Today I have the pleasure to introduce an author who accelerated along her writing journey after retiring from a teaching career inside the third-grade trenches. Eva Pasco’s preferred writing genre is that of Contemporary Realistic Fiction, distinguished for its character-driven plots which unfold in her native state of Rhode Island.
Why is Contemporary Realistic Fiction your writing genre of choice?
My predilection for realistic storytelling was honed by watching the film, ‘On the Waterfront’ during my adolescence. I was mesmerized by the gritty portrayal of realistic events the male and female protagonists experienced. Under the influence, I strive to replicate life through writing lit with grit.
Contemporary Realistic Fiction affords me wide latitude to extrapolate universal themes, and to put my flawed characters at risk in the precarious situations they find themselves.
With the world as your oyster for developing a novel grounded in reality, how did you arrive at the idea for your most recently published book, Etta’s Fishing Ground?
I happened to scroll by a controversial post gaining a lot of traction on social media: "If you discovered your best friend's husband with another woman, would you tell your bestie?"
You might say this quandary became the root of dysfunction spawning mayhem in the novel.
Given you’re a stickler for depicting realism in your works of fiction, what, if any, hot buttons do you press?
In my writing, hot buttons are inevitable when art imitates life. Rearing their ugly head in ‘Etta’s Fishing Ground’: child molestation, marital infidelity, homophobia, bigotry, domestic violence, mother-daughter toxicity, and delusional obsession.
How large a role does the setting of Rhode Island play in your current and future literary works?
By interweaving historic events, geographic landmarks and regional culture into the framework of my stories, I blur the lines of demarcation between fact and fiction.
From the Prologue of ‘Etta’s Fishing Ground’:
Remorseful thoughts haunted Wyatt Cole while serving a sentence of fifteen years at the Adult Correctional Institute, ten years to be served in Minimum Security, with five years to be suspended for the felony of misdemeanor manslaughter.
Otherwise, the quiet town with a low crime rate would up the ante years later when a suspended police officer shot and killed three teenagers at Wilson’s Auto Enterprise in retaliation against criminal charges filed for excessive force used during a traffic stop.
For better, or for worse—trespass and traverse Etta’s fishing ground in Foster, Rhode Island.
Robert W. Walker
Today I have the pleasure to present an author who is a graduate of Chicago’s Wells High School, Northwestern University, and the NU’s Graduate Masters in English Education program. Robert W. Walker has taught writing from composition and developmental to a study of the literary masters to creative writing. His first novel was one only an arrogant youth could have conceived — a sequel to Huckleberry Finn.
Robert, it appears you have some ten separate genres and 10 separate series that you write in, and at one time you used three pen names as well. Why such diversity?
Good question and the reply is as diverse as my rambling among the genres. I began believing I was a YA author for the 12&up readers, those who treasured the ‘coming of age’ boys & girls adventure books with a young adult protagonist trying to find his way in the world amidst great historical events—the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, a homage to my favorite author—Mark Twain. I did intertribal wars with indigenous young people in conflict, and the same with Vikings falling in love in their teens while discovering the American continent and the Indian population in Canada. My first of these sold to Oak Tree Publications in Sandiago and they wanted more such titles, so I banged out several more only to learn that some wealthy guy named Lord had bought up the publishing house for a write off and like a Musk, he ran it into the ground. All such of this collection of titles live online via KDP (kindle). I moved on to write adult-sized 3-vol historical novels. I soon learned even from agents as well as publishers that there was ‘no market’ at the time for historical novels of any size, and so I began writing medical mysteries in the form of medical examiner vs. evildoers and so came about my most successful ‘commercial’ Instinct Series (17 bks to date). So, you see where I am going with this long-winded reply, as suddenly an editor tells me, “Rob, we are overloaded with mysteries. With the Stephen King thing going crazy, we need horror and we need it to be 80,000 words. Yours in a mystery at 60,000.” My immediate reply: “Give me a green-light, verbal contract and I will provide a monster and 20,000 more words.” This was over the phone and she said, “Alright!” Then I turned that mystery into a horror novel, and that began my horror writing career with Geoffrey Caine as my name of the Bloodscreams series. Then I did my police procedural Edge series with a Native American Houston detective, and my PSI Blue series with a half Irish, half Japanese female lead. I’ve also done a seagoing series of supernatural tales, placing the supernatural aboard the Titanic, the Bismarck, the Andrea Doria, and most recently the Edmund Fitzgerald in Lake Superior. Diversity…gotta love it.
Daniel Webster Jackson & The Wrongway Railroad was your first novel finished in high school and it won you a scholarship to Northwestern University. Please share an excerpt with us.
The campfire lit the circle of boys, their eyes wide, as they listened to the storyteller. The flames rose and sank with a shifting wind that threw dry leaves into Old Black Billy's face. Old Billy stood over the circle, telling one of his famous "true" ghost stories. Behind the group stood black empty woods and the Negro quarters where most of the boys slept. Here and there among the black people, Daniel Webster Jackson and Joe Grier recognized a white face—other boys from town, who joined them in risking their skins to hear some of the old man's tales. Old Billy had a reputation in Hannibal.
The storyteller suddenly thrust his face toward Daniel's and howled with a blood curdling scream. "That was the cry Colonel Halverston heard when he got back to the place in the woods where them witches waited for him!" the old man said, pausing for a breath before adding, "Colonel man stared up into that big oak tree to find the witches, but colonel's horse reared up scared and throwed him off!" Old Billy jerked his hand upward to bring home his point, moving quickly around the circle.
From where Daniel sat, he could see the well-lit, four- story white house that belonged to the mysterious Colonel Halverston. It was an old mansion with large columns and great bay windows. Across the top floors, a line of windows offered a view of the land. The white walls looked green in darkness, thought Daniel, and he wondered if the colonel had really encountered witches in the nearby woods as a young man.
"It was a trap!" shouted one boy in the crowd.
"Can't trust devil-women!" cried another.
Old Billy kept his tale spinning, shouting over the listeners: "Colonel knew what he was about! He wanted to speak with Miss Amanda just once more, and the only way he could was by trusting in them witches! But Colonel, he protected himself with the riddle and his Bible, from which he took the riddle!"
A flurry of questions from Billy's anxious audience followed.
"What happened next?"
"What come of Miss Amanda?"
"Why didn't the colonel shoot 'em all?"
"There come giggling from up in that tree, them witches sounding just like school children, when one of them says to colonel smart-like, 'Why Colonel, you'll catch your death going about in your nightshirt on an evening cold as this!'" Again Billy paused for effect. "But Colonel, he stood up and said, 'Will I go back to my home and tell other men that the promises of a witch are false? For I will return and my tongue will be my own….'"
Which other authors have influenced your writing?
I will try to keep this short. #1 Mark Twain. In junior and senior high school, I read all of Twain’s works which inspired my first novel finished at Wells High in Chicago where this Mississippi boy grew up. Talk about diversity. Chicago was the melting pot, and Wells was the melting pot within the greater melting pot. I mean before anyone had heard of Vietnam, we had Vietnamese students in our schools, along with every other race and culture imaginable, and this gave me a great deal to work with as an author. Aside from Twain, there was Alexander Dumas, and a long line of the classic authors that I read, and of course the best that the schoolteachers and school library had to offer—Aldous Huxley, you name it, Lord of the Flies, the Crucible, 1984, Fahrenheit 450 or was it 451? I read Poe, of course, and even Chekov and other foreign authors at least in short story form and translation. I was a huge fan too of the horror and science fiction writers and comic books. I’d say Twain, Hawthorne, and all the American classical authors were the greatest influence; look at the amazing diversity Twain had at hand, his works going from such as Prince and the Pauper, Huckleberry Finn, and Life on the Mississippi. It had always been my dream to be as versatile in writing as was Mark Twain, who I consider my spiritual mentor. After all, my ‘sequel’ to Huck Finn got me a full-ride scholarship to Northwestern University where I finished somehow with a bachelor's degree and a master’s to teach English. Told you I’d be brief.
What motivates you to write—gets you going and staying on a project?
Between novels, I will do short stories and novellas to ease burden of thinking about the long journey of the 70-80K novel. But to answer your question my head is full of characters with stories to tell, and each one is clamoring for me to tell that story. And the loudest, squeakiest of voices get my attention, and soon, like a bird stuck in my chest fluttering to be free of my ribcage prison, I have to let that damn thing out. So often, what motivates me to begin a new project is the character(s) I am hearing within, but sometimes it is an idea/premise that I may alone, without the cries from within, determine is a helluva great idea for a story. I have even more than once begun with just the title of a story that moves me to write that darn thing. Example, my Ghost Gun 3bk series western, one of my Bloodscreams titles came to me while teaching Beowulf as I kept hearing it as Bayou Wulf and thinking what a great title for a werewolf novel, and so I made it happen. Finally, IQ is far less important in writing than is PQ – Persistence Quotient. Stick to it for the sake and the life of your creations.
Are there any truly useful secrets to becoming a successful author?
First define what is success to you, as that is a dangerous word, same like talent. I can warn you that no one online hustling or no publisher in the reaaal world can ever grantee Bestsellerdom, no way! I can say this: your storyline and your character(s) have to have this magical “commercial” appeal. You need a commercial plotline and at least your main character to appeal to the masses to even sell 40 or 50K books and those authors who sell even that much are called ‘middle’ level and are not selling ENOUGH to escape being cut from the major publishers. Sad to say. Such figures small presses would love to see.
Getting to the other secrets – The narrative VOICE of the novel or story is the most important single element that you must find and make consistent throughout your tale. It is truly the secret to a successful story, and it is made up of many elements that are all detailed and discussed in my Creative Writing Class in ebook, audio, or paper on Amazon entitled Dead on Writing – the how-to for the dysfunctional writer in us all. A second absolutely wonderful book that goes deeply into these elements that go into crafting the VOICE is Jerome Stern’s Making Shapely Fiction. Both books are dirt cheap.
What has kept you in this business of writing for as long as you have been at it, writing in high school in the late 60s and publishing your first book in 1972, Sub-Zero, inspired by Chicago winters?
Love of the labor. A love of it as a craft. No less than what an actor or an artist or sculptor or an architect loves: building art. The art of the scene building like a moviemaker.
What book of yours do you feel would be a good starting point for a reader to learn of your style and passion for storytelling?
It depends greatly on the reader’s preference for genre, but I would suggest the first book in any of my series, be it my Instinct series with the female M.E, or my Cherokee Detective Stonecoat police procedural Edge series, or one of 3 short story collections like Darkness Chasing Light or my novella series called Chicaghosts with first book called Gone Gorilla or for horror Vampire Dreams first in the Bloodscreams series. For historical, Children of Salem or Daniel Webster Jackson and the Wrongway Railroad. For to search all titles out and just click on the 90 covers one can visit me at my website and thank you Uvi for letting me spout off so long and so much.
Today I have the please to present an author who enjoyed writing since his high school days, but like many other loves, kept it on the top shelf and out of sight for most of his youth. Eli Pope AKA Steven G Bassett, lives in the Ozarks, and while he has wandered off several times in his life, he always finds himself back to Southwest Missouri.
What is the main highlight in The Way it Happened that you’d like to let us know if you could just skim over the top and give a highlight?
A: Its focus is the internal thoughts from Erin Marie, a woman who just turned forty but just before entering that second half of life, one tragedy after another is dumped onto her plate. She doesn’t understand what she has done to deserve one heartbreak after another. After her husband reveals he has a younger woman he’s been cheating with, Erin quickly finds out she has cervical cancer and has to have surgery. She moves herself and their two children back into her parent’s home in the same small Georgia town she grew up in. The same house, the same bedroom she’d spent the first half of her life in. Faced with losing her husband and her home, she also now has recovery, all while she fights to keep her spirits up.
This story is her journey along with her parents and her children, specifically her fifteen-year-old daughter and eventually an old best friend from high school days that shows up back in town after twenty years. It’s a story of perseverance, trust, and love.
I don’t want to give too much away, but there are some twists and unusual circumstances involved.
This seems like an almost polar-opposite of your other writing—such as your psychological thriller series-The Mason Jar Series. Why the change in genre?
That’s a great question. I guess two things happened that drew me to this story. First, my series was five books deep at the point I changed avenues. I was working on book six and also contributing short stories to a wonderful horror podcast titled Fear from The Heartland. It’s a podcast from Chilling Tales for Dark Nights, found on Youtube. I communicate to fans and listeners every Wednesday night when a new story drops. Two listeners in specific, always left wonderful complimentary comments. One of those was a young woman named Erin. She actually was living similar circumstances of recovering from health issues. Without giving too much away, Erin’s circumstances stirred the story in this novel very quickly to me. I thought it could be a very moving journey that readers/listeners could connect easily with the characters. It only took me approximately three-four months to write. The words came very quickly, and I hated that it rushed through me so quickly because I was enjoying creating the characters. As a writer, I think we all become emotionally involved with them, even if they are fictional. I didn’t want the story to end, I was enjoying it too much. So, between being a little worn from the dark and gritty of my series, and getting an idea for something much warmer, made the timing perfect. I still like the dark and gritty and am back to working on book six, finalizing that series and possibly beginning a spin-off series with some of the characters who remain.
You’ve written under your given name, Steven G Bassett to begin with, and then Eli Pope, a pseudonym for your series, and now with The Way it Happened, E. M. Pope. What’s the scoop on this? Isn’t it getting complicated?
Quick answer from the hip, yes. It has gotten complicated. I have wondered if I’ve made correct choices for that. My first book was a Christian Fiction. My series is very dark, even though I do carry bits of my faith throughout. It became so much grittier that I decides if readers of my first Christian Fiction, purchased the first book of the series, they’d be very shocked at the language and circumstances. It is very adult directed. It’s a great story, but very descriptive and dark. So, I came up with the pen name Eli Pope. Now after publishing a total of 7 books, The Way it Happened came. Totally different from either previous genre. I was told that women, the audience that The Way it Happened is aimed at, Women’s fiction, is a tough market for a man to be taken seriously. I’ve heard women just don’t trust purchasing a romance or coming of age book featuring womem and so that is the reasoning for the birth of E.M. Pope. There are also some little Easter eggs thrown into all of my books but this latest in particular. I do it for fun and some will be easily picked up on if you know me or read me. Others will blow right by them without catching on. It’s just something I enjoy adding.
So, back to your view of not being taken seriously as a man writing romance. Nicolas Sparks seems to have broken that rule, are you outing your secret about being a man by letting us know?
Probably. The E.M. is just for new possible readers that don’t know me or do know my previous work and can’t believe I could write from a woman’s perspective with any accuracy. I did have several female beta readers read the manuscript and my female narrator who is the voice of all the female characters in the audible, insist I did a fairly accurate job. I wrote from a new female characters perspective in The Reclamation, Book 4 of my series. I actually loved the challenge and enjoyed tackling it. I guess I am in touch with that softer side of myself or maybe there are not that many differences between the two? I hope to see reviews on this newest release to see if I’m right or wrong!
Back to the book, The Way it Happened. Which way do you think represents the truest feel of this story. Paperback/ebook or the audio version?
Another very good question. I think for the reader who loves reading and is hesitant to try listening on audio, that they will “get” the story about the same. For me personally, life is so hectic that I adapt better to listening. I travel and some of the work I do during my daytime job, I am able to listen to books. Melissa Medina and Paul J McSorley, the two talents that tell this story, are true very talented people with great voices you fall in love with. I am fortunate to have been able to work with Paul on all of my books published so far. They are all done by him audibly. He is inside my brain when I write now. Nothing I write isn’t not touched by his voice. He also does all of my short stories on Fear from the Heartland. He introduced me to Melissa Medina when he had her perform with him on Welcome to Helltown, a special Halloween Fear from the Heartland a couple of years ago. I was lucky I didn’t have to beg Melissa too much to tackle this project. She too seems to read every pause, ever tone of emotion and voice reactions that were what I heard as I wrote them. With telling you this, for me, hands down you will take in without question, the way the book was intended. The characters are brought to life like I imagined them, maybe even better. Their inflections fit perfectly. If you like this kind of story, I almost guarantee you won’t be disappointed and not only that, but you’ll also be like I was while writing it—you won’t want it to end. The ten hours it takes to listen will fly by way too fast.
Last question, Eli—what can we expect next from you? Dark, gritty thrillers, or more of what The Way it Happened brings us?
Book six, The Call Home, is being edited now. I’m editing a novel that was an adaptation of a short story on the podcast. It’s more of an upmarket fiction with some twists. I’m currently working on a book that is a softer mixture of psychological depth with mystery and romance. I have to tell you. I hate rules and I hate being put in folder marked with specifics. I love to write, and I write what my circumstances and brain brings me. It’s my love and therapy wrapped up all in one. Riding my Harley sets the tone many times for my writing. It’s where a lot of the ideas gel inside my mind as the wind blows my hair and the side lanes become a blur. I do need to say thank you, Uvi. I appreciate you helping me become more visible out there! I would also like to remind all readers and listeners to please take the time and leave reviews of our work. You can’t imagine in today’s times with algorithms and social media just how much your long or short reviews and star ratings mean to us. Thank you in advance!
Today I have the pleasure to present a Mystery author who weaves ordinary characters into extraordinary, life-threatening situations, using the premise that evil often lurks in familiar places. @Sandra Nikolai is a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, she grew up in this cosmopolitan city and later moved to Ottawa, capping off a career path in sales, finance, and high tech.
What inspired you to write mystery novels?
I loved reading mystery novels since as far back as I can remember. I enjoy the challenge of discovering which suspect had the means, motive, and opportunity to commit the crime. It’s one of the reasons I was drawn to writing in this genre.
Another reason I chose to write mystery novels was the satisfaction that the crime is solved by the end of the story. In real life, a killer might manage to stay under the radar and elude police investigators. Many murders remain unsolved and become cold cases. In my novels, I ensure that the criminal is brought to justice and loose ends are tied up.
Did you do any research before writing False Impressions, the first book in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott Mystery series?
Lots! My research ranged from checking street names and commercial sites in Montreal–the main setting in the story–to learning about Canadian police interrogation systems and legal processes. Law enforcement and legal procedures in Canada vary in certain aspects from American practices, so I couldn’t rely on the investigative processes recorded in American documentation.
On a related note, my main characters Megan and Michael travel to a different location in every story. In Fatal Whispers, the second book in the series, they visit Portland, Maine, where they help solve three mysterious deaths. I did a fair amount of research for that story too!
Where do you get your ideas for a mystery novel?
A fact on the news sometimes triggers an aha! moment that inspires me to weave a similar detail into a work in progress. Some of the true crimes out there are rather shocking, though, and I prefer to leave unwarranted gore and violence out of my stories as much as possible. Using the premise that evil often lurks in familiar places, my stories highlight the courage and determination of my main characters in their quest for justice.
The hook in your book description reads: Her cheating husband was murdered and she’s the prime suspect. Proving her innocence is one thing; evading a killer who wants her dead is something else. Can you elaborate on this?
I based my story on a familiar premise: The wife is always the last to know. After her husband dies, Megan Scott is shocked to discover that he had betrayed her. Worse yet, she becomes the prime suspect in his murder. Her once private and organized life is thrown into disarray, her reputation is tarnished, and she faces threats from an unknown aggressor. When crime reporter Michael Elliott is drawn into the case as a person of interest, they work together to clear their names and hunt for the killer in the process.
How would you compare your writing style to that of other mystery writers?
Every writer has their own innate style of putting words together to tell a story, so I rarely compare my work to theirs. Readers who enjoyed my stories have left reviews that describe them as fast-paced, non-stop intrigue, well written, clever plot, page turner, a clean thriller, lots of twists and turns. I’ll accept those reviews anytime!
Today I have the pleasure to present an author who has been a writer since junior high school, but to pay the bills she’s waited tables, delivered newspapers, cleaned other people's houses, taught school, and even had a short stint as a secretary in a rock-n-roll radio station. Ann Swann also worked as a 911 operator and a police dispatcher.
Ann’s stories began to win awards in her college days. Since then, she’s published novels, novellas, and short stories. But even if no one ever bought another book, Ann wouldn’t stop writing. For her it’s the cathartic pause in a sometimes-crazy world. Most of the time, it even keeps her sane.
Tell us about your book.
In just a few words: Loneliness is a hard task master. That’s why Carina writes in her journal. But can she really write herself a better Christmas?
Carina lost her father just before the pandemic knocked her flat. Now, months later, home from the hospital, Carina wants only one thing, a big family Christmas. But no one seems to care. Her husband is working out of town and her children are grown and flown. The only one who understands how she feels is a young man in her grief group who is dealing with his own family problems. He offers her his family cabin in the mountains. There, she is guaranteed a white Christmas. Carina writes about it in her journal, trying to muster up the courage to go, but she’s never been adventurous, she’s the family caregiver. Should she do something so extravagant? Could Carina really write herself a Christmas?
How much of yourself is in the main character of Carina?
I always wind up with bits of myself in my characters, both the good ones and the bad ones. I’ll dab in lots of details, but not so much of the overall makeup of the character. For example, I do journal a lot, like Carina. But not every day. When I am in the middle of a book, my journaling falls by the wayside except for when new ideas strike me, or something unusual happens that I must commit to memory. Writing has always been my way of dealing with things, figuring them out, so to speak. In other words, it’s self-therapy. Without it, I’d be a whole different person.
I also add some of my inner core details in Carina in that I love animals, and I love my family. Of course, my hubby, kids, and grandkids are perfect (Haha). Nevertheless, it was fun making Carina’s family quite imperfect for the story. I also had a Christmas novella released at the same time, last year. It was also fun to write because I got to create a real heel of a boyfriend and then help the main character get rid of him. Not literally get rid of, as in kill (that would be Telephone Road, one of my suspense novels), nope, in this sweet romance she just gets up the courage to send him packing. The story is called Copper Penny Christmas.
In my next book, a Valentine release titled A Trace of Romance, the love interest has a LOT of problems. I enjoyed ironing them out for him, so I think in a future book—probably Return to Stutter Creek—I will be exploring some more extremely imperfect characters. I’m looking forward to putting a lot of myself into that one, too.
Is this your first Christmas novel?
It was my first published Christmas novel, but I have an old YA Christmas novel languishing in my “early works” on my computer. I’m very fond of the characters in that ancient novel, so one day, when the nefarious writer’s block comes to call (hope it never does), I will dig it out and rework it. I get excited thinking of it—a complete novel just waiting to be prettied up. There must be something I’ve forgotten about it, or I wouldn’t have relegated the manuscript to the darkness of the “early works” file.
What other genres do you write besides romance?
My very first published book was a novella called Stevie-girl and the Phantom Pilot. It was based on an award-winning short story. Once an editor took it and showed me how to make it better, the thing took on a life of its own and wound up being a four-book series. It’s a series of ghost stories, of course, so you could say that’s one of my favorite genres. However, having said that, I feel I must add that ghosts and/or spirits are not relegated to the ghost-story genre. I include the spirit world in other works, too. And I don’t call it the paranormal genre because that genre is filled with so much more than just ghosts and my books don’t go there, although I do have a zombie short story and a zombie novel which I wrote with a cousin. Alas, the novel is also gathering e-dust in the “early works” file. The short story, however, can be found on Amazon.
I also have spirits occur in some of my romantic suspense novels because, well, they occur in real life, too. At least in mine, how about yours? I’d love to hear about them, if so. I’ve found so many of my readers have wonderful stories about ghosts and spirits and otherworldly happenings. Writer’s block? Are you kidding me? I have journals filled with … oh, never mind. We’ve covered that already.
My other genres, in addition to the sweet romance of the Christmas and Valentine’s books, are women’s fiction—All for Love and Yeah, but I Didn’t—along with several romantic suspense novels. I’ve also got short stories in a couple of anthologies, one which was set in the fall season—Halloween, I believe—and another which was included in a true pet stories anthology. In addition to all of those, I’m working on the final book in a soft-sci-fi horror trilogy, Apocalypse in Eden. The three titles are Takers, Seekers, and Remainders (the third is the one I’m still rewriting, you know, the fun part).
Final question: Do you record your own audio books?
No, I would love to have time to do exactly that (where does the time go?). But I have been blessed with some wonderful narrators. The Stevie-girl series, the Apocalypse series, and some of the Stutter Creek novels (not all are narrated yet) have amazing voices.
That reminds me, I wonder how my zombie short story would sound as an audio. I have plans, somewhere down the line, to publish an anthology of my own short stories, maybe put those on audio. There are a few more stories lurking in that file--you know the one I mean—that are just begging to be prettied up along with the early novels. So, no. I guess I won’t be recording any audios in the near future. But hey, like Jack says in Takers, “it’s good to have goals.”
Thank you for featuring me on your blog, Uvi. It’s always a pleasure.
To find all my book links, including audio, please go to my website.
I love hearing from readers. You are welcome to drop me a note at my website email link, or on any of the following social media sites:
Ann’s stories began to win awards in her college days. Since then, she’s published novels, novellas, and short stories. But even if no one ever bought another book, Ann wouldn’t stop writing. For her it’s the cathartic pause in a sometimes-crazy world. Most of the time, it even keeps her sane.
Today I have the pleasure of presenting an author who left the USSR as it was falling apart. Janna Yeshanova escaped to the United States, leaving behind house, social status, citizenship, and every friend she had. Her writing is inspired by her own life story.
When you talk about Love Is Never Past Tense, you compare it to other stories. Can you tell us about Doctor Zhivago?
Both are romantic adventures where the characters deal with their own lives while real world events reshape the world. The stories act as bookends to the Soviet Union. Doctor Zhivago is set at the end of Tsarist Russia and the birth of the Soviet Union. Love Is Never Past Tense shows its closing days and how the characters responded to it collapse.
How does your book relate to what was and is going on in the world?
In my book, the protagonists make contradicting choices as the world collapses around them. It provides a lens for politically driven integration. Through his eyes, we see the risks of staying. Through hers, we see the struggles of the immigrant’s journey. Even without the wars in Ukraine and Israel, entire populations are facing the fight or flight decision. The world needs to build a safety net that supports both decisions.
That leaves your characters on different continents. That doesn’t sound romantic to me.
It’s a classic second chance romance with a contemporary setting. They meet, they fall in love, they are driven apart. How do they reconnect? All that stands in their way is a few thousand miles, an ocean, and a rusting iron curtain.
The tagline for Love Is Never Past Tense is “How could he possibly know that she, a complete stranger, would inexplicably impact his life and be with him forever, whether she was at his side or not?”
Have you learned anything since writing the book that you would like to comment on?
The story clearly shows what my family and I went through to leave the Soviet Union and immigrate through central Europe before coming to America. I knew as I was racing to get permission that I was trying to thread a needle. After publishing the book, I learned that the door I walked through closed one day after I had secured my paperwork. It is shared in the book Envoy to Moscow by Areah Levin, who helped my to get the exit visa much faster then I could without him.
Tell us about the process of creating the audiobook for Love is Never Past Tense. How did the narrator get into the skin of the characters? How did you feel listening to their voices coming out of her throat?
It took me over two years and more than a few narrators to find one who could capture the voice I heard when writing the book. Daniela Acitelli lives in London UK but delivered an American accent from time in California. Her intonations matched those I imagined as I was writing the book. Her presentation brings another dimension to the story that left me breathless more than once.
Another audio book feature is a bit of music at the start and finish of the book. It is a short fragment of Chardash Monti from my friend, the famous Armenian violinist Karo Hayrapetyan. I included it in his memory. I didn't identify him by name in the book, but he shows up briefly in the story.
I loved the audio book and I hope the listener does too.