RAYMOND HOLMES —Author Interview

 Raymond Holmes was born and raised in the east end of Toronto and lives in Brampton, Ontario. Following careers in Industry he started writing upon retirement.

Ray started by writing plays and met with some success. Boris and Herman, The Pooman and The Lonely Vigil Of Emily Baxter were performed at the South Simcoe Theatre in Cookstown, Ontario each earning a modest honorarium. The last play listed went on to greater success, winning third prize plus a performance in the 2013

Ottawa Little Theatre playwriting contest.

Raymond Holmes

He is the author of Witnesses And Other Short Stories published by MiddleRoad Publishers in 2019 and A Barber’s Son, Recollections Of Growing Up In 1950’s Toronto published by Eleventh Street Press in 2020. He has had work published in The Northern Appeal, a bi-annual Simcoe County literary journal, Meet Me At The Four Corners, an anthology published by the Brampton Writer’s Guild and Unleashed Ink II, an anthology of short stories and poetry published by the Barrie Writers Club.

He has been happily married to Mary for over thirty-two years and has maintained a lifetime love of classical music and wood working.

Ray, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to talk about your writing and your books Witnesses and A Barber’s Son.

KP A Barber’s Son is clearly autobiographical in scope but how did you arrive at all the recollections? Did you have notes from way back then? Any research done about the era? Did you tap into the memory of any of the people mentioned?

A. I experienced all the things written about in the book and remember them clearly in spite of the incidents happening so many years ago. The only notes are in my head.  A number of the events I wrote about were formative or dramatic enough to make a great impression upon me and I thought the recollections and the era of the 1950’s might be of interest to others.  The challenge from a writer’s standpoint was to make them interesting and I hope I have achieved that since I am not a famous or well-known person. I did ask my mother, sister and brother questions about our family history and their own lives, but out of curiosity at the time and not for literary purposes. I researched the family genealogy as much as I could, but there are many gaps, particularly with respect to my father’s life and family, and my mother’s ancestors. This has been frustrating. I wish I’d asked my mother many more questions when she was alive. I did research on the era mainly to ensure some dates mentioned were correct and on my childhood neighbourhood to ensure details I remembered about the area were accurate. I also referred to family records in my possession. Aside from family members I had no contact with any of my friends, neighbours or acquaintances from those days. I expect the majority of them are gone now and since some references to characters mentioned in the recollections may be unflattering, I changed many of their names to prevent embarrassment to them, or their descendants.

KP.  Witnesses and Other Stories is a departure from an autobiography and is sci-fi and futuristic in plot and theme. What made you want to write stories like the ones in this book?

A. Only five of the twelve stories are what could be called sci-fi or futuristic in plot, but they do form almost half of the total. The others are a mix of slice-of-life and fiction taken from personal experience or derived from other ideas. I have always enjoyed the sci-fi and futuristic genres. Sci-fi movies, horror films, and programs such as The Twilight Zone were favourites of mine as a young person so I tend to gravitate to the abnormal and supernatural. I like stories with mysterious, perhaps unexplained endings leaving the reader to think. After all, life itself is a mystery and there is still much to learn about the world and universe we live in.

KP.  At what age did you start to read? Write? Were you a precocious reader?

A. The first reading I recall with any clarity is the primary grade readers featuring Dick and Jane, and a history book titled Breastplates and Buckskins. We didn’t have many books at home and my mother didn’t read to me so my other early reading included theme cards sold in packages with bubble gum and comic books of all sorts from ones with cartoon characters to the Classics Series telling stories like Last Of The Mohicans, Moby Dick and The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. Later, I patronized the library to read books on science, history and some classics. I wouldn’t call myself a precocious reader, but I did read regularly and enjoyed it. Aside from writing for work purposes, I didn’t attempt any of my own until I retired in 2012.

KP. Growing up in the Toronto of the 50’s was a far cry from what it is today, with its multicultural and ethnic make-up. How do you feel about this massive change in the composition of the city?

A. I think it’s wonderful. Back then, Toronto was culturally bland with Chinatown the standout exception for cuisine other than meat, fish and potatoes. The overwhelming majority of the population was white Anglo-Saxon protestant or catholic and there was widespread overt and covert racial, cultural and ethnic prejudice. I grew up immersed in it. Things started to change with the influx of European immigrants after the Second World War and to state that the Italians built much of post 1950 Toronto might not be too much of an exaggeration. Subsequent streams of immigrants from the Caribbean, India, other parts of Asia and numerous other countries have enriched the life of the city with their food, talents, art and energy. I love Indonesian and East Indian cuisine. Toronto is a totally different place from that of my childhood and better for it.

KP. What authors and books have influenced your work? Any Canadian authors in there?

A. Wow. Where to start. I think I’ve been influenced at least to a small extent by everything I’ve read and I admit my interests are wide, perhaps too much so, because I don’t read as much fiction as I should for a person who wants to write fiction. Stephen King would be near the top of my list for the originality of his ideas and scope of his imagination. In younger years I read Ray Bradbury and Issac Assimov. I like the fiction of Dennis Lehane and Ken Follett. I read a lot of history and like Eric Larson. I find the special interest books of Bill Bryson pure enjoyment and recommend The Body and A Short History Of Nearly Everything. For Canadian authors, I like Margaret Atwood, Rohinton Mistry, Margaret Lawrence and Carol Shields to name a few. I just finished Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom and A Crack In Creation by Jennifer Doudna which have influenced a futuristic novel I am working on.

KP.  When did you first realize that you wanted to write?

A. When I retired in 2012. I spent my working life in technical sales and technology and did a lot of writing for business, but didn’t engage in any form of artistic expression aside from some wood-working. Upon retiring I decided to do different things. I took violin lessons, and delved into furniture making. My entry into writing was via playwriting, of all things. I have always enjoyed the theatre and one day a “what if” idea hit me out of the blue and after researching how to write a play from the structural/manuscript formatting aspects, I wrote it. A community theatre took it up and I wrote several additional plays, two of which were performed. It is difficult to get plays staged so I turned to other writing. Starting with the oft-repeated advice “write what you know,” I began writing the recollections of my childhood in the 1950’s which eventually became A Barber’s Son years later. At the same time I started writing other standalone short stories a number of which ended up in Witnesses. I have adapted several of the plays to short stories.

KP.  How long did it take you to write the stories in Witnesses and how long for A Barber’s Son? How long to get them published? Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since writing those books?

A. I wrote the stories in Witnesses, over a period of about six years. A couple are condensed and adapted from pieces which form A Barber’s Son. The published process took from the early spring of 2018 to the early summer of 2019. The recollections in  A Barber’s Son were mainly written over a period of seven years. Adding some chapters, re-writing, revising, editing and self-publishing under the banner of Eleventh Street Press was my Covid 19 Project and took eight months. I don’t think writing these books has made the process any easier or faster, but studying the craft and working at it hopefully has improved the quality.

KP.  Is there a favourite among all the stories in Witnesses? Why is that?

A. There are several I have a soft spot for and it is difficult to pick just one. I like Gaba’s Violin and Witnesses because the idea of objects taking on essences of their owner’s spirits fascinates me. I guess if I have to choose one it would be Death’s Door. This started off as my second play titled The Lonely Vigil Of Emily Baxter and was a prize winner. I adapted it to the story Death’s Door. I like imagining “what if’s” as ideas for stories and the idea of a person locking themselves away because they are obsessed with death waiting to take them intrigued me.

KP.  What was the hardest story in Witnesses to write? Why was that?

The hardest one to write was A Few Minutes To Eternity. The idea came from an article I read about Ronald Turpin, one of the last of two men to be executed in Canada. It was difficult to write as I had to imagine what waiting to be put to death would be like for a person from an emotional standpoint and the thoughts that would go through their mind. A person in that position would be frightened of course, but would a murderer facing death have regrets about the life they’d lived and the things they’d done to bring them to this point? Would their early life have made them what they were? I think the answer to the last question likely would be yes, and I wanted to explore that aspect. I also had to find a balance between creating a unlikeable character, yet one whom a reader might find some sympathy for. It too, started as a play. I thought it would make a great, intensely emotional play with a simple stage set, but no theatre dramaturge agreed. Disappointing, but se la vie. Rejection—the author’s lot.

KP. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Do you have a fixed routine, or do you wait for the muse to strike you, like many writers? Do you set goals?

A. I don’t have a fixed routine. It depends upon what else is going on and how excited I am about an idea. It’s a hobby and I don’t sweat it. Mostly I write in the evening, but have been doing more during the day in these times because going out is limited and I have been working on larger pieces. I don’t sit down to stare at a blank screen if I have nothing in my head for new work so I guess the answer is I wait for the muse to strike. When ideas and inspiration come to me I let them gestate in my head.  By the time I sit to write they are more or less fully formed, but I do spend a lot of time revising and polishing. I like to set finished work aside from time to time to let the characters and story line talk to me. Sometimes this suggests new angles, twists or holes and confirms if the story “works” and makes sense. I do not set any goals re words/pages per day/week or target dates for publication. I don’t write for my bread and beans so I’m not concerned about output.

KP. All writers bring something of their life to their stories, whether consciously or not. What period of YOUR life do you think has influenced your writing most of all—child, teenager, young adult, adult? Can you expand and tell us more…

I would say adult. Youth is carefree and absorbed, so the influence for writing about larger issues, which is my main interest, wasn’t there. Adulthood is the time when one becomes aware of the world, the people in it and how they act. We start to think about the big picture and question things: why we are here, the mystery of life, our relationship with other humans, our responsibilities, etc. There is beauty in this world, but also a great deal of evil and suffering and everyone suffers to some extent in their life either from natural events or as the result of actions by others.  As an adult, the awareness of two things has influenced my writing: the idea that we are put here to suffer and have to strive to rise above it, and the fact that there is an infinite amount that we don’t know about life, our world and the universe.

KP. Do you think it will reach the point where ideas for new plots and books will start to tax your creativity? If not, can you share your secret in avoiding this? If you think you might reach that point in future, how do you plan on overcoming this?

A. I’m sure of it. All writers will experience this at some point. I don’t rely on having new writing ideas for making a living so the issue may be more immediate for someone who needs to earn money from writing. I don’t have any deep secrets to avoid that contingency. What I do, and think it’s all any writer can do, is read as much as possible, observe the world and people around them and play “what if” to uncover ideas for plots. Talk to a variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures about their life experiences. Perhaps there are stories there. Balance these activities with time away from the keyboard to exercise or do something else which can let “the boys in the basement,” as James Scott Bell calls them, throw up ideas from your subconscious. There are all kinds of other exercises and activities that a writer can do to foster creativity.  Open the dictionary to a random page, pick a word and riff on it. Find writing prompts on line. Let a stream of consciousness flow from your mind and write it down, gibberish or otherwise. You might be surprised at what comes out.

KP. Some authors link their characters’ names with their role in the book. How do YOU arrive at the names for your characters?

A. An interesting question. I don’t get obsessed with finding the perfect name, but use a variety of techniques and do try to select ones compatible with the characters role as I see it. Examples from Witnesses would be Earl in Under Siege From Biodiversity or Sidney in Red Suitcase; names a little nerdy and ordinary for these characters in humorous situations.  For Gaba’s Violin I selected Armin Negossian. Armin was the name of an actual professional violinist and Negossian had an exotic Armenian sound I thought might be appropriate for someone in that profession. Growing up, I knew a kid called Alvin. The name was more popular in the fifties and I thought it would be a good one for the boy in Mister Polio. For historical fiction I research names in use at the time setting of the story. I used the name Gurd for a protagonist in a story set in thirteenth century England, one common during this period. Futuristic fiction poses more of a challenge for name selection.  I tend to pick exotic names that have meanings or origins in other cultural roots. An example is the all-knowing and capable android Anahita in the story of the same name in the Witnesses collection which means goddess of wisdom. In the past I have also used the telephone book to search names and the internet for lists of baby names. The latter is also useful for researching names in use in previous generations.

KP. We all like to read about heroes. Tell us about some of the protagonists in your books. Is there real-life inspiration behind them? How about antagonists?

A. In A Barber’s Son the protagonist and main character in the stories is myself as they are my childhood recollections. Definitely real-life inspiration, but I’m not very heroic in some of them I’m afraid. Childish self-absorption is more typical. My mother often represented the antagonist as she was a parent controlling my life. All the other antagonists are based on real people, but most of the names have been changed for privacy reasons. There were certainly some memorable, unique characters among them, God rest their souls.

The inspiration for the protagonist in Gaba’s Violin aside from my own pathetic scratching on the instrument are the various virtuosos I have listened to and enjoyed over the years. The antagonist in this story is the hellish experiences of Europe’s holocaust victims. In Going Home, the protagonist was inspired by my part time work as a cab driven from 1969 to 1971. The protagonist in A Few Minutes To Eternity was inspired by the experience of Ronald Turpin, one of the last men to hang in Canada and his antagonists were his father, justice and the system. Under Siege From Biodiversity was based on my experiences owning a rural home near Barrie, Ontario.  The Valley Of Lost Yesterdays is based on my encounter with a real aboriginal person who was the antagonist. The experience opened my eyes to the racial prejudice and inequality rife in society at the time.

KP. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your stories?

A. Without question it is re-writing, revising and editing. Authors are too close to their work to be objective and even repeated readings can miss grammar, spelling and punctuation blunders. Good editing is invaluable and mandatory for quality, but having said that, I’m not prepared to spend hundreds of dollars for a return which will likely be meagre. I was fortunate to have thorough, competent editing for Witnesses.

KP.  How many unpublished and partially completed books/ stories do you have in the back burner? When will they published?

A. I probably have enough completed short stories for another collection, but no target date to publish. Right now I am working to complete the first draft of a futuristic, sci-fi piece, which will either be a short novel or novella depending on the final word count. I don’t have a firm target date for publishing because it depends on the length. I have drafts completed for three other novellas. If the sci-fi piece is a novel, it could be out by the end of 2021. Otherwise I will publish it with one or two other novellas early in 2022.

KP. Is your approach to writing one that encompasses a formula that might meet your reader’s expectation, or do you write to suit yourself?

A. I don’t write to a formula, chase the flavour of the month or try to cater to the taste or expectation of readers. I write what interests me as a subject/plot to the best of my ability and have no patience with the concepts of political correctness and cultural appropriation which may put some readers off. I hope readers find some merit in what I write, but my satisfaction with the work is the first priority.

KP. Your working career, I believe, had no connection with being an author. What was it and how, if in any way, did it influence your writing today?

A. My career was in technology and sales. I did a lot of business correspondence and technical writing, but no other types until I retired. My work taught me attention to detail and to communicate clearly, honestly and accurately.

KP. Do you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. No. I put my best effort into the work and am proud to have my real name attached to it. That’s the point, isn’t it?

KP. What do you think are the most important magazines/journals for aspiring writers to subscribe to?

A. I don’t subscribe to any as monthly issues, but look at tips and articles of interest on Writer’s Digest and other web sites. I find good books on the subject more valuable for developing writing skills. I have several books by James Scott Bell. They are reasonably priced, cover a variety of subjects and are written in a straight-forward, informative, commonsense style I like. There are many others. It seems that one way to make money by writing is to write books about writing.

KP.  Do you believe authors should go on literary pilgrimages? Why or why not? Have you been on any? Were you inspired? What did you learn?

A. It’s not for me to suggest to anyone what they should or should not do regarding their writing lives, but my view is why spend all that time and money when I can read their works in the comfort of my easy chair. If their writing on the page won’t inspire me, I don’t think looking at their gravestones, residences or the places they frequented in life will uncover something from within me that wasn’t there before. I haven’t made a trip for the specific purpose of a writer’s pilgrimage, but did visit the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and Hemingway’s house in Cuba in connection with vacation trips. The visit to the Frank house was a moving experience, but I didn’t come away from it, or Hemingway’s place inspired with respect to my own writing.

KP.  Have you ever read a book that made you cry? If so, which?

Yes—Night, by Elie Wiesel. The book is anguish and suffering made into art. Reading it would move anyone unless they have a heart made of iron.

KP. What’s the most difficult stumbling block for you in writing characters of the opposite sex?

A. Getting the emotions right on paper. Females are more complex emotionally than men and see things differently. In my experience they are more compassionate, interact with their friends in a different way and have different values. They bear children and are more connected with raising them than men. The history of women has been filled with poor treatment and devaluation and I think, at least in some cases, this has left an imprint on the female psyche. I have seen and heard first hand of my mother’s difficult life experiences and I know how seriously they affected her. She suffered and I tried to show that and her emotions in A Barber’s Son. In a way it is as much her story as mine.

KP.  Do you think someone could become a writer if they can’t feel the emotions of their characters?

A. I don’t think they can be a good writer. Feeling character emotions is the first step to writing them down. If a writer can’t get inside the heads of his or her characters where their feelings and emotions reside and convey them, the characters will be flat, colourless and in the end, unappealing to readers who won’t connect with them. We all want to “feel” characters as real people when we read about them. Show, don’t tell is good advice to show emotions to provide a more intimate experience for their readers.

KP.  Assuming you always think there’s room for improvement, what’s YOUR approach to becoming a better writer?

A. As a fiction writer, I try to read books by good authors of fiction to see how they develop their work with respect to concept, characters, theme, structure, scenes and voice. I read non-fiction as well and these have triggered ideas. I read books on the subject of writing and there are numerous good ones available at reasonable prices. I try to get feedback on my writing and keep a dictionary, thesaurus and grammar reference book handy.

KP. Is there a central theme in your books so far? Is there a common message to the reader?

A. In A Barber’s Son I think there are two themes: first, the challenges facing a young person growing up and trying to find their way in the world; second, the importance of having love and someone who cares about you. The stories in Witnesses are diverse and although there is not a single theme that runs through them all, if I had to pick a dominant one appearing in a few, it is that life entails suffering.

KP. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/ray.holmes.923/

EMAIL: rjh263045@gmail.com

OTHER: Invite me out for a drink.

Witnesses by Raymond Holmes

Franklin Mohan — Author Interview

Franklin Mohan is a retired physician living in Belle River, Ontario. He enjoys his retirement time with his wife of forty-nine years. He is a wanna-be golfer, traveler, photographer, woodworker and writer. Frank was born in Trinidad and moved to Canada at age sixteen, in 1963. He attended the University of Saskatchewan, taught high school Chemistry and Biology in Saskatchewan and in British Columbia, thence to Medical School, UWI, Jamaica. Even after fifty-eight years, he still identifies himself as a Trini. He enjoys learning Trini cooking—roti, dhal, curry, etc.— from his wife, a Canadian. This is his second book, the first being The Peripatetic Skylark.


Frank, thanks for taking the time to have this conversation for my readers. I’d like to talk about your writing and your book Love Has Two Moons, released in 2021.

Q. You’ve been a teacher and successful MD prior to retirement. What made you take up writing?

A. Being a professional teacher and medical practitioner, I found that a core skill towards success in both practices is effective communication. Writing for me is an exercise in sharing my ideas and thoughts with others. I have always had a penchant for storytelling and entertaining. I try to accomplish this end through developing my writing proficiency. Although a teacher in high school said, referring to me, “This boy has no academic potential,” because I was considered a dunce. My best marks were in English and Science, however, barely passing even in these disciplines. I took up writing after retirement because I found it fun painting pictures and scenes with words. I wanted my readers to “see” the character I was describing and to be part of the scene I was painting. 

KP.  Now that you’ve published Love Has Two Moons And Other Stories, what have you learnt from the writing and publishing process and how do you think you could possibly improve on your approach to writing?

A. Although Two Moons is my second novel, I learnt so much from my interactions with the editor, Ken Puddicombe, such that that rewriting my first, The Peripatetic Skylark, is imminent, as I am anxious to incorporate the craftmanship he has taught me which he used to guide me through making my prose more compelling. I can improve my approach to writing by being open to suggestions and criticisms from all quarters, friends, colleagues and editors.

KP.  Would you say that your writing, so far, has been heavily influenced by Caribbean writers? If so, which author(s) and what books? How about other literary giants—any influence on your work?

  1. My favorite West Indian author is Samuel Selvon. His writings cover the gamut of idiosyncrasies of the various ethnicities making up the Caribbean diaspora. I have tried to emulate his unmatched ability in writing so simply with a flow so smooth, it draws the reader onwards, page after page.
  2. Arundhati Roy, to me a literary giant, impressed me with her unequal skill in composing original metaphors as seen in her “God of Small Things.” Her metaphors teach, paint and demonstrate scenes so uniquely, that I want to emulate her.

KP.  Do you think that writing by Caribbean authors stand out from other authors, if so, what do you think stands out?

A. Caribbean literary giants like Selvon, Naipaul and Mittelholzer incorporated the richness of the Caribbean vernacular rendering their writings spiced with the Patois English that even a non-West Indian could cypher right off.

KP.  Do you have a favourite among the stories in Love Has Two Moons? Why is that?

A. My favorite is the novella Love Has Two Moons. Although fictional, it parallels a similar story my Dad revealed to me when he turned eighty. He had made contact with a woman he was in love with in 1927, ten years after my mom’s death. She was whisked away back in 1927 when their relationship came to light and she was forced into an arranged marriage. She named her first born after my Dad. They had planned to reunite after sixty-two years. What happened at the time of the reunion is true. However, the rest of the story, all ninety-five percent of it, is purely fictional.

KP.  What was the hardest scene/ story to write in the book? Why was that?

A. In O My God, I’m Black, after Byron McQueen becomes black, I struggled to see society through the eyes of a white supremist while himself a newly rendered black. McQueen being lectured to by Walter, an educated black living in the forest, I felt, had to be in the form of telling rather than showing because there was a limited time in which to cram in historical ideas appropriate for a lecture in the pointlessness of racial hatred.

KP. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Do you have a fixed routine, or do you wait for the muse to strike you, like many writers?

A. I have had ample time to write as a retiree. However, I like writing in the mornings after breakfast when my cortisol levels are at its diurnal high. I sit at the keyboard, turn on “Doctor’s Office music” on iTunes, at a barely perceptible volume. The serene setting appears to render me relaxed yet makes me fertile with ideas as my mind wanders within a spa of metaphors, some silly, others beckoning. I like chuckling at humorous ideas that violate my mind which I dare not put down on manuscript, only to hear my wife demanding to know: “What’s so funny?”

KP. What period of your life do you think has influenced your writing most of all—child, teenager, young adult, adult? Can you expand and tell us more…?

A. I let slip previously that I was a dunce even up to my final year in high school. That was when a teacher in Quebec interviewed my guardian and me, indicating, “This boy has no academic potential.” He was right, based on my school performance thus far. My parents in Trinidad, as an expedient move versus an act of surrender, took me out of Grade Ten in Trinidad and sent me to live with my brother in Canada, hoping that the “boy would do better.” Inexplicably, I passed the Quebec final Provincial exams with an A+, a mark foreign to my academic record. My brother, through contacts at the University of Saskatchewan, got me in and the Registrar threatened me with the proviso, “Send the boy up, (from Montreal) and if he fails just one course, out he goes.” I matured quite rapidly that year and succeeded academically, ending up teaching Chemistry to grade twelves in Saskatchewan and B.C. This newly found maturity spawned my want for writing. After four years of teaching, I successfully gained entrance to medical school.

KP. Deep down, is there a wish that you should have started writing much earlier? If so, why didn’t you?

  1. See previous entry.

KP. What kind of research did you do for Love Has Two Moons and how much time did it take? What were your sources, typically?

  1. I mentioned previously that my father’s revelation about a love affair he had had in 1927 was the basis of the story of which almost all was fictionalized in the book. I needed to learn about Chinese families in Trinidad, their goals, home life and their philosophies regarding child raring, education, marriage, love and career options. I interviewed two friends of Chinese heritage of the Trinidadian diaspora in Canada and their descriptions paralleled that of the interviews by Christiane Amanpour on her CNN programme.

KP. How did you arrive at the names for your characters in the book? Was there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. I chose names randomly, but non-the-less familiar to me through friends and family. I should point out that the persons whose names I chose, have no baring to the characters I described.

KP. We all need heroes. Tell us about some of the protagonists in your books. Is there real-life inspiration behind them? How about the villains? Any inspiration?

  1. The protagonist in Love has Two Moons, was fashioned after my father. How his reuniting with his love from 1927 at the Miami Airport, was a true depiction, even though the rest of the book was fictionalized. I used his story to illustrate that “First love” can tattoo one’s mind, an indelible mark, carried to the grave.
  2. The Villain in Bonobo the Beater, the dreaded Dean of Discipline, was a real person; but again, the details depicted in the story are purely fiction.
  3. The evolution of the plot for The Visit was an amalgamation of separate incidents I was privy to over the last sixty years. I put them together to make a single story. Many years ago, I heard of a black suitor being chased out of his fiancée’s home by an irate white father, at gun point. In another case, across the country, a mother paid a prospective Asian daughter-in-law to leave Canada and call off the marriage with her son. In another case, a white man, a story I was privy to, who despised his neighbor purely because of his skin colour, was the recipient of a transplant from that hated neighbour, having exhausted all other donors’ compatibility testing, saving the Whiteman’s life.

KP. What was the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for the stories in Love Has Two Moons?

A. While my mind rests at night, just before falling asleep, I rehash the plot and timeline of my story, and artistic changes come to me. The environmental stimuli that take away from focusing is eliminated at bedtime. The difficulty of bringing together diverse ideas is enhanced by daytime distractions.

KP. Do you find the process of writing exhausting or energizing? How do you cope with the physical demands of the profession?

A. If the writing becomes a chore, I quit for the day and resume, re-energized the next day. This seems to work for me.

KP. Is your approach to writing one that encompasses a formula that might meet your reader’s expectation, or do you write to suit yourself?

A. Initially I write to suit myself, but on review and editing, I am cognizant of what the reader would expect. This is reflected in the re-writing of which there are many in a given manuscript.

KP. If you could do it all over again, would you take up writing at a much earlier age? Why?

A. I do not think I had the maturity and motivation for writing during my teenage years. Leaving home at age sixteen and being trust into independent living in a foreign country, a different perspective of life soon overtook me, forcing upon me a certain will to be productive where I appeared to have morphed into a mature adult at age eighteen. I became interested in writing after my first degree, at age twenty-one.

KP. Do you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. Even at age seventy-four, I consider myself a novice writer. My focus is on learning from established writers both modern and classic. I enjoy interesting metaphors I see in the writings of Arundhati Roy and Christopher Hitchens. My name is quite short and easy to pronounce. I don’t believe I have written anything that can arouse the ire of those who know me. But I do worry that the Canadian missionaries to Trinidad, could take offense to some of the claims I have made in my first book, The Peripatetic Skylark.

KP. What would be your top five books that have influenced your life? Your Writing?

A. Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, Mittelholzer’s My Bones and my Flute, Hitchens’ God is not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything, Dawkins’ The God Delusion.

KP.  Have you been on any literary pilgrimages? If so, which and what did you gain from that pilgrimage?

A. Once, at seventeen, before I left my smart-aleck, immature, dunce self behind, I went on a literary retreat which I felt was boring. I announced at breakfast the next morning, “Anyone for Tennyson?” It was a joke I had read somewhere. No one laughed.

KP.  Have you ever read a book that made you cry? If so, which?

A. Actually, after I re read the first writing of The Visit in my Love Has Two Moons collection, although it was a story I made up, I felt a lump in my throat and a crackle in my voice when Mr. Kaminski interacted with little Laura the first time they met. I believe that emotion was stirred because I am a recent grandfather to a five-year old and a fifteen-month-old. Grand parents go Ga-Ga over their grandchildren.

KP. Most of your stories so far feature a male protagonist. Do you plan on writing from a female perspective? If so, what do you think would be the most difficult hurdle to overcome in creating characters of the opposite sex?

A. I plan to write a non-fiction novel on screening for depression. As a male physician, experience has taught me how to empathize with femaleness. I plan to describe the female and male psyche in the scenarios of the book. I am sure there are going to be nuances unique to femaleness I may not capture, but then, one doesn’t have to be a female to be a good Obstetrician and Gynecologist.

KP.  What do you think are the most common traps that up-coming writers encounter, and how could/should they overcome them?

  1. Long-windedness where a single sentence or two would suffice has been my neck’s yoke.
  2. It was difficult, as a novice, not to make the manuscript about me and paint the protagonist as someone unique. I have remedied this fault in the re-writes, but the temptation is always there.

KP. Is writing cathartic in any way for you? If so, how and why?

A. My writing isn’t necessarily “cathartic” but as in woodworking, I want to entertain and create something uniquely pretty, something to be enjoyed by others.

KP.  To what extent do you think you were emotionally invested in the characters in your novella Love Has Two Moons and the other short stories?

A. Certainly, in Bonobo the Beater, I have, like others growing up in the English educational system in the Caribbean, experienced corporal punishment which was the zeitgeist at the time. It had a considerably negative impact on my ability to learn. I could feel the actual jolt of the lash that Charlie received from Bonobo as I wrote it.

KP. Is there a central theme—a common message, perhaps—in your writing?

A. The stories’ central theme is based on racial attitudes affecting peoples of Caribbean origin in settings in Canada and in the West Indies. The common thread amongst the stories is that prejudice is fed by ignorance of the races of each others’ humanness, and that when the characters become intimately familiar with one another, they realize that differences among tribes are but superficial, paving the way for mutual respect and acceptance.

KP.  What’s your next project?

A. I plan to write a nonfiction novel about a unique physical sign which in less than three seconds, can screen for depressive symptoms. This would be of interest to everybody including the lay public, all medical specialties, educators and the military. Over sixty percent of patients walking into a family physician’s office, have depressive symptoms to some extent (not a diagnosis of depression, mind you), and are functional at work and play, but these physical symptoms in many cases contribute to their complaint, which if treated, solves the problem.

KP. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

FACEBOOK: Frank Mohan

EMAIL: tonkynato@gmail.com

OTHER: 519-903-7010


Rosaliene Bacchus – Author Interview

Rosaliene Bacchus was born in Georgetown, Guyana. In her lifetime, she has filled the roles of Catholic nun, high school teacher, executive assistant, import-export manager, wife, and divorced mother of two sons. After living in Brazil for seventeen years, Rosaliene moved to the United States. Her short stories have been featured in the Guyana Journal Magazine. Her debut novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, was published in 2019. Rosaliene lives with her sons in Los Angeles, California, where she enjoys spending time in her garden.

Rosaliene Bacchus

Rosaliene, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers.

KP. You’ve said, in your bio, that you were an early reader of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. Have those books influenced your writing, if so, please tell us how…

RB. I developed an enduring love for secrets and mystery that I have incorporated into my stories.

KP.  Which is your favourite childhood book? Please share the reason behind your enthusiasm for this particular book?

RB. Before graduating to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, I read all the Enid Blyton children’s books available at our public library. No book stands out in my memory.

KP.  How did you arrive at the title for your book Under the Tamarind Tree? Can you explain the significance of the title to the plot of the book?

RB. As I developed the plot, the tamarind tree became the personification of the protagonist’s bitter life and the guilt he carried for the death of his younger brother, killed under a tamarind tree.

KP.  Your book Under The Tamarind Tree was released in 2019. Can you tell us how long it took to write this book and get it published?

RB. It was a long journey, beginning in March 2008, of research, writing, and endless revisions that took five years, then another five years sending out query letters to literary agents and small independent publishers. Without success. In April 2019, eleven years after beginning my journey to publishing my first novel, I initiated the self-publishing process to publication.

KP.  You’ve said that your fictional short stories came from events and people you’ve met along your journey through life. You have also lived a varied life as a Catholic Nun, high-school teacher, executive assistant, business-person, and writer. Can you tell us how these events and people and your life-experience so far have influenced your writing?

RB. The experience of growing up in a poor working-class multiracial family, in a racial divisive country, has shaped my vision of the world and the stories I tell.

KP.  Is there a favourite among all the chapters in your book Under the Tamarind Tree? Please tell us why…

RB. Chapter Thirteen, in which the protagonist Richard Cheong must confront his surrogate mother Mama Chips, was fun to write. Mama Chips was inspired by three Afro-Guyanese women who had been important role models during my formative years. I enjoyed developing her character and endearing wisdom, born of life’s hard blows.

KP.  What was the most difficult chapter to write in the book Under the Tamarind Tree? Why was that?

RB. The most difficult chapter to write did not make it into the final first draft. After a month of intense research to re-create the inter-colonial cricket match between British Guiana and Trinidad, taking place during the British military invasion on October 9, 1953, I deleted this chapter on the advice of my writers’ critique group. With little knowledge about cricket, they found the scene too slow and lacking appeal for readers. The deleted chapter became just a brief radio commentary in Chapter Two.

KP. What period of your life do you think has influenced your writing most of all—child, teenager, young adult, adult? Can you expand and tell us more…

RB. I bring all my life’s experiences to my writing. It is a very intuitive process. During the creative process, I am frequently amazed at details, events, people, and dialogue that unconsciously come to mind. In Under the Tamarind Tree, the night that Richard Cheong first heard his dead brother’s voice was such an example. I was as startled as Richard! Where did that come from, I asked myself. Then I recalled that, as a child, I grew up listening to my father’s stories about hearing voices in the quiet of nighttime and sensing the presence of spirits.

KP. You’ve lived in Guyana, where you were born, Brazil where you were engaged in business, and you now reside in America. Yet your stories so far, have been mainly set in Guyana (apart from one published in 2009 set in Brazil). Any particular reason why you have not explored your second and third residences more extensively as the setting for your writing and will this come at a later stage in your life?

RB. In 2007, Guyanese-Canadian Trev Sue-A-Quan—a chemical engineer and, at the time, author of two books on the Chinese-Guyanese—invited me to contribute to his third book, Cane Rovers: Stories of the Chinese-Guyanese Diaspora (Canada, 2012). My 6400-word essay, “From Calypso to Samba,” explores my challenges of living and succeeding in Brazil. I have also shared stories on my blog, “Three Worlds One Vision,” about my life in Guyana, Brazil, and the United States.

KP. What was it that prompted your migration to Brazil in 1987?

RB. The Guyana government ban on the importation of wheat flour (1982-1986) was a great blow to my husband’s home-based pastry business. To stay in business, he began working with contraband flour, an offense punishable with jail time. In 1986, the disclosure of the government’s use of thallium poison on the sugar plantations was the last straw. We all tested positive for thallium poisoning, jeopardizing the health of our two sons, then two and four years old.

KP. Can you tell us what particular elements of Under the Tamarind Tree are based on research, personal experience, creative fiction, and what were your sources in the case of the research you did?

RB. I decided early in the writing process to structure the Cheong family’s story using the timeline of Guyana’s struggle to gain its independence from Britain and the early years of the young independent country, covering the period 1950-1970. Coming from a multiethnic family, I used my personal experience to develop the conflicts arising between the protagonist and his familial relationships and friendships among diverse ethnic groups. Research was essential to ensure authenticity of historical events and cultural differences. A list of my research resources is available at http://www.rosalienebacchus.com/writer/ResearchResources_GuyanaNovel_UndertheTamarindTree.html.

KP. How do you arrive at the names for your characters in your stories? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

RB. Naming characters is a challenge for me. Early in my writing journey, I bought The Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook. I select names by their meaning, their popularity during a specific year, resemblance to a real-life personality, religion, or ethnicity. I also use nicknames, popular among the Guyanese population. I named my protagonist Richard Cheong, called Rich, after a dear American writing friend, Rich Samson, who died in October 2009. According to Trev Sue-A-Quan’s research on the Chinese in British Guiana, the surname Cheong, also spelt Cheung and Chung, is the most prevalent Chinese surname.

KP. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

RB. The most difficult part in completing a book is deciding what scenes or chapters should be cut or tightened for greater tension and pace. In Under the Tamarind Tree, I was also forced to cut a beloved character. It hurt to throw out hours spent in bringing the character to life.

KP.  The cover art for Under the Tamarind Tree was done by Guyanese-Canadian artist Joan Bryan-Muss. Can you tell us something about the process of finding an appropriate artist for your book and how you both finally arrived at this particular painting for the book?

RB. I learned about Bryan-Muss’ work through the Guyanese Online blog, published by her brother Cyril Bryan. I contacted her by email about her interest on doing the cover art. I send her a 500-word synopsis of the novel and my vision for the cover art.

KP. Is your approach to writing one that encompasses a formula that might meet your reader’s expectation, or do you write to suit yourself?

RB. I write about subjects and issues important to me. While my stories may be set in a country or culture unfamiliar to readers, I focus on portraying the human condition that connects us wherever we live. I also believe that the story should be engaging and a joy to read.

KP. Your main protagonist in Under the Tamarind Tree—Richard Cheong—is male. Did you find it difficult to write from a male point of view? Please explain why or why not.

RB. Writing from the male point of view was the greatest challenge I undertook. I agonized for months about using vulgar language, commonly used by working-class Guyanese men. After working for over twelve years in Brazil in a male-dominated profession, I was well prepped to enter the male mindset. As a single working mother, in a foreign country without male support, I also had to assume full responsibility for keeping my two sons safe. Whenever I slipped up with any male-related detail, the men in my writer’s critique group were quick with feedback.

KP. Your paternal grandfather was a Chinese immigrant to what was then British Guiana. Were you close to him? Has your relationship with him influenced your writing in any way?

RB. I know nothing about my paternal grandfather. He had died long before my birth. My father and his brothers never spoke about him. Given this gaping hole in my Chinese ancestry, I had a blank canvas on which to create my fictional Cheong family.

KP. Do you subscribe/ read any magazines/journals that help you in the writing process? Can you share this with upcoming writers and tell us why you feel they are important and relevant to the writing profession?

RB. Early in my writing journey, a writer gave me a copy of the Writer’s Digest. Since then, my subscription to the magazine has been my best investment as a writer. They cover every aspect of the writing craft, getting published, and more. I also subscribe to the Poets & Writers magazine that has introduced me to America’s outstanding poets and literary writers, pushing me to never stop improving my craft.

KP. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does she know she’s been successful?

RB. For me, the mark of success as a writer is to have my work read and enjoyed. When readers look forward to reading my next book, I know that I have succeeded in touching them in some way.

KP.  Assuming you always think there’s room for improvement, what’s your approach to becoming a better writer?

RB. To improve my writing craft, I challenge myself with each new book. In my second novel, The Twisted Circle, to be published in 2021, I tell the story from two viewpoints: the protagonist, a young Guyanese nun of African and Indian descent, and the antagonist, a white American nun from Ohio. My third book in progress is a work of creative non-fiction.

KP. Is there a central theme in your books so far? Is there a common message to the reader?

RB. My life has been marked by loss and abandonment, a theme that runs through my debut novel. The white American nun in The Twisted Circle has also suffered great loss in her life, but this is a different kind of book: one that takes a critical look at the religious life and predator priests.

KP. If you had to do it all over again in your writing career, would you do anything different?

RB. I believe that I have done the best I could with the opportunities afforded me as an emerging Caribbean (Guyana) immigrant writer. I would have liked to be part of a Caribbean-American writers’ group here in Los Angeles. If such a group does exist, I have never been able to reach them.

KP. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

EMAIL: admin@rosalienebacchus.com

OTHER: http://www.rosalienebacchus.blog

Dave Moores -Author Interview

Author Dave Moores

Raised in Bristol, UK, Dave Moores secured a place at Cambridge University where he took a degree in Philosophy. Since prospects for a lucrative career as a philosopher were non-existent, Dave’s interests quickly took a hard turn away from liberal arts to technology, resulting in a Diploma in Electronic Engineering from British Aerospace College. His inclination to write was sparked soon after by a short story contest in the industry journal Airframe.

Dave has long enjoyed a passion for competitive sailboat racing. One evening after a race, his crew of spirited ladies suggested he write a story based on their adventures and personal anecdotes. The writing gene was reactivated and the result was Windward Legs, Dave’s first novel, set in the sailing milieu of Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe and much enjoyed by the sailing crowd.

Attitude is Dave’s second novel. His third, Sparkles and Karim, set in Iraq during the ISIS incursions, is coming along.

Dave, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to talk about your new book ATTITUDE just released in September 2020 in addition to general questions about your writing.

KP. You’ve said, in your Bio, that your “inclination to write was sparked by a short story contest in the Industry (Aerospace) journal Airframe.” Can you tell us more about this science-fiction piece?

A. It was about a man who invents a newfangled flight simulator using recently-discovered antigravity technology. A bad guy shows up to kidnap him for his unique knowledge but our man finds a way to get him into the machine, crash it, and kill him. It wasn’t bad.

KP. What do you read, generally, in terms of genre and authors?

A. I read quite a bit of commercial fiction by writers whose work I enjoy as writing: John Sandford, Lee Child, that kind of thing.

KP. Can you tell us what authors and books have influenced your work to date?

A. That’s hard. I am a huge fan of Martin Cruz Smith. His stories and his writing are top of the heap, his writing is a joy to read and an example to try and live up to. Some hopes!

Another author whose writing I greatly like is John Grisham. His novel Camino Island is all about writers and writing and it’s a lot of fun. And one of the things I like about Grisham is that he manages to make a bit of dry humour work even when things are getting scary.

KP.  How long did it take to write ATTITUDE? Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since its completion and publication?

A. I started playing with Chapter 1 as a short story three years ago and it went from there.

KP.  ATTITUDE is described as a YA novel, and seems to be quite a departure from Philosophy and Aerospace. What took you down the path to write a YA novel?

A. I have always been a reader of fiction, right back to the classic James Bond novels of the 1960’s. And I always felt huge admiration for anyone who has the focus, determination and inspiration to actually finish a novel. I have been a competitive racing sailor for many years and one evening after a race, my crew of lively women – don’t ask me how that happened, I have no idea – suggested I ought to write a novel using all their anecdotes about life and sailing. From that sprang my first novel Windward Legs, a sometimes racy story about a woman who sails and is trying to put her life back together after a bad breakup. Well, to my surprise I got it finished and they really liked it!

I did not set out to write a YA novel. I simply wanted to write about this kid in a small town getting into scrapes with his buddy and then having to deal with bad stuff. So I guess it’s YA but a lot of adults really like it too!

KP.  Is there a favourite among all the chapters in ATTITUDE? Why is that?

A. That’s another hard one! I guess Chapter 1 because, written initially as a short story, it grabbed be and pulled me forward into the novel. I’m also quite proud of the chapter where Lyle has to risk death in a freezing tunnel to save his buddies.

KP.  What was the hardest chapter to write in ATTITUDE? Why was that?

A. Nothing stands out. I pretty quickly came to really know my characters and they just pulled me along.

KP. Has your pursuit of Philosophy and training in electronic engineering helped your writing? If so, how?

A. Disciplined thinking, I guess, and clearly expressed thought without ambiguity or waffling.

KP. It’s seems as if you’re a big believer in one of Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules for WritersIf it sounds like Writing, rewrite it. Are there other rules of his that you follow?

A. ”Try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip”. “Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.” “Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . . he admonished gravely.” They’re all good rules but these are the ones I always try to follow.

KP. ATTITUDE is set in the small town of Southmead, Huron Country. Can you tell us how you settled on this particular location for your book and its relationship to a real town that you might have based it on?

A. I have vacationed in Huron County a number of times and the small towns there have a certain feel of isolation I believed I could reproduce in my story.

KP. What kind of research did you do for ATTITUDE and how much time did it take? What were your sources?

A. Oddly enough, the only bit of research I recall was to check on the size and structure of a small-town police force in rural Ontario. Like most writers I suppose, I do research for authenticity, not inspiration.

KP. How did you arrive at the names for your characters in the book? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. Lyle and Garth are the first names of country singers. I thought they might work in this setting. They seem to. I try to pick names that don’t sound alike, so as not to confuse readers. Marigold and Laura, for example. And for the bad guys, Billy, Mitch and Brad, I picked names that seemed to work for small-town lowlifes. I didn’t think Theodore or Augustine would work, though I suppose they might have. 

KP. We all need heroes. Tell us about some of the protagonists in your books. Is there real-life inspiration behind them?

A. Honestly, no. They’re all mine.

KP. What was the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for ATTITUDE and other books?

A. I’m not a fast writer. I like to go over what I wrote the day before and clean it up, find inconsistencies and so forth. But once I can see a clear path to a conclusion I like, I get motivated to push on and get it done to see if it will be as great as I picture it.

KP. Is your approach to writing one that encompasses a formula that might meet your reader’s expectation, or do you write what you know is the correct way?

A. Attitude loosely follows a well-known template called “the Hero’s Journey.” In twelve stages it suggests a pattern to follow to structure a compelling story. Many Iconic heroes follow it: Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Frodo. It seems to have worked this time for Lyle!

KP. Do you ever consider writing ATTITUDE under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. No way. I’m proud of the story and want my name on it.

KP. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people would know of?

A. Not in Attitude. In Windward Legs there’s quite a bit of sailing knowhow.

KP. What do you think are the most important magazines/journals for aspiring writers to subscribe to?

A. I don’t read any.

KP.  Have you been on any literary pilgrimages? If so, which and what did you gain from that pilgrimage and would you recommend pilgrimages to other authors?

A. Nope. Never been.

KP.  Can you think of any, what you might consider a favourite under-appreciated book? If so, what is it and why do you think it’s under-appreciated?

A. Aha, another hard one. Back to Martin Cruz Smith. His Novel Rose, set in the English coal mining town of Wigan in the nineteenth century, is not universally liked by some reviewers who nitpick at detail and miss the brilliance of the writing and the cleverness of the story. For me it’s a top-ten read.

KP. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does s/he know s/he’s been successful?

A. Getting published in the first place. Most don’t.

KP. You’ve a number of strong female characters in ATTITUDE. What was the most difficult stumbling block for you in writing those characters of the opposite sex and how did you overcome them?

A. For whatever reason, I don’t find it hard to write women. My female beta-readers say I do it well and help me out if I stumble. Hence Alice in Windward Legs and Sparkles in my work-in-progress Sparkles and Karim.

KP.  What do you think are the most common traps that upcoming writers encounter, and how could/should they overcome them?

A. Not giving yourself permission to write a crappy first draft. Trying to put a message across instead of writing a good yarn. Not liking/trusting your characters to take the story forward in unexpected ways.

The best way, in my experience, to overcome these mistakes is to read a lot and join a writing class/group to get feedback from other aspiring writers.

KP.  Do you think someone could be a writer if they can’t feel the emotions of their characters? Why?

A. No. Because if you don’t feel their emotions how do you expect your reader to?

KP.  Assuming you always think there’s room for improvement, what’s your approach to becoming a better writer?

A. Keep writing and keep getting feedback.

KP. If it’s not giving away any trade secrets, what’s your next project / What are you working on now?

A. A novel set in Iraq in 2014 at the height of the ISIS incursions.

Sparkles, a fighter pilot, and Karim, an agent planted inside ISIS by the CIA, break away from their assigned roles. To atone for their insubordination they find themselves forced to team up on a risky mission, posing as an ISIS couple. Disliking each other initially, they face betrayal and the horrors of jihad, only to discover that they have more in common than they first believed.

KP. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer, what would it be?

A. Don’t over-think. Press on with your story. Get that crappy first draft done! That in itself is a huge confidence-booster.

KP. If you had to do it all over again, would you change the plot and outline of ATTITUDE? If so, why or why not?

A. No, I would not change it. I made plenty of changes along the way but I’m very happy with the final result and the reviews I’m getting.

KP. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

EMAIL: dmoores@cogeco.ca

David Moore’s latest book is obtainable from Amazon with this link:


Peter Jailall is a teacher, poet and storyteller who has read his poetry in schools, libraries and universities across North America, the United Kingdom and the Caribbean. A graduate of the University of Toronto (B.Ed., M.A.), Peter is an avid supporter of human rights and social values as well as an advocate of environmental protection. He is the author of several books, among them This Healing Place (1993), Yet Another Home (1997), When September Comes (2003), all of these published by Natural Heritage. His book Mother Earth: poems for her children (2009) was published by In Our Words Inc., and People Of Guyana (co-authored with Ian McDonald) was published by MiddleRoad Publishers in 2018.


Peter was a finalist for a Mississauga (Ontario) Arts Award in the category of Established Literary Artist. He was a volunteer with CUSO (Canadian University Services Overseas) as a teacher- trainer in Guyana. Peter lives in Mississauga with his wife Sabi and their two sons Dave and Nari. He enjoys gardening during the summer.

Peter, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to focus on your writing and teaching careers.


PJ. I started to write something similar to open-mike rap poetry and my rhyming would get in trouble with parents and teachers. I wroe poems about love and sex then I moved into Guyanese nursery poems. I followed the pattern from nursery rhymes, framing my own. I looked at racial connotations— bad ones sometimes, where people called each other names. I wrote about children on the street to get my feet into the poetic world. I was also interested in English poetry when I was eight or nine years. My father was also a big poetic man who studied Shakespeare and quoted stuff learned in high school. He liked Scottish poems. He went to high school and they offered him a job in civil service but wanted to be a farmer, like his father before him. As for me, I started writing in primary school and studied Shakespeare at Hindu College at Cove and John on the East Coast.


PJ. Lots of Shakespeare. Mill On The Floss and other works by George Eliot. I was also big on Jane Eyre and other books by the Bronte Sisters.


PJ. It was by accident really that my first book came about. I came to Canada in 1970, the height of the PNC lead government (that subsequently evolved into a dictatorship in Guyana). I was teaching in Canada and used to read to children. Jane Gibson heard me — her husband is a publisher and she offered to show the poems to him. He liked them. This Healing Place in 1993 was the result. The name of the book refers to Canada—a beautiful country with kind people and The Healing Place is partly connected to the turmoil I came from and the peace I found here in Canada. 


PJ. I select according to a theme, like the Immigrant Experience or thinking about home, thinking of my father, etc. I might be inspired by reading a particular subject like 9/11 and similar traumatic incidents. I have a daily journal and write a poem every day and place it on Face Book. I don’t write at first for publication but more for therapy. I write for myself in prose and then form into poetry. I read some poems in draft and try on audiences until I get a positive feedback. 


PJ.  Poems about Sacrifice tell about the coming of my ancestors from India to Guyana and the journey when I came from Guyana to Canada. My ancestors made a lot of sacrifice in the cane-fields and now I’m here building my own family. Something like re-tracing our roots and making a triangular journey.


PJ.  They all have. CUSO for example, going into the rain forest of Guyana where I wrote poems about the First Nations. I wrote about the Bartica massacre; about how the young First Nations children go to school in boats; about the Chief of Shell beach who looks after the turtles. In revisiting Guyana, I could see the changes there. Staying in Canada also enabled me to tackle racism here about people calling us Pakis and I wrote poems about that too to get it out of my system. I wrote poems about the children I taught in Canada. I read to the children and inspired them to write their own poetry. I have also read regularly in the Hindu temple and in the Presbyterian church, at concerts, and in mosques. 


PJ.  My poetry is born out of heritage. Coolie is not derogatory. They are people who went from India to Guyana to work on the cane fields, for their family, and to build Guyana. I took the word Coolie and changed it to mean something other than derogatory. It’s about labour. About people who labour for their family, and I gave the word a powerful meaning. Corsbie saw me a person with an Agricultural background, a farmer and he liked that I did not give up my base. I now plant a garden at home. His term was not meant in a derogatory way. He meant that I have a very strong cultural heritage. 


PJ. I do. Mainly at events and presentations. I see the role of the poet as a someone who’s a sounding-board for culture. About what’s going in the world. We are very important people as poets, people who observe what’s going on around us. As a poet I write about myself. Unlike a novelist who writes about others. We poets go deep to write about ourselves. 


PJ.  Yes. I agree with this. I came from a hunger and a longing for knowledge, for identity, who I am as a person — a Canadian and Guyanese. Poetry brings out the greatness of Canada. That’s what multiculturism is all about. 


PJ. Difficult part for me is the revision and I revisit to write many drafts to make the poem to my satisfaction. Drafting and revising is important. I bleed on paper until it comes to my satisfaction, every word, every line, every stanza. I have to be pleased with the rhythm, the form, the language; if the word is not right I have to rewrite many times. I also think of the audience— different poetry for farmers, different for children. 


PJ.  For me it’s when you connect with the audience and different kinds of people at their level. I was reading a poem called Black Skin at the library and a dark-skin Muslim lady cried and wanted to buy the book. “People think I’m ugly because of my skin,” she told me. So, poetry is powerful when it connects and sparks different emotions in people; when it causes disturbances in people’s minds in different ways. 


PJ.  I have written articles on education and I am going to eventually work on my biography, about my journey from Guyana to Canada. But I love poetry so much that this is something I see in the future. 


PJ. To make progress as a poet you have to have the desire and have to read a lot of poetry and pay attention to the works of different poets. You have to be free in your thinking and acceptance of people of different cultures and different languages and speakers of the language. If you don’t you come up against obstacles. 


PJ.  it’s a daily struggle and I still haven’t reached there. It’s a process of always climbing. Reading and writing and sharing. It’s a process of growth and you never reach that pinnacle which is such a lofty height to reach. It’s the journey that’s important, not reaching it. 


PJ.  Yes, there is but also, I have to a strong footing in my own culture and I have to know and practice my own culture. She got into big trouble for quoting me. I got into trouble for quoting her. She said while growing up in Jamaica Black people called her Coolie who can only sell in the market-place. She was very honest to say she had to fight for her own identity before she could embrace others. If you don’t have a sense of self and culture you can’t understand others. 


PJ. Yes my poems are therapy—they bring out my identity. My poem about my Ajah (in People Of Guyana) strong and proud, cutting cane for the white Sahib brought back the memory of my grandfather, something that brought tears to my eyes as I wrote and read it.


PJ.  One is identity—trying to find out who I am. Second, bringing justice to the world. Third, writing to make the world a better place, I like to dwell and live in my audience and helping children to enjoy the rhythm of the language. 


PJ. Generally, every day I get up in the morning and I write for about an hour, then I make coffee and we talk, my wife and I. Then I write again before I get to bed at night. I write part of my journal every day and share them with people. It’s a discipline to develop.


PJ. It’s simple, really. Keep on writing poetry, reading different poets, and sharing your work with audiences, small and large and keep refining as you go along. 


FACEBOOK:  peterjailall

EMAIL:  peter.jailall@hotmail.com

Rita Berry — Author Interview

 Marita Berry, affectionately nicknamed Rita, was born in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. She and her family migrated to New York City in 1960 at the tender age of five years old. She is a self-published author who currently resides in New York City. She cherishes her family, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, rainy days, salsa dancing, and meditation. 

Marita is most proud of raising two sons as a single parent into successful young men while continuing her education where she received a master’s degree in Social Work, and being a grandmother to two wonderful grandsons whom she says keeps her grounded. 

She loves to write in the genre of contemporary romance, coming-of-age stories and women literature. Her primary motive for writing is to share the stories she has encountered from listening to family and friends. She loves to entertain her readers with stories about strong, but flawed characters. 

Marita, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to talk about your writing and your book RED SEPTEMBER, released in 2015.

KP. Red September is set on the island of Taino. The Taino were an Arawak people — the first to be encountered by Columbus on his 1492 voyage to the West Indies. Why did you choose this particular name for the island of Red September?

MB. I wanted to use a fictitious name and it seemed befitting that since the setting of my story takes place in the West Indies, Taino was sort of a homage to the indigenous people who lived there.

KP.  The cover of Red September is vibrant pastiche depicting a typical tropical idyllic scene — a woman in the foreground — she’s in a hammock hanging between coconut trees, a couple on the beach, a glorious sunset on the horizon. I didn’t see a credit for the cover. Could you tell us about its design, how much input you had, and did it reflect your vision of the story told in the novel?

MB. Well, actually, the cover is a combination of two photos. I chose them among several stocked pictures given to me from my publication company, IUniverse. It reflected my vision of the story perfectly!

KP. Was Red September written from a collective consciousness and memory recall, or did you have to research certain aspects of the book? What kind of research was needed and how much time did it take? What were your sources?

MB. Good question. Red September was inspired by my late mother – after listening to countless stories about her fascinating childhood experiences growing up on a small island in the West Indies. It was where she lived with no running water, nor electricity, and only the dirt roads on which she traveled. She was my muse, and her fearless life anecdotes sparked my interest to write this story about a dysfunctional family where the sorrows and afflictions experienced by the family are at the hands of the alcoholic, abusive, mother. Most of the research I did was through interviewing my mother, a couple of her childhood friends, and some family members. Other sources were the Internet where I googled islands in the West Indies to check out their moderate temperatures, foods, culture, lifestyles, etc. It took me five years to write this book.

KP.  Red September was self-published through iUniverse. Did you try traditional publishing houses before undertaking self-publishing? If so, what was your experience?

MB.  I chose to self-publish because I wanted to have full control over whatever I put pen to paper, and to create a book for the reader’s interest in a specific market, such as, local markets, my family and friends, book clubs, and social media. Of course, I would love to be signed by a traditional publishing house, but in the meantime, I want to establish a loyal fan base.

KP.  Can you tell us what the process was like to be published through iUniverse?

MB. The process was relatively easy. They work just like any other publishing franchise. Except you have to purchase a package deal, which can include anything from copyright registration, editorial evaluation, ISBN assignment, cover design, worldwide book distribution, and much more. The most important thing is that you get one-on-one-support throughout the entire process.

KP.  Red September is written in first person, which lends a powerful voice to the narrator. Is any of the book biographical? If so, please expand.

MB. Yes. I think as an author I tend to incorporate some real-life experiences in my stories. I also tend to observe other people in their everyday lives. I am not unlike any other author who understands that inside we’re no different – our humanities are the same. We all share feelings of sadness, loneliness, emptiness, grief, joy, pain, etc. I like to create a multi-dimensional image with my characters so that the reader can connect with, and perhaps see something in themselves. 

KP. Is there a central theme in Red September? Is there a particular message to the reader? What would you hope that your grandchildren can learn from the book?

MB. Yes. Red September is much more than a story of struggle and survival. It is also a love story with twists and turns of the heart. There are also other core themes throughout the book that I hope my readers can grasp: alcoholism, mental and physical abuse, betrayal, self-realization, hope and redemption. The message I want my grandchildren to take away from this book is the way one decision can alter the course of one’s life, and that sometimes you must embrace the things that you run from, even when it’s ugly, to avoid an even uglier outcome.

KP.  How long did it take you to write Red September and how long to get published? Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since it was published?

MB. It took approximately five years to finish. Four years to write the book and about seven months to publish. I think my writing has become much easier, because I’ve just completed another novel, and I’m currently researching to write two more books simultaneously. 

KP. Was writing Red September cathartic in any way for you? If so, how and why?

MB. For me, writing started as a way of expressing the emotional experiences I encountered throughout my early twenties. I married young, was very naïve, and I was physically and emotionally abused by my husband. Like many victims, I became very angry when prompted to describe what may have caused my PTSD in the first place. So, I would journal my thoughts. The more I wrote, the better I felt. Despite the low points in my life, the overall objective was always onwards and upwards. PTSD affects people in different ways, but the fact that so many of my fans have had such enjoyment out of reading my book that came out of a bad experience in such an unexpected way has given me immense satisfaction.

KP.  Is there a favourite among all the chapters/ plot lines in Red September? Why is that?

MB. My favorite chapter is when the main character, Connie Brown meets Nathaniel Hart, who is visiting his family on the island from New York City. And the attraction between the two is immediate. I think young love is so beautiful and unadulterated. However, framing a love story as part of a bigger story was challenging. Although I wanted to focus primarily on the romance aspect of the two of them, I, also, needed to create a framework about human relationships that the readers could familiarize themselves with.

KP.  What was the hardest scene or chapter to write in Red September? Why was that?

MB. The hardest scene(s) to write were the emotional and physical abuse that happened to Connie. Once you have survived any kind of abuse, it will always be a part of you.

KP.  Red September is filled with language and terms that are common throughout the Caribbean (and Guyana, by the way). Like when Connie’s mother says: “Lawd, I don’t know where I get such a hard-headed child.” Or when Connie says: I sucked my teeth in disgustAre you aware of this commonality among the language of the people of the islands (and Guyana)? Was this a conscious effort on your part to capitalize on this?

MB. Yes. It was a conscious effort to capitalize on the Caribbean language because even though I was born, but not raised in the islands, my environment is filled with these slang words from family members.

KP.  Your second novel, Soulfully Yours was released in July, 2020.  Can you tell us the story behind this book and the publication of it?

MB. My second novel, Soulfully Yours, is about three single Black women who met in college, and together they established a public relations firm. The setting takes place in Atlanta, Georgia in the year, 2000. Due to their busy schedule, the reality of dating in the millennium isn’t what it used to be. Meeting a guy at a local bar has been replaced by encountering them on the Internet on a popular dating website named, “Soulfully Yours.” As the story unfolds, what these three women soon discover is a web of secrets and lies that envelops their world. Can they find a real connection to a special someone in hopes of making each one of them happy? 

Once again, I based this novel on stories I’ve heard from my close sister-friendships. It, too, was self-published by IUniverse.

KP.  You have a Masters in Social Work. How has this influenced your writing?

MB. As a social worker, I provide vital services to the underprivileged populations, and writing is a key part of the job. We have to write documents, reports, case notes, emails, letters, etc. I feel I’ve had numerous opportunities to practice and really achieved a grasp of honing my skills. Once I was able to marry those skills to my creative writing skills…then, wella…you have the beginnings of a writer.

KP.  You have lived in New York since 1960 at the age of five, away from the island of your birth. Red September was published in 2015, some 55 years later. Was it difficult to write about and capture the atmosphere of the Caribbean after so many years? Please tell us how you went about this…

MB. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was difficult to write about or capture the atmosphere of the Caribbean after 50 plus years. Fortunately, I’ve been able to visit and explore various islands while on vacation. Besides, my mother and some of my extended family members have been able to fill in the gap with their inspiring stories. Then when all else failed, I always had the Internet to google whatever questions I still needed to be answered. 

KP. I imagine, as a young girl you were heavily influenced by certain books. Can you tell us which and how they influenced you and how you gained access to these books?

MB. Well, I am a hopeless romantic-at-heart. I think there isn’t anything sexier than a man, who admits he wants a woman, and will do anything (romantically speaking) that he can, to get his woman. I have been influenced by reading romance novels from Danielle Steel, Nicholas Sparks and Donna Hill, to name a few. I draw from these authors for my writing style.

KP. What period of your life do you think has influenced your writing most of all — child, teenager, young adult, adult? Can you expand and tell us more?

MB. I think the period of my life that has influenced my writing most of all has been as an adult. Because I was a young mother, I didn’t have any passion in my life other than taking care of my little ones. Later on, after experiencing the real world, my family, my past, and my memories have helped to fulfill my dreams and aspirations for life, and it is what enables me to write my stories. 

KP. How do you arrive at the names for your characters? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters and any relation to real-life people you’ve met or encountered?

MB. Funny you should ask because there was a science behind choosing the characters names. It was a combination of research and real-life people I encountered. The research was important because I wanted to make sure I chose names that matched that era. For example, Constance, Amelia, Nathaniel, Henry are all strong names from the past. I believe if you’re going to write anything that is going to be out there in the world you should do your research.

KP. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

MB. I think the most difficult part of my artistic process in completing my books is quieting my inner critic, overcoming self-doubt, and just giving myself permission to write. I thought to become an author I would need to have an agent or publisher to validate my work. Then after I discovered self-publishing was another option, I went for it. I realize the challenges are out there, especially in promoting the book, but with the Internet and social media being so prevalent, I say if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to figure it out.

KP. Do you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

MB. I have been a part of a writing group now for about ten years. In the beginning, I did not want anyone to know my real name, so I registered using my nickname as my first name, and combined letters of my maiden name and married name as my last name.

Big mistake! Now, here it is ten years and two books later and the site manager said I could not change my name back to my given name, as I have tried to do several times. So, no, I personally don’t like writing under a pseudonym. I am proud of my birth name and what I have written, and I want to see it out there in the world.

KP. What do you think are the most important magazines/journals for aspiring writers to subscribe to?

MB. Well, to be perfect honest with you, the only magazine I have ever subscribed to is the Romance Writers of America, only because I write in that genre.

KP.  Have you ever read a book that made you cry? If so, which?

MB. OMG, two books that I remember distinctly that made me cry were: “The Notebook”, by Nicholas Sparks, and “The Bridges of Madison County”, by Robert James Waller. (I told you I was a hopeless romanticist).

KP. Your writing has featured strong female characters so far. Will you ever write about strong male characters? If so, what would be the most difficult stumbling block for you to achieve this?

MB. Once again, this is funny you should ask this question because one of the next books that I am currently researching to write is inspired by a true story. A very dear male friend of mine has led such a colorful life, that he told me he wished he could tell his story. So, I accepted the challenge and we are currently in the process of outlining some moments in the timelines to put this book together. A short synopsis: It is a fascinating story of one man’s journey from a life of substance abuse addiction and crime to find redemption through the power of God’s grace to heal.

KP.  Assuming you always think there’s room for improvement, what’s your approach to becoming a better writer?

MB. Because writing is a learned skill, I would like to develop my creativity even more to become a better writer. I would like to switch up things and do writing in other genres or categories I am not used to. For example, I would like to write non-fiction, short stories, poetry, and reviews. I want to engage different parts of my brain, and indulge my curiosity.

KP. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of Caribbean literature, what would it be?

MB. “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” People often underestimate what they can handle in life. It could be worse. So, my advice is to keep on going, and while on your journey, always respect others. Be kind to people and their opinions. If people want to upset you and be ugly, do not fall to their level. Always, take the high road! 

KP. What is your preferred method to have my readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

OTHER: The readers can connect with me through my author’s websitewww.maritaberryauthor.com. It’s also where they can link to my other icons: Facebook. Twitter. Goodreads. Email. Youtube.

Thanks again, Kenneth, for hosting me! It’s been a pleasure.

Lynette Alli -Children’s Author Interview

[Edited for content]

Lynette L. Alli was born in British Guyana (now Guyana), South America. She is a graduate of the Guyana Teachers’ College, specializing in Infant/Childhood Education.

She started writing children’s stories fourteen years ago and so far, has published six of them. Lynette Alli Headshot 3Oct2019 (1)

Her first two books were published in 2014. My Grandmother’s Basket is based on family values of love, respect, trust and happiness. A Message From Allan was written to help children who are victims of bullying. In 2016 she published her third book: Seven Little Words in a Journal, about mistakes children make and the impact on their childhood and later years. Her fourth book: A Gift of Love and Honesty, published in 2018 is a sequel to Seven Little Words, and deals with the thinking and observations of a small child who helped her brother and an elderly man. She followed this up the same year with her fifth book: Note Cards for Everyone from Tiny Hands, about children in a hospital playroom, writing little notes that convey meaningful messages expressing their thoughts. In 2019 she published her sixth book Smart Little Me which deals with the readiness of infants and toddlers to identify themselves.

Lynette continues to write children’s stories.


Lynette, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers.

Q. You’ve written ten children stories, so far, and published six. What is it that drives you to get these stories out? What is your motivation?

A. My children’s stories all have a moral behind them and they attempt to teach about life. My Motivation: to teach and prepare children for the lessons they will need as they stroll through the rocky road that is called life.

Q. You’ve said that a very early age, you were exposed to one of your father’s treasured books—Thomas Nelson’s “The Royal Reader” and your father read stories and recited poems, presumably from that series of books. Did you have a favourite story or stories in that book? Please share the reason behind your enthusiasm for these.

A. My two favourite stories were: The Pet Goat and Tell the Truth. When I was a little girl, we had a goat called Margaret. This first story taught me to be kind to animals and people. Tell the Truth is about a little boy named George who, while he was taught to make an excuse for the wrongs he did, felt that he should always tell the truth. This story was a great example for me and my siblings to always tell the truth.

Q. The Preface to the Nelson Reader states that “the book is designed to interest young people and induce them to read…for the pleasure of the thing.” Do you think your books have accomplished this? If so, how?

A. I believe my books do accomplish this since they are designed to interest a wide audience—children, parents, grandparents, care givers and others, and they all convey different messages that make my books timeless. They teach about morality and deliver lessons which will help children become responsible adults and guide them through life with a sound foundation to deal with grownup problems.

Q. Were you a precocious reader? At what age did you start to write?

A. As a child I scripted stories in my mind, something like writing on imaginary paper. If that describes precociousness, then I suppose I was. Those stories remained with me and when they were later transferred on paper they became the essential elements for the books I’ve written so far.

Q. Tell us what authors have influenced the books you have written so far and how?

A. Authors that have influenced my books: 1) Mark Twain, The Prince and the Pauper. The young child who became a prince never forgot the lessons he learned when he was a Pauper. 2) Louisa May Alcott’s, Little Women. Four sisters, who were different in many ways but shared their pain and happiness when growing up. Reading these authors made me realize that children learn through direct experiences and can overcome suffering with trust, respect, kindness and love. They are universal themes and they never change.

Q. Your first book My Grandmother’s Basket, was written in 2014,. Did writing get any faster and easier subsequent to that? Please explain.

A. After My Grandmother’s Basket, my writing did not get faster, but it became easier to write. My time frame for writing is based on the contents and the storyline which can vary from story to story. My writing style is the same, but it got easier.

Q. How long did it take you to write My Grandmother’s Basket and how long to get it published?

A. I took about three weeks to write My Grandmother’s Basket, and it was published many years later.

Q. Of all the books you’ve written so far, Is there a favourite? Why is that a favourite?

A. My favourite book is, My Grandmother’s Basket. As a child I used to look out with anticipation for my grandmother every morning although she only visited once every month. She usually came on the morning train and she would always have a basket of goodies. I was very happy to have hugs and kisses from my Grandmother, and the goodies were secondary. Part of this story was written on imaginary paper, when I was a young child.

Q. What was the most difficult of the ten books to write? Please explain.

A. The most difficult book was, A message from Allan. It was painful to write about my vicarious experiences with bullying which occurs daily in real life, and is a universal problem. In keeping with that, this book is to inform little ones not to be afraid and to confide in an adult if they are being bullied, something that results in physical and emotional pain if they don’t. The objective of this book is to help children who are victims, and at the same time, children who inflict hurt on others.

Q. What period of your life do you think has influenced your writing most of all—child, teenager, young adult, adult? Can you expand and tell us more.

A. As a child, I sat and gazed around me and then crafted stories in my mind. Those stories were about children, trees, birds and frogs. I suppose you can say, then, that my childhood influenced my writing most of all.

Q. What kind of research did you do for your children’s books and how much time does it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. I researched child development—the growth and behaviour of children, and this helped to revive the memories I had stored away about connected lectures when I attended Teachers College in Guyana. My sources for research are David G. Myers, Psychology and Albert Bandura’s, Social Learning Theory. Of course, my observation of children and people always play an important part in my writing. Add to that, my teaching experiences and my imagination.

Q. How important is the design of the cover and illustrations inside, for a children’s book? Please explain why.

A. The design of the cover is important because it connects the title of the book with the message behind the story, all of which makes the reader eager to pick it up the book and want to know more about it. The illustrations inside are also critical since they make my story interesting and appealing, especially to young minds.

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your children’s books?

A. I would have to say that the most difficult part of the process in my artistic cycle is the creation of characters that are necessary in conveying the message in my book, along with the design of objects that will complement that message in a meaningful way.

Q. Have you ever read any children’s (or other) books that made you cry? If so, which?

A. Yes, Christoph Von Schmid, A Basket of Flowers. A girl was being punished for telling the truth and this had a profound effect on me and influenced my writing enormously, since I knew by experience, how children are impacted by this.

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer of children’s stories? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. Success is an individual thing; I view success as achieving my goal.
But I think the mark of success for a writer of children’s stories is her ability to entice children to read and listen to her stories, and most of all, to feel the impact of the message behind the story, and acting on that message.

Q. What’s the most difficult stumbling block for you in writing books for children?

A. The conclusion. There is never an end when lessons are given to children. I really feel there is always more to add.

Q. Is writing for children cathartic in any way for you? If so, how and why?

A. Sometimes, depending on the story, emotions can be a factor.

Q. Is there a central theme in all your children’s books? What is the common message to the reader?

A. The central theme in all my children’s books is, “All children are beautiful, and words that they hear and learn are displayed in their voices, thoughts and hearts.”

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of books for children, or other books, what would it be?

A. I believe in aspiring to do what you want to do, and work towards achieving your goal. My advice to upcoming writers of books is to believe in yourself, focus and follow through. If you fail the first time, think of the failure as a learning experience. Never give up on what you aspire to do or be.

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
EMAIL: lynettel.alli@hotmail.com
OTHER: website: http://www.childrenstimelessbooks.com


Lynette Alli Book Covers (1)

Anitha Robinson -Author Interview

Animal lover and writer Anitha Robinson is thrilled to create stories about animals and the environment. Her experiences volunteering with organizations like World Wildlife Fund and local animal shelters, along with visiting animal sanctuaries nearby and faraway, have inspired many story ideas. Anitha is the author of a young adult trilogy.

Anita Robinson

The first book, Broken Worlds, was released in 2014 by CBAY Books. Broken Promises and Broken Dreams followed in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Recently, Anitha created a KINDNESS IS EVERYTHING blog. She collects and shares uplifting stories of people showing kindness to animals and each other. Her hope is to inspire others or at least bring joy to someone reading her posts. Her blog can be found at https://anitharobinson.com/blog/.

She graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario with a Bachelor of Commerce and went on to become a Chartered Accountant. Though accounting and writing seem like polar opposites, she has combined these two worlds by offering ‘Tax Talks’ to writers. Anitha lives on a hobby farm in Ontario with her husband, two children, and many animals. She hopes one day to turn the property into an animal sanctuary. Anitha is represented by Tanusri Prasanna of Foundry Literary & Media.


Anitha, thanks for taking the time to do have this conversation with me. I’d like to talk about your book BROKEN WORLDS, released in 2014, and your writing life so far.

Q. What kind of research did you do for Broken Worlds and how much time did it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. The idea for Broken Worlds came to me in a dream, or more accurately, a nightmare. Normally, when I wake up, the details of the dream are long gone and at most I’m left with a vague, fuzzy memory. Not this time. I clearly recalled the details of this nightmare—being alone at night, chased by two men, the sound of their footsteps getting closer. I was terrified when I woke up. I was taking a writing class at the time and it was my turn to share a piece with the class, so I started writing about the nightmare. At this point, there was no research. But as the story unfolded, the characters came to life, and the plot took shape, and that’s when I started to research things like the layers of the atmosphere, the colours one would see as they pass these layers, the sounds of the forest, to name a few. Research takes a fair bit of time and varies from project to project. I can’t pinpoint an exact amount of time. For this book, my main sources were the internet and my husband, who helped me with the medical aspects of the story.

But for my middle grade adventure story and picture books about endangered animals, in addition to the internet, I also contacted people who help save these animals for their input.

Anitha Robinson Broken Worlds

Q. Broken Worlds is written in the First Person, the voice being that of the protagonist Kalli. Why did you decide to write this book in First Person? And why Kalli?

A. I wrote it in first person, because I was writing about myself in the nightmare. This POV allowed me to express what I saw and felt.

Q. You chose to write Broken Worlds in the present tense, as the action unfolds. Why was this? Do you think this is a more satisfying approach to writing? Why?

A. I find writing in present tense heightens the tension. It allows the reader to experience everything with the character in real time. As this was a story filled with action, I felt it was the best way to write it.

Q. What is your approach to writing? Do you plot in advance, perhaps chapter by chapter, or make it up as you go along?

A. I started writing Broken Worlds ten years ago. At that time, I just wrote from the top of my head. There wasn’t a lot of planning. But with the second and third book, I started with an outline and plotted the story ahead of time. It changed a bit as I was writing, but the general trajectory of the plot remained the same.

Q. The surprise in the plot of Broken Worlds comes around the half-way point when Ellis reveals that he is different (spoiler alert!) Was this how you created your plot, or did you suddenly decide on this when you reached that point in the book?

A. From the start, I knew Ellis was not going to be the good guy he seemed. I wasn’t sure what that would mean exactly, until I had written a few chapters, and then it came to me—he had to be an alien.

Q. Do you have any tips for upcoming writers on how to get published, traditional or Vanity publishing?

A. If someone wants to get published there are a few things they should do. First of all, read a lot. This way you will discover the types of stories you like to read which should help you decide the type of stories you like to write. I love reading picture books, middle grade and young adult, hence, that’s what I write. Next, write without expecting it to be perfect. Don’t allow the need to be perfect to deter you from writing. Once the words are on the page, then you can go back and edit. Which brings me to my last tip—find a critique partner/writing group to give you feedback and help edit your story. Sometimes what you think you’ve said isn’t what comes across, and a writing buddy can help sort that out, among other things.

Q. Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since 2014, considering you’ve followed up with two sequels to Broken Worlds?

A. Before Broken Worlds was published, writing felt like a guilty pleasure, because I was the only one who benefitted. I would fit it in between taking care of my kids, working, chores around the house. But after the book was published, I gave myself permission to write most, if not every day, even for 30-40 minutes. Broken Worlds took me almost four years to write, but I finished the first draft of Broken Promises, in eight months.

I wouldn’t say writing has gotten easier. I think I’m better at it, because I spend more time working at my craft. I attend workshops, belong to critique groups where I give and receive feedback, and I write most days.

Q. Is there a favourite among all the characters in Broken Worlds? Why is he/she your favourite?

A. If I had to pick just one character, it would be Sammy. Even though he died very early on in the book, he was very important to me. I felt protective about him and the difficult life he was forced to live at such a young age.

Q. When Kalli returns to her mother’s house, she is greeted by the smell of curry, onions and spices, an obviously very Asian environment. Does this relate to your background and childhood? If so, how?

A. My parents emigrated from India and it was often difficult trying to blend the two cultures—Indian and Canadian. Especially at school. Being a kid is hard enough. Most of us want to fit in with others, but when you look different, it’s almost impossible. I remember being teased and bullied about the colour of my skin and how my hair and clothes would smell like spices and onions. When I got older, I worked hard to douse myself in sprays and perfumes whenever I went out, hoping it would cover the scent of curry. But it was also a very familiar smell, it was the smell of home, so there was also a comfort in it. That’s the part I wanted to bring out for Kalli—the comforting, familiar smell.

Q. The planet Istriya in Broken Worlds is a bleak, dystopian world plagued with pollution and on the brink of collapse, both environmentally and physically. Do you see this as a parallel to our own problems on earth? Was this a part of your theme?

A. I do worry Earth will become like Istriya. Many humans are motivated by profit alone. They don’t look past their need for instant gratification and they don’t take time to consider the detrimental long-term effects of their actions. Earth is our only home, but we are not its only inhabitants. We share this planet with other species, and I don’t believe our needs are any more important than theirs. I believe it’s important when making a decision that we consider—what are the long-term consequences of doing this? What harm will this cause to other species? And is there another way, where the gratification may not be as quick or as large, but it is sustainable for us and other species.

Q. How did you arrive at the names for your characters in Broken Worlds? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. The main character’s name is Kalyana Farris to reflect her parents mixed marriage. There was no science for choosing the names of the characters for my Broken Worlds trilogy. However, for the middle grade and picture books I write featuring animals as the main characters, I try and choose names that have meanings about those animals. For example, I wrote a picture book about a rhino named Faru. Rhino in Swahili is Kifaru.

Q. What was the greatest stumbling block for you in creating and writing for the character of Ellis—someone of the opposite sex?

A. Ellis was a complex character to write, and not because he was male. Initially, he was manipulative and determined to save his species. But there was also the part of him that didn’t want to cause harm to anyone. As the story continues, he struggles with the realization that his mother is not the good person he thought. He then must figure out a way to save both worlds, his own and Earth. But when it becomes clear he can’t save both, he has to choose, and that was a hard character arc to develop.

Q. Is there a central theme in your three books? What is it?

A. I would have to say there are two themes- is that allowed? The one theme is the effects of greed. The people of Istriya destroyed their planet to the point it became uninhabitable. They were unwilling to change their selfish ways and it resulted in the planet no longer being able to sustain their behaviour. The other theme is love and our need for it and what we are willing to do to find it and then keep it.

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of Young Adult Science Fiction, what would it be?

A. This is a hard questions, because I don’t consider myself a science fiction writer. The story about Kalli, started as a nightmare, and science fiction allowed me the best vehicle to share it.

Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book? Please share the reason behind your enthusiasm for this book…

A. I love mysteries. One of my favourites as a child were the Meg Mysteries. I have fond memories of sitting on my bed and losing myself in the story.

Q. What other authors and books have influenced your work since then?

A. J. K. Rowling- because I loved reading the Harry Potter series to my kids.

Katherine Applegate- I loved how she brought Ivan to life in The One And Only Ivan. His character, his sad situation, it all just leaped off the page and wrapped around me. I was so desperate to help Ivan. This is the kind of emotion I aspire to create in my readers. I want them to fall in love and care about my characters, so they cheer them on.

Q. Is there a point in your life when you realized that you wanted to become a writer? Please share the circumstances with us.

A. I have always loved writing, but it was never something I considered pursuing as a career. Growing up, I think a lot of emphasis was put on finding a career that would allow me to be financially stable and self-sufficient, and in my family, the arts was never considered a viable option. I wish it had been. I wish I had looked into career paths that involved writing, instead I became a Chartered Accountant. I don’t regret it (well not always). Being an accountant allowed me to work from home when I had my children, so I could be with them. I was able to organize my work around their schedules. But writing was always a part of my life. I would write little stories for my kids. Eventually, I took a few writing courses, devoted more time to writing, and realized how much joy it brings me.

Q. Do you have a fixed routine when you’re writing, or do you wait for the muse to strike you?

A.I try and start each day with yoga. It’s a lovely way to clear my head and I feel good after. I’ve recently decided to cut back my accounting work back to about 10-12 hours per week. I try to get my work done first thing in the morning, so that I have the rest of the day to write or do other things I enjoy.

Q. All the world needs heroes. Tell us about some of the protagonists in your three books. Is there real-life inspiration behind them?

A. The inspiration behind Kalli (other than the nightmare) is all the young girls and women, who are forced to marry someone they don’t want to. It must be frightening to stand up against the pressure to do so, especially if your life could be in danger if you don’t do what is expected.

I feel so sad about the real-life inspiration behind Hadley’s character. She appears in the second novel. She tells her parents she is gay and their reaction forces her to leave her home. During my research, I read that the majority of teen runaways are LGBTQ. They are forced out of their homes because their parents, the ones who are supposed to take care of them, kick them out of the house, for being who they are. It’s heart-breaking.

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

A. I still work as an accountant and there are many chores to do around our house- so for me the most difficult part is fitting in the writing, making sure I allow myself time to write.

Q. Do you find the process of writing exhausting or energizing? How do you cope with the physical demands of the profession?

A. I find writing very energizing. I love days when I wake up, knowing for sure I get to write. I don’t find it physically demanding, because I don’t put pressure on myself to write a certain number of words every day. I write because I love it. I think putting pressure on myself would take away the joy and perhaps the creativity.

Q. Is your approach to writing one that encompasses a formula that might meet your reader’s expectation, or do you write to suit yourself?

A. I write about things I care about. I love animals, but since I can’t be like Jane Goodall, who is out there, physically saving the animals, I write about them. I hope my writing will help them in some way.

Q. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people would know of? If so, can you give us a hint?

A. That’s a great idea. Maybe I should start doing this!

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. For me writing is my joy, my relaxation- it’s even a form a therapy. I lose myself in my stories when I write. It makes me happy- and for me that’s success!

Q. Assuming you always think there’s room for improvement, what’s your approach to becoming a better writer?

A. I continue to read, write, and edit. I also find critiquing other writer’s work helps make me a better writer. I can often see my mistakes in their work,

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

Twitter: @AnithaRobinson.

Website- www.anitharobinson.com



Karen Fenech -Author Interview

Karen Fenech is a USA Today bestselling author of romantic suspense.  When Karen’s not writing or spending time with her family, she loves to shop, watch movies, or just kick Karen Fenech -- author photo submitted to International Thriller Writersback in a comfortable chair and read.

Karen, I really appreciate that you have taken time to do this interview for my Blog. I’d like to talk about your writing career, so far.

My great pleasure, Ken. Thank you for inviting me.

Q. You’ve said, in your bio, that you wanted to write since you were eleven years old, and you actually wrote a book based on the Nancy Drew mysteries. What ever happened to that book?

A. Oh, boy. : ) I remember putting those pages in a binder but draw a blank after that. I can’t recall what happened to that binder. It would be fun to take a look at those pages now.

Q. I imagine, as a young girl of eleven, you were heavily influenced by the Nancy Drew mysteries, as is perhaps typical for many girls of that age. What was it about the Nancy Drew mysteries that interested YOU?

A. I loved solving the mysteries along with Nancy and her friends. I loved following the clues along with Nancy.

Q. Your first novel, Unholy Angels, was written over a two-year period and released in 2004. Has writing gotten any faster and easier for you since 2004?

A. Yes, writing a novel now does not take me two years. I’m not sure about writing becoming easier, however. I try to challenge myself with each new book, to push beyond my comfort zone. That makes things hairy at times.

Q. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? Do you have a fixed routine or do you wait for the muse to strike you, like many writers?

A. I have a work schedule to meet writing deadlines. I find that I need to get business work out of the way before I can write and so I do that first thing and then write in the afternoon. If I’m deep into a book, I will often return to write late at night, continuing into the early hours of the morning. There’s something I love about writing late at night.

Q. You’ve achieved an extensive oeuvre so far in your climb to publishing success. You’ve got three series on the go: The Malice Series, The Protector Series, The Surrender Series. In addition, there are stand-alone books and a Short Story Collection. How do you find the time to keep up with all of this?

A. I know what I’m going to write before I sit down to do the actual writing. I outline each book. I may veer in terms of scenes I’d envisioned in the outline, but I don’t veer from the plot points or when each needs to be presented / revealed in the story.

I know the number of words I need to write each day to meet my deadlines. Things don’t always go according to plan. Life sometimes changes things. I account for that in my writing schedule, just in case.

Q. Who decides whether a series has been tapped out and can go no more, and it’s time to start another—you or your publisher? Can you tell us what factors are employed in determining this?

A. The ones who ultimately decide the fate of a series are the readers. It’s reader interest and support that determine whether or not a series will continue. Fortunately for writers, our readers are awesome and very supportive of their beloved series.

Q. Do you think it will reach the point where ideas for new plots and books will start to tax your creativity? If not, can you share your secret in avoiding this? If you think you might reach that point in future, how do you plan on overcoming this?

A. I don’t think creativity will be taxed. It may seem that way, but I think as we mature as writers, we become more selective of the ideas we choose to turn into books. Life experience and the point we are at in our lives also play a factor, I think.

I love the planning process when all things are possible. I get my creative juices flowing by constantly asking “what if”. I like a nice quiet walk along a beach or a snow-covered path to help me plan.

Q. What kind of research did you do for your books and how much time does it take? What are your sources, typically?

A. Research depends on the plot and the time period in which a book is set. For my historical, I consulted non-fiction books for specific information such as medicines and healing practices of the day.

For every day life, I was fortunate to come across a book written as a journal by people who’d lived during the time period I was writing in. The day-to-day accountings of every day life provided good insight into what it was like to live at that time. I found these accountings lent authenticity to my characters.

For my contemporary books with FBI and other law enforcement characters, I usually consult directly with specific agencies. I also consult with professionals in a given area where a book is set. For example, I needed to know decomposition of a body over a certain time period in hot weather and reached out to a coroner in that area for that specific information.

Regarding the length of time spent on research, it varies, dependent upon how deeply I need to go into a subject. Sometimes, though, I do get carried away. I find research fascinating.

Q. How do you arrive at the names for your characters? Is there a science behind this or are names chosen randomly? Is there a connection between names and characters?

A. Other than not naming characters after anyone I know, I choose names at will. I feel like a new parent, taking a look at my newborn for the first time and considering what name would suit my child. : )

Q. What is the most difficult part of YOUR artistic process in completing the cycle for one of your books?

A. Declaring a book as finished, I think. I tend to go over the material many times before I’m satisfied with it.

Q. If you couldn’t be an author, what would your career be?

A. I can’t imagine doing anything else. : )

Q. Do you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. If I decided to also write in a different genre, I would introduce a pseudonym to distinguish the books.

Q. Did you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people would know of?

A. That sounds like fun, but, no. That might be something to ask my readers about going forward, to include them in a secret.

Q. There are actors who will not see a movie they’ve appeared in, after it’s completed. Do you ever read your books after they are published? If so, why? If not, why not?

A. I keep notes on happenings in each of the series books, but I always reread the last book in a series before I write the next book in that series.

I also reread the last book to regain the feel for the tone of the series. Each series has a different feel to it and I want to be sure to remain true to that tone.

Q. What do you think are the most important magazines/journals for aspiring writers to subscribe to?

A. When I began, I read Writers’ Digest and The Writer. Since the advent of self-publishing, I think a lot of good information can be found online at sites about writing and publishing. A Google search reveals many good sites to explore. It’s wonderful to have access to so much valuable information.

Q. What do you consider the mark of success for a writer? How does she know she’s been successful?

A. Success differs for everyone. I think happiness = success. If writers are happy when writing their stories, then they can count themselves a success.

Q. What’s the most difficult stumbling block for you in writing characters of the opposite sex?

A. I take time to consider outlook. Though faced with the same situation, people will not necessarily view it the same. I like to take time to put both my male and female characters in that same situation to find those differences.

Q. Is writing cathartic in any way for you? If so, how and why?

A. I’ve read of writers who deliberately write about things that frighten them as a way to work through that fear. I’ve been very fortunate and have never experienced anything that has frightened me to a point where it has stayed with me beyond that moment. That said, I do write through things that are troubling me, be they writing related or personal.

Q. Is there a central theme in your books? Is there a common message to the reader?

A. I hope when my readers close one of my books they feel they have read a story in which women are also heroes, each in her own way, each capable of courage, persistence, strong belief in her own abilities, and of giving great love and deserving of it.

Q. If it’s not giving away any trade secrets, what’s your next project / What are you working on now?

A. I’m currently working on the sixth book in my Protectors series.

Q. If you were to pass on one particular piece of advice to an upcoming writer of Historical Romance Fiction and suspense novels, what would it be?

A. I think to any writer, regardless of genre, I would say, be our own cheerleader. Celebrate each piece of our writing.

Q. Taking into account the massive changes in technology that are spearheading a move towards an electronic medium for books, where do you think the writing profession is heading?

A. It’s a wonderful time to be a writer. We have so many opportunities and outlets for our work. We have the great fortune to be in direct contact with our readers and build friendships. I think this close contact may pave the way for interactive books.

Q. What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?

A. I love to hear from readers. Please do reach out to me through my website email. Due to writing deadlines and the volume of incoming mail, it may take a while for a response. I appreciate your understanding and your patience. Thank you to all for writing

WEBSITE: https://www.karenfenech.com

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/KarenFenechsFriends?ref=hl

EMAIL: karen@karenfenech.com

Karen, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Here’s wishing you all the best in your future writing and other endeavours.

Ken, thank you. It’s been so nice spending time with you and your readers.

Fenech-BreathofMalice-21517-CV-FT Large Cover

Janet Naidu -Poet. Interview

Janet Naidu was born in Covent Garden, Guyana, a rural village close to the sugar plantations of Farm and Diamond.  Janet comes from humble beginnings—her father worked as a cane cutter and her mother sold greens in the village and in the market place.  She, along with her seven siblings assisted their parents in earning extra income.

Janet has made Canada her home since 1975. In 1973, two of her poems appeared in a small booklet called Heritage. After writing sporadically over the years, her first collection of poems, Winged Heart (1999) was short-listed for the Guyana Prize for Literature, poetry category.  Her other two collections include Rainwater (2005) and Sacred Silence (2009). Her poems capture themes of uprooted movements, nostalgic memories, resettlement, feminism, resilience and survival. Her writings also include essays of cultural and historical themes. Janet Naidu (4)
Her poetry and writings have appeared in news media, online publications, anthologies, referenced in books on Indo Caribbean themes and in the Women’s Journal of the University of the West Indies.

Janet obtained a BA from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of London, UK.

Janet, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for my readers. I’d like to focus on your collection Rainwater, in addition to your writing, in general.

Q. At what age did you start to write? What do you remember writing about? Does that writing still exist today?

A. As a teenager I sold greens in the village with my mother and had a notepad to write down credit given to the villagers. I used to also make little sketches and writings at the back pages when I waited for people to purchase items in our baskets. But most significantly, I started writing to pen pals around the world after posting my name and address in a pen pal magazine. I had pen pals from New Zealand, England, Germany, Japan, Pakistan, USA and many other countries. It was during this time, I entered into writing to pen pals around the world, telling them about my family life at home, and life in Guyana. I used to get creative, talking about simple things in the village, like when the sugar cane would burn and the cane dust would come through our windows. I made it sound exciting. Living in Canada, I am often taken back to that time when I was care free and thoughts of the natural world flowed so greater then. This reflection continues to influence my writing.

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