Author Spotlight no.139 – Valerie Laws

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and thirty-ninth, is of Valerie Laws.

Valerie Laws is a crime and comedy novelist, poet, performer, playwright and sci-art installation specialist. Her eleven published books include award-winning crime fiction (‘The Rotting Spot’) in paperback and as an indie kindle, and a comedy adult-YA cross-over e-book (‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’), poetry (latest ‘All That Lives’, ‘CSI: Poetry’ of sex, death and pathology), drama…

In recent years she has been Writer in Residence at Gordon Pathology Museum, London and Kings College London Medical School, and at Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing and Health, working with neuroscientists, dementia specialists, and pathologists on human specimens to study the science of dying and brain pathology.

She has written 12 commissioned plays for stage and BBC radio. Many prizes and awards include Wellcome Trust Arts Award, twice prizewinner in National Poetry competition, two Northern Writers Awards. Invents new forms of poetry, devising science-themed installations and commissions including the world-infamous Arts Council-funded QUANTUM SHEEP spray-painting random haiku onto live sheep, still widely published and publicised.

Her quantum haiku on inflatable beach balls featured in BBC2 TV’s Why Poetry Matters with Griff Rhys Jones, later live at Royal Festival Hall. Poetry audio-visual installations which move and change to reflect their subjects have featured in public exhibitions in London, Newcastle and Berlin, and her computer-controlled illuminated embedded haiku WINDOW OF ART is in St Thomas Hospital, London. Many other residencies, including in Egypt; newly at Dilston Physic Garden, Northumberland. She performs her work live at festivals and events and in the media worldwide.

And now from the author herself:

My latest book is my comedy e-book, my first as an indie author. It’s hard to pin down the genre, but if I say ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’ is Pride and Prejudice told in the voice of the youngest Bennet sister, the outrageous and shameless hussy Lydia, but in modern teen language with Georgian derivations, it will give you an idea! It’s not just a retelling from her point of view, for in my book Lydia is a lot cleverer and more ruthless than the others think, pulling the strings behind the scenes, and a lot goes on that Darcy, Lizzy, and even Jane Austen knew nothing about. It’s in the form of a blog so it’s a bit like Adrian Mole crossed with a younger Bridget Jones in Georgian times. The book idea just sprang into my head – I’ve always felt she gets a raw deal in the original book and I wanted to tell her story and for her to win! I like to cheer on underdogs! But I wanted her to stay shameless and full of herself. She is truly a modern teenager as Austen wrote her.

I’ve written ten books published in paperback by publishers – then my publisher let me put ‘The Rotting Spot’ on Kindle myself, cue learning all about formatting! Then I got an agent for ‘Lydia Bennet’s Blog’ but he couldn’t get me a publisher. They are wary of anything genre-busting, and also were wary of my heroine dissing the sacred Mr Darcy! So I put the book out on kindle and Smashwords, and it’s had great five-star reviews from writers like Linda Gillard, Catherine Czerkawska and Paul Magrs.

You’ll see a strong science thread running through my work, including physics, bio-medical science, pathology, and also comedy. I like to write in celebration, sometimes of things like skulls, and brains, and dead babies in jars, and the lives of people unsung by history. I like to give a voice to people and things both real and imagined. I like to know how, why, things work or happen. My Residencies in dissection, pathology and brains were my response to witnessing the deaths of both of my parents. I wanted to know what was happening inside when someone dies. This sense of exploration and wonder at human anatomy is in my poetry but also in my crime fiction – my first crime novel, ‘The Rotting Spot’, has a skull-collecting theme and forensic interests. It also has a sparky female homeopath protagonist, a sexy fit Detective Inspector who fancies and dislikes her, and family secrets in a sea-washed location.

But I also like to write comedy, I write funny poems about post-divorce dating and sex, my crime fiction has dark comedy in it especially in the dialogue, and my plays, mostly about local historical characters, combines moving tragedy with comedy. Sex and death, comedy and tragedy, laughter and tears, they are what life is about and I write about both sides of life!

Ah, I met Paul Magrs at booQfest in September. A really nice guy. You can find more about Valerie and her writing via…

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The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with crime novelist Mike Walters – the five hundred and sixty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author Spotlight no.123 – Natasha Yim

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and twenty-third, is of children’s book author, freelance writer, and playwright Natasha Yim.

Natasha Yim is an author, freelance writer, and playwright. Her picture book, Otto’s Rainy Day (Charlesbridge Publishing) was a Kids’ Pick of the Lists selection. She has published articles in Highlights for Children, Appleseeds, and Faces magazines, and her ten-minute plays have been performed in venues around Northern California, Los Angeles, and Sydney, Australia. Her picture book biography, Cixi, The Dragon Empress, was released by Goosebottom Books (www.goosebottombooks.com) in fall 2011. Natasha’s upcoming books, Sacajawea of the Shoshone (Goosebottom Books) is due out in Oct. 2012, and Goldy Luck and the Three Chans (Charlesbridge Publishing) is slated for a January 2014 release.

And now from the author herself:

I had wanted to be a writer since I was eleven years old when an English teacher gave us an assignment to design our own island, make up names of lakes, rivers, mountains and towns and create a story around it. I was hooked. As an avid reader, I devoured books by Mark Twain, Enid Blyton, and I loved the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy M. Montgomery. I started journaling, and writing poetry and short stories.

At Dominican College (now University) in San Rafael, California, I began as a Psychology major (my second professional aspiration next to being a writer was to be a child psychologist) then I discovered they had an actual creative writing degree. It had a strong literature component so the degree was called English Literature with a Writing Emphasis. I promptly changed my major. Although my parents were always very supportive of my endeavors, I don’t think they were entirely happy with this choice—what do you do with an English major after all? Well, write of course. But after college, reality hit. Unless I was as prolific and successful as Stephen King, writing alone wasn’t going to pay the bills.

I went to graduate school and received a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. I didn’t become a child psychologist but I did work with children for most of my professional career as a social worker and counselor in group homes, foster homes, and for the Mendocino County Child Protective Services. I began writing stories for children.

After several years of writing non-fiction articles which were published in regional and local newspapers and magazines, my first children’s book, Otto’s Rainy Day, was published by Charlesbridge Publishing in 2000. I was ecstatic! It had taken a year of writing and editing, a year of waiting for the publisher’s response, and three more years for it to finally see print. I had arrived, I thought. Not! It would be eleven years before my next book, Cixi, The Dragon Empress was released by Goosebottom Books.

In between that time, I was hardly idle. I had three kids, carved out writing time from 5 am. – 7 am. while the kids were still asleep, and continued to write picture book manuscripts that were, sadly, rejected by publishers. But I didn’t give up. I continued to perfect my craft through workshops, conferences, webinars, and critique groups and most of all, I continued to write.

Cixi, The Dragon Empress, a biography of the last empress of China for kids 9 – 13 will be followed by Sacajawea of the Shoshone, also from Goosebottom Books, due out in October 2012. It tells the true story of the Native American teenager who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the American west. And in Jan. 2014, Charlesbridge Publishing will be publishing Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas, a re-telling of the Goldilocks and the Three Bears tale with an Asian twist.

For more information about Natasha Yim, check out her website: www.natashayim.com and Facebook page: www.facebook.com/natashayim.author and follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/natashayim.

You can take a peek inside Sacajawea of the Shoshone on: http://pinterest.com/natashayim/peek-inside-the-book and listen to an audio excerpt on Natasha’s blog: http://www.writerslife2.blogspot.com/p/books_11.html.

You can also find out more about Sacajawea of the Shoshone and Cixi, The Dragon Empress on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sacajaweaoftheshoshone and www.facebook.com/cixithedragonempress.

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The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with horror, science-fiction and urban fantasy author and poet Nikolas P Robinson – the five hundred and sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Author Spotlight no.94 – Sheriff Garba

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the ninety-fourth, is of Sheriff Garba.

Sheriff Garba is the author of the poetry anthology, Aries, Aphrodite, and Aries. He is a Nigerian novelist, poet, playwright, and essayist. His numerous works span the disciplines of literature, history, philosophy, and science. At present he is working on Nigeria and Her Leaders – a chronology of people and events that have shaped the life of Nigeria since independence from the British in 1960; Roses in the Twilight – an anthology of love poetry; Iskókí the Essaylogue – anthology of essays on humanities and socio-economic dialectics in Nigeria, Africa, and the world; and Legend of the Wakili Tales a multi-cultural YA novel.

He is the recipient of the 2006 Centre for Environment and Science Education, CESE of the Lagos State University, LASU Best Essayist prize. He is also a member of the Lagos State branch of the Association of Nigerian Authors.

In his leisure time, he loves to battle it out on Mortal Kombat, listen to music especially rap, and watch movies.

He was formerly an active contributor on the Canadian news website, Suite101.com and now writes a column, Sheriff’s Shelf in the Nigerian online magazine, Ayaka. He resides in Ogun state, Nigeria.

And now from the author himself:

If I could describe myself in two words, those words would be unconventional and versatile. Unconventional has a lot to do with my personal worldview and actions but versatile is what best describes my relationship with the arts. I love the evolving, the exciting and perhaps that is what led me to poetry. The unconventional part of me decreed my choice of free verse as the predominant vehicle to express my creative verve.

Coming from a multiethnic background and growing up in a multiethnic city like Lagos also played its own part in the fashioning of my versatile self. Little wonder that even though I started with the prose form, I subsequently branched out to other genres of literature.

I wrote my first book, a storybook when I was eight or so. The book unfortunately got lost in edition. I got over that awful experience and later went on to write a novel at the age of twelve / thirteen. However I had to wait till when I was eighteen before I was able to finally savour the euphoria of seeing my poetry anthology in print.

Unfortunately another attribute of mine with particular regard to the literary arts is laziness. On the one hand it is a good quality actually, for a writer to exercise patience and let his creative muse dictate his writing pace but on the other hand it is the major reason why I have only published one book to date.

As unconventional as I am, there is a part of me that remains obdurately conservative. That probably explains my weak social media presence. Nevertheless I still maintain some semblance of that. I am still an outsider to the e-book revolution but I manage a blog at http://sheriffgarba.wordpress.com and http://sheriffgarba.blogspot.com. I post articles rather infrequently – usually articles on socio-political and economic discourse from Africa and the rest of the world – but when I do, I ensure they are incisive and informative.

My choice of literary hangouts is the Association of Nigerian Authors monthly meet, which comes up second Saturdays of every month at the National Arts Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos.

I strongly believe that a writer should never dissociate himself from the socio-political and economic happenings and or discourse in his immediate and larger society at any given time. As such I lend my voice to issues that crop up in this regard: politics, race relations, gender relations, and LGBT rights.

Having lived in Lagos for nineteen years, I now live in a rather rowdy but otherwise pleasant town in Ogun state, Nigeria.

You can find more about Sheriff and his writing via… Suite101.com, Ayaka Online magazine, and his blogs http://sheriffgarba.wordpress.com and http://sheriffgarba.blogspot.com.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with Christian author Henry Miranda – the four hundred and third of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.