Tag: Author Dream

5×5: Celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month

Welcome back to another installment of our series 5×5 in which we ask five authors of similar backgrounds, five questions. This month, to celebrate Asian/Pacific Islander American Heritage Month we spoke with incredible authors such as, Brian Tashima, Alka Joshi,  Julia Kagawa, Mary Choy and Seema Giri.


image via NSVRC

Brian Tashima, independently published his four volume young adult/sci-fi fantasy series, The Joel Suzuki Series.

As a sensitive sixteen-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome living in a single-parent home, Joel leads a stressful life full of bullies, bad grades and money woes. Figuring that stardom will solve all of his problems, he accepts Marshall’s offer. But once Joel arrives in the new world, he finds himself faced with an unexpected audition that is unlike anything he has ever imagined….

These books were inspired by Tashima’s son. Can you get anymore wholesome? Each book is filled with more magic then the last, so do yourself a favor and check out these books if you are looking for a truly inspiring experience.


Alka Joshi’s debut novel, The Henna Artist is a New York Times Best Seller and was picked as a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club pick for the month of May.

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

If Reese Witherspoon can endorse this page turner, how could you not pick this book up? Joshi spins a masterful tail of self-discovery and female empowerment that echoes very close to home. Even though the story is set in the fifties it is even more relevant now.



Julie Kagawa is the international best selling author of many a series but many of you may know her best from The Iron Fey Series .

The Faery realms have always weathered the clash of Summer and Winter fey, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Now a new breed of faery has emerged to challenge both… to their peril. Forged by Man’s insatiable pursuit of technological superiority, the terrifying Iron fey are massing…and the fate of all faeries hangs in the balance. The greatest weapon in this epic magical war? A half-human teenage girl.

She has truly innovated the fantasy genre and as a fan of fantasy and her, she comes highly recommended. Check out her other novels like The Talon Saga, Blood of Eden, The Shadow of the Fox Series.


Mary Choy, excuse me, Dr. Mary Choy PharmD, BCGP, FASHP is the director of the Pharmacy Practice for The New York State Council of Health-System Pharmacists and author.

Healthcare Heroes: The Medical Careers guide gives you the unfiltered, unedited, no-holds-barred version of what it’s really like to be a healthcare professional in the 21st century. This book features some of the best and top healthcare jobs highlighted in the U.S. News & World Report. It serves as a useful resource for readers of all ages, whether they be in middle school, high school, college or already out in the workforce.

Her new book titled HealthCare Heroes: The Medical Careers Guide is nothing short of timely. This book is here to help you with your medical career journey or inspire you to start one. In the wake of COVID-19, this will help shed some light on what health is all about and make you appreciate all of the very hardworking nurses and doctors serving during this time.


Seema Giri PMP is a Holistic Lifestyle strategist, international speaker and award winning author. Her newest project with fellow co-authors, Break Free To Stand In Your Power will be available June 17, 2020.

It is a compilation where authors share their own journeys from breaking free to standing in their power…sharing encouragement, tips,and insights to help the reader break free and stand in their power more fully and powerfully than ever before!

With this book, Giri and her colleagues help us conquer and improve our mindsets. It allows us to break free from who we were born to or where we were raised by teaching us how to live our lives to fullest we can. Do yourselves a favor and pick it up when it drops next month.



Q/A Time!


  1. How has your writing journey/process changed since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Brian Tashima: I’m thankful and fortunate that it hasn’t changed all that much. For me, writing is a solitary activity that I’ve been doing at home for years, so the mechanics of the process haven’t been affected. I suppose there’s been a slight uptick in distractions, as I tend to check the news more often than before, but otherwise, as far as the actual work goes, I’ve been plugging away like usual. Obviously, I haven’t been able to do the in-person promotional events that I used to, but fortunately I can still do things like virtual school presentations and questionnaires like this one. I do feel bad for the independent bookstores that have supported me and I hope that they make it through this challenging time.


Alka Joshi: On March 3, 2020—just weeks before the lockdown—MIRA/Harper Collins released my debut novel, The Henna Artist. Writing the novel to honor my mother had been a 10-year journey, and my heart sank deeper as, one by one, each book event was canceled. Then, on March 11, my editor called: Reese Witherspoon had selected The Henna Artist for her May book club pick! My calendar was suddenly flush—this time with essays, radio interviews, cooking videos and virtual book club discussions. How I interact with readers now is different than what I had envisioned—in many ways, it’s better, more direct, and with a wider reach than I’d thought possible.


Julie Kagawa: Honestly, it hasn’t. Writing is a solitary thing for me, I sit in my office for eight hours a day and I write. I know I’m lucky in that the outbreak really hasn’t affected my writing that much. 


Mary Choy: Initially, my schedule had been filled with speaking engagements, travel to conferences, bookstore events, and lecture halls. With the shift to virtual events, I turned “travel time” into “writing time.” As the world is seeing many healthcare heroes in action, I have been reading and gathering insights to include unique stories and careers for the next Healthcare Heroes book. I’ve also made time to write articles, medical lectures, and be involved with more interviews. I’ve lectured to medical students on the cultural and societal implications within this COVID-19 pandemic and written about how a pharmacy department at the epicenter of the outbreak is leading the initiative to combat COVID-19. With the shift to virtual classrooms, I have been writing educational materials to complement the Healthcare Heroes book for schools to use for their students. During this time of reflection, I am grateful to be writing every day. 


Seema Giri: I feel I am writing more and doing more FB lives to empower people to focus on doing things that are in their control, to be aware, informed and take precautionary and preventive measures but to be careful not to get lost in the negativity. I have even have launched my blog and podcast called Break Free to Brilliance. Covid 19 outbreak happened to occur during the launch of  my second book Break Free to Stand in Your Power Anthology with 17 co-authors. The mission of the book is to inspire, educate and empower people to breaking powerfully free from life challenges to live and shine fully. I feel humbled that my co authors and I have this opportunity to serve and support even more people in this hour of need globally


2. What has been the driving force behind your writing career?

Brian Tashima: Primarily a desire to help make the world a more positive place through my work, not only through accurate and respectful representation of minority groups as characters in my stories, but also via direct philanthropy as well. To elaborate, my main young adult novel series features a protagonist who is both autistic and Asian-American, and I donate a dollar from each book I sell to a nonprofit organization called Autism Empowerment which works to improve the quality of life for people and families in the autism community.


Alka Joshi: Like my protagonist Lakshmi, I’m “eager to learn, to develop my skills, to make a life I can call my own.” These desires, and the desire to reimagine a life for my traditionally- raised mother, who didn’t get to choose whom she married or whether she wanted a career but who made sure that I, her only daughter, would be able to determine my destiny, compelled me to write about my birth nation, its incredibly resilient women, and its rich culture. 


Julie Kagawa: The love of story. Stories that can make you laugh, cry, cheer and rage are the stories that will stick with you forever. It doesn’t have to be in a book, either. Many times I find inspiration in movies, anime and video games. The ones I remember are the ones that had characters I connected with, a world I adored, and a seemingly insurmountable quest or problem to overcome. I try to infuse that sense of story into my own books, and that has been the driving force behind my career.


Mary Choy: The driving force behind my writing career has been my passion for educating and inspiring others. As a professor, I created a medical writing elective and taught students the art of writing to guide them towards publishing their works. I also held writing workshops for pharmacists and equipped them with the tools to publish and present at national conferences. I keep people up-to-date on health information for various medical topics. My writing has helped promote cultural awareness and improve health literacy in leading educational initiatives in preventative care for the public.


Seema Giri: I was encouraged by my peers and colleagues how important it was to share my transformation of being bedridden with chronic pain to becoming a successful entrepreneur and living life on my terms to teach others that the same life transformations are also possible for them.



3. When did you know that you wanted to become a writer?

Brian Tashima: I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid reading everything I could get my hands on, from novels like The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara to Spider-Man and X-Men comics, all of which sparked a desire to create similar stories of my own. Over the years, I made some attempts at writing a novel, but I never found the right inspiration or motivation to see it all the way through. Then one day, my then-eleven-year-old son—who is on the autism spectrum and had been reading things like Percy Jackson and The Hunger Games—came up to me and said, “hey, Dad, would you write me a book?” And so that’s when my writing career really began.


Alka Joshi: Shortly after our marriage, my husband pointed out to me that I could be a fiction writer. I’d been writing copy for commercials and print ads for years, never believing that I could be a literary writer. I began with evening writing workshops. My instructors were always so encouraging that I kept going, finally enrolling in a two-year MFA program when the 2008 recession put a halt to my advertising/marketing business. My thesis became the first draft of The Henna Artist


Julie Kagawa: Around 16 or 17, when I decided I didn’t want to be a veterinarian after all because of all the math and science that was involved.


Mary Choy: I knew from a very young age that I wanted to write and started writing in my teens. In a yearly Chinese school writing competition, my essay was chosen and I won a medal. The competition results received media coverage and it was the first time I saw my name in print. This experience reinforced my interest in writing and educating others. When I worked at Weill Cornell Medicine/New York Presbyterian Hospital, a colleague mentioned ‘medical writing’ to me as a potential career path and I knew I had to learn all about it. Medical writers share news and research that is improving health outcomes and saving lives. I published my first research article in a medical journal focused on heart health and life as a writer began.

Seema Giri: I always thought that writing books, sharing stories and empowering others through this medium was for others. I admired them from a distance. I never in my wildest dream ever think that I too would be an author. I feel the writing choose me


4. Did you choose your genre or did your genre choose you?

Brian Tashima: I guess you could say that it’s a bit of both. As a reader, science fiction and fantasy has always been my favorite genre, so when it came time to create my own project, that was naturally the sandbox that I chose to play in. Like they say—write what you know.

Alka Joshi:  My genre chose me. As an immigrant child in Iowa, I wanted to be American, not Indian. But when my mother became nostalgic for India in her later years, I accompanied her on multiple trips to Jaipur—staying for a month at a time—and experienced India’s rich, vibrant, chaotic culture through the eyes of an adult. The sweetest treat was spending so much time with my mother—just the two of us—and delving deeper into her girlhood, her early desires and why she raised me so differently from her own upbringing. So, much to my surprise, my first foray into the literary world became a novel about India. 

Julie Kagawa: The genre definitely chose me. My favorite genre has always been fantasy; its all I read growing up. Once or twice, I’ve tried writing pure contemporary, but then things like vampires and unicorns started showing up in the story, so I decided I was a fantasy writer through and through.

Mary Choy: The genre of writing a healthcare careers book for youth definitely chose me. As a clinical pharmacist, professor, and mentor, I have enjoyed training healthcare professionals, networking, and empowering many students to find their right career path. Upon reflecting and discussing my own experiences about how I got into healthcare, students were most drawn to personal stories. Sharing this knowledge is vital to empowering youth to finding their right career path. Giving curious kids a chance to learn what these brave healthcare workers do is how we can engage and nurture our next generation of healthcare heroes.

Seema Giri: Definitely the genre chose me. I am excited that through this genre I can provide a platform for others to share their brilliant story


5. What is on your quarantine reading list?

Brian Tashima: Some old Xanth novels from Piers Anthony and an essay collection by Ryan Britt called Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths. I’ve also been reading a lot of Japan travel memoirs, like Lost in Tokyo, Across Tokyo, Pretty Good Number One, Tune in Tokyo, and Not One Shrine. Before the pandemic, I had been planning a trip to Japan with my daughter—who is also really into learning the language and culture—and we hope to still be able to make it over there as soon as conditions allow. So, in the meantime, I’ve been whetting my appetite and living vicariously through other people’s experiences. I’ve always felt that reading can transport you to other worlds and places, so if you can’t be there for real, then a book is the next best thing.

Alka Joshi:  It’s difficult for me to read fiction right now; all my social media interactions, essays and interviews are about the world of The Henna Artist. But when it’s a different genre, a mystery like The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey or a multi-generational story set in a different country like Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko, I can totally get lost in it!

Julie Kagawa: Mostly the words on my computer screen. Its Deadline Crunch Time, and I have a couple big projects to get through, so sadly reading for pleasure has been put on the back burner for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back to it soon. 

Mary Choy: As we’re all adjusting to the new normal, it’s the ideal time to read some new books as an escape from reality. My quarantine book list that keeps me inspired is a mix of mystery, thriller, love, happiness in business, fantasy, and Asian folk tales. Here’s what’s on my list: Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok, Perfect Distraction by Allison Ashley, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, and A Shape of the Night by Tess Gerritsen. With young kids at home, I eagerly unwrapped new Harry Potter books that I bought over 20 years ago. I knew they would quickly become fascinated with the magical adventures like I was years ago and still am and have plenty of questions for J.K. Rowling. Additional reads are Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin and Wanda Seasongood and the Mostly True Secret by Susan Lurie.

Seema Giri: The books on my quarantine reading list are Becoming by Michelle Obama, Anatomy of Spirit by Carolyn Myss, The Two Most Important Dates by Dr. Sanjiv Chopra.


Thank you for joining us for this month’s 5×5!


featured image via Bookstr

5×5 International Women’s Month: Celebrating Amazing Female Authors

Welcome to the newest edition of 5×5, a series in which we ask five authors of similar backgrounds five questions. Today, we are talking with Sofia Fenichell, AM Scott, Collette McLafferty, Susanne Tedrick and Finola Austin in honor of international women’s month. These fantastic women write in genres across the board.

We have some exciting releases next month with Susanne Tedrick’s fascinating read, Woman of Color in Tech, that will help women of color learn the skills they’ll  need to succeed in (and revolutionize) a technical field and AM Scott’s science fiction, space opera in her last book from her Folding Space Series, Lightwave: Longshot.

Sofia Fenichell is an author and CEO of Mrs. Wordsmith, a children’s edtech company. Their most recent book, FLUSH! and 37 Essential House Ruleshelps children learn how to respect their homes, their parents, and themselves. With the added flair of vocabulary words on every page, great artwork and puns galore, kids and parents a like can laugh and learn from this read. It’s available to purchase now, through Mrs. Wordsmith.com. And it’s available for pre-order on Amazon to be shipped in June.

Finola Austin’s anticipated historical fiction novel, Bronte’s Mistress, will be having a summer release this August. It’s a steamy and captivating imagining of the affair, that is still some of the hottest literary tea out there.

Last but not least, we have Collette McLafferty. Her book, Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer, is a memoir in which she details her life in the music industry and how she had to deal with a huge lawsuit for signing a cover in a bar. This is a fascinating read, indeed.

Now, that we’ve met our authors, let’s get to the question and answers.


Image via Students’ Union Royal Holloway 


1. As a full time/part time writer, what is some advice you could give aspiring writers when things seem hopeless?

Collette McLafferty: I would say this to any writer feeling hopeless: You have to remember your voice is your gift and no one can take it away from you. There is no circumstance or rejection that can tear you away from a pen and paper, a laptop or hitting that “publish” button. At the same time, it’s okay to take a break once in a while. I’m a huge fan of “The Artist Date”, a once a week exercise from Julia Cameron’s book, “The Artist’s Way”. Go out get fresh air, see a movie, call up that old friend. Inspiration is like a fickle lover, it goes away sometimes, but it always comes back!

AM Scott: a. Join some of the online writing communities. By participating in some of the pitch parties on Twitter and the writing community built around those parties, I got some really valuable critiques before I published. They’re also very supportive—there’s always someone willing to encourage you. active, not in your house or at your job. I find hiking can jolt loose ideas and help me feel more optimistic .Hang in there—don’t quit. Even if you can’t afford to take classes or buy ads,there are free writing and marketing resources out there!

Finola Austin: Every word you write brings you closer to your goal of writing a novel, and, most importantly,every word you write makes your writing better. Some writers set daily word counts for themselves but this approach has never worked for me. I write when I can—early in the morning,late at night, on weekends, and frequently on airplanes. Rather than beating yourself up about what you can’t do, given the other demands being made on you by the rest of your life, focus on what you can achieve.

Sofia Fenichell: Being a writer is a calling. It’s a need that you have within you. Not everyone has it. You can’t really give up if you have that need. When things seem hopeless as a writer, you have no choice but to keep going in one way or another. So as you grow into being a writer, remember that the best writers are those that know how to listen and take feedback. Failure is your phoenix rising.

Susanne Tedrick: I would say the first step acknowledging the feelings that you are having. I think our society has conditioned people to either quickly get over or stifle negative feelings. Ignoring or pretending you don’t have negative feelings, including hopelessness, is much worse for your overall health. Accepting your feelings as they are and giving yourself the time and space to cry, talk to a good friend or therapist, additional rest, meditation,exercise or whatever method of (healthy) release you need, is the best first step in getting over hopelessness effectively. The second, important part is dissecting those feelings and challenging them. For example, if you’re saying to yourself “there’s no point in going on” or “I’m destined to fail” in the face of a setback, what substantive indicators do you have to back those assertions up? You may need the help of an impartial, trusted friend or advisor to offer a different, less emotionally charged perspective. 


2. Did you choose the genre you wanted to write in or did that genre choose you?

Colette McLafferty:To say my genre chose me would be an understatement! In 2014 I woke up to the headline “Singer Sued for Being Too Old and Ugly for P!NK Tribute Band” via The New York Post and watched in horror as this story went viral about me worldwide! I was really named in a $10,000,000 lawsuit, but it was between two men and had little to do with me. I spent the next two years in The Twilight Zone as I spent $15,000 fighting a lawsuit against a man I had never met while the mainstream media completely rewrote my identity. I wrote daily in a blog called, “Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer” which eventually became the title of my memoir. Before this event, most of my writing was short form music journalism and songwriting. The day I wrote “The End” on that final manuscript of “Confessions of a Bad, Ugly Singer” was the day I got my sanity back.

AM ScottLike many writers, I write what I read. I’ve been reading science fiction since I was a child, and my favorite subgenre is space opera, so writing it came naturally. But I started writing romance, because that’s what I read when I’m stressed. I was reading a “military” romance, but it was clear the author had never spoken to a military person, and I thought “I can do better than this!” Turns out I couldn’t, not at first. It took me a few years of writing before I felt comfortable publishing.

Finola Austin:A little bit of both. I’ve always loved nineteenth-century fiction, especially the works of the Bronte sisters and George Eliot, and my Masters degree focused on literature from the period. I didn’t want to be an academic as I couldn’t see the appeal of writing essays that only a few people in the world could understand. Instead historical fiction, for me, is a way of making the past accessible and visceral, and shining a light on the parallels between the then and the now.

Sofia FenichellThe genre of creating books for children definitely chose me! I wanted to help my own children fall in love with writing and become great writers. I could only see the value of writing going one way with the internet. But I was shocked by the poor quality of educational materials available for the  language-learning industry – poorly conceived, low-quality visuals, with many products that had very old copyright dates! The more I dug around, the more I realized that the sector was dominated by large publishing houses that underinvest in data-driven curation and high-quality content. All the investment and creativity was going into video games and entertainment. So, I was determined that Mrs Wordsmith would become the Pixar of Literacy.

Susanne Tedrick: The genre definitely chose me. Upon reflection on my own experiences in getting into tech – the successes, failures, and lessons learned – I realize that the sharing of this knowledge with the future women of color tech leaders was the book I was destined to write.



3. Who is your favorite author and why?

Collette McLaffertyMy favorite author will always be Louisa May Alcott. “Little Women” was the first book I picked out for myself. I found it at a garage sale. I was ten years old. I read the entire series including “Little Men” and “Jo’s Boys”. It was the first time in my life I connected to characters on the page and developed a long term relationship with them. I was an avid reader as a child. Sadly, during my teenage years I fell into a vortex of self esteem and body issues. Like many girls, I distanced myself from my interests and passions during this time. I stopped reading for a while. Louisa May Alcott represents a time in my life when I could show up to the page with curiosity and no sense of limitations. 

AM ScottOoh, that’s a hard question. I have a lot of favorites! But right now, my very favorite science fiction author is Julia Huni. Full disclosure here—she’s my developmental editor, and my sister, but her stories are full of fun and adventure.

Finola Austin: Two women novelists I very much admire are Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who wrote scandalous British novels classified as ‘sensation fiction’ in the nineteenth century, and Elizabeth Smart, the Canadian writer who wrote the beautiful By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept in 1945. Both women were incredibly talented. Both were also parents—Braddon had six children of her own and raised five stepchildren, while Smart was a single mother of four. I admire their writing, their grit and work ethic, and the fact that, for both, writing was an artform and a way to act as breadwinners for their families.

Sofia FenichellI like to read inspirational stories about people who defied the odds and retained their sense of humor, humility and integrity. My favorite author is Maya Angelou. I think we are at a point in humanity now where we all need to read more Maya Angelou. We need to hear from authors who make us think about our vulnerability and our unmitigated potential for growth. My favorite line from Dr. Angelou is “life loves the liver of it”; from Letter to My Daughter.

Susanne TedrickWriter and feminist activist Audre Lorde. I’ve found her poems and essays are always so powerful, thought-provoking and incredibly relevant today. It was through her writing that I came to understand intersectional feminism; while we may all identify as women,our race, class, sexuality and many other factors will ultimately shape what we experience in the world. No two women will experience life in the exact same way on gender alone.


4. As a female, do you think your gender/or how you choose to identify helps give you a different perspective in the world? And how has being an author helped you share that perspective?

Collette McLaffertyAs a female in the world, I constantly experience a lot that doesn’t fly with me. I see many whistles that need blowing and conversations that need to be had regarding the climate for women. When the mainstream media presented me to the public as a “bad, ugly singer” I realized my insecurities were not my own. They were taught to me and painstakingly marketed to me. As an author tackling this topic, I’ve had the opportunity to pull down the curtain and expose the multi million dollar business of shaming women for profit.  When I wrote the first draft of “Confessions” in 2014, it was before the “me too” and “time’s up” movement. I felt like a lone wolf of sorts. Now I’m part of a big, beautiful machine, that is disrupting the old narrative. There is a real opportunity to break the cycle, and it starts with the written word.

AM ScottI do have a different perspective than men—and many women too! This is my second career—I spent twenty years in the US Air Force as a space operations officer. It was a great career, but as a woman in a male-dominated profession, I had to fight against sexual discrimination. But think my background allows me to appeal to both sexes, because I understand the major issues of both, so my both my female and male characters ring true.

Finola AustinI’m going to speak in generalized terms here but, traditionally, girls have been raised to be highly attuned to the thoughts and feelings of those around them. We praise girls a lot for being ‘helpful’ and ‘kind’, rather than ‘brave’ or ‘daring.’ This kind of conditioning helps and hurts women as novelists. Having a honed sense of empathy is great for developing the interior monologue readers love to get access to when reading, and for unpacking interpersonal character dynamics. But women’s tendency to put themselves last, downplay their achievements, and shy away from risk can really hurt them when it comes to getting the damn novel written or promoting themselves once their books are ready to see the light of day. Again, this won’t hold true for everyone, but societal expectations can be hard to  overcome. Something that’s been amazing about sharing my writing with others is hearing that I’m not alone. Writing about some of the worst parts of being a woman has led to other women confiding in me, for instance about their unhappiness in their relationships, unpleasant sexual experiences, or ambivalent feelings towards motherhood.

Sofia FenichellYes definitely, I think being female and a Mom helped give me a particular perspective in the world. As the publisher of books for kids, I’m able to translate what I see going on in the world, into the eyes of my children. For example, we’ve just published a book called FLUSH! And 37 Essential House Rules which provides kids with the rules they need to become independent thinkers, visionaries, even renegades. Research also shows that kids who are able to accurately label their feelings, have more positive social interactions and perform better in school using their full range of vocabulary. Children who can think for themselves and respect their homes and the people around them go on to do unexpected and incredible things. We believe the home is a safe place where kids can test the boundaries and learn how to operate.Being an author helped me to conceive of this book as a way to equip kids with the language they need to take responsibility for themselves, laying the foundation for school and well beyond.”

Susanne TedrickBeing a woman, and specifically a Black woman, does give me a different perspective in the world. As part of a historically marginalized group, I see and feel the challenges Black women face in the world every day. Yet, Black women have learned to be incredibly resourceful and resilient in the face of any obstacle. It’s because of this that we’ve not only been able to survive but thrive in many domains. Being an author has allowed me to share this message of hope and perseverance with others. It can be hard,but it’s not impossible.


5. What is the best way, in your opinion, to celebrate Women’s History Month?

Collette McLafferty:The best way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to take a deep dive into your passions. Go out and find the women who not only made history but are the history makers of tomorrow. For me personally, I like to take a deep dive into the catalogues of female songwriters and performers  that are criminally underrated. Tracy Bonham is one of the best pop writers in my book and should have stayed on the charts. She hit #1 on the male dominated modern rock charts in the 90’s, a feat that was not repeated until Lorde cracked the code 17 years later with “Royals”. I’ll listen to the music of composer Maria Anna Mozart, who is often referred to as “Mozart’s Sister”.  I like to support groups like the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls. They formed at a time when females were actively discouraged from participating in the rock world. Since music is my passion, that is how I will celebrate. 

AM ScottI love highlighting the accomplishments of women in science, technology,education and math. Stories like “Hidden Figures” are a wonderful way to bring those women to the attention of young women and hopefully inspire them to STEM careers

Finola AustinMy answer to this one may seem pretty obvious, but, no matter your gender, read books written by women (or pre-order books by women that will be out soon!). Don’t just read novels by women from your country, or of your ethnicity, or who share experiences similar to your own. Seek out the stories you haven’t heard before and, when you find ones you love, share them with others.

Sofia Fenichell: The best way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to acknowledge the hard work that it takes to pursue a dream and to encourage our children to find their own dreams. Seize the opportunity to teach your children about what you do each day whether you’re a female author or a CEO . Find gentle ways to bring them on the journey with you. They not only will help unlock solutions, but they will thrive as a result. Children learn most by the example we lead. Recently I sat down with my daughter to read our new book in the Mrs. Wordsmith child development series called Flush! and 37 Other House Rules and when she laughed out loud, I knew we had created the right book.

Susanne TedrickI think the best way to celebrate is to honor and spotlight the women in your life or in your circle who are out there doing amazing things. Sharing their stories and more about how they’ve influenced and inspired you is a great way for others to learn about more amazing women who are making things happen.


Image via The United Nations



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How About You Cook With This Book?

Are you interested in cooking?  Do you like non-fiction stories?  Well, if you like either one of those things (or both!), then take a look at a book written by Boris Fishman.  Within his new memoir, Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and Dinner Table, Fishman uses cooking as a way to frame not only his story, but his family’s story.  It’s a family story, an immigrant story, a love story, and an amazing meal.  Fishman tries to explore two cultures in his book.  Savage Feast contains a revealing personal story and family memoir told through meals and recipes.


image via amazon


The book begins with Fishman’s childhood in Soviet Belarus (formerly part of the USSR), where good food was often worth more than money!  He describes how one dish brought his parents together and how years of Holocaust hunger left his grandmother with an obsession for bread bad enough that she always stockpiled five loaves.  Fishman’s grandmother was the cook, and his grandfather was the black marketer – he would supply Fishman’s grandmother with food.  The fact that this was going on allowed Fishman’s family to be not only provided-for, but protected during the horrible times of the Holocaust.



Despite the fact that Fishman’s family has a good amount of food, once they emigrate to the United States, they find out that food is more important than ever.  They have to figure out how to preserve their roots while shedding the trauma of the past.  Oksana, Fishman’s grandfather, shows him how they could preserve the family’s roots through ambrosial cooking.  He then tells the story of how his grandfather travelled around the United States in a quest for cooking. Along the way, Oksana’s many relationships with women, troubled to say the least, lead him to a soulmate.


image via stephanie kaltsas on harper colins

Fishman pays tribute to his family, his culture, and food in his memoir.  It initiates a conversation about identity, belonging, family, displacement, and love.  If you are interested in the book, you can get it at the link above.



featured image via the petite stag

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5×5: Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Black Romance Authors

Five authors. Five questions. One fight to the death. I’m kidding. We are in the business of uniting these five wonderful authors, not pitting them against one another.

It is my sincere pleasure to welcome you to the inaugural 5×5, a series in which we ask five authors of similar backgrounds five questions. With each installment, we’re changing up the topic and today we’re talking Valentine’s Day. That’s not all though, it being Black History Month, our romance authors are all authors of color and esteemed members of the Black Romance Authors Network.

We’re speaking to Synithia Williams, founder of B.R.A.N., and her friends and colleagues Sharina Harris, Cheris Hodges, Vanessa Riley, and Jacki Kelly. According to their page, BRAN was created as a place for Black Romance Authors to connect and collaborate in their writing and appreciation of romance novels, encouraging one another in the romance publishing industry. With this 5×5, we’ve got an amazing insight into what this does for them as writers, along with their thoughts on love, what it means to be a Black Author, and much more.



Why did you choose romance as your genre?

Synithia: I’ve read romance novels since I was in middle school. I love the genre and knowing the story will have a happy ending. I decided to write romance because I wanted to write stories about black people falling in love. There aren’t many portrayals of black couples having their happily ever after on television or in movies. I like to think I’m providing examples of stories about love, trust, healing, and forgiveness with black people.

Sharina: When I was a pre-teen, my mother’s friend gave me two big garbage bags full of romance novels and since that day, I was hooked. I quickly went to the library and stores to feed my addiction! However, I grew tired of reading about people who didn’t look like me. Then, I discovered Donna Hill, Carla Fredd, Francis Ray and Brenda Jackson! I so desperately wanted to grow up to be the intelligent, beautiful heroines these wonderful authors had written. One day I realized I wanted to write those heroines, too! Now it’s my mission to make my readers fall in love with my characters. But more importantly, I want people to feel empowered to find their happily ever after.

Cheris: Romance actually chose me. My parents, who have been married for over 50 years, were married on Christmas Eve. Talk about the ultimate love story. My father is a Vietnam Veteran and he proposed to my mother before he went into service. He married her while on medical leave after he was shot in the war. I lived their love story and I wanted to write about that kind of love. I also wanted to read about people who looked like me falling in love and getting a happily ever after. It’s not a far fetched idea to see Black people falling in love and being happy.

Jacki: I’m drawn to stories with happy endings, stories that don’t involve so much of what I hear and see in the news every day. When I read, I want to relax and escape into a world where the outcome is always positive. What better way to do that than romance? 

Vanessa: I believe that love is important as well as the promise that love survives everything. Romance is the literature of hope. I want to add hope to the world.




What does being part of a community of authors of color like BRAN provide for you as an author? 

Synithia: I started the Black Romance Authors Network to give black romance writers a safe place to network, discuss the business of romance writing and share information. For me it’s been great to watch the members interact, branch off and start their own projects, and get together for meet ups. Writing can be lonely, and BRAN is a place where black romance authors can come together and realize they aren’t alone.

Sharina: BRAN is like your been there, done that sister, your wise auntie and your optimistic best friend rolled into one. As a black romance author there are so many things that we experience differently from our counterparts. Having this safe space to ask a spectrum of authors just about anything is super valuable. We brainstorm, we critique pitches, we motivate each other and celebrate each other’s success. And in industry in which black romance authors are often overlooked, underpaid and underappreciated, BRAN is vital.

Cheris: Being a part of BRAN allows me to interact with other writers who understand being a Black woman in the romance industry. There are things that we experience that other writers don’t  face. Also, BRAN is an amazing safe space where you are celebrated. Where you get that kick in the pants that you may need from time to time and a place where you can gain knowledge of the industry. What is most important about BRAN is the support. There is nothing like being in a group where people have your best interests at heart.

Jacki: It’s a place where I can share information or ask for help where I don’t feel judged or that doesn’t require a lot of situational explanation.

Vanessa: The sense of community in BRAN is so important. It can be an isolating life being a writer, with nothing but computer screens and characters chatting in your head. Having a place to get encouragement and sound advice is a blessing. Bran serves that purpose.



image via B.R.A.N. Facebook


What is your take on the fact that many romantic leads in novels and adaptations of those novels aren’t people of color? 

Synithia: It’s frustrating because I’d like to see more adaptations with people who look like me, but there are so many phenomenal writers creating romantic stories with people of color that I don’t have to only consume books with characters who don’t look like me. If Hollywood is too lazy to look at books by authors of colors for adaptation and continue to leave money on the table then that’s their loss.

Sharina: I just binged the documentary, They’ve Gotta Have Us that celebrates black cinema and boy do I have opinions and BIG feelings on this subject. Long story short, publishers need to acquire stories which are centered and who are written by people of color. In the Ripped Bodice State of Diversity in Romance report, 18 out of 20 publishers have 90% or more of their books written by white authors. It’s all systemic. We need more editors of color, marketing and sales etc. in the publishing industry. Editors are acquiring what is comfortable to them and what they think will sell. Films like the Black Panther has created another groundswell and thirst for content by black creators because 1: It made lots of money. 2: Black people were vocal about wanting diverse stories. In the past, Hollywood seemed to only focus on stories rooted in struggle and pain. The publishing industry feels so very slow. The ship is turning, but its taking a long time. I think publishers are starting to realize that there is a market and they can make a lot of money when they invest in us. I mean, The Atlantic reported a few years ago that the most likely person to read a book is a college-educated black woman so… yeah. Go figure.

Cheris: Representation matters. The sooner the industry starts seeing people of color as people and not other, the better. How none of the gate keepers learned from the success of Black Panther is baffling.

Jacki: It’s saddening. It’s almost as if our stories don’t matter. But there are so many writers of color that are putting our stories out there. We need more publishing houses or media moguls to recognize that there is a whole segment of people that want and needs stories about themselves, and movies about themselves and television program about themselves. And not just the stereotypical stories, because people of color fall in love too.

Vanessa: Romance is the language of possibilities. For a long time, people of color have been excluded from telling their stories. We are now at a point where people are seeing that diversity is something to embrace. The doors are being opened for more stories to be told with more characters of color. In the near future, my hope is that you’ll see more adaptations looking like real life. I write historical romance. I think as more learn of the hidden history of women and men of color having greater agency than slavery, of brothers and sisters being explorers, shrewd entrepreneurs, and leaders, you will see more sweeping portrayals of our ancestors.



What is your love language and does it influence how you write your characters?

Synithia: Hmm…my love language is quality time which does come through in my writing. I try to put my main characters together as much as I can and focus on the growth of their emotional connection.

Sharina: Yes! My love language is words of affirmation, which is entirely convenient for big black moments and the ah-ha, I-love-you moments.

Cheris: My love language is physical touch. This definitely influence how I write my characters. It gives me a chance to make a hug or the touch of their hands meaningful to what’s going on in their relationship.

Jacki: My love language is demonstrative. I want to be shown you love me by the things you do and say. I think in most of my books the characters do the same thing. Although I try to incorporate all five of the love languages, I do lean heavily on the physical side. 

Vanessa: My love language is “doing”. I know that love is being shown in the giving of time for someone. My characters are willing to sacrifice for the person they love. Big feat, small act—it doesn’t matter as long as they are “doing” in love.


If you could rewrite one classic romance novel with characters of color, which would it be and what would you do differently?

Synithia: I wouldn’t. They are what they are and since taking my last English class in college I don’t read the classics. (Sorry, not sorry) I’d much rather enjoy books by authors of color, past and present, or read a new take on an old idea than rewrite one. I’ve considered doing that, but always toss out the idea to focus on something new.

Sharina: I would love to do an afrofuturism version of The Princess Bride. I can have so much fun with the landscape. I think I would maybe set it in space and Westley is a space pirate. I’d also tweak the whole save the princess thing. I’d likely have them save each other. And my Buttercup isn’t going to take much of Wesley’s ordering her around—she’s going to be a beautiful badass! Important to note: I’d keep the black mask.

Cheris: There isn’t a classic romance novel I’d rewrite because I have too many of my own stories to tell. 

Jacki: Oh, this is a tough question. Because so many of the “classic romance novel” did not contain people of color, I did not read many of them. Of the few that I have read, I’d pick Romeo and Juliet, simply because I’d like the world to know that love in the black community is as passionate and important and all-consuming as what we see in that book. But of course, neither Romeo nor Juliet would die at the end. Their families would have a change of heart. 

Vanessa: I would do Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with the Darcy character changed into an heiress from the Caribbean and the Elizabeth character, now cast as Edward, one of five sons of a crass country vicar. This movie would offer a diverse cast and a sweet reversal of fortunes. Nonetheless, I think we would still need a lake scene with the buffed Edward arising from the waters ala Colin Firth.

If you want to read more from these incredibly talented women, be sure to check out their websites below. We hope your TBR list has just gotten longer, steamier, and far more diverse.


Image via Bookstr


Synithia Williams

Cheris Hodges

Vanessa Riley

Jacki Kelly

Sharina Harris


Featured Image via Bookstr

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Read to Write: Prompt Books

Writer’s block is probably the worst thing to happen to any writer. You’re sitting there, stuck and grasping for straws. What’s wrong? Why can’t you write? Where did all your ideas go? I can’t say for sure what the answers to these questions are, but I know one guaranteed solution: prompts.

Prompts allow writers to create without having to come up with the more difficult plot points and storylines. There are two books in particular that do this is amazing and unique ways. The first is Naming the World edited by Bret Anthony Johnson. The book is a collection of prompts and exercises geared towards the creative writer. The entire piece is broken down into sections that focus on big ideas like Plot and Narrative and Descriptive Language, each filled with prompts that get your creative juices flowing. Each exercise is unique and a great way to try something new.



Image via Amazon

The revised and expanded version of Jeff Vandermeer’s Wonderbook is also something to behold. Unlike Naming the World, Vandermeer’s book is a guide to quality writing. Most of the text is a mix of Vandermeer’s insightful suggestions as well as nested essays from other writers. However, it is the images in Wonderbook that make it so special. Almost every page of Vandermeer’s book has an image on it, meant to fuel your mind in a way the text can’t. Every picture is its own prompt, daring you to make something new from it. And if visual prompts aren’t your thing, Vandermeer gifts his readers with a “Writing Challenge” in every chapter.



Images via ABRAMS Books.

Both these books have done wonders for my writer’s block, going as far as fueling entirely new stories. Prompts are a truly wonderful thing for a writer to use; a book of them is a godsend.


Featured Image via Swipe File


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