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:

Author Interview-Kai Nicole

Kai Nicole

Kai Nicole

Kai Nicole holds degrees from Harvard University and Howard University School of Law.

She has worked in law, entertainment, technology (Silicon Valley), and has done business development consulting for multiple entrepreneurs.

A native Washingtonian, she has also lived in Boston and Atlanta. Kai is currently residing with her family in the suburbs of San Francisco.

Marina Raydun: Your background is in law. What made you want to write a dating guide?

Kai Nicole: I actually talk about this in my book, Date Like A Woman. But, it was a conversation on Twitter about dating that sparked the decision to write the book. My initiative, the accelerant, was the prolific number of male "dating gurus" online, and frankly everywhere, but so few women in the dating/relationship space, that I thought it was necessary to speak up in a bold way. A book seemed the best way to at least begin a factual discussion.

MR: Writing a book like Date Like a Woman is quite an undertaking. What kind of research did this project entail?

KN: Well, I went on a LOT of dates. I also did quite a bit of reading, e.g. newspaper articles, magazine articles, academic studies, and I did my own research, of course, by talking to a number of women about their dating experiences.

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

KN: I no longer have the time required to focus on my writing the way I used to. Between blogging and my other business ventures, my time to focus on researching and writing my next book is very limited. I am learning to adjust though!

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

KN: There are probably several; I don’t like to write about things that I am not knowledgeable about or have not experienced.

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

KN: I am not sure about my first experience, however, I will say that my first trip to France was the place where I understood how important being able to use a language was. At the time I spoke very limited French but being on my own for several months forced me to have to communicate in everyday ways, renting an apartment, going to the post office, the laundromat, cashing a check, everyday living. That experience made me really appreciate the power of language and communication.

MR: What is your favorite genre to read?

KN: It used to be science fiction but now I find myself drawn to history and biography.

MR: What are you currently reading?

KN: I am currently reading Becoming Michelle Obama.

MR: Is there a book that changed your life?

KN: Yes, my own! The experience of writing and publishing my book has changed my life significantly. It’s an interesting experience when people read your own words and ask you about them.

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

KN: Michelle Obama. I admire her so much. I feel she is a person who, if you had the opportunity to sit down and talk to her, would give you all sorts of wonderful life advice.

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

KN: Whether I should be making more videos for my Date Like A Woman fans! Seriously, I get a great response from my videos and for some reason when I am in the car is when I think about it the most.

To learn more about Kai Nicole, please visit

Author Interview-Amanda McDonough

Amanda McDonough

Amanda McDonough

Amanda McDonough was born in 1990 and diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of 4. As she grew older, her hearing steadily declined as she battled to hide her ongoing hearing loss from her family, friends, teachers, and the world. Despite facing unbelievable challenges, she succeeded in; getting straight A’s in school, having a successful child acting career, and leading a fairly “normal” life. But one day, during the most difficult part of her college career, she awoke to discover that her remaining hearing was completely gone. She had lost 100% of her hearing in both ears. All of a sudden, she was unable to communicate with the people around her. She did not know sign language, could no longer speak well, and could not lip read. She became isolated from the world and had to finally face her hearing loss, accept that she was deaf, and find a way to finish college without being able to hear. She found the strength to teach herself to talk well again, to lip-read, and to use sign language and set out on an emotional rollercoaster ride to discover who she was and who she wanted to become. As a late deafened adult Amanda pursued higher education at California Polytechnic University, Pomona where she received her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Business Administration- International Business and Marketing Management, with an emphasis in Entertainment Marketing.
McDonough currently resides in Los Angeles, California and enjoys successful inspirational speaking and acting careers. Amanda’s recent television, theater and film credits include: ABC's "Speechless," NBC’s “Bad Judge,” ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth,” Chris Lilly’s Pilot series “Just Us Guys,” "Our Town" with Tony nominated Deaf West Theater and films such as “Listen” directed by Michaela Higgins and "Silent Star" directed by Steven Sanders. Her films "Passengers," "Loud and Clear, " and "Lady Electric" have gone on to show in various festivals (such as Cannes) and win awards.  Amanda's life story has even been the subject of documentaries such as USC's "Amanda" and radio broadcast stories such as KCRW's "Silence."" She has also been interviewed about her life and upcoming book by NBC News and Fox News, as well as for dozens of online articles and blogs.

Marina Raydun: You hid your hearing loss from those around you growing up. Looking back at it now, why do you think you chose to do that?

Amanda McDonough: I started losing my hearing when I was only 4 years old. At that time, there weren’t any openly hard of hearing role models in the mainstream media for me to look up to. I was young. I had no exposure to any Deaf people who could show me that life without hearing would be ok. So, out of fear, I chose to hide my hearing loss. I did the best I could to “fit in” with my hearing peers and hearing family. I tried to ignore my struggles and hope they would go away. It took me 18 years to realize that wasn’t the best course of action.  

MR: What would you say to a hard of hearing child who may be contemplating doing the same?

AM: Don’t. The biggest loss I suffered as a child wasn’t the loss of my hearing, it was the loss of the opportunity to figure out who I actually was. By hiding my hearing loss and constantly acting the way I thought society wanted me to act I delayed my opportunity to find my identity. I also missed out on opportunities to meet other people like me, to gain full access to education, to learn sign language, to benefit from Deaf culture, and even to receive college scholarships.

Be you. There is no better person to be.

MR: You’d been losing your hearing slowly over about two decades and often escaped into your imagination. Is that when you first started writing?

AM: I never saw myself as a writer prior to writing my first book. I even put off “Ready to be Heard” for nearly a full year after the publisher’s requested I write it. It wasn’t until I realized that other people could benefit from my personal struggles and my unique perspective that I started writing and learned that I actually loved it!


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

AM: Language and words have always been powerful for me. Art using language has always been an outlet that I turned to during rough moments in my life. I loved books growing up, theater, poetry, music, and lyrics. Learning Sign Language, however, was a completely other worldly experience for me. It led me to my identity, provided me with support, culture, friends, accessibility, and hope. After all, is there anything more powerful than belonging and being able to share your thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly to a group of peers willing to “listen?”

MR: How did learning American Sign Language as an adult affect your appreciation for careful word choice? Did it affect your writing?

AM: Absolutely! Learning ASL has allowed me to see the world through new eyes! It definitely effected how I wrote my book. Learning the language and the culture, that comes with it, gave me the vocabulary to explaining how I identified at different points in my life and in my hearing loss journey. I started the journey as Hard of Hearing, became deaf, and then chose to identify as Deaf after learning ASL. So, you will see a lot of references to the importance of identity stressed through language and vocabulary (such as little d vs big D- deaf) in “Ready to be Heard.” 

MR: What sort of amplification do you currently use? (Do you use Cochlear implants or hearing aids)

AM: I have 100% natural hearing loss in both ears. I am profoundly deaf with one cochlear implant on the right side of my head.  

MR: What do miss hearing the most when you What is your favorite part about being able to turn it off before going to bed at night? do just that?

AM: My implant helps me navigate a hearing dominated world. However, I love being able to turn off my cochlear implant to enjoy the peace and silence, at will, during the day. Having the option to simply take my implant off makes so many of my life experiences better! For example, the silence benefits sleeping, writing in coffee shops, relaxing on long flights in crowded planes, watching dubbed foreign movies (with captions), walking by construction sites, and being able to nap literally anywhere I want! Being Deaf definitely has its perks!

MR: What does literary success look like to you?

AM: I get these amazing letters, emails, and messages from kids and adults, that I have never met, telling me that they related to something in my book, were empowered, or felt less alone after reading “Ready to be Heard.” That is success to me. I set out to help others. Naturally, I would like to reach as many people as possible with my story in the hopes that it can impact them. I definitely wouldn’t be against making the New York Times Best Sellers List, being on Oprah’s recommended reading list, explaining hearing loss to Ellen DeGeneres on her talk show, or watching the film adaptation of my life. However, at the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is that my work leaves a positive mark on the lives of others.

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

AM: My “best” review is actually hilarious! It was one of the very first Amazon reviews I ever received. My mother sometimes uses my Amazon account to order things for herself and my dad. When “Ready to be Heard” came out, she wanted to leave me a review. So, my mom, logged onto MY Amazon Prime account, wrote a beautiful review of MY book with MY name as the reviewer! When someone brought the review to my attention, I laughed for a good 15 minutes, then decided to leave it up as private joke.

I recently received my “worst” book review. All my reviews before this one had been 5 stars; so, when I saw the 2 stars my heart sunk at first. Then I read the review and found myself grateful. I could have been upset that someone didn’t love my work. Yet, I chose to see this review as a gift. It reminded me that not everyone is going to like my book and that is ok. Life isn’t perfect. I am definitely not perfect. I still have a lot of learning and growing to do, so I take all the good reviews and the “bad” reviews and chose to learn from them.

 MR: You were an actress before you were a writer. How is your artistic process similar across the two media?

AM: As an actress I have always been a story teller. My job has always been to bring scripts to life and help people experience new characters, emotions, perspectives, and worlds. Writing is similar in that I am still the storyteller; the difference is that I use my words and personal experience as the tool to get the story across instead of my acting skills.

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

AM: I have learned so much from this experience! I have had some amazing mentors to help guide me, but there is nothing like learning by doing. I threw out the first two full 300-page drafts of “Ready to be Heard.” Those drafts helped me figured out what worked for me and what didn’t as a writer. I was then finally able to develop the writing process for myself that I used to write the published version and some day will use to write other book.

MR: Were your book to be adapted into a movie, who would play you?

AM: Is Betty White available? Just kidding. A film adaptation of “Ready to be Heard” is a future possibility; so, I’ll definitely need to start seriously contemplating this question. Any suggestions?

 To learn more about Amanda’s book, please visit:

To keep in touch with Amanda, please visit:










Author Interview-Christie Stratos

Christie Stratos

Christie Stratos

Christie Stratos is an award-winning writer who holds a degree in English Literature. She is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart and Brotherhood of Secrets, the first two books in the Dark Victoriana Collection. Christie has had short stories and poetry published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Andromedae Review, 99Fiction, and various anthologies. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics to indies.

Marina Raydun: You hold a degree in English Literature. Any particular favorites among the classics?

Christie Stratos: Julius Caesar and Hamlet first inspired me to take my writing seriously and to write psychological fiction. They also leave enough to the reader (or viewer if you’re watching the plays) that they become an active participant in the truth of the storyline and characters whether they want to or not. I wanted to create that too.

MR: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

CS: The only literary pilgrimages I’ve enjoyed are to libraries for research.

MR: Who is your literary crush?

CS: Hank Rearden from Atlas Shrugged for his incredible ability to change so drastically throughout the book and to become a man with more self-worth than he ever had in his life. My other literary crush is Howard Roark from The Fountainhead for the way he always knew what he wanted, what he would become, and how he never abandoned his beliefs or creative ideals for even one moment.

MR: Who is your literary hero?

CS: Right now, Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks. The Wife Between Us was a stunningly well-written thriller that combines charismatic storytelling with twists and turns you can’t see coming, and they keep you hanging on every letter. I’m fortunate enough to have received an ARC of An Anonymous Girl, their next book that’s due out in 2019, and it’s even better than the first! Their books are so well written, it’s tempting to go through them with a fine-tooth comb to figure out exactly how they do what they do. But it’s also kind of nice finding modern authors whose strategies I admire without knowing exactly how it’s done.

MR: When did you first start writing?

CS: I’ve written all my life. Every since I was capable of writing, I created poetry, then novels, then short stories. Even when I told myself I’d quit writing, I always ended up coming back to it. I can’t help myself.

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

CS: I wrote a novel in high school that has really good ideas in it, but it was written at a time when I didn’t have the maturity, creatively or in general, that I do now. It doesn’t flesh things out enough, is too straight to the point, and the lack of natural feel to the characters all make me cringe. I’ve wanted to rewrite it, but it’s tough to rewrite a piece of your past—it almost feels like you’re rewriting your own history.

MR: Is there a book that cemented you as a writer?

CS: Anatomy of a Darkened Heart was my first novel written as an adult, and it was my debut book. When I published that, I knew I would continue novel writing in particular forever. Short stories and poetry (and pretty much anything else) are things I’ll probably also always write, but novels are complex and rewarding projects that nothing can quite replace. The satisfaction in bringing characters into themselves, developing them, and putting them through their paces is worth every moment spent painstakingly picking the right word and testing the strength of my creations.

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

CS: Stop doubting whether you’ll get published and just keep writing! And also stop feeling nervous and fearful of writing the wrong thing. It’s impossible to write anything wrong—that’s what the delete key is for.

MR: You are an avid reader. What is your favorite underappreciated novel?

CS: It would have to be Haven Lost and the whole Dragon’s Brood series by Josh de Lioncourt. He is a brilliant fantasy author, and a lot more people should discover his work. It’s written just as well as any traditionally published fantasy author’s work, including excellent pacing, great twists on lore, in-depth character development, and loads of action. The first time I listened to one of his books on audio, I was blown away!

MR: Is there a book you wish you’d written?

CS: The Distant Sound of Violence by Jason Greensides. It’s contemporary fiction that’s also very literary in its complexities and layers. The way one thing can snowball and entirely change lives, the way he expresses how we don’t ever really know what others are going through even if we think we know them well—he’s an amazing writer, and that’s one book I’d like to have written myself.

To learn more about Christie, please follow the links below:

Anatomy of a Darkened Heart:


Barnes and Noble:



Brotherhood of Secrets:


Barnes and Noble:



“The Subtlety of Terror”:


Barnes and Noble:




Amazon author page:

Author YouTube:

The Writer’s Edge YouTube:

Creative Edge Writer’s Showcase:






Author Interview Series-Miranda Oh

Miranda Oh

Miranda Oh

Miranda Oh is the author of the successful Chick Lit series, Chin Up Tits Out!

Author Miranda Oh, a girl of Metis tradition and descent is your typical girl: She loves the sunset, loves long walks on the beach, world travels, and when not playing the corporate part she can be found sipping wine and spending all her hard-earned money on nice shoes. Among her friends and family, Miranda Oh is known to be the storyteller of the group, always recapping crazy life stories and situations. Her personal experiences, emotions and fantasies are the inspiration for most of her books, so there is a little bit of her in every story.

Marina Raydun: I love the title of your series. Very gutsy! How did that come about?

Miranda Oh: Thank-you, I also love the title! It’s my life motto! My mom used to tell me versions of Chin Up Tits Out while growing up, when I needed a boost of confidence. Shoulders back, chin up, chest out, head up is meant as a power pose, to look confident, therefore feel confident.

MR: Hadley is a very raw, real character. What do you owe real life people upon whom you base your characters?

MO: Real life is what made my characters who they are. Life experience, and reality is sometimes is stranger than actual fiction. So I try and mix the best of both worlds.  

MR: Which book in the series was more difficult to write—book one or two?

MO: Book two was a lot more difficult to write than book one. It is because reliving everything that transpired in my personal life to prepare to write book 2 was like opening up Pandora’s box in the back of my mind. It let out a lot of really heavy, deep, intense topics that came out in the book.  Then in true Chin Up Tits Out fashion, I had to find a way to spin everything positive with a little twist of sarcastic humor. It was a challenge, and wine was a huge lifesaver during the creation of book 2.

Miranda Oh

Miranda Oh

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

MO: As women, we understand and can appreciate (we should always appreciate) our minds, and how many millions of things can cross it in a split second. When writing from a male perspective, it is hard to shut off the female; million mile a minute brain, and just slow things down, and make them less complicated.

MR: How do you select names for your characters?

MO: I am legit the WORST at picking out names for my books. When I create a character that represents someone in my life, if their actual name starts with a ‘S’, for simplicity sake, I will turn their characters name into something that also starts with an ‘S’ – I know, it is the least creative thing about my writing. But I got to do what works for me, and that is what works for me. 

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

MO: Hadley would for sure be Jennifer Lawrence, or Emma Stone. Both of those actresses are extremely talented, unique, and unapologetically themselves, and that is Hadley through in through.

MR: What literary character is most like you?

MO: Well since I wrote a little bit about my life, I would say Hadley, the main character is a lot like me, although more refined, and more tailored. I am not that graceful, or seemingly put together in reality.

MR: Who is your literary crush?

MO: Which women doesn’t have a crush on the typical Fabio looking character on the front of romance novels? I always gawk at them when I pass through a book store. As to a specific crush, I do not have one…that I know of yet.

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

MO:  I had a good laugh reading this question, the answer is not really. I didn’t have to sneak it per say. I was however snooping for whatever I was snooping for as a kid, and found my parents stash of illicit books. Once they realized I found them, they mysteriously found a new hiding place.

MR: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?

MO: Why did I share my story?

The answer to that, is because I want to connect us as humans, and by connecting, we share stories. When we share stories, we share feelings, and when someone can resonate with a feeling, no matter the circumstances, we can connect on a deeper level. I am a firm believer in the idea of “together we are better”. The only way I felt I could be better, was to share my story, and it lead me to selling copies of my novels around the world. I am really happy and really proud of that accomplishment, the more people who read it, the more we all become connected, and that is my overall goal.

 To learn more about Miranda, please visit:

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For your copy of Chin Up Tits Out, please visit:

Author Interview Series-Lew Bayer

lew pic green.jpg

Lew believes that “Civility is its own reward”. She suggests

that “In choosing civility, people find their best self, and in

doing so, they experience the grace, courage, generosity,

humanity, and humility that civility engenders.”

For almost 20 years Dr. Lew Bayer has been internationally

recognized as the leading expert on civility at work. With a focus on social intelligence

and culturally-competent communication, the team at Civility Experts – which includes

367 affiliates in 43 countries has supported 100s of organizations in building better

workplaces. In addition to her role as CEO of international civility training group Civility

Experts Inc. which includes The Civility Speakers Bureau and

Propriety Publishing. Lew is Chair of the International Civility Trainers’ Consortium,

President of The Center for Organizational Cultural Competence, and Founder of the In Good Company Etiquette Academy

Franchise Group Most recently, Lew was selected

as the Champions of Humanity Global Advocate- Champions of Humanity is an arm of

Aegis Trust, a UK based organization focused on peace education and the prevention of


Including 2-time, international bestseller, The 30% Solution, and the pending December

release of Golden Rule Peace and Civility Lew is a 16-time published author. Lew

donates her time as Director of the National Civility Center, and

co-founder of the Golden Rule Civility Global Initiative. She is also a proud mentor for

The Etiquette House, a member of the Advisory Board for A Civil Tongue, was a national

magazine columnist for 10 years, and has contributed expert commentary to many

online, print, and television publications. Lew is one of only 14 Master Civility Trainers in

the world, a distance faculty member at Georgetown University Center for Cultural

Competence, a long-term facilitator at the Canadian Management Center in Toronto

Canada, Instructor – Social Justice at MITT, a Master trainer for the Canadian School of

Service, a certified High Style Impression Management Professional and a certified

Culture Coach® who also holds credentials in Intercultural Communications, Essential

Skills, and Occupational Language Assessment. Most recently Lew has completed the

Champions of Humanity Master Peace Educator Certificate Program at the Kigali Peace

School in Rwanda.

Lew has been recognized at World Civility Day three consecutive years for her

contributions in the field of civility with a Community Civility Counts Award, and she was

recently nominated for Women of Distinction, Woman of Influence, and the RBC

Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the year. She was previously awarded Manitoba

Woman Entrepreneur in International Business and she was the first Canadian to

receive the prestigious AICI International Civility Star Award. In 2018 Lew was

acknowledged for her work as co-founder of Golden Rule Civility Global Initiative and presented with the International Person of the Year

Award by iChange Nations. In May 2018 she was presented with a US Congressional

Educator Award. She has been recommended for a position in the Canadian Senate and

also under consideration as Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago.

In addition to regularly consulting on corporate impression management, building

relationships with media and creating civil communication, Lew was a national columnist

for over 10 years, and is Lew is a sought-after expert who frequently writes, interviews

and speaks with media all around the world.

Civility Experts Inc. manages The Civility Speakers Bureau

offers online certification, and offers a large array of civility

training tools and materials via It is a combination of the collective

experience of the world-wide affiliate team, the leading-edge training solutions and the

team's ability to customize to their client's need that leads to the sometimes

immeasurable benefits that choosing civility brings. These outputs include increased

social capital, trust, social intelligence and culturally competent communication - and

together these impacts result in efficiency, competency, retention and bottom line


Marina Raydun: In our day and age, civility tends to be underappreciated. What made you become so passionate about the concept that you chose to make a career out of it?

Lew Bayer: You know, I’ve been lucky in my life in that I have experienced civility my whole life. My parents were very conscious of manners and social graces- I can recall toiling over thank you cards after my 5th birthday, for example. I had the benefit of an amazing support network of neighbours and aunties and uncles who spoke kindly and cared for me, as well as the privilege of working with a professional civil manager at my first job. As I got older and experienced all kinds of incivility, I came to realize that not everyone had the same experiences as I did. I think it was Wayne Dyer that said, “you can’t get orange juice from lemons”…or something like that. As such, I came to understand that you need to teach people how to be kind, how to speak nicely, how to behave in public, how to be nonjudgmental etc. And so I started teaching etiquette and civility as a business.

MR: Word choice is certainly a substantial part of what it means to be civil. What is the first experience you had when you learned that language had power?

LB: This is a great question. When I was young: I was often introduced by my mother (who meant no harm doing so but caused harm nonetheless) as “our adopted daughter.” I could see the pity and judgment on people’s faces, and I knew that the word “adopted” changed how people saw me (and to me, how my mother valued me). I lived with this label my whole life-it shaped my relationships with my siblings, my mother, relatives and it also impacted my self-worth.

MR: You travel quite a bit in your line of work, which must mean lots of plane time. My favorite part of any airport is the bookshop. What do you like to read when you’re up in the air?

LB: Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I read anything nonfiction. I am an information junkie and constantly reading whitepapers and research, textbooks, and often the dictionary, because communication, writing, tone-these are important aspects of civility. As an aside, if you don’t feel like chatting on the plane, pull out the dictionary and start reading. No one bothers you when you’re reading the dictionary.

MR: Is there a book that changed your life?

LB: Left to Tell-story of Imaculée Ilibagiza, a Tutzi woman who survived the Rwandan Genocide by hiding in a 3x4 foot bathroom with 7 other women for 90 days. This story of grace and gratitude and forgiveness, changed how I live and think, and make decisions.

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

LB: Ummmm, the dictionary. I know, nerdy, right?! There is such power in words and I like learning the history and nuances of language because it ties to people and culture.

MR: You have over two-dozen titles to your name. How did publishing your first book change your writing process?

LB: My process hasn’t really changed much. I’ve always been a prolific writer. I just can’t write enough. I have the luxury and privilege of traveling and teaching amazing people in amazing places- I do about 220 lectures and presentations a year, so there is always a new perspective, a new story, a new insight, and I have to write it down. I guess if I had to pinpoint one change it’s that now I trust myself more and so I just write how I feel, and as though I were having a conversation. I don’t need to shock or inspire or impress anyone. I just see writing as sharing.

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

LB: I’d say, don’t worry about who is going to read what you write, or buy it, or talk about it etc. Just see the fact that you can write in a reasonably sensible way as a gift you’ve been given. And give that gift away with no expectation of return.

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

LB: Oh my goodness, yes! Not so much the content itself but the grammar and logics of it all…yish! I think I’ve taken 40-50 grammar and writing courses since 1999 when I started – there is always room for improvement.

MR: What is your biggest failure?

LB: I really see failing as opportunity to grow and learn so I can’t say I’ve completely failed at writing. But I have failed to make good choices  related to writing, e.g., giving people I trusted “co-author” status when they didn’t really contribute at all. In hindsight, I wouldn’t do that again.

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

LB: I travel a lot, so when I’m in my car, I think about how nice it is to be home, how lucky I am to live where I live and how I can’t wait to see my beautiful daughter or have my dog Cooper lick my face.

Get your copy of Dr. Bayer’s The 30% Solution here:

Edward Willett


Edward Willett is the award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages. His latest fantasy/science fiction novel for DAW Books is Worldshaper; it’s the start of a new series, Worldshapers. Other recent novels include the stand-alone science fiction novel The Cityborn (DAW Books), the five-book Shards of Excalibur YA fantasy series for Coteau Books, the Masks of Aygrima fantasy trilogy (written as E.C. Blake for DAW), and the Peregrine Rising science fiction duology for Bundoran Press. Ed won the Aurora Award for Best Long-Form Work in English for Marseguro (DAW) in 2009. His nonfiction runs the gamut from local history to science books for children and adults to biographies of people as diverse as Jimi Hendrix and the Ayatollah Khomeini. In addition to writing, he’s a professional actor and singer, who has performed in numerous plays, musicals, and operas, and hosts the new podcast The Worldshapers, featuring conversations with science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process. He lives in Regina, Saskatchewan, with his wife, Margaret Anne Hodges, P.Eng., their teenaged daughter, Alice, and their black Siberian cat, Shadowpaw.

Marina Raydun: You are a very prolific author and write mostly in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. What is your favorite genre to read? 

Edward Willett: I read and enjoy science fiction and fantasy equally. Right now, my reading agenda is pretty much being set by my new podcast, The Worldshapers (, where I interview science fiction and fantasy authors about the creative process. Since I’m doing this radical thing where I actually read the book (or books) we’re talking about before I talk to the authors (something I know from experience not all interviewers do!), and I’m doing an episode every two weeks, I’m pretty much only reading work by my guests. However, my guests have all been (and will continue to be) amazing authors, so I’m enjoying it. 

When I’m not reading science fiction and fantasy, I read non-fiction on any topic that catches my interest. (Often, I read these books out loud to my wife—the kitchen is too small for us to work together on meals, so she cooks while I read.) Recent non-fiction books I’ve read have included biographies (most recently of Leonardo da Vinci), science books, history books, and a book about Icelandic volcanoes (because, why not?).

MR: What is your favorite underappreciated novel?

EW: I don’t know that it’s underappreciated—I think it was pretty successful—but one of the most fascinating fantasies I’ve ever read, and one I still think about even though it’s been almost ten years since it came out, is Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, and its sequel, Dreamquake. The story is set in a world much like ours except for the existence of The Place, inaccessible to anyone except Dreamhunters, who can enter it and capture larger-than-life dreams which are then relayed to audiences in the magnificent Rainbow Palace. But the Place hides a terrifying secret which 15-year-old Laura is about to discover...

Highly recommended!

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

EW: I can imagine topics I would rather not write about, but no, not really: not as long as I thought I could write about it well and honestly. 

MR: Your background is in journalism. How does this color your fiction writing? Also, what is Weird Al like? 

EW: I think the main thing I brought from journalism to fiction was the ability to simply sit down and write. I’ve never suffered from what I would call writer’s block. I’ve suffered from writer’s laziness, which isn’t the same thing, and writer’s procrastination, which is endemic, but put me in front of a keyboard and I can write. The world of journalism is a world of deadlines: the newspaper comes out when it comes out, and you have to have your story ready in time to make it into print.

The other advantage, I think, is practice in organizing my thoughts before I start writing. That’s not to say I don’t revise my first drafts of stories and novels—but those first drafts are really pretty good. I think the years of writing for a newspaper helped with that. 

Weird Al, whom I interviewed for the Regina Leader Post when he was coming to town for a concert, was great! I really enjoyed talking to him. (He’s not really that weird...but he is very funny.) 

MR: As a fiction writer, what is the most difficult part about your artistic process?

EW: When I first have an idea for a story, it seems, in my mind, to be perfect and complete, a glistening globe of perfection like a Christmas ornament. The process of actually writing the story feels to me like taking that Christmas ornament, smashing it with a hammer, and then trying to glue it back together using words.

So, the difficult part is choosing the words and scenes and characters and dialogue that will convey to the reader the ideas I want to convey, to try to recreate in their mind that perfect image I had of the story before I began. Writing, though it feels solitary, is actually collaborative: you’re collaborating with your readers, and those readers are not you, so they bring to your work references and memories and connections that you don’t have. They reconstruct the story you think you’re telling in their mind, and it may not be at all the story you intended...and yet, their version of the story is every bit as “true” as your version.

The other challenging thing? To keep readers interested, for the hours it will take them to read a novel. My biggest fear is being boring! 

MR: What does literary success look like to you?

EW: I alternate between feeling very successful and a complete failure. Sometimes I feel successful because I’ve written more than sixty books (counting all the non-fiction), which have been published by multiple publishers; I’ve won awards; I’ve gotten some excellent reviews. Then I’ll feel a failure because my sales aren’t what I’d like, I’m not fabulously wealthy, no movies or TV shows have been made of my books, and most readers of science fiction and fantasy have never heard of me, even though I’m published by a major science fiction and fantasy publisher, DAW Books. But that’s just life. We’re never satisfied. Objectively, after twenty-five years of full-time freelancing and millions of published words, I haven’t done too badly in a notoriously iffy occupation! 

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

EW: Best? I’ve had two starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, one for Magebane (written as Lee Arthur Chane), and one for my newest novel, Worldshaper. Those always make me feel good. Worst would be the one by some hatchet-job reviewer on Goodreads (someone who has written dozens of one-star reviews, seemingly picking books to savage at random) for Masks, first book in my Masks of Aygrima trilogy, written as E.C. Blake, which begins, “This book is not so much fantasy as toilet paper...” But the same book had terrific reviews elsewhere. Go figure.

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

EW: Hm. This depends on your definition of “friends.” I’m friendly with, as in able to say “Hi” to and chat a bit, with a LOT of writers, whom I’ve met at science fiction conventions: people like John Scalzi, Tad Williams, Seanan McGuire, Lee Modesitt Jr., Guy Gavriel Kay, Patrick Rothfuss, Joe Haldeman...and many others. 

I know a lot of Canadian writers a bit better, people like Tanya Huff and Julie Czerneda and Hayden Trenholm and Arthur Slade, and, again, many others. 

But topping the list would have to be Robert J. Sawyer. I’ve known him for more than twenty years now, and I can definitely say he helped me become a better writer, because twice he’s been my writing teacher, through the Writing with Style program at the Banff Centre. I went twice, both because I loved it and because the first time I had a non-fiction deadline and spent most of my time there writing a biography of the Ayatollah Khomeini instead of completely focusing on science fiction. 

The second time, in 2005, Rob came into the classroom one morning and told us to write the opening to a story, cold, no preparation: just...go!

I wrote: 

Emily streaked through the phosphorescent sea, her wake a comet-tail of pale green light, her close-cropped turquoise hair surrounded by a glowing pink aurora. The water racing through her gill-slits smelled of blood. 

My classmates thought it sounded interesting, so, as the week progressed, I turned that opening into a short story, “Sins of the Father.” However, I never submitted it anywhere. Before I got around to it, DAW picked up my novel Lost in Translation, originally published by Five Star, for a mass-market-paperback release, and Ethan Ellenberg agreed to be my agent. Needing something to propose to DAW for my next book, I took the seeds I had planted in “Sins of the Father” and let them sprout into the synopsis for what became Marseguro, my second novel published by DAW (and my first written for them), and winner of the 2009 Aurora Award (honoring Canadian science fiction and fantasy) for Best Long-Form Work in English. The sequel, Terra Insegura, followed. (The two were later published under one cover in an omnibus edition, The Helix War.)

So, that was 150,000 words of fiction and a major award, all of which began with one writing exercise set by my fellow writer and friend Robert J. Sawyer! 

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

EW: I’d love to sit down and talk to Jesus one-on-one and ask Him how accurately His life has been portrayed down through the centuries. It’d be cheap, too: I’d bring water, He could make wine. Also, there are a few minor ailments I wouldn’t mind having healed... 

MR: You have recently ventured into the world of podcasting. How does being a writer translate into broadcasting and interviewing? Asking for a friendJ

EW: My podcast, The Worldshapers, is very much focused on writing: in each episode, I chat with an author about the creative process. As of now, I’ve talked to Robert J. Sawyer, Tanya Huff, John Scalzi, Julie Czerneda, and Arthur Slade. Confirmed guests include Orson Scott Card, Joe Haldeman, Gareth L. Powell, Seanan McGuire, Kim Harrison, Tosca Lee, and David Brin...and several others.

I think the fact I am myself a multiply published author helps me with these interviews because all of us as authors are dealing with the same challenges as we move from idea to finished novel, shaping the setting, characters, plot, dialogue, and everything else, writing and revising and being edited.  

Interviewing is of course something I’ve done my whole career, since I started as a newspaper reporter and continue to freelance for magazines and other publications. And on the broadcasting side, I’ve done radio my whole career, too, both as a guest and as a host.

Since my new book is about people who shape worlds (which is why it’s called, duh, Worldshaper), this seemed like an auspicious time to launch something I’ve thought about doing for years. It seems to be going well, and I can’t wait to talk to the many great authors I’m lining up...and read their books!

Again, its website is, and it’s also widely available through many other podcast sources, including iTunes, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher, and more. Please check it out!

To learn more about Edward Willett, please visit:

 Online bookstore:

The Worldshapers podcast website: 





Amazon page:


Author Interview Series-Olga Pinsky

Olga Pinsky

Olga Pinsky

Olga Pinsky is a PhD student at the University of the Rockies in Denver, Colorado. She is an advocate for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and a volunteer at Though, she’s only published one poetry book thus far, she has written 10 works total of various genres including poetry, fan-fiction, General Fiction, and Short Stories. Her hobbies include scuba diving, world travel, photography, and singing. Born in Slutsk, Belarus, USSR, Olga is fluent in both Russian and English. She currently resides in Stamford, CT with her parents and adorable mini-poodle, Mickey.


Marina Raydun: What is your favorite thing about fan-fiction as a genre?

Olga Pinsky: My favorite thing about the genre is that I can use a blueprint of a story and/or film and create my very own world. My first and largest book was “Carlisle’s Diary” (140 chapters/400 pages long), based off of the Twilight character. Instead of doing what every other fanfic writer for Twilight was doing by regurgitating the story but [setting it] in various time periods, I went to a completely different place while still keeping the essence of the original characters and backgrounds. I made a new species that had lived in my head since high school and were taking up too much room in my brain, and evicted them into this story. It was a large gamble but my readers and fans fell in love with these new characters and I was able to create plots that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

Another reason I love fanfic, is because one can escape into the story when real life is a nightmare. It’s a great world to hide and take a break from reality in.

MR: When did you first grow inspired to try your hand at fan-fiction? What character served as your initial muse?

OP: I’ve been writing poetry and short stories since middle school, but it wasn’t until Twilight that I decided to try my hand at it. I’ve always been very creative. I wanted to write primarily from Carlisle’s POV because in both the books and films, he was in the background and never got the same importance as other characters. I have also never written from a male perspective before and wanted to challenge myself. My muse was actually one of my created characters. All of my stories focus around strong female characters. This one was the center being of my created species. She was powerful, kind, caring, a leader, and my alter ego, if you will. She really helped power that story along as well as create the base for all other books since.

MR: What are some of your favorite underappreciated books?

OP: Such a hard question! There are so many! I have a vast number of books at home, [but] I’d have to say the three that pop out in my mind right away are Walter Cronkite’s autobiography, “Golda” by Eleanor Burkett, and “The Guide to Servant Leadership” by James Autry. Though different, these books each speak of leadership, sacrifice, and the telling of a story in their own way.

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

OP: My worst reviews were always by professors. My best—by my readers and fans.

MR: What was the hardest scene to write?

OP: The hardest scenes to write are mourning-post-death scenes of close friends or family, such as my LOTR/Hobbit fanfic called “Only Time,” or when I’m retelling my own suffering in my dark fiction novel called “Miracle ME.” It’s hard to pinpoint which was worse because they were hard to write for different reasons.

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

OP: My first and thus far only published work was my first poetry book. It still floats around Amazon, a decade after publishing. It made me realize what I needed to improve as well as realize that I can do whatever I set my mind and heart to.

MR: Who is your literary crush?

OP: Danielle Steel! She can write 6 plus novels a year. That’s extraordinary!

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

OP: Honestly, no. I consider everything a learning and growing experience.

MR: Is there a book you wish you’d written?

OP: Due to my being a PhD student, I don’t have time to write for pleasure. That doesn’t mean I’m out of ideas. I have 3 books shelved in my head for later.

MR: What are you currently reading?

OP: Nothing at the moment, though I did read a Danielle Steel [novel] on vacation. I am in the process of writing my first scholarly article, so [most] reading I do pertains to that now.

To learn more about Olga and her work, please visit the following:

Author Interview Series-Margaret Gurevich

Margaret Gurevich

Margaret Gurevich

Margaret Gurevich is the author of many books for kids, including Capstone’s Academy of Dance series, Gina’s Balance, and their award-winning Chloe by Design series. She has also written for National Geographic Kids and Penguin Young Readers. When she’s not writing and teaching, she likes exercising, spending time with her family and friends, reading, and watching movies.

Marina Raydun: You work within the MG genre.  What is it about that age group that makes you want to reach out to kids and young adults via fiction?

Margaret Gurevich: I love connecting with the MG age group. There are serious topics tackled but in a manner relatable to the tween. I remember that age, and knowing someone understood what I was going through was everything.

MR: What were some of your favorite books as a middle schooler?

MG: As a middle schooler, I gravitated to adult as well as children’s books. I loved Agatha Christie at that age, but I also enjoyed The Secret Garden, all books by S.E. Hinton, The Babysitters Club series, and more.

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

MG: My mom was very open to whatever I read. I was lucky that way.

MR: You were born in Belarus (where I lived between the ages of 3 and 11), but moved to the United States at a very young age. Are you bilingual?  Which language lends itself better to storytelling?

MG: I can speak Russian and English, but English comes easier. There are many Russian words I have forgotten as there is no one to practice speaking with.

MR: What affect do you feel growing up in family of immigrants had (and continues to have) on your writing?

MG: I like this question! I would say the biggest effect was being brought here to have the life my parents could not. We actually came here as refugees, not immigrants. Growing up, I was always told about the opportunities I could have. I took that to heart. Writing was always my dream, and I wanted to do everything possible to achieve it.

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

MG: The self-doubt that creeps up is always an issue, but I push through it. 

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

MG: There’s a poem I wrote when I was seven that my mom still has. I rhymed twirl with chocolate swirl. I think that speaks for itself.

You can learn more about Margaret by visiting and

Author Interview Series-Mira Awad

Mira Awad

Mira Awad

Mira Awad

Singer, songwriter and actress. Born 1975 in Rameh village in the Galilee (Israel) to a
Palestinian father and Bulgarian mother. As a relentless Artivista, Mira makes a point of promoting dialogue through all the art forms she practices. As actress she participated in numerous bi-lingual productions, as singer she has made the point of collaborating with artists from both sides of the conflict, to bring forth a model of co-existence. As writer she created TV formats promoting dialogue, and a TV drama series that deals with the Palestinian-Israeli identity. As composer, Mira developed a unique fusion of sounds, combining the East with the West, weaving the Arabic language and it's oriental ornaments with Western harmonies. She also composes music for film and theatre. 

Marina Raydun: I referred to you as a poet once and you corrected me, saying that you’ve
always thought of yourself as a songwriter, not a poet. What is the
relationship between lyrics and poetry?

Mira Awad: Well, I do have the habit of shying away from titles, but after giving your question some thought, I do think a song is some form of a poem after all. Once words are intentionally put together to describe a situation, or an emotion, they are poetry. And like in poetry, lyrics may come in many styles and rhythms, with or without rhymes, they may be strictly structured or freely flowing in an associative manner, this would necessarily affect the way they are put to music. 

MR: Is music in your family or did you fall into songwriting on your own?

MA: Yes, music is in my family, both my parents have musical hearing and beautiful singing voices. From my mother's side there are even musicians, in different levels of professionalism. However, as far as I know, I am the first composer. I started writing songs at a very early age, I cannot recall how I started scribbling words and why they became tunes, but nowadays I think maybe if there were existing songs in my language that portrayed the emotions that I had wanted to describe I would not have had the need to write new ones. I may be mistaken of course, and maybe the need to write songs is stronger than circumstance.


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

MA: I think I had that realization quite early in life. As I come from a multicultural family, I spoke three languages up to the age of 5, and could connect the different parts of my family together. Although I could not make that assessment as a child, that fact put me in the bridging position early in life.

MR: A couple of years ago you put a few poems by Mahmoud Darwish to music. 
What was your biggest challenge with this project? Having asked
that—biggest reward?

MA: The biggest challenge was that the poems were already put to music by a big Lebanese artist called Marcel Khalifeh, and his songs had a big popularity in the Arab world. I had been commissioned to write the music for a theatre play made of Darwish's poems, and felt that the original tunes could not serve the drama depicted on stage, and suggested to the director we re-compose them to serve the play. I did not know how this would be accepted by Palestinian crowds who know the original tunes, and I think opinions are divided regarding this: some appreciate the modern take on the very well known poems, and some feel it was presumptuous of me to even think I could do a better job than Khalifeh (which was never my intent). Regarding the reward, well, besides the actual rewards this project got (I received composer of the year in the theatre awards for that year, and also an award from Acum, the Israeli organization for composers), the biggest reward is when young Palestinians tell me I have revived Darwish for them, and even more, when Israelis , who were usually exposed to Darwish in a demonizing way, tell me I have introduced his poetry to them in a way they can connect to.

MR: You’re a true Renaissance woman—you’re a songwriter, a singer, an actress, 
a graphic artist, and a screenwriter. Does your creative method vary from
medium to medium?

MA: Calling it a "creative method" gives me a lot of undeserved credit, as if I have a planned process I go through in order to create. All the medias you mentioned are ways of expression, each one of them appeals to different senses, but all come from the same need to release what is within, whether in shapes, colors, words, melodies or stories. The process may vary, a creation may start from a private or a shared session of improvisation, or from an idea that then needs to take shape. Creativity is my therapy, that’s why I also developed workshops for creativity, to encourage others, who may not consider themselves artists, to uncover the creativity within them as well. I believe we are all born extremely creative, and I believe that when we release these creative energies, we are happier people.

MR: Your upcoming TV Series, Muna, is about a relationship between an Arab
Palestinian living in Tel Aviv and an Israeli Jew from Sderot and what
happens to their bond with the commencement of military operation
Protection Border in Gaza. You are a tireless advocate for peace and
coexistence. Is this project a part of that effort for you? What inspired you to
turn to screenwriting in particular?

MA: My TV drama Muna deals with the same story that I try to tell using all other medias: my identity, as a Palestinian living in Israel. Only this time I chose to bring it forth with a story, and not with a song. While songs may remain in the metaphoric realms, a scenario allowed me to treat the subject more directly, and go more in depth into the conflicts and the complexity. My only experience in scriptwriting comes from being an actress, acting out other people's scripts, and with the years I developed my own taste in what would be a good story or a good scene, and that's what lead me through the process. However, I did have scriptwriter Maya Hefner and director Ori Sivan working with me on Muna, so, although I came up with the story, the series is eventually a joint effort, and the process was yet another big lesson in collaboration.

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?

MA: I would have worked to release my creative energies more, to learn how to channel my thoughts more freely, something that had taken me years to develop.
That is why I also believe that education for creative thinking should be included in school curriculums.

MR: What, if anything, do you owe real life people who serve as an inspiration for
your characters, be it in a TV show, or perhaps a song?

MA: Everything is inspired by real life, by people I meet, and situations I encounter. Clearly these things get processed through my individual outlook on life, but nothing is created from nothingness.


MR: What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?


Q: "In the eyes of the public, an artist only exists when they share their art. Is it frustrating that people sometimes ask why you disappeared?"

And the answer is: Yes. Sometimes I am frustrated that audiences don't consider the incubation time that I need as an artist, and if I'm not sharing a new song or new concert on my [facebook page], or if I'm not on some morning TV show, then it's as if I'm not doing anything. The truth is that the incubation time, the time that it takes to form a new project, is real life for me. When it is time to share it, it means the creative process has ended and the marketing phase had started, which is nothing about artistic expression and all about sales. I'm sure you can imagine that I would have preferred to remain a private individual in an ongoing creative process, but hey, we all need to make a living somehow.

To learn more about Mira Awad, please visit