Icy Sedgwick: I like my coffee black, like my soul (e-Interview)

LivinginCyn.com’s e-interview feature for October welcomes Icy Sedgwick, traditionally- and self-published author of several short and regular-length novels.

This time of year, I think of pumpkins, Halloween and ghosts, so having Ms. Icy Sedgwick join us and share what she’s up to is particularly exciting for a wimp like me. Visits to her website will quickly reveal that she is almost like the author expert in all things paranormal.

If you haven’t yet decided on a good book to curl up with during the transition from All Hallow’s Eve to the Day of the Dead, you might swing by Icy’s website for some inspiring reads. She entertains and educates with such blog posts as, 3 powerful people to meet at the crossroads: Papa Legba, the Devil & Hecate! (Did I mention I was a wimp?)

Continue reading “Icy Sedgwick: I like my coffee black, like my soul (e-Interview)”

Hannah McKinnon: It’s almost impossible to be in this business… (e-Interview)

How’s that for a teaser headline to introduce a recently (traditionally) published author?

Hannah McKinnon actually finished that statement with less provocation: “…without being able to cope with critique”. As someone who wrote a book, found an agent to represent her and then scored a deal with a publishing house, she should know. Whether you’re an indie or traditionally-published author, critique is unavoidable–and perhaps entirely necessary, not only for being in this business, but also for success.

Some of you might recognize Hannah McKinnon’s name from her #WhatIf blog tour in June: Living in Cyn hosted a chapter from her debut novel, Time After Time. Now, we get to hear a little bit about who she is and her experiences becoming an author!

As usual, our questions are in grey and Hannah’s responses are in regular, black type. Read on!

Hannah McKinnon, Pinterest 1

Name/ Age/ Website… Hannah McKinnon, age 45, www.hannahmckinnonwriter.com

Where do you currently reside? I’ve lived in Oakville, Ontario (Canada) since mid-2010.

What’s your hometown/origin? There’s no short answer to that ☺

I was born in Stockport, near Manchester in the UK. When I was one, my parents moved the family to Switzerland (where my dad was born) and we lived in Interlaken for a number of years. When I was eight we moved to the Lake District in the UK, then back to Interlaken when I was eleven, where I stayed until I finished school. After that I lived in Geneva and Neuchâtel before moving to Canada in 2010.

So am I British, Swiss or Canadian? Well, my sense of humour is definitely British. I’m as timely as a Swiss train (oh, I love cheese too). And I like to think I’m as open and friendly as the Canadians. So that makes me all three!

Movie = bookYou mention on your website that you “decided to follow [your] oldest passion” and started writing at some point in your forties. Can you remember when you first re-discovered this passion? How did that happen? How did you know? I’d thought about writing a book for a number of years and had a couple of one-page drafts and outlines, but never found the time to do anything with them. The idea for Time After Time literally popped into my head one summer. The concept was so clear, I wrote the entire outline in under three hours. And that was it – I was hooked and knew I had to finish the novel.

Your debut novel, Time After Time, was just recently published (June 2016). Congrats! Can you share a synopsis? Thank you! It’s such an exciting time.

Time After Time (Amazon US, UK) is all about choices and the paths not taken. The protagonist, Hayley Cooper fantasizes about what her life would be like if only if she’d made different choices. It’s understandable; the past two years have been hell. She barely sees her kids, her boss is trying to sabotage her, and her marriage is falling apart. Burnt out, Hayley goes to sleep wishing for a different life. When she wakes up married to her first boyfriend, one she has not seen in over twenty years, she realizes there might be some truth in the saying “be careful what you wish for”.

So, over a single weekend, and just like Ebenezer Scrooge, Hayley gets to see her life on other side of the white picket fence – not just with her first ex, but with each of her past loves. The question is, is the grass always greener? And will she ever want to go home?

Many of my readers are writers. Some of them are self-publishing their works, while others are going the traditional route to publishing. It appears you have lucked out with the latter. Do you have any secrets to your success in landing a publisher/ agent? My writing course teacher, Brian Henry, once said, “There are three keys to getting published traditionally. You need a great manuscript, a healthy dose of luck, and buckets of perseverance. The good news is that, most of the time, two out of those three will suffice.”

Personally, I’d add a fourth item to the list; dealing with feedback. It’s almost impossible to be in this business without being able to cope with critique. At times it can be incredibly difficult to hear and accept, but when you do, it will make your writing stronger.

So what worked for me? I think my perseverance definitely paid off. I was absolutely determined to get an agent, and just as unwavering about getting a publishing deal. It was tough, I can’t deny it – the rejections, the waiting, the seemingly endless rounds of edits … But I didn’t give up because so many people had said the concept of Time After Time was a great one. Their encouragement kept me going.

I was also very lucky that Brian introduced me to The Rights Factory during one of his workshops, and that Cassandra Rodgers took a chance on a debut author.

So what about the other key, ‘a great manuscript’? I’d like the readers to be the judge of that.

Hannah McKinnon Pinterest 2

Looking back on the process of getting representation, could you say there was one thing you would do differently if you had known then what you now know? I wish I’d taken some writing courses earlier, and that I’d had my manuscript assessed by an independent editor before I submitted it to agents the first time around. To be honest, I was pretty arrogant in my “I read therefore I can write” attitude. Looking back, I’m not surprised in the least by the rejections I received. Actually, I cringe a little when I read the first draft of my manuscript.

On the other hand, ignorance can be bliss. If I’d known how long it would take to get this far, how many rounds of rejection – revision – rejection I’d go through, maybe I wouldn’t have had quite as much drive to persevere.

My readers and community are also very much interested in the writing process. How do you go about getting words on a page? Do you take a freestyle approach, just sit down and write–or are you methodical? A little bit of both. With the exception of Time After Time, I seem to come up with the beginnings and endings of stories, but am not entirely sure what will happen in the middle (and sometimes the endings change too).

I like to write a short outline, maybe a page or two, then jump right in. I’m not the most patient of people, so writing pages of detailed outlines really isn’t for me. If I get stuck with the story once I’ve started, then I’ll go back to the outline and work on it some more until I find the right direction to move in. And sometimes the characters take over, and lead me to plot points that hadn’t occurred to me, which is so much fun.

Some writers say they already know the story they want to tell before they’ve even written the first word. Others say writing the first draft of fiction is a process of discovery every time they sit down to write. How did Time After Time come about? The idea for Time After Time was crystal clear. I knew exactly what I wanted Hayley’s journey to be, and how the story should end. Having said that, if I compare the first draft to the final version, the essence of the story is still the same, but I added more layers, depth and complexity to the story and Hayley’s situation. I also interwove the past and present chapters far more for better pacing,

All of this wasn’t done alone, far from it. I had input first from family and friends, then my writing group, beta-readers, an independent editor and my agent. Everybody’s feedback shaped the story in one way or another, and I’m so grateful to work with such amazing people who share my passion for this book.

Could you describe a typical day for you? … And when in that day to you squeeze in writing time? I’m fortunate in that I work from home, and therefore have a lot of flexibility. During the week I’m up around 6am, preparing lunches for our three sons. Once they’ve left for school I’ll sort out pending correspondence, anything administrative, whether it’s for my husband’s electrical company the kids’ schools, personal finances, etc. I like to get all of that out of the way before I write – which sometimes means I don’t get to write anything!

I’ll stop writing when the boys come home in the afternoon, and will often continue once they’re in bed. I like to keep the weekends free for family time.

Do you ever experience writer’s block? What do you recommend to aspiring authors dealing with writer’s block? Oh, I’ve definitely been stuck a number of times. Various things have helped, such as going to the gym or out for a walk, skipping the chapter that’s proving to be difficult and working on the next, writing something completely different (a short story, for example), setting a timer for thirty minutes and writing without editing – even sleeping on it can help sometimes. It’s amazing what your subconscious will do for you if you simply let it be.

Do you have any new projects brewing at the moment? My second novel, working title THE SECRETS THAT MAKE US is with my agent and will be submitted to publishers within the coming weeks. I’ve also finished the first in a series of children’s early-grade chapter books (ages 6-9). Right now I’m working on two things – a middle-grade book (ages 9-12) and the outline of my next adult fiction novel.

Coffee or Tea? Tea with milk and 1 ¼ teaspoons of sugar (the ¼ is what makes it perfect!). Although a frothy, decaf cappuccino or an iced coffee are very welcome too.

Any questions you wish I’d ask you? I think you covered a lot of ground. Thank you! ☺

Connect With Hannah McKinnon!

Hannah McKinnon Writer #whatif book tour
Connect with Hannah McKinnon! Chat with us hashtag #WhatIf

You can connect with Hannah through the following links, or you can say Hi to her in the comments!

Time After Time is available for purchase at Amazon US, UK and other Amazon sites.


e-interview with Starrene Rhett Rocque LivinginCyn.com / Cynthia T. LunaIf you’re a new or aspiring author — that is, you are actively working on your debut book, you plan on publishing, or you recently published your debut work — you qualify for an e-interview! Enter a comment below or send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.

NoteThere are links on this page that will lead you to Amazon.com. If you decide to make a purchase on Amazon as a result of clicking the link, I receive a small commission from your purchase. Find out more about affiliate links here. Thanks for your support. 

Starrene Rhett Rocque: I prefer to freestyle and just start with a character, e-interview

Perhaps it doesn’t come as a surprise to you that a person by the name of Starrene Rhett Rocque has been in and around show biz for years. So it seems only fitting that her debut novel, Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted (Amazon UK | DE | FR), is about a “jaded entertainment journalist” who gets caught up in a tangle involving an actor/rapper and an obsessive blogger.

We all know traditional media has been going through some serious identity issues over the past decade or more. The internet has made it possible for a whole host of hobby writers to break and redefine the rules of the fourth estate, wreaking havoc on those of us who have learned to conform to the “system” but also creating exciting opportunities for anyone trying to grab headlines. (No longer must we wait for someone to validate our words, our story!)

Starrene is an unabashed indie author who self-published her debut book (though she would consider “going trad” for her next book). As someone who also recently self-published her own nonfiction book, I was definitely interested in hearing Starrene’s take on the process and what motivated her to take that decision for herself. Feel free to leave your comments at the end of the interview. Starrene and I would love to hear from you!

Starrene Rhett Rocque interview Cynthia T. Luna LivinginCyn.com

Let’s hear it for Starrene Rhett Roque!

Age…33 (34 by the time this will run in August) US

Occupation/Aspiration (related website?)… Recovering journalist and aspiring copywriter, screenwriter, novelist, pole studio owner, and generally open to what good the universe may have in store for me (that is a lot to juggle, but I believe I can and will). I can be found at www.gangstarrgirl.com, gruntsandglam.com, and thehollywoodshuffle.com.

Amazon (US | UK| DE | FR)

Your debut novel, Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted, is now out and on Amazon. Congrats! Can you share a synopsis? Thank you, and yup. “Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted” (US | UK | DE | FR) follows Nyela Barnes, a jaded entertainment journalist who goes from writing the stories to becoming the story after getting involved with Olu Major, the hottest actor-turned-rapper in the game. Nyela must find out the identity of the anonymous gossip blogger, Chatty Abernathy, who is seemingly hell-bent on destroying her reputation by making up lies.

In a blog post (on www.GangStarrGirl.com – I love your blog, by the way) you mentioned that career burnout led you to writing this novel–and among lots of interesting tidbits, you noted that Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted started out as journal entries. At what point between journaling and beginning to write a novel did you know it was “time” to write a book? How long did this book take to write? It started when I couldn’t stop thinking about things that I had journaled throughout the day. A lot of the scenarios I wrote about just started to seem like they could really work as some type of script if I actually fictionalized events. Plus, the characters just started materializing and talking to me.

That’s the thing about journaling, at least for me, it’s a way to relieve stress, to write down hopes and dreams, complain without sounding like a broken record (since it’s just yourself and the universe), and to make fun of or lambast people who may have hurt me without actually having to face consequences lol, but also to meditate and to open me up to new ideas and energy, so that’s how the book just started to flow. I really believe that journaling or any kind of free writing can help with your creativity, not just with writing, but with other forms of art.

It took me about five years to write the book. At first it was hard for me to juggle working and setting schedules to write so I’d constantly start then stop, and then have to start over again because I’d forget what was happening and who the characters were. In 2014, I got more serious and began forcing myself to take at least 15 minutes a day to write something toward finishing the book.

Were you ever nervous while writing your book that, even though it was fiction and not a tell-all, the real people you have fictionalized into characters might recognize themselves? Did you have any tricks for getting past those concerns? It crossed my mind, but it doesn’t make me nervous. The reason why I’m not nervous is because even though I’m aware that people who read it may single out one specific person that a certain character may remind them of, that’s actually not the case. Most of the characters are exaggerated amalgamations of personality archetypes in the same genre. For example, there are a couple of relationship blogger/life coach types in the book, there are so many in real life that it could still be anyone.

Starrene Rhett Rocque "on journaling" with Cynthia T. Luna LivinginCyn.com

There are some events that were inspired by actual events and my thing with that is, without the exaggerations, these are things that happened (and still happens) so if someone gets mad at me, it’s like “it happened and people experienced it so what do you want me to do?” I hate to sound cold in that regard, but that is why we should be mindful of the impressions we leave on people. Plus, none of it is slander. It’s all satire.

Can you share a little bit about your writing process? Rituals you live/write by? My favorite read about how to construct a novel is by Stephen King. He wrote a book called, “On Writing,” and I noticed that I liked his writing process a lot. A lot of times, it’s suggested that you write an outline first and then write based on the outline. I prefer to freestyle and just start with a character and let them tell me where their day will go. Don’t get me wrong, outlines are very helpful and I actually ended up needing one once I finished BCBT to put things in better chronological perspective, but there was just something about Stephen King’s style that resonated with me.

As far as rituals, setting aside 15 minutes a day is tremendously helpful (that is actually a tip I picked up from Aliya S. King). It may not sound like a lot, but it adds up. You will also have moments where 15 minutes becomes an hour and so on.

You have also mentioned on your blog that you decided to self-publish. Good for you! (And congrats again — no small feat!!) What part of self-publishing was most difficult, what will/would you do differently a second time around? Lawd…thank you lol. I decided to self-publish just because after doing some research about the publishing world, I realized that I was already super burned out, so I just didn’t want to deal with anymore industry BS and politics.

The part of self-publishing that is most difficult is not having a budget or a team. Other than hiring an editor that one time lol, I really just have myself and then friends of course, who have been helpful, but I don’t want to burden anyone, especially when it’s not their job or obligation to help me. So, the hardest part is promoting yourself and getting the word out to your target market.

For the next time around, I’m actually considering going for a traditional publishing deal. I would like to have experience with both ends of the spectrum. That idea is always subject to change, but that’s where I am right now.

If you could step into a time machine and pay a visit to Starrene, 14 y.o., what would you tell her? Why? Wow, good question. I would tell her not to major in communications. At that time, 14-year-old me wanted to be a news anchor. I’d tell that version of myself to get a degree in something else, but work toward the journalism career she wanted by way of internships. I’d also tell her to start learning to let go because she will need a whole lot of forgiveness in life.  

What do you do when you’re not writing? When I’m not writing I’m teaching or taking pole classes and probably aerial hoop, or hanging out with the hubby.  

Starrene Rhett Rocque on traditional publishing with Cynthia T. Luna Living in Cyn

Any new projects you’re working on? Brainstorming more books! A lot of people have been wanting a follow up to “Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted.” I really enjoy those characters so I’m definitely trying to figure out what’s next for Olu and Nyela especially, and then Reiko and Felani were such good characters too. I think they need spinoffs as well.

I’m also preparing for motherhood. My first child will be arriving at the end of August, maybe even September.

Coffee or Tea? Tea!

Is there a question you wished I would pose to you? (or to anyone else? Whom?) No. This was actually thorough and enjoyable. Thanks for having me.

Thank you for being here — We’d love to have you back!

Connect With Starrene Rhett Rocque!

e-interview with Starrene Rhett Rocque LivinginCyn.com / Cynthia T. LunaYou can connect with Starrene through the following links, or you can say Hi to her in the comments!

“Bloggers Can’t Be Trusted” is available for purchase at Amazon.com.


If you’re a new or aspiring author — that is, you are actively working on your debut book, you plan on publishing — or you recently published your debut work, you qualify for this e-interview series! Enter a comment below or send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.

Note: There are links on this page that will lead you to Amazon.com. If you decide to make a purchase on Amazon as a result of clicking the link, I receive a small commission from your purchase. Find out more about affiliate links here. Thanks for your support. 

Sa’iyda Shabazz: Sometimes I’ll hear a song lyric (e-Interview)

I’m always amazed by the variety of people I encounter when I receive their e-interview responses. Sa’iyda Shabazz was an actress who has now turned her attentions to writing. Somehow, she manages to juggle childrearing, freelancing, writing and pitching agents. On that latter subject, it seems she has opted to go the traditional route, and she shares a bit about her pitch experiences in this interview.

Occasionally I need coffee. Sa'iyda Shabazz / Cynthia T. Luna / LivinginCyn.com

Name/ Age/ Website… Sa’iyda Shabazz, 30

Facebook: facebook.com/saiydashabazzwriter

Twitter: @xoxsai

Title and synopsis of your debut novel. The title is currently in flux. It is about a teenaged brother and sister (twins) who move from England to Los Angeles. It is a fish out of water story, complete with love triangles and typical issues teens face like social hierarchies, making new friends and fitting in.

Where do you currently reside? What’s your hometown/origin? I currently live on Staten Island, NY. I also grew up here.
Can you share a little bit about what prompted you to write this book? I was inspired by the reboot of the show 90210. I liked the concept of the fish out of water story and there is no better place than Los Angeles to set it. I had recently lived there, and I was fascinated by the culture. It really is a whole new worl.

Ah–East coast, West coast. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience moving to the West Coast and some of the differences you noticed? I think the biggest difference is the people. New Yorkers are tough but there is a certain level of friendliness that goes unnoticed. People on the west coast are super laid-back but there is a certain sense of entitlement, especially in the higher end neighborhoods like the ones in my novel. But I loved living on the west coast and look forward to returning!

You’ve shared you’re getting ready to pitch your debut novel for the second time. It sounds like you’re taking the traditional route to publishing. Can you talk about the process (your process) a little? What was the first round of pitches like?  Finding an agent is not for the faint of heart. It takes months of research before you begin to pitch. I looked up a lot of agencies and agents through Google and then looked up agents I liked on social media. I also looked in the acknowledgement sections of books by my favorite authors to see who their agents are. I pitched to about 5 agents. I got back a few rejection emails. Even though they said no, it was a positive because that means they took the time to really consider my work.

Did you learn any lessons from the first round of pitches? What, if anything, would you do differently this time around? I think my biggest takeaway is that I need to make my query letter a little more dynamic. I think I have a good story that needs to be a little more exciting to get an agent’s interest.

Do you remember the moment you knew you had to be a writer? I don’t think there was a moment. I had always thought I would be an actor and write for fun. Then I started putting more attention into my writing than my acting career so I just changed trajectories. It was a very organic transition.

You don’t mean you gave up acting do you? Do you still act? What was your latest appearance? I did give up acting actually! I sometimes miss performing and I’m sure I’ll go back to it one day, but right now I don’t have the energy or the time to do both.

How do you come up with your story ideas? How do they present themselves to you and how do you interact with them? Story ideas present themselves in different ways. Sometimes I’ll hear a song lyric that will inspire a scene or a short story. Or I’ll see a picture or sometimes I’ll just have random ideas pop into my head.

You also freelance. Can you give us an idea of your daily routine? How do you balance writing a book, freelance writing and your “personal life” in a day/ week? Are you really good at compartmentalising or does it just work effortlessly? I’m still very new to freelancing so I’m not doing a ton of pieces. I have a list of pitches I’m working through. It usually takes me a few hours to write a piece and then I edit sporadically. This book is in the editing phase so again I do a few hours a few times a week. I also have a two year old son and I work as a babysitter. As a result, I do a lot of my work on my phone. I have the Docs app so I can work on the go.

Coffee or Tea? Tea most of the time but occasionally I need coffee. I prefer regular black tea with milk and sugar or a Dunkin’ Donuts french vanilla iced coffee with 7 sugars and half and half. Occasionally I go to Starbucks, but that’s a treat.


Lynette Phillips | e-interview | LivinginCyn.com | Cynthia T. LunaIf you’re a writer, new author or aspiring author, send an email to cynthia [at] livingincyn [dot] com if you wish to participate in an e-interview. This series is slated for the 3rd Wednesday of each month.

In the Merde: An e-Interview with L. Phillips on Living in France, and Her New Book, Houses, History & Humour

Amazon US | UK | DE | FR
Amazon US | UK | DE | FR

If you’re anything like me, you are thinking about your summer vacation. (I’m always thinking about my vacation.) Perhaps in reading today’s e-interview with L. Phillips, new author of Houses, History and Humour (A British Estate Agent in France), released in the Fall 2015, your curiosity about things français might be piqued and you might decide on a trip to France, or at least the travel section of your bookstore.

L. Phillips’ book is an adventure into the unexpected, “filled with stacks of amusing incidents and Continue reading “In the Merde: An e-Interview with L. Phillips on Living in France, and Her New Book, Houses, History & Humour”