Liz Butcher

Liz Butcher

Liz Butcher

Liz Butcher resides in Australia, with her husband, daughter, and their two cats. She’s a self-confessed nerd with a BA in psychology and an insatiable fascination for learning. Liz has published a number of short stories in anthologies and has released her own collection, After Dark, in 2018. Her novel, Fates’ Fury is set for release, September, 2019.

Marina Raydun: I have to ask—is Liz Butcher your real name or your penname? Seems like a perfect last name for the genre!

Liz Butcher: It’s my real name – my married name! My husband jokes that I only married him for the surname, haha!

MR: I love that you write short stories. What do you find more challenging—writing full length novels or short stories?

LB: I think both can have their challenges. For me, the challenge in moving from short stories to novels was ensuring I developed every aspect.

MR: What is your process like? Are your outlines tedious or are you more of an intuitive author who feels her way through the plot?

LB: I’m an extremely tedious and manual plotter. I start with writing down the general storyline, then I write scenes I envision on cards or post-it’s and move them around, adding to them until I have my story. Next I write them out on pieces of paper divided into squares. It sounds crazy, but it works for me. It’s how I get the plot completely embedded in my mind.

MR: What is your research process like?

LB: Not as concise as I would like. I have a terrible habit of going off on a random search tangent every time I come across some interesting tidbit. I end up finding myself researching things completely unrelated to my work. So, I need to work on that!

MR: How did publishing your first book change your writing process?

LB: I don’t think it’s changed, at least not so far. I think it’s just given me confidence that my processes work for me.

MR: What’s the best and worst book review you’ve ever received?

LB: The best review I’ve received is by Grady Harp, from the San Francisco Review of Books. He said “…This is one impressive debut from an obviously gifted artist who knows how to blend human drama with metaphysical fantasy and mythology to create a splendidly unique novel with visceral force…” That blew me away! I’ve been fortunate so far, in that I haven’t received a bad review—but I’m sure it will happen eventually!

MR: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

LB: Kathrin Hutson is both friend and mentor. I started working with her a few years ago as my editor, and we just hit it off. She’s a crazy talented writer of dark fantasy and lgbt fiction. As an editor, she’s helped my writing improve in leaps and bounds and she’s absolutely helped me become a better a writer. The writing community is fantastic, especially across Twitter. I’ve become friends with so many talented writers and everyone’s very supportive of each other. Luke West, Jaidis Shaw, Ace Antonio Hall, Gina A. Watson, Lisette Brody & Stacey Jaine McIntosh have all been wonderfully encouraging since the start.

MR: What book do you wish you had written?

LB: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I’ve loved that book since I was a little girl.

MR: If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaption of your book, who would play your characters?

LB: This is always such a fun question! Fates’ Fury has too many characters to list them all, but for some of the main characters, this is who I’d cast:

Jonah Sands – Max Irons

Ava Carter – Natalie Portman

Tristan Carter – James Franco

Zeus – Eric Bana

Isis – Zoe Saldana

Enki – Naveen Andrews

Hades – Jared Leto

Charon – Paul Bettany

Alex – Tom Hanks

Mallory – Gillian Anderson

I can dream, right?

MR: Is there a book that people might be surprised to learn you love?

LB: All the Harry Potter books. I’m a huge Potterhead!

Learn more about Liz Butcher here:








Author Interview Series-McKensie Stewart (Author of Shattered: An Emily Graham Novel)

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McKensie Stewart is a native of Columbia, South Carolina where she attended Columbia College. Currently, she is an educator, fictional novelist and entrepreneur living in Charlotte, North Carolina. McKensie enjoys long walks on the beach with her Yorkshire Terrier, Jewel, when she isn’t terrifying and romancing her readers. Presently, she is working on her next novel.

Marina Raydun: How old were you when you wrote your very first work of fiction?

McKensie Stewart: Actually, I wrote my first book 2 years ago so well into my 40’s which proves you are never too old to try something new.

MR: If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?

MS: I didn’t know I had a gift to write so I would say if you want to write, try it and see where your imagination takes you.

MR: What does literary success look like to you?

MS: Selling books.  I measure success on selling books and to tell my story in the number of books I write.

MR: What do you owe real life people upon whom you base your characters?

MS: All the characters in my books are totally made up so they aren’t based on anyone.  I am blessed to have an imagination to create the characters to be believable and people are drawn to them.

MR: What’s the most difficult part about writing characters from the opposite sex?

MS: I don’t see writing a character of an opposite sex as a challenge I write about what the person is doing, and the sex doesn’t matter.

MR: What did you edit out of your book?

MS: I only edit the words/sentences that turn the reader away from understanding or following the story.  I don’t want to do more telling that will bore the reader.

MR: What’s the best and worst book review you’ve ever received?

MS: I continue to try to receive reviews, so I have a balance of feedback.  So, the answer is I haven’t received a negative book review.

MR: If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaption of your book, who would play your characters? 

MS: Because of how evil Meryl Streep character played in Big Little Lies, Mary Louise Wright, hands down she would play Kyndall.  I love Meryl Streep in this role.

MR: What is your favorite genre to read?

MS: It is easier to tell you what I don’t like to read—it is Sci-Fi.

MR: Are there any books you’ve read over and over again? 

MS: I can ready anything James Patterson.

To learn more about McKensie Stewart, please visit:

For McKensie Stewart’s books, visit:


From McKensie Stewart:
Please join me Friday’s at 5:00 pm EST on the FBRN.US, The Writer’s Edge Radio with McKensie Stewart

I host The After Show with McKensie Stewart and Amy Shannon on Blog Talk Radio

Author Interview Series-Bruce Olav Solheim


Bruce Olav Solheim was born in Seattle, Washington, to Norwegian immigrant parents. Bruce was the first person in his family to go to college. He served for six years in the US Army as a jail guard and later as a warrant officer helicopter pilot, and is a disabled veteran. Bruce earned his Ph.D. in history from Bowling Green State University in 1993. Bruce is a distinguished professor of history at Citrus College in Glendora, California. He was a Fulbright Professor in 2003 at the University of Tromsø in northern Norway. Bruce has published eight books and has written ten plays, two of which have been produced. He is married to Ginger and has four children and a grandson. Bruce has just published his second paranormal book, Timeless Deja Vu: A Paranormal Personal History. Bruce’s mother was psychic and introduced him to the magical realm. His first paranormal experience took place in northern Norway in 1962 when he was four years old. Bruce took a parapsychology class while he was stationed in West Germany in 1979 and has wanted to write about his experiences ever since. He has continued to have paranormal experiences throughout his life and has developed advanced mediumship capabilities. It was only three years ago that Bruce had a spiritual awakening after a vision and communication with his departed close friend Gene that Bruce decided to publish his paranormal stories and overcome his fear of being rejected and ridiculed by his peers and the college administration. Bruce studies quantum theory and has developed a model that may help explain our quantum reality, ghosts, reincarnation, alien contact, and more. He is interested in all esoterica and oddities. Bruce teaches a Paranormal Personal History course at Citrus College and has his own radio program. He is also an associate member of the Parapsychological Association.

Marina Raydun: Your bibliography (and biography!) is most impressive. And you teach a course called Paranormal Personal History. Talk to us a little bit about writing about paranormal activity?

Bruce Olav Solheim: I always feel compelled to write something. This drive is usually based on some issue or problem in the world. I think that we are all paranormal beings. The paranormal is actually normal and the supernatural is actually natural. I want to help people realize their own power and not fear death. Fearing death causes us not to truly live. I have been fascinated by the paranormal since age four which was when I had my first experience.

MR: Are teaching and writing related for you? Does one inspire the other?

BOS: Yes. They are both forums for learning. Teachers learn as much as students. As artist Paul Klee once said, it is the teacher that should pay the tuition not the student. I love teaching and I love writing. I share my writing with my students and welcome their feedback.

MR: You also write plays. What compels you to write in this medium?

BOS: My first play was called the Bronze Star. It was based on a true story of my friend Carl who committed suicide in 2002. Every day, 22 American veterans commit suicide. That was the problem that need to be addressed and I did so through my friend Carl’s story. There was no other way to tell his story. I had a vision one day of Carl in Vietnam and that ended up being the opening of the play.

MR: Is there one topic you would never write about as an author?

BOS: I would never say never because you never know.

MR: How did growing up in an immigrant household affect your writing and your work ethic?

BOS: It is who I am. I am of divided heart. I love Norway and I love the United States. I appreciate the struggles that immigrants face because I know what my parents faced. They were hard workers. They came to America from Norway after WWII where they lived under Nazi occupation. They inspire and motivate me everyday even though they have both passed on from this world.

MR: You are a veteran and do a lot for fellow veterans. In fact, you co-founded Boots to Books program at Citrus College in California—a program for recently returned veterans. How central is writing and reading to this program?

BOS: Every day we should get up and do something to help alleviate suffering in the world. Veterans are suffering. Helping them transition was the right thing to do. I got veterans to be involved with my plays and they helped the other actors understand the issues of war and peace and what that really means. I encourage veterans to express themselves in any way that they can: writing, art, spoken word, community service. We all need a mission, and veterans especially so.

MR: What’s the best and worst book review you’ve ever received?

BOS: I have been lucky, no bad reviews. I have had people tell me that they can’t read my paranormal books because they are too scary. Some nice reviews have encouraged me to keep sharing my personal stories because they can relate to the issues that I have faced. To know that I have helped in some small way is a tremendous reward.

MR: If you could have drinks with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

BOS: Although I don’t drink, Mark Twain. He is fascinating to me.

MR: What do you think about when you’re alone driving in your car?

BOS: Everything, that is why I must be careful. I often miss my exit on the freeway or drive

somewhere by autopilot. My mind is rarely quiet or without imagery.

MR: What are you currently reading?

BOS: I usually read five or six books at a time:

Chosen by Yvonne Smith, The PK Man by Jeffrey Mishlove, Identified Flying

Objects by Michael Masters, The Will of a Wildflower by Pegi Robinson, Short

Stories by Red Elk.

Author Interview Series-Marijo Russell O’Grady

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Marijo Russell O’Grady hails from Western New York, Chautauqua County. She received her Bachelor of Science (1983) and Master of Science (1985) from Buffalo State College in Art Education with a Concentration in Art Therapy. She worked in residential life during her undergraduate and graduate tenure at Buffalo State College. Marijo worked at North Adams State College, now known as Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, as a Residence Director, then moved to Rivier College in Nashua, the Director of Student Activities/Assistant Director of Residents. She moved to NYC in 1989 and began a Ph.D. program in Higher Education Administration at New York University, while working full time in Housing and Residential Life, as the Coordinator of Residential Student Development. Her dissertation was centered around racial identity theory and first year African American students at a predominantly White institutions and completed her doctorate in 1999.

Marijo has served as the Associate Vice President/Dean for Students at the New York City campus of Pace University, in New York City since June 1998. She oversees the areas of Student Development and Campus Activities, Housing and Residential Life, Counseling Services including accessibility and wellness, Multicultural Affairs, LGBTQA & Social Justice, Sexual Assault Education and Prevention, Judicial and Compliance, Summer Conferences, and OASIS, a college support program for students on the autism spectrum. In addition, she serves on their Scientific Review board for external researchers related to health and wellness the World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR) for the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She also serves on the NASPA Region II Advisory Board and is the NYC Metropolitan representative and former chair of the Graduate and New Professionals committee and Careers in Student Affairs. She assists with the Downtown Little League’s Challenger team, assisting children with special needs, playing ball. In the past, she served on the Board of Directors and Secretary for the Downtown Little League and had served on the School Leadership Teams for PS 234 and PS 126 in lower Manhattan. Additionally, she is a member of the Liberty Community Gardens. Lastly, she is the principal owner of

In 2012, she was recipient of the “Top 100 Irish Educators” award by the Irish Voice. She was awarded the Jefferson Award for Public Service in 2016 (the Noble prize for community service). She is married to an Art Professor and has a 19 year old son. They reside in lower Manhattan.

Marina Raydun: Having started in 1998, you were already the Associate Vice President and Dean for Students at Pace University (located in downtown Manhattan) during 9/11. It was a terrifying time for everyone. How did that experience move you to co-author Crisis, Compassion, and Resiliency in Student Affairs: Using Triage Practices to Foster Well-Being?

Marijo Russel O’Grady: I began my role in 1998 as the Dean for Students at Pace University’s NYC campus (and later was promoted). 9/11 was a terrifying experience in general, coupling that as a resident of downtown with a 2 year old, and as a leader at the closest university to WTC. This experience has had a long lasting impact on me and my family and my university. The idea for the book was something I had long considered, given, I often felt my life was triage. Katie Treadwell, my co-author was in her doctoral program and asked to interview me about my 9/11 experience. She was writing her dissertation about leaders in higher education and their crisis response and experiences. I told her the first day I met her that we should write this book. It was something we both felt we needed to do and were committed to assisting leaders on this topic.

MR: What did the process of co-writing this book look like? Did you collaborate, read each other’s chapters?

MRO: Katie and I mapped out the chapters and what we thought was the best direction and content for the book. We knew the chapters we each wanted to write and the message we wanted to convey. We then reached out to colleagues in the field to write other chapters. We collaborated on our chapters and edited one another’s writing. We did the same with the other chapters, continuing to edit to the final manuscript. We had originally thought we would look for publishers, and then felt we should first propose the book to our professional organization, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and we were accepted. NASPA staff also did the final editing, collaborating with Kate and I.

MR: How did publishing this book change your writing process?

MRO: In terms of my writing process, I really started with writing from my heart to tell my story and to provide best practices on crisis management (I have handled many crises throughout my career, but 9/11 was the most daunting). I then continued to refine my writing and gained valuable experience in terms of editing other’s work. I am not always the best writer, since I am used to writing memos (LOL), but am very proud of this book.

MR: You work with teenagers and young adults. Do you ever get book recommendations from them? What is your favorite genre to read?

MRO: I love working with young adults and sometimes do get book recommendations from my students. Most often, I am advising them on some great reads. I love to read, period. Summer is my reading time, but I read throughout the year. I have no favorite genre---love cooking, love psychology, love fiction, culture, race and ethnicity, mysteries, leadership and change management, etc.

MR: Is there a book that changed your life?

MRO: I loved Care of the Soul by Thomas More; Song Yet Sung by James McBride; The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haid; The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton, Boys Adrift by Dr. Leonard Sax, Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, to name a few.

MR: Is there a book that people might be surprised to learn you love?

MRO: Anything written by James McBride, and actually, searching and reading aboutmy genealogy. On my dad’s side, we were Russell, Stetson, Buss and Babcock—prominent historical family names.

MR: Are there any books you have read over and over again?

MRO: My own!! HAHA. Song Yet Sung over and over and over! Reframing Organizations by Bolman and Deal!!! Also Lost Horizon and Moveable Feast

MR: Is there an illicit book you had to sneak growing up?

MRO: Growing up in a very small rural western NY town with three sisters, a very protestant father and very Catholic mother, we did not read anything racy. Also, being from a small town, where your great aunt was the librarian and all the neighbors in the town knew every move you make….there was not any opportunity! LOL

MR: You have probably seen it all over the course of your career in the field of student development and student affairs. Have you ever considered writing a novel inspired by some of the many characters you may have come across (yours truly, perhaps…)?

MRO: I have often thought about it, but want to protect the privacy of my students. However, I have some great, unbelievable stories to tell! In addition, I do remember you, Marina, as a student here at Pace!

MR: If you could have drinks with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

MRO: Probably, JFK, since he was such an inspiring and courageous leader, joining at the table I would love Barack Obama to join us (they in my mind, help to unite our country). I also would love to sit again with my grandmother (Elgie Babcock Russell) and hear more about her childhood……. She always believed she was a DAR (Daughter of the American Revolution) and was frustrated she could not prove it… I did. She was an amazing, generous, warm and caring person with a great deal of spunk!

Learn more about Dr. Marijo Russel O’Grady’s book here:

Buy the book here:

Author Interview Series-Marc Watson


Marc Watson is a Calgary author of fiction. He is the author of the Catching Hell epic science fantasy duology, as well as the urban fantasy comedy Death Dresses Poorly. He is a loving father of two active boys, as well as husband to a very supportive wife. When not writing he can be found working at his full time job, participating in all sports imaginable (except soccer…), hiking and camping, or playing any one of his twenty two video game systems.

Marina Raydun: Death Dresses Poorly is such an intriguing title. I have the hardest time compositing titles for my own books. How easy are titles for you?

Marc Watson:  Thank you! I was particularly proud of that one, and it always seems to get the most positive feedback. As for ease, I’m very lucky in that naming things, be it characters, places, magic systems, or even the books themselves, is very easy. I may find a common theme, but for the most part I just pull them out of thin air.

MR: What is it about the genre of Fantasy that makes you want to write?

MW: It’s likely the lack of rules. In fantasy you can let your imagination run wild, and the parameters are only limited to your skills as a writer. I can destroy the planet, or rebuild millions of new ones. I really am a creator and destroyer of worlds, depending on the day.

 MR: As a reader, do you gravitate to this genre as well?

 MW: For the most part, yes. It is certainly what I read the most of. However, my favorite book of all time is The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx, which is a modern story about broken lives in rural Newfoundland, so I’m certainly not married to the fantasy or science fiction worlds in the slightest.

MR: What is your favorite underappreciated Fantasy novel?

MW: Great question! I really think Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King doesn’t get the praise it deserves. It was buried in his prolific 80s phase, and pales in scope and scale to his grandiose Dark Tower series. He wrote it just to have something in his works that his kids could read when they were young, and it comes across so smooth. It’s simple and well detailed, but not overly so like so much of his other work. A little magic. A little adventure. Very well structured.

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MR: How strict is your writing process? Do you have a daily fenced-off writing time? How detailed are your outlines?

MW: Not at all. In fact it’s the complete opposite. To go one step further, I doubt you’ll ever meet anyone as opposed to those kinds of things as I am. I’m a major believer in letting stories form as and when they happen. I’ve never had success making a strict writing time for myself, and I find in conversations with other authors that they only do it because another author guided them that way.

Now I’m not saying it doesn’t work for some people, but I know for a fact it doesn’t work for me, and I can’t possibly be alone in that. I just think people need to find their own writing rhythm, and that may not involve set writing times, word goals, or the worst of all, things like NaNoWriMo (*shudder*) 

This applies to outlines as well. I have a start. I know the ending. Then I let my fingers guide the way and we see where we go. Maybe it’s a novella. Maybe it’s an epic monstrosity. Man, I love finding out.

MR: What is the most difficult part about your artistic process? 

MW: Probably finding the time. I know I just went off on a rant about forced writing times and why they’re evil, but it’s by design. I write when I’m ready to write, but I’m a busy guy with two young kids and a loving wife, as well as a full time job that I love and look forward to continuing, so some days (weeks…or months…) I don’t get the time to write. But it’s because I’m living life, not because I’m lazy or unmotivated.

MR: How did publishing your first book change your writing process?

MW: Not in the slightest. It was a fantastic feather in my cap that I’m monumentally proud of, but nothing has changed for me. Getting published and out there was always the goal, so when it happened, everything was simply working out the way I designed it to. I’m just happy I was successful at it.

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MR: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

MW:  I run in various author circles, but no one has really guided my journey as much as they have come along with me. I met Edmonton Author Konn Lavery early in my writing adventures and I’ve really got respect for his hard work and creativity. I just spent a weekend with YA author Suzy Vadori at a Comic and Entertainment Expo and damn that girl can hustle. She has the pitch and presentation down to a fine science, while also being a talented writer. I’m also a member of the Imaginative Fiction Writers Association (IFWA) here in town which is a collection of similar authors that critique and present new ideas. They are all very creative and great people to talk shop with. All this said, my journey is my own, so anything I get from them is more osmosis than anything else.

MR: What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? 

MW: The lyrics to whatever song it is I’m belting out at the time. That 20 minutes a day is my only “Me” time between 6am and 10pm, so the music plays loud.

MR: Who is your literary hero? 

MW: My hero has always been Southern Ontario YA author Gordon Korman. I started reading his stuff at a young age, and then learned that he started writing and was published at age 12. It blew my mind, and although I don’t read his stuff anymore, my kids sure do. I love watching his career evolve because this is a guy who was just like me, but broke out early and never looked back.

To learn more about Marc Watson, please visit:

Author Interview-Suzy Vadori

Suzy Vadori

Suzy Vadori

Suzy is the Calgary Bestselling Author of The Fountain, and The West Woods, Books 1 and 2 of The Fountain Series, published by Evil Alter Ego Press. This fantastical Young Adult Series has received two Aurora Nominations for Best Young Adult Novel, as well as Five Stars from both Readers’ Favorite and San Francisco Review of Books.

Suzy lives in Calgary, Canada with her husband and three children and is an involved member in the writing community. Currently, she is the Program Manager, Young Adult/Children’s Programming for When Words Collide (WWC), a literary festival held in Calgary each August. Suzy is also the founder of WriteIt! creative writing programs in schools, building young writers. 

Marina Raydun: What is it about YA as a genre that appeals to you as a writer?

Suzy Vadori: The books we read as tweens and teens often shape our impressions of literature for the rest of our lives. I’m thrilled for my books to be a part of this journey for so many young readers.

MR: What does literary success look like to you?

SV: I’m fortunate to be doing all things writing full time now, including teaching and public speaking as well as writing, which to me is the success I’ve been working toward.

MR: What do you wish teen and YA authors of your childhood had been able to communicate to you when you were growing up?

SV: I’m going to date myself here, but there really wasn’t much available for YA when I was young. There were middle grade books, but once these became too easy, we skipped to reading books for adults. YA in the past decade has evolved to include books written at a higher reading level, but have content relevant to teens. I would have loved to read these books when I was young.

MR: What is your favorite underappreciated YA novel?

SV: Just before I made the leap to reading books written for adults when I was eleven, I was inspired by Canadian authors Lois Lowry (her Anastasia books), and Gordon Korman (McDonald Hall Series). Their combination of wit and life being really hard for their characters was awesome. Both authors still write today, but I find the titles I loved back then hard to find for my own kids.

MR: What’s the most difficult part about writing characters from the opposite sex?

SV: All of my stories to date I’ve written from a female perspective, though I edit manuscripts with male perspectives. When writing from any perspective that isn’t your own, you do the best you can to imagine what your character would think of their journey, based on your research. But it’s important to involve beta readers who can let you know if you got it right, whether you’re asking them to comment on the male perspective, or a sensitivity reader from a marginalized group you are writing about. Because I write from a teen’s perspective, including teens in my beta read groups is key to make sure my characters feel authentic.   

MR: How did publishing your first book change your writing process?

SV: Once my books started to make their way out into the world, my time that had been dedicated to writing had to be shared with marketing and speaking. It was an amazing experience to be talking to readers about my books, but it cut down significantly on my writing time and ability to put out new work.

This past year I’ve experimented with new drafting techniques to make my writing time more efficient, so I can continue to get new material to print.

MR: If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaption of your book, who would play your characters?

SV: I’d love to see my teen characters played by fresh, unknown actors. Then they could really make Ava, Courtney, Ethan and Cole their own.

MR: What YA literary character is most like you?

SV: I’m a little Hermione, a little Anne of Green Gables. Nose always in a book, with a little spunk. that’s me.  

MR: Is there a thing you’ve written that makes you cringe now?

SV: I recently found a box of picture books I wrote when I was seven. My spelling was atrocious, so my kids were delighted, because I give them a hard time.  

MR: What is your favorite genre to read?

SV: I edit and beta read for many genres, but my pleasure reading is almost all YA fantasy. It’s my favorite, and the reason I write it.


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Author Interview Series-Natasha Deen

Natasha Deen

Natasha Deen

Award-winning author Natasha Deen writes for kids, teens, and adults. She believes the world is changed one story at a time, and as a Guyanese-Canadian whose family immigrated to Canada, she’s seen first-hand how stories have the power to shape the world. When she’s not writing, Natasha enjoys visiting schools, libraries and other organizations to help people find and tell the stories that live inside of them. She also spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince her pets that she’s the boss of the house. Natasha is the author of the Lark Ba series (CCBC Best Pick for Kids & Teens, Starred Selection) and the Guardian series (Moonbeam Award, Sunburst Award nominee, Alberta Readers’ Choice nominee). Her latest novel, In the Key of Nira Ghani, is a Junior Library Guild selection and a Barnes and Noble Top 25 Most Anticipated Own Voices novel.

Marina Raydun: Growing up in an immigrant family is something I sure can relate to. Between the bullying and not looking like everyone else, it sounds like we have a lot in common. Even though my English wasn’t good enough for any kind of reading comprehension above a very basic fairytale, I still tried reading Sweet Valley High just for the pretty covers. Eventually words started making sense so I will forever identify those twins with my seventh grade experience. What was your go to book in middle school? 

Natasha Deen: It sounds like we definitely have a lot in common. I’m so sorry to hear about the bullying. I don’t know I’ll ever understand the mindset of choosing to be mean instead of kind.   

I love that you mentioned picking up books because of the pretty covers and that sweet moment (no pun intended on the Sweet Valley High series) when those odd symbols suddenly became letters, and those letters grouped into words and stories.

Whenever I think about books and stories, I think of how readers come with different interests, filters, and backgrounds, and how wonderful it is that somewhere out there, is a book that will connect to their hearts, minds, and reading abilities.  

To answer your question about my go-to book, if I had to choose, then I think my go to was probably Robin McKinley’s Beauty. It was the first time I had seen a re-telling of a fairy tale, and I loved how McKinley reinvented the story and the events that lead to Beauty’s entrance into the beast’s life (side note: I also love how she imagined Beauty getting her name). I haven’t read the story in a long time, but I remember snow-filled days, cups of hot chocolate, and me under the blankets re-reading that story for the umpteenth time! I loved how the beast was this self-aware guy who understood the mistakes he’d made. Mostly, I loved how both Beauty & the Beast were different, didn’t fit anywhere, yet somehow, got their happy ending. 

MR: Did you keep a diary growing up? I tried to in high school, thinking it was just so “American.” Unfortunately, it was all terribly contrived and unnatural. I was not a good journal keeper. I think it’s because I always wanted to write fiction. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? 

ND: Oh, geez, those diaries!! I tried journaling, too, because it seemed so “regular teenager,” and my mom had done it, and...I hated. every. moment. (I even tried again when I was in my twenties, and hated it even more). 

Like you, I found it difficult to be natural, and more than that, I found it hard to be interesting. When I would read my old entries, all I could think of was, “Oh, man, get a life! You keep writing the same thing over and over, again!”  

If I could tell my younger writing self anything, it would be the same thing I tell emerging writers and my current self. You have a voice. You have a story. Both are beautiful and unique. Own your story, claim your voice, and let the universe unfold as it wants. 

MR: What is the first experience you had when you learned that language had power? 

ND: I feel like I grew up understanding that language had power. My parents were strict with us about words and vocabulary. “Hate” was a huge no-no word in our house. It had depth and meaning, and wasn’t meant to be bandied about for trivial things (“Oh, I hate pistachio ice-cream.”) and definitely never to be used on anyone or anything (“Oh, I hate him.”) .

If you’re asking about when I learned language & story held power, then it was when I was five. An older group of boys would follow my sister and I on the school grounds, throwing snowballs filled with pebbles and yelling racial slurs. Against my sister’s wishes, I told my mom…and my mom hunted down the ring leader. 

Then she invited the kid & his grandfather to our house for tea. 

And she made them cake.  

 Her choices allowed for us to have a conversation and trade stories.

Through the sharing and trading, he went from being my tormentor to being my protector. I still remember his hug and the sound of his heart against my ear, and how much we both cried over what had been done.

I understand the place for harsh truth, and I understand why—especially with reality shows—there seems to be a cheering on of the “blunt straight-shooter,” but whenever I’m in a confrontational situation, I always think of my mom, making cake and tea, and choosing kindness, stories, and humanity over anger. She taught me that kindness matters, stories matter, and between the two, they change the world.

MR: You write for both children and teenagers. That can’t be easy. Which group is more relatable for you? 

ND: Writing is never easy for me, no matter the age group, but I LOVE stories and I love writing for all of the age groups. (I relate to all of them). 

There are so many ways to exist in the world, and I love that through writing, I have an opportunity to remember what it was like to be seven-years-old, ten-years-old, or a teenager.

MR: What book do you wish you had written? 

ND: All of them! No matter what story I read, I can always find something in it that makes me say, “Ah, wow, I wish I’d thought of that!” 

MR: What YA character is most like you? 

That’s a great question. I really don't know. When it comes to YA characters I read, I can see bits and pieces of myself in all of the stories.  

When it comes to the characters I write…I suppose as writers, a bit of our personalities goes into every character, whether they’re the main character or a supporting one, somehow they’re influenced by our personalities or the people we know/encountered in our lives. So, I guess in a way, they’re all like me, but also not at all like me, either. 

MR: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on? 

ND: I’ve never done a pilgrimage, but in my everyday life, I try to "pilgrimage” with other authors. That is, whenever I have a chance to talk to a writer about their journey or process, I take the opportunity.   

Writing is such a subjective endeavor and it’s encouraging and enlightening to hear the different ways people claim their creative space.

MR: Meeting readers is always such an exhilarating experience. Any funny experiences at book signings or readings? 

ND: I love meeting readers! Writing can be such a solitary experience. When writers have a chance to meet a reader, it’s such a lovely moment to remind us that we’re not alone—and look!—someone else loved our story! 

I think I have too many funny/wonderful meeting-reader-experiences to choose just one moment or experience, but I absolutely love and appreciate it when readers come and talk to me about their experience with their stories. I love hearing how they interpreted the story, who they liked/rooted for. It’s a great reminder that even when we read the same book, none of us reads the same story. 

MR: Is there a book that people might be surprised to learn you love? 

ND: Ha! I doubt it—I'm a pretty eclectic reader, so I think folks have gotten used to recommendations that don’t fit into a genre/theme. I think the most surprised anyone was when they found out one of my favorite books was Stephen Crane’s “War is Kind and Other Poems,” because they didn’t know I read poetry. 

MR: Is there an illicit book you had to sneak growing up? 

ND: Not really, my folks were big on reading and reading all kinds of books. They allowed us to read anything we wanted, within reason...we did a lot of book trading--”Natasha, you can read this book if you also read that book,”...I was allowed to read Freud during my grade 4 summer vacation but I had to read the entire works of Shakespeare in return (thanks, Mom).  

When it came to reading “up,” or “illicit,” my parents would check-in, “where are you at?” “what do you think?” “can you see this point of view?” I have to give them credit, not just for making me an omnivorous reader, but a diverse thinker, too. Giving me the freedom to read books outside of my age group, checking in with me, but allowing me to have my own opinions about them, gave me a chance to see the world through many lenses. 

Visit Natasha at

Author Interview-Bob Brill

Bob Brill is an award winning journalist whose career has brought him to

spend time covering first hand some of the most important people of the 20th

and 21st centuries. In the 1980’s working for the UPI Radio Network as a National Correspondent

and later as LA based Bureau Chief, Bob covered the Reason White House in the

West for long stretches of time. Later he traveled with Pope John Paul II, Nelson

Mandela, Bill Clinton and many others. As an entertainment reporter, he

covered nine Academy Awards, five Grammys and several Emmys.

No stranger to covering disasters such as earthquakes, floods and small plane

crashes, his first major assignment at UPI was to cover the Aero Mexico plane

crash on approach to Los Angeles International Airport. The mid-air collision sent

the fuselage on top of a number of homes in a crowded neighborhood making it

one of the worst disasters in modern aviation history to that time.

His coverage of the mass shooting at a McDonalds Restaurant outside San Diego

brought him to national attention and getting beaten during the LA Riots at the

main intersection of the outbreak left him with some physical issues he still

suffers from today. Currently a newscaster and reporter at a major Los Angeles news station, Bob

has written nearly two dozen screen plays and pilots, airs his own podcast,

writes two blogs, has produced four Short Films and still finds time to author

books. His latest “Lancer; Hero of the West – The New Orleans Affair,” will be out

in April, 2019. Bob currently lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife, Paula. His daughter,

Julia, a graphic artist by trade, designs the covers for most of Bob’s books.

Marina Raydun: With your background in journalism and voiceover work, how natural was the

transition into fiction writing for you?

Bob Brill: Story telling was easy, organizing the story and staying focused on the story were

the more difficult parts. As a reporter I’ve covered just about every kind of story

imaginable from politics to entertainment from Presidents to Oscars, even

traveled with Nelson Mandela and the Pope on their US trips. So the stories were

there, fiction based in fact.

MR: How do your skills as a journalist influence your creative process now?

BB: That is a tough one. As a journalist you spend so much time making sure what

you write is not only correct and factual but vetted enough so you don’t

accidently slant the story. Going in you need to be even handed and unbiased

and when I’ve written non-fiction it’s taken me longer because of that. In writing

fiction, how shall I put it, another colleague of mine said “you can just make sh-t

up” which is true. However, in writing fiction based on fact (as with my Lancer;

Hero of the West series), you really do need to spend more time fact checking

about the period and what went on at THAT time. For instance, you don’t want a

character in 1881 riding on a certain river boat when that particular river boat

didn’t come into existence until 1884.

MR: Why do you write?

BB: In addition to my western novel series, “Lancer; Hero of the West” of which

there are now five novels with a total of 10 planned, I have written a terrorist

novel set 25 years past OBL, my childhood memoir, a book based on how the

Internet affected the business world, and a coffee table biography about a highly

paid burlesque queen who was married to a major league ball player. My

memoir “Tales of My Baseball Youth-a child of the 60’s” is probably one of my

best and closest to the hear books for obvious reasons. It is a relationship book

which just happens to involve growing up playing baseball.

MR: Have you read anything that made you feel differently about fiction?

BB: Only that it is easier it seems to get a main stream publisher interested in non-

fiction than it is in fiction. My former agent, who passed away, constantly tried

to get me to find a real life story to tell. We were planning to meet on one of

those when he died suddenly. I tried to pursue it on my own with no luck and

haven’t been able to find an agent since.

MR: What’s the best and worst book review you’ve ever received?

BB: The worst was someone who read Lancer and decided my story was based on

one TV show character in the 1950’s and it was rather accusatory. My Lancer

series, I state up front, is a compilation of several western TV characters from

the era as well as my own contributions. The best are always those who write

how much they liked the book (and cite it) and then add they can’t wait for the

next one to come out. I have gotten a few of those.

MR: If you had to do something differently as a child or a teenager to become a

better writer as an adult, what would you do?

BB: Take some college courses in creative writing and literature. I did not go to

college although I took some extension classes later mainly in film writing. I went

to work in my radio career right away and while I don’t regret that at all, I

probably should have gone to school for a number of reasons.

MR: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

BB: I have been a frequent visitor to museums around the world and probably the

closest thing to a literary pilgrimage would be a couple presidential libraries (my

favorite books are books about US presidents). Traveling through Italy many

times I’ve always sought out the great museums and cathedrals (San Croce in

Florence is my fav), and the Lyndon Johnson Library is probably one of the best

for research. Otherwise I can’t really say I’ve been one to search out the great

authors – although somewhere in my past it seems I did, but there has been

quite a bit of past to remember. LOL. My daughter and I are planning a

pilgrimage to Lubbock, TX to go to the Buddy Holly Museum – now that’s a

pilgrimage I AM working on.

MR: Who is your literary hero?

BB: You are going to laugh at this but believe it or not the closest person I have as a

literary hero is Nicoclo Machiavelli. His writings in The Prince and the Selected

Discourses fascinate me ONLY because of the logic of the man. Make no mistake

about it he was a cruel, calculating politician who was a terrible person.

However, as a lover of logic, his strict logic in dealing with any situation is

amazing. In the modern era, I’d have to say Bob Woodward. The access he gets

and the stories he blows up should be a lesson of life for any investigative

journalist to follow.

MR: Are there any books you’ve read over and over again?

BB: My own because of editing (LOL), but seriously, aside from the Bible, I can’t say

there are really any. Not having enough time to read is always a problem as

when I do have time, I’m creating. I love creating whether it’s film or the written

word, which go hand in hand by the way.

MR: What are you currently reading?

BB: I’m for the first time in my life reading three books. Woodward’s “Fear,”

“Jefferson’s Chance,” by my good friend and colleague Jim Christina and “Barking

in Nutwood,” which is written by another friend of mine; Dave Sturgis.

To keep in touch with Bob, please visit:

Amazon author page;

Twitter: @bobbrillla

Instagram: thebobbrill




Author Interview-Laura Lovett

Laura Lovett

Laura Lovett

Laura (Hambley) Lovett was born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, and received her PhD in Psychology from the University of Calgary in 2005. Her love of writing began at an early age when she would create and draw characters, telling stories to herself as she drew.

An accomplished author in the academic and business world, Laura pursued her love of creative writing to pen her first novel, Losing Cadence, a psychological thriller. Losing Cadence was written over many years as Laura juggled school, work and family, but she made time to pursue her passion for writing. 

Laura is a psychologist and entrepreneur, currently running practices in the areas of career and leadership development and distributed workplaces in Calgary and Toronto. She won a Woman of Inspiration Award in 2018 as a Global Influencer, and selected as a Distinctive Woman of Canada in 2013. Laura also enjoys teaching at the University of Calgary and has been an Adjunct Professor of Psychology since 2010.

Laura lives in Calgary with her husband, three children and dog, Ghost. She loves playing squash, traveling, and reading, as well as her view of the Rocky Mountains as the snow is falling on her hot tub.

Marina Raydun: You are quite accomplished in your career as a psychologist. How does your profession inspire your writing? 

Laura Lovett: I love my career as a psychologist as it allows me to help people and to better understand human behavior.  I was inspired to write psychological thrillers that went beyond the types of challenges I see, to a much more extreme case.  All I have learned about psychology and mental health has helped me explain my antagonist’s (Richard White’s) thoughts and actions. I’m inspired to bring more awareness to mental health and to entertain people through my novels. 

MR: The cover art for Losing Cadence (and Finding Sophie!) is striking. Can you talk a little about the concept behind these designs?

LL:  A talented graphic designer and friend, Corey Brennan of Elevate Graphic Design, created these covers in collaboration with me. At first, we thought of using a photo of the stalker in the trees and Cadence playing her flute; but, when I saw the more artistic design, I found it striking.  I wanted books that would “pop” on the shelf.  The stalker is in the background of each, and is subtle yet foreboding.  The bride in Losing Cadence has a dress the same shape as the wake in Finding Sophie.  The books sit side by side in a complementary way, and I sincerely hope that people find them unique.

MR: What was the hardest scene to write?

LL:  The ending of Finding Sophie was the most difficult to write.  I could go in a couple of different directions and I had to decide.  I was under a timeline and I ended up seeing where the writing would take me.  The ending was emotional for me and I think the emotions it elicits in the readers are in line with the emotional contradictions of a psychological thriller.

MR: What do you owe real life people upon whom you base your characters? 

LL: People ask if Richard White is based on a partner I’ve had.  No way!  He came from my imagination and I owe my imagination and creativity to my father as he was a creative soul.  He passed away in 1997, but I can still feel his creativity in my being.  As for Cadence, she is not based on anyone either, but I attribute my flute playing and being a flute teacher in my teens and early twenties to my understanding of Cadence.  And, of course, having my own children, now ages 13, 10 and 8, helped me write about Sophie and Cale, and how children those ages might react to the situations facing them. 

MR: What’s the most difficult part about writing characters from the opposite sex?

LL:  I don’t find it difficult writing about the opposite sex.  I enjoy writing from different perspectives, and in Finding Sophie, it was interesting to go into Richard’s mind and share with the reader scenes from his past that might help explain, even a little, why he turned out to act in such ways.

MR: What’s the best and worst book review you’ve ever received?

LL:  The best review was from a staff member at Indigo/Chapters, Lana Shupe, whose passion for my books and way of describing my writing was humbling.  She chose me as staff pick at her large store for both of my books. 

The worst review was from a Reader’s Digest independently authored book contest.  It was clear the reader had not fully read nor understood Losing Cadence.  She described Cadence as having Stockholm Syndrome, which is not true.  Funny enough, I was in Stockholm speaking at a conference when I received the review.  It saddened me as she said my cover looked like “chick lit”, which I’ve never heard since, thankfully.   My editor helped me realize it happens to all writers, and to not let it get me down.  My publicist later said that bad reviews are a good thing and every writer needs some otherwise it looks like you fixed the reviews to only have great ones.

MR: If you could cast your characters in a Hollywood adaption of your book, who would play your characters?

LL:  Chris Pine for Richard, Isla Fisher for Cadence, Kit Harington for Christian. 

And I do have a film producer shopping my books, so a film or series may be in the future (fingers tightly crossed!)

MR: Is there one topic you would never write about as an author?

LL:  I would never write about something that I had no interest in or that required extensive research on topics that didn’t intrigue me.  That would feel like boring work rather than the fun I had writing my psychological thrillers!

MR: Is there a thing you’ve written that makes you cringe now?

 LL: Sometimes, when I think of a couple of the sex scenes in Losing Cadence, I feel embarrassed as to whom else in my network has read it.  That being said, these scenes needed to be described for the reader to understand Cadence’s abuse and they are not nearly as X-rated as some of the books out there these days!

MR: What are you currently reading? 

LL: The Sequel to Crazy Rich Asians: China Rich Girlfriend.  I enjoy these books, especially having experienced parts of China in September.  It’s such an alternate reality and the author does a wonderful job of bringing the reader into this wealthy and unique world.

To keep in touch with Dr. Lovett, please visit:

Author Interview Series-John E. Marriott

John E. Marriott

John E. Marriott

John E. Marriott is one of Canada’s premier professional wildlife and nature photographers, with images published worldwide by National GeographicBBC WildlifeCanadian Geographic, McLean's, and Reader’s Digest. He is an Associate Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, a contributing editor for Outdoor Photography Canada magazine and the host of the popular web series EXPOSED with John E. Marriott.

John has produced six coffee table books and one guidebook, including three Canadian bestsellers: Banff & Lake Louise: Images of Banff National Park (2007), Wildlife of the Canadian Rockies: A Glimpse at Life on the Wild Side (2008), and The Canadian Rockies: Banff, Jasper & Beyond (2009).  He most recently released The Pipestones: The Rise and Fall of a Wolf Family in August 2016 and Tall Tales, Long Lenses: My Adventures in Photography in November 2017.

John is the owner/operator of Canadian Wildlife Photography Tours (, featuring wildlife photo adventures, workshops, and expeditions to out-of-the-way Canadian locales.  

John prides himself on being a conservation photographer known for photographing wilderness scenes and wild, free-roaming animals in their natural habitats. 

Marina Raydun: You’re a wildlife photographer and your passion for what you do is apparent in every one of your shots. Do you view what you do as a way of storytelling?

John E. Marriott: Absolutely, Marina. I love to be able to use visual elements to weave a story and to help pass along a message or to enhance a well-written tale. I think the best wildlife photographers are the ones that can tell stories with their imagery.

MR: What motivates you to get behind the camera?

JEM: At this point in my career (I’ve been doing this for over twenty years now), my primary motivation is conservation-oriented. I am extremely passionate about being an advocate for the animals I photograph and that motivates me to continue to get out in the field and tell my stories.

MR: What is the most difficult part about your artistic process? 

JEM: Staying up to date with editing images. I find it much easier to traipse about in the field than I do to sit at a computer staring at images and trying to decide which ones are worth sharing with the world.

MR: Your photography books are stunning. Editing down must be a real challenge! Can you tell us a little bit about the way you go about it?

JEM: It definitely is a challenge. When I do get motivated to sit down and edit and create a book project, I try to pick images that help the storyline, but also images that pair well together and enhance the overall look of the book.

MR: How did publishing your first book change your creative process? 

JEM: I don’t think publishing books has really changed my creative process, although I will admit that it my creative focus has shifted over time. Earlier in my career with my first few books, I had a definite commercial aim with the books, so I shot and included images that I probably wouldn’t take in my normal everyday photography life. For instance, there are a few photographs of the Town of Banff in my first coffee table book because that’s what appeals to tourists visiting Banff, but I’d never take pictures of the town for any other reason than because it was needed for the project. 

MR: How do you define a perfect shot? And how do you frame it? 

JEM: A perfect shot makes the viewer feel emotion and connect in some manner to the photograph. Sometimes it’s a ‘beautiful’ shot, sometimes it’s a shot that makes the viewer wonder how it was taken or what happened. They’re all perfect shots, but very different in makeup. The framing always matters, but it’s just one element of a perfect shot.

MR: What photographers influenced your thinking and photographing? 

JEM: I was most influenced by Michio Hoshino, who was a Japanese wildlife photographer that photographed extensively in Alaska in the early 1990s. I loved his style of including animals in vast landscapes and try to emulate that in some of my own photography.  

MR: If you could have drinks with any person, living or dead, who would it be? Why? 

JEM: That’s easy, I’d have my parents with me again for a gin and tonic and a few glasses of wine. They were instrumental in me becoming who I am and being as successful as I am. Remarkably, they never once asked me when I was going to “get a real job” on the long journey to become a professional photographer. 

MR: What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? 

JEM: Ha! Sadly, I either spend my time thinking about the Vancouver Canucks (my favourite NHL hockey team) or staring out the window scanning for wildlife. 

MR: Is there a book that people might be surprised to learn you love?

JEM: I don’t know if it would be a huge surprise to people, but my favourite book of all-time is Watership Down by Richard Adams. It’s a book about rabbits, but of course it’s so much more. I also loved Louis L’Amour’s as a teenager and at one point owned every single one of his titles.

For more information on John’s photography, please visit his website at

John on Social Media:

Facebook:     John E. Marriott Wildlife and Nature Photography


Instagram:    johnemarriott


Twitter:           @JohnEMarriott


YouTube:       EXPOSED with John E. Marriott

John’s Books: