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Book Review: Walk in My Soul

I've had the pleasure of reading Walk in My Soul by Lucia St.Clair Robson several times now. It's one of those books you find a new pleasure in every time you read it. This masterpiece of historical fiction lends details and emotions to the life of the legendary Sam Houston and his Cherokee wife, known as Tiana.

This isn't exactly a historical romance, though there are certainly romantic elements woven through out the book. It's more of a detailed documentation of the lives of the Cherokees before and during the infamous Trail of Tears.

Lucia St.Clair Robson gives us a glimpse into the childhood of the one who would become Beloved Woman to her people as well as the glory and pains of the one we know as the father of Texas. With excellent character development and a plot that grips the reader to the core, Lucia St.Clair Robson has brought not only her characters to life, but has given us invaluable details so that we may better understand the times they lived in.

Set in times when land seem to hold more value than human life, the struggles of a nation who seemed to live as one with nature are pitted against those who would destroy the very land they hungered for. This isn't just an account of two people's lives. This is a wealth of insight into an entire matriarchal society that struggled to hold onto its heritage even as that heritage was systematically being disassembled.

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Book Review: House Rules

by Kathy Foust
House Rules by Jodi Picoult is one of those books that grips the reader in such a way as to make it impossible to put down once the cover has been opened. Jodi Picoult does an excellent job of providing details and insight into the minds and actions of her characters so that the reader ends up with a sense of affinity for each and every one of them.

The plot of the story itself is written using the voice of each character. As the story unfolds, the reader is entranced by the variety of perspectives that are offered. This makes for a great method of story telling with a story so heart wrenching that putting the book down before finishing it feels almost like abandoning an old friend.

Autism takes center stage and makes for a unique persepctive as each individual deals with the issue of Asperger's in their own way. Not only is the reader introduced to the details of the family dyamics of dealing with Asperger's, but they are introduced to a different kind of concept of truth and rule following right up until the very end when the basic 'who done it' question is answered.

For anyone with a penchant for mystery, this novel will take them through unexpected turns and twists. For those that have a personal interest in autism and Asperger's in general, this novel provides incredible insight into the inner workings of the autistic mind.

In the end, hats off to Jodi Picoult, an author who puts her heart and soul into her characters and story line. Whether you love a good mystery, want characters that you can personally relate to or are just interested in the facets of autism through the eyes of those closest to it, this book makes for a wonderful read. Truly, this book is a masterpiece, story telling through character development at its best!

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Halloween Contest Winners Announced

I want to start out by thanking all of the contest entries and their families who may have helped them get excited and enter the Halloween Contest. It's so important to encourage our children to be literate and to find their own kind of joy in the written word.

Whether it's comic books or encyclopedias, reading is of benefit to everyone. Fresh imaginations offer us insight into the past and the future.

All of the entries that I received showed unique imaginations and true effort. Some were scary. Some had a sense of humor. They all had personality, which is so important to writing. I had a very difficult time narrowing the selection down. I offered an anonymous poll on the Accentuate Writers Forum, which is full of professional writers of all levels. They seemed to enjoy the reading and were kind enough to cast their votes. A special "thank you" goes out to them. A.B.A.T.E. of Starke County has also donated their time in the way of a cash donation to help pay for the costs of prizes. Thank you writers and thank you A.B.A.T.E., but thanks most of all to the young writers who entered the contest.

Which brings me to the original terms. Prizes were to be awarded in 3 categories, but all of my submissions were from 8-10 year olds, so I narrowed it down to 3 prizes within that age range. Now, enough of my rambling. I'm so excited to announce the winners of the Halloween contest! congratulations toooo.....

Annika P., Age 8
Kennedy A., Age 9
Madelyn S., Age 8

(last names were not placed on here out of respect for privacy)

by Annika P., Age 8

H-ollow shadow looking at me
A-ah! A monster! I have a shaking knee
L-ots of candies filling up my bag
L-oads of pounds making me sag
O-ut to go in a fright
W-erewolves,witches and wizards cast a spell at night
E-ek! The door was closed and locked
E-veryone was scared and shocked
N-ine O' Clock, time to say good night. I might have a cavity tomorrow night.

by Kennedy A., Age 9

Happy Ghosts
Like Monsters,
On Halloween night
When the goblins come out
Every person has a fright,
Every ghost has a EKK
Never ever go to a ghost's house on Halloween night.

by Madelyn S., Age 8

Halloween night is here!
Apples bobbing, popcorn popping,
Lanterns glowing in the moonlit night.
Let’s Trick or Treat, while the
Owls hoot, and the goblins giggle, and the
Witches work their magic.
Every kid screams with delight for candy
Eyeballs, chocolate bats, and gummy spiders.
Night has come, let’s all have fun!

Congratulations for some great poems!

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Halloween Contest for Kids

I love kids. I love to promote things that have to do with kids and literacy. I worry that too much time is spent on encouraging children not to use their own imagination and I'd like to be a part of changing that. To that end I've created a Halloween contest for kids. The rules are very simple.

The contest will be broken down into 3 groups.

Ages 5-10

Jack O'Lantern:
Ages 10-13

Great Pumpkin:
Ages 13-18

Children will create a poem using the word "Halloween". The poem should have to do with fall or Halloween. It will be 9 lines long, using each letter in the word "Halloween" to start the lines. Feel free to use the template provided here for multiple submission from a variety of children, though each child can submit only one entry.

Submission must be received by October 22, 2010. Winning submissions will be published here on the site, though the creators of submissions retain rights to publish their work elsewhere. Winners will be notified by October 26, 2010 and will be asked to provide an address for shipping of prizes.

Winners will receive a glow in the dark kit and instructions on how to make glow in the dark water. The kit will include a small black light as well as the material to make the water glow in the dark. (Can you tell I'm a fan of learning through fun?)

Currently, I am funding the contest with my own earnings, so each group will have one grand prize winner. I hope to gain sponsors in the coming weeks, so you never know just what I might come up with!

Please send all submissions to Kathy@kathyfoust.com with "Halloween contest" in the subject line. Include the name and age of the author as well as using an email address that can be responded to. Thanks so much and I hope you enjoy the contest!

Photo courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt

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Author Interviews

Professional freelance writing is like any other profession in some ways. The more exposure you have, the more likely new clients are to find you. An author interview not only gives your name exposure, but it gives your audience some insight into who you really are.

A well done interview does a couple of things for you. It puts your name in front of people who may never have heard it before. It allows a glimpse into the personality behind the screen and it lends you some form of credit, depending on who is doing the interview. If a well known or well liked writer does the interview, then there is an underlying statement from that writer that your position as a professional freelance writer holds some respect with the one doing the interview.

There are also a variety of ways to do author interviews. If you're interviewing an author, make sure that your own personality shines through as you develop the interview. For instance, I did an interview with Peter Straub that shared a bit of insight into who I am while letting his personality flourish. On the other hand, Suzanne Alicie did an interview with me that gave me the front stage while demonstrating her prolific writing and interviewing skills.

While you might be tempted to really put yourself out there, there are some topics you should stay away from during the interview. Some of those topics include religion, politics and sexual themes. You might want to wait until you have reached some level of popularity before broaching those themes. For instance, Anne Rice decided to quit being called a Christian, though she still believes in Christ. For a new author to do that could mean professional death if such a statement were played out poorly. For Anne Rice in particular, she has a history of religious ups and downs that her viewing audience is aware of and has followed along with.

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Interview with Bikki Johnson

In the fall of 2009, I was fortunate enough to make the aquaintance of Bikki Johnson, a very pleasant and eloquently spoken musical figure. We talked throughout the past year and exchanged creative ideas. In the summer of 2010, Bikki was elated to have her newly released single "Underneath Your Faith" picked up by ABC Family to be aired on the new hit show "Huge". I could not resist requesting an interview and being the gracious artist that she is, she accepted. Below are the results of the interview.

Kathy Foust (KF): Good morning Ms. Johnson! Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you. I can’t imagine how excited you must be by your latest accomplishment of having a musical piece air on ABC Family’s hit show “Huge” on August 23rd. I’d like to give our readers some insight into you as a person as well as a successful writer, composer, musician and singer. Shall we being with some basic facts and background? For instance, at what age did you start writing music or playing musical instruments?

Bikki Johnson (BJ): Growing up, I was always surrounded by music and musical instruments of some sort, belonging to my siblings. So, I would say as early as 5 years old I remember trying to play my brother's drums. Once in a while he would "lower" his entire kit so that I could play comfortably.

As far as my writing goes, when I was in the 5th grade...we had a family pet that had been hit by a car in front of my house. It was devastating...my first experience with loss...ya know? After the accident, I wouldn't talk I was so grief stricken. But, I wrote a poem.

I had a math teacher who was not as linear as one would expect a math teacher to be. Her name was Beverly Spottswood. She must have noticed that my behavior had shifted because one day she pulled me aside after class and asked if everything was okay at home. I reached into my backpack and pulled out this folded piece of paper.

On that paper was a poem I had written about my dog. She just looked at me and her eyes welled up. A week later (unbeknownst to me) she told me that I had won an award from the city of Baltimore State Comptroller, Hyman Pressman to whom she had submitted my poem. She escorted me down to the Mayor's office. I met with Mr. Pressman and received my award. So, I attribute that experience as my "coming out" of sorts as a writer.

KF: That’s a fantastic accomplishment. There is nothing so representative of natural talent as unsolicited praise. I imagine that a natural writing talent coupled with musical skills almost left you no choice but to choose the career path you have. Can you tell us what kind of musical instruments you play?

BJ: Well, that's subjective. [laughing] My main instrument is Bass Guitar. I can also play a little drums, guitar, piano and percussion. My brother Jack bought me my very first instrument... a pair of bongos.

KF: How many siblings do you have?

BJ: There were 9 of us total...6 girls and 3 boys, now there are 5 including me. I‘m the youngest.

KF: What kind of music do you write?

BJ: You know, I guess all of my songs so far are singer songwriter based. They tend to err on the side of indy pop and folk. I have also written stuff for television. I have a writing partner and write a slew of things for cable network tv; Nickelodeon , Style Network, DIY etc. So, it can vary

KF: When you say "a slew of things", do you mean songs, jingles..?

BJ: I'm sorry yes, there is a songwriter side and then there is the TV film side as well and that side enjoys themes for TV and film, not excluding sound beds and background music.

KF: Which one do you enjoy more?

BJ: You know, that's like asking a mom which kid she likes better. I actually enjoy them both very much. Any excuse to twist words and play with melodies is considered a treat and a joy for me.

KF: You are a writer who uses music to give her writing color and depth. Have you ever written professionally without music?

BJ: Wow, great question! I am actually working on a book. Hopefully I will get published so it would benefit me professionally as in printed, published and paid. Perhaps soon.

KF: Can you tell us what the book is about?

BJ: It's still evolving, but I guess it is a memoir of sorts. I’m calling in “City Hall on Broomsticks”, which is a nickname given to my grandmother in honor of her fierce intelligence and slight frame. The book is written in conversation form...me talking with her and filling her in on my life since she’s transitioned on.

KF: You have recently released a single. I understand that the song is available for download via an application available through iTunes called “FANTAPPER”? Can you tell us a bit about FANTAPPER, the song and the inspiration for it?

BJ: I am so excited about my new single! It’s called “Underneath Your Faith” and it will be featured in an episode of ABC Family's hit show HUGE starring Nikki Blonsky and Hayley Hasselhoff. It is available via my personal new FREE “App” for iPhone and iPad... called “FANTAPPER”. It is a digital trading card, created and developed by Bill Denke. It’s a lotta fun [FANTAPPER] and basically provides my fans, if I were to have any [laughs] with latest content like Bio...events... songs...stories...video...all sorts of goodies.

Like any song that I write, this one was inspired by something going on in my life at that time of its inception. Specifically, it's a song of encouragement and hope. I wrote it for someone who was going through a rough time of sorts. Watching someone you care about deal with their pain is not always easy. The only constructive thing I could offer at the time was my observation in song form. I wrote it in 15 minutes. I was just trying to express my empathy

KF: As a writer, I sometimes feel that I do some of my best work when I am emotional. Do you find this to be true in your work as well?

BJ: Yes of course and not just "emotional" in the out of control sense, but rather in a concentrated focus of interpreting life’s basic dynamics like joy, pain, love and frustration. Sometimes as writers, we are super in touch with the serrated edges that life can sometimes bring and in some sort of meditative state or zone we are able to translate or interpret those feelings with melody and prose to make it softer to the skin...or sometimes not, when necessary. Do you understand?

KF: Yes I do and I'm sure other writers will as well.

BJ: I just want to convey that it isn't just about being "emotional' that is the wonderful and beautiful intensity that exists when I begin to write a song. Somewhere during the process that emotionality hits a filter of sorts that all writers have (I guess) and we start to shape it into a reflective understanding of sorts.

KF: That's an excellent way to put it.
Would you like to talk about your career goals?

BJ: I love performing, so going on tour soon would be great! I would like to continue to grow and work as a composer, writing for both film and television. I had a dream once that I scored a production of Cirque Du Soleil (the Canadian entertainment circus arts ensemble). I would like to do a little acting, like a bit part in an action film. You know, like a bad ass Trinity (Matrix) meets bad ass Jacki Brown (Pam Grier) and I'm not kidding! I'm laughing but I'm not kidding![laughs]
I would also like to produce other musical artists...

KF: So, you want to write, sing, act and produce?

BJ: Ummm...Yeah...is that asking too much? No, I can do it...I believe in myself

KF: I’m just amazed by your aspirations!

BJ: [laughs] ... So am I!

KF: Where do you get all of your motivation?

BJ: Motivation...hmmm...well I have a profound need to deliver a message. I am a born communicator. I like a good story and I like being part of interpreting this human condition. Of course, consuming excessive amounts of caffeine could also be a factor! [laughing] Just kidding.

KF: If you were to meet someone who was considering getting started in the field of song writing, what advice would you give them?

BJ: Hmmm...I would have to say...be true to your interpretation. You know, although we all share the same living in the skin experience, none of us have the same thumb print and therefore our interpretation of the world around us is unique and special. Sometimes it's through our individuality that we find that we are not so different after all.

KF: You’ve obviously achieved a certain degree of success in your musical career thus far. However, If you were to become SUPER famous through your writing or any facet of your talent, how would you feel about the "living in a fishbowl"?

BJ: I am a rather private person but I am grateful to share certain parts of my being as it relates to others. I'm fairly easy going so I don't foresee that [fishbowl] as a problem. But as I think about this, where I would find issue is in someone misrepresenting my person.

KF: That's understandable and not something that is uncommon.

BJ: And that paparazzi thing...well...they don't wanna mess with me! [laughter]

KF: Is your family supportive of your career?

BJ: Yes, very much so. They are all on the east coast so we keep in touch through Face book and phone calls. This isn't new for them...they were accustom to me pursuing this as early as high school when I attended the Baltimore School for the Arts...they knew where I was headed early on.

KF: Is anyone else in your family in an artistic profession?

BJ: I have a nephew David who sings opera professionally. He's quite good and pursuing that as a career. I have other family members who show great promise in music and dance but they are still young and developing. It will be interesting to see if they take it on. Two of my three brothers play drums but they also have "normal" jobs.[laughs]

KF: I’m sure that all your fans out there are going to want to know if you are married or otherwise attached.

BJ: I am single.

KF: Have you ever been married or have any children?

BJ: Never been married...hmmm, and no biological children of my own...but I have songs. You know ...let’s just skip the whole parenting puberty, “but you never let me have any fun...” thing. [laughs]

KF: Can you tell me about some of the people you have worked with?

BJ: Sure. I played bass for Terence Trent D'Arby who was (and still is) this amazing singer and performer, Dana Glover an amazingly talented singer songwriter, Bird York an amazing composer and singer songwriter, McRai a wonderful Rai singer from Tunisia, Steve Ferrone (drummer for Tom Petty), Fourplay, the critically acclaimed contemporary jazz super group which consists of keyboardist Bob James, bassist Nathan East, drummer Harvey Mason and guitarist Larry Carlton and Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction.

KF: Are there any musicians or songwriters that influence your style of music?

BJ: Of course, all of them! No, really I get a lot from a lot of different places. I listen to a lot of different genres of music so I'm certain that subconscious seeds of inspiration and influence are waiting to sprout...as we speak. [laughs] On a conscious level I would say old school funk bands, particularly James Brown, Parliament Funkedelic, Jimi Hendrix and Prince.

KF: Who are your favorite singers/bands/songwriters?

BJ: James Brown, Parliament Funkedelic, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Radio head, Coldplay, Alice Smith, Led Zeppelin, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Nora Jones…this could go on forever!

KF: If you had the chance to get tips from anyone that would help you with your career, who would you want to talk to

BJ: Tina Turner... because she's a very strong woman who knows a lot about being different and staying true. Oprah , for the same reasons. Steve Jobs because he's an innovator. Michelle Obama because she seems to understand the need for reaching further than what is expected of you in society and she maintains a certain grace and elegance, and theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, because he has more courage than a Shogun warrior, more intelligence and capacity than a Intel Xeon and I find his brilliance...ummm... sexy! I sometimes imagine him mackin’ on a girl [like me for instance] with that computer voice ... “Hey, girl ...let me ... get ..at you...” [laughs] I think that would be dope as hell! Don't underestimate Mr. Hawking!

KF: Do you find that you are held back at all in your profession because you are a woman?

BJ: In some ways yes...not held back initially but overlooked, which inadvertently holds one back.

KF: What are some of the biggest hurdles you've faced in your profession?

BJ: Well, honestly... having lost four siblings has been [and still is] a tremendous battle. I had to endure that devastation while trying to hang onto my career. I had to take a break to help my family and that pulled me quite a few rungs down my ladder of success. This industry is a tough one. Out of sight out of mind...ya know? But I did what I had to do as a young woman, as a sister and as a protector of life...(at one point becoming legal guardian of my nephew) and I'd do it all again because that's what family does.

KF: What do you think has been the biggest help to your career?

BJ: Timing and perseverance. I have the patience of Job!

KF: As you look through history, which women do you think made the biggest impact on the world of music today?

BJ: My grandmother, Mrs B. Tillman-Gwynn first and foremost. And from there...Memphis Minnie, the “first lady” of blues guitar, to Blanche Calloway (Cab's sister, first African American female conductor and actually a distant relative by marriage), Billy Holiday, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Ella Fitzgerald and Tina Turner. These women all share an undeniable perseverance to break stereo types of women who were supposed to be demur, agreeable and color within in the lines....NOT! [laughs] I admire them and many others.

KF: What impact would you personally like to have as a woman in music?

BJ: Much of the same if I'm lucky. I would like to blow the hinges off of the misconception that women are ONLY to be seen in a limited soft and mild attributes kind of way. Don't get me wrong. I love being soft and sexy but I can kick a lot of ass when I want to and that quality or trait should not be mislabeled as masculine. In the animal kingdom the lioness is the primary hunter within each pride. She is ferocious, tenacious, ruthless and strategic, and she is considered no less female for being all of those.

KF: How many albums or songs have you released and do you have anything in the works now?

BJ: Solo...? Well just one, my new single “Underneath Your Faith”, which is my debut.

KF: Can your single be purchased in stores?

BJ: No, not in stores...yet. Digital distribution for now; iTunes and through FANTAPPER which is an iTunes app.

KF: Do you see that as a future trend?

BJ: What, FANTAPPER? Well I hope so...! I think you’re referring to digital distributions...and yes, absolutely! Unfortunately, packaging costs and employee overhead...are just a couple of variables which have lead to the disappearance of the record store. There are some still operating but not as many as there used to be. It's quite sad actually. But digital distribution is cool too. It just takes the personality out of the CD buying experience.

KF: I think you’re right about that. That just about wraps it up. I want to thank you again for giving me the chance to have this exclusive interview with you. I wish you all the success that you strive for and I look forward to any creative endeavors we may work on together in the future.

BJ: As do I!

(photography credit goes to Danna Kinsky)

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Book Review: The Queen's Confession

I love to read, so I thought I would start doing some book reviews to put here. I plan to do book reviews every week. If you would like to submit a book review for posting, feel free to contact me using the contact information here and in my profile.

Review of The Queen’s Confession

By Kathy Foust

This fictional biography by Victoria Holt offers a glimpse into the personal thoughts and life of Marie Antoinette. This tale of personal correspondence, fears, faults and relationships begins in the early teen years of Marie Antoinette, whose name was changed from Maria Antonio, signifying the transition from an Austrian child to the Queen Marie Antoinette of France.

This journey is not only about the life of the Queen of France, known for her spending habits and haughty attitude, but about France itself as the country changes from one of hope to the beginning and end of the French Revolution. From the crowning of the King who could not perform husbandly duties to the death of 2 out of 4 of the royal couple’s children as well as the beheading of the King himself, this account of the life of Marie Antoinette is written in such a way that the reader is carried along through family relationships, forbidden love and a misunderstood Queen of France.

The story begins with a young child and ends with Marie Antoinette seemingly writing her own history as she waits for judgment from the people, a judgment that will place her neck under the axe even as she maintains her dignity and duty to her people. This is not just a tale of a Queen, but of a woman whose downfall was sparked off by her innocence in an affair involving an extravagant necklace. A life of royalty and extravagance built a reputation that could only end in tragedy.

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What is a "dofollow" Tag?

by Kathy Foust

Essentially, a "dofollow" tag or at least the lack of a "nofollow" tag is what makes the difference between worthy and unworthy links on your site. For instance, when you comment on a blog, you leave your name and maybe your URL. If comments are tagged as "nofollow" in the template that you left the information at, then you may get visitors from your link on the site that you commented on, but Google won't recognize those backlinks in any manner that will increase your ranking.

The sites that have a "dofollow" tag can have an impact on your Google ranking. This makes bloggers very happy and we all jump for joy as our families look at us in confusion and fear.

Naturally, this is a method that can be easily manipulated as people buy links  from "dofollow" sites. Google doesn't like that. Basically, when a backlink comes from a "dofollow" site, the owner of that site is saying that they consider that link to be a quality link. A quality site would be a site that provides useful information. When it comes to link farms, they use a "dofollow" tag to get people to come back to their site, but they may not have any relevant content.

Google is trying to come up with a way to identify unworthy sites so that they can avoid giving them Google juice that isn't warranted. People that review sites for pay must reveal that they are being rewarded in some way to review those sites. Google is developing a way to track paid backlinks by using the disclosure that bloggers must now provide. So, if you're backlinking to a site, you might want to make sure it has relevant content before you put your own Google juice at risk.

By the way, this site is actually a "dofollow" site, so any links you leave here in the comments will show as a quality backlink from my site (hint hint).

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Interview with Peter Straub

by Kathy Foust

I've always been interested in the psychology of people and the way that they draw on past experience in an effort to deal with their present lives. It has never failed to amaze me how just one experience can set the foundation for the life of any one individual. It's baffling to think that it's usually the things that make us wish the earth would stop turning that actually score the lines of the future that we are drawn to.

Peter Straub is a master at leading his readers down a path that lends reason to madness through character development in such a way as to leave readers wondering about their own perceptions and life paths. Fairy tales take on an entirely new meaning and characters develop a visual quality that presents their pain in a beautiful and profound manner. These are the elements that draw me to the works of Peter Straub.

I was first introduced to the fabulous characters that are the children of Mr. Straub's imagination through the literally "magical" children and seemingly blinded adults in Shadowland. I've been hooked ever since. After all, it isn't many people that can give freedom to a young boy through his imprisonment in a glass bird. How could I not interview him?

Mr. Straub, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I'm sure that many of your readers, as well as aspiring writers are anxious to get some insight into who you are and how the writer in you finds his way to print. On that note, let us not keep them in suspense any longer.

Kathy Foust (KF): How did you begin your writing career and at what age did you first learn that you were a writer?

Peter Straub (PS): I don't know if I ever learned that I was a writer. It feels like something I more or less always knew, although for a long time in a not-knowing kind of knowing, an ambiguous, doubtful, insecure, ignorant way of knowing. I always loved reading, and very early on in life I learned that it was very enjoyable to tell stories. Later, I fell in love with novels, and still happily remain in that condition. In the fourth grade, I wrote two grim, doom-haunted stories, and in high school I wrote a couple of more literary and ambitious stories, total failures of course. My real attempt at writing in a serious way began with poetry, when I was in my early twenties. Not long after, we moved to Dublin, and I began writing stories more professionally, trying to grope my way forward.

KF: Your works tend to offer a dark side of humanity along with a personable presence. Do you draw on past experience or actual people as a way to create and develop your characters?

PS: I don't use real people very much, hardly at all in fact. Past experience is a great treasure-house for all writers. My interest in the so-called dark side grew in part from my rage at the way almost everybody else refused to deal with or accept it. Yet violence, pain, grief, brutality, all of these elements were a great part of the fabric of actual life.

KF: Where do you most often get your ideas for the books you write?

PS: No one can answer this question. Sometimes the world offers up ideas, but more often they evolve out of the process of pacing here and there, jotting whatever comes up into a notebook. Sometimes other books give me a hint, a smell I can chase.

KF: I believe that's something that every artist, whether they be writers or not, can understand. Sometimes it can be a challenge to develop those ideas alone, let alone with another artist. You have successfully written with Stephen King. Can you describe the experience? Was it more difficult to write with someone than it is to write on your own?

PS: Working with Stephen King was an amazing experience. He is really smart, generous, tactful, bursting with ideas. Also, he works hard. The man is a draft horse, a Percheron, a marathon runner with muscles. Writing with him was probably easier than going it alone, because he did half the work and then some.

KF: It sounds like any writer would find pleasure in working with Stephen King. I imagine that the two of you together had no problems in coming up with the details of characters and plots. One can only imagine the energy of the creative levels in the room as your works came to life.

Many authors view their writing as their "children". As such, their "parenting methods" might change with each new creation. What are your favorite works that you have done as well as your least favorite? Why did you choose these?

PS: My favorite children are Koko, Mystery, The Throat, Mr. X, lost boy lost girl, A Dark Matter. If you think I'll insult any other book or books of mine by saying that I love them less, you're out of your mind. Well, actually, I have disowned the first two brats, Marriages and Under Venus, as the product of youthful unions and a bit deformed, a bit slow and "special."

KF: Your response is exactly reminiscent of a protective parent who finds pride in his children even if he can find fault with his parenting skills in the first few attempts. Perhaps writers are the original "stay at home" parents.

It's not unusual for writers to work at home and have specific things that they do in order to prepare themselves for the task at hand. How do you prepare yourself for a day of writing?

PS: Oh, I goof around for as long as possible, taking walks, reading the papers, reading more of the book I'm carrying with me throughout the day and doing things like this.

KF: I often wonder how many people realize that a fiction writer is constantly on duty, even when they seem to be "goofing around". The truth is that the imagination never "clocks out" (hopefully).Writing fiction takes a special ability to create worlds and characters that only exist in your mind's eye. It's very different from academic or nonfiction writing. What advice, if any, would you give to someone who is considering fiction as their next writing pursuit?

PS: "Considering fiction" sounds wrong to me. The question is, do you love stories, do you enjoy telling them? Have you read fiction like a demon, incessantly, since childhood? Do you kind of see things in a fictional way, ie, as if they have been framed in an ongoing story, or as if they might open out into some other, not-yet-determined story? If so, you're already a quarter of the way there, and you never had a choice anyhow. If not, stay away, you'd only end up miserable and bitter.

KF: I imagine that most fiction writers might feel similarly about writing and reading. In fact, it occurs to me that it's no wonder that you and Stephen King created so well together. He seems to reflect a similar attitude as he expresses that to write you must read in his book On Writing. The Internet seems to offer ample opportunity for just that, in a variety of ways. In fact, technology has probably given more opportunities to writers now than ever before. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in the field of writing?

PS: I don't know, I really don't... How about, get into a half-way decent MFA program, so that you can have time to write and make interesting friends? The world at large is so hostile to younger, unproven writers, even to writers who have known a modest success, that the matter of publication has become more than difficult. Pragmatic souls might consider writing novels in which people are murdered, or are revealed to be supernatural beings. But if you choose to do that, you must write absolutely the best possible book that can be conceived. It must be tighter, tauter, more imaginative in every way deeper than your MFA novel about your wayward aunt, your old girlfriend, and the next-door neighbor.

KF: The world of writing seems to be taking a turn toward a variety of electronic formats. How do you see this as it applies to the future of authors? Would you yourself give up printed books to be replaced by an electronic format?

PS: I am mystified by all these changes, baffled, dumb-struck. No, if given a choice I would like always to be published in the beautiful old format of the book as well as in e-book format.

KF: Now, for the question that must be on the minds of all your fans; Are you currently working on a new book? If so, can you give us a peek into what this latest work is about?

PS: Sort of, kind of, yes, and things have progressed from the "aimless meandering" stage to that of writing sentences with a trusty Palomino pencil on the pages of a bound Boorum & Pease record book, in this case the handsome 21-150-R, 160-page model, a great spur to the old imagination, the Palomino, too. One should cherish one's tools.

Again, I'd like to thank Peter Straub for the opportunity to do this interview. As a note to his fans I would like to mention that during this interview Mr.Straub was extremely friendly and approachable. The interview itself was a joy to complete. I consider myself fortunate to have the ability to work in a field that allows me to come in contact with such articulate and creative writing professionals as Peter Straub.

(photo credit goes to Kyle Cassidy, courtesy of Peter Straub)

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