Notes from An Alien

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Author Interview ~ Fatima Ammar

I met Fatima very recently and haven’t, yet, read any of her works {since this was published, I have begun reading her…}; but, from her profile on Wattpad, her presence on Twitter, and her WebSite, I deduced a critical quality for writers—an independent power of creativity

Let’s get this interview in gear…


> So, Fatima, want to tell the folks your a.k.a. and what you consider your writerly function? And, a bit of Bio would also be very nice… Fatima Ammar - Poet/Writer


Moonshine Noire is the a.k.a. and I’m a poet/writer.


I was born in the foggy town of Southport in (Merseyside) North West England where I’ve spent just over half my life. The other half I spent in a beautiful town called Hammamet in Tunisia, my parents’ homeland, giving me an in-depth understanding of cultural differences and the beauty of diversity. I’m multilingual as a result of the move and reasonably better off for it (the Jasmine Revolution inspired quite a few poems and articles from me).


I’m an adult science student (won’t go into details).


I spend most of my rare free time walking about aimlessly in secluded woodlands/beaches or obsessing over art, music: classical (listening to Fauré right now), rock, swing, blues…, or in awe over everything macabre. I mostly write and publish online though I have been offered a few official publishing deals that I’m still considering. I suppose I could write a book about my life story so let’s keep it brief and stop.


> When did you start writing?


I’ve been writing for as long as I’ve known written words, my earliest recollection of writing is when I was six years of age. I still write pretty much in the same genres as I did back then: fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, mystery… Anything interesting or unusual. I started to write poetry about a year after that when my teacher started to read poems to us in class. I stopped writing for a few years from 11 to 14 years of age but since then it’s an inescapable necessity for me. That is when I’m not plagued by the notorious writer’s block.


> What would you say are your writing inspirations or “muses”? Fatima Ammar - Poet/Writer


I have been cursed with an outrageously wild imagination. I’m that person who seems to space out once every ten minutes. I escape to the confines of my own maze of fictional worlds in order to make sense of the literal one we live in. Everything inspires me in the way that nothing really does (does that make sense?). I’m mainly driven by my thoughts as opposed to experiences or images etc. My poetry is probably the most inspired thing I write. I draw from everything for that. For me, poetry is the pulp of emotion and the beating heart of artistic expression. What you can’t express in any other way, you can almost always count on poetry and the plethora of words in all the languages of the world to help you out. From the teasingly short Haiku to the tediously strained Epic, something is bound to work!


I mostly write ‘for myself’ and by this I mean I don’t try to please the reader or write exactly what seems to be popular or trending. I hate insincerity. The only point in writing is to be genuine and honest to yourself and to others. You owe it to the reader to show them what you want to show them rather than what they think they want to see.


> So, Moonshine, who are your favourite writers and why?


I have been mad about Oscar Wilde since reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and The Importance of Being Earnest. He’s so sincere in what he wants to say even when he’s being humorous.


I also have a soft spot for Franz Kafka because of his brilliant incorporation of the bizarre and fantastic with the real. I pretty much thrive in his surrealist humour and agonised satire.


One of my many aspirations is to write a novel with a Kafkaesque feel to it…


This wouldn’t be a list without Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I don’t feel this one needs an explanation.


Sylvia Plath also needs no introduction. I also admire the works of William. S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Charles Baudelaire is a big inspiration of mine. Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, too.


Taha Hussein, certainly!


> Living writers, you say?


Haha, alright. Sarah Waters, J. K. Rowling, Nawal El- Saadawi, Julian Barnes…


This list looks so short compared to what I read!


> Lists are like that… :-)
So you do most of your writing on Wattpad—what’s that like for you?


I discovered Wattpad in September 2012 and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve gained the trust and comradery of quite a few Wattpaders, it has helped me grow in confidence and explore my technique. I have learned a lot from my fellow users and I hope they have learned something from me too!


It is a fun way of communicating with the reading world and it helps that it’s free!


I only use the website because I haven’t used a mobile phone (cell phone in America?) in a couple years out of my own way of avoiding unnecessary distractions but it is enough to keep track of things.


If you want to read or write, Wattpad is a great platform.


> And, you’re a great person to interview! Thanks for taking the time to give my readers an introductory view of you and your writing…


Here comes more info and important links to Fatima’s work:




Sara In Atlantis

Click Image to read on Wattpad

 Sara In Atlantis:

“Time travel exists, ghosts are real, and magic isn’t an illusion. Forget everything you are told to believe, believe what you see.”
Sara, a young girl, finds herself in an underwater kingdom where everything she ever dreamed of finding comes true. However, with the good comes the bad.
Can she help restore balance to Atlantis and end the tyrannic dictatorship of the sea King by rescuing pirate ghosts and fighting alongside mermaids?






The Portal of Deceit

Click image to read on Wattpad

 The Portal of Deceit:

An underrated physicist disappears, leaving behind only rumours of his whereabouts, he returns with inventions from another world passing them off as his own. Soon he becomes a billionaire and his multinational corporation tops every other on Earth for its massive advancements in technology and science.
Wormholes, political corruption, billionaire liars, energy-generating crystals, and a foolhardy escape plan. What could possibly go wrong?





Sailing on a Sea of Moondust

Click image to read on Wattpad

Sailing On A Sea of Moondust:



Visit her on Wattpad — You’ll find 39 additional works from Fatima there :-)




I will create a space in my To Be Read list for this woman :-)

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Author Interview ~ E. Rachael Hardcastle

Two days ago, I promoted the skill of Ms Hardcastle in garnering author interviews (50+ in 2016).

Today, she published an interview I did with her and I’m publishing this interview—we’re simulcasting :-)

So let’s get to it and enjoy an interview with Author, Editor, and Literary-Innovator, E. Rachael Hardcastle. E. Rachael Hardcastle - Author, Editor


Let’s begin with the tools of your trade—pen or typewriter or computer?

I write most of my ideas down by hand. I have a progress journal where I document my daily writing activity, and they generally get scribbled in there. When I’m writing an outline or the actual book, I type this up on my PC. I’m a very fast typist so it makes sense to get as much as I can down.

Do you write alone or in public?

I write at home and usually when I am alone, though my partner is sometimes in the room with me. I like to surround myself with personal items, play some music, have some snacks and a cup of coffee with all my tools and reference books close by. I can’t achieve the same results in a busy public place.

Music or silence?

I prefer not to write in total silence but I can if I have to. I like to have some music on in the background or a podcast to keep my mind in the writing zone. I have a YouTube music playlist with my favourites on, and I sometimes opt for instrumental music if I’m writing a fight scene or something emotional.

Do you set goals of a certain number of words a week or work only when inspiration strikes?

I don’t use word counts because I then feel pressured to hit them. If I’m not doing so well, I end up writing 1000 words of poor prose, which then require editing the next day which wastes time. So, I tend to write scene by scene. What needs to happen next? I write that part of the story until I’m happy and then consider writing the next scene, but I’ll stop when I lose interest or hit a block.

 What are your books about?

Finding Pandora - High Fantasy My Finding Pandora young adult, high fantasy series is about a woman named Arriette Monroe and her search for Pandora’s Box. She is a human at first who is turned into a ‘Supe’ (supernatural being) with special powers given to her when a group called the Recruit save her life. She must then fight the evils of the world, which appear as orcs, demons and vampyrs, amongst other enemies, to gain control of the box and protect the future of the human race. It was inspired by William Blake’s poem Auguries of Innocence and begins on the premise that Earth is no longer able to sustain life, so the religions of the world agree to pray for a new world (created in seven days, following the Bible’s story, etc.), and a God I refer to as Zinnyi in the book responds. The U.S. President sacrifices himself to prove human beings can change, and Haeylo is created as their new sanctuary.

My post-apocalyptic book (which will be part of a trilogy eventually) Aeon Infinitum: Run For Your Life is about the survivors of an apocalypse who live in the underground ark, Titan. The man in charge is selfish and challenges them all to a run across the wasteland to a new sanctuary, but he is keeping a lot of very dangerous secrets that the protagonist and her friends must survive.

Do your books have a lesson? A moral?

Not intentionally, though a lot of my books explore futuristic scenarios for Earth (destruction, apocalypse, ruin, and illness). I suppose you could say I want to encourage people to change for the better. I have also been told my books have a very spiritual theme that explores the meaning of life, the human race’s purpose etc., though again this is not intentional or particularly obvious. I think it’s because of who I am as a person—I am hoping we can all be better people and kinder to one another, so I inject my morals and values into my novels.

Do you ever outsource editing and cover design?

I think it’s important that I learn as much as I can about the entire publishing process, so at the moment (with the exception of Beta readers and volunteers) I do everything myself. I enjoy self-publishing/Indie Publishing for this reason. I’m a control freak so it’s nice to have the final say over everything. However, in future I will no doubt outsource some of these jobs to others.

Do you have a favourite genre to read?

I prefer to read fantasy, dystopian, and post-apocalyptic fiction but if it looks good, has been recommended, or is free to try, then I’ll give it a go. I write in the genres I prefer to read as this is where most of my knowledge sits.

Do you visit authors’ websites? If so, what do you look for?

Yes I do because I like to see the website’s design, how they have presented their books and how professional it looks. I designed my own website so this is genuinely interesting for me, but I will also visit to find their social media links. I believe a website should be a hub for fans of that author, so when I visit a website I like to see links and images and pages etc. That screams professional and active to me.

So, a final question, where can we download your free book? E. Rachael Hardcastle - Author, Editor

You can find a free copy of the first book of Finding Pandora at You will be given various options for your favourite distributor, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you’re in another Amazon territory, just visit your country’s Amazon website and type in Finding Pandora. It’s free in US, UK, ES, DE and FR.

Thanks a heap for taking time out of your busy schedule to share with my readers :-)

Go to Rachael’s blog on her official website.
Follow her on
Twitter. Find her on Facebook.
Visit her on 
Subscribe to her channel on YouTube.
Do check out her work with children in writing workshops (her segment begins at the 4:50 mark…)
Take the opportunity to ask Rachael a few questions in the comments…

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Author Interview ~ Adrian G Hilder – Part Two

I met Adrian on Wattpad and had a real adventure reading his novel, General’s Legacy

Some readers may want to consider reading Adrian’s previous interview first.

This second interview has much valuable information on the way Adrian’s dealing with the marketing and promotion of his books.

In fact, it’s important enough that I’m leaving it up for two days…


Adrian G Hilder Adrian, your first interview here was October 8, 2016. That was just before you released your debut book, The General’s Legacy – Part One: Inheritance, at the end of November. Can you tell us a little about that book (a reminder for some) and how the launch went?

First, thank you for having me back Alexander.

Inheritance is a story about a young Prince inheriting his grandfather’s enchanted sword, his world of warriors and magic, his role as the general, and the war he could never end. Forced to go beyond his training and experience, Cory must take command when his kingdom’s enemy strikes again in a horrifying and tragic way. Other aspects of the old general’s legacy are shown beyond the sword, and the war—the effect he had on others—as Cory and his older brothers are plunged into personal and national crisis.

I set out to deliver a fast-paced fantasy story that does not sacrifice the immersive experience that fantasy readers love. There are a lot of heavy going fantasy books in the market. Planning the story the way movies and thriller books are structured was key to this aim. I’m amazed to find that a couple of reviewers have likened Inheritance to Tolkien and a UK reviewer to Dan Brown and Michael Crichton (the last two are thriller writers of course). I never saw a Tolkien comparison coming, and I would say Inheritance moves at a much faster pace than The Lord of the Rings. One thing that does come up more than any other point is that readers love the characters in the story and how real they feel.

There are a lot of ways you could describe Inheritance, and I’m fascinated by how different reviewers pick on different aspects of the story. The General's Legacy - Part One: Inheritance

Yes, the eternal right of the reader to have their own interpretation… How did the book launch go?

Well, it happened… Considering my audience reach was limited to around 600 Goodreads friends in addition to friends, family, and work colleagues, I sold more than I expected. It was less than 30 copies, and within a week sales were down to one a week. No one knows the book exists in a world where thousands of books a day are released. I now know allowing pre-orders on Amazon was counterproductive to making the book more visible—a mistake.

Why is allowing pre-orders on Amazon a mistake?

Amazon pre-orders and book ranking works differently compared to the other sales sites. Pre-orders count for ranking when the order is placed and not on release day, so you cannot spike a book in the charts with all pre-orders counting as sales on day one as with the other book sales sites. My book’s ranking peaked mid-November and fell out of sight by release day. Some other authors argue that making a book available early allows “also boughts” to start forming for your book before release day, although that can only happen if people know it exists, so it tends to work better for well-known authors wanting to build a buzz in the market around their next book.

I see you have 10+ reviews for Inheritance and reviews are something many new authors struggle to get—would you explain your efforts to get reviews?

I did get one review from a reader on the story sharing and social networking site Wattpad, where you and I first connected. Sadly, the other eleven readers on Wattpad that originally agreed to leave a review for me just don’t appear to be active anymore; and, I don’t think they saw my private messages to them. I was aiming for at least three reviews on release day as that is what the promotion company I had lined up required before they would take my money. They know advertising does not work for a book without some good reviews. The book promotion company I want to try next requires ten reviews, so I should be able to try them around April to May when their schedule opens up again.

I started getting reviews when I finally succeeded in growing my email list subscribers and invited them to join my review team for free copies of my future books in exchange for a review. I offer Inheritance as a gift for signing up to my mailing list—no point in having it sit on Amazon servers undiscovered and not read. The combination of distributing the book via a company called instaFreebie, that has an audience that trusts them, and participating in group giveaway events with other fantasy authors allows my book to be promoted to the existing mailing list subscribers of those other authors. An ad for a twenty-six book giveaway is also more compelling than a one book giveaway. I’ve rapidly connected with hundreds of new readers this way, and in time I should be able to connect with thousands more. Email is still far more effective than any other form of Internet communication.

instaFreebie helps with promotion too as new readers for you means new subscribers for them—subscribers also join instaFreebies’ mailing list that your giveaway events are advertised to if you request it.

I’ve twenty-seven people on my review team now, and they’re awesome! It’s been a lot of fun conversing with them over email. One member of the team is a retired copy editor from Australia who gave me a little more proofreading feedback at 3:30 am her time! She is dedicated and determined in her support for the authors she discovers and likes and lives in a fairly remote part of central Australia by the sound of it. Obtaining an Internet connection seems to require putting her iPhone in the refrigerator to cool it down so it’ll work—it’s seriously hot in that part of the world, and Apple clearly didn’t have such high temperatures in mind when they designed the iPhone!

I’ve also obtained some reviews on Goodreads where I’ve made a few good connections over the last couple of years. Just today, someone who is now #16 reviewer on Goodreads posted his review. Now, there is some interest from other reviewers and book bloggers in reviewing Inheritance and some others that might agree now that someone they know and trust has reviewed it. The review attracted about 60 people that “liked” his review in around 12 hours—more exposure that cost only time.

So, Adrian, what’s your strategy for your Wattpad presence now?

I’ve a real soft spot for Wattpad. It’s where I first published to strangers and learned I could write a story people love. It can be a great place to nurture a new story, but (except for the lighting-strike lucky few who win a movie deal) Wattpad doesn’t seem to have much impact on the world of paying readers. Wattpad feels like pushing on a locked door to get movement, and I cannot afford to spend more time trying to do anything about it. I’ve provided feedback to Wattpad on what issues I face and asked them to think about how they could encourage their readers to review authors’ work in places where there are buyers or follow authors they like in a more tangible way and buy their books. When I mention Wattpad to other authors in the online communities I’m in, the response is “I’ve wasted too much time on Wattpad already.” It’s too hard to identify the right people and bring your story to their attention, and if you do, they’re after a free read and don’t seem to engage with you.

Well, I can certainly understand why you’d feel that way about Wattpad—it does appear to respond differently to different authors… Yet, since you’re obviously aiming to make serious money with your writing, talk a bit more about that, ok?

I didn’t begin writing to make money; but, here’s a saying I’ve started to use – “Editors, cover designers, mailing list operators, and other operators of IT and advertising services need to be paid, even if I do not.”  My first ambition for the book publishing business is to see enough sales to cover these costs, hopefully within a couple of years. Can I write books fast enough to make that happen? Watch this space. Some costs keep rolling in regardless of whether you have more books to sell or not. The truly successful self-published authors are producing 3 to 5 books a year and build an email list of tens of thousands of subscribers; and, it requires the investment of time and money to do this.

On Wattpad I recently assisted around a hundred writers from Amazon’s WriteOn community to relocate to Wattpad. Amazon is closing down WriteOn on March 22nd, 2017 and this great community needs a new home. I created a Wattpad user account called Wattpad WriteOn Writers and a retired gentleman by the name of Michael Walsh (@ZonderZorg), who has the time to do it, has set up all the reading lists and forum threads to give the ”WriteOn refugees” a focal point to gather. This community has been pretty good at reviewing each other’s work.

For me, my presence on Wattpad is parked and still attracting new readers all the time that do seem to be responding to my request to follow me to access Whiteland King. I’m not sure how long I can afford to leave Whiteland King up on Wattpad in its unedited form—I cannot afford to lose paying readers… I will always have something on Wattpad if only a two-chapter sample.

The General's Legacy - Part Two: Whiteland King The release of  The General’s Legacy – Part Two: Whiteland King is February 28th. What are your launch sales predictions?

I should get more reviews in the first few weeks from my review team and maybe more sales than last time but my “platform“—the number of people engaged with what I’m producing—is still small. I have around 800 mailing list subscribers, but that’s not 800 sales. I will do well to get as many as 3% to 4% buying, which may mean double the sales of last time around. The mailing list is a good launch pad, but you need to connect with readers in other ways, too. I’ve been present on Goodreads for a couple of years and made contact with a couple of great reviewers who have quite a following. Now that one, in particular, has posted a positive review, it is possible some other high profile reviewers and bloggers may try my book. I could end up with more reach and sales through this route than my email list right now. So my prediction is 2 to 3 times more sales than last time in the first week, and a better chance of follow-on sales ongoing as people on places like Goodreads are starting to discover my books in a small but still viral way.

What’s your strategy going forward?

I recognise now that running a mailing list and building it is essential, but it costs, per month; and, it costs to add more people to it, most of whom have a vast number of other free books to choose from, with more are appearing by the day. Most self-published authors who succeed in today’s market produce 3 to 5 shorter (45K to 85K words) books per year selling at $2.99 to $4.99 (once past the introductory $0.99 price point). It takes me too long to produce my longer books for this formula to work well enough to cover the expenses anytime soon—being paid for my writing time is a distant dream… I don’t give books away for free for mailing list subscribers—in effect, I pay to give them away!

I’m considering writing a new prequel novella to The General’s Legacy as my mailing list sign-up gift and adding another curiosity to try; and, put things on a less costly footing with Inheritance moving to paid only. This is the reverse of what other authors do—the more books they have, the more they give away for free to tempt in new subscribers. I’m going to try and raise the reputation of my books instead of giving more away for free; but, keep the prices keen and at the sweet spot of $2.99 to $4.99. It is harder to sell above this price. The curious thing is, since starting to give away Inheritance as a mailing list sign up gift, the sales of this book have almost doubled (9 in January). Obscurity is the enemy, not free books; so, maybe my strategy is wrong and the prequel novella should be used to make signing up to my mailing list even more appealing. I can try out different options and change things if I have to…

It’s incredibly hard to get this venture to cover its costs.  Editing is the killer—$2,400 to recover for The General’s Legacy—that needs a couple of thousand sales at full price once you count in the advertising and everything else. I do wonder how long I can keep going with these costs if I can’t increase the sales enough and produce more books fast enough…

What are this novella and “curiosity” you mention?

I’ve always felt that there is more story for the character General Garon—the old general whose legacy the main story is all about. He seems to command a lot of respect from readers even though he is only alive for the earliest part of the book. I was trying to generate a sense of loss when he passed away so characters in the story would talk about him and still feel his influence. The trouble is, I feel that loss and want to write more about him.  Maybe one day I’ll write a whole prequel series about his younger days. Until then, I’m interested in a short story about the lead up to The Battle of Beldon Valley (the prologue to Inheritance), so we get some time on the page between five-year-old Cory, Garon, and Cory’s older brother Pragius. Showing the bond between Cory and Pragius is something I’m interested in doing. I think Cory is going to have an idea that inspires an action that helps tip the balance in the Battle of Beldon Valley that has never been revealed before.

The curiosity—I thought it would be fun to produce a scout (spy) report written by the enemy, captured by the Scout Commander of Valendo (the good guys) about Prince Cory and his habits. Something to foreshadow that Cory is a target in the enemy’s plans. I’ve written the text for this, but my plan is to write it with a fountain pen and scan it, so it looks like a handwritten scroll.

I think the novella and scout report are marvellous ideas for promotion—they both can stir interest in the main story; but, Adrian, do tell us a bit about General’s Legacy – Part Two: Whiteland King.

Inheritance is where Cory and the heroes are forced to confront a new challenge set by their long-time enemy. Whiteland King is the story about what Cory and his comrades do about it. Here is the book description text as it will appear on Amazon and other sales sites:

Dendra Castle is under siege by an army that never sleeps and time is running out.

Prince Cory resolves to lead a black operation right to King Klonag’s throne to do what was forbidden for his grandfather—end the reign of the Whiteland King.

To conquer a Kingdom, Cory leads just thirty Special Operators, the Silver Warrior, the Archmage of Valendo, his daughter (with questionable battle magic ability), and the Scout Commander who is rarely in sight. Is it a desperate fool’s quest? Or, has Zeivite truly come up with a plan to defeat Magnar and the ‘dead mage’ with his limitless magic?

Even Cory does not know.

One way or another, the decades-long war between Valendo and Nearhon must end. Klonag has more pieces to move in this game of war, and Princess Julia is one them. And if she does not cooperate? There are worse fates than death when dealing with Klonag and Magnar, and more than one way to ensure her… unfailing obedience.

The General’s Legacy – Part Two: Whiteland King is the second book in The General of Valendo series that concludes the enthralling story of The General’s Legacy – Part One: Inheritance. The stakes escalate, revelations come, and even the souls of the ancestors gather over the Whitelands to witness the epic conclusion that is sure to thrill.

If you want your fantasy action-packed, laced with mystery, and running at a pace that refuses to let you put it down, The General’s Legacy delivers.

Ultimately, the full weight of the old general’s influence on past events and the people left behind is shown as Cory’s relentless determination collides with their enemy’s obsession with conquest.

Grab your copy of Whiteland King and start reading today!

As a final question, Adrian: You describe Inheritance and Whiteland King as the first two books in The General of Valendo series. What comes next?

The name of the next book and a short teaser description is in the back of Whiteland King. I don’t want to spoil any surprises. There are subtle things sprinkled into The General’s Legacy that will be picked up and used in future stories. The General’s Legacy is the story of how Prince Cory becomes the General of Valendo. Now, the story of him being the general can be told—if he lives through Whiteland King! After all, The General of Valendo is a job title, not a character ;-)

I’m looking at the scale of the achievements of historical generals such as Alexander the Great for inspiration—more fantasy tropes that I’ll give a twist to; and then, frame it all in the nature and consequences of man’s free will. Not everyone uses their free will wisely!



Why not visit Adrian’s blog

And, this would be a great time to ask Adrian a few questions in the Comments :-)
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Flash Fiction Is Alive and Well

How long is a novel? Brevity-Flash Fiction

Some say at least 50,000 words; but, there are well-accepted novels that are shorter.

How long is a novella?

Longer than a short story but shorter than a novel.

How long is a short story?

Somewhere from about 1,500 words to upwards of (some say) 30,000 words.

So, somewhere under 1,500 words is “Flash” (though, some folks say under 2,000…).

One definition goes like this:

“Flash fiction is an umbrella term used to describe any fictional work of extreme brevity, including the Six-Word Story, 140-character stories, also known as twitterature, the dribble (50 words), the drabble (100 words), and sudden fiction (750 words).”

And, the article on The Review Review is worth reading for an introduction to Flash…

But, I must add the sub-category of Microfiction (sometimes said to be 300 words or less) because of these past posts on this blog:

Breaking Boundaries ~ Microfiction — which has some fine examples of the craft…

Microfiction ~ Revisited — with more fine examples…

MicroFiction Reprise :-)

My Friend ~ Micro-Fiction Writer & Prison Librarian

Author Interview ~ Johnpaul Mahofski — Interview with the Friend of the last post…

Wikipedia lists a number of authors who wrote Flash Fiction

I’ll also share an interview—The State of Flash Fiction—with the author of the book in the image up there (which can be ordered by clicking on the image…).

Then, I should mention that my recent writing endeavor, Story Bazaar, includes many pieces that fall into the category of Flash Fiction (with just a few Micros)
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Author Interview ~ Mary L. Tabor

The first mention of Mary on this blog was in a post in December—A Fascinating Story from Wattpad.

Before the interview, I need to quote the other Wattpad author in that past post:

“Endless gratitude to Mary L. Tabor who I met here on Wattpad and who then took me under her angel/professor wing for over a year, never asking for a thing in return, except for me to show up and work hard. During this time she taught me much about the craft of creative writing, while always being fast to remind me not to mess with that mysterious place of invention.”


Mary had crafted a Self-Interview for the site The Nervous Breakdown (it wasn’t used there)—we’re fortunate to have Mary offer it here :-)


Author Mary L. Tabor Q: Why would anyone want to do a self-interview? Isn’t that the height of naval gazing?

If I were you, I’d scroll through all the other self-interviews on the Nervous Breakdown site and see which ones actually succeeded.

Q. Did you do that?

I did. I liked Karen E. Bender because she told her children to clean their rooms and then she actually revealed something about her life: That her father was a psychoanalyst and that psychoanalysis was the religion in her house. That made me want to read her book.

Here on Alexander Zoltai’s Notes from An Alien site: I think Johnpaul Mahofski’s candor and self-deprecation win me over at the get go. And I love micro-fiction.

Q. Does that mean you think self-revelation is part of the process of writing?

Any writer who denies it, lies. I agree with David Shields who argues in Reality Hunger and he actually says this one—in case you don’t know that book and you should, he quotes mercilessly without formal attribution: “So: no more master, no more masterpieces. What I want (instead of God the novelist) is self-portrait in a convex mirror.”

Q. Did you achieve that in Who by FireWho by Fire

Hard to say. Achievement is a big word. But I would say this: The writer needs to be fearless to be worth reading. That means that all subterfuge about who you are must come off when you write either fiction or memoir. What’s in this book is closer to the emotional truth of my own process of self-discovery than anything I could tell you in this interview.

Q. Give me an example.

I was in Whiting, Iowa, when the fire occurred, a controlled burn. It was a long, long time ago and when I saw it I knew I would write about it some day. I didn’t know why. So now I had the burn. And then I found an article in the newspaper about a baby that had been found in an attic in a house on Veazey Street in DC and I saved it. But now that I look back on the novel, I see my sister who lost a baby, a baby that died after 23 hours, bubbling up in the book. I didn’t know I was hitting that memory when I was writing the book. I was 16 when this happened and I saw the baby with her flash of black hair in the nursery. My face was pressed against the glass. How could that not have something to do with me? It did. It still does.

Q. So isn’t that navel gazing?

One of my biggest worries in the novel is that it’s highly interior. I’m inside Robert’s head all through the book. Because I was so worried about this, I worked very hard on the plot that moves the book forward and gets the reader in real time as soon as I can manage. That means two married couples, a partner in each couple who is cheating on the other, and the narrator, whose wife betrayed him before she died. Robert, the narrator, is discovering how all that happened through memory and through what he finds out after his wife’s death. But truly, only the reader can answer this question.

Q: Are you obsessed with heroes? Your narrator certainly is.

I want to understand what the word hero means. One could argue that we have few if any modern books in literature that folks would identify with a hero, the kind we find more in film than in books, unless we go to the romance novel or supernatural stuff. And I explore that question all the way through the book.

Q: Did you think about your own death; did you, in fact, plot your own death?

Golly, I hope I didn’t plot my own death. But of course I did think about it. In a sense, if I’m in any way Robert’s wife, I do kill her on page one, arguably in the first sentence. So I guess you could argue that’s what I’m doing. But at the time of the writing of the book, I was losing my husband and I now realize that I was writing a love letter to him in the hope that I would get him back. I wrote the book to try to understand him. That’s why I wrote the book in Robert’s voice. But more key is this: I don’t think anyone who is thoughtfully alive and human can avoid considering his own death. Ultimately, I’m writing about love, not death, because love is the answer. But what, pray tell, is the question?


Asking Mary questions in the Comments is perfectly permissible :-)


Mary L. Tabor: Reader, author, professor, radio show host, columnist.

Best advice she ever got? — “Only connect…” ~ E.M. Forster.

Mary is the author of the novel Who by Fire, the memoir (Re)Making Love (Re)making Loveand the connected short stories The Woman Who Never CookedThe Woman Who Never Ccooked

Here are some reviews of Who by Fire (More can be found on the second tab of her website):

Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain: Mary L. Tabor’s Who by Fire is a lovely, innovative, deeply engaging novel about how it is that human beings make their way through the mysteries of existence.

Lee Martin, author of Break the Skin and The Bright Forever, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize: Mary Tabor’s Who by Fire, is a lyric meditation on love and desire, one that will catch you up in the blaze of its eroticism, its tender evocation of love and the passions and accommodations of a life lived through the flesh and through the imagination. Can memory lead to forgiveness? Who by Fire explores that question in a story I won’t soon forget. The beauty of the prose, the nuances of the characters, the ever-building plot—everything is in place for a novel that will touch you in all the right ways.

Marly Swick, author of Paper Wings and The Evening News: Who By Fire is a profound and lyrical novel, deeply felt and deeply moving. Intricately layered, this novel loops through time with the dare-devil courage and grace of a seasoned stunt pilot. In the narrator’s unflinching journey of self-discovery, he comes to understand the past, both his failures and his saving graces. In the end, it is a hero’s journey, both for the narrator and the reader. This is beautiful truth.

Michael Johnson, foreign correspondent and writer for The International Herald Tribune, American Spectator, Open Letters Monthly and The Mary Tabor’s captivating story of love and death tackles the tangle of relationships within and outside the bonds of marriage. Her eye-popping knowledge of men’s and women’s behavior is effortlessly recounted as couples face their anguished choices. Set in a world of art, music, anthropology and science, her novel enlightens the mind while it stirs the emotions. She does all this in a confident style of prose that ranks her alongside the finest novelists working today.

Find Mary on Wattpad, where you may read her memoir serially for free.

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Join her book club on Goodreads

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