Today “Sylvia Says” takes a virtual trip to London, UK, to catch up with solicitor (lawyer) and author Maria Savva.
SM: Maria, welcome to Sylvia Says. It’s a real pleasure to have you featuring on the blog today, and although I’m on a “virtual” visit here in London I still remember the time I spent in this wonderful place many moons ago. London is one of my favourite cities!
MS: Thank you very much for inviting me, Sylvia. I love London too. It’s changed a lot over the years, but it still has something special.
SM: Maria, reading through your website I noticed novels in a number of different genres. Would you say it’s fair to call you a multi-genre author? And if so, what is the reason as to why you decided to be multi-genre instead of sticking to one particular genre?
MS: Yes, I think it’s fair to say I’m a multi-genre author. It’s probably because I’ve never purposefully written a novel to fit into any particular genre. A lot of my fiction is inspired by or based on true events, so the genre will depend on what the subject matter is, I suppose. You’ll find elements of romance, thriller, comedy, and even horror/paranormal in my writing. I suppose it’s a reflection of life. Nothing is ever only one genre in real life, is it? My writing seems to have become darker over the years, but I think that’s more to do with getting older and having more of an understanding of the world around me, and let’s face it, the news is never very good these days. I find that I use writing as a kind of therapy, so I often tackle dark subjects as a way of digging deeper into my own feelings and as a way of trying to make sense of what people do and why.
SM: I agree with you there. I also find writing cathartic; it helps me cope with all the negativity and darkness of this world.
In your bio I discovered you were a prolific reader as a child, just like me, and that you pretty much read most genres, or at least went through different genre phases. By the way, I noticed you read most of the good old Mills & Boon (now Harlequin) romances. I confess I must’ve gone through most of their collection when I was a young teen while at the same time becoming hooked on Nancy Drew and Three Investigator mysteries. But like you, I grew up with books, and each of them became a friend to me. What was it that got you reading at such an early age (and I see you were an advanced reading pupil at school)?
MS: Yes, I read all those Mills and Boon romances as a teenager, but soon after I started reading paranormal/horror. Then I got hooked on chick-lit for a while and then I got into self-help books, fantasy fiction, and magical realism. My writing is probably a mixture of all those things!
I was able to read before I started school, and one of my earliest memories is reading a book to another child on what I think was one of my first days at school. My brother started school a couple of years before me and I used to copy everything he did, so I probably learned to read because he was learning to read. I was a very quiet child, shy, and self-conscious with a vivid imagination. I found an escape in books. I thought books were magical, and loved to read one after the other.
SM: So when did you start seriously thinking of writing a novel, and what inspired you to write it?
MS: I always enjoyed creative writing at school. I used to enter a lot of short story competitions in my twenties, so writing was something I enjoyed from a young age. I found myself out of work in 1997, and decided to write a novel as a challenge to myself. I’d just finished reading “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. It’s a short book and quite simply written, yet it has a great message and it inspired me to try to think of a story of my own that could perhaps change people’s lives.
At the time, I thought writing a novel was one of those impossible things and if I wrote one I would have achieved a dream. I actually found writing “Coincidences” quite easy. However, it was my first novel, and it was more about telling the story; I wasn’t paying too much attention to how I was writing it and how the reader would interpret it. It’s not an example of great literature, but it kick-started everything for me. My style of writing has developed a lot since then, and I’m learning more about writing every day.
It’s an ongoing process, as you probably know. These days, I try to be creative with the subject matter and the words I use, painstakingly searching for the exact word in each sentence (which is why it takes me years to edit my books!). “Coincidences” was what started it all, and after I wrote that I caught the writing bug and haven’t been able to stop writing.
SM: Oh, yes! I can relate to all the editing. I sometimes find myself doing more edits years later. Crazy, I know. But back to you, out of all the novels you’ve written to date, which would you say is your favourite and why?
MS: My most recent books are usually my favourites because my writing evolves with each book and story I write, so I feel that the latest book is usually more of an accurate reflection of where I’m at in my writing life.
My favourites at the moment are probably “Haunted” and “The Spider”, and the sequel to “The Spider” (which is not yet released).
Readers have told me “Haunted” is a story that stays with them. With that novel, I hopefully achieved what I wanted to achieve - to get people thinking. I had a message I wanted to convey with that book. It’s about the consequences of our actions, and living with the repercussions of one moment of anger, and not only the way our actions can alter our own lives, but the lives of many other people.
The main character in “The Spider”, Rex, is quite interesting, and I felt his story wasn’t quite over, which is why I was inspired to write a sequel.
SM: Having come from a very busy corporate career myself, I know how difficult it is to juggle work, family/friend commitments, and writing. Many people believe writing a novel is not that difficult; you just write the chapters and off you go. But authors know the painstaking work that goes into properly constructing an engaging plotline, giving life and depth to the characters, writing between five to ten drafts of the novel before we even begin to proofread properly and edit (and this happens before we engage the services of a proofreader/editor)! I know you can relate to all of this, but I simply want readers to know this is a true labour of love rather than writing to make money. So firstly, how did you manage your time to work at what obviously is a busy and stressful job and at the same time write?
MS: I’ve often wondered how I manage to concentrate long enough to put stories together, but then whenever I stop to think about it, I believe that the chaos is part of what creates inspiration and the stories that flow from that. I find that I am always being inspired by things that happen in my everyday life, so this helps when I put pen to paper and start writing a story. I find the actual writing of the stories relatively easy. It’s the editing/rewriting process that is hardest and takes the most time, and which can be quite frustrating. I agree with you, writing is hard work, you have to love doing it or you will end up giving up.
SM: Very true! And secondly, unless one hits the jackpot and gets discovered in what I call a “black swan event” and makes millions in royalties, what would your advice be to aspiring authors out there in regard to the reality of writing?
MS: Writing is a lonely business and it often means you spend a lot of time alone in a room. You really need to find people who will support you. I was lucky enough to connect online with a great community of independent authors (including you, Sylvia!) many years ago, and that has made all the difference.
If you’re an aspiring writer, I won’t tell you to do something else instead, but you shouldn’t go into it thinking you will make money. Writing has lots of other benefits. For example, I find it therapeutic.
SM: Yes. I have to say that writing is extremely therapeutic and, although a lonely business, most of the time I find I enjoy being in the company of all the characters inside my head. You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I think all creatives are just a little bit crazy; otherwise, they wouldn’t be doing what we call a “labour of love”.
But I ramble... Maria, before we close off, is there anything else you would like to add, including what is the next writing project for you?
MS: I’d like to mention a few of my favourite independent authors who write fantastic books, which I’ve read and enjoyed. Whenever anyone is asked to name a favourite author, they usually mention someone famous. I’ve even seen other independent writers do that in interviews. Of course we all have famous authors who are our favourites, but let’s face it, they don’t need the publicity. Most of my favourite writers these days are independent authors and they don’t get any promotion. So here are a few I would recommend: J. Michael Radcliffe, Darcia Helle, Maria Haskins, Neil Schiller, Julie Elizabeth Powell, Jason McIntyre.
There is a whole world of undiscovered books out there, and I would ask every person reading this to try a book by one of those authors because you never know, they could end up being one of your favourites too.
As mentioned, my next writing project is the sequel to “The Spider”. It’s called “Evil Never Dies”. I’m working on the final edits now and hope to release it soon. The release has been delayed due to my busy work life this year, but hopefully it will be out next year. I’m looking forward to sharing it. I also have a collection of short stories that is almost ready to be published.
SM: Thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today, Maria. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your work, and I wish you all the best with your upcoming release! I hope next time we meet, I can physically get to lovely London in person.
MS: That would be wonderful! I’d also love to visit Australia one day!
SM: I’ll hold you to that and what’s more I’ll take you sightseeing!
For more information on Maria Savva and where you can check out her books please click HERE.
SM: Okay, so here we go—Welcome to Sylvia Says, Eric. It’s a real pleasure to have you featuring on the blog today.
ET: Thanks, Sylvia. It’s a pleasure to be here.
SM: Eric, like me, you’re a multi-genre author. Every author has a reason as to why they decide to be multi-genre instead of sticking to one particular genre; so what is your reason?
ET: Sci-Fi is my passion, and what I feel most comfortable writing, but my first children’s book, Sam and the Dragon, was based on a story I wrote years ago when my boys were little. At the time, I didn’t really consider trying to get it published, but I liked the story and kept it around. Once I started publishing my SEAMS16 series, and got a decent understanding of the process, I dug up that old tale, rewrote it, recruited my brother to illustrate it, and put it out there. At that point I became a “multi-genre” author, but didn’t really think of myself that way as I had no intention of writing any more children’s books, but then I was struck with an idea for another children’s story, and it wouldn’t let me continue my “real” writing (the next SEAMS16 novel) until I wrote it down and sent it to my brother to illustrate. And that’s how most of the children’s stories came to be, not so much a decision to become multi-genre, but more like an itch that needs to be scratched.
SM: Among your numerous works I noticed you wrote an illustrated poem entitled “Everyday Wonders”, which is directed at kids who wear glasses, right? What made you write about this and why?
ET: It’s dedicated to kids who wear glasses, but it’s just as much for those who don’t need them. Growing up, I didn’t need glasses, but everyone else in my family wore them. And my younger brother got them at a very early age. I didn’t really understand his need, and when I tried looking through his glasses, I didn’t understand how they could possibly help. But they clearly did, so I accepted the concept without really understanding. When my son got his glasses, my wife told me that on the way home, he was pointing out things he had never seen before - birds in flight, names of streets on signs, individual leaves on trees – things I took for granted. Flash forward thirty some years and I’m visiting the optometrist for my own pair of glasses, finally understanding beyond an intellectual level. The memories of my brother and son, and my better understanding of what getting glasses really meant for them, worked together to inspire the poem.
SM: Please tell us a little about your books in the different genres you write in. Which would you say is your favourite genre and why?
ET: I have released five novels in the SEAMS16 series. The first, SEAMS16: A NEW HOME, the second, SEAMS16: ARRIVAL, and the fourth, SEAMS16: FRIENDS AND FOES, take place on the Space Equipment Authority’s Maintenance Station number 16 (SEAMS16), a repair depot for spacecraft in the Solenty planetary system, said to be the finest repair station in the known galaxy. These stories follow the lives of Charlie and Susan Samplin and their life on the station. The other two books are retrospectives. Book three in the series, AND SO IT BEGINS, reveals the origins of the society, and book five, THE KLINDORAN WAR, recounts an important event that happens some 500 years after the book three, and 500 years before SEAMS16 is built.
I’ve also released five stand-alone children’s picture books. SAM AND THE DRAGON, a story in the style of an old legend to explain a modern day convenience; BILLY’S FAMILY, an introduction to family relationships and genealogy; THE WIZARDS OF THE BODY SHOP, fantasizing the roles of regular workers; YETI IN THE FREEZER, a modern day legend to explain another convenience; and as mentioned above, EVERYDAY WONDERS. All of my children’s books are designed to be read-to-me-books, and I imagine a man reading to a small child on his lap when writing them.
I think of my novels as my “real” writing, and the children’s books as a bonus. I don’t usually set out to write a children’s book, but as I mentioned above, I get struck with an idea, and it won’t let go until I’ve written it down. Yeti in the Freezer is the only story I deliberately set out to write, as it came as a request from my niece, when she explained how she calmed her children’s fears of the “scary” refrigerator that seemed to growl at them from time to time.
SM: So what’s next up for you, Eric? Any works in the pipeline?
ET: I’m planning to write one more SEAMS16 novel, but haven’t worked out the story for it yet. In the mean time, I’ve been trying my hand at a murder mystery and a Middle Grade sci-fi story. At this point, it’s hard to tell if either of them will be published, since I’m writing them as an experiment, but we’ll see how they turn out.
SM: Eric, before we close off please tell our readers a little about yourself. That is, who is Eric B. Thomasma aside from being an author, where is he based, what are his likes and dislikes, etc. You can pretty much share anything you like with the audience.
ET: I’m a husband, a father, and a grandfather. I married my wife nearly 42 years ago, we raised two sons together and now we’re enjoying two grandsons. We live in a house we built near the city of Grand Rapids, MI, about six miles from the home where I was born and raised. I’ve held a number of different jobs in my life, mopping floors, delivering furniture, licensed electrician, servicing sophisticated telephone systems (to name a few), and enjoyed many hobbies including swimming, computer programming, and video production. I’ve always been a do-it-yourselfer in almost everything. Often preferring to repair instead of replace, extending the usefulness of many of the items around the house. (This comes in handy on a writer’s salary.) I suppose that’s a large part of why I self-publish. I enjoy the formatting and other processes involved in preparing my book for Amazon and Smashwords distribution.
SM: Well, thank you so very much for taking the time to feature on Sylvia Says today. I really enjoyed learning more about you and your work, and I look forward to seeing what’s coming up next on your agenda. I’ll be sure to tweet about it! Ha, ha!
ET: Thank you for inviting me. It was a pleasure. And thanks for all you do to support the writer community.
For more information on Eric B. Thomasma and where you can purchase his books please visit here for his sci-fi works: www.seams16.com or here for just the kids: www.rtycati.com
... Only, we’re in Detroit and not Chicago.
Picture this: Detroit in the late 1920s. A beautiful, headstrong, young girl determined not to follow in the wake of well-mannered young ladies of that period and be “married off” to the best suitor. A mysterious walk-in closet; a mother with a dark secret. Men and women with self-serving motives, gangsters and molls, booze, murder, and flying bullets!
All this, and more, will you find in author Patty Wiseman’s trilogy, The Velvet Shoe Collection, consisting of: An Unlikely Arrangement, An Unlikely Beginning, and An Unlikely Conclusion.
Patty is experiencing great success with her romance suspense series featuring 17-year-old Ruth Squire, and her “unlikely” adventures.
I’ve just finished reading Book 2 in the collection, and caught up with Patty in between book tours and literary award dinners to ask her a few questions about her unique series.
Sylvia: You picked an interesting era to write about--Detroit, late 1920s--what made you write about this time in history?
Patty: Imagine a tow-headed, five-year-old runt of a girl crouching behind the stairwell in her grandmother’s three-story mansion, listening to the grownups talk about her life during the roaring twenties. We were leaving to move to Kansas. My dad took a new job there. Kansas is where my grandmother met her second husband, and where her story took an unexpected twist. She’d fled from Detroit, Michigan, to save her life and her son’s. I’m a naturally curious being, and my vivid imagination worked over time while grandmother spun her story of intrigue. I’ve often thought she missed her calling. She should have been a writer herself. Over the years, I made a point to stay with her on any occasion I could and sat in rapture most of the time as she told the story of her life’s journey. Those stories never left me. I knew I had to write about them. Life, of course, got in the way. I put it on the back burner, but shortly before I retired, the stories grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let me go.
Sylvia: How did you find having to research details to write about this era?
Patty: First of all, I love, love, love that era. Partly, because of the stories I heard, but more because when I did start to research that era, the role women played during that time fascinated me. This was an era of women really coming out of the shadows, and making themselves and their desires known. I put my grandmother in that category, as well. She was headstrong, passionate, and beautiful. She knew what she wanted, and was going to find a way to have it. I found a lot of information through ancestry.com. I also have a lot of online friends who live in Detroit, who were very accommodating when I needed to verify facts about the time period. I really had a lot of fun researching.
Sylvia: Why did you name this series of books "The Velvet Shoe Collection"?
Patty: As I said before, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother growing up. She had a huge house, and the guestroom I stayed in had a cavernous closet. I was always exploring; and one night, I found the closet didn’t end in the guest room. It actually turned the corner and continued into my grandmother’s dressing room. When I turned that corner, I was amazed. Rows of fancy dresses, jewelry and shoes! So many shoes! There were all kinds to match her dresses, but the ones I liked best were the velvet ones. Especially a red velvet pair. That’s where I came up with the name. I wrote that closet and those dresses into the books.
Sylvia: So the idea to write this series come from real life, as with most authors?
Patty: Yes. I wrote the stories from my grandmother’s perspective, but really to honor her first husband, my father’s father, who never lived to see him grow up. I had only planned on one book at first, but I got such a wonderful response, I decided to write a series. Now, people are clamoring for me to write about some of the other characters in the books and to expand on their lives. There is so much material there. I could write for years!
Sylvia: I see you are doing some book tours and talks around the country. Please tell us more about this.
Patty: In 2012, I pulled out all the stops and traveled everywhere for book signings and festivals, libraries and book stores. I hardly ever had a weekend off. What I found was women who love to read about strong women who have found a way to live their dreams. This year, I’ve slowed down on the tours and am working on a series of workshops designed to encourage women to pursue their dreams no matter what station in life they find themselves. If you follow me on my website, www.pattywiseman.com, you will be able to keep up to date on the progress of these endeavors.
Sylvia: I like the slogan on your website: "Challenge, Conquer, Change". What is the premise behind this?
Patty: I’ve been able to live my dream, and it is a passion of mine to encourage other women to follow theirs. So many women feel that time has passed them by, that they don’t have anything meaningful to contribute anymore. There are two blogs about "Women of a Certain Age" on my website. One spotlights quotes from women at various ages, and what they like most about the age they are. The other, affirms the worth of women as they get older and spotlights the man’s point of view, and the beauty they find as their partner travels through each decade.
We should never discount our influence in this world because we are aging. Too many times, women get trapped in what the media portrays beauty to be, thus creating an impossible image to sustain. We need to stand away from the television, the billboards, and the magazines, and examine the virtues we have to offer to the younger generations. We are beautiful at every age! We need to find the jewel within!
Sylvia: That is inspiring indeed! Ageing is not very kind to women because of the media, and the culture we live in, especially in Anglo-Saxon countries such as the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. Is there anything else you'd like to tell your readers?
Patty: I’d just like to encourage all women to explore the UNLIKELY! Many times, we fall into a pattern, and just stay on the same old treadmill. Try something new, whether it be in the books you read, the entertainment you enjoy, or the places you travel, even the food you eat. Open up your world! Explore the possibilities. It’s an exciting time to be a woman!
Sylvia: Patty, it has been a great pleasure to feature you on "Sylvia Says". Thank you, and I wish you all the best with the Velvet Shoe Collection and your workshops on inspiring women to reach their potential. I think this kind of empowerment is something we can never get enough of.
Patty: The pleasure is mine. Thank you for the interview, and for having me on your blog. I wish you all the best with your own "Unlikely Adventures" as a strong woman and novelist!
That’s right, online friendships can turn to murder—but it’s fictitious, so that’s a relief.
You’re probably wondering what in heaven’s name I’m talking about. Let me explain: some time ago, I read a couple of humorous fiction novels by British author, Carol E. Wyer. I met Carol when I used to run a vlog, interviewing authors on their respective work, and we maintained contact since. So ours is what I call a cyber-friendship.
In her novels, Carol developed a character that followed the blog of her main protagonist, Amanda Wilson. The blog follower went by the name of SexyFitChick, and she was from Australia. SexyFitChick became a good online friend of Amanda Wilson, Carol’s main character in her two novels, Mini Skirts and Laughter Lines and Surfing in Stilettos.
Carol later revealed to me that SexyFitChick reminded her of me, although I don’t know about the “fit” part *laughter and wink*, but I do agree about the “sexy” bit :D
Over the next couple of years, Carol and I maintained our cyber-friendship, and I really enjoyed reading about the escapades of Amanda Wilson. So much so, that when my own protagonist, smartarse, older chick, super-sleuth, Mia Ferrari, was published in her second adventure, The Gay Mardi Gras Murders, I decided to bring Amanda Wilson (Carol's protagonist) to the land down under for a visit with Mia.
In the story, Amanda (or Mandy) is suffering from “grumpy-hubby syndrome” and so she runs off Down Under to visit with best online friend, Mia Ferrari, and catch the world-famous Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras at the same time.
As it turns out, not only does Mandy become part of an investigation into several murders, one of which involves a transsexual with a very valuable diamond that carries a so-called curse; but she is thrown into Mia’s world—a world of luxury international hotels, Ferrari cars, insidious characters, younger men, a bunch of bitchy drag queens, drop-dead gorgeous gay boys, and a lot more. To make matters worse, and really test the friendship between the two protagonists, Mandy develops a crush on Mia’s archenemy, the very good looking Detective Sergeant Phil Smythe.
I won’t go on with the plot and spoil it for you, but I want to point out that from a cyber-friendship between two authors who are continents apart was born the fictional friendship of Amanda Wilson and Mia Ferrari (our respective protagonists). This led our protagonists--both strong and independent mature women, to adventure, the challenge of overcoming rivalry between two good friends, sexual fantasies of "playing with some bad boys", and even hoping to convert a few sexy gay boys--and finally, solving a number of murders before more bodies piled up.
The message in this particular novel, The Gay Mardi Gras Muders, is that through all the obstacles of life, friendship is the most important thing there is—sometimes, friendship is stronger than love, as Mia Ferrari soon learns.
So how’s that for the power of a fictional friendship, which was born in the minds of two authors who became online friends? Personally, I think this takes friendship to a whole new level.
Well, at least for me, one of my greatest fears is the dreaded review, especially when I write in a new genre. Being a multi-genre author, I have always stuck to either contemporary fiction or chick lit. However, I must confess that I've always had a weakness for the smart-talking, wiseass type of characters I watch in film noir movies. You know what I mean, the down and out detective or investigative reporter, going great guns against all odds to dig up the truth. Meanwhile, he (yes, it's usually a "he") is battling with either a drinking problem, or maybe he smokes too much, or he just cannot have that sexy dame he finds wildly attractive and who is driving him to distraction.
My love of these types of movies have led me to write the first of a modern and contemporary mystery/suspense series with a female protagonist. Right from the start of the story she's got a chip on her shoulder about men, as she has been dumped by a cheating husband; she's got the hots for a younger man (she's 48 years old, by the way); she dislikes cops because she was prevented from joining the force by none other than a man; she's assertive, sassy and a real smartass with an attitude. She's very much like a film noir hero. But I'm digressing...
I set out to blog about an author's greatest fear -- the book review -- well, at least it is for me. What will people think of my work? Oh, the nerve-wracking drama of it all as I wait for my first review!
The interesting thing is that I don't fear so much the reviews from readers; although I want those readers to like my work and become fans of my novels. This aside, however, I just need to know that my peers think that my work is good enough. Yes, this is a sign of insecurity; plus, we are usually our own worst critics. Most actors suffer from it, even the really famous ones; artists feel the same way, and so do authors. Therefore, as soon as I finished writing my first mystery/suspense with my older female protagonist, Mia Ferrari, I sent a complimentary copy to one author who I consider to be at the top of her genre (mystery/suspense), and whom I esteem greatly. Her name, Darcia Helle. Then, while I waited for her to read my story, I prayed that she would like it.
I know Darcia is a straight shooter (pardon the pun) when it comes to reviews, and she won't gloss over them. If she likes the story, she'll say so and if not, she'll tell you why. So you can imagine my relief when she gave me a wonderful review. Okay, so I was happy that I wasn't shot down (again, pardon the pun) in flames by someone who has a lot more experience than me in this kind of genre.
The big surprise, however, came when I started to get reviews from other authors who purchased my work and read it. One of them was romance author, Gloria Antypowich, who posted a wonderful review of my novel on Amazon and on her blog. Then, there was Aussie author Charles Jackson, who also gave me a great review.
My novel has been purchased by many people, some of them leave reviews and some don't, but to me the biggest honour is when peers who read my work take the time from their busy schedules to leave a review. This says they truly liked my work, and nothing could be sweeter to me ... well, it would come close to that film option from George Clooney or Clint Eastwood! Hehehehehe.
So what's my point? Personally, as an author, I find it more scary to get reviewed by my peers than by the public in general. Don't ask me why, but there it is. That's not to say that the general public are not discerning enough when they review something they've read. Don't get me wrong; I've seen some fantastic reviews posted by readers of my and other authors' work. And whether the review is favourable or not, it doesn't matter. The feedback is what is important.
Still, it's little wonder that with all this anxiety about reviews authors are often driven to drink. LOL. Thankfully, I'm not a big drinker, so I am driven to cappuccinos and pizza, just like Mia Ferrari :-)
Author Sylvia Massara's: