Afternoon Tea with Elizabeth Merry

My latest author interview over afternoon tea is with Elizabeth Merry, who released a collection of interconnected short stories back in April.  I will be sharing a review of “We All Die in the End” next month as part of Indie Only Month here at Sammi Loves Books, but today I am pleased to be able to put my ten reading and writing questions to her.

So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…


Thanks so much for taking the time to join us for afternoon tea today, Elizabeth. To begin with, for those who don’t know you or have yet to discover your writing, please introduce yourself.

Hello. My name is Elizabeth Merry. I am originally from the north of Ireland but have lived most of my life, very happily, in Dublin. I raised my family here and am now free and easy again and able to devote time to writing and blogging.

•♦•

When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

All my life I have been a voracious reader but the first time I realised that writing was a possibility for me was when my daughter was about four. I asked her to tell me a story and she said no, I should tell her one. So I did, and the story grew, and it occurred to me that I might write it down. And so began . . .

•♦•

Where do you find your inspiration?

Anything I have ever written has begun with a picture in my head; a man on a beach, smoking and staring at the sea, or a boy sitting in a window seat, reading. I don’t know where these images come from – but I’m very glad they do!

•♦•

Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you get a new idea?

To begin with I just make notes. I find out about the man on the beach or the boy reading, and slowly the idea grows. At this stage more characters appear and then I write an outline, which I may, or may not, stick to but I need it there all the same. It helps to give pace and shape to the story.

•♦•

In your opinion, what’s the best and worst thing about being a writer?

The worst thing is getting that first draft finished. I always find it stressful; I work slowly and in short bursts. But the best thing then is editing, shaping and polishing – I really enjoy that process and could (and do) spend hours at second and third drafts.

•♦•

What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?

In April just gone, I published an ebook on Amazon, “We All Die in the End”. It is a collection of interlinked short stories, not all written at the same time, but all in the same place. I did a lot of work on them and linked them together, so a support character in one story might become the main character in the next. I enjoyed working on that project.

At the moment I am working on a collection of poetry. Many of the poems have been published in literary magazines and now I’m arranging them in chronological order, beginning with childhood . . . I will call it “From There to Here”.

•♦•

Many authors are also avid readers. Who are some of your favourite authors? Can you share with us some of your favourite books?

I’ll have to start with Dickens – I studied “David Copperfield” at school (long ago) and have read it at least twice since. So many wonderful, unforgettable characters! I also love Annie Proulx, Donna Tartt, Joseph O’Connor, and my current top of the list – Patrick de Witt.

•♦•

If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you choose?

Three books? Well, I’d have to have “Catch 22” because it makes me laugh so much. And then I think, Bertrand Russell’s “A History of Western Philosophy” for when I’m trying to make sense of the world. And . . . “David Copperfield” a book to get lost in.

•♦•

We love quotes at Sammi Loves Books. Please share with us one of your favourite quotes from one of your own stories or poems, and explain why you chose it.

Here is my favourite quote from my own work – it’s a haiku about my mother. She is nearly ten years gone now but I think about her a lot, and my hands remind me of hers.

“My hands kneading dough
become your hands in cloudy
puffs of wheaten flour.”

•♦•

Another thing we love at Sammi Loves Books is afternoon tea. If you could have afternoon tea with any author or fictional character, who would you choose and why? Just so you know, the table can seat four, so feel free to fill all available seats, but don’t forget to leave one for yourself! 😉 Also, where might you have this afternoon tea and what is being served? You know, so we can all enjoy it…

well, let’s see . . . I’d like Patrick de Witt but I think he might be a quiet man and wouldn’t talk very much. So, Joseph O’Connor for sure – author of the novels “Star of the Sea” and “Redemption Falls” among others. He has also written many non-fiction books which make me laugh out loud – e.g. “Inside the Head of the Irish Male”. And Dervla Murphy, prolific travel writer from Co Wexford. She travelled the world on her bicycle and would be full of stories. Finally, Oscar Wilde although he’d probably take over and no one else would get a word in. And we’d have our afternoon tea in Florian’s in Venice because Dickens loved it and Venice is my favourite European city. It would be coffee instead of tea with all sorts of pastries and little cakes, and a small glass of Grand Marnier. And outside the orchestras would be tuning up for the evening and the sun would be shining hot and I would never want to leave.

•♦•

Thank you so much for the interview, Elizabeth.  I so thoroughly enjoyed your answers especially your description of afternoon tea in Venice.  It sounded magical! And the haiku about your mother was both moving and beautiful – thank you for sharing it.  Wishing you every success with your short story collection and all future projects!

And readers, don’t forget…As I mentioned in the introduction to the interview, I have a review forthcoming for “We All Die in the End”, so keep a look out for that in July! 

Connect with the Author

My name is Elizabeth Merry; I was born in Bangor, Co Down on the north east coast of Ireland and I’m the eldest of six sisters, four of whom still live in Co Down where I visit them often. I have lived most of my adult life in Dublin. Here I raised my family who are all off now, living their own lives, although I see them every week or so. I began writing many years ago, mostly short stories for children, and then I tried a novel which was published but is out of print now. I am considering re-publishing it myself on Amazon but I will do some re-writing first.

Here is a short list of publications:

Short stories for children in the National Press in Ireland.
A play for children broadcast on RTE Radio 1 in Ireland.
A novel for children – The Silver Tea-Set – published
by Glendale Press, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin (no longer in business).
Several poems and short stories published in various literary magazines.

I am now an Indie Author and recently published “We All Die in the End” on Amazon, available on both sides of the Atlantic. This book is a re-working of short stories so they are all linked together, same town, same eccentric characters.
At present I am working on a collection of poetry, “From There to Here” which charts my life to date, and as I said, I will have a long look at the previously published book for children which I will probably re-name “Ghosts in Trouble”.

I can be found:


If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.

Afternoon Tea with Crispina Kemp

My latest author interview over afternoon tea is with Crispina Kemp. Crispina is a very talented author whose amazing stories I’ve had the opportunity to beta read.  With her epic five-book historical fantasy series due for release next month, I was excited to be able to put my ten questions to her.

So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…


Thanks so much for taking the time to join us for afternoon tea today, Crispina. To begin with, for those who don’t know you or have yet to discover your writing, please introduce yourself.

Hi, I’m Crispina (with a -p- not Christina with a -t-), a fantasy writer, blogger, sometime poet and photographer (who’s nuts about fungi!)

•♦•

When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

I think I was nine years old. It was reinforced in my mid-teens when I filled three school-issue exercise books in writing a story inspired in style by Nell Dunn’s Up the Junction. The Head of English assured me I had a great career ahead of me as a writer… as long as I kept to what I knew. Unfortunately, this was an era when it was believed writers were born perfect with no need to learn the craft. Consequently, I mis-used many a year.

•♦•

Where do you find your inspiration?

Primarily from mythology, particularly myths from the Fertile Crescent, the Indo-European peoples and those of the steppes. But also, from the writings of medieval thinkers. Inevitably, that means churchmen since only churchmen received a university education. And, oh boy, did they have some weird ideas!

•♦•

Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you get a new idea?

I mull it over in my head. Think about the ways I can take it. If it holds, then I commit it to physical form. This might be in a notebook, or on my laptop. If it’s to be a novel-length story, I’ll then write perhaps a couple of chapters. That’s usually enough to know if it’s going to work. I then do the planning, i.e. the plotting and research, flesh out the characters and settings.

My first draft tends to be dialogue and stage directions, and very little else. Afterwards, I’ll analyse each scene. Is it needed? What’s its purpose? Is it in the right place? On the second draft I’ll add the details of setting and character. By now, ideas are springing up of how to improve the plot, the additional twists, the turns, a character’s backstory, how the environment impacts on the plot. So, back I go and work in extra scenes and… in such a way the wordcount grows. And grows.

•♦•

In your opinion, what’s the best and worst thing about being a writer?

The best thing? Being totally immersed in the story.

And the worst? Both painters and photographers can hang their work on the wall or give them as presents. Singers and musicians can perform at any impromptu moment. But a writer? No one sees a writer’s work unless it is in some way published. For that, the internet has been a total boon.

•♦•

What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?

For the past two and a half years I’ve been prepping the five books of The Spinner’s Game for kindle publication, each step of the way recorded in the monthly E-book Updates on crispinakemp.com

Now my intention is to repeat the process with a story I wrote and posted when I started to blog. It was then called Neve, the protagonist’s name, but I’ve re-titled it, Learning to Fly. Contemporary set, with timeslips back to 1086 and the Battle of Edington in 878, with a dragon, and vampiric grimmen, and a hidden land.

•♦•

Many authors are also avid readers. Who are some of your favourite authors? Can you share with us some of your favourite books?

Oh gosh, so many.

KJ Parker is currently hitting the mark. His Scavenger trilogy is fantastic keeps you guessing, and The Devil You Know, so clever and witty. I think there’s only the Fencer trilogy that I haven’t read.

Others?

Orson Scott Card, though I’ve not read him for a while. He’s best known for his Ender’s Game series which, yes, I have read, but I most loved his Homecoming Saga.

Jim Butcher. Less so for his better known Dresden Files, as for the six books of Codex Alera.

And Scott Lynch, for his Gentleman Bastard series. Breathless waiting for the next book, Thorn of Emberlain, to be released this summer.

•♦•

If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you choose?

The Domesday Book as commissioned by William the Conqueror. It’s not just an account of who owned what in the England of his day. It’s packed with personal stories… if you know how to read them. Busting with plots waiting for someone to rediscover them.

A bound compilation of all the academic papers of recent theories of the Proto-Indo-European origins based on accumulated modern archaeology, and ancient DNA and linguistics. Many of these exist as pdfs in my Download folder!

A good translation of the Rigveda.

•♦•

We love quotes at Sammi Loves Books. Please share with us one of your favourite quotes from one of your own stories or poems, and explain why you chose it.

Gone were the ice-laden voices that so long had woofed and thrummed around her. Instead, silence and stillness. Kerrid grinned hard and wide. She turned. And turned. Nothing but the deepest luminescent blue sky around her, and the mountain beneath her. (Chapter 9 The Spinner’s Child)

It takes me back to Glastonbury Tor in Somerset. Not exactly a mountain, yet the way it stands out above the surrounding Somerset Levels, it channels the wind that then roars up the steep-sided hill and steals away your everyday thoughts and allows you to commune with the wide blue sky. I use the image often in meditation.

•♦•

Another thing we love at Sammi Loves Books is afternoon tea. If you could have afternoon tea with any author or fictional character, who would you choose and why? Just so you know, the table can seat four, so feel free to fill all available seats, but don’t forget to leave one for yourself! 😉 Also, where might you have this afternoon tea and what is being served? You know, so we can all enjoy it…

  • Harry Dresden, protagonist of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files… I’ll risk that he might attract who knows what from who knows where that could lend a less than nice flavour to the tea.
  • Fantasy and comedic writer KJ Parker (aka Tom Holt). I imagine there a lively conversation.
  • Marcus Didius Falco, the investigator in Lindsey Davis’ Falco series set in Ancient Rome.

As to the where and what…? What will be coffee, cos coffee loosens my tongue, so at least I can contribute and not be overawed. I’m not sure the where is relevant, somewhere not crowded, and despite we’re drinking coffee, perhaps a pub since that’s a setting designed to set the customer at ease.

I thank you so much, Sammi, for inviting me to this interview.

•♦•

Thank you so much for the interview, Crispina.  I so thoroughly enjoyed your answers.  I think you made a very good point in terms of what is the worst thing about being a writer; so much of the hard work is seen only by the writer. Also, a very interesting line-up of afternoon tea guests.  I love that Marcus Didius Falco was on your list – he would be on mine too!

All five books of Crispina Kemp’s series, The Spinner’s Game, are available for pre-order now, with a release date of 21st March 2020. Follow the link below to her Amazon author page or website for more information. As a bonus, she says:

“And I’m now able to offer a full-sized, full-colour map of Lake of Skulls – a high resolution (2048 x 1536 px) full-colour fantasy map on pdf – if the reader sends me proof of pre-order. They should contact me via my Contact Me page on crispinakemp.com

There is a review forthcoming for the first book in The Spinner’s Game, The Spinner’s Child, here on Sammi Loves Books in a few weeks time, so readers, keep your eyes peeled for that, and thank you Crispina, for the ARC. Wishing you every success with this series and all future projects!

Connect with the Author

Failing to find a place on the space programme – to boldly go – I turned my vision inwards to a study of psychology and exploration of spirituality. This encouraged an outward journey to explore this wonderful world, its peoples, its beliefs, but mostly its pasts. From the exploration I returned with the core of my writing.

But, for the more mundane-minded: For a shy child with a speech problem, the written word came as a release, enabling me to express myself without being asked, ‘Eh? What did you say? Say again?’ I wrote my first ‘proper’ story when I was nine. A gothic offering to scare my friends. Since then, there’s been scarcely a day when I haven’t been busy writing. Novels. The short story form doesn’t appeal to me, although over recent months I have posted micro-fiction on my blog.

In my early teens, I visited Grimes Graves, the Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The following summer, I visited Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Thence began a lifelong interest in the archaeology of prehistory. The study of myths and legends seemed a natural progression, and from there to linguistics (despite my inability to pronounce the words).

Resident in Norfolk where my roots dig deep, my regular rambles into the surrounding countryside provide balance to the cerebral… and ample subjects for my camera.

I can be found on crispinakemp.com and my author’s page on Amazon


If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.

Afternoon Tea with Olga Godim

The third of my author interviews over afternoon tea is with Olga Godim.  Having seen some of her amazing cover designs, and with Fibs in the Family on my To Be Read list, I was so happy to be able to put my ten questions to her.

So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…


Thanks so much for taking the time to join us for afternoon tea today, Olga. To begin with, for those who don’t know you or have yet to discover your writing, please introduce yourself.

I’m Olga Godim. I write speculative fiction and an occasional romance. By now, I’ve written several novels. Three of them were published by small publishers in 2013 and 2014. One of my novels even received an award. All of them are out of print now, and the rights have reverted back to me. I’m planning to self-publish them.

I’ve also written a number of short stories, most of which were published in magazines or anthologies. I’ve been writing for a professional newspaper since 2007, and the number of my published articles is well over 300. One of my novellas on wattpad, a Regency romance Fibs in the Family, has topped 42K readers. And I have a collection of urban fantasy short stories, Squirrel of Magic, available everywhere where ebooks are sold.

Lately, I’ve discovered a new venue for my creativity. I started making book covers and I love it. So far, I’ve made 30 book covers for wattpad writers, and I also create pre-made book covers, which I post on my deviantArt page.

•♦•

When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

I became a writer pretty late in life. By education, I’m a computer programmer. I worked with computers for almost three decades. I’ve also always been a daydreamer. Since I remember myself, I’ve made up stories and played them in my head like a one-woman theater, but I never told anyone about my daydreams. They were my secret. I didn’t write anything down.

To tell the truth, I was a bit embarrassed. I was a professional woman, a single mom with two children. I never thought I could be a writer, never confided in anyone about my daydreams, but I couldn’t get rid of the imaginary characters residing in my head, even if I wanted to. I didn’t. They always helped me through rough patches. I escaped into my daydreams and felt happy there, often happier than in my real life.

In 2002, I got seriously ill. During my long recovery, my daydreams became more persistent. Besides, I had a lot of free time on my hands and not much energy for anything but sitting on a sofa, reading. I always liked to read. Sadly, I couldn’t find many books I liked. Disgusted with the majority of published works that came my way, I decided I could do better than most books. It was incredibly naïve, of course, just proving my complete ignorance, but I guess, my illness made me brave. I decided to turn one of my daydreams into a written story.

From my first paycheck after I returned to work – I know the exact month, Feb 2003 – I bought a dedicated laptop, off limit to my kids, and started writing my first story. I never stopped writing since then, but I had discovered pretty soon that I didn’t know squat about writing. So the learning process had commenced. It’s still going on.

•♦•

Where do you find your inspiration?

Everywhere. More often than not, my inspiration comes from books I read or movies I watch. Sometimes from life. I would think: what if a similar situation arose, but in a different milieu or a different genre? Science fiction instead of historical romance? Traditional fantasy with magic instead of WWII? What if the leading character was not the one who stars in this book, but his sidekick? What if the said sidekick was of the opposite gender? You know, those magic words all writers start with: What if?

“The book cover for my wattpad romance Fibs in the Family I created myself, using a classical painting by Joseph Francois Ducq.”

Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you get a new idea?

Most of my stories start with people talking in my head. Like many writers, I hear voices. And those voices translate into emotions. Sometimes, I would be so upset by my imaginary conversation, I would cry, with real tears. Sometimes, I would laugh. If the conversation persists, if the characters start acting, doing something to resolve their conflict, all in my head still, then it is time to start writing a story and see where it goes.

•♦•

In your opinion, what’s the best and worst thing about being a writer?

The best is that I get to live in my imaginary worlds, among my heroes. They make me happy. The worst – well, I guess, the worst would be that I don’t make money with my writing, except journalism, of course. Not many writers do, unfortunately, although there are a few lucky ones.

•♦•

What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?

My latest project was a series of six flash fiction sci-fi stories connected by the same protagonist. I’m a part of the blog hop WEP. Check it out. We are always happy when new people join us. Once every two months, we introduce a challenge – a topic – and every participant writes a flash story for that challenge on her blog. Then we hop around the blogs of the participants, read, and comment. The six challenges for each year are announced in the beginning of the year.

I have been a part of this blog hop for several years now, and it is fun. This year, I decided to write a sci-fi story for each challenge. They are all completed, although only two have been published so far, for the February and April challenges. All six stories are about a pet shop on a space station. Different animals, different adventures, but the same protagonist – the pet shop owner. I also wanted to try my hand at humor, and so far, my readers were satisfied. They laughed.

My plans for the future involve mostly self-publishing. I have several novels out of print I want to self-publish. I also assembled three collections of short stories in three different subgenres of speculative fiction: fantasy, sci-fi, and magic realism. Most of the stories have been published before, but I own the rights. Some were written specifically for these collections. I want to self-publish them too.

•♦•

Many authors are also avid readers. Who are some of your favourite authors? Can you share with us some of your favourite books?

My two favorite genres to read are speculative fiction and romance, same as what I write. My favorite speculative fiction writers are Lois McMaster Bujold, Wen Spencer, Sharon Shinn, and Patricia Briggs. I own and re-read occasionally most of their books. Recently, I also discovered Anne Bishop and her Others series. I don’t own them, but I enjoyed reading them.

In romance, it is Georgette Heyer, Jayne Ann Krentz (and her various pen names), Julia Quinn, and Jennifer Cruise. I also own and re-read many of their books.

The favorite books are harder to pin-point, because they tend to change. At the moment, I would say Wen Spencer’s Tinker and her entire Elfhome series. I like them so much that I wrote fan fiction set in the Elfhome universe; the only fan fiction I’ve ever written. Two of my Elfhome stories are already published on wattpad. Another one is finished, but I think I’ll publish it later in the year. It’s about Christmas, and I want to post it on wattpad for Christmas.

“The book cover for my collection of short stories Squirrel of Magic was made for me by the artist Bridget E. Wilde.”

If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you choose?

  • Jennifer Cruise’s Agnes and the Hitman

  • Wen Spencer’s Tinker

  • Lois McMaster Bujold’s Komarr

•♦•

We love quotes at Sammi Loves Books. Please share with us one of your favourite quotes from one of your own stories or poems, and explain why you chose it.

The protagonist of my novel Almost Adept, Eriale, is a magician. When someone asked her how her magic worked, this was her reply.

“Magic is energy.”
“What can you do with it?”
“Anything.” She grinned. “Anything that can be done without it.”
“What do you mean?”
“For example, if you want to carry a load of crystals,” she pointed to the wagons, where the guard still snored peacefully, “to the other side of the kingdom, you can do it using a horse and a wagon. And lots of time. Or you can employ a mage to transport your cargo much faster. The horse would spend energy pulling the wagon. It would need to eat and sleep to replenish its strength. So would a drover. A mage is no different. He compacts the time and space needed for transportation, but his use of energy is multiplied by a hundred. He uses the same amount of energy for the same job, but he pulls this energy out of himself. Of course, mages are always hungry and tired after working magic.”

•♦•

Another thing we love at Sammi Loves Books is afternoon tea. If you could have afternoon tea with any author or fictional character, who would you choose and why? Just so you know, the table can seat four, so feel free to fill all available seats, but don’t forget to leave one for yourself! 😉 Also, where might you have this afternoon tea and what is being served? You know, so we can all enjoy it…

Well, that is the hardest question of all. To choose among my favorites is tough, but I’ll endeavor. My three guests would be:

  • Cordelia from Bujold’s Cordelia’s Honor and Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen. She is my favorite sci-fi female heroine.
  • Anna from Patricia Briggs’ Alpha and Omega series. Anna is an Omega werewolf; she makes everyone calm and happy. She is my favorite werewolf, bar none.
  • Zoe from Sharon Shinn’s Troubled Waters. Zoe has magic. She commands all liquids: water, blood, etc. She is a no-nonsense young woman, intensely loyal to her friends and family. She is tolerant, flexible, and adaptable, just like water that obeys her. One of my absolute favorite fantasy characters.

We’ll have coffee, tea, and French pastries in my home town, Vancouver.

•♦•

Thank you so much, Olga, for the interview.  Your answers were interesting and entertaining to read.  I really enjoyed the quote you chose; the last line is fantastic!  The blog hop writing challenge you’re part of sounds fun – I’m sure some of the readers will be checking it out soon – I know I will be 😉  And I’m sure many writers, including myself, agree with your response for what’s the best and worst thing about being writer.  Looking ahead, I wish you every success with all future projects and your self-publishing adventure.

Connect with the Author

Olga Godim is a speculative fiction writer and journalist from Vancouver, Canada. Her articles appear regularly in local newspapers. She has written several novels, a few novellas, and multiple short stories. Some of her fiction is published on wattpad. In her free time, she collects toy monkeys and creates pre-made book covers, which you could see on her deviantArt page.

Website – https://olgagodim.wordpress.com/

Wattpad – https://www.wattpad.com/user/olga_godim

deviantArt – https://www.deviantart.com/olgagodim


If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.

Afternoon Tea with Leland Olson

The second of my author interviews over afternoon tea is with Leland Olson.  Having read and enjoyed his responses to some of the Weekend Writing Prompts, I was excited to be able to put my ten questions to him.

So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…


Thanks so much for taking the time to join us for afternoon tea today, Leland. To begin with, for those who don’t know you or have yet to discover your writing, please introduce yourself.

My name is Leland Olson. I am 78 years old and live at Arlington South Dakota, USA. I have been married for 48 years, have four step-daughters and many grandchildren. My wife and I have become each other’s caregivers.

•♦•

When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

I wrote letters to editors of newspapers and magazines at a young age. I began writing more after a back injury continued to rob me of my mobility about five years ago.

•♦•

Where do you find your inspiration?

The majority of my writing has been about life experiences. Writing my blog, “My Mixed Blog” at WordPress, had a word prompt, as Sammi is doing with the weekend writing challenges. It’s a big help to get the juices flowing.

•♦•

Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you get a new idea?

At one time I wrote everything on scraps of paper but then I usually couldn’t read what it was after it got cold. I have learned to use the computer, keeping thoughts and ideas in different directories, where I can add to or take away from what is there.

•♦•

In your opinion, what’s the best and worst thing about being a writer?

The best thing is the feeling that you are creating something. The worst thing is the people you are the closest to do not consider you a writer.

•♦•

What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?

At the present time I’m not working on any project. I hope my future includes writing, but each new day is a challenge to stay out of a final Care Facility.

 

Many authors are also avid readers. Who are some of your favourite authors? Can you share with us some of your favourite books?

A few authors that come to mind: Jack London, Anne Frank, Emmet Fox, Irving Wallace, Bob Woodward. Pierre Van Paassen.

Book titles: Educated, Fear, All the Presidents Men, Days of Our Years, Sermon on the Mount, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Black Hawk Down, The Book of Joy, 100 Missions North.

•♦•

If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you choose?

The Bible, The Book of Joy, the Farmers Almanac.

•♦•

We love quotes at Sammi Loves Books. Please share with us one of your favourite quotes from one of your own stories or poems, and explain why you chose it.

Old Age Indicators

“Laughter is one prescription we can all afford.”

Laughter is a very low cost treatment, tonic or day brightener for people of any age.

•♦•

Another thing we love at Sammi Loves Books is afternoon tea. If you could have afternoon tea with any author or fictional character, who would you choose and why? Just so you know, the table can seat four, so feel free to fill all available seats, but don’t forget to leave one for yourself! 😉 Also, where might you have this afternoon tea and what is being served? You know, so we can all enjoy it…

I would love to have tea with Bob Woodward. We would meet at the White House. Vladimir Putin and President Trump would be sitting face-to-face and I would be sitting across from Bob Woodward. I would serve green tea and very sweet sugar cookies to go with their syrupy supplications. Then I would proceed to ask them. What is really going on with them? Bob Woodward will take notes.

•♦•

Thank you so much, Leland, for the inspiring interview.  I’ve had the same problem with making notes on scraps of paper when I get an idea, only for time to pass and when I next come across it, I have no clue what it’s referring to!  And I think a number of writers will echo your answers to what are the best and worst things about being a writer.  I wish you every success with your book, The Bay Area Bad Guys (I think that’s a great title, by the way!), which can be found by following the link below to Amazon.

Connect with the Author

I have reached the age of 78 years, after a spinal fracture at 23. I started as a farm kid and school dropout who enlisted in the US Air Force from 1958 thru 1962. My job was to become a jet aircraft mechanic. I became the crew chief on RF-101-C 56-080. I drove every type of truck for most of my civilian life, a lot of single thinking time to share with the world today. I have had experiences that included numerous jobs and types of work. Printing press operator, insurance sales, plumber, asphalt highway equipment operator, a good tinker. I have a wife, four step-daughters, numerous grand and great-grandchildren.

I know my physical condition will continue to degenerate until the wheelchair beckons to me, “come and sit down.” I prepared for wheelchair life by writing for the past several years. Writing about a wide variety of topics, based on my colorful life experiences. Truth is stranger than fiction. I can still walk with a walker writing gives me a purpose of pressing on with life.

Blog: https://lelandolson.com/
Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B078X4QNT8


If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.

Afternoon Tea with McKenzie Richardson

The first of my author interviews over afternoon tea is with McKenzie Richardson.  Having immensely enjoyed all of McKenzie’s work that I’ve read, both poetry and prose, I was delighted to be able to put my ten questions to her.

So grab a cup of tea and maybe a biscuit or slice of cake, then sit back and relax and read the interview…


Thanks so much for taking the time to join us for afternoon tea today, McKenzie. To begin with, for those who don’t know you or have yet to discover your writing, please introduce yourself.

Greetings! My name is McKenzie Richardson. I am an author, poet, crafter, blogger, book reviewer, and avid reader.

I write in a variety of genres, but mostly horror, fantasy, and poetry. Recently I have been leaning toward more fairy tale retellings and am currently working on a gender-centric collection of dark fairy tales. My stories range from zombies and nightmares to Rapunzel escaping her own tower. I like to write about whatever inspires me without letting labels hold me back.

My work has been published on various online platforms as well as in multiple anthologies. I have also written and published a middle-grade fantasy novel called Heartstrings.

When I’m not writing fiction, I run a crafting website where I craft with found objects and repurpose things I would otherwise throw away. It’s always an adventure.

•♦•

When did you first realise you wanted to become a writer?

I have always enjoyed stories. I vividly remember my mother making up bedtime stories for me and I was fascinated with her ability to string words together in an entertaining way. I was always reading and had a deep love for books from an early age, but hearing my mother’s impromptu stories made me realize that this wasn’t just something grownups in books could do. I could be a writer too.

Once I started school, I began writing my own stories. I always loved creative writing assignments at school, but soon I just wrote for the sake of putting my ideas on paper. One Christmas when I was in elementary school, I wrote and illustrated (with the help of my mother) a three-chapter book about adventures my toys had and gave them to my family as presents. I feed off their smiles when they opened them and knew this was something I wanted to keep doing.

I have always had a lot of support from my family. My grandmother was an artist and wrote for a newspaper. She was always there for me and helped my imagination blossom with creative crafts and an open ear for my ramblings.
As I grew up, I never stopped writing. Whether it was stories, songs, poems, or novels, I just loved the act of putting words on paper (or a computer screen, although I always have had a soft spot for words I can physically touch).

•♦•

Where do you find your inspiration?

Usually from everyday life. It’s always fun to take something real and turn it into something fantastical.

When I first moved into my new house, I never saw my neighbor, but would occasionally hear bumps through the wall. My speculation on what was going on next door turned into one of the first stories I had published, “The Perfect Neighbors”, which you can read on the Flash Fiction Magazine website.

I also pull from the strange dreams I have and the pictures that I find myself doodling, which helps me get story ideas and more fully visualize what I have created.

•♦•

Can you tell us about your writing process? What’s the first thing you do when you get a new idea?

To be honest, I am a bit of a procrastinator so when I first get an idea, I usually write it down on whatever is available, then set it aside. I have a folder filled with these scraps, written on the back of receipts, napkins, junk mail, and tiny pieces of notebook paper. I also have an email draft that is just a list of unrelated words that sparked a story idea. I have an abundance of ideas in a variety of forms.

If a story really strikes me, I basically shut myself in a room and just start pecking away on my keyboard. Many of my story ideas develop as I’m writing and change as I go. This means a lot of editing work once the final story is set, but I like to see where the story takes me. Many times, I let my hands type and allow the story to lead. I just do my best to keep up.

•♦•

In your opinion, what’s the best and worst thing about being a writer?

The best thing is when someone has a positive reaction to something you’ve written. Whether it’s seeing someone smile at a poem you’ve created for them or actual verbal praise, it is so wonderful to see that your words matter. I am so thankful to all of the people who have read my work and taken the time to leave a review or comment. The thing that makes writing worth doing is having someone to read what you’ve written.

With that in mind, the worst thing is rejection. It’s hard enough to gather enough courage to put yourself out there (to publishers, to reviewers, to agents), so when someone finds your work lacking, it really hurts. At that point, you just have to remind yourself why you like writing in the first place, learn from the experience if you can, and get back to writing and improving your craft.

•♦•

What projects have you been working on recently? What plans do you have for the future?

I have just never been satisfied with “happily ever after”. So for the past year, I have been working on a collection of dark fairy tale retellings in which I imagine alternate lives for well-known characters. Whether its Snow White, the Evil Queen, Sleeping Beauty, or the witch from Hansel and Gretel, I really enjoy taking a story almost everyone knows and putting my own spin on it. In college, I majored in Psychology and Gender Studies, so I especially like giving traditionally passive female characters more agency in my stories.

I am just finishing up the last story, which is very exciting but also nerve-racking. Once it’s finished, I will start the daunting and time-consuming task of trying to get it published.

As I said before, I have tons of story ideas on tiny scraps of paper so I will definitely continue writing. I have plenty of partially-written novels, stories, novellas, and even a book of poetry in the works. It has always been such a big part of my life, I can’t imagine not writing.

Many authors are also avid readers. Who are some of your favourite authors? Can you share with us some of your favourite books?

I have always loved reading. Anyone who knows me even a little bit will tell you that I am a major book nerd. I try to read a little bit of everything, because I really believe that reading helps your writing.

My all-time favorite authors are Margaret Atwood and J.K. Rowling, because they both have an amazing talent for world-building and story-telling. I can’t get enough of their writing.

I really enjoy dark books, so growing up my favorites were Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Scarlet Letter.

More recently I read Cressida Cowell’s The Wizards of Once and N.D. Wilson’ 100 Cupboards and loved them both. Even as an adult, I really enjoy books written for young readers. Both of these books are great examples of how to capture the reader with your setting and I was very inspired by them.

I honestly love too many books to do them all justice here, but you can find tons of reviews on my blog.

•♦•

If you were only allowed to own three books, which three would you choose?

I’m going to be a bit of a cliché here, but my first pick would definitely be Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I feel like that is so many people’s go-to answer, but it is a book I could read again and again. It gets better with every reading. It’s something I really enjoyed as child that is still inspiring and meaningful to me as an adult. It is also a fantastic example of wonderful writing. The characters, the world-building, the narrative. The whole thing is amazing. I strive to write something as good as that book one day.

I also have a copy of The Complete Tales & Poems of Winnie-the-Pooh, which is a book that always helps me when I’m feeling down. It allows me to reminisce on my childhood when I just want to escape adulting for a little while. It’s another one I could read over and over again. That silly old bear always has a way of warming my heart and bringing a smile to my face.

And lastly, I would choose my own book, Heartstrings. It sounds narcissistic, I know, but hear me out. That book is a physical reminder of how many people I have that support me. Whether it was my mother or my husband helping me proofread, my mother-in-law designing and painting the gorgeous cover, or all of the friends and family members who read and reviewed the book, that book reminds me that I have a truly remarkable group of people surrounding me who are always ready to give me love and support when I need it. I am so thankful for them all.

•♦•

We love quotes at Sammi Loves Books. Please share with us one of your favourite quotes from one of your own stories or poems, and explain why you chose it.

I think my favorite quote comes from my short story, “The Reading Willow”, which is featured in Outcast and Other Words.

“Because when we read and write, we leave a little bit of ourselves in each printed word, to be enjoyed by another, to feed us and grow us and maintain us, as we live an eternal life, reading in a meadow filled with wildflowers.”

This really sums up why I enjoy writing (and reading) so much. It’s all about putting a little piece of yourself out there into the universe and seeing what it comes back as, seeing how it has morphed and changed and how it has touched other lives. That is why I write. Because I want my words to matter to someone else.

•♦•

Another thing we love at Sammi Loves Books is afternoon tea. If you could have afternoon tea with any author or fictional character, who would you choose and why? Just so you know, the table can seat four, so feel free to fill all available seats, but don’t forget to leave one for yourself! 😉 Also, where might you have this afternoon tea and what is being served? You know, so we can all enjoy it…

To be honest, I am much more comfortable with the people in books than those in the real world, so even in this fantasy, I’d lean toward fictional characters (although in real life, I’d love to have tea with Margaret Atwood, because she is my idol, though I would probably just stare at her mouth agape in awe).

I would definitely invite Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, because I have real respect for a girl who gets turned into an old woman and just kind of shrugs it off like it’s no big deal. In all seriousness though, she is such a wonderful balance of kindness and strong-mindedness that I think she could really teach me a thing or two about being more outgoing.

I would also invite Meggie Folchart from Inkheart. I’d love talking about books with someone who could literally read them off the page. Plus, she is brave, quick-thinking, and determined. I’m noticing a pattern of bold females at this tea. I think that’s me subtly telling myself to take more risks.

And finally, I’d ask Greta from Katie O’Neill’s The Tea Dragon Society. She is such an awesome character and I’d love to talk about tea dragons with her. For those who haven’t read the comic series yet, I highly recommend it. We would all sit outside Hesekiel’s tea shop, admiring the beautiful scenery while talking about books, writing, and magic. And, who know? Maybe Greta would let us all share some of her tea dragon, Ginseng’s, tea, an experience anyone would be lucky to have.

•♦•

Thank you again, McKenzie, for the interview.  I really enjoyed reading your answers, many of which I can relate to.  I think it’s a lovely idea to have included your own book, Heartstrings, in the three books you would choose to own – and the reason behind it is a beautiful one.  The quote you chose to share was delightful; it clearly illustrates the wonderful way you have with words.  Your book of dark fairy tale retellings sounds amazing and I wish you every success with it, and all other future projects.

Connect with the Author

McKenzie Richardson lives in Milwaukee, WI. Her short stories have been featured in the anthologies, Mutate, Electromagnetism, It’s Behind You, Doomsday, and Evil Lurks, all of which are available on Amazon. Her work will be included in two more anthologies coming out this year. She also has been published in 101 Words and Flash Fiction Magazine, as well as various online anthologies through Dreaming Spirit Press including Love Letters to Selene, Summer Dreams, and Whispers and Echoes (Issues 1-4). Her first novel, Heartstrings, was published in 2018, and is also available on Amazon. McKenzie also runs a blog where you can find crafting tutorials, book reviews, and a running list of all of her work.

Blog: http://www.craft-cycle.com
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/McKenzie-Richardson/e/B07FZV6KVY
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mckenzielrichardson/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/McKRichardson
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mckenzielrichardson/
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/McKenzieLRichardson
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16305073.McKenzie_Richardson


If you would like to be interviewed as part of Afternoon Tea at Sammi Loves Books, check out this post.

Author Spotlight: Carol J Forrester

These days I find I am really enjoying short works of fiction, something that I discussed in Musings…Short Stories and Flash Fiction (click here), and which in turn introduced me to the work of Carol J Forrester…

* * *

Carol J Forrester writes beautifully.  If you check out her site, you will find plenty of poetry, short stories and pieces of flash fiction to keep your inner reader content for…well…a long time 🙂  There is so much to choose from I hardly knew where to begin.

So I took my time exploring…What I quickly came to realise as I began reading was that her writing style is both elegant and versatile, often leaving you wondering what happened before and after the piece you have just read, drawing you in.  She also has an amazing ability to get a lot of detail into her short pieces and each one is very readable.  Great for when you want to read something but don’t have much time on your hands.  Some pieces are thought-provoking, some will make you smile but all are well-written and evocative; I found as I read the stories they immediately came to life…

Short Stories and Flash Fiction

Under this section I came across so many short pieces that really captured the imagination and covering a number of differing subjects and genres.

Some particular favourites from the “5 Sentence Fiction” included: The One, Alley Blades and Our Secrets.  The author really knows how to make good use of those five sentences!


Our Secrets by Carol J Forrester

(used with permission)

Even when the sun found its way to England, her aunt kept the summer house boarded up and bolted shut.

“It isn’t safe.” she’d say, hands resting on Tanya’s shoulders as she steered the child back towards the main house where the rooms were filled with blooming flowers and climbing plants that wove around banisters.

When the cancer set in, years later, stripping Tanya’s aunt of everything that had made her beautiful… they found the papers.

The black and white photos which held more colour than the sunken cheeks of her aunt; a thousand smiles scattered across feet worn floorboards in a summer house Tanya had though the key was lost to.

Untouched, the summer rooms held more dust than furniture and upon the master bed lay her aunt, breath gone, clutching the photo of a woman Tanya could not recognise and her mother refused to look at or name; “she was no one, a mistake, distraction, a ghost your aunt could never let go.”


And from “100-150 Word Stories” I loved The Haunting, which is my favourite read of the day, closely followed by Our Secrets (see above).  Other favourites from section included Bliss and Shadow Twists.


The Haunting by Carol J Forrester

(used with permission)

They rattled around the house at all hours of the night. A three AM door slam then hurried whispers and broken plates. You could hear their footsteps from cellar to attic; not a single room was spared their clamour, but she’d be damned if she let them get the best of her.

When she summoned the Reverend, he simply shook his head of perpetually thinning hair and gave a blackened grin.

“I’m afraid this is a little out of my league my dear.” he said. “This is beyond your everyday exorcism. Students are somewhat trickier to evict than ghosts.”


In my opinion, this is definitely flash fiction at its best!

Headquarters

“Headquarters” is Carol’s online fiction series.  These longer pieces centre around Sasha who runs Headquarters, an international organisation set up by her grandfather to promote world peace.  Since his death however, things haven’t exactly gone to plan…

To begin reading Headquarters, check out the story’s table of contents here.  I have only read the first few chapters so far, but I am already hooked and eager to know what happens next…

And did I mention she has published a book of her poetry, Before the Words Run Out…

To read some of Carol’s fabulous writing – and I promise you, you won’t be disappointed – why not check out her site: caroljforrester.wordpress.com