Monday, April 18, 2016

Interview: Author Rebecca J. Hubbard

Please welcome Rebecca J. Hubbard, author of The Gifta novel about horses, friendship and patience. 

Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself? 

I am a Texan. For some that says it all, for others it is an enigma! I was born and raised in Texas by a single mom who had dancing feet, so we moved around the state a bit. I grew up with a strong love of animals and a deep affection for horses. From age three I proclaimed I was going to be a veterinarian. My best friends as a child were a cat and a horse. I was lucky enough to spend time with my dad who allowed me to help take care of the cows on his father’s farm, and vets who took me under their wing. I have stuffed uteruses back into cows and removed cat food from a lamb’s belly. 

I grew up in a rodeo family. I have an uncle and a brother who were professional cowboys. I, myself, ran barrels, poles, and did break-away roping. I, however, was not a great performer. I always saved my best for home. I guess my nerves always got the best of me. 

I went to Texas A&M University with the desire to become a vet but quickly found that was not my calling. I wanted to study psychology but was told that I had to graduate with a degree I could earn a living with. So, I became a teacher. I taught science for a couple of years. While I loved teaching, I found myself drawn to my passion of helping children who had experienced traumatic events.

Currently, I am a therapist and the clinical supervisor at Spirit Reins, a non-profit organization that provides treatment to children and families who have experienced trauma. We specialize in trauma-focused equine assisted psychotherapy TM and use the Natural Lifemanship TM treatment model. My book, The Gift, organically explains Natural Lifemanship TM and the principles of developing a healthy relationship. 

I live with two high-energy, playful souls (dogs) and my soul-mate, (cat). I have two wonderful equine buddies, who also help me with my work, Cloud and Cash.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author? 

I don’t think I really ever decided to become an author. It just happened as a result of my passion for writing stories that help others. I didn’t consider myself an author until I saw The Gift in print. Now, I fully embrace that I am an author.

I began writing when I was in the fourth grade. It was a way to express feelings that I thought were difficult and things that were unspeakable. I have written most years since with some years writing less than others.

I became a therapist in 1994 and immediately began writing therapeutic stories as a way to help my young clients. Most of my clinical work centers on treating children who have experienced numerous traumatic events from an early age. While doing this work I realized that many of the traumas the children experienced had not been written about. So in 2012 I wrote my first therapeutic picture book about a young girl who was used to produce pornography. It was written from the perspective of a little girl and her teddy bear. After that I continued to write therapeutic stories about different types of traumatic events so that children could feel less alone. These books have been used by therapists to help children but they have not yet been published. In the midst of writing this series a friend asked me to write a simple story about a kid and a horse, that was not intended to be a therapeutic book. As I was writing The Gift, I didn’t conceive it as a therapy book but the therapist in me focused on the healing and meaning of relationships.  Although intended to be a simple story, it became something more. It took some time for the story to come to me but once I had written it, I found I had done what I can’t help but do—write a story to help others. 

Do you have another job besides writing?

Many people would say I am a shrink but I swear I have never shrunk anyone! My passion is helping people who have experienced traumatic events. I have been doing it for 23 years and believe I will do it until my boots are in the ground.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading? 

If I was not on the back of a horse, I had my nose in a book. I would hide in closets to have private time to read. I loved reading everything I could get my hands on! I read every book in my granny and papa’s house. Those books included the Happy Hollisters, The Boxcar Children, The Hardy Boys, the poetry of Abraham Lincoln, Moby Dick, Old Man and the Sea, and a ton of western novels. My favorite western author is Louis L’Amour. I also read every horse book that Walter Farley wrote. My favorite of those was Man “O War. My favorite book of all time is To Kill A Mockingbird which I have read too many times to count.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

The Gift is a story about a young girl who receives a horse for her birthday and her desire to have a best friend. She believes that her horse should be her best friend without having to develop a friendship. She learns from her father how to develop a friendship with her horse. The story is told from the perspective of the girl and the perspective of the horse. It is a story about understanding, patience and friendship.

My inspiration came from a young girl I know who fell deeply in love with a horse who refused to give her the time of day. It was their journey of becoming friends that inspired me to write The Gift.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

Usually a book starts by waking me up in the middle of the night with an idea or an actual sentence that starts the book. When I write it is like the characters speaks to me. Once that happens the book feels as if it comes out of me rather than me creating it.

Re-writes feel more like a creative process, instead of writing what I see and hear in my mind. As part of the re-writing process I read my work out loud and I allow people I trust to read what I am writing. I just finished a book and part of that rewriting process was to actually have children read the book and tell me what they liked and did not like. I tease that it takes a village to write a book! During rewrites I take the feedback I am given and make changes to make the story better. I have never created a novel so I have not ever completed an outline. I think I would like to try writing that way some time.



Why do you write?

This is such an excellent question. I wish I had days to sit and talk about this with you. I write for many reasons. Sometimes it is a salve for wounds that ache. But mostly, it is to educate and help others, especially children. I want people to better understand how trauma impacts people and to help them understand the healing process. When people read my stories I want them to feel what it is like just for a moment being in someone else’s skin. 

Do you belong to a critique group? How has this helped or hindered your writing.

I do not belong to a formal critique group but I present my work to the audiences that they are written for and request critique from them. I like this process as it helps me to hone the message and to better understand how the intended audience is experiencing what I have written. My favorite statement I received recently from a young boy was “I liked the book because it made me feel loved.”

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

I have had long periods of writer’s block. For a few years I didn’t write at all. My soul felt like it had nothing to say during those periods. When I was asked to write a story about a child and a horse I found myself in unfamiliar territory because I was not writing a therapeutic story. It took a long time for the idea for the story to come to me. No matter what I did to try to engage my muse she wasn’t interested! Finally, she came around and gave me the first line and the first part of the book flowed smoothly. I found Buck’s part of the book difficult to write. Finding Buck’s voice was an arduous process. Once I found his voice though his story flowed from me just like all the other stories I have ever written.

Technically speaking, what do you struggle the most with when writing? 

Commas! Oh my goodness is there ever an abundance of conflicting advice about them. I put commas in, a few friends take them out, then more friends put them back in and add more! I love the Oxford comma for instance but more than half of the people who read my work hate it. I always wonder what my English teachers would think about that!

How do you tackle it?

Usually, I read my work aloud and put commas where I pause. In the end I usually rely on the editor for the final say.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

Finding a publisher is hard. It is difficult to get your manuscript in front of someone when they do not take unsolicited manuscripts. So, finding someone who can represent you and understands your work is key.

My advice is to enter contests, and look for Indie publishers if you are having difficulty getting in with a traditional publishing house. Before you send your manuscript to a publisher have it professionally edited. It gives your work the best opportunity to shine and it represents you as a professional.

Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I just finished a book about grief titled The Boy Who Was So Sad. This book is about a small boy whose mother died. He is so overcome with grief that he cries so many tears that he floods his room and eventually his house. He cries so much that his tears create an ocean that separates him from his family who are also grieving the loss of his mother. On his journey he meets some wonderful friends who help reunite him with his family. 

I have just started another Pip and Buck story to explore where their relationship goes next.

Where do you find ideas for stories?

The ideas for almost all of my stories come from experiences children have told me about that make them feel alone. I recall a time looking out of a window with a child thinking about her mother who had died and the overwhelming grief she felt. The Boy Who Was So Sad was written for her and other children who have said, “I will never stop crying!”

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

People can find more information at rebeccahubbardlmft.com


All eleven-year old Pip wanted was a best friend.  When Pip gets a horse for her birthday she is delighted. She thinks that the horse she names Buck will be her best friend the moment that they meet. But she finds out that friendship does not come easily. Her father gently guides her so that Pip can discover for herself how to make Buck a true friend.
Pip’s new friend, Buck, has a story of his own.  After leaving his own herd, to move to Pip’s house, he is looking for a relationship that will help him feel safe.  He, too, learns that making a friend takes patience and understanding.

Now available at Amazon.com and Ravenswood Publishing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Interview with Ruth Finnegan, Author of "Black Inked Pearl"

Please welcome the irascible Ruth Finnegan, Emeritus Professor, The Open University,  Fellow of the British Academy, Hon. Fellow Somerville College Oxford and author of many nonfiction books and the highly acclaimed novel, Black Inked Pearl.


Why don’t you begin by telling us a little about yourself? 

But that’s so boring now I'm in 80s, look up one of my author pages instead, or the start of my ‘Ruth Finnegan Anthropologist’ book. Oh, except that though I don’t live there now I love my native Derry founded in the 6th century (A.D. of course, don’t be so slow!) by an angry warlike peace-full saint (my favourite, St Columba – do you know his beautiful melody for the 23rd Psalm, best of the lot?), the Irish daire, the oak grove; full like its founder of strife and killing  yet now, with its amazing unique peace bridge (google it) a place of peace and community, can you believe it. So beautiful too, once an island in the lovely Foyle river, girt with the green hills of far away.

Oh yes, and  I've just, somehow, by accident, written a novel. It's called Black Inked Pearl since you ask ( didn't? Too  bad, ‘everyone,’ whoever that is,  says I must keep dragging it in, relevant or not, so I will, see?).

When did you decide you wanted to become an author?

Oh before I was born I’d guess. Who knows (except my tall-story-telling Irish green-eyed spook-aware mother).

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

Homer, Homer, Homer, my first real book (then later in Greek too, read aloud, how can you ask). Then Lady Gregory’s stories of Cuchulain, that great hero of Ireland (died tragically, maybe that’s what all the best heroes have to do so they can live on? His dear horse’s head sorrowfully in his breast. I liked that, even though all I  had to ride at seven was a bareback donkey. It ran away with me too right up the strand until I was pushed off when he went under a low oak bough. My poor mother left on the shore, just the flying Jack (good name for bad ass?) with her li'l  girl on  the back. Symbolic? Not sure.

Who says I have to close my brackets, I'm an AUTHOR, see? (did I mention Black Inked Pearl by any chance?)

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

Black Inked Pearl (in case you’ve forgotten) . They say it's an inspirational epic fantasy romance that stays with you and sinks into your unconscious (watch the video). I wouldn't really know. It bypassed my conscious mind, came in dreams 

Did your book require a lot of research?

NONE. Oh not true. 82 years. And reading. And years of hearing and studying oral story-telling in Africa, and listening to tall Irish stories from my mother (and she was some witch and high-tale teller, I can tell you, bet she’s interrupting her soiree up there and eavesdropping on this from heaven and laughing and wondering why I don’t make more of it. ‘Exaggerate a bit, my dear.  It’s all only white lies you know. Well I had to learn all that as your father, you know, only understood LITERAL truth’ (well do I remember - though hmm, what is truth said jesting Pilate etc, etc). She likes my novel, only thing is she thinks she wrote it herself, well maybe she did)

If you could have any vice without repercussions, what would it be?

HURRAY! my favourite question! SELFISHNESSS of course, am not so good at that (so they say anyway – daughters have to I suppose). I’d really like to have a PROPER sin (not just my little ones like greediness or laziness or getting bored or not getting up in time so leaving my husband--so he says he does--to do everything). How else could I have a proper experience of bittering repentance and so get saved in the end – will have to write a novel about that (though come to think of it perhaps it DID apply to my dear heroine Kate – I suppose that’s how I thought of the thing in the first place. She had to stop all this giving and accept for a change). My mother always said ‘self-sacrifice’ was the worst and most selfish and most IRRITATIING of sins and I think she was right (I used to think her love of burnt toast was self-sacrificial [is that what ‘burnt offerings’ comes from?] but actually now I’m old I see that it was actually that she loved it, as I now do too – come and eat with us sometime, you'll love our nice smokey kitchen.

What kind of promotions do you do for your books?

Those lovely Castelane videos. Not sure how many people are lucky (I mean sensible) enough to watch them though, have a try.



What is the funniest/most embarrassing/scariest story from one of your books signings or events?

Good God, I forgot to get dressed ….  O-o-oh just a dream ( bet you have them too, they ( ’they’? ) say they’re very common, like forgetting your notes or not being able to find the place in the book when you’re doing a big presentation, have these dreams quite often, also, useless me, getting lost, again and again and again). Another – real – embarrassing one but lips sealed.

What so you see for the future of publishing and ebooks?

eBooks are flourishing all right (good thing, the more books around in any form the better) but (yippee) print books are fast coming back again. And you know what? (MUCH to the disgust of the traditional book sellers of course – competition is great naturally but only if to your benefit ):  Amazon is opening hundreds of physical book stores in the US, so presumably soon worldwide. More the merrier I say. Why are people so grudging of new things ( like climate change  - actually the oldest of things that, innit?)

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?

Oh the little dog Holly, what more pitiful, truly, than when she thought her dear Kate was coming and then she wasn't, just the smell if her. And what happier than when at the end she lay at - but DID she?  So what is real what not-real in the novel? In life?

Tell us five random things about yourself.

I'm 5 foot seven inches (imperial) or maybe six, thus less than my very short mother whose passport said 5.7: carefully measured by herself, tape measure in and out all the curves, she never could see anything misleading about that (you see now where I got that dream-reality ambiguity thing,  don't you)

I like dogs and cats

Favorite flower-- primroses

Favorite colour--dark sea-blue eyes (the hidden ‘him’ of the novel , love him ... )

Is that five? Like Kate I can't count very well

They say authors have immensely fragile egos… How would you handle negative criticism or a negative review?

Actually I love them (nothing 'would' about it, just look at Amazon!). They always tell me something about me and my book and its style, as well as about them and to whom to try to sell my book(s),  and things to take account of next time (aha, but that’s another story – pun). Fancy them being kind enough to go on reading (even if only some of it) and then ATUALLY WRITING A REVIEW! I (confess it -  I love the positive ones too). 

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Short paragraphs. Short sentences (unless you’re James Joyce – I try…). Short  words, and don't forget to learn the rules (how else can you break them?).

Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

Hmm. A secret  - except that , sshh, not a sequel but all the same related to my Black Inked Pearl -  expanding on the bit that didn’t get proper visibility in the novel, can you guess what, or more likely WHO? But not for a while, must finish off a couple of academic books first. I love them too.

What book do you wish you had written and why?

The Alchemist (and guess what, someone actually compared my novel to that; and  to Game of Thrones, wow) It's so fairytale and SIMPLE. Beautiful. Oh and of course The Odyssey. But is that a book? ( well, I tried, all that long quest, did I mention Black Inked Pearl? Only my novel has a girl as hero not a hardened war-man wise sailor)

What’s your worst writing habit?

NOT (not-writing I mean, isn’t that everyone?)

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?