’t ask): “My wife wore it once. Once! Even I wore it more often than that.”

Mark Billingham on crime fiction: “Crime fiction is better than sex.”

Mark Billingham on sex: “Crime fiction is better than sex.”
.... No, ok:
Mark Billingham on sex: “When I have sex with my wife, I don’t fantasise that she’s somebody else. I fantasise that I am. That makes two of us.”

Mark claims he doesn’t write about sex because his motto is ‘write what you know’. Makes one wonder why he writes about serial killers, then. Oh, he has a cover story for that. It’s called research.

Mark Billingham on talking to the police: “I talk to the police regularly for my research, and I’ve learnt a lot. Here is a tip: when a cop stops you for speeding, act a little gay. When he asks, Where is the fire?, say: In your eyes, officer. Nothing gets rid of them faster.”

Mark Billingham on researching serial killers: “When you’re driving long-distance, pick up a hitchhiker. Don’t talk to him for forty-five minutes. Then:
Mark: What’s your name?
Hitchhiker: Martin.
Mark: Can I call you Number Seven?”