Category: Interview

A Conversation with Katie O’Rourke








Katie O’Rourke is a hybrid author, which means she has both traditionally published and self-published books. Her debut novel, Monsoon Season, is being published through LittleBrown and Finding Charlie was chosen for publication by Kindle Scout. A Long Thaw was traditionally published and then re-released on her own. She launched her fourth novel, Blood & Water, in November 2017.

Katie writes family sagas with overlapping characters, so they’re all connected. The stories in these books exist on their own and can be read in any order, independently from each other. They’re not sequels, but because all of the characters live in the same world, there’s an opportunity to revisit the past. Readers of Monsoon Season will find a familiar face in Finding Charlie; if you’re still wondering about Juliet when you finish A Long Thaw, look for her in Blood & Water.

Katie grew up in New Hampshire, went to college in Massachusetts, and has settled down in Arizona. These are the environments you’ll find in her stories because she thinks having an authentic sense of place is so important when you’re reading. Her work has been called women’s fiction, contemporary fiction, and literary fiction. She tries not to get hung up on genre labels and just writes the kind of stories she likes to read.

Katie’s newest release:

Publication Date: November 21, 2017
292 Pages

Tucson, Arizona is a place for runaways. Everyone comes from somewhere else and has a story about what they left behind.

Delilah arrives on her brother’s doorstep with a secret. She hasn’t seen David in five years. He ran away from their family long ago for reasons no one talks about and she still doesn’t understand. The stress of raising his teenage daughter alone sometimes makes David envious of his deliberately childless friends, Tim and Sara, but they’re runaways too, harboring secrets of their own. Blood & Water tells their stories and traces the deep connections between this unlikely group of friends.

This novel is about family, in its various manifestations: the one you’re born into, the one you choose and the one you create.

Buy Blood & Water:

Amazon US
Amazon UK

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room)Tell us a little about yourself:

I grew up in New England and have settled in Tucson with my boyfriend. I’m a writer and political junkie enjoying the tale-end of my thirties.

JRR: Same here about the end of my thirties!  Did you always want to become an author? What inspires you to write?

I was in my twenties before I had any aspirations to be an author, but I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. It has always been the way I made sense of the world around me, to the point that I don’t quite understand people who don’t write.

JRR:  What does your writing process consist of?  Do you do research,  listen to music or do you need complete silence?)

I can’t write in total silence. I prefer the music cranked up.  I use a lot of my own family history for character backgrounds and I’m sure my internet search history is extremely confusing to the NSA.

JRR:  I’m sure every writer is being watched by the NSA just based on their search histories! Especially crime writers….

You have traditionally published and self-published books.  In your experience, what are positive and negative of both?  Do you recommend one over the other? What was your publication journey like?

Self-publishing gives much more control over how your work is marketed, but it means spending time doing sales work instead of writing. The traditional route is good for an ego boost, confirmation that your work can make it past the goal keepers, but signing that contract means giving over the reigns and putting your trust in strangers who may or may not know how to sell your book. This journey has taught me a lot about myself, like maybe I’m a bit of a control freak. Kindle Scout has been a good mix of things, letting me design my cover while they handle the bulk of marketing.

JRR: What kind of advice can you give to aspiring authors?

This isn’t something to pursue to get rich. There are easier ways to make money. Do it because you enjoy it and you have something to say.

JRR:  Good advice.  Get your words out there.  There will be someone who reads it! 

Who was the most influential author you read when you were growing up?  Did his/her writings influence you to want to become an author?

There are not enough female authors assigned in school, so I didn’t meet my inspirations there and I never had the idea that this was something I could become. But I read on my own and I remember Judy Blume and Lois Lowery. As an adult, I have been influenced by Sue Miller, Jennifer Egan, Ann Packer, Barbara Kingsolver, Jennifer Haigh. So many others.

JRR:  Who is your favorite author as an adult?

If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Julia Glass. The Whole World Over was my template for Blood & Water.

JRR:  If you could have dinner with three people(living or dead) who would they be and why?

Debbie Murphy, Kim Betts and Sean Flanagan- they’re my best friends in the world and part of the family I’ve made.

JRR:  Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

The Goldfinch.

JRR:  That is one I have been meaning to read as well. Its a long one over 700 pages! 

Your fourth novel Blood & Water just recently came out.  What would you like to share about it?

First: My mom says it’s my best yet and I think she’s right.
Second: As I age, my characters do too and this book is about grown ups, struggling with real world problems like money and divorce, raising kids, caring for aging parents, learning who they can lean on. It’s the time in your life when the idea of family really cements itself, whatever it means to you; this is the time when you have to figure it out.

JRR: Mom is always right!  lol.  I need to read your books sometime.  We are about the same age and it seems as I age, my reading has ‘matured’ as well, though I still do enjoy my YA novels!  Those will always be a ‘guilty pleasure’ for me that I freely admit!

Your novels are all connected with characters crossing over to other novels.  Though not sequels, they are in the ‘same world’. What makes you want to stay in this world with your characters? With the crossing over do you recommend your books to be read in a certain order?  Will you keep writing like this?

I get to know the people in my books so well that they feel real to me. Sometimes a peripheral character has such a compelling story to tell, it needs its own book. Sometimes a beloved main character has more to say several years later. No one’s story is ever really contained within the pages of a single book.

I don’t think the order matters; whether seeing where the character came from or where they end up. I’ll probably keep writing this way as long as past characters keep speaking to me. I never know who is going to show up.

JRR: You received the rights to Ani DiFranco’s song ‘Overlap’ for Blood & Water. What was that experience like for you? That is quite the accomplishment to reach as an author.

I sent the request for Ani’s lyrics without any real expectation of hearing back, so getting permission was an amazing surprise. I’d always heard it was impossible to get the rights to song lyrics. I’ve been an Ani Difranco fan for decades and those words are basically the thesis statement for Blood & Water, so it’s been one of my favorite parts of this whole experience. I sent her an autographed print copy as a thank you and it blows my mind to imagine she might actually read my book.

JRR: That is so awesome.  Maybe she will read your book and see what her work helped to inspire! 

**Thank you so much for your time with this interview Katie! 

Contact Katie:
Twitter @katieorourke78

A Conversation with Jennifer Gilmour

Jennifer is a married mom with three children. In addition to being an author, she is an entrepreneur, running a family business from her home. A passionate advocate for women in abusive relationships, she has drawn on her personal experiences to write this first novel Isolation Junction.  Since the publication Jennifer has continued to be an advocate for those in abusive relationships through her blog posts, radio interviews and Twitter feed. Jennifer also gained a qualification in facilitating a recover program for those who have been in abusive relationships.

Jennifer continues to publicly support those who are isolated and struggle to have a voice. Jennifer hopes that Clipped Wings gives a voice to survivors experiences and raise further awareness of the behavior which fall into the category of domestic abuse.

Published: October 14, 2016
126 Pages in Paperback

Book Description from Amazon:

Rose is the mother of two young children, and finds herself living a robotic life with an abusive and controlling husband. While she struggles to maintain a calm front for the sake of her children, inside Rose is dying and trapped in ‘Isolation Junction’.

She runs an online business from home, because Darren won’t let her work outside the house. Through this, she meets other mums and finds courage to attend networking events, while Darren is at work, to promote her business.

It’s at one of these events that Rose meets Tim, a sympathetic, dark-haired stranger who unwittingly becomes an important part of her survival.

After years of emotional abuse, of doubting her future and losing all self-confidence, Rose takes a stand. Finding herself distraught, alone and helpless, Rose wonders how she’ll ever escape with her sanity and her children. With 100 reasons to leave and 1,000 reasons she can’t, will she be able to do it?

Will Tim help her? Will Rose find peace and the happiness she deserves? Can Rose break free from this spiralling life she so desperately wants to change?

Buy Isolation Junction NOW!

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Published: October 30, 2017
148 pages

Book Description:

The silent chorus.

Just imagine you thought that you had met the man or woman of your dreams. This person was charming and you thought they were the one or perhaps that this was fate; it was just meant to be.

But as the months go by things start to change. Their behaviour towards you isn’t the same, they are more critical, more particular about your appearance, what you do, how you do it, who you see. Time goes by and you feel isolated from your friends and family because that behaviour has now changed to threats, maybe violence and you feel that your identity is all but gone. But still you stay. Where would you go? Who would help you? You are not worthy.

But you are.

A group of survivors have spoken about their own experiences. In their own words they show that survivors do have a voice and that it needs to be heard. They show that abuse isn’t unique or strange but that it is, unfortunately, a surprisingly common problem in today’s society.

The message of this book is one of courage, as with courage comes awareness and an ability to understand what has happened to you and take the steps needed to become a survivor yourself.

Buy Clipped Wings NOW

Amazon US
Amazon UK

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room) Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a young married mum of three which keeps me pretty busy when I am not writing; I have a 5, 7 and almost 2 year old. As a family we enjoy the hobby Geocaching which gets us out and about, learning about the local area as well as having some fun. It can get rather competitive, if you haven’t heard of it Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.

I am also a Jamberry Nail Wraps Consultant which brings in most of my income to support my work in the domestic abuse sector including my writing. You can find out more about that on my other website.

JRR:  I  know about Geocaching! I used to play a game that is on your phone that is similar called Ingress that I played with my husband. You could also play it in groups. There are whole communities of players as the game is made up of competing teams. I’m retired from it now as I have this site but will have fond memories of the game.

Now, you are a survivor of domestic abuse and your novel Isolation Junction and book Clipped Wings reflect this. Did you always want to write these books based on yours and others experiences?  What made you decide on sharing your story?

I was on an awareness course about Domestic Abuse. Alongside me were about 8 other women who had been in abusive relationships. As the day progressed, I found that I simply couldn’t believe that some of what the other women were saying was exactly what I had gone through but just in a different format. Domestic Abuse tends to go in a cycle (see the cycle of abuse image) and whichever way it begins, the behaviour spirals again and again. At first it could be months between incidents but for me, as time went on there were many instances within one day. It is quite normal to try to prevent the cycle from starting again by changing your behaviour as much as possible. By the end of the course I had come to understand that we were all subjected to the same behaviour and that no one knew before that this could even happen to someone i.e. that a relationship can be so unhealthy and soul destroying. I realised that others simply needed to know more about this unacceptable behaviour; they needed to see the warning signs before the relationship goes further or the behaviour gets even more serious.  On the other hand I needed others to see the behaviour for what it is. If people are in a relationship and the behaviour within it is not acceptable and is not their fault, it can’t simply be changed by changing yourself.

I knew I had a story to tell and with my previous unfinished written work I realised my first novel had to be more than a book but a message – a way for others to be able to pass a book on to help victims and to get the penny to drop and bring about realisation of what is happening sooner. This means that when the relationship ends victims and survivors realise they are not the only ones out there and its ok to talk about the abuse.

JRR: So many people are affected by this and we may never know who.  What about domestic abuse would you care to share?

That domestic abuse isn’t just about the violent side but actually there is a lot more too it, even aside from the hidden aspects like emotional and financial abuse. It is so difficult for the victim to leave the relationship and many think that once they have left it will be OK, in fact this is the most dangerous time for a victim and they need to be protected. I have spoken with many who have said their ex is still in their lives years later, dropping little hints or making connections with their own friends etc. It is baffling and hard to understand why someone would want to cling on like this but they still want to feel in control.

There is so much I could share or go into but the most important thing is to break the silence on this, to shed a light on it, the more its talked about the more chance of people knowing the signs.

JRR: What was your publication journey like?

Originally I didn’t know where to go or how to publish a book, after publishing my debut novel it opened many doors and also knowledge on publishing including different platforms. Both Isolation Junction and Clipped Wings are self published by myself. with Isolation Junction I wanted to get the message out there as soon as possible because of the media attention starting to build around coercive control.

JRR: You put your heart and soul into these books.  What was the most difficult thing and easiest thing to write about with these books? How has the feedback you have received been with these books since this is such a difficult topic?

The difficult part is listening to other’s stories especially if they are still suffering from the physiological aspect of the abuse and how much it stays with an individual. I am lucky to have had some life coaching and if it wasn’t for this and training my mind to focus I would find it very challenging in my every day life and especially writing about it.

The easiest part is sharing the other side, that there is happiness and it can be gained with the hard work of re-training your mind. Everyone deserves to be happy and no one deserves to be isolated and suffocated.

JRR:  This really is a difficult subject to think about.  People stuck in relationships they need out of and feel that they can’t get out. You are someone who can help others having gone through this yourself(As sad as it is to say) and are achieving this.

Did you always want to become an author? Will you always write on domestic violence or will you write on another topic?

From an early age, I have had a passion for writing and started gathering ideas and plot lines from my teenage years. I have a few unfinished pieces of work I may visit in the future but we will see. I am very passionate about being an advocate for those in abusive relationships and if my work makes a difference to one person then I have done what I set out to achieve.

I have also started to write a blog series which is free to read because I wanted to write about the good things in my life, this is non-fiction and I find it helpful when I am not in the mindset to write on the topic of abuse.

Check them out here.

JRR: I can say that you have accomplished what you set to do!  What inspires you to write?

My inspiration is still to bring awareness to domestic abuse and more importantly the hidden side of abuse like coercive control, emotional abuse and financial abuse.

Nothing can compare to helping someone through my written work, I really feel that the lessons I have learnt are to help others. Turning a mess into a message.

JRR:  What would you say directly to those who are victims of domestic abuse who feel that they have no escape?  How would you encourage those of us who suspect someone is a victim to approach?

I would recommend they tell someone they can trust, a safe person. I often talk about what I mean by a safe person. A safe person is someone not involved especially with the perpetrator, it could be a work colleague or a distant friend. Failing that there are services as well that you can contact and I include some on my website.

It would be useful to have someone who can support you along the way of talking to services, I feel that this was the part I needed someone the most. Holding my hand whilst I was on the phone and facing it with someone by my side.

At the back of both of my books there’s a message from myself which includes a helpline and some advice. I felt it was important to do this in case anyone was affected by what they had read.

JRR: Who was the most influential author you read when you were growing up?  Did his/her writings influence you to want to become an author?

I have to say it has to be JK Rowling, simply because of her passion to persevere. Believe it or not her Harry Potter series saw me through my childhood, teens and young adulthood. They were a fantastic way to escape the reality of what was going on in my personal life. I didn’t have a bad upbringing but I did experience bullying and a struggled relationship with my mother. Even now I would still consider reading Harry Potter as going ‘home’.

I didn’t want to become an author because of another author but I certainly take strengths from many and their journeys to help me on my road in my own journey.

JRR: What are your passions?  Are there any organizations you work with that you would like to mention?

I have spoken to the FADV a few times and have collaborated with them. The FADV stands for Fight Against Domestic Violence and was founded by Jamberry. You can find out a little more here.

JRR:  Jamberry seems to be a great organiztion with everything they do to help in this area. They are the perfect organization for you to work with being a Jamberry consultant! 

Who is your favorite author as an adult? Who inspires you?

I don’t really have just the one but a few that pop out to mind and they are other women that write in a similar sector as myself.

I have to say Rachel Thompson has been a big inspiration and I met her through Twitter with her book on marketing, I found it a coincidence to have come across her when I found out her other work was also about abuse. Rachel’s knowledge on media is outstanding and she has valuable content in all her blog posts which I believe has had an impact on my own media work.

You can also find out what I thought about her books on this review on my site.

JRR:  If you could have dinner with three people(living or dead) who would they be and why?

Living it would have to be the Queen and Theresa May to give me the opportunity to voice thoughts and opinions that have come from so many as well as me. Not to criticise but to give attention too and direct them on their way to make the necessary changes in the UK.

That in turn I would also like to have dinner with a TV producer to bring Isolation Junction to a drama series in the UK to shed awareness this way. I do think it would give people the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a controlling relationship and help give that understanding even further.

JRR:  You never know, maybe you will reach that goal and Isolation Junction becomes a series! More awareness! I just happen to live on the wrong continent when that does happen… Maybe a visit will be in my future…. I just need to get a new passport… And money of course!  lol

Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

As mentioned before I love JK Rowling as cheesy as it sounds. I haven’t read some of her work and I would like to get around to it, although my TBR list seems to grown even though originally I was reluctant to be influenced on this, everyone’s suggestions happen to pop up on there now.

JRR: I LOVE her Cormoran Strike series she writes as Robert Galbraith! I am anticipating the next one as the last book left us hanging!

What’s the best advice you have ever received?

Rather than advice I think these two quotes sum it up for me:
“Even the word hopeless has the word hope in it”
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”

JRR: Wow, both of those are good but I love the first one.  Seeing that gives me hope with some things going on in my life right now.  Thank you for sharing that! It’s very encouraging!<3

Are you working on anything now? If so what can you share with us?

There are a few things I am working on. A next in a series to Isolation Junction, I planned out three books in the series. A short story is on the cards and will most likely come out before the second in the series. Alongside writing a column monthly for CCChat Magazine (the CC stands for coercive control) , I also host #AbuseTalk each Wednesday on Twitter as a Twitter Chat 8-9pm GMT.

Find out more about CCChat Magazine.
Find out more about #AbuseTalk.

Keep up to date with my journey by signing up to my newsletter via my website.

JRR:  I feel you have become a personal friend with all the time we have communicated online and the support I have given you with your books. I feel that the subject is very important. I wish we were on the same continent!  Maybe one day we will get to meet.

Jessica this is really lovely of you to say and I feel likewise. You never know, we may cross paths in the future and until then I know we will both continue to share. If you ever need any help or support from me in your blogging world then I would be delighted to help.

As I mention in my acknowledgements in my latest release Clipped Wings;

“Thank you to book bloggers – without your support I would at times feel like I am talking to myself in the land of media. Never think your role isn’t important because you motivate, encourage and inspire writers to continue in their work. A special thanks to Jessica Page Johnson from Jessica’s Reading Room…”

JRR: Thank you for that too.  That makes me feel like what I do is worth it!  I enjoy doing this, but seeing that on paper gave me all the happy feels!

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Thank you once again for having me and thank you for being a passionate blogger on this. I believe those like you help spread awareness and this is invaluable.

I would also like to say that no matter how hard something may seem and how many obstacles are in the way, you can still reach the other side. Its just a case of when you will get there, so take that first step in the right direction. The direction in which you deserve to be happy, loved, making your own decisions and having freedom of speech.

Thank you for your time with this interview Jennifer!

Contact Jennifer:
Author Facebook Page
Jamberry Consultant Facebook Page
Twitter @JenLGilmour


A Conversation with Taryn Leigh

Taryn Leigh is from South Africa and her debut novel Perfect Imperfections was released earlier this year. It took me a while, but I finally got to it and wished I had been able to read it sooner! It *might* make my top 10 of 2017! We still have about  1.5 months to go, but so far it is in that list!  My 5 star review for Perfect Imperfections is here.

Book Description from Amazon:
291 Pages
Publication Date: March 29, 2017

Sarah Lewis desires nothing more than to begin again after a failed marriage and a tragedy so terrifying, it forces her to leave her life in London to stay with her best friend a world apart in South Africa.

Despite immediate success in her business, she struggles to understand who she really is and where she belongs in the world. So begins a journey of discovery as Sarah re-unites with Katy in the land where she was born, where the air is lavender scented, and weekends are spent cycling on the beach.

Until the day when she has to return to London to face the ghosts of her past and confront a situation that has grown more complicated in her absence.

Perfect Imperfections is an intriguing tale which hints at wrongdoings and deceit without giving too much away. The author cleverly weaves a tale around fragile yet strong Sarah as she tries to reconcile her past with her future, engaging the reader to the point where we simply want the best for her and for happiness finally to come her way.

Buy Perfect Imperfections NOW!
Amazon US
Amazon UK

JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room) Tell us a little about yourself.

I am born and raised in South Africa and currently live here with my husband, son and two cocker spaniels named Rocky and Cuddles. My book has been published in the UK and the plot is based in London and Durban, South Africa. Durban is the city I grew up in where my love for books began. I spent my school days with my nose buried in books in the library being transported to the magical places the Author took me to.

JRR: Did you always want to be an author?

The dream started when I was in school. I then tried to start writing my own books, but they never seemed to be going where I wanted them to. So I put away the idea of writing. It was only while chatting to someone about my struggles, and telling her my love for reading and writing, that she suggested I try to write as a creative way of expressing myself. It was then that I began dreaming again of writing and Perfect Imperfections came to me.

JRR:  Yay for that encouragement! I enjoyed Perfect Imperfections.  What was your publication journey like?

It was a long process. I initially sent books to South African publishers. One of them came back suggesting I try to publish in the UK, as they weren’t publishing much debut Fiction novels here in South Africa. I sent my book to a few agents and publishers in the UK, and two came back offering to publish. Sending books to publishers can be nerve wrecking, and you need to wait for 6 weeks to hear back on their review of your first 3 chapters only.

JRR:  I bet that was nerve wracking.  You send someone your ‘book baby’ that you put all your heart and soul into.  Then comes the wondering “Will they like it or not?” You have to be a strong person who can handle rejection to be an author.  So what inspires you to write? 

Mainly places I visit and people I meet. I love hearing people’s stories, and going to beautiful places. I also love having meaningful conversations with people. It inspires me to write stories that can be relatable and memorable to whoever reads it.

JRR:  Where did you come up with the idea for Perfect Imperfections?

The story came to me as I fell asleep one evening. I like dreaming up scenarios as I sleep and this was one of them. I fell in love with the story instantly and wanted to get up immediately and try write it down.

Initially I had only 9 chapters, but the characters sort of wrote themselves into the 33 chapters that the book ended on.

JRR:  Going from nine chapters to 33!  Wow!  I can imagine that ‘book baby’ growing into what it is now.  Now, what made you choose the giraffe to have the importance that it does in the novel?  It became special to me and I mention that in my review.

When the story came to me, the giraffe was part of the story. I think the story and the giraffe chose me in a way, more than me deciding to incorporate it. Knowing that it means so much to you makes me feel that it was mean to be, and that there was a purpose for it!

JRR: The giraffe does have importance for me and that made Perfect Imperfections so special for me. I was wondering about the cover then I reached that part in the novel and I loved it!  How did you decide on the wrapping for the gift? It is so significant.

Ooh I love presents, and I am married to a man who loves giving them to me. I’ve always loved to make presents looks beautiful and I love receiving beautiful gifts. So as I wrote and realised that the gifts would play a huge role in the storyline, I made sure to make the wrapping just as special!

JRR:  Can you do my holiday wrapping for me?  LOL. I hate wrapping gifts.  How long did it take you to write Perfect Imperfections?

It took about a year. I wrote off and on when I had a chance, but the characters have stayed with me ever since.

JRR:  They are characters that will stay with you.  Who was the most influential author you read when you were growing up?  Did his/her writings influence you to want to become an author?

I loved Enid Blyton. Anything she wrote that I could get my hands on I did. Malory Towers and The Faraway Tree were my favourite reads of hers.

JRR:  Who is your favorite author as an adult? Who inspires you?

I’ve loved Emily Bronte, Karen Swan and Sidney Sheldon. Each have their own unique writing styles that make reading their books so inspirational in their own way.

JRR:  If you could have dinner with three people(living or dead) who would they be and why?

  1. I would love to have met Nelson Mandela, for his willingness to forgive.
  2. Enid Blyton, because she wrote around 762 books. She also wrote under the name Mary Pollock.
  3. Oprah Winfrey. She seems to have succeeded despite her circumstances and is a major success.

JRR:  Good choices!  And that is a lot of books to have written!  Which book have you always meant to get around to reading, but still not read?

Anything by Nicholas Sparks. His books sound good, but I’ve never read any.

JRR:  I have a couple of his that I have not read.  I have seen several of the movies.  Of course the one that sticks out for me is The Notebook.  Now, what’s the best advice you have ever received?

To “run my own race.” So not to worry about what the person next to me is doing in life, but rather to focus on my own goals.

JRR:  Great answer! You can’t compare your life to another’s as you never know what is going on in their life.  You may think someone has a perfect life from what they share when in actuality they are falling apart! 

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you share anything with us?

I’m definitely working on my next one. Closer to it being published, I will definitely share it !

JRR: Such a tease! Thank you for your time with this interview Taryn. I look forward to seeing what your upcoming novel is about! 

Contact Taryn:

Facebook: tarynleighauthor
Twitter: tarynleighbook
Instagram: @tarynleighbooks