author interview

Author Spotlight with Eva Lesko Natiello

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Today I am excited to welcome Eva Natiello to the blog for an Author Spotlight. Eva is the author of The Memory Boxa dark, psychological thriller (think Gone Girl). Eva writes in a genre that I normally don't read, but I picked up her book because we share a copy editor. I couldn't put the book down, and I'm excited she is on the blog today.

Let's start with a brief introduction. Tell us a little about yourself your novel The Memory Box.

Let's see, I grew up in New York and went to school at SUNY Albany where I studied psychology. After I graduated from school I moved to the Bahamas for my first job as a singer. Eventually I moved back to New York and worked in the cosmetics industry as a communications and p.r. executive. It was never in my master plan to write a book. But some things just happen in life. When I had my second child and decided to stay at home with them, that's when I started writing.

The Memory Box is a story about a at-home mom of two (that sounds familiar!) who Googles her maiden name and discovers a past she doesn't remember. (By the way, that's where the similarities end...)

The Memory Box is a dark, twisty psychological thriller. Where does your desire to write this type of fiction originate?

Well, I'm fascinated by misconceptions. When things are not as they appear or seem. We make all sorts of judgments about people based on how they look, what they wear, how they talk, where they live, etc. And these assumptions in many cases can be wrong. I also am fascinated with the idea that bad people are not all bad and vice versa. I like to explore moral dilemmas. And I love to write suspense and thrillers because they are essentially literary puzzles. I guess I am a natural problem solver, so I do like to figure things out.

As I write this question, The Memory Box has 156 reviews with an average of 4.5 stars in a few short months since its June release. I also know The Memory Box was downloaded over 27,000 times during a free run on Kindle. Did you have a specific marketing strategy when you launched your book? Also, how did you encourage readers to review your book?

Before I released The Memory Box, when I was in the beta reader stage, much of the feedback was similar. My readers were saying that it was a very fast read. Many reviewers say this as well, and that it's hard to put down. I knew that it was the kind of book that would be great for book clubs. So one of my main marketing strategies was to try to get it read by as many book clubs as possible. I deliberately wrote a list of Discussion Questions and placed them in the back of the book, both the ebook and paperback. I also offered to attend book club meetings where my book was being discussed. Not only is that so much fun to do, you get to talk to people who want to help you succeed and one of the things you can ask them for are reviews. I have noticed that writing reviews is not everyone's cup of tea, even if they loved the book. It freaks them out to have to write something for a writer! They get uptight about this. The main thing I've tried to do, is to be grateful and thank my readers as much as I can. I tell them I appreciate them reading the book and spending time to write reviews or simply telling other people about it.

This question is out of pure curiosity since we both work with Candace Johnson of Change it Up Editing. How do you find Candace and decide to work with her?

Once I decided to self-publish, I knew I had to invest in certain aspects of the book so that it looked and read as professionally as possible. The first person I needed was a copy editor. I searched a great deal for the right copy editor and found Candace on Facebook, of all places! There were certain things I was looking for in a copy editor, obviously a lot of applicable experience on interesting projects, experience in a traditional publishing house, someone who was active on social media, availability in my time frame and the right chemistry. What I mean by that is, all the editors I was considering did a sample edit for me, and I really focused on how they edited and what they edited. This is a great way to see beforehand, if you think the relationship will work.

Usually writers like to read in the same genre that they write. What are some of your favorite books and genres to read?

Okay, this is going to sound very strange. I do not like to read in the genre I write. I get nightmares very easily and have trouble sleeping normally, so I can not read thrillers or watch those types of movies. I can only write them. I can't explain it. I think I know my characters so well, that I am never scared of them. As screwed up as they are, they do have redeeming qualities! One of my favorite books, and the one I credit to turning my writing around, is White Oleander. I think it's beautifully written, while tackling some dark subject matter. I also like to read historical fiction and humor (and I love to write humor, too!). Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a recent book I read where the quirky characters made me laugh out loud. A few other recent favorites are: Midnight Circus, Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Paris Wife, Then Kitchen House.

Finally, what is next for you?

I have started another dark twisty psychological read and hope to get back to spending some quality time writing it. But as you know, book marketing never sleeps!

Thanks again to Eva for taking the time to answer a few questions. You can learn more about her at her website or head over to Amazon to buy a copy of The Memory Box

Author Spotlight with Randy Shaffer


Today's author spotlight is with horror author and friend Randy Shaffer. His short story, The Horror, has been holding steady in the top 100 horror kindle books in January. Besides his horror short stories, he also writes nonfiction and has a background in film. His interview is fascinating and worth the read, even if you aren't a horror fan.

Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do outside of writing? What are your hobbies and favorite things to do outside of writing?

I was born and raised in Mentor, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. I am married to a lovely woman who serves as the president of the Burning River Roller Girls in Cleveland (she's also a marketing guru for a jeweler). We have no kids, but we do have one mean-spirited cat we dearly love and adore (she just tolerates us).

I went to Wright State University for a year where I studied film production. Alas, the professors weren't particularly keen on crafting cinema people would actually want to watch (or care about), so I transferred to Kent State University and studied writing and film theory instead.

I basically live and breathe writing. I'm paraphrasing, but Stephen King once said that writing was easy, life is hard. I couldn't agree more. I'm always working on stories, screenplays, books and other ideas. I even shoot skits and video blogs every so often. I don't sleep very well, only a few hours a night. My brain is always running wild, so I am continually looking for ways to keep my mind occupied.

I love movies, though I'm not a fan of going to the theater, unless that theater is a drive-in, in which case I would gladly go to the theater. I have a pretty slick setup in my house, with a terrific 1080p projector, Blu-ray and theater-quality 7.1 surround sound. There's basically no reason to leave the house with a home theater this nice. And with ticket prices the way they are, it's cheaper just buying the film when it hits video. I also really love sharing and discussing movies with people, especially films they have never seen.

I am a bit of a gamer. I feel that gaming is the next big storytelling industry. This latest console generation (PS3 and Xbox 360) really pushed the envelope in this regard. I can't wait to see what the next generation has in store.

And naturally, I love reading. I try and read at least 50 books a year. Last year I read more than double that.

How long have you been writing? What books have you published?

I've been writing stories since I was about 10 years old and I wrote a piece of (hilarious and embarassing) Planet of the Apes fan fiction. But the storytelling bug first bit me when I was 6. I was bullied by this kid named Jake and, in order to comprehend his actions, I created a story (in my head) about who he was when he wasn't bullying me at school. It was a sympathetic tale that had him dealing with cruel parents, jealousy over siblings and bullying of his own. In my story, he was a victim, too. And that's why he picked on me. A few years later, I discovered that I wasn't far off. He was abused by his parents and ridiculed by his siblings, and this drove him to dark places. Once I made that discovery, I was hooked on storytelling.

At current, I have four books published, with a fifth on the way at the end of January. And several more short stories and novellas coming in the next year. I've also got three full-length novels being prepped for sale to publishers.

Right now, I'm focusing on short stories, novellas and shorter novels, primarily because I believe there's an untapped market of readers (with e-readers on their smartphones and tablets) who simply don't have the time for longer books. We live in a very busy world, with hundreds of daily distractions. An 800-page book simply isn't going to appeal to those on the go. But something shorter might just whet their appetite. I'm trying to find that audience, and see where they take me. But I'm also seeking that core base of readers. It might sound dumb, but if I could be the guy you read in the bathroom, I would be a very happy man. That writer gets to share their stories with the world all the time. In lesser words, that person is always working.

What books or authors influenced your writing and why?

That's a tough question – one I could probably spend thousands of words discussing. I'll try and be brief and highlight just a few authors.

Stephen King. He is a master writer, and his stories have shaped who I am. Any self respecting horror writer should aspire to churn out the kind of work he does … with books that are maybe not as long as his, though.

J.K. Rowling. Her Harry Potter series is an absolute game changer. It shifted the entire landscape of young adult fiction. And even better, the books are remarkably well written, with a terrific amount of plot and a perfect balance of character.

Michael Crichton. His books are so immeasurably fun, nerdy and awesome. You learn something about science while exploring a great thrill ride of a plot. I am devastated that he's gone and I won't get to read another one of his new books (outside of those ghost-written books that keep coming out).

And finally, F. Scott Fitzgerald. If ever there was an author who nailed society in just one book, it was this man. The Great Gatsby is my all-time favorite novel. It speaks to our culture in such brutally honest ways, and it's still relevant to this day. I suspect it will stay relevant forever. I read his work, which is usually very lean and concise (Gatsby comes in at under 200 pages), and I can't help but smile, cry, loath and love. So awesome and so completely unforgettable.

What draws you to write horror?

I absolutely love writing about what scares me, though what scares me is not necessarily limited to just the horror genre. But even when I was a kid, I would write horror short stories.

I've always been fascinated with that crossroads between fiction and reality, and my mind is always conjuring new stories that explore that realm. The horror genre is a particularly potent field for that kind of storytelling.

My novelette, The Horror, for example, is about a young couple being stalked by an unnamed killer, all while isolated in a haunted house maze. On the surface, it's a tense thriller, built upon anxiety and dread. But metaphorically, The Horror is about how fear can sometimes drive us to irrational places. It questions whether or not you – the reader – would ever go to a haunted house after reading this story, despite the fact that what I wrote is purely fictional. My thesis was to spark an inner-debate. And my hope is that readers can apply what they learned about fear to other aspects in their life. Should we let fear drive us, or should we focus on the more joyful aspects of our admittedly brief existence? And can we really prevent such fears from infecting our being?

But I'm not just limited to horror. I've also written Does She Smile at Home?, which is a character drama about a man suffering from an existential crisis. Also in 2013, I completed a nonfiction manuscript about swing culture and alternative sexual lifestyles. My idea with these books was to explore the nature of human beings, from their darkest, most hidden corners, in order to discover something deeper about our ever-evolving, yet curiously ever-consistent culture.

What is your favorite part of being an indie author?

It's tough being an indie author. Sometimes it's frustrating. Sometimes it's upsetting. You sort of live and die by reviews, guerrilla marketing and the thoughts of others, which can be very challenging to your wallet, your emotions, and your ego (which is crucial for a writer to have, mind you). You have to make sure you find the right person for your book, otherwise they might not like your story, or connect with it in the right way, or the way you hoped.

But when you do connect with a reader … that's downright magical. I love discovering new readers. I find myself reading the books they are reading and sharing with them so much more than just my stories. Connecting with another human being is a rich, wonderful experience, and I sincerely welcome the opportunity to uncover new readers and friends. There are challenges that indie authors must face, and they can be quite grueling, but the end results are deeply rewarding.

What is on the horizon for you in 2014? What books are next to be released?

I'm working on a slew of short stories and novellas, which should be rolling out this summer. I've also got the remaining four issues coming of my five-issue series, Wicked Neighborhood, which readers have described as a "Goosebumps for adults" horror series. I'll be publishing the second issue, The Foot, on January 25 (my birthday), with further issues in the months following. Once that series is completed, I'll be publishing a full-length version of the complete series in both ebook and print formats. After that, I'll be taking my work to comic cons to garner an even larger audience.

I'm also hard at work editing three full-length books, two fiction and one nonfiction. I am hoping to get one of those books in the hands of a publisher in 2014.

And lastly, I'm crafting an audiobook of The Horror. I'm hoping to release it sometime this summer, or early fall, well ahead of the Halloween season … my busy season, so to speak.

Thanks again to Randy for coming on the blog and sharing his story with us. You can connect with him at the links below.


Author Page:


Official Twitter:

Facebook Page:

Books by Randy Shaffer


Indie Author Spotlight with Kendra C. Highley

Kendra Pic 2010 I'm excited for today's post- an indie author spotlight with Kendra C. Highley. It's been too long since I've highlighted an indie author on the blog.  When I read Sidelined last month, I thought she would be a great fit for the indie author spotlight. I contacted her and she promptly said yes.  Along with Sidelined, Kendra is the author of the Matt Archer series.

Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been writing? What books have you published?

I've been writing since I was in third grade, short stories and such, and I've always loved to, uh, "stretch the truth" to make a story more exciting. Good trait for a writer, right? :) But I didn't get serious about my craft, with an eye toward publication, until about five years ago.

My books include my self-published Matt Archer series, an urban fantasy YA series about a teen who fights monsters, and Sidelined (Entangled Ember), an upper contemporary YA about a female basketball star who gets injured and has to rebuild her life.

What is your favorite part of writing a novel?

When my characters take a detour I wasn't expecting. I'm getting better at plotting, but I'm really more of a pantser, and I love it when I'm writing along and suddenly the story turns in a place I never expected. More often than not, it turns out to be better for the story, too.

What draws you to write young adult fiction?

I love the wonder, the excitement, the "newness" of experiences that teen characters face. I also think some of the most daring, edgy modern books are being written in the YA space.

What are a few of your favorite young adult books and/or series?

Wow, narrowing it down to a few is hard. I'm writing a four-part series on my blog on my favorite YA books right now! I'd have to say Daughter of Smoke and Bone and The Girl of Fire and Thorns series have been my favorites of the last few years.

Sidelined-cover-900px(1)I recently read your novel Sidelined. I was drawn to the book as a former athlete and current basketball coach. I think the book deals with issues many teens face as they struggle with addiction, identity, and relationships. Did you have any specific moments in your life that inspired the writing of this book?

One in particular stands out. While I was friends with a couple of varsity women's basketball players (which influenced my decision to make Genna a basketball star), the first seed for this story was planted by a football player when I was a freshman. He was a senior, with three scholarships on the table, and in my church youth group. He was injured late in his last season and lost all his scholarship opportunities. I remember how angry he was, how this life-changing event threw him into despair. But I also got to see, over the course of that year, how he eventually discovered other pursuits and slowly found his balance again. It was inspiring, frankly, and the experience stuck with me.

What are your current writing projects? What is on the horizon for your fans?

I'm working on the fourth Matt Archer book. It's in final edits and will be released in January 2014. The fifth and final book will release summer 2014. I'm also working on a new contemporary YA that has me pretty excited, about a high school reporter.

Finally, I'm always looking for recommendations of great self-published books and indie authors. Do you have any recommendations for self-published fiction books or indie authors to check out?

Wow, two come to mind immediately. They aren't YA, but they have teen characters and are safe for readers 14+. The first is the Emperor's Edge series by Lindsay Buroker. The sixth book in the series, Forged in Blood I, has made it all the way to the finals for Best Fantasy in the 2013 GoodReads Book awards. The second is The Final Formula by Becca Andre. It's an urban fantasy about an alchemist who has's very unique and a ton of fun. I also really enjoyed Red, by Kait Nolan. It's an urban fantasy (YA) based on Red Riding Hood.

Thanks so much to Kendra for her thoughtful responses. I recently picked up the first Matt Archer book and look forward to reading and reviewing it soon.

You can find Kendra at: (MA series site)
Her contemporary YA novel, Sidelined, is available for purchase at Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.