Sunday, September 23, 2012

Interviewer with Author & Publisher Alfred Martino

I am thrilled to welcome Alfred Martino to the blog today! Alfred's debut novel, Pinned, was published in 2005 and was chosen as a Jr. Library Guild Selection, Capitol Choices nominee, and nominee for YALSA's Best Book For Young Adults. His second novel, Over The End Line, was published in 2009 and centers around high school soccer. He'll be telling us more about his latest novel, Perfected by Girls, which just came out last month. 

Alfred is a graduate of Duke University and The Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California, and is the co-founder and president of Listen & Live Audio, Inc., the premier independent audiobook publishing company in the US. With over 600 titles, Listen & Live Audio has worked with some of the finest narrators in the audiobook industry, including film legend Burt Reynolds, Penn Jillette of "Penn & Teller," Frank Muller, Grover Gardner, George Guidall, Simon Prebble and the incomparable Katy kellgren. The company has won 3 consecutive Odyssey Honor Awards, 10 Audie Awards, and dozens of AudioFile 'Earphones' and Publishers Weekly 'Listen Up' Awards. The company has also had the privilege of recording many high-profile books, including the New York Times bestseller The Jane Austen Book Club, The Darwin Awards series, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook series, as well as authors Donna Hanover, Carol O'Connell, David Rosenfelt, Leil Lowndes, LA Meyer, Barbara Corcoran, Karen White, and Cassandra King. 

A native of Short Hills, NJ, Alfred has been a resident of Jersey City, NJ, since 1998. He is the proud companion to two wonderful rescue dogs, Daisy and Sara. Visit his website at

Tell us about you new book Perfected by Girls.

Perfected By Girls is about sophomore Melinda Radford, who is the lone girl on the Ashton High wrestling team (in Michigan), grappling with opponents who refuse to compete against her, a few who want to crush her, and a coach who's less-than-pleased having a female in his practice room. At home, Mel’s parents forbid her from seeing her new boyfriend, her grandmother insists she start preparing for her future by taking a dreary office internship, and her infuriating older brother, who’s the varsity team captain, flirts with her best friend, Jade. Just when it seems things can't get any more complicated, an off-handed comment puts Mel at odds with her teammates, her brother, and, worst of all, her coach. But through a twist of tragedy and fate, Mel is given an unexpected opportunity to accomplish something no girl in her school's history has ever done—something that just may redeem her in the eyes of her detractors.

How did you get the idea for this book? 

My debut novel, Pinned, was about boys high school wrestling. I thought girls amateur wrestling was worthy of a similar book, particularly since it is one of the fastest growing sports among girls in middle and high school.

How did you first get started writing? 

When I was in high school I wrote a lot of teen angst poetry and short stories (some of which weren't too bad). But then I got away from writing fiction in college and grad school, though I'm not sure why. The writing bug bit me again at the end of grad school, mostly because I was out in Los Angeles (at the University of Southern California getting my MBA) and everyone in Los Angeles is writing a screenplay for film or TV.

What is your writing process like? Do you write on a computer? In a spiral notebook? 

I prefer to write at night, the later the better. Most of the time, I sit at my computer in my condo with my dogs sleeping at my feet, though sometimes I'll go to a local coffee shop and write in a small notebook.

What is your favorite thing about writing? 

A good writing session leaves me as satisfied as a good physical workout, though obviously not as tired or sweaty. Of course, sometimes I try to write and it is frustrating and tedious. The idea is to write as often as possible so that you're able to create those few gems amid a lot of junk.

How do you deal with disappointment or discouragement? 

Oh, boy, if someone wants to be a writer but she has difficulties with rejection, she is going to have a very short career. Writing is all about disappointment, on a number of levels. First, you have to expect that only a portion of what you put down on paper or type on a computer is going to be any good (the rest you will eventually discard). Then, of course, the process of getting critiqued and, eventually, trying to be published, is chock full of disappointment and discouragement. But if someone wants to be a writer, he simply must accept that there will be many obstacles to overcome and, instead, focus on the craft of writing. That may sound cliche, but nothing is more important than writing the best story, character, plot, etc., that you possibly can.

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams? 

I tell middle school and high school students this all the time, though I'm not sure it sinks in. If you want to be a writer, find one or two other people who do, as well. They can be friends, classmates or whatever. Then start a writing group, whereby, on a weekly basis, each of you gets to have a portion (say, five pages) of your material read and critiqued. This is so important for a number of reasons. First, you can't write in a vacuum. You have to develop a thick enough skin to be critiqued without it setting you back mentally (plus, you'll get wonderful ideas from the others in your writing group). In addition, you will become a better writer by critiquing others and understanding what does, and doesn't, work in a story. Finally, it's nice to be around other writers who are in the same boat as you are.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Those who are interested can contact me at

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Guest Post by Kay Winders

Tips for Creating a Successful Writers' Group 

by Kay Winders

A writer's group is a great tool for helping you grow as a writer. A good group can hold you accountable for producing more work, can inspire you to do more and to try new things, and can give you helpful feedback to improve your work. A bad group can waste your time and make you frustrated with the process. If you aren't able to find a writers' group in your area -- or you just aren't happy with the groups that are available -- you can start your own. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure that you create a successful writers' group that helps to support and nurture your writing:

Recruit the Right People 

The most important criteria for your writing group is that you have the right people in it. These should be people who have compatible views about writing and who have similar goals for the group and attitudes toward work. In other words: You should agree about why you're there and what you're going to do while you're there. It also helps if you have similar writing styles. You can find the right people to join your group either through word-of-mouth referrals or through targeted classified advertising on sites like Craigslist or Meetup. Take your time recruiting your members: If you rush and select the wrong people, it could seriously undermine your group.

Limit Size 

Once you have a plan for selecting your members, determine a cap for the number of members you will accept. Large groups benefit from a diversity of perspectives and experiences, but they can become unwieldy and ineffective. Trying to fit too many members into a group may mean that not all members get a chance to share their feedback or to get feedback on their own work. Figure out a good number that works for you based on your goals for the group. There is no right or wrong answer, as it depends on your own personal preferences. However, as a general rule, most groups succeed if they have fewer than a dozen or so members.

Create a Schedule 

Writers may work best when inspiration strikes, but an effective group can't operate on whims. Create a detailed schedule to keep your group on track and to make sure that everyone gets their fair share of critique. Your schedule should include when each writer should submit work to the group and when critique will be given. Be sure to include some flexibility into the schedule. Even with deadlines, some writers may not turn in material when they are supposed to, or extenuating circumstances such as inclement weather or computer malfunctions may mean that a group can't meet or members aren't ready to provide feedback.

Determine Logistics 

You know who and you know when, now do you know how or where? Determine logistical details for your group such as where you will meet, how members will be responsible for distributing work (in person? through e-mail?), and how feedback will be distributed (are additional notes required to be e-mailed? Does a hard copy need to be handed back in person? etc.) Figuring out these details ahead of time will help the group run more smoothly and efficiently so you can focus all your energy where it matters: on the writing.

Set Ground Rules 

Now you're ready to meet. So how exactly will your meetings be run? Will there be an open conversation between writer and readers? Will the writer be asked to give a short reading or to explain some of the thought process behind a piece? Or will the writer be asked to remain silent during the course of the critique, only to respond to all feedback at the very end? Lay out these ground rules for writers at the beginning so you can all be in agreement about how to present and receive feedback. If you don't, the meeting may become a free-for-all that devolves into a rambling conversation or a heated debate. Like good writing, a good writers' group take thought and planning.

Use these tips to create your next writers' group, and you will set yourself up for success so you create a group that helps to support and challenge you as a writer so you can grow and hone your craft. Have you created or joined a writers' group? Share your tips for successful groups in the comments!

BIO: Kay Winders is presently the resident writer for, where she researches the best way for people to pay off their debts without damaging their credit. In her spare time, she enjoys freelance writing, the beach and gardening.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Interview with best-selling author & screenwriter William Martin

I am so thrilled and honored to have William Martin as a guest on the blog today! He has written ten novels, an award winning PBS documentary, book reviews, magazine articles, and one of what he calls "the cheesiest horror movies of all time." His first novel, Back Bay, spent fourteen weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List and introduced Boston treasure hunter Peter Fallon. Since then he has been telling the American story, from the Pilgrims to 9/11. His tenth novel -- and fifth to feature Peter Fallon -- is The Lincoln Letter which was published by Forge this past August. In 2005 he received the prestigious New England Book Award, given "to an author whose body of work stands as a significant contribution to the culture of the region." There are now over three million copies of his books in print. He has three grown children and lives near Boston with his wife. He says, "I am fortunate to have lasted for more than three decades in a very unpredictable business." I feel very grateful that he took the time to answer some questions for us about his latest book and his writing process. Enjoy! 

Tell us about your latest book The Lincoln Letter

Like all the Peter Fallon novels, it is a history/mystery. Abraham Lincoln loses his diary in the spring of 1862. What was in it? Who got hold of it? And where is it today? Like its predecessors, it's two stories in one. Peter and Evangeline set out to find the diary in the modern day. Their search takes them into the Civil War history of Washington DC. And as they search history, it comes to life. Peter was one of the first of a fictional type that has become quite popular of late: the smart guy searching for the lost historical artifact that can change the world. What separates the Peter Fallon books from the others, however, is that the reader gets to live the history. The Lincoln Letter is both a modern suspense thriller and a historical novel set in gritty, muddy, conspiracy-filled Civil War Washington.

How does writing a novel compare to writing a screenplay?

Much more freedom with a novel. A screenplay should only be about 120 pages, tops. A novel can be however long it takes to tell the story. A screenwriter is an architect, drawing a blueprint for a movie. A novelist is director, writer, actor, cinematographer, set designer, special effects coordinator... Novelists have more freedom to write what they want and usually fewer people offering opinions when they are done.

How did you get started writing? 

I went to LA to study moviemaking. I figured out that the quickest way into the business was to write screenplays. I wrote several that I could not sell (the fate of most screenplays). A producer said, "The way you write, you should write a novel." So I wrote Back Bay and it became a best seller.

What is your writing process like? How do you balance writing and research? 

I write on a computer, like most people these days. I used to write longhand on looseleaf, then type it all myself. That was a killer. The computer can't write for you. I mean, how many of the great novels were written on computers? But it sure can make the whole process easier. As far as balancing writing and research, there really is no balance. You just do what you have to to give the story and its characters the truth that they need.

How do you get ideas for what you write? 

I don't know is the honest answer. But... I read, I ruminate, I talk to my agent and editor. And once I'm writing, I often let history give me my big scenes, like, say, the Battle of Anteitam or the assassination in Ford's Theatre.

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?

If your dream is to write, WRITE. Don't dream about it. Many people will tell you the odds against you, but you have to believe in yourself.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Samuel Johnson said, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote for anything but money." And yes, I write to pay the bills, to put three kids through college, to buy a few nice wines, to do some traveling. But there are easier ways to make money. Like most writers, I also write for fulfillment, for the fun of traveling to different places or times to meet, in my imagination, people whom I would never encounter in real life. I write to learn and perhaps to teach. I write to get myself through the day and to help others get through the night. I write because I hate traffic and would kill myself if I had to commute beyond my attic office. And I write because I love knowing that somewhere, right now, someone is reading one of my books and seeing the world through my eyes.

Connect with William Martin: