My Writing Life – J.E. Taylor

Taylor's PictureWhen did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?

I started writing stories when I was in middle school (7th and 8th) grade. My first short story was entitled Good-bye Doesn’t Mean Forever and I received an A+ on it in my writing class. That story has morphed over the years from a pre-teen story to an adult romance titled Miami Heat.

I wrote poetry and short stories through my college years and started my first novel back in college under the title Mirror Lake. When I got married, my husband balked at the time I was putting into writing – well new marriage and all, I decided to put my writing away for a bit. Then I had a family and a full time career in corporate America and we all know how that goes.

It wasn’t until I was whining about work that my daughter asked if I could do anything, what would it be? The answer was easy. Finish writing the book I put on ice for twenty years and publish it.

Mirror Lake became Dark Reckoning and it was originally published in 2010 by Fido Publishers.

Since then, I haven’t looked back.

What’s your favourite book? What was your favourite book as a child? The Stand  by Steven King is my all-time favorite. As a kid, I read the entire Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan Series and loved it.

Night+HawkWhere do you get your story ideas?

It’s a walk into the darkest corners of my imagination where my nightmares fester until something living and breathing escapes onto the screen of my laptop.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

A good editor is priceless.

And if you decide the traditional publishing route is your thing, know what a query letter should contain. It’s not a dissertation on your life or your assertion that the story is the best thing since sliced bread, it’s a teaser of the book. Think movie trailer or book descriptions on the back or inside sleeve of a hard cover. Just enough so that agent or publisher HAS to know more.

Where do you usually write?

In a comfy oversized chair in my family room. There’s a picture of it on my website.

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

No. I believe in taking the time to work out plot snares when you’ve backed yourself into a corner – but writer’s block – no. You can always write a short ditty while you’re turning over what needs to be done to get unstuck. Or you can step away and read something to clear the mind.

Give us an example of some of the research you’ve done for your books:

The main character in Dark Reckoning is an FBI agent and yet when I started writing the book, I had never handled, never mind shot, a fire arm. I happened to mention this to a few co-workers and lo and behold, one of them owned several different types of guns and offered to take me shooting. You bet I jumped on that and we went out to a range and I got to shoot a .22 caliber – which I hit the target consistently – not always in the center – but I did get one or two there, a .40 caliber – disaster – I’m not sure I hit the hay bale the target hung on with this one and a 9mm – not great but not a total miss like the .40 caliber.

It gave me a clear picture of how much talent is involved in being an expert marksman and a clue of how difficult it would be to hit a moving target.

Other interesting research items revolve around forensics, arterial spurts, bleed out timing, explosives, drugs…

All things a suspense/thriller and horror writer should know. I’m sure my Google searches have me on some kind of watch list.

If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?               

The author of my favorite book – Stephen King. I’d be willing to buy him dinner in any Maine shoreline restaurant just for the chance to pick his brain while enjoying the rugged scenery and of course, a Maine Lobster.

What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

Horror, thriller, suspense, even good erotica – yes, there’s a theme. Anything that gets the blood pumping. :)

Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?

In order to understand how to create powerful prose, I chose to invest in a series of Margie Lawson classes: Deep Editing, Empowering Characters Emotions and Writing Physical Cues like a Psychologist. These helped me understand my weaknesses as well as what the early rejections I got meant by “Getting into a character’s head”.

Writing should be three dimensional – and use all the senses. My early drafts were visual – like watching a movie with no sound or depth. So the investment in my craft took it to the next level and after revising the hell out of the manuscripts and short stories I had, I started getting bites and eventually that first publishing contract.

And I can’t say this enough – GET A COPY EDITOR to run through the manuscript before you hit publish. Not your best friend who has a minor in English or someone who likes to read a lot – get someone who understands the rules of grammar and the nuances of when it’s okay to break the rules and when its not.

No matter how good your story is, if the grammar or punctuation make it impossible to read, you won’t get far.


View some of Taylor’s work here


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My Writing Life: Mark Dawson

markdawsonWhen did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write. My first book was a 25,000 word sci-fi story that I put together on BBC Micros when I stayed late at school. It was dreadful, of course, but it was a great start. Was there a particular book? Not really. It was more a love of reading everything and anything but, when I was older, I’d point to books like The Stand, American Psycho, Money and the Thomas Covenant series.

Where do you get your story ideas?

Newspapers are a pretty fertile source of ideas. My John Milton series deals in contemporary events, and so recent stories from Somalia and Iraq have been fruitful in providing me with ideas for plot and setting. Relevant non-fiction is brilliant when you are in the drafting. My present novel is set in Basra and so I’m reading the excellent Red Zone by Oliver Poole. And then, of course, there’s TV and film. My Soho Noir series has been described as a cross between The Sopranos and The Talented Mr. Ripley, and that’s something I’ll happily take to the bank.


Check out Mark’s best-selling Soho Noir series

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

Write. Write. Write. And then do it again.

Where do you usually write?

On the train. I commute to London at the moment and I have never found a better spot to get stuff done. It’s 3 hours every day, too, and so I can easily plough through 5,000 words a day.

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

No. If you’re out of ideas, go for a walk. We have a dog and some beautiful fields very close (we live in Wiltshire in England) and I found a bit of exercise usually works wonders. I was struggling with a tricky plot point this morning and it was solved by the time I was back for breakfast.

What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

I love thrillers, sci-fi and fantasy, but I can be tempted to read just about anything. Guilty pleasures? A friend recently dabbled in chick lit and I was pleased to find that I quite enjoyed that. Who doesn’t like a happy ending?


Introduce yourself to Mark’s thrilling John Milton series

What made you decide to self-publish?

I was traditionally published at the start of my career and although I received generous advances I was disillusioned by a lack of marketing, no input on covers, that sort of thing. Self-publishing blows all of those up once and for all. Now, I am responsible for getting the books out and making readers aware of them. I have final say on the covers, although I am blessed to work with a professional who has designed UK covers for Stephen King and John Le Carre, among many others. And then, of course, there is the immediate contact with readers that I never had before. True story: I once found a copy of Subpoena Colada in a second hand book shop with a handwritten note of comments about what worked and what didn’t work. I wish I could have met that person, because she was spot on. I do get to meet that person now – I get emails from readers nearly every day and I love it.

Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?

I don’t think you can trick or game your way to success. Readers are not dumb and you will be found out. You have to write well. That’s a given. You have to have a great cover and your blurb needs to rock. The first few pages are going to be read as previews, so make sure that you start with really strong writing (and then don’t let up). I make a point of nurturing my email list and I will always respond to emails from people who get in touch. That’s not a chore – I defy you to find a writer who doesn’t get a thrill every time someone tells them that they’ve enjoyed their new book. I bet JK Rowling still feels that way. I know I do.

Why do I want to publish on Kobo?

Because I want as many people as possible to read my books, in markets where other retailers struggle to make headway. As a British author with a long standing fondness for WH Smith (fostered during a childhood spent exchanging hard won pocket money for magazines for my Spectrum and Commodore 64), I’d get a real thrill to be sold through them. Oh, and Canada rocks.


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My Writing Life: Paul Pilkington

Tell me a bit about your writing

emma-holden-suspense-mystery-trilogyI write suspense mysteries, and have self-published one standalone novel, Someone to Save You, and the Emma Holden trilogy – this includes The One You Love, The One You Fear, and The One You Trust. It follows the story of actress Emma Holden, whose fiancé Dan disappearances just before their wedding, leaving the beaten body of his brother in their London apartment. Emma is forced to confront a painful past in a race against time to discover what happened to Dan. I first self-published in 2011, after investigating how to publish e-books – I had been writing regularly since 1999 and it seemed like an amazing opportunity to connect with readers. After my success with self-publishing, I was approached by a number of agents and publishers. And in Spring 2013 I signed a three book deal for the Emma Holden trilogy with publisher Hodder and Stoughton in the UK. This involves publication of the trilogy in paperback and e-book during the first half of 2014.

How did you choose your publisher in the UK?

My agent in the UK offered the Emma Holden trilogy to UK publishers – two of whom offered. I thought long and hard about which offer to accept, if any! Both were great deals, with brilliant publishers, but I was also comfortable remaining self-published. It was a very difficult (and enviable) decision, but ultimately I decided to accept the offer from Hodder and Stoughton (part of Hachette). They offered the possibility of appearing in mainstream bookstores, and reaching new readers. I met with the Editor and it was clear that the publisher really believed in my work, and would be enthusiastic about working on the trilogy. For me, that was really important. I also felt that it would be a great learning experience to work with a mainstream publisher.

What were your expectations as to the publishing contract? Have you been able to ask for specific clauses?

I was lucky, in that I had a big agency behind me, to negotiate with the publisher. So by the time the contract was agreed, I was happy with it. One aspect that is important in these days of self-publishing, is that there is a clear “reversion of rights” clause in the event that the books go out of print. This means that a publisher can’t hold on to the rights, even if the book is no longer available in paperback. I was pleased with that aspect of the contract, as it means that I could return to self-publishing the books.

Why did you retain your rights in North America?

I really enjoy the control and freedom that you have with self-publishing – working with editors, designing the cover, setting the price, deciding on strategy. So I was keen to keep my rights in North America, even though I had signed the deal with Hodder elsewhere. It’s really interesting to be doing both, comparing how things go. For me it offers a fantastic opportunity to be a “hybrid” author: working with a professional publishing house while also doing my own thing – being my own publisher.

How did you work with Kobo?

Kobo have been very supportive of me since I published my novels through Kobo Writing Life. The first time I realised that the Kobo team were taking an interest in my work was when I received an email from a member of the Kobo team, letting me know that I was on the Kobo Writing Life Bestseller list. Later, The One You Fear, the second novel in my Emma Holden trilogy, was chosen for a global promotion that ran throughout December 2013. Through Kobo I’ve reached a worldwide audience, with particular success in Canada, and I’m looking forward to self-publishing more books with Kobo in the near future.

What are your plans for the future?

It’s too early to say what will happen in terms of my traditional publishing, but what is certain is that I will continue to self-publish. I believe that the number of authors who both self-publish and traditionally publish will grow significantly. This will be authors who come from a self-publishing background, who may sign deals with publishers too, as well as established, traditionally published authors who turn to self-publishing to complement their existing publishing relationships and activities. Companies like Kobo offer such great opportunities for writers to take control of their careers, in a way that just wasn’t possible before. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.

Paul Pilkington PhotoAbout Paul

Paul is from the UK. He was inspired to write his first suspense mystery, The One You Love, through his love of novels such as those by Agatha Christie and Harlan Coben. His aim is to create fast-paced, twisting and turning fiction that both stirs the emotions and is hard to put down. Paul has been writing regularly for over twelve years and has had material broadcast on BBC radio and ITV television, as well as being long listed for the 2004 London Book Fair Lit Idol competition.

My Writing Life – Michael Rank

Michael Rank is the author of nine history books. He covers everything from Bronze Age civilizations to Kim Jong-Il, but his guiding principle is to make history as interesting as possible.


Michael’s newest release is Lost Civilizations: 10 Societies that Vanished Without a Trace

Michael is also the author of History’s Greatest Generals: 10 Commanders Who Conquered Empires, Revolutionized Warfare, and Changed History Forever.He has been writing and publishing since 2012, along with hosting the podcast “History in Five Minutes.” He is also working on a PhD in Ottoman history but has way more fun writing history books than he does reading old documents in an obscure language.

So why do you write history books? I thought the book market only wants YA dystopian fiction or S&M bondage thrillers targeted to soccer moms.

I can’t help it – I am an unmedicated history addict. The subject likely bored most of us out of our minds when we were in high school, memorizing facts about the Battle of Gettysburg to pass our AP test. But when you dig past the boiler plate and look into the lives of actual historical figures, you find them every bit as sensational and odd as our modern-day celebrities and politicians.

Take Richard Burton – the man I believe to be the real-life World’s Most Interesting Man. The Victorian explorer learned 29 languages, went undercover as a Muslim on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and wrote 50 books on topics ranging from a translation of the Kama Sutra to a manual on bayonet exercises. He was a career diplomat but often neglected his duties to go on side adventures, such as doing a 2,000-mile solo kayaking journey down the San Francisco River and hiking the Andes Mountains down to Tierra Del Fuego.

So my advice is to write what you care about. Your interests may not be the most marketable, but your reader will be able to tell if you hate the subject.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

The best advice I’ve received as a writer is as useful as it is absurdly straightforward.


Yes, yes, I know. Mind blowing. That is about as profound as saying that a successful runner must breath in order to build up endurance. But unlike our hypothetical runner – who simply dies if he does not breath – there are many self-proclaimed “writers” who never write. They claim the title as their profession but never put out a word. Why? Paralysis by analysis.

Too many people believe that the key to excellent writing is to meditate at your keyboard and only spoon out tiny servings of words whenever the muse whispers in your ear. Such a process seems appropriate for creating a literary work of art – like a painter at a canvas dabbing away with microscopic brushstrokes – but it is not how the great writers did their craft.

Take Isaac Asimov for example. The doyen of sci-fi wrote over 500 books – the only writer to publish books in every category of the Dewey Decimal System. That’s a book every two weeks for over 25 years. How did he do it? It sure wasn’t by a slow, contemplative process. Asimov wrote in a fast, straightforward style and attacked his typewriter; believing that output was far better than deeply nuanced dithering.

Here’s a quote of his that explains his process far better than I ever could: “I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics—Well, they can do whatever they wish.”

Why did you decide to self-publish?

Making a full-time living as a traditionally published author is almost impossible; partly because you keep so little royalties, and partly because a publisher’s agonizingly slow process of book production reduces an author’s output of everyone but James Patterson to one book a year. Authors need a wide catalogue to make a living and build a readership. That would take a decade with a traditional publisher.

How do you get ideas for your books?

From readers! I’m constantly sending out emails, asking them what historical topic they want me to write or podcast about. If I ask people what they want, and give it to them, then how can I go wrong?

Michael RankVisit Michael’s website at and his History in Five Minutes podcast by clicking here.

Here is a link to all of Michael’s books on Kobo


Writing Advice from Author Graeme Simsion: Do the Hard Yards

It has to be every writer’s dream: Knock out your first novel, sit back, and let the accolades and money pour in.

Graeme SimsionThat’s more or less what it looks like happened to author Graeme Simsion, whose first novel The Rosie Project  that  has taken up almost permanent residence on bestseller lists worldwide, has been optioned for a movie, and spawned a deal for a second novel called The Rosie Effect, due this fall.

He calls The Rosie Project a “romantic comedy”, offering a clue to his background as a screenwriter; he is also a former IT guy, where he found inspiration for his socially challenged lead character Don Tillman.

Simsion visited Kobo recently, and we took the opportunity to ask him how he did it – how he landed publishers in 21 countries, and what his writing process is.  Turns out, it isn’t as easy as it looks to create a beloved bestseller.

Here is what he told us:

You’ve had so much success for a first-time novelist, do you have any tips for new writers?

First off, it takes a lot of work. To write something successfully, you need to put in the hard-yards that you would do with any other task in your life.

Another thing I tell people is, join a writer’s class or a writing group. These aren’t going to guarantee that you’ll become a writer, but if you go in with the right attitude you’ll get all kinds of things out of it: Discipline, writing theory, feedback, support. I found a writer’s group fantastic to work with, especially for The Rosie Project. Another tip I would give is, write for publication. So write short stories. Get some practice. If you do get published, it feels good!  But more importantly, when you’re looking for an agent or a publisher and your opening letter starts off with ‘I have had the following short stories published, this one has won such-and-such prize, etc.’ it  says this person is not mad, they are actually capable of writing and getting published, and that means heaps.

The third thing I would say is, you can always make it better. Put whatever you’re writing aside for a month or so, come back to it, and you’ll be able to lift it up a level. That attitude really helps with getting a fantastic final draft.

The+Rosie+ProjectWhat was the process like of writing The Rosie Project? You went from screenplay, to novel, to screenplay once again.

When I started out, I didn’t think I had it in me to write a novel. But once the screenplay The Rosie Project was finished I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got plot, I’ve got characters. I’ve got dialogue, I’m almost three-quarters of the way there… maybe it’s not such a big jump.’  I found writing it as a novel was much more satisfying because I was able to get into Don’s head. In a screenplay everything has to be externalized. But Don is so cerebral that I needed his voice to be expressed directly to the audience – and that was so much easier to do in a novel.

What did screenwriting teach you about writing novels?

Screenwriting teaches you story. Having also studied prose writing I’ve noticed there’s an emphasis on writing something beautiful and less on writing a good story. It’s almost a bit like the attitude about melody in music; people view a song that has a good melody being less of a fine piece of music. But in the end, melody is not a bad thing! And melody is equivalent to story. There’s no reason why the most beautiful piece of writing can’t hang on the structure of a great story.

You say writers come in two types – the planner, and the “pants-er” who flies by the seat of same. What kind of writer are you?

I am a planner — and so should you be. HA! What I say to people who write by the seat of their pants is, if it’s working for you, don’t let me tell you to write any other way, you just keep going, and win that Pulitzer Prize Donna, and I’m not going to argue with you. But most writers need to uncomplicate a story with a plan.  If you get to 30,000 words and things fall apart and you don’t know where the story is going, that’s classic ‘seat of the pants’ writing problem. With a plan, you never get writer’s block.

My Writing Life: Scott Nicholson

Author ScottNicholsonWhat does it mean to live a writer’s life? An interview with top-selling self-pub thriller-writer Scott Nicholson

For many, the question evokes images of hip cafe typing sessions, romantic Parisian writing trips, or sleepless nights in idyllic northern cabins. Others think only of the rewards—being an author, they believe, is simple as writing a book and then sitting back as it goes blockbuster. Next thing they know, they’re Veronica Roth on the red carpet at the Divergent premier—dress-train carriers in tow.

The reality however is far less glamorous. Writing takes a tremendous amount of discipline and sacrifice. To cut through the cliché and learn more about what it really means to live a writer’s life we spoke with with Scott Nicholson, a top-selling KWL author specializing in supernatural/ psychological thrillers a la Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

Below is our interview with the prolific Appalachian storyteller.

1. Describe your writer’s life? How do you balance writing with everything else? I’ve always been creative, so it’s just part of life for me. My other passions are gardening, music, and water sports, so those all feed into the type of mindset that helps me focus when necessary. I’ve always been a dreamer, so it fits pretty naturally.

2. What the best advice for someone who wants to be a writer? What discipline, what sacrifices are required? I think writing is nothing more than persistence. It helps to have some talent, but passion is more valuable, especially over the long run. I look around at the writers I know who have “made it” and all of them stuck with it at least ten years, even when it looked like a fairly hopeless pursuit.

3. One agent suggests a good writer should find a job they love, because they’re going to be doing it for a long time. Realistically what can an emerging or starting author expect in terms of payment, advances, sales? This all depends on where you are on your personal writing journey. Most of what looks like my success now came from my 800 rejection slips and the endurance to outlast everyone who ever told me “No.” I knew the door would open if I kept banging. Trouble is, sometimes you have to knock with your head.

View some of Scott’s work here:

View some of Scott’s work here:

4. How many books does it take to break through, if you’re a genre writer? The rule of thumb is three, but so much depends on whether you are writing a series, whether you are a savvy marketer, and how polished your first book is. There have been plenty of one-hit wonders and just as many folks who write 20 books and still can’t find any readers. The important thing is to jump in and go for it, and be open to learning along the way.


5. How do you stay productive as a writer? Do you have specific targets you try to hit (re: word count, chapters, ideas) every day/week/month? I have general deadlines I impose upon myself. Oddly, one trick that works is I buy a bunch of advertising for a certain specific time frame, and then that becomes my deadline. If you self-publish, you really have to manage the entire factory, from concept to production to sales. If you keep setting goals that seem just out of reach, you should be able to stay plenty busy.

6. How do you escape from writing when you need a break? The Internet is always just a click away. But that can also be a sinkhole. I live a rural lifestyle in the remote Appalachian Mountains, so all I have to do is step out the door to make the publishing world disappear.

7. Ultimately, why do you write? Because I’m too dumb to quit. I think it takes a specific set of mental illnesses to be a writer for the long haul. You have to be egomaniacal enough to think your thoughts matter and that people are willing to pay for them, and also humble enough to realize you have plenty of room for improvement at all times.


Check out the latest in Scott’s After series

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My Writing Life: Melody Anne

melody_anne_author_photoMelody Anne is an Author of both Romance and Young Adult Books. Her Newest Release is The Lost Tycoon and is now New York Times and USA Today Best Seller.

Melody Anne is also the author of the popular series, Billionaire Bachelors, and Baby for the Billionaire.  She’s been writing for years and published in 2011. She hold a bachelor’s degree in business, so she loves to write about strong, powerful, businessmen.

When Melody isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and pets. She lives in a small town that she loves, and is involved in many community projects.

We asked Melody Anne a few questions about reading, writing, and publishing.

When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?   

When I was in 6th grade. We did a poetry book and one of my poems was published. I was hooked! Sneaking my mother’s romance books from her shelf and hiding beneath my covers while I read them is what led me to want to write my own book someday.

What’s your favourite book? What was your favourite book as a child?      

Too many now to pick a favorite. I love Romance, YA, Fantasy, Horror. “I’ll love you forever” is my absolute favorite children’s book.

Where do you get your story ideas?

Everywhere! That’s why I love romance. For example, I was at a friend’s house the other night and when I left I told her “thanks for the story ideas.” Seriously, romance is everywhere you look. Whether it’s just listening to people talk, or watching the way they act around each other. It’s great!!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

Don’t give up!! There are so many times that I’d love to crawl under the covers and hide from the world. But, as much as we are in a fishbowl and everything we do is analyzed, the best advice has been not to give up. When I feel overwhelmed, I just have to remember that I’ve finished 21 books so far. I never thought I’d finish the first one, let alone 21. :)

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

Yes!! Yes!! Yes!! I have times where I can’t write at all. I don’t push myself when that happens. I take a break. I love puzzles, so I will get out my iPad, watch a fun show on it and do a puzzle. It usually clears up within a day or two, but sometimes will last for a week. That’s my brain telling me I need a break.

What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

Romance! Of course. I don’t have guilty pleasures cause I think it’s our right to read what we want when we want to. That’s the great thing with bookstores, libraries, and now ereaders!!

What made you decide to self-publish?

I am an impatient person. To publish with a traditional company, it takes about 2 years from start to your book being in the store. With self-published, I can write it, edit it, and then load it immediately.

What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

I see the world in my fingertips. :) I have a beautiful family, a career that I love, and live in the most perfect town. I hope and pray to still be writing, and to still be successful. I plan to have been to a lot more places around the world in the next 5 years.

Thanks so much for having me for this interview. I love to answer these questions because it always takes me a minute to really think about what I’m doing.

Melody Anne looks forward to hearing from you and hopes you enjoy her stories.

Order Melody's newest release: The Lost Tycoon

Order Melody’s newest release: The Last Tycoon



Visit Melody’s Website at:  She makes it a point to respond to all her fans.

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My Writing Life: Liliana Hart

20130211_at_150300Liliana Hart is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author in both the mystery and romance genres. After starting her first novel her freshman year of college, she immediately became addicted to writing and knew she’d found what she was meant to do with her life. She has no idea why she majored in music.

Liliana is an avid reader and a believer in all things romance. Her books are filled with witty dialogue, steamy sex, and the all-important happily-ever-after’s her romantic soul craves. Since self-publishing in June of 2011, she’s sold more than 2 million eBooks all over the world.

We asked Liliana a few questions about reading, writing, and publishing.

When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, jotting down quick stories in spiral notebooks that my mother still has in a box in the attic. But I didn’t discover romance novels until I was sixteen years old. I’d been reading Mary Higgins Clark and Dean Koontz, so my fascination with suspense started early. But when I was 16, my dad brought home a box of garage sale novels and inside was TRUST ME by Jayne Anne Krentz. My dad specifically told me I shouldn’t read that book because it was inappropriate. So being a 16 year old girl, I immediately snuck it out of the box and read it under my covers. From that point on I made twice weekly trips to the bookstore to find more “inappropriate” books. By the time I started my freshman year in college I’d decided I was running out of books to read and that I’d just have to start writing my own. I haven’t looked back.

What’s your favourite book? What was your favourite book as a child?

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Where do you get your story ideas?

Everywhere! I do a lot of people watching and eavesdropping. Story ideas are everywhere. I also read a lot. I love to read epic fantasy and big plot books, and then I’ll brainstorm on spinning them into stories romance readers would love.


View one of Liliana’s Latest Books

 What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

To ignore the rules. Just tell the story. The story is the only thing that matters. If you tell a good one, then readers will find you.

Where do you usually write?

Huddled on the couch wrapped in a blanket with my headphones on.

What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

I’m a huge reader and genre really doesn’t matter to me. I’ll read anything and everything except for hard sci-fi. Probably my most read genres are historical romances, thrillers, and epic fantasies. As far as guilty pleasures, I’m not going to lie, I love 1980s bodice rippers. Those books are amazing.


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What made you decide to self-publish?

Ultimately it was because I had stories to tell and I wanted people to read them. I’d gone through the traditional hoops for several years, but things weren’t happening the way I wanted them to. I knew I could write and that there was a market for the stories I wanted to tell. So I started self-publishing and have loved every minute of it. Now I love the control and the freedom it gives me to tell the stories I want to tell without limits or rules.

Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?

Ha! There are so many! I’d say the biggest thing is to keep producing books. Every book will sell more books. It’s the best promotional tool there is. I think once you have the product, then things like social media and connecting with readers becomes really important. The #1 most important thing to my career is my readers. I’d be nowhere without them and I know that. So I answer every email I get and I respond to tweets and Facebook posts.

The only rule of craft I live by is to tell a great story. You can fix the prose and sentence structure if the core of the story is there to begin with.

Check out Liliana Hart:

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My Writing Life: Bella Andre

Bella Andre at koboBella Andre is the New York Times, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of “The Sullivans” series. Her books have been Cosmopolitan Magazine ”Red Hot Reads” twice, have been translated into nine languages, and her Sullivans are already Top 20 bestsellers in Brazil. Winner of the Award of Excellence, The Washington Post has called her “One of the top digital writers in America” and she has been featured by NPR, USA Today, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and most recently in TIME Magazine. She has given keynote speeches at publishing conferences from Copenhagen to Berlin to San Francisco, including a standing-room-only keynote at Book Expo America.

We asked her a few questions about reading, writing, and publishing.

When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?        

I’ve always been a huge romance reader — I devour a book a day whenever I possibly can! But before I began writing books, I was a songwriter and touring musician. Ten years ago, I was surprised when two fictional characters started to have a conversation in my head. I wrote it down and when the conversation continued the next day I just kept writing until I had finished my first book. I love it and soon decided to stop touring and write books full time!

What’s your favourite book? What was your favourite book as a child?          

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Where do you get your story ideas?           

Everywhere! Talking with people. Observing. Dreams. And, most of the time, the story magic comes to me while I’m writing. That’s when I truly discover the story I want to tell.

Where do you usually write?          

On the couch in my office or outside on my deck in the sun.

What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

I love romance and I always have! I also read quite a bit of non-fiction. I love books on gardening and cooking and traveling and writing and, well, pretty much everything!

What made you decide to self-publish?      

I had been traditionally published for 7 years when, in 2010, a friend of mine suggested that I give self-publishing a whirl. She knows I’m entrepreneurial by nature and guessed that I would really enjoy all the aspects of running my own publishing business. She was right — and it’s been an absolutely amazing journey so far!

Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?   

Write. Write. Write.

That’s the #1 thing I focus on as a self-publishing writer.

We’ve heard you listen to one or two songs over and over while you’re writing each book. Is that true?

Yes! Maybe it’s because I come from a songwriting background, but I find music to be a really important cue for me for each book. Once I put my headphones in and start playing the song on repeat, I can (usually) quickly enter my writing zone.


bella_andreCheck out Bella Andre:

My Writing Life: Barry Lyga

barry lygaBarry Lyga is a bestselling novelist, short story writer, and recovering comic book geek. He can now add “hybrid author” to that list—he recently ventured into self-publishing with his first adult novel, Unsoul’d, which he describes as, “a Kevin Smith or Judd Apatow movie in novel form.” Kobo Writing Life is sponsoring an exciting event for Unsoul’d at WORD bookstore in Brooklyn on Wednesday, December 4th at 7:00pm. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll join us!

Tell us a little bit about Unsoul’d.

Unsoul’d is the story of Randall Banner, a middling mid-list author who lives in Brooklyn. His whole career — his whole life, really — he’s wanted more of everything: More readers, more fame, more money. Everything. Then one day he meets the devil in a coffee shop and sells his soul in exchange for a hit book. Hilarity, horror, and sex all follow, not necessarily in that order. I call it “a dirty little fable” and that’s exactly what it is.

When did you first discover a love of writing? Is there a particular book that made you want to become a writer?

I wish I knew. I wish I could tell you. I really do! I’ve always wanted to write, ever since I was a little kid. But I have no idea where that came from. I’m not even sure when I first understood that “being a writer” was something to aspire to. I’ve just always wanted to tell stories. It’s one of the painful ironies of my life that I get to do what I love, but I have no idea how I got started on this path.

What’s your favourite book? What was your favourite book as a child?

It’s tough to talk about a “favorite book” because the books I love all push different buttons in my brain. I am, though, obsessed with the book Replay by Ken Grimwood. I read it as a kid and I re-read it on a regular basis. Really amazing stuff and so skillfully done. As a child, I was obsessed with The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts. Fortunately, I was too young and too self-absorbed to know that boys weren’t “supposed to” read books about girls. I loved that book. Still do — I think I have three copies of it!

Where do you get your story ideas?

It’s almost impossible to answer that question. Different ideas come from different places, and some of them just bubble up from the subconscious and announce themselves, leaving me slightly stunned and babbling, “But…but…”

The best explanation I’ve been able to come up with is this: Imagine you have a magic blender. And you carry it with you all day as you go about your life. And stuff falls into it: Sounds, names, words, smells, people, actions, everything. And every now and then, you stumble and hit the puree button and whatever’s in the blender at that moment gets pulped into one big, chunky mass. That’s an idea.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

“Just do it ‘til it’s done.” A screenwriter friend told me that when I was struggling early in my career. Basically, it’s just… Don’t be too precious about what you’re doing. Don’t think about it too much. Just plow through until you’re done and then go back see what you have. Turn off your internal critic until you actually have something to criticize.

I used to have “Just do it ‘til it’s done” posted over my computer, but now it’s so ingrained in me that I don’t have the sign any more.

Where do you usually write?

Usually at my desk, at home. I have a nice big iMac screen and a keyboard I’ve used for close to fifteen years, so it’s comfortable. Occasionally, I’ll take my iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard and head to a friend’s house or a coffee shop, but most days it’s just me, the desk, the iMac, and that keyboard.

The keyboard has magic properties. When it breaks, my career is so over.

Do you believe in Writer’s Block?

I like to say I’m a writer’s block atheist. I think most of the time when people speak of writer’s block, it’s just a way of saying they’re uninspired or tired, without having to admit it. “Writer’s block” sounds so much more romantic than, “I’m bored with what I’m writing,” doesn’t it? Writer’s block is usually a result of just that — being somewhere boring in your own story. The solution is easy: Find the last place where you weren’t bored and pick up from there — strike off in a new direction. If your story is boring you, it’s sure as hell not going to thrill a reader! So back up and try again.

If there was one writer (alive or deceased) that you would love to meet, who would it be?

Bruce Springsteen! I know, he’s not what most people think of when they think “writer,” but he’s probably my biggest influence.

What’s your favourite literary genre? Any guilty pleasures?

I’ve never really been much for breaking books out into genres. I guess it comes from all of the comic books I read as a kid, where genres were crossed, broken, re-mixed, and generally abused. I tend to like stories that don’t self-consciously restrict themselves.

Guilty pleasures? I love John Grisham novels. Seriously can’t get enough of them.

What made you decide to self-publish?

It was a combination of factors. Mostly, it was curiosity. I’ve been in publishing for about eight years now, and I’ve always been fascinated by the behind-the-scenes stuff. I’m constantly annoying people by asking questions about their jobs and how they do things. I think they think I’m questioning their ability or commitment, but honestly — I’m just curious! So I wondered: What would it be like to do this on my own?

And I’ve always enjoyed alternate business methods, alternate means of publishing. I love noodling around with short fiction, flash fiction, hypertext, all kinds of stuff. So this was a chance to play around with a new way of getting a story out there.

Finally, there was the fact that Unsoul’d is very much a weird beast of a book. It crosses multiple genres, it has lots of sex in it, and it’s a combination of horror, humor, and satire. Most publishers have no idea what to do with something like that. What’s the reader demographic for a Kevin Smith or Judd Apatow movie in novel form? I dunno. Neither do they. So it made sense to do this on my own.

 You recently ventured into “hybrid author” territory for the first time. How has the experience been so far? In what key ways has self-publishing differed from traditional publishing?

The biggest difference is the complete lack of a support system. If I screw something up, there’s no one there to backstop me. On the flipside, once I make a decision, it’s made — no one can second-guess me or override me.

So far, the experience has been fun. I know that’s a weak adjective, but it’s just been a lot of fun. I wrote this book and then I put it out there. No meetings. No months’-long wait. No endless dickering over covers. It was cool.

Are there any self-publishing tricks of the trade you’d like to share? What rules of craft or promotion do you live by?

I’m so new at this, I would never presume to know any tricks of the self-publishing trade, much less offer them as wisdom! In terms of rules of craft: Find your story and tell it as honestly as you can, with little or no compromise. For promotion: I am the world’s absolute worst promoter. I’ll turn this question around — if anyone has any thoughts, share ‘em in the comments!

Check out Barry Lyga:


Unsoul'dWORD Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, December 4, 7:00pm

Featuring free snacks, drinks, giveaways, and more!


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