Monday, January 27, 2014

Interview with Author Sarah Dunster

Sarah Dunster is wife to one, mother to seven, and an author of fiction and poetry. Her poems have appeared on the online LDS poetry blog Wilderness Interface Zone as well as in Victorian Violet Press, Segullah Magazine, Dialogue: Journal of Mormon Thought, Psaltery and Lyre and Sunstone Magazine. She has published two novels with Cedar Fort under their Bonneville Books imprint: the award winning historical fiction novel Lightning Tree, and Mile 21, which is a contemporary fiction/romance novel. When she is not writing Sarah can often be found cleaning, cooking vegetarian or international meals, holding small people in her lap, driving kids to soccer and piano lessons, singing in local musical productions with her family or taking long walks after dark, especially in thunderstorms.

Welcome back to my blog, Sarah. Please tell us about Lightning Tree.

It’s a mystery-pioneer-history story, set in Utah in 1858 just after the Utah War ended. Maggie, my main character, is an orphan whose parents died on the pioneer trail, and she and her sister have been adopted/taken in by a family and they all now live in Provo. The book opens as she discovers something troubling that leads her to believe her foster family might be keeping some terrible secrets from her.

What genre is this novel and where did you get your inspiration for it?

Historical Fiction, Y/A.  I just love history, and so to write about it means I get to do a whole lot of research for a good reason. But also I’m fascinated by Mormon Immigration stories. This girl is from Italy, and she was part of a French/Italian Christian sect that was persecuted for centuries by the Catholic Church. They were called Vaudois, or the Waldensians. Lorenzo Snow and Thomas B. Stenhouse converted several Vaudois families in 1854, and when those families started being persecuted by their neighbors, they immigrated to the United States and to Utah. They are very special people.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

Oh, I’d say I do a couple hours of research for every hour of writing. I know that sounds like a bit much, but I love research so much, why not? Why not get every detail right, you know?  And I hope it creates a real feel for the time, the people, the town, the way life was back then. I have deep sympathy for readers who love to immerse themselves in another time. And I’ve always loved the books that provide me with an incentive to do some research of my own, like… did that really happen? Was that place real? Etc. So that’s what I wanted to write.

I think it’s interesting when authors add real life situations to their stories. Did you put real experiences in this book?

In a way, yes. The story at the beginning of the book, where Maggie discovers the surprise that leads to her doubting her foster family, is straight from my own family history. I have a relative who ran away at 15 years old because of what he found. And it’s a bit of a heart-wrenching family history story, but his story (like Maggie’s) turns out happy in the end. 

Thanks, Sarah, for this great interview. I appreciate all the hard work that you have put into this book. I hope it touches many lives.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Interview with Author Jill Vanderwood

Jill Ammon Vanderwood is an author and speaker from Utah. She is best known for her award winning, nonfiction books, What’s It Like, Living Green? Kids Teaching Kids, by the Way They Live and Drugs Make You Un-Smarter, co-authored with her teenage granddaughter, Savanna Peterson. This book was the winner of the Mom’s Choice Award. Jill is an active fundraiser, taking on environmental and literacy causes. Along with her husband, who is a professional Santa Claus. Jill, as Mrs. Claus, visits with hundreds of children during the Christmas season.

Welcome back to my blog, Jill. You have a very interesting book here. Please tell us about it.

Shaking Behind the Microphone is an anthology with stories from people who suffer from the fear of public speaking, and those who have overcome this fear and found more success in business and everyday life. I also include stories from those who perform and have experienced stage fright. I have included several experts in the book who give great advice for those who suffer from the fear of public speaking and the last section of the book is Nontraditional Treatments for the Fear of Public Speaking. I have an interview with a Certified Nutritionist who found that changing your diet can help you handle anxiety; and a Certified Hypnotist who claims a 90% success rate in treating the fear of public speaking. 

Wow! You really researched this subject, didn’t you! Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

I have suffered from the fear of public speaking since elementary school. It wasn’t until I was a grandmother that I started writing books. As a member of the League of Utah Writers, I would enter my stories in contests and then say over and over, “Please don’t win!” Because I knew that if I won I would have to get up and read my piece in front of a group.

In Shaking Behind the Microphone I tell about my struggles in dealing with the fear of public speaking and the path I took to overcome this fear, which had held me back most of my life. I now teach workshops for the League of Utah Writers, speak at schools, including assemblies, Boys and Girls Clubs, drug rehabs, church groups and many more. I have been on TV, and many radio shows and newspaper interviews.

One of the first things I decided was to never turn down an opportunity to speak. I volunteered to teach my first workshop and then I panicked and joined Toastmasters. I had six months to learn to speak in front of a group. I also contribute much of my success to what I call my “Leap for Literacy.” I went skydiving from 12000 feet to raise funds for the Literacy Action Center in Salt Lake City. After that, I could always say to myself, “You’re not afraid of these people. You went skydiving.”

Although, I’m not recommending skydiving or any other risky behavior to anyone, I think facing something else you are afraid of will certainly help you face your fear of public speaking. Go to the top of a tall building and look down. Hold a snake or let a tarantula crawl up your arm. Any of these should do the trick.

Wow! Jumping out of a plane sounds like it would do the trick. What kind of research did you do?

While I was suffering from the fear of public speaking, I looked for articles and books on the topic but didn’t find one that helped me, so I decided to write a book that told how others handled their fear. First I looked up the statistics on the fear of public speaking. says that three out of four people suffer from the fear of public speaking. I then wrote a free ad on HARO which read: “Are you among the 75% of people who suffer from the fear of public speaking?” I got a great response to that ad and interviewed the people who contacted me. My next ad asked for public speaking experts. Altogether there are stories from 20 contributors.

I think it’s interesting when authors add real life situations to their stories. Who were the contributors of your book?

The stories are from a law student; a woman who’s first speaking experience was at TED Global; Rabbi Manis Friedman; several businessmen including Baron Canon, who swore he’d never take a job which required public speaking; Rocky Finseth, a lobbyist for Carrera Nevada whose job was in jeopardy unless he learned to speak in public: Dan Nainan decided to take a comedy class to help overcome the stage freight he experienced while doing product demonstrations onstage for Intel Corporation. He did so well as a standup comedian that he left his job. He has since performed comedy for President Obama and Donald Trump. We have advice from four-time Emmy Award winning news anchor, Jan Fox who has interviewed four presidents. She started her own business as a public speaking coach. We even have a story from SAG nominated actor and producer, David Barckhoff. Each time I would finish an interview, I would say, “This one is my favorite.”

Wow! I think this book is a must for authors who hate public speaking. Thanks, Jill, for an awesome interview.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Interview with Sweet Romance Author Anita Higman

Best-selling and award-winning author, Anita Higman, has thirty-seven books published. She’s been a Barnes & Noble “Author of the Month” for Houston, Texas and has a BA in the combined fields of speech communication, psychology, and art. Anita is married with an empty nest. She loves good movies, traveling with her husband, and brunch with her friends. Please visit her website at and drop her a note by clicking the “Contact Me” button.

This was a delightful story full of humor with three love stories intertwined together. It was fun to follow the lives of six different characters and see what direction their lives would take them. Immediately I knew that one couple was mismatched and I wondered how Anita Higman was going to get the right ones together. She developed her characters very well and it was hard to put down the book. She really knows how to weave a love story together with beautiful descriptions of love.” –Review by Linda Weaver Clarke, Author of Sweet Romances

Hello, Anita. Please tell us about your sweet romance, A Marriage in Middlebury.

Charlotte Rose Hill, who loves serving up country delicacies and uniquely blended teas, discovers that while she's been faithfully caring for her tearoom customers, she'd also been quietly turning into an old maid. Charlotte did fall in love with a young man, Sam Wilder, when she was 18, but his family forced her to walk away from their relationship. Now, more than a decade later, Charlotte finds that she still has feelings for her first love. Initially thrilled to learn that Sam has come home to Middlebury, Texas, Charlotte is then devastated to learn that he's brought someone with him: his fiancée. But all is not lost when one of the loveable but meddlesome townsfolk decides to get involved. Will the next marriage in Middlebury be for Sam and Charlotte?

Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

The idea for this book came from my absolute love of tearooms in Texas. In fact, here’s my note to readers on that very subject: More than a decade ago I met a woman named Linda Becker who opened a tearoom in the Houston burbs called, Tea for Two. Her eatery and gift shop did so well, she opened a second shop. Over the years I’ve enjoyed her wonderful tearoom fare as well as the quaint ambiance. Linda’s tearoom isn’t just a café—it’s a gathering place for friends, a place to eat home cooked food, and a place so cozy you don’t want to leave. As a writer I thought it might be fun to create a heroine who owns a tearoom similar to Linda’s and set her shop in a small town on the gulf coast of Texas. So, that’s how the novel, A Marriage in Middlebury, was born. Even though my story, the characters, and the town are fictional, Linda’s tearooms are real places you can visit and enjoy. Thank you, Linda, for the great food, and the fellowship, and the inspiration.

I love it when authors tell what inspired them while writing their stories. What kind of research did you have to do?

I didn’t have to do a great deal of research for this novel, because I had a knowledge of small-town life. You see, I grew up on a farm near a small town. I also knew about Southern tearooms, since I’ve been a big fan of them for decades!

So you’re a country girl, huh. So am I. I was raised in southern Idaho on a farm. Who is one of your favorite characters in this story and what do you love about him or her?

I like the heroine, Charlotte Rose Hill, because she is the kind of big-hearted woman I want to be when I grow up. She is generous and caring to a fault, but that’s why the townsfolk adore her so. They don’t just go to her tearoom for the food, but also for the love.

I feel the same way about Charlotte. I have read your novel and enjoyed it very much. You put a lot of personality and humor in your characters. Does humor come naturally for you?

I’m not totally sure. I don’t think I’m all that funny in person. In fact, some people might say I come off pretty serious, but when I write a scene I suddenly see the humorous side to what the characters are thinking and doing. That part does come naturally. So glad you enjoyed it!

Thank you, Anita, for this wonderful interview and for sharing a part of yourself with us.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Interview with Children’s Author Millie Vigoren

Millie Vigoren lives in Utah’s Dixie, also known as Sunny St. George. She was born in New England where she grew up and moved west in her early teens. She is married and has 7 children, 25 grandchildren, and 25 great grandchildren (plus one “in the oven”).

Millie has written about 8 children’s books. Her first book Bikini Zoo Review was published in 2013. Her second book, Branson Time With Ant Millie has just recently been released. There are more stories waiting for illustrator’s magic to be worked. Her illustrator also lives in Utah’s Dixie.

Hello, Millie. Congratulations on some wonderful children’s books. Please tell us what your book is about.

Bikini Zoo Review is about Ant Millie, who loves to travel, and finds herself in Las Vegas, where she is suddenly stopped by a kangaroo in a bikini hopping down the highway in front of her. More animals follow in bikinis who parade two by two down the street, which becomes the Parade.

I always read Dr. Suess to my kids and I loved the goofy rhymes and silliness that makes kids want to laugh.

Where did you get your inspiration for this series of books?

I wanted to write books for children for many years, but just started about 8 years ago, when my daughter went to Seattle for a visit and found a pink stuffed animal (an ant) wearing a tutu with a photo pocket sign that read “Ant Millie”. When she gave that to me, my daughter said, “Now you have no excuses.”

I have always felt that if children not only learned to read but had fun doing it, then they would read more, which would benefit them all around.

What age group would enjoy this book?

Mostly pre-school and elementary school age children.

Who is your favorite character in this story and what do you love about him or her?

Ant Millie, of course! She is a great traveler and goes all over the country finding animal friends that turn into wonderful adventures. Some adventures find Ant Millie at the beach having a ball; then there’s the one where she finds I Saw A Camel In Kentucky, But It Wasn’t In The Zoo. Or the time she came across Max the Moose who was in tears because he couldn’t find his friend Bud, the Buffalo who left without a hug in Where’s Bud Now? The stories also include Ant Millie meeting up with her cousins in New York City to perform at Radio City Music Hall just like the Rockettes. More fun everywhere with Ant Millie.

Your books sound so much fun to read to our children. Now it’s time to tell us something about the real you that we’ll never forget.

I love life. I grew up in a very loving family and had a wonderful childhood. I was always encouraged to create. My Dad was a skilled carpenter who had his work previewed in the late Look Magazine. Love spending time with my children and their families. I’m always looking for a new adventure for Ant Millie – and I keep finding them everywhere I go.

Thank you, Millie, for this wonderful interview. I’m so glad that you met my husband and he recommended an interview with me. I know my readers will enjoy this children’s series. I hope everyone will check it out. It's available at Amazon.