2022 Alberta Author Project Winner

Alice Bienia
Knight Vision
Calgary Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself.   

I’m a crime writer, mother, wife, sister, grandmother, and coal miner’s daughter.

I was born in Drumheller Alberta but only because there was no hospital in the small coal mining town we lived in. My parents were newly arrived immigrants, originally from Poland, and we, like so many immigrant families then and now, lived a pretty basic life.

When the coal mining towns started to shut down, my father moved our family to Calgary, and it has been my home for most of my adult life.

When it came time to go to university, I chose to study science. After acquiring a Bachelor of Science in Geology I spent the next twenty or so years in the resource industry – first mining and later oil and gas. It was a big step off the traditional career path chosen by many women in the seventies.

I loved it. My work took me to the most northern reaches of Canada. I carried out exploration programs in the Northwest Territories, drilled wells in the Arctic, sat offshore drilling rigs in the Beaufort Sea. In addition to the challenging and fascinating work itself, I got to experience long warm days under the midnight sun, marvel at the vivid northern lights, watch herds of caribou migrate right past my tent. Experiencing the immense, desolate beauty of the vast Canadian north is something I’ll never forget.

But life usually doesn’t follow a straight path and the energy industry, like many others, is susceptible to global pressures and so after surviving thirteen rounds of layoffs at the company I’d been working for seventeen years I found myself, in 1999, a free agent – aka unemployed.

I found myself doing a lot of soul searching while taking stock of my skills and abilities in order to determine what it was that I really wanted to do next. The idea of becoming a writer had already been percolating in my brain for several years. Now the idea moved to the front of my thinking. It was no longer just an idea – but the growing realization that I really, wanted to write.

But my children were young, there were bills to pay, and it’s easy to find all sorts of reasons or excuses to not to do something. I set up my own consulting company and told myself I could write in my spare time.

But the urge to write grew stronger and stronger and over the following ten years or so I came close to packing in my consulting practice to write. Then finally at the end of 2013 the contact I had with an energy company came to a premature end. This time I took it for the gift it was.

I took a few months off to clear and cart off boxes of management books and shred tons of files from my home office and in March 2014 I sat down to write.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book. 

Knight Vision is the fourth book in my Jorja Knight mystery series, but it can be read as a standalone. My protagonist, Jorja Knight, is what I like to call, an everyday hero. She’s an ordinary woman trying to make her way in life. A former forensic analyst, her world is turned upside down when a brutal attack by a fellow employee on a killing spree leaves her re-evaluating what she really wants out of life. She decides to utilize her analytical skills in a different way and reinvents herself as a private investigator.

In Knight Vision, Jorja Knight has already been working as private investigator for a couple of years. Her last case thrust her into the limelight and brought out more than one would-be client seeking to share the spotlight. Yet when she’s approached by a psychic clairvoyant with a rising reputation, who claims she is seeing her own future murder, she’s sufficiently intrigued to take on the case.

Just as Jorja begins her hunt for her client’s predicted killer, a woman resembling her client is murdered. Jorja’s client starts to unravel, her premonitions amplify, she tells the media that the killer will strike again.

Jorja becomes suspicious of her intended role in the investigation when she discovers her client is keeping secrets from her. The psychic’s premonitions begin to manifest in her own world. As the physical threats escalate, Jorja fears the secrets her client harbors could cost both their lives.

What made you want to be an author? 

When I was growing up it never even occurred to me that I could write for a living – people in my world, where I lived – didn’t grow up to be writers.

My parents like most other recently arrived immigrants, focused us on the practical aspects of life like going to school, getting an education, finding a good job. The idea that one could make a living as a writer was a foreign concept – and maybe still is (LOL).

Money was scarce, and like most kids who grew up in the era of no TV, no computers or video games I spent my childhood running around with the other neighborhood kids, playing make belief games, skipping rope, or racing leaves down the gutter after a big rain.

I developed a somewhat vivid imagination, and I became an avid reader.

My love of books continued into my adult years. Working in remote exploration camps, books were a primary form of entertainment as we had no access to TV, or other forms of entertainment.

My former career also required a lot of imaginative thinking. Scientific thinking requires curiosity, it requires asking ‘what if’ questions, postulating answers and then testing them through observation using senses of sight, touch, hearing and even taste and smell.

I was also that rare breed of geologists who actually enjoyed putting the final project reports together. I created manuals, and developed internal courses, gave talks.

But over time, my career moved away from exploration to other aspects of the energy business, some predicated by the company’s needs, and some by my own need to spend less time away from my young family. And over time and due to a myriad of reasons, I found myself working for a company that was struggling to stay afloat with little room or money for exploration, for creative endeavors, or imaginative solutions. At that point I knew the next phase of my life had to include the opportunity to create, to contribute something of meaning, to solve problems in unique and imaginative ways. I was also ready to take control of my own destiny. Sink or swim, I wanted to take back the reins of my own career.

Writing fiction incorporates so many of the elements I identified as needing in my next career. And although it took me another decade or so to make it happen, my writing life is more fulfilling than I ever imagined. I get to dream up problems for my protagonist to solve, help her figure out how to solve them while throwing her little annoying problems to deal with along the way – just to keep it real!

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey? 

For starters, libraries were a godsend for me growing up. They offered me a window into a world that I could barely imagine. Although books were a luxury we couldn’t afford –thankfully library cards were free. I would take out the maximum number of books allowed at one time and return them well before their due date for another batch.

Over time, libraries became the place I took my children. They later became the place where I attended talks, readings, and book launches by other authors. They offered up the idea that this was possible for me too. And now that I’m writing full time, they occasionally provide a change of pace or scenery, a place to meet friends, or a comfy space in which to write.

All of my books have been published during the pandemic, starting with my first book in the fall of 2020. It entered the world in a cone of silence – no book signings, no live launch party. Around the same time, I had been hearing about the Indie Author Project – a collaborative endeavor by public libraries, authors, and readers to help make indie books known and available to library patrons. I was thrilled and grateful to submit my first eBook directly to the Calgary Public Library. This became a big part of my launch.

Last year, I received a phone call from a friend I met at a writing event. She was calling to tell me she had found my books in her local library. Although she knew I was writing and publishing books, finding my book in the library made it real – for her and for me. It finally felt like I had come full circle.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Writing a whole novel can seem daunting. And it does take a lot of work. Start with a few words on a page, and then add a few more. Keep going. Keep adding words. Keep learning. Slowly and steadily, you’ll get better, the writing will come easier. Persistence will get you to the finish line.

Don’t worry about what people will think, whether they will like what you’ve written, or what you will need to do to get it into their hands. Keep writing. Write for the sheer joy, excitement, and fulfillment it gives you. Enjoy the process. Don’t give up. You’ll be amazed at what you can create if you just keep going!

2022 California Author Project Winners

Mary Camarillo
The Lockhart Women
Huntington Beach Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I write about living in Southern California, a place I’ve called home for more than fifty-five years and am still trying to understand. I had a long career with the postal service, which might be genetic—both my grandfathers were railway mail clerks. I sorted mail, sold stamps, worked in the accounting office, and went to night school, eventually earning a degree in business administration, a CPA license, and a Certificate in Internal Auditing.

My first novel The Lockhart Women was published by She Writes Press in June of 2021. It won multiple awards including: 2021 First Place in the Next Generation Indies for First Fiction, 2022 Finalist for the Screencraft Cinematic Book Award, 2021 Finalist in the American Book Awards in Women’s Fiction, 2022 Silver Titan Award, and 2022 Honorable Mention, Los Angeles Book Award for Regional Fiction and 2022 Honorable Mention, Hollywood Book Award for Fiction.

My second novel will be published in October of 2023. My poems and short fiction have appeared in publications such as TAB Journal, 166 Palms, Sonora Review, and The Ear.

I’m currently serving on the advisory boards of Citric Acid, An Orange County Literary Arts Quarterly, and LibroMobile, An Arts Cooperative and Bookstore in Santa Ana, California. I belong to Women Writing the West, Women Who Submit, and Women for Orange County. I live in Huntington Beach, California with my husband. who plays ukulele, and our terrorist cat Riley, who makes frequent appearances on Instagram.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

The Lockhart Women is a mother/daughter/sister story set in Southern California in the 1990’s. It’s about a divorce, regrets and bad decisions with the O. J. Simpson trial as background noise.

The story starts on June 17, 1994, the night of the O. J. Simpson slow speed chase through Southern California when Brenda Lockhart’s husband announces he’s leaving her for an older and (in Brenda’s always overly judgmental opinion) much less attractive woman. Brenda gets hooked on the media circus surrounding the Simpson trial.

Coverage of the trial was pretty compelling in those pre-social media days and practically inescapable. It was on television twenty-four seven, preempting cartoons and soap operas. The chase even interrupted the telecast of the NBA finals. To be clear, this novel is not about Simpson, nor is it a discussion of whether or not he was guilty. It’s about a woman who escapes into someone else’s drama to avoid thinking about her own ruined life.

Brenda has never worked outside the home and needs to find a job. Because of the decline in family finances, her daughter Peggy revises her university dreams and lets her father talk her into working at the post office at night and taking classes at community college during the day. Younger daughter Allison falls in love with a golden haired surfer boy with too many secrets. Both daughters make their own bad decisions with lovers and crime. In the end, the family comes together again in ways they never expected and Kirkus Review called the ending “a satisfying one.”

My favorite California author, Susan Straight, said “The Lockhart Women is deeply and thoroughly Southern Californian.” I’m very honored to be recognized by the California Indie Author Project for this novel.

What made you want to be an author?

I’ve always been a voracious reader. I wrote poetry in high school, edited the literary magazine and considered a career in journalism but let an unfortunate teacher sour me on that idea. I didn’t go to college straight out of high school. Like my characters, I worked at the post office. I loved the benefits, the vacation time, the variety of jobs available, and the diversity of the other employees. I made life long friends and met my future husband.

The last ten years of my career I worked for the Office of Inspector General where I wrote countless audit reports about inefficiencies at the post office. I know this sounds weird, but there’s a relationship between writing an audit report and writing fiction. Either way, you’re telling a story. Audit reports need to be true stories but I believe fiction also needs to tell the truth.

I always thought a novel set at the post office would make a good story because of all the different types of people who work there on graveyard and swing shifts. No one ever gets enough sleep working those hours. Relationships can be really dramatic and sometimes explosive. Plus, everyone knows somebody who works at the post office.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

I’ve always loved libraries. My parents took us there every week and I brought home as many books as I was allowed to check out.

We have a beautiful library in Huntington Beach, designed by the architects Richard Neutra and his son Dion. I shelved books there for a few years as a volunteer. There are multi-levels filled with plants, water features and a sweeping view of the adjacent park. It’s an inspirational place to read and write. I’m thrilled that there is a copy of The Lockhart Women on the shelf.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

I have four suggestions.

1. Read widely. Read all the time. Think of reading as your job.
2. Find a writer’s group and share your work but learn to trust your own voice.
3. Don’t be afraid to revise. You can’t screw it up. You can only make it necessary to do over again.
4. Be part of a writing community. Go to readings, buy books, support independent bookstores, write reviews and send thank you notes. Writers are incredibly generous people who will support you when it’s your turn.

Thank you so much for this award.

2022 Colorado Author Project Winners

Cindy Gunderson
Yes, And
Anythink (Rangeview Library District)

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m a storyteller at heart, though I didn’t recognize that until recently. I was born in Washington, but grew up in Alberta, Canada where I spent much of my childhood performing, playing sports, and taking care of abandoned kittens. I moved to the US finish my education at BYU – that’s where I met my husband Scott. We lived in Berkeley for four years while he went to Optometry school, then moved to Colorado in 2009.

We have four kids between the ages of sixteen and nine, and I always encouraged them to participate in Nanowrimo. Each year, I felt a little tug to try writing something myself, but it felt too scary! After I had an idea I couldn’t get out of my head, Scott encouraged me to put pen to paper, even if it ended up being just for me.

The moment I started writing, I knew I’d found a new love in life. I published my first book in 2019 and have released eleven additional novels since then, as well as two children’s series. I love exploring new ideas and improving my craft, and most importantly, connecting with other people who love good stories!

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

This story is extremely close to my heart. I serve through my church in the community and, a few years back, had the opportunity to build a relationship with an eighty-year old woman who needed a friend. We went to lunch together over the course of two years before she passed, and it was truly such a gift. She would often express feeling forgotten and lonely, and it broke my heart.

At the same time, my younger brother came to live with us for a few months. At twenty-three, he was on the opposite end of the spectrum, and I found myself struggling to understand where he was coming from – his perspective on life was so profoundly different than mine.

It was the combination of these two people in my life at the same time that led me to write Yes, And. They both expressed feeling misunderstood, and I wanted to understand. The best way I know how to do that is through story. So, I wrote a book where two characters from two opposite walks of life found each other when they needed someone most. Jo and Toby are very different from my brother and my dear friend, but their hearts are the same.

What made you want to be an author?

I needed to get the ideas out of my head! More than that, I felt a deep desire to connect with people through stories that were meaningful to me.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

When I published my first book, I immediately took copies to my local libraries. That was how I found my first readers! With four kids at home, its difficult to get much done sitting in my living room. For the last few years, I’ve worked at a desk in many different branches of our local libraries. I’m so grateful for the services they provide!

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Writing and publishing is a journey – don’t be discouraged if you don’t sell copies right away or if your writing isn’t perfect from the get-go. Get involved in your community and find ways to interact with real people and readers. It’s worth all the frustration and tears when you find that one person who needed YOUR story.

2022 Connecticut Author Project Winners

Sarah Branson
A Merry Life
The Mystic & Noank Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I love change. Yes, it’s a bit scary and it’s disruptive, but it’s also exhilarating and transforming. Also, it’s inevitable.

I grew up in a household where until I was in junior high, we moved every year or two. Why? There are two possible reasons: 1- my dad was simply born under a wandering star and liked to keep looking for the elusive “right spot” or 2- he was a spy and on the run.

Either way, we bounced from Nebraska to Oregon to California to Alabama to New Mexico (or it may have been Arizona— I was in diapers, so the difference eluded me). My mother was a smart-as-a-whip, incredibly strong, special education teacher and was delighted to go along for the ride even when that ride got a little rocky.

Long car trips across the country with my sister in the back seat and no seatbelts was a normal summer for us, but one year, my folks decided that Australia was going to be our Shangri-la. So, all the worldly goods were sold or packed, the cat was re-homed, and we headed to Long Beach, California to board a freighter to take us to Australia.

The captain of the freighter, a native Aussie, who became known to me as Uncle Fred, decided I looked like his grown daughter as a child and this likeness meant I got to spend my days inspecting the ship with him and listening to him spin tales. That was when pirate stories first started to dance in my head.

As an adult, I still embrace change. My career as a midwife taught me to move with the flow of birth and that families, women and birthing people are amazingly strong and remarkably resilient. I have worked in hospital settings, a birth center, and run my own homebirth practice. I have practiced midwifery for close to thirty years with forays into teaching science, English and history in the US and in Brazil and Japan. And now I have reinvented myself again, with all these lifetime experiences to guide me, as a writer of stories of action, adventure, revenge, and romance. Oh, and pirates.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

A Merry Life is the first book in the series Pirates of New Earth, sweeping four book saga set three hundred years in a future that sees Old Earth dramatically altered by fires, floods, famine, and pandemics.
It introduces us to Kat Wallace: a young woman, headstrong and angry, bent on escaping enslavement. She is adopted by the leader of the pirate nation of Bosch and is determined to make her new family proud even as she seeks to end the trafficking of humans on 24th century New Earth.

A Merry Life is a story of strength and hope and resilience in the face of danger and heartbreak. Readers follow Kat as she discovers that family is the most challenging adventure of all.

What made you want to be an author?

I have always loved reading and writing. My first “published” work was a poem about albatrosses that my mother drew a picture for and then mimeographed off to give to anyone who didn’t move fast enough. As an adult, I dreamed of being an author, but just didn’t feel I had a story worth putting on paper, and I also figured that short stories would be my genre as I couldn’t imagine writing anything more than a few pages long.
But I have always had a rich inner life. From playing make-believe with plastic animals in the mud, to imagining living in an underground house in the woods during those summer moves, I always had an array of locales and characters keeping me company.

During my ninety-minute commutes to the birth center during the pandemic, one character kept showing up in my passenger seat: a young woman who had a traumatic past and had a story to tell: Kat Wallace.
Now, once you read the book(s) and get to know her, you will understand why they came to fruition. Their creation made me recall a forward I read in Richard Bach’s book Illusions where he described a story coming forward and grabbing him by the throat and insisting it be told. To Richard Bach I now say, “Same.”

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

Libraries are such gifts. My mother and father would always take my sister and me to the library and we would scour the shelves for books. I borrowed fiction, non-fiction, books that were geared to my age and books that were not. I recall a tete-a-tete between one of my parents and the librarian regarding this as well as a bend in the how-many-books-could-be-checked-out rule.
My most delightful memory was accompanying my father to pick out books for the bookmobile to take out to the rural areas in Nebraska. I took the task very seriously and wanted to provide not only the best but a great variety for children to pick from.

Libraries were where I took my children to explore new books and to follow in my footsteps of bringing home as many as they could carry.

Finding the library is always one of my first steps when I find myself in a new place.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

My advice for aspiring indie authors is to write your story and don’t leave it in the drawer hoping for a “someday”. Instead find first one person, and then a team of people who believe in you and your work and get it into reader’s hands.

2022 Florida Author Project Winners

J.S. Farmer
Blue Sky Gone
St. Johns County Public Library System

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I am a former police officer, and mother of two great kids. Currently, I teach courses in Criminology and Terrorism at Flager College. Originally from Connecticut, we moved to Florida almost three years ago, where I finished writing Blue Sky Gone in honor of the 20th Anniversary of 9/11.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

Blue Sky Gone was written to honor the victims of 9/11, and those who still suffer from related illnesses to this day. I chose to write it in a historical fiction-type format, to draw in readers who may be reluctant to tackle such a difficult and emotional topic. The fictional story of two sisters leads the reader into the historical and factual events of 9/11, and twenty years beyond.

Sisters, Hannah and Audrey are on very different paths in life. Audrey is a young police recruit in the police academy at the time of 9/11, and Hannah is a young Wall Street hopeful living in New York City, working at the World Trade Center in the South Tower. The events of 9/11 bring the sisters together in an unexpected way, and their lives will never be the same again.

Blue Sky Gone is a story of courage, love, loss, and hope.

What made you want to be an author?

I began creating poetry and short stories as early as I can remember being able to write.

I can pinpoint the exact moment I knew I wanted to be an author. Growing up in the 80s I was a huge fan of the moving Back to the Future. In one of the movie’s final scenes, George McFly receives a box of advanced copies of his first novel, A Match Made in Space. The sense of accomplishment and pride demonstrated in that scene along with the pure excitement from his family, inspired me from a young age to one day write my own book.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

The thought of my book one day being on the shelves of libraries, was one of the main inspirations for becoming an author. Libraries are magical places, that open the doors to so many worlds for all different readers. I couldn’t imagine a greater honor than someone checking out my book from the library. It has been one of the most rewarding feelings in this process.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Fiercely believe in yourself. Never let anyone tell you that you can’t become an author, that also goes for your own thoughts. Keep writing, keep believing, and push through any doubts or struggles you may encounter. It is all a normal part of the journey. The most important thing is to never give up, and keep your eye on the end result, your very own published book!

2022 Illinois Author Project Winners

Alina Rubin
A Girl with a Knife
Niles Public Library District

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I live in Niles, a suburb of Chicago, with my husband, 11-year-old daughter, and our cat Sunny. I’ve worked in IT for over twenty years. Currently, I’m a compliance analyst, but I’ve worked in several other positions. I was an avid reader all my life but never considered writing fiction. When the pandemic started, I didn’t have to commute anymore. Like many other people at that time, I watched much more tv than before. Historical fiction miniseries especially intrigued me. I started imagining my own stories in my head. One morning, I just had this powerful thought: “I’m supposed to be writing a book!” I ran to my computer and typed away. I immediately knew that this is what I wanted to do with my life.

I was born in Kyiv, Ukraine. I came to the United States when I was eleven. Despite excelling at school, I was always shy about mispronouncing English words. Writing builds my confidence, expands my vocabulary, and makes me see how complex and beautiful the English language is.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

When I was on my historical fiction miniseries binge in late 2020, the death of one beloved character gutted me. I imagined a young woman with amazing medical skills saving him. Then I came up with more stories about her. I imagined her as a ship surgeon, saving the sick and wounded on her ship, during the Napoleonic wars. And this is how the character of Ella Parker was born.

I wrote a full novel about Ella’s adventures. It took me three months. I wrote every morning and some evenings. I knew nothing about writing at this point, but I enjoyed it tremendously. I went into writing groups on Facebook and began asking what I should do next. A beta reader volunteered to give me feedback, as well as an editor. Both said that my manuscript needs much improvement, and I could use some writing classes specific to fiction. My beta reader pointed out the biggest issue: if my story is set in 1800s England, how could Ella be a surgeon, trained in medical school? Women weren’t allowed in universities at that time. I had to have a believable explanation. I brainstormed ideas and came up with the backstory of Ella disguising herself as a man to study in medical school. I thought to add a few chapters about the university adventures, but it became its own book. The world of 19th-century medicine, before the germ theory, anesthesia, or antibiotics was so shocking and captivating. My character would struggle and grow through her transformation, while the reader would wonder if she’d get caught. I started over, and A Girl with a Knife was born.

What made you want to be an author?

I knew that the story came to me for a reason, and I wanted to share it. I love my characters. If I did a good job writing about them, readers would love them too. I love every part of the author journey: plotting, researching, writing, editing, proofreading, choosing the cover, marketing, building my website, meeting my readers, learning the craft, and connecting with other authors. There’s so much to learn and so much to do. I enjoy the creativity as well as the business decisions that come with all those steps. Becoming an indie author is becoming an entrepreneur. The book is my baby but also my product. I have a great passion for my stories, and it comes through all the steps of making my books.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

I love my Niles library. When I do my research, I check out 5-7 books on the subject that interests me. When I was writing A Girl with a Knife, I was at the library, and I found myself staring at the “New Releases” section. I so badly wanted my book to be there one day! I asked the librarian how I could get a book into the library, and she told me about the Illinois Soon to be Famous Author contest. And soon enough my book appeared in the “New Releases” section.

I’m part of the library Writing Club, and I find it very helpful to grow as a writer. I’m also a member of a Toastmasters club that meets at the library. My daughter participates in all kinds of library programs. Her team won the Battle of the Books. The Niles library had been incredibly supportive of my winning book. Some of my big fans discovered my book through the library.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Turn off your inner critic and just write. Create a routine that works for you. Find your tribe of fellow writers and support each other. Receive feedback with gratitude.

2022 Louisiana Author Project Winners

Joy E. Rancatore
Any Good Thing
St. Tammany Parish Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I have an infatuation with the written word.

When I was supposed to be napping, I pulled all the books off my shelves and eventually passed out on top of them. When I was supposed to go to sleep at night, I made up stories and told them to my stuffed animals—complete with diverse character voices. I also read the dictionary and diagram sentences for fun.

I suppose I’m a rebel, so my choice to indie publish makes perfect sense.

Most importantly, I am a Christian wife to a supportive husband who is my biggest fan. I homeschool our two imaginative kids. We’re in our thirteenth year of homeschooling, and I can tell you the high school years are not for the faint of heart.

In 2018, I became a published author with my award-winning fantasy short story, “Ealiverel Awakened,” in The Crux Anthology. Since then, I have published two Southern fiction books and written two more for my Carolina’s Legacy Collection. I have also published a co-authored book for writers, Finders Keepers: A Practical Approach to Find and Keep Your Writing Critique Partner.

One of my favorite parts of being an author is speaking to groups of readers or writers at my local library. I am thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to geek out about the written word and lead workshops for fellow writers of all ages. The teen writers in St. Tammany Parish inspire me. The future of our books is in capable hands.

While I dreamed of being an author since the first time I held my chubby Snoopy pencil to write sentences about cats in hats, I initially pursued writing through journalism. I wrote for various newspapers and magazines, worked in public relations and freelanced for a multitude of clients. After a stutter start with books in 2010, I banished my fears and gave in to my dream in 2016. That’s when I discovered indie publishing and haven’t looked back since.

I round out my time these days as an editor for fellow Indie Authors and co-host of QWERTY Writing Life Podcast, now in its fourth season, with my critique partner Mea Smith.

To sum me up, I am a reader, photographer, learner, speaker, teacher, editor and Indie Author who believes: “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it yet,” just like L.M. Montgomery who penned those words in Anne of Green Gables.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

Any Good Thing grew from the seed of a tragic story. I read an article about a young man who had a tragic accident and began to ask all the “What if …” questions.

What if the community turned against him?

What if he had a troubled past but had been on the path to a brighter future?

What if he joined the Marine Corps and took his guilt with him to Iraq?

Jack Calhoun became flesh and bone to me on a quiet morning in 2017, and I’m proud of the character he is and of his entire cast of supporting characters who have become dear friends to me.

I intended Any Good Thing to be a standalone novel. My characters had other ideas.

Carolina’s Legacy Collection showcases other characters—past, present and future—who make Jack who he is. The novella, This Good Thing, steps back in time to the loss of a character whose legacy lingers. Every Good Thing casts secondary characters into their starring roles through twelve short stories. And One Good Thing promises fans of Jack a deeper look at his story told through his letters and another character’s journal entries in an epistolary tale that brings the whole collection full circle.

What made you want to be an author?

Stories have always been my companions.

I’m the youngest of five children, with my closest sibling being twelve years older than me, which meant I grew up feeling like an only child. To fill in the silence, I told stories.

On my swing set, I told stories to the clouds. In my room, I regaled my dolls with tales of daring. And everywhere I went, I had a book or two. Books taught me more about the world and about myself.

My earliest influences were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Lucy Maud Montgomery and C.S. Lewis. Later in life, J.R.R. Tolkien stole my heart and fueled my imagination.

I write from my heart to tell tales of the soul in order to inspire people of all ages and leave a literary legacy for my family and for generations of reader to come.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

Libraries have been one of the most influential places for my author journey.

I can still remember the feeling of awe as I walked among the towering shelves of the Elizabeth Jones Library in Grenada, Miss. That was the first building I remember in detail. I was eleven when we moved there, and that would be where I got my first job.

In every new place I’ve lived, the local library has been one of the first places I visit. I’ve lived in ten different towns and cities over my lifetime, so I’ve been blessed to experience many libraries.

When we moved to Louisiana, the children’s librarian at that time, Mrs. Mim, became one of my first friends. My children have grown up in that library through programs from storytimes with the little pom pom ducks to STEM events and volunteer days with the Battle of the Books in between.

My library has embraced me as its author-in-residence, given my books shelf space and welcomed me with open arms as a speaker. In my library, I have researched, written, revised and edited at every stage of each piece I’ve produced.

Libraries connect readers and authors in a creative circle that enhances the magic of stories.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

You have chosen an incredible journey. As with every path to publication, this road will have its curves, steep inclines, potholes and occasional detours. With each roadblock you encounter, remember you are worthy, your words are worthy and so is your title.

Others will erect road signs telling you you’re on the wrong avenue. Ignore them. We live in a time when writers have options for becoming authors. Each publication route is valid, and—I could be biased, but—you’ve chosen a fantastic one.

Stay the course, my friend. Your journey will not be easy, but the greatest destinations and views come at the end of the windiest, dustiest trails.

2022 Minnesota Author Project Winners

John Gaspard
The Self-Working Trick (and other stories)
Hennepin County Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m the author of the Eli Marks mystery series and the Como Lake Players mystery series. I also have four other stand-alone novels, including two greyhound inspired pastiches: “The Greyhound of the Baskervilles” and “A Christmas Carl.”

I’ve directed six low-budget features and was a writer/story editor on the European TV series, “Lucky Luke.” I’ve also written multiple books on the subject of low-budget filmmaking. Those books include “Fast, Cheap and Under Control” and “Fast, Cheap and Written That Way.”

When not writing, I host two podcasts: “Behind the Page: The Eli Marks Podcast,” and “The Occasional Film Podcast.”

My most recent book is “The Popcorn Principles: A Novelist’s Guide To Learning From Movies.”

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

The book, “The Self-Working Trick,” is the 8th book in the Eli Marks mystery series. The book consists of a dozen new Eli Marks short stories (ten never-before published). Eli Marks is a working magician in Minneapolis who occasionally stumbles into (and just as often, solves) crimes. The stories in the book cover the series timespan, with some occurring right before the first book. Readers have told me this book is a great introduction to the series.

What made you want to be an author?

I’ve been telling stories since I was a teenager, first with an 8mm movie camera. Over the years, I graduated to more sophisticated tools, making features in 16mm and digital. Novel writing is just the next step on the journey. And the best part is, I don’t have to get up early and drag heavy gear to do it!

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

Libraries have been part of the process since the beginning, for both writing and moviemaking. I’ve been checking out books (and movies) from my local library (and from the book mobile, back in the day) for as long as I can remember.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Write what you’d want to read. You’ll be amazed at how many people will want to read it as well.

2022 Missouri Author Project Winners

Annie Lisenby
A Three Letter Name
Barry-Lawrence Regional Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

A native of the Missouri Ozarks, I’ve spent the majority of my life living in southwest Missouri. I ventured away to pursue a MFA degree in Theatre Performance and wandered the country performing before moving to Asia with my husband for three years. After returning to Missouri, I taught theatre at the high school and college level. In 2018, I decided to use my years of experiences storytelling onstage in the writing world. Since then, I’ve been published in “Chicken Soup for the Soul” three times, and my debut novel “A Three-Letter Name” was published in early 2022. I am active in the Joplin Writers Guild and a board member of the Ozarks Writers League.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

A Three-Letter Name is a survival romance featuring two characters with disabilities. I was inspired to write it in honor of the friends I had in elementary school, a magnet school that integrated deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students. While I am hearing, I learned to love and appreciate the Deaf community. Also, nine years ago I broke my leg badly and had to be on crutches for four months and learned a lot about what limitations I did and did not have.

Book blurb from the cover:
Els never wanted to marry. Her calling was to protect her village from the feline beasts that prowl the forest at night, and love had no part in it. But after a fever steals much of her hearing, she is forced to decide between exile and marrying a stranger.

Samuel, Els’ new betrothed, is adjusting after an injury leaves him disabled. Never again will he be the great hunter and leader that his father expects, and after the girl he loves abandons him, he flees his village to escape scrutiny.

Before Els and Samuel can adapt to their life as a married couple, the very beasts that Els fended off spill more innocent blood, sending the village into a panic.

Now, there’s only one choice: hunt the beasts and kill every last one. And do it together.
Finding strength in their new disabilities, Els and Samuel must learn to listen with their hearts.

Their home and their lives depend on it.

What made you want to be an author?

I grew up surrounded by people who were storytellers. It’s likely why I was drawn to performing onstage. But the more I performed in the theatre and film industries, the more I knew my heart was in literature. I finally worked up enough courage to try writing for the first time and haven’t looked back.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

Libraries have always been a special place to me, a place where I could find books to take me on adventures in far away places and learn to understand the world around me too. My mom taught me to love reading and would take us to the library regularly. As I grew older, I traveled for performance contracts and always found a way to get a library card so I could keep adventuring through the pages.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors? 

My advice to indie authors is that if writing is your passion, do it. If you feel pulled to get words on the page and share your story, do it. No one has the same voice as you, and all stories are valuable. It may not always be easy to write a novel, but it is a true joy to look back at the journey and celebrate once you’ve typed “the end.”

2022 Nevada Author Project Winners

L.A. Hider Jones
My Interview with Beethoven
Las Vegas-Clark County Public Library District

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’ve been a professional writer for 50 years, mostly working in corporate communications for Fortune 500 companies and a government contractor. I’m currently working on a rom/com-fantasy novel that I’m very excited about. It’s finished. Just doing the fine edits now before I send it to my beta readers.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

My Interview with Beethoven falls under historical fiction, but I call it historical “fact-ion” because I wanted to keep this story as true to Beethoven’s life and his time as much as possible. Doing this novel from beginning to end took me 15 years to complete, while working full-time, living life and moving from the East Coast to Las Vegas. Beethoven strove for excellence in all his creative endeavors. He was my inspiration to do the same with his story. My Interview with Beethoven is a “love letter” of sorts to the maestro who changed my world for the better.

What made you want to be an author?

I’m a natural storyteller. Being an author lets me tell stories I want to tell, and that I think would appeal to readers. My mantra in storytelling is Entertain, Educate and Inspire.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

Well, they purchased my ebooks (and a few of my soft copies), so I’m pretty jazzed My Interview with Beethoven is out there!

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors? 

When you’re an indie, the world’s your oyster. You control everything. However, there are cons to this as well as pros. Educate yourself thoroughly to learn how to succeed at it. It can almost be a full-time job, between writing/editing, promotion/publicity/marketing, and being present to the public with your book. I’ve found that when I give presentations about my writer’s journey, my book gets snatched up in a hurry. Passive sales don’t work as well.

2022 New York Author Project Winners

Sara Lippmann
Brooklyn Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

It’s been a long and winding, potholed road. I started out in magazines right after college, which was illuminating for a while until it wasn’t, at which point I left the land of glossies for an MFA at the New School. From there, I’ve taught everything from English comp to flash fiction to novel writing, mentoring writers of all ages.

There was a brief stint in Dallas. There were years of babies, years of not writing, years of despair. Flash helped me find my way back to the page. These days, I consider myself primarily a story writer (my collections are Doll Palace and Jerks), though I’ve also published a novel and do enjoy the occasional essay from time to time.

I live in Brooklyn with my husband, dog, and teenage children. Currently, I’m teaching with the Writing Co-Lab, a new artist’s coop formed with wonderful writer friends and colleagues, and co-editing an anthology with the author Seth Rogoff called Smashing the Tablets: Radical Retellings of the Hebrew Bible for SUNY Press.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

Ironically, Jerks — my story collection — came about because my novel was taking so long. I consider myself a short story writer more than anything, so the novel project took me far outside my comfort zone. It was hard, and often scary to be in the middle of a book, like being out at sea with no shoreline in sight, so what I would do was cheat on the novel with stories, a form that feels like coming home. Before I knew it, I had a collection. And so it was this “cheating” — what at the time felt like procrastination from the primary project — that enabled me to cross the proverbial finish line and get that novel out into the world.

What made you want to be an author?

From an early age, I was an avid reader. I found myself both lost — and found — in books and stories. What an amazing thing, to transport a reader, and to allow them to feel seen? That, paired with the musicality of language and I knew I was hooked.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

When I was little, my mother went back to school for a graduate degree, and would spend long weekends in the public library, where she had a designated carol. So I would often be brought along, and left to roam, and so, I became that kid who always checked out a stack to my nose, who discovered the wonders of microfiche!, and in college spent endless hours in the shelves, studying at the open tables. As an adult, I’ve often taken my laptop to Brooklyn Public Library. Briefly in my 20s, when I was considering getting a PhD in English Lit, I read all the labeled “classics” on the shelves to fill out some gaps.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Own your voice. Own your story. You are writing for a reason. Remember, it’s all right to play. Don’t lose sight of the love.

2022 North Carolina Author Project Winners

Pamela Crane
A Slow Ruin
Cumberland County Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

As a mom of four kids, my life can get pretty monotonous between cooking, cleaning, and homework help. And did I mention I run a horse rescue? So I spend most of my time taking care of little people and big animals. When I’m not knee-deep in manure, my favorite “me time” moments are spent writing mysteries and family dramas. My kids are great inspiration for these genres as they give me loads of ideas for what can cause a person to snap, or how to hide a body. In addition to saving up for my kids’ future therapy, I also run an editing company called Proofed to Perfection, where I love helping aspiring authors reach their publishing dreams.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

A Slow Ruin was inspired by my daughter, whose face also happens to be on the cover (which she assures me is why the book won the award). It’s about a girl whose disappearance connects to a missing woman’s cold case from a century ago. This cold case involves a women’s rights activist who vanished without a trace, leaving her newborn and husband behind, and is inspired by my own ancestor, including real-life newspaper coverage that followed the 1910 case. How could two missing people 100 years apart be linked? As the girl’s mother searches for answers, she discovers her family is harboring secrets that could lead to her child. Packed with family drama, mystery, and historical significance, it’s a story that I wrote to shed light on what women endured in generations past, and what we’re capable of overcoming today.

What made you want to be an author?

For as long as I could scribble my name across paper, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Somewhere in my attic I have an animal adventure story I wrote and illustrated when I was eight years old as proof of this passion, and a few children’s literary awards that I won when I was in fourth grade. As an introvert, reading was always my favorite past time, and writing was a freeing form of expression and connection that was hard for me to find in real life. I guess you could say I lived for writing, and writing lived for me.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

I grew up poor, as in my-entire-wardrobe-was-secondhand poor. When you’re poor you don’t have money for luxuries like new books, so the library was my version of the mall. While all the other girls shopped for clothes, I shopped for free books. The library took me on exciting adventures, promised incredible romance, sharpened my detective skills, invited me to explore the world, and brought me to tears. It’s one of the best places on earth. And it’s accessible to all, no matter how much money you have (or don’t have).

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Writers can tend to give up when the words don’t come easily, or the reviews aren’t favorable. It’s one of the toughest jobs, because everything we create is out there for the world to criticize. So my best advice would be to write for you first, and find joy in the creative process. Keep writing. Even if it’s garbage, get the words down. You can always change them later. Make writing a habit. You’ll keep getting better if you keep doing it! And be gentle on yourself. Support one another. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Each of our success looks different, and that’s okay.

2022 Ohio Author Project Winners

Angela Henry
Knight’s Shade
Clark County Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m a recently retired academic library paraprofessional and the author of six mysteries featuring nosy amateur sleuth Kendra Clayton, the Xavier Knight urban fantasy mystery series, and the thriller The Paris Secret. When I’m not writing, I love to travel, am a connoisseur of B horror movies, and a functioning anime addict. I live in Ohio with my husband and our spoiled Chiweenie.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

Knight’s Shade is book two in the Xavier Knight urban fantasy mystery series, which finds former guardian angel Xavier Knight and his erstwhile mage sidekick, David Granger, in search of a woman’s missing sister. But when a string of murders in the supernatural community occurs, Xavier must determine if the missing woman is a victim or the killer.

What made you want to be an author?

Being a lifelong avid reader made me want to create and share my own stories, especially since the books I loved to read growing up—mysteries—rarely had people who looked like me in them.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

Libraries have been an enormous support in my indie author journey. Having worked in the library field for more than twenty-five years, I was in a unique position to take advantage of the excellent resources libraries offer authors, such as research tools and keeping up with book trends. Many of my most memorable author events have taken place at libraries.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

I advise aspiring indie authors to learn as much as possible about the publishing business, read the type of books they want to write, and write the kind of book they’d love to read. And use your local library!

2022 Ontario Author Project Winners

Clarissa Harwood
The Curse of Morton Abbey
London Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’ve published three historical novels and hold a PhD in English literature with a specialization in nineteenth-century British literature. I’m also a freelance editor, writing coach, and part-time university instructor. I was born and raised in Saskatchewan but now I live in Ontario with my husband and three demanding cats. When I’m not writing or teaching, you’ll find me baking pies, reading books, or watching scary movies.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

I often describe The Curse of Morton Abbey as “The Secret Garden meets Jane Eyre.” It’s set in 1890s England and is about a young woman lawyer who accepts a suspiciously lucrative offer of employment to prepare the sale of a crumbling estate, but when she arrives, the mysterious occupants of the house try to drive her away. As she is drawn deeper into the dark secrets of the family, she can’t be certain she’ll escape Morton Abbey with her sanity—or even her life—intact.

The first spark of inspiration for this book came to me many years ago in a most unlikely place: a stuffy campus classroom where my students were writing the final exam for my children’s literature course. Some students finished early, so I started marking their exams. One essay answer was about Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. In the middle of reading it I was struck by an idea: What if the child protagonists of Burnett’s novel were adults? What would they be like? And my brain exploded with ideas.

What made you want to be an author?

I’ve been making up stories since I was too young to hold a pen. As a young child, I would get my dolls together and come up with soap-opera type plotlines for them to act out. I wrote my first (horrendous) novel when I was thirteen: it was about two Victorian sisters named Strawberri and Blueberri (the spelling of their names was extremely important for some reason that I no longer remember!). I had no time for creative writing during grad school, but I missed it terribly, and when I started teaching I made time for it. At first writing was just something I loved to do for myself and I didn’t think about being published, but the harder I worked on my craft, the more I realized I wanted to have books out in the world where readers could find them!

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

Libraries have always been a magical place to me. I grew up in a prairie town that was so small there was no public library, but we had a bookmobile come by every couple of weeks; whenever it pulled up outside my elementary school, I knew it would be a good day! I always checked out the maximum number of books and came back for more as soon as I had read the first pile. It still seems magical to me that anyone can walk into a library and discover a new world just by picking up a book.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Write what you love, not what you know. If you love it, you’ll learn everything you need to in order to write a good book. But once you’ve written it, don’t be too quick to hit the “publish” button: it’s more important to take your time to revise and have several trusted people offer feedback before the book is published to ensure it’s the best it can be. Being an author is a long game, and you have to be patient.

2022 Texas Author Project Winners

Susan Wittig Albert
The General’s Women
Bertram Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live and write in the Texas Hill Country, with my husband Bill, our heeler Molly, and a varying assortment of cats, chickens, geese, peacocks, sheep, and cows. I left my academic work in 1985 and have been a fulltime writer ever since, working in YA, mysteries, memoir, nonfiction, and (my favorite genre) biographical fiction. I began moving from traditional publishing to indie publishing around 2012, with publication (under my imprint: Persevero Press) of A Wilder Rose, a novel about Rose Wilder Lane and her role in her mother’s (Laura Ingalls Wilder) Little House books. I now publish all my work, including my two mystery series, via Persevero Press. I love the freedom to work at my own pace, outside of the requirements of traditional publishing. A little scary sometimes, but always worth it.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

The General’s Women tells the story of two women—Kay Summersby and Mamie Eisenhower—in love with the same man: General Dwight D. Eisenhower. It’s the complicated story of a general with a war to win (and a reputation to uphold back home), a brave and beautiful Irishwoman who finds herself pulled into his orbit and into the daily excitement of one battle after another, and a wife who stands on the sidelines, hoping for the best and always fearing the worst. The story is based on Kay Summersby’s memoirs, Ike’s letters home, newspapers from the period, and as much detail as I could wrestle from the many WW2 histories I consulted. I deeply respect the people I write about, so the novel is as true as I could make it.

What made you want to be an author?

Writing is my way of finding out what the world is all about. The more I write, the more I learn–and there’s always something new to explore.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

I grew up in a family that didn’t have money for books. But we had a library–the little Carnegie Library in Danville, Ill, where the patient librarians allowed me to read whatever I chose. When I was in college and grad school, I was privileged to work in some of the best university libraries in America and learn the research skills that I depend on every day. As an author, I’ve traveled across the country, speaking to library groups in every state–a joy to meet readers on their own home territories. And now we have libraries on the internet–an entire galaxy of libraries, accessible even to those of us who live at the far edge of somewhere.

What we have to do now is be sure that our libraries remain what they have always been: a place where every book, every author, every idea is welcome–and none are banned because they don’t happen to be welcome in somebody’s political agenda.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Persist. Persist. Persist.

2022 Virginia Author Project Winners

Meredith Bond
A Hand for the Duke
Alexandria Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I am a USA Today best selling author. I’ve written over 30 romances and 3 books of nonfiction. I love taking my readers on a journey into the past with my sweet, historical romances set in Regency England, and my spicier historical fantasy romances set in a post-Arthurian world of my creation. I’ve lived in the Alexandria, VA area for nearly ten years and the DC area for nearly thirty.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

A Hand for the Duke is the first book in the Ladies’ Wagering Whist Society series. It’s a rags to riches tale of an illegitimate young lady trying to make her way in Regency London as a dressmaker. Through her work she has the opportunity to dress the beloved sister of the Duke of Warwick. He is attempting to be mother and father to his younger sister and see her brought out into society, but somehow the woman hired to make her gowns has captured his attention and the more he learns of her the more fascinated he becomes.

What made you want to be an author?

I have too many stories running around my mind, too many characters who need to have a voice. I love creating deep characters who go where I cannot and live lives full of adventure, beautiful balls, and, of course, love.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

From the time my first book came out in 2004, I have been thrilled to see my books on library shelves. Sometimes it can be extremely difficult for an indie-author to get them there. Thank goodness for the Indie Author Project which has made it so much easier!

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Study your craft, take classes, read every craft book you can, and don’t hesitate to reach out to other authors for advice and guidance.

2022 Washington Author Project Winners

Jami Fairleigh
Oil and Dust
King County Library System

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m a bi-racial, Japanese-American author, urban planner, and hobby collector from the rainy Pacific Northwest. I write short fiction and novels for adult and middle-grade audiences. I love fantasy—I was the kid who explored cupboards and followed woodland paths *SURE* I’d happen upon a doorway to another world. Happily, I’ve found writing is one way into those magical places.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book.

Oil and Dust is about a young man who ventures out from his comfortable, privileged life on a quest to find his birth family. I set it several hundred years in the future, after the collapse of our current society. In his world, there is no government, money, religion, or technology. Moreover, artists are the most sought-after people… because they can alter the physical world through their art.

The inspiration came to me when I attended the Seattle Womxn’s March in January 2017, and started wondering what a world without politics, money, power, religion, and greed would look like.

What made you want to be an author?

I won a Young Author Contest for a short story I wrote and illustrated when I was 8. The prize was attending a writing conference and meeting author Jane Yolen. She was lovely, and gracious, and normal… even though she wrote stories about dragons. Meeting her was the first time I realized authors were real people, and that *people* wrote books.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey?

Wherever books congregate, magic happens. Libraries pulse with possibility—I can’t walk into one without feeling a flutter of excitement. Not only are they open to and free for all, but they offer classes, workshops, and author events too.

The library closest to me is one of my favorite places to write and do research. Plus, if you find a librarian who reads your genre, they can point you toward comparison titles to help market your story.

I’m blessed to have accounts with both the King County Library System and the Sno-Isle Libraries who have tremendous digital catalogs. The ease with which I can search for titles and authors, check them out, and even listen to audiobooks makes the check-out-as-many-titles-as-I’m-allowed kid in me so, so happy.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

Write your story and read the genre you want to write. It’s super helpful to know what is popular with readers. Also, don’t compare your first-draft manuscript with finished books—yours will get there too!

The Indie Author community is amazing. They are so generous with their time and advice. Before deciding to go indie, I did a lot of research, then sat down with a local indie author and asked a lot of tough questions.

Most of all, believe in your story. You are the only one who can write it, and it deserves to be shared!

2022 West Virginia Author Project Winner

Leigh Fleming
The Truth of the Matter
Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library

Tell us a little bit about yourself.   

I’m a Maryland native who fell in love with West Virginia when I attended West Virginia Wesleyan College, and later moved to Martinsburg, West Virginia, where I have lived for thirty-five years. My husband and I raised a son and a daughter who have gone on to successful careers, but our nest is not completely empty. We have a deaf French bulldog named Napoleon who keeps us on our toes.

I have self-published the WHATEVER contemporary romance series, and the HIDDEN romantic suspense series, of which STAY HIDDEN won the Lone Star Writing Contest for romantic suspense in 2017. Both of these series are set in West Virginia. THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER, my first historical novel, won the 2022 RONE award in the Historical-American category.

Tell us a little bit about your winning book. 

While doing extensive genealogical research on my father’s side of the family, I came across a disturbing event in my great-great grandparent’s history. THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER is based on that event.

What made you want to be an author?

I have loved books from the moment I learned to read. It always fascinated me how words could be woven into a story. As an adult, every time I finished a great book, I’d say, “I want to write a book someday.” So, I did.

How have libraries played a role in your indie author journey? 

My earliest memory of libraries was going with my mom and sisters to the local library on Saturdays. I’m not sure what the lending limit was, but I remember each of us carrying out a tall stack of books. I still use my local library to check out books for my book club’s monthly selection, although these days it tends to be the e-book version. It’s heartening to see our libraries have evolved and remained relevant in our communities. A good writer must first be an avid reader.

Do you have any advice for aspiring indie authors?

The only way to become an author is to sit down and write. Once you’ve finished, hire a professional editor. A good editor is your best investment. There are many small publishing companies that may be interested in your book, but you can always self-publish. With self-publishing you are in complete control, which can be very rewarding.