Friday, August 31, 2007

Susan J. Breen, Author of "The Fiction Class" -- An Interview

by Linda Della Donna



Today, I am proud to present, Susan J. Breen, author of The Fiction Class.

Recently I caught up with this prolific writer, teacher, comic, wife, mother, and more, and requested an interview. Lucky me. Susan J. Breen is friendly, too.

Here's what Susan J. Breen had to say:


Q: When did you know you were a writer, Susan? What's your story?

I was a reader before I was a writer. I was one of those kids who was always sitting in a corner, reading a book, and my idea of a good time in high school was to read through the dictionary, looking for words I did not know. I was not popular. Somehow though, I never considered being a fiction writer. I had this idea that novelists had to be bohemian and cool; so instead I went into journalism and became a reporter for Fortune. It wasn’t until I was a wife and mother (at home with my four children) that I began to write fiction. Literally, one morning, I was sitting in my living room and my kids were taking a nap and I looked at the TV and I thought, No. I want to do something else. Instead of turning on the TV, I picked up a pad of paper and began to write. At that moment, I consciously chose the future I hoped to have.

Q: Has growing up in the New York area contributed to your writing?

The Fiction Class is the first fiction I have ever set in New York. All my stories have taken place in Long Island (where I grew up), Mexico City (where I spent a lot of time) or Westchester (which is where I live). Manhattan seemed too big a subject. How do you come up with anything new to say about it? But with The Fiction Class, I figured out that instead of writing about Manhattan as a whole, I could write about West 93rd Street, and I did have something to say about that. So now my plan is to tackle NY one street at a time.

Q: Please share with readers where the idea for The Fiction Class came from?

The Fiction Class is based on my own relationship with my mother. I loved her dearly, but we fought all the time, especially when she was older and in a nursing home. One day, not long after I got my job at Gotham Writers’ Workshop, we were in the midst of some argument and I mentioned something that had happened in class, and suddenly we stopped arguing and began to talk about fiction. It turned out that she had always dreamed of being a writer, and she began to tell me her stories, and I told her mine. After she died, I thought how grateful I was that she and I had had this special year together and I began to think of writing a story about a woman who heals her relationship with her mother by teaching her to write. That became The Fiction Class.

Q: I know you are published in other major venues. Please share: Who, What, Where, When?

My stories have been published by a lot of literary magazines, among them American Literary Review, The Chattahooche Review and North Dakota Quarterly. My articles have been published by The Writer and Writer’s Digest.

Q: Was it difficult getting The Fiction Class published? And are you satisfied with the results?

Actually, getting The Fiction Class published was not that hard. I started to write it in December 2005 and my editor bought it in June 2006. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I spent seven years writing an earlier novel that I never did sell, and three years working on yet another unsold novel. So depending on how you look at it, I either sold it very fast or very slow.

I am very satisfied with the results. Publishing is everything I dreamed it would be and seeing that book with my name on it is just thrilling.

Q: What about the book cover? Care to tell us where the brilliant red apple came from, without giving away the story, of course.

My favorite part about that apple is that it is so red. I love the way it catches the eye. There is an apple in the novel, and it has to do with the romance that is an important part of The Fiction Class. I have to say that that apple on the cover is the most controversial part of the whole book. There are people who love it and people who hate it (such as my boss.

Q: Susan, what is the secret of your success?

First of all, thank you for considering me a success. The hardest thing about being an unpublished writer is that it’s hard to believe you will ever see something in print. And of course it doesn’t help that your dearest friends and relatives also wonder if you will ever see anything in print. You have to find the joy in your writing and keep at it no matter how many times you are rejected. Because you will be rejected a lot. I think I am successful now because I didn’t give up (and I hope I write well.

Q: Do you have a favorite writing tip, something a new writer can wrap her brain around and use as she/he writes her/his book?

My main tip would be to write every day. Sometimes (often) I will be tired and not feel like writing, but I will force myself to sit down, and almost always, that is the day I break through and write something I like. You have to have discipline. Also, you have to approach writing as though it is something that matters. This is not a hobby. This is life.

Thank you, Susan J. Breen. Thank you for your time and and for your wise words. Best wishes and continued success in all your writing endeavors.

You have permission to visit Susan J. Breen's website, http://www.susanjbreen.com/ to learn more about her and where to purchase your copy of her new book, The Fiction Class. Feel free to email Susan Breen at susanbreen@yahoo.com.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Mango Tree Cafe' Loi Kroh Road - Alan Solomon, Taryn Simpson - An Interview, 2 Sides

by Linda Della Donna






Recently, I caught up with authors Alan Solomon and Taryn Simpson, authors of The Mango Tree Cafe’ Loi Kroh Road, to ask for an interview.

What is stunning about their union is Solomon makes his home in Asia, and Simpson resides in the USA.

Here’s what authors, Taryn Simpson and Alan Solomon had to say:

Taryn, please share with readers how you came across this project?
TS: A writer friend of mine got a lead from a gentleman that had written a rough draft of a book and needed someone to “punch it up”. She forwarded the book to me because it was fiction and she knows that it’s my speciality. I thought it was going to be ‘just another writing job’. Enter Alan Solomon and The Mango Tree Cafe, Loi Kroh Road. I read the synopsis he wrote for the book and was immediately taken with it.

Alan, can you share why you wrote this book?

AS: I received the power to write this novel from the moment I entered Loi Kroh Road and felt the mysterious magic of the street.

Please share with readers what it was like to work with an author from a different part of the world. Were there barriers?

TS: Absolutely! Being an American, it’s hard for me to fathom that people in other countries don’t have the same freedoms that we do. Even when it comes to something minor such as the internet. If you have lived in the USA your entire life, you tend to adopt the mindset of “If I have a certain freedom, surely everyone else has it too”. Although watching the news I know differently. It’s just different when you become aware of how rich our freedoms are in this country when you hear people from different parts of the country talk about certain limitations they have. For example, when I created the blog for the book, Alan wasn’t able to see it online for quite some time due to China’s strict internet laws.

TS (continues): Another barrier was I had a certain time frame where I could catch Alan on line. Remember, if the time in Nashville, TN USA is 8pm, it is 8am in Beijing. So, when I’m winding down from the day, Alan is beginning his. From 7:30pm my time until however late I could make myself stay up is when we had brief conversations about the book. Once I logged off for the night, Alan would leave me emails for the next morning (which is his night!). It was crazy!
AS: No barriers working with Taryn, Taryn was so enthusiastic and so helpful, for me it was like we were seated in the same bar side-by-side discussing our next move.

How long did it take you to write The Mango Tree Cafe’? Were friends, family members supportive?

TS: Well, that’s hard to say. Although the book was written, I re-wrote roughly half of it and added/deleted sections of the book. Generally a novel takes 2-3 months or maybe more. That’s not including editing. Yes, my partner endured many conversations about the book. When I become enthralled with a book, look out. I talk about it non-stop!

AS: The novel from start to finish took around 4 years, however the ‘pull’ to write was in my head for as long as I can remember, probably in High School. My family and friends never knew I was writing the Mango Tree Cafe, however if they had known they would have been supportive with a roar of laughter.

Without giving too much away, what is your favorite part of The Mango Tree Cafe? Do you have one?

TS:
Oh, this is going to be difficult. Overall, I loved the fact that I got “lost” in this book as a reader. I’ve never been to Thailand and never had a yen to go. But, the events of the novel were so real to me that I felt like I have been there. It was a very strange feeling. And, meeting people in Nashville that had actually been there was just surreal.

TS (continues): I love many sections of the book. The ones that stand out in my mind is the metamorphisis the main character goes through. It covers from the time he is a child to current age of around 50ish. He is able to gain a realization about himself and his father which is very melancholy at best. It’s a sweet, sad, and all too painfully familiar feeling of knowing what it feels like to be so ultimately different from others and realizing that regardless of the lifestyle you lead, you can’t run from what is inside yourself. I don’t want to give too much away, but it is a very poignant story. I promise you will be in tears at the end. Not to mention that the setting includes visions of a lush jungle full of exotic fish, elephants and street dogs. I tried to put that feel in the You Tube video I did for it.

AS: In the novel there are many personal favorite parts I enjoy, however I guess if I had to identify just one part I would have to say it was when Larry realized he lost his only love Noo and to the end of the novel believed he was hearing her and seeing her and that someday she would return to him.

Did you accomplish everything you set out to do when writing this story?

TS: I think so. This question would probably be better served if answered by Alan Solomon. But, after he read the final draft I sent him. I could tell he was quite pleased.

AS: Yes I believe so.

What do you want readers to come away with?

TS: I have to remind people that the story was created by Alan. But I want people to come away with whatever makes them think about the book. It has a lot of messages and there is one for everybody. I loved how the book describes the misfits of Loi Kroh Road as beautiful and exotic. Yet, the lives they lead were very gritty and difficult.

AS: Questioning life and how things happen to us as we travel through life which we can miss unless we are alert and seize the moment.

Are you working on anything at this time? Can you share what it is?

TS: I’m having to FORCE myself to move on from this book! LOL. I’m marketing the heck out of it as we speak. But, I have a couple of ideas for books that I am working on. The Mango Tree book has created a real desire in me to start writing “literary fiction” much in the same vein as “The Color Purple”, or “A River Runs Through it”. This book is pivotal in my career. My next book is tentatively entitled “Invisible Fences”. Although it can change.

AS: I am thinking all the time, I watch and listen and keep a notebook. Something may happen. I am not too sure.

Any advice to a writer in the process of writing her own book?

TS: Some writers will say write at any cost. I say write when you have alone time and if you don’t have it, make time to write. Even if it is for 10 or 20 minutes a day. Don’t be discouraged. Get it down. Worry about deleting or editing later. Listen to music or do an activity such as people watching that will help you get in the mood for what you are writing because I think it bleeds through.

AS: Place a mirror on your writing desk and as you write occasionally look up and you will see what your next line is to be, because looking right back at you will be the lines, the eyes sending you the message and experience of life.

Thank you, Taryn. Thank you, Alan, for your time.

Much success to both of you with The Mango Tree Cafe Loi Kroh Road. Now, this writer is off to get a mirror!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Eileen Hickey - An Interview

(c) by Linda Della Donna


Recently I met up with a real hero--This lady battled to lose weight--And won! I asked for an interview and proudly, she said, yes.

Meet Eileen Hickey from White Plains New York. This is her story:

Eileen, please tell me a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? What is your age?

I am 23 yrs old. I am currently working as a teachers assistant.

I understand you had surgery recently. Please tell me the name of your operation, and why you decided to have this operation?

I had gastric bypass surgery. I decided to have the surgery after 3 years of deciding. My health had gotten so out of control that I had to make a decision if I wanted to save my life. My doctor kept telling me that if I didn't lose weight immediately, I could have a heart attack, or a stroke at any time, therefore, I could have died. After them telling me this, I knew having the surgery was my last chance at correcting my health.

How did you select your surgeon?


Back in June 2003, I had to have my gall bladder removed, so my family doctor recommended my surgeon. He did such a wonderful job and was an excellent doctor, that my physician recommended him again for the gastric bypass. I was so scared to have the surgery in the first place, but knowing that I could trust this surgeon left me confidant that everything would work out just fine.

Was there a screening process involved?

Absolutely. This is not a surgery for everyone. There are so many risks to this surgery--you have to go through a screening with a psychologist, a nutritionist, a pulmonologist, and a cardiologist. Each doctor runs various tests to see if your body can physically handle the intense surgery, and to make you aware of all the risks to make sure this is truly what you want, and will be able to maintain and adapt to your new life style.



This is Eileen Hickey -- Before her surgery



Eileen, were you frightened? Was your family supportive? What was the recovery like? Was there pain?

Since there are many risks to take into consideration, it was a very hard decision to make. Of course I was scared of the surgery--it was a life decision that I was making, and not knowing if it was the right one.

It took some convincing for my family. I was never completely honest with them on how unhealthy I was and how greatly my health was at risk. When I opened up to them then, they were 100% supportive. I feel it is very imperative to have a good support system while deciding to have the surgery and when recovering , along for the rest of your life.

The recovery went really well for me. I was very fortunate to have experienced no complications during and after surgery. The only small bump that I ran into was a little dehydration for about a week. At the time of healing, it felt a lot worse than what it sounds like. My family and doctors monitored me well and constantly helped me to get fluids into my body. Just like any surgery, there was pain.

I must say though I have had two other major surgeries, and compared to the healing process, this last surgery seemed not as bad. The hardest part of the healing was the emotional factor.

Losing weight at such rapid pace can send your hormones in many different directions, as well as not eating what I was used to. You try your hardest to mentally prepare yourself and the doctors always say you're never 100% prepared--Well they were right! It took me several weeks to adjust physically and emotionally.



This is Eileen October 2005.


How much did you weigh before the surgery, Eileen? How much weight did you lose? What is your weight now? Do you need to lose more?

I am 5'9" and weighed in at 313 lbs. As of my last doctor's visit on August 17th, 2007, I weighed 196 lbs. That is an amazing total of 117 lbs. lost in a little over 8 months. My surgeon's weight loss goal was to get me down to about 180 lbs. to have a normal BMI (Body Mass Index). Since I had lost the majority of my excess fat already, he has predicted that I may loose another 50 -60 lbs. in the next 6-8 months, but by then my body will regulate and gain back some of the weight to were I will be at a healthy, comfortable weight. In my mind, I am healthy now, and that is all that matters. My goal was to never be "skinny," mine was to just be healthy.

I have reached that goal and so, if I never loose another pound, then I will just continue to work out, eat well balanced meals, and be proud of how far I have come along.

What is your daily diet like since the operation compared to before?

Much smaller meals. Even when I tried to eat healthy before the surgery I never realized how large my portions were. Now my portions are very small and mainly protein, with mixes of fruits and vegetable . I don't always make good choices now, I will still have a few chips here and there, or maybe a sugar-free cookie every now and then, but I feel that I have control of my intake and I just try never to overeat because your stomach is a muscle and can be stretched back out. That is how many gain their weight back after they have had this kind of surgery.

This was Eileen Hickey.

Knowing all you know now, Eileen, if you had it to do over, would you have the surgery?

In a heartbeat!!!!

This was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. It was worth every ache or pain from the surgery and every tear I may have cried.

I am blessed to have had such a great support system and for them (family members) to always remind me that this is what I wanted and that I could do it. My sister always reminded me that "the healing process goes quickly and by tomorrow you'll be feeling better". That helped me get though each day knowing that by "tomorrow" I will be a better, happier person.

Would you recommend it to another man or woman contemplating this surgery?

YES!

However, just like a doctor will explain to you that the surgery is like a "tool" and what you do with that "tool" is up to you. Anyone looking for this surgery must know that it is NOT a quick fix and will change your life forever. If you are committed and dedicated then you will have great success and your life will change for the better.

Are you satisfied with the results?

I am very satisfied of my results. I don't like to take full credit, because I feel if I didn't have my family and boyfriend always helping me to do good, then I'm not sure where my results would be right now. I will never regret any decision that I have made because it has saved my life!

And finally, Eileen, how has this operation changed your life?

It has changed my life in multiple ways. For the most part, my health. I no longer have high blood pressure, my asthma is under control, and I am not at a risk for diabetes anymore. Along with losing the weight your confidence goes up, as well. I don't feel as insecure about myself. Walking into places doesn't have me feeling like others are staring at me like a "freak show." Also, buying clothing is much more affordable now, so that's pretty exciting. Overall, this experience has been wonderful, and I hope that I will bring the same to someone else that has this procedure.


This is Eileen Hickey today!

Thank you, Eileen Hickey, for your special words.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Christina Sponias - An Interview

by Linda Della Donna







Meet Christina Sponias.

Christina Sponias is participating in the LKSummer Writing Challenge writing 30 ezinearticles in 60 days. Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with Christina to ask her for an interview.

Here's what Christina Sponias has to say:

Hello Christina. I just want to say how happy I am to make your acquaintance and I thank you for allowing me the honor to do this interview.

Please tell readers a little about yourself. Where were you born?

I was born and raised in Brazil, but my parents are Greek. We had many security problems in Sao Paulo, where I was born and raised and I decided to live in Athens after finishing high school in Brazil. I started to study alone in Athens and read many books on various scientific subjects.

When did you start writing?

I have been a writer since I was a child, but I wrote poems and literary works. Only after realizing that I was too nervous I started to learn about psychology, in order to solve my problems.

I understand you know about interpreting dreams. Can you tell readers about that.

I had tremendous success with dream interpretation and I could cure many people this way, but my work was too complicated because I continued Carl Jung's research into the unknown region of the human psychic sphere. This is why I delayed presenting the results of my research to the public for so long.

Christina, I understand you are a widow. How long are you a widow? Are you alone? Where do you live? Have you family and friends?

I'm a widow since 1989, and I have a son who is 22 years old. We live with my mother. My father lives alone in Brazil. I have many relatives in Greece, some in Sweden and some in the USA, but my closest family is in Brazil. My dearest friends are dearer than brothers and sisters to me!

I'm a unique child and my parents divorced when I was 14 years old. I even helped them get separated because they were constantly fighting. My father is schizophrenic; that's why I was able to study craziness since I was a child…

I adore my son Stelio, who is a musician. He is a piano composer. He doesn't yet know what exactly to do in his life, but we share a good relationship. Our apartment is always full of his friends—it's like a hotel and a restaurant always at their disposal.

What do you do for a living?

I have a store with Italian clothes for women that my mother and my uncle gave me (but they manage it, I mainly give my opinion…). I have worked there since 1992 and I have many loyal customers. I learned there how important it is to care about my appearance because I was too indifferent in this matter.

Do you have pets?

I have no time for pets… but I like cats very much. I like dogs too; I had a wolf once, but they are much too noisy. I would prefer a sweet and smart Siamese cat if I could have one.

Your website, http://booksirecommend.com is very interesting. Care to describe it for readers and expand on how you hit on this writing niche?

I wanted to start with a site about dream interpretation, but I didn't have any experience with the internet and I was afraid of the traffic because I knew that if I started interpreting everyone's dreams (entirely free of charge of course, because this is philanthropic help), I would have too much work. Everyone close to me asks me about their dreams' meanings… If everyone on the Internet would do the same, I wouldn't be able to devote time to everyone properly. So I decided to prepare a simpler site first of all and write my ebooks in English, because I had everything written in Greek - it didn't help to translate these documents since professional translations are too expensive. I saw how expensive they are when translating my ebook Wisdom from Greek to English…

Fortunately, the English language is very easy and very beautiful! I enjoy writing in English and I think the simplicity of the language helps me be even more objective in my ebooks and articles. Since my first site would be made with my ebooks, it should be the site with the books I would recommend to anyone. However, I'm providing free psychotherapy to everyone through my articles. Therefore, it's not only a site with ebooks but it is also a site with many articles. I write for many related categories, and give free information and advice through my articles.

Christina, please tell readers what brought you to the LKSummer Writing Challenge with Suzanne Lieurance and Kim King? What do you hope to gain by participating in the LKSummer Writing Challenge?

I learned about it on Chris Knight's blog. I adore this blog, I adore Ezine Articles and I adore article writing! I think that article writing is an art, first of all, and it is also a way to say something very objectively in only a few words.

This Writing Challenge is making me write more. I'm writing at least one article per day.

I think I'm already gaining a lot just because I'm participating in it, and in this way I am learning what other writers think and do. It's nice to have a similar interests group, to share our thoughts and learn with others. I like it very much!

Christina, what are your writing goals for the year? What are your greatest writing obstacles? Your greatest writing accomplishments?

I intend to write many articles, give free psychotherapy to everyone and promote my ebooks. Besides the articles, I have many ebooks in mind. I don't know from where to start…

My greatest writing obstacle is the lack of time. I wish I could spend hours and hours writing… but I have many other things to do besides that. First of all, I have to give support to many people who need help. Sometimes I spend a lot of time helping them sort out their problems and visiting their homes, besides doing all my daily work at home, at the store, taking care of my son, etc.

My greatest writing accomplishment was Craziness Prevention, after 19 years of studies and research!

I also wrote another book over 6 and a half years that played a decisive role in my life. It was a literary work that I started writing after a terrible car accident I suffered when I was 15 years old. This book was full of dream symbols. It gave me the key to knowledge; that's why I could understand the dreams' meanings better than Jung himself.

Christina, do you have a favorite book? Do you have a favorite author? Any reason?

I have many favorite books and favorite authors. Most of them are Brazilians, like Carlos Drummond de Andrade and his work "Contos de Aprendiz" – Stories by an Apprentice. I like his delicate humour and his ironic observations. I like Sartre because he is very critical; Maugham too, for the same reason.

I have many favorite scientific books too, like Konrand Lorenz's "Behind the Mirror" and Alfred Hoyle's "Ten Faces of the Universe," because they are very clear, informational and helpful.

What or who motivates you in your writing?

My motivation is the necessity to put an end to craziness, poverty and many other tragedies of our world.

Since my childhood, I wanted to find a way to help everyone live happily. This was the subject of my first literary book, which I wrote when I was 14. The second book was written after a terrible car accident as I mentioned before. It was a continuation of my first work, but with a different perspective.

After these literary works, I became a scientist, researching many scientific subjects and continuing Jung's research into the unknown region of human psychic sphere, but still looking for peace and happiness. I'm very lucky because I finally found where psychic health, peace and balance rely, because this is the only way we can really live happily. Now I only have to convince mankind to accept a general psychotherapy, which is indispensable for everyone.

If you could meet one editor, Christina, and you could ask her one question, what would it be and what would you want "your" favorite editor to know about you, and your writing?

If I would meet one editor, I would ask him if he is interested in very helpful and rare books of very good quality. I'd like him to know that I'm a very serious, sincere and objective writer.

Christina, your website is exceptionally good. I visited www.booksirecommend and came away with insight, inspiration, and motivation. I especially like the the title of your ebook, "Craziness Prevention." Please tell readers one thing special about your book.

Craziness Prevention is the result of more than 19 years of studies and research. This ebook will teach its readers how to prevent craziness and how to exactly interpret their dreams and the facts and events of their daily lives, having more information about themselves, other people and our world in this way. It's an ebook they will always consult since it contains a comprehensive glossary containing the most important dream symbols—a very advanced tool for scientific dream interpretation—which I can provide only because I continued Jung's research and, therefore, I am able to understand the dreams' meanings better than my mentor, by using his own method.

And finally, Christina, what advice do you have to Prevent Craziness for a writer working at a website, writing a book, maintaining a blog, writing interviews, and living?

My advice to this writer and to everyone else is that you shall learn how to interpret your dreams because this will help you immensely for your entire lives! It's like learning a foreign language. In the beginning, you don't understand anything, but as you learn more, things become much easier. The unconscious that produces the dreams works like a real doctor that cures everyone. Dream Interpretation will be taught at schools as soon as the responsible authorities will understand its importance. Craziness is a terrible enemy! We had better eliminate it before it becomes stronger; otherwise, we'll have too many problems to face. However, adults, neurotics, depressed individuals or even people suffering from worse psychological diseases can be helped and cured through dream interpretation if they precisely follow the guidance they receive in their dreams.

Now you'll tell me that you don't have time to write down your dreams and study dream interpretation… I will tell you then that you will certainly find the time if you think that this habit will guarantee your psychological and your physical health, since mind and body are related. You're not only going to have the wisest counsellor that you could ever find at your disposition in the unconscious, you'll also save time and money because you won't need a doctor. You'll mainly find your peace of mind and happiness, which are more important than anything else!

Christina, that is beautiful. I can hardly wait to close my eyes for a good night's sleep and hopefully, make sweet dreams.


You can learn more about Christina Sponias by visiting her website, http://booksirecommend.com

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Andrew Grant - An Interview

by Linda Della Donna

















Meet Andrew Grant.

Andrew Grant is creator of http://www.moneyandmind.com/, a website dedicated to helping visitors grow in wealth, as well as self. Recently, I had the opportunity to ask Andrew Grant for an interview.

Here's what he had to say:

Hi Andrew, please tell readers a little about yourself.

Hi Linda, thanks very much for agreeing to interview me. I have only ever been interviewed once before, by a major national newspaper in the UK about a business I was working in at the time. I spent hours preparing and was really nervous about the whole thing.

The interviewer was abrupt and offhand and I could tell didn’t really care about what he was doing, so I found it all rather uncomfortable and I was very worried about how he would write me up. Well after all that, the piece was spiked and it never appeared. So I’m hoping that my second time will be a little more friendly.

No problem, Andrew. I'm honored and privileged to interview you. Make yourself comfortable. This interviewer is all ears.

OK, about me. I am 49 years old, I live in a beautiful village called Sunningdale, in Berkshire, England. It’s about 30 miles west of London, so we have the advantage of being in the country but with easy access to one of the best cities in the world.

I have been living with my girlfriend, Ginnie for just over a year now and between us we have five grown up children, spread all over the UK, studying or working.

Sunningdale is just a couple of miles from Windsor Castle, the Queen’s country pile and we often go walking in Windsor Great Park, which is several square miles of woodlands, parks and lakes, which used to be the royal back yard, many years ago, but is now open to the public.

I’m just a tourist now like everyone else, but in a previous part of my life, I had a few encounters with the royal family. Mainly because I knew someone with royal connections. I won’t bore you with all the stories, but I did once break a chair that belonged to Prince Andrew.

Andrew, how exciting. Please, elaborate.

We’d been invited to tea (very English) with the Prince, The Duchess of York (Fergie) and their daughters Princess Beatrice and Princess Eugenie.

The Prince gave us a tour of his house, Royal Lodge. It used to belong to the Queen Mother. H had inherited it after she died and had just spent a lot of money refurbishing the building and restoring the antique furniture.

After the tour we were ushered into the huge drawing room, probably 200 yards long by 100 yards wide, filled with sofas and tables and overstuffed chairs. The servants had laid out tea and sandwiches for us and we helped ourselves.

The Prince motioned me to a chair at one of the tables and I sat down. To my shock, the two front legs, snapped with a loud crack and the chair collapsed, dumping me on the floor with a painful thump.

Fergie rushed over full of sympathy and helped me up. I decided to use humour to cover my embarrassment so I turned to Andrew and said, “Ah, good trick, I bet you use that on all the new visitors”.

To my surprise, he took absolutely no notice of my scintillating wit, expressed no sympathy for my fall, or my embarrassment, but with a concerned face, he picked up the chair and it’s severed legs, and walked out of the room, muttering “That’s another chair I’ll have to get fixed”.
He returned a few minutes later and the incident was never referred to again. Very strange.

Anyway, I’m digressing a bit, but I thought you might like that story.

Andrew, that is an incredible and believable story--Tell me, how is it you chose marketing as your writing niche?

I have pretty much always worked in sales and marketing for the last 25 plus years, so it’s an area I know, though I never gained any formal qualifications or training. I like to think of myself more as a guerilla marketer. Pop in, have a quick skirmish and pop out again, before the enemy has woken up, that sort of approach.

I sporadically work with small businesses to help them build their profile, increase their customer base, keep their customers around for longer and earn more from them.

On the writing side, like a lot of people, I’ve always wanted to write for a living but have found a thousand excuses not to do it. When I was younger I started a few novels, but didn’t finish any of them.

Then in the late eighties, I did some writing for a couple of trade magazines, in the recruitment industry, where I was working. That lead to a regular column which I used to write under a pseudonym, so I could say outrageous things about the industry without any come back. I enjoyed that, but eventually, the magazine folded (yes I know they all fold in the middle) and I didn’t really pursue things for a long time.

More recently, probably due to a mid life crisis (I’m on my third one now), I have decided to pick up the pen again and see if I can make a living from it in some shape or form. These days the world of writing is very different and the internet has opened up all sorts of possibilities that never existed before.

I would ultimately like to combine my marketing capability, my writing and my new found knowledge of the web to support myself by doing all the things I love.

So currently I’m pursuing two writing strands. I have built a website which offers a free newsletter to anyone interested in self development, goal setting, making money online and positive thinking. This gives me the chance to spend time writing the content for the newsletter and occasionally recommending affiliate products that I think are worth looking at.

I am also extensively using article marketing as a way to bring traffic to that site, so I get the chance to write even more.

My second strand is that I am about a third of the way through writing a book called Small Business, Big Ideas. It is a book on marketing techniques for small businesses – typically offline businesses, but a lot of the content will appeal to online business too.

My position is that there is an awful lot of rubbish and jargon talked about marketing and I’m trying to cut through that and show that marketing is actually pretty simple, anyone can do it. I’m also keen to show that it affects every part of a business, from the look of your store or your van, through the reception your customers get on the phone, right through the choosing, buying and after sales process. It’s not just about adverts and brochures.

MY aim though is not to have it published as such. It will be available as an e-book on the web and will be promoted through articles I write, online press releases and a modest pay per click campaign.

I’ll have to finish it first though, and as every writer knows, that’s the toughest part.

Andrew, where do you submit your articles?

I always submit my articles to EzineArticles.com, first. I do submit to other places, but EA is my favorite and they seem to get very wide distribution.

I also just discovered a site called http://www.howtodothings.com/ where I have posted a couple of pieces. Their approach is a bit different in that all their articles have to be titled “How to do…” and they insist on having proper numbered lists, which entails a bit of fiddling about with html – though I think they might be prepared to do that for you.

They are quite a recent site, so I guess they don’t get much traffic yet, but one thing I like is that they have a feature called “suggest a topic”, where people can put in a request for articles they’d like to see, which is a great source of article ideas if you’re stuck for them. Last time I looked there were over 1800 topic requests on everything from relationships to rocket science.

Another site I use a lot for my articles is SubmitYourArticle. (Here’s a link to it; www.money-and-mind.com/sya.htm ) It’s a paid for service but you post your article there once and they send it to, I think at least 20 other sites automatically for you. They also have a thing called Article Leverage, so you can create lots of slightly different versions of your article to avoid duplicate content issues, which might downgrade your article on Google.

What brought you to the Summer Writing Challenge with Suzanne Lieurance and Kim King? What do you hope to gain by participating in the Summer Writing Challenge?

Chris Knight, who runs EA, has a blog and he wrote about the challenge in there. I thought it was a brilliant way to help keep me motivated and meet some of the goals I had already set myself.

I signed up a few days after the start of the challenge, the 6th I think. . It’s the 10th today and I’ve got 10 articles completed so I’m pretty confident of beating the target.

Since I signed up, I’ve been really pleased with the interesting discussions I’ve seen, the encouragement I’ve received, not least from you Linda and the great feeling you get from knowing that there are other people out there working away with similar aims.

It’s easy to forget about the outside world when you’re sat at a desk in your own home, tapping away and sending off your articles on the web, like little boats on a huge ocean. You never know where they’ll go or if you’ll ever hear from them again. So, just knowing that there are others just like you, is a great help.

Andrew, can you tell us your writing goals are for the year? What your greatest writing obstacles are? And perhaps share with readers your greatest writing accomplishments.

I started writing articles in mid-June and by the end of July, I had done about 55, so I was reasonably pleased with progress. But I’ve been very mindful of the fact that you need to have about 250 articles out there before you start to see real volumes of traffic. I’ve seen that figure quoted by both Christopher Knight at EA and also by Jeff Herring, the Article Guy and he’s got over 1,000 articles on EA, so he should know.

I promised myself that I would get my score up to 100 by September 21st, which will be the three month point from my first submission. That should also see me past the Summer Challenge score as well, so the two go together nicely.

After that, I’d like to get to 250 by the end of the year, which will only be a further 3 months, so I’ll have to go even faster, but I’m enjoying it, so it hopefully won’t be too difficult.

In a way, though, what’s more important, is the traffic that those articles bring to my site. I’ve been tracking progress on that and I reckon that my articles bring me about 20 visitors a day. That isn’t much, I know, but it continues to steadily grow and apart from my time, those visitors are completely free.

I also find that they are far more likely to sign up for the newsletter than the ones who come via pay per click, so it’s quality traffic. My eventual aim is to survive on free article traffic alone, but that will take a while.

I can’t really say I have any great obstacles, except for my uncanny ability to focus on the wrong things and I can be a terrible procrastinator – I write articles about how to overcome it, but I don’t always practice what I preach.

I’d say my greatest writing accomplishment is yet to come and will be when I finish Small Business, Big Ideas. Prior to that the thing I enjoyed having written the most was a silly little sketch that a friend and I performed at a party. It was a short parody of a popular Australian soap opera and it was really satisfying to see people genuinely falling about laughing. That’s a great feeling.

Andrew, you have a great sense of humor. Please share what your favorite book is, if you have one and who your favorite author is. Any reason?

When I was younger I used to devour fiction by the crate load and depending on which era of my life you’re talking about, my favourites have been EA Johns (Biggles books), Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Graham Greene, Ian McEwen.

For the last few years I have spent much more time reading non-fiction. I hated History in school but I rediscovered it in my late thirties and I’ll guzzle down anything on WW2 or more recent world history and biographies of Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin etc. I’m reading Robert Dallek’s great bio of JFK at the moment, An Unfinished Life.

My father served in WW2. He flew in bombers and got shot down over Berlin and spent two years in a prison camp. In a way it was like having a piece of living history in the family, but when I was a kid I didn’t appreciate it. I’m glad to say I did take the time to ask him about it before he died and one day I’d like to write about it.

He left me a few mementoes, such as his dog-tag from the camp and some cigarette tins hand-made from scrap aluminum, by Russian prisoners which they used to trade for bread and cigarettes. I’d say those are among my most treasured possessions.

But in terms of one favourite book – that’s tough. The two I’ve probably read more times than any other would be To Kill a Mockingbird. No wonder Harper Lee never wrote anything that came close to that book – it is absolutely perfect in it’s evocation of childhood. And the other one is One Hundred years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez – he creates such a wonderful, yet slightly off balance world with his mad extended Buendia family and the history of their town.

Recently I discovered Isabel Allende, another South American novelist who tells great rip-roaring stories in a similar vein to Marquez.

Andrew, what or who motivates you in your writing?

What motivates me is the pleasure I get from writing. I don’t claim to be a great writer, in fact I’m a bit of a hack and that used to bother me. I was always trying to craft the perfect sentence, with pretensions to great literature, but writing articles for the web has sort of liberated me and I’m content now to write in a purely conversational tone. I’m writing the book in the same style so I hope people find it easy to read because that’s one of my main aims.

The other great motivation is when someone reads something of mine and gives me good feedback. That’s a really uplifting feeling. I found a quote the other day from George M. Adams, who said “I don't care how great, how famous or successful a man or woman may be, each hungers for applause."

I think that is so true. We all need positive feedback.

Actually, I confess I don’t know who Adams is or was – perhaps someone can tell me.

Andrew, if you could meet one editor, could ask one question, what would that question be? Also, what would you want "your" favorite editor to know about you, and your writing?

A year or so ago, I wrote a series of light hearted pieces about internet dating and my experiences thereof. I thought it was pretty funny (but then I would, wouldn’t I?), and I sent it to a few editors. All of them rejected it. So I’d like to ask them what was wrong with it.

Apart from that I don’t really care about editors – they’re not needed on the web. Which, to be honest, I realise is not necessarily a good thing, but what I mean is they don’t really figure in my plans.

Your website is exceptionally good. I visited http://www.moneyandmind.com/ and came away with useful free information. I especially like your blog link and specifically your July 23, 2007 entry "My Mission Statement." Please expand on this.

Thanks, you are very kind about my site. I think it’s still very amateurish. I’m just pleased that I took the plunge and actually put it out there instead of endlessly tinkering with it and never actually making it available, which is one of my tendencies.

I wrote my mission statement because I always write down my goals. However I have never “published” them before. In a way it makes you accountable and that’s what I was aiming to achieve. However, it’s a pretty limited accountability.

I just checked my web stats (I’m a bit of a web stats geek) and I see that particular post has been viewed a grand total of three times since I posted it! One of those was you, one of those was me and the other one, I think was a guy called Ronnie who sent me a very nice testimonial about my newsletter, which I put on the front page because it is the only testimonial I’ve ever had.

So I figure that if I don’t achieve my goals, neither you nor Ronnie is likely to take ship across the Atlantic and berate me personally for my failure. I hope not anyway.

And finally, Andrew, what advice do you have for a budding writer working at a website, writing a book, maintaining a blog and writing interviews looking to earn a living off her site?

My advice comes not from a position of having achieved it, so I’m not best qualified, but I’ve come to realise two things. It’s a long slow process and you have to enjoy what you’re doing or what’s the point?

And the second thing is you just have to keep plodding on and believing in your goal, believing in the process of how you’re going to get there and it will come. I do firmly believe that.

I also think that one of the great motivators for me is that I hope in some small way that what I do, is helping people. You obviously have that same instinct Linda, given the work that you do with the bereaved – that must give you great satisfaction and I firmly believe that what we do for others will come back to us in some form or other.

Finally, from the writing angle I have found that the more I write, the more I enjoy it. It used to be tough to motivate myself, but now that I’m writing nearly every day, it flows much more easily, so ‘keep writing’ is my best advice.

Thanks very much - Andrew.


No, Andrew, it is I who thank you. You are a great writer and it is an honor and privilege to do this interview.



You can learn more about Andrew Grant by visiting his website, http://wwwmoneyandmind.com/ or reading his blog at http://www.money-and-mind.com/blog. You have permission to contact Andrew at info@money-and-mind.com