Interview with Roy Aronson

If you want to read about the veterinary profession read a book written by a vet. The insights vets have about their profession is irreplaceable. Most vet books written by vets, that I have read, have got it spot on.

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Roy is a veterinary surgeon in a private practice and has had extensive experience with both small animals and wildlife.

He has worked in the city and in the wild African bush. He was the presenter of a series made for TV, called “Dr Roy’s Vet Safari” which was also documented in his first book: Tales of an African Vet. In 2009 he published It’s a Vet’s Life – Adventures in the City and the Wild.

Roy is interested in African mysticism and ancestral worship and communications, and has made a study of this subject, collecting information and firsthand experience and documentation about this subject as well as interviewing indigenous peoples and visiting some sacred sites where African mysticism and alchemy was practiced.

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Tee: Jamie James and the Curse of the Ancestors is a unique blend of the old and the new. How did you come up with the idea of this book?

Roy: The “curse” is based on a curse that is well known in the area. There is a farm about seventy kilometres from Cape Town known as “Boontjieskraal”. The English name for the farm is Bean Farm. About two hundred years ago the owner of the farm whipped a slave to death and the slave’s mother placed a death curse on the males of the family. The last male member died violently in 1986 in a motor cat accident. I wanted to write a book about a young boy who wanted to be a vet. I am also fascinated by the Boontjieskraal curse. It then occurred to me to combine the two ideas and thus Jamie James was born.

Tee: Was it difficult to write from the perspective of a 15 year old boy? Is Jamie based on anyone?

Roy: The most difficult thing is finding the words and rhythm of a fifteen year old, as I am quite a lot older than that (ha ha). My son was 15 at the time and his name is Jamie. I watched him carefully and modelled Jamie James on the characteristics of Jamie Aronson.

Tee: What do you want readers to take away from this book?

Roy: If the reader takes away a sense of wonder at African mysticism and a sensitivity for African wildlife and a realisation that black and white can thrive if they cooperate and learn to love each other, then I have done my job.

Tee: What authors/ books do you enjoy reading?

Roy: I love Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, I love Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces, and everything in between. My reading preferences are eclectic but if I am pinned down my best read is a novel based on historic fact.

Tee: How would you describe your writing style?

Roy: I am not sure that I have a style that is described in any classic sense. I want to be a story teller. The story is paramount. No use writing a book that is wonderfully written if the story is thin. Better a strong story weakly written than a weak story strongly written. Of course if you can do both, tell a great story and tell it well, then that is first prize. It is what I strive for. But more than anything else, I am a story teller.

Tee: Being a veterinary doctor is a job of massive responsibility. Do you feel that vets are largely misrepresented as comic or eccentric characters?

Roy: How vets are represented depends on what you are reading. If you want to know what vet does, ask a vet. If you want to read about the veterinary profession read a book written by a vet. The insights vets have about their profession is irreplaceable. Most vet books written by vets, that I have read, have got it spot on. Make sure that the person does not just claim to be a vet. Use the internet to actually prove that the author really is a vet. Then that author will be all the more credible.

Tee: How can readers reach you?

Roy: I can be reached via email royaronson@gmail.com This is probably the easiest and best way

I really hope that the readers enjoy my book. It has been a great pleasure writing it. There are three more Jamie James books already written and in the process of being edited for publication.

Book 2. The Horn of Africa, with Jamie James

Book 3. The Great white shark, with Jamie James

Book 4. The Shaman of the forest, with Jamie James

Watch out for book 2. We hope to release it either late this year or early next year.

Read the review Here

 

Interview with Rich Marcello

I write every day for five or six hours, mostly in the morning.  I find I do my best work when I go from one kind of dream time ( sleeping) right to another( writing). 

Rich is a poet, an accomplished songwriter and musician, a creative writing teacher at Seven Bridges’ Writer Collaborative, and the author of three novels, The Color of Home, The Big Wide Calm, and the forthcoming, The Beauty of the Fall, due out in 2016. Previously, he enjoyed a successful career as a technology executive, managing several multi-billion dollar businesses for Fortune 500 companies.

The Color of Home was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press, and melds together honest generative dialogue, poetic sensory detail, and “unforgettable characters who seem to know the complete song catalog of Lennon or Cohen.” The Big Wide Calm was published in 2014, also by Langdon Street Press. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.” The Beauty of the Fall will be published in 2016. Faulkner Award Winner Mark Spencer commented, “Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.”

As anyone who has read Rich’s work can tell you, his books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. His novels are rich with characters and ideas, crafted by a natural storyteller, with the eye and the ear of a poet.

For Rich, writing and art making is about connection, or as he says, about making a difference to a least one other person in the world, something he has clearly achieved many times over, both as an artist, a mentor, and a teacher.

Rich lives in Massachusetts on a lake with his family and two Newfoundlands, Ani and Shaman. He is currently working on his fourth novel, The Latecomers.

Commercial Photography

 

Tee: Firstly, talk me through the exquisite book cover.

Rich: Well, for my other book covers, Langdon Street Press did most of the work, but for this book, I had a clear idea of what I wanted.  Several years ago, I acquired the rights to the photo that eventually became the cover.  What I loved about the photo was the image of connected branches opening up to the sky.  I thought that image mapped well to the theme of The Long Body That Connects Us All, so I submitted it to Langdon Street and they took it from there.  I love all of the covers to my books, but I am particularly fond of this cover.

 

Tee: What does the title of the collection actually signify to you?

Rich: In general, I tend to not talk about the meaning of my titles mostly because titles can mean different things to different people, and all of them are equally valid.  Of the people who’ve read the book, the title has signified a number of things.  One interpretation is that we are all connected by the long history of the human race, and though we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture, there’s wisdom in our connected history if we look for it.  Another interpretation is, at its most fundamental level, being human, being a good woman or man, is about learning to see another person clearly and about being vulnerable enough to be seen by the person you are trying to see clearly.  If we could all do that not so simple thing, the world would be a fundamentally better place.  I like both of those interpretations.

 

Tee: How long did it take you to compile this collection? Which are your favourite poems from it?

Rich: I worked it for two years, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. I love many of the poems, but if I had to name three,  I would say, “Passing,” “The Blue Line,” and “Belong to No One.”

 

Tee: What are your previous books about?

Rich: My books deal with life’s big questions: love, loss, creativity, community, aging, self-discovery. My goal is to fill my novels with rich characters and ideas, to continually improve my craft as a storyteller, and to tell my stories with the eye and the ear of a poet. For me, writing and art-making are about connection and making a difference to a least one other person in the world.

 

The Color of Home was published in 2013 by Langdon Street Press, and melds together honest generative dialogue, poetic sensory detail, and “unforgettable characters who seem to know the complete song catalog of Lennon or Cohen.”

 

The Big Wide Calm was published in 2014, also by Langdon Street Press. The US Review of Books stated, “Marcello’s novel has a lot going for it. Well-written, thought-provoking, and filled with flawed characters, it meets all of the basic requirements of best-of-show in the literary fiction category.”

 

The Beauty of the Fall was published in 2016. Faulkner Award Winner Mark Spencer commented, “Few novels are as intelligent and relevant as The Beauty of the Fall. Almost none is as eloquent, compelling, heartbreaking, and ultimately, uplifting.”

 

Tee: When did you decide you wanted to venture into poetry?

Rich: I’ve written poetry all of my life, but I didn’t get serious about until a few years ago. I had a dear friend encourage me to publish, and I took it from there.

 

Tee: How would you describe your writing style?

Rich: I write every day for five or six hours, mostly in the morning.  I find I do my best work when I go from one kind of dream time ( sleeping) right to another( writing).  My style is an interesting question.  I’m most interested in writing in a way that emotionally resonates with my readers.  Sometimes that means writing poetic passages. Other times it’s about character voice. Other times it’s about the story itself.  But overall, the more psychologically honest and emotional work is, the better. So I guess that’s my style.

 

Tee: How do you go about the process of writing poetry?

Rich: Typically, I get an idea for a poem or a single image, and then I develop it from there.  If I started with the idea,  I spend my time making the poem more physical and concrete.  If I start with an image, I spend my time working on the poem’s thematic payoff.

 

Tee: What are your upcoming books about?

Rich: The Latecomers is about aging in America and about how we as a society have systematically devalued the pursuit of wisdom.

 

Tee: How can readers get in touch with you?

Rich: The best way is through my website www.richmarcello.com

Alternately, people can find my work on any of the following websites:

Amazon

Goodreads

Instagram

 

Read the review Here

Interview with Zeenat Mahal

Honestly I can never really recall how I started thinking of any setting or novel but my clearest memory is usually of my main character’s voice.

Zeenat Mahal has written 7 books. All of them are available on Amazon. She has an MFA in creative writing and all her books have been in the top ten Amazon bestsellers list. Her book She Loves Me And He Loves Me Not debuted at number 1 on Amazon Asian books category in 2015. Her books have featured in Bookriot lists of must-read books and also in other must-read lists in magazines and online platforms. She has also been featured on Mangobaaz.
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Tee: When did you begin writing and in what genre?
Zeenat: I began writing seriously in 2012 when I finished my first novella Haveli and it got published with a Canadian e-publishing house. I have written contemporary romance so far. The Historian and the Hunter is my first urban fantasy novel.
Tee: Who are the writers that inspire you?
Zeenat: I enjoy reading Barabara Tayor Bradford, Judith McNaught, Julia Quinn but my favourite is Nora Roberts. She is super savvy and inspiring as a writer and as a business woman.
Tee: How did you come up with the idea of The Historian and the Hunter?
Zeenat: Honestly I can never really recall how I started thinking of any setting or novel but my clearest memory is usually of my main character’s voice. TH&TH is about the relationship of the sisters as well as monster hunting.
Tee: Who are the writers of recent day who you feel stand out amongst the others?
Zeenat: I really enjoy Reet Singh, Falguni Kothari, Sonali Dev, Adore Banerjie, Jazz Singh, Preeti Venugopalia and Sara Naveed.
Tee: What are your previous books about?
Zeenat: Haveli is about a young woman who resists an arranged marriage and a greedy father. It’s a coming of age, what distance does to lovers book. The Contract is a second chance, marriage of convenience plot. She Loves Me and He Loves Me Not is a contemporary take on Beauty and the Beast. The Accidental Fiancee is a short story of what life does to lovers, a pair of university fellows who meet after years. Twice Upon a Time has two stories. One from Jazz Singh and one from me. They’re about young love and growth.
Tee: What books are you working on next?
Zeenat: I am working on a series of wedding and marriage theme based novellas. They will be five books in the series. The first one will come out is September. Their themes will vary from second chances to revenge and marriage of convenience. These are some of my favourite romance tropes.
Tee: How do you describe your writing style?
Zeenat: I think it’s contemporary with a heavy mix of irony and humour. Some books are less so, of course but I really enjoy writing banter between my protagonists.
Tee: How can readers reach you?
Zeenat: Readers can find me on https://m.facebook.com/zeenatmahal.author/
Read the review of The Historian & The Hunter Here

Interview with Dr. Arthur Wenk

Retirement has allowed me more time to write.  At present I am working on a book about the movies called Through the Lens:  How Great Directors Tell Stories, which gives me the opportunity to read books and articles and watch DVDs on fifty films.

During his twenty-year career as a musicologist, Arthur Wenk published books on Claude Debussy (Claude Debussy and the Poets; Claude Debussy and Twentieth-Century Music) and music bibliography (the prize-winning Analyses of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Music and Musical Resources for the Revised Common Lectionary).

Later he drew on his experiences as a university professor, church organist, choral conductor and pianist to produce a series of mystery novellas featuring musicologist Axel Crochet as sleuth: (The Quarter Note Tales; New Quarter Note Tales: Axel in Quebec; Axel Crochet: Musicologist-at-Large; and Quarter Note Tales #4: An Axel Crochet Trilogy).   Other books include A Guide to the Bookstores of Toronto, La Musique et les grandes epoques de l’art, and Camerata: A Guide to Organizing and Directing Small Choruses.

 

Dr. Wenk’s subsequent careers as calculus teacher and psychotherapist have led to public lectures on graphing calculators, Geometer’s Sketchpad, parenting and communication, separation and divorce, opera, western culture, and film. Since his retirement in 2014 Arthur Wenk lives in North Fort Myers, Florida and Lagoon City, Ontario.

 

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Tee: What are your previous publications (non- academic) about?

Art: I have often written books that I felt filled a gap.  A lover of bookstores, I wrote a series of reviews that turned into A Guide to the Bookstores of Toronto, based on visits to all 250 of them.  (Sadly, most of those beloved establishments have now disappeared.)  As a church organist and choirmaster, I felt the need for a book that would connect me with tools for choosing hymns, anthems and organ music.  Since none existed at the time, I wrote Musical Resources for the Revised Common Lectionary, about which one reviewer said:  there are three books that every minister and music director should possess—the Bible, the hymnal, and Wenk’s book of musical resources.

Libraries contain many books on choral conducting, but I believed that, based on my thirty-five years as a conductor, I had insights to offer that were not to be found in any of these books, hence Camerata:  A Guide to Forming and Directing Small Choirs.  All my life I wanted to get a sense of the “big picture,” so once I retired I had time to write The Matrix of Western Culture:  Perspectives on History, the Arts and Ideas.  The same goes for my recent book, A Brief History of Classical Music:  A Tale of Time, Tonality and Timbre, a work intended not for academics but for the general public.

Tee: How long have you been writing fictional and non- fictional pieces?

Art: I have always loved to write.  I can identify three specific influences on my writing.  In my freshman year at Amherst, I had to write three one-page essays a week for a professor who criticized them fairly but vigorously.  We had the option of rewriting any paper to improve it, based on that criticism, so I rewrote constantly.  (I should mention that in these pre-internet days my only tool was a typewriter.)

The second major influence came during my final year at Cornell where a French professor read my doctoral dissertation.  Each week I would come to him with a forty-page chapter, and each week he would turn back my previous chapter, heavily marked up with his exquisite calligraphy.  I often found the process frustrating:  here I was writing as carefully as I knew how, but I felt as if he were reading even more carefully than I was writing.  (This dissertation turned into my first published book, Claude Debussy and the Poets.)

Some years later my best friend, knowing my passion for murder mysteries, suggested that I try my hand at writing one.  Many other people had already made this suggestion, which I rejected because I believed my writing could not measure up to that of the authors I most admired:  Arturo Perez-Riverte, Rennie Airth, Stephen Booth, Henning Mankell, et al.  But when your best friend makes a suggestion, you tend to take it seriously, which in this case meant purchasing three books on mystery-writing.  “I could do this,” I thought after reading them, so I set out to write a novella with a musicologist sleuth and after finishing it, wrote two others.  Eventually I found a publisher, Wingate Press in Stratford, Ontario.  By the time I completed my second set of mystery novellas, Wingate Press had gone out of business (I don’t think my book was responsible), so I self-published with iUniverse.

Tee: How do you manage non- academic writing with your strenuous academic schedule?

Art: My twenty years in academia were not entirely happy.  As a kind of free therapy, I would turn my pain into humor in the form of the Biweekly Chronicle–what you might now describe as a kind of pre-internet blog–that I would photocopy and send to my friends via snail mail.  After surviving an enervating faculty meeting, for example, I would return to my apartment with the thought, “That was unbearable …. but it’ll make a great story for the Chronicle.”  I didn’t need to invent anything:  I just wrote down my detailed recollections, perhaps embellished a bit here and there.  Years later, when it came time to write my murder mysteries, I just had to invent the murders.  The background material was all there, just waiting to be exploited.  So when readers chuckle over a “Sudden Service” sign in a California laundry, or the practice of replacing lawns with green concrete, those are not fiction—my imagination isn’t that good—but actual details culled from the Biweekly Chronicle.  And my peripatetic career has taken me to many locations, including San Bernardino, Boston, Pittsburgh, Durham, Bloomington, and Québec City.

Retirement has allowed me more time to write.  At present I am working on a book about the movies called Through the Lens:  How Great Directors Tell Stories, which gives me the opportunity to read books and articles and watch DVDs on fifty films.

Tee: What kinds of books do you personally enjoy reading?

Art: I love David M. Shapard’s annotated versions of Jane Austen’s six novels, and continue to read murder mysteries before sleep every night (now adding Lee Child, Michael Connelly, Ian Rankin, Carl Hiaasen, Scott Turow and Charles Todd to the earlier list of favourite authors).  The Matrix book offered me the opportunity to read books on art, literature, music, science and mathematics, philosophy and theology, history and social sciences in each century from ancient Greece to the present.

There are so many books to read that I welcome guidance in my selections.  The New York Times recently published a glowing review of a new translation of The Odyssey by Emily Wilson (the first by a woman!).  I read the book with enthusiasm, then decided, with The Odyssey in recent memory, to wrestle my way through James Joyce’s Ulysses again.  Up north, I am grateful to the Ramara librarian whose book club selections have brought me such unanticipated delights as The Goldfinch; The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry; Come, Thou Tortoise; and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.  The History Book Club, that I founded here in Ft. Myers, is currently considering a list of 100-odd “best history books of 2017” in choosing the eight that we will read and discuss next season.  Thomas Foster’s two books (How to Read Novels Like a Professor and How to Read Literature Like a Professor) have led me to authors I had overlooked or never heard of, including Boyle, Doerr, Hemingway, Niffenegger and O’Brien.

Several times in my life I have had to undergo the painful process of deaccessioning.  In Pittsburgh I once gave away 2500 books.  After leaving academia I donated my entire collection of music history books and scores to a university library, to avoid daily reminders of the end of a beloved career.  My personal library underwent a similar loss when I retired from an Oakville house to a Lagoon City condo.  But my new condo in Florida has lots of shelf space, so I look forward to reuniting my northern and southern libraries and hope never to give away another book.

Tee: Have your students read your books? What did they have to say?

Art: At the moment I am offering a six-lecture series based on the Matrix book to the Lifelong Learning Institute associated with Southwestern Florida State College.  Last week, after my presentation on the 13th century, one woman, noticing the lacuna for “history” in that century, proposed adding The Travels of Marco Polo.  I have since purchased that book and look forward to writing about it for the next edition of the Matrix book.  Another woman, who attended the series of lectures that eventually turned into A Brief History of Classical Music, said that she’d learned more from my talks than from several years of theory courses at the University of Toronto.

Tee: What tips will you give any aspiring writer?

Art: Prior to accepting Claude Debussy and the Poets for publication, the University of California Press sent the manuscript out to readers and then shared their critiques with me (anonymously, of course).  Being somewhat defensive, I spent a lot of time at the library seeking material to refute their remarks before the French professor mentioned earlier set me straight.  “Look, Art,” he said.  “This man has gone to a lot of trouble to offer you suggestions.  He didn’t have to do that.  If someone is willing to give you constructive criticism, embrace it gratefully.”  So aside from the usual advice to rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, I would pass along the words my of mentor.  If you can find anyone who will read your work, extract any wisdom you can from any criticism offered, and use it to become a better writer.

Consider your audience.  I have always tried to emulate Donald Jay Grout, my musicology professor at Cornell, who strove to write in a way calculated to enlist the interest of the “intelligent common reader,” that ideal creature.  This encomium has steered me away from subjects that I could not imagine the common reader tolerating but has led me to seek clarity and connectedness in my own writing.

The Cornell French professor I mentioned earlier advised me to think of writing as a double funnel:  you begin with the whole world, then funnel down to your particular subject, write about it as engagingly as you can, and then open it back up again to the entire world.

Tee: How can your readers reach you?

Art: The best way to reach me is by email, arthurwenk@outlook.com.  Anyone interested in my career can find details on my website, www.arthurwenk.ca.

 

Read the review of The Quarter Note Tales Here.