Category: Interview

A Conversation with Kim Turrisi

This is Kim Turrisi’s first novel and is based off of her story as her sister committed suicide when Kim was fifteen.  The emotions are raw and real in Just a Normal Tuesday. It was released last week on May 2nd  and I feel everyone should read this novel. It truly touched me; so far this is my #1 read of the year. My review for Just A Normal Tuesday is here.

Buy Just a Normal Tuesday Now!
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JRR (Jessica’s Reading Room):Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m an Air Force brat so I moved every two years. That alone helps me adapt to new situations fairly quickly. My love of music is from my father and my love of reading definitely from my mom and sister. Both read to me every day when I was younger. I was destined to be a book nerd and I’m okay with that. I went to college in Florida at Florida State University and I am a diehard Seminole fan.

JRR: I am a book nerd as well and proud of it. I have a problem and freely admit it! Did you always want to become an author?

I always wanted to be a writer. I wrote screenplays first then two web series. Working at the SCBWI(The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), I fell in love with young adult literature. I can’t imagine doing anything else. If I’m not writing it, I’m reading it. There are so many incredible YA authors.

JRR: There really are so many good YA author and books out there, yours included! What does your writing process consist of?

I always, always write with music playing. I create a play list for the book I’m about to tackle then a play list for my protagonist. When I wrote Just a Normal Tuesday, several songs were on repeat while I wrote the really tough stuff. Lots of angst. I keep notebooks about each of my characters that I go back to as I outline my book. I like to know what they wear, what foods they like, habits they have, what they read and definitely what music they listen to.

JRR: That playlist and the notebooks helped when you wrote Just a Normal Tuesday since for me you really nailed all the emotions. What kind of advice can you give to aspiring authors? I know the journey to become published and can be a long and difficult one.

My best advice is to never give up. It is hard road but when it does happen, I promise that all of the rejections and revisions are worth it. Also, make sure you surround yourself with other writers and take their notes to heart. With Tuesday, I was so close to it, I needed other perspectives to stay on track. I’m grateful to all the people who read it and those who rejected it but gave me notes. It made this book so much better.

JRR: That’s a good way to take the rejections; using the notes you were given to improve the book. What made you go the ‘traditional route’ for getting Just a Normal Tuesday published versus indie/self -publishing?

It was a goal I gave myself. There was no question that I would go the traditional route. In my every day job, I work closely with editors at the traditionally publishing companies so it was my comfort zone.

JRR: Where did the idea for Just a Normal Tuesday come from? Did you take your personal experiences to form Kai’s character, especially when it came to the range of emotions she felt after her sister’s suicide? Was Just a Normal Tuesday difficult to write or was it a kind of therapy and a way to get those emotions and feelings out?

Just a Normal Tuesday is based on what happened to me when I was fifteen. I fictionalized a portion of it but honestly, a lot of the emotions and events were spot on. I would say Kai and I shared the spiral of anger and despair. This was probably the hardest book I will ever write since it’s so close to my truth. There were many dark days having to recall all that I went through at such a young age. It’s also the first time I’ve talked about it since then.

I didn’t get to go to Grief Camp at fifteen but in writing this book, I felt like I did all these years later. It was quite cathartic even when it felt like I was climbing Mt. Everest.

JRR: The emotions Kai experiences were so real and raw! At times I felt like I was hearing your story (which in a way we were) with the first half of the book. It felt like you were talking to me as I was reading.

Who do you hope your book reaches? I feel that everyone should read this book, especially those who lost someone at a young age. There is such a wide range of emotions the reader will experience as the book is read.

When I set out on this journey, my hope was that anyone feeling left behind by a loved one would see themselves in this book so they felt less alone and that it helps them find their path to healing. The stigma of suicide can be isolating especially if no one is talking about it. That’s how it was for me.

Grief is a universal feeling. No matter how you lose a loved one, it’s devastating. Suicide is especially crippling since it’s sometimes so difficult to understand.

***Thank you so much for your time with this interview Kim!  I know you have been very busy with the launch of Just a Normal Tuesday, so this means a lot that you agreed to an interview at this time. Good luck with the book! I hope it reaches many people out there who need it.  It truly touched me and I hope everyone reads it.

If you are considering suicide please get help. There are many organizations that can help. You are worth it!

 The National Suicide Prevention Helpline
Open 24/7

The Trevor Project (LGTBQ)
Open 24/7

The Hope Line

The Didi Hirsch Foundation 

For those who have lost someone, here are some camps that can help:

Comfort Zone Came (US)

Camp Erin (US and Canada)

Contact Kim:
Twitter @KimmyT22
Instagram @KimmyT22

A Conversation with Mark Sullivan

The beginning of 2006 was a terrible time for Mark Sullivan, but then he discovered Pino Lella’s story and Mark had to share it with the world. Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the end result of all that hard work.  It was released yesterday and the whole world can finally learn of Pino and his important story.

Who is Pino Lella?

At the age of 17, Giuseppe “Pino” Lella helped Jews escape the Nazis in northern Italy, guiding them from a Catholic boys school north of Lake Como, up and over the Alps, and into neutral Switzerland. The following summer, he became a spy inside the German High Command, risking everything to serve the Italian Resistance and suffering mightily for it long after the war ended. Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the untold story of the most inspiring and heartbreaking years of Pino Lella’s life.

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Book Description:

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours.

Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.

In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.

Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.

Fans of All the Light We Cannot See, The Nightingale, and Unbroken will enjoy this riveting saga of history, suspense, and love.

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

I live in southwest Montana and have been a full-time author for more than 25 years. I write mystery and suspense novels by myself and with James Patterson. I write the #1 New York Times bestselling Private series with Mr. Patterson.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky is my first historical novel. It took me 10 years to write, which proves again that I’m a little slow on the uptake.

I have been married to my best friend for 33 wonderful years. Betsy and I spend our free time outdoors trying to enjoy the miracle of every moment.

JRR:  I have read a few James Patterson books.  Ten years to write Beneath a Scarlet Sky!?!  In my opinion it’s better to take your time and get it right than to rush it and not have a respectable book. Did you always want to become an author?

From the age of seven. We did not have a television until I was 10, and my mom taught me to read when I was four, so books were my earliest entertainment. I got in a fight in second grade that the vice principal, a formidable Catholic nun named Sister Mary Joseph, broke up. My “punishment” was to enter the school storywriting contest. I got home, told my parents nothing about the fight, and, petrified I would be discovered, went upstairs to “write.” I didn’t know what to write about and sat there worrying I’d be found out, until a cottontail rabbit went ripping through our backyard with the neighbor’s dog in full pursuit. I decided to write about that, and, to my amazement and Sister Mary Joseph’s, I won the contest. I had to read the story to the entire school and got a standing ovation. I was completely hooked from that point on.

JRR:  That is quite a start! Let’s all be glad for that punishment that Sister Mary Joseph made you do!  What inspires you to write?

Everyone and everything I have ever encountered.

JRR:  What is your writing process like? Do you research? Do you hand-write or type? As you are writing do you listen to music or not?

My process is to work from premise through research toward a complete outline. I do this both handwritten and at the keyboard. I often listen to music as I’m getting prepared to write, something that inspires me. But when I’m actually writing, I listen to “brown noise” through Bose headphones to block out all distracting sound, and I face a blank wall so the only way out is through the screen.

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

Schedule your writing time, and to the extent you can, make it the same time every day. This is important psychologically, as your subconscious begins to anticipate writing if it occurs with frequency at the same time and place. Also, use an App like to shut down Internet, social media, and the like on your computer and on your phone. I am shut down and unreachable from 11am-5pm every day. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you’re not distracted.

JRR:  That is good advice. And I did not know about that App!  It could benefit many people.   Now, Who is your favorite author as an adult?

The late, great Jim Harrison. During my years as a reporter, I tried to read modern fiction and could not relate until I read Harrison’s Legends of the Fall. The prose was like thunder, and through it he packed an epic, sweeping story of early 20th-century Montana into an unforgettable 95-page novella. I was flabbergasted and inspired. I still am.

JRR:   If will look into that novella and Jim Harrison himself.  If you could have dinner with three authors (living or dead) who would they be and why?

Harrison, certainly. I met him a couple of times and heard him speak several more, but I never got to sample his cooking skills, which were said to be remarkable. Charles Dickens would also be there. I learned much of what I know about novel writing from a course I took in college in which we had to read all of Dickens’s work. What’s stunning is when you realize he wrote most of his books and stories in serial form with deadlines every month. He did some outlining, but really he just sat down and set sail. He was the master of understanding instinctively where plot lines will go, and I’d love to be able to pick his brain regarding that. Third? Probably Steven King, just because I like his sense of humor, and I think he’d make it a good time. I also think he’s a writing genius.

JRR:  Those are good choices.  What made you want to base Beneath a Scarlet Sky on Pino Lella’s story? How did his story affect you personally?

January of 2006 was a terrible time for me. My brother and best friend had drunk himself to death the prior June. My mother had drunk herself into brain damage. I’d written a book no one liked, was involved in a lingering business dispute, and on the verge of personal bankruptcy.

That day I realized darkly that my insurance policies were more valuable than my life and potential. During a snowstorm, I seriously considered driving into a bridge abutment on an interstate freeway near my home, but I was saved by thoughts of my wife and sons. I was as shaken as I’ve ever been, and in a Costco parking lot of all places I prayed for a story with meaning, a story I could get lost in.

Believe it or not, that very night at a dinner party in Bozeman, Montana, I heard the first snippets of Pino Lella’s tale. Larry Minkoff, a fellow writer, told me he’d heard a little about Pino and his story but wasn’t going to pursue it. Minkoff introduced me to Bob Dehlendorf. In the late 1990s, Dehlendorf was on an extended vacation in Italy when he met Pino by chance. Dehlendorf was a few years younger, but they bonded. After several days, Dehlendorf asked Pino about his experiences during the war. Pino had never told anyone, but felt like it was time, and so he started telling Dehlendorf about Father Re and the escapes and the Nazi general he’d driven for. Dehlendorf was stunned. How had the story never been told?

That was my reaction as well, and that was enough to get me on a plane to Italy in late March 2006. Over the course of those first three weeks, as Pino opened up more and more, I experienced his deep pain and marveled at his ability to go on after being so depressed and traumatized—he, too, had contemplated suicide. I had to comfort him repeatedly during the course of his long recounting, and I was moved again and again.

During that time, and apart from the details of his war story, Pino taught me about life and his values and the many, many joys he’d been blessed with after the trauma of World War II Italy. It made me realize how much I’d put in jeopardy even thinking about killing myself. I had a great, loving wife and two remarkable sons. I had an amazing story to tell. I had a new and dear friend. I was more than lucky. Leaving Italy that first time, I felt blessed to be alive. I went home a different person, grateful for every moment, no matter how flawed, and determined to honor and tell Pino’s story to as many people as possible. I just never thought it would take this long.

JRR:   Wow, thank you for sharing all this.  Everything seems meant to happen at a certain time for reasons we don’t know and that was the time for you and Pino to meet. What was it like to meet and interview Pino after all that time looking for him and thinking about his story?

I actually met Pino in person within six weeks of first hearing about his story. It was a remarkable experience, listening to an old man summoning up a past he had long ago buried away in the deep recesses of his soul. As I said, I was deeply moved by what he’d gone through at such an unfathomably young age and was inspired by his determination to go on despite the tragic things that had happened to him.

JRR:  What do you want readers to get out of reading Beneath a Scarlet Sky?

I think people deserve to know about Pino Lella and the war in northern Italy. Pino was and is a thoroughly remarkable soul, and I believe his story is restorative. I hope readers will be moved not only his indomitable spirit, but by his belief in the miracle of every moment and in the promise of a better tomorrow, even when that belief is not deserved.

**Special thanks to Mark Sullivan for your time with this interview and for sharing these experiences!**

Contact Mark:
Twitter @MarkSullianBks

Purchase Link for Amazon US:


Blog Tour: A Conversation with Jason Hershey

Today is my stop for the blog tour for The Chosen Path by Jason Hershey.  Today I will be interviewing him!

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

I am originally from Phoenix, Arizona and currently reside in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. I graduated from Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas where I received my BS in Elementary Education while playing football. I have been a teacher for the last 15 years. I am currently a lead teacher at Color Our Rainbow Academy where I work with k-2nd grade children.

 JRR:  Did you always want to write?

I have always wrote. In elementary school I was always writing poems and short stories. Then when I got out of college, I wrote 2 screenplays, a horror type one and a coming of age one. I have always tried to put myself into other people’s shoes and write and imagine how others would feel, speak and react in certain situations. One I can remember vividly was a poem from the point of view of a Vietnam Soldier who returns home and ostracized for being a soldier. It’s that empathy that I think allows me to write characters that people identify with and want to go on a journey with.

JRR:  That poem intrigues me!  What inspires you to write? 

I have stories that need to be told. I have this burning inside of me to captivate people and bring them with me on a journey, to help them forget about their everyday life and just get lost in the story. I went so long without writing in college and high school, that now I need to write. It’s as natural as breathing and eating.

JRR:  Let’s hope you continue to get those stories out there! Now where did the idea of To Die To Live come from?  Is Theo based on a particular person? You are a teacher so did your students influence your writing?

The story was something that has always been in me. Theo is based on a culmination of people I grew up with, myself and some fiction thrown in. I purposely left his features and what he looks like vague. I want the reader to envision him as they want, to personalize the story and relate to his situation. My students didn’t influence it as much as it was reflective of things I experienced and lived growing up.

JRR:  The Chosen Path is the sequel to To Die To Live. What made you want to continue Theo’s story? Will there be another in the series?

The short answer is that Theo still has stories to tell. I never set out to create a certain amount of books. Instead, I just wanted to write a book that people liked. The fact that they continue through book two and eventually to three, is a testament to Theo and his life and the fact that so many people really connect with him. As for the last part of your question, yes there will be another. I put the first chapter in the back of The Chosen Path. It’s tentatively titled “The Purpose of Life” and will find Theo still trying to figure out his next move while also having to deal with life.

JRR:  Such a tease including that first chapter at the end of The Chosen Path!  I love that with books, but also hate it to as it makes you want the next book right now!  Lol  

What age range are your books intended for?  They are YA (Young Adult) which can appeal to a wide range of ages.

I envision junior high through high school students reading this, but I have had 40 year olds tell me they connected with him and his story made them cry. I think the story itself is universal and is relatable to just about anyone.

JRR:  What was your favorite book as a child, and now as an adult?

My all-time favorite book is still The Giver. I have read it at least a dozen times and it never loses its effect on me. As I’ve gotten older I’ve also come to love the other books in the series, but nothing quite beats the original.

JRR:  I have actually never read The Giver. I guess I should!  Who was your favorite author as a child and who is your favorite author as an adult? 

Lois Lowry without a doubt when I was little. Now as an adult, I love James Patterson’s “Alex Cross” series.

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

Not really. I love the library, so I always try to find time to explore and check out the new books. I have started to read The Walking Dead graphic novels as well as more biographies and history books.

JRR:  My husband and I are huge Walking Dead fans! In fact I gave him the first compendium of The Walking Dead as a wedding present. I keep meaning to pick it up to begin it.  There are just too many books and never enough time! 

Now, what’s the best advice you have ever received?

My dad told me a long time ago, that once work becomes a job, it was time to leave. I am grateful that I get to do two things that I absolutely love to do, teach and write. The fact that I get paid for them just makes it all the more sweeter. Too many people punch a time clock and absolutely hate what they’re doing. I have made a promise to myself to never allow that to happen to me.

 JRR:  You are actually very lucky to love what you do. If I could find some way to do this blog full time and get paid then I would be in Heaven! 

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

Roberto Clemente, Pat Tillman, and Martin Luther King Jr. They all gave more of themselves than they asked for in return and strived to make the world better for those less fortunate and looked down upon. The fact that Roberto Clemente died delivering supplies to earthquake victims speaks highly of his character and empathy for the world. Everyone knows MLK and his accomplishments. Pat Tillman is a modern day Clemente. He left the NFL and joined the military after 9/11 and said it was his duty to serve. He ended up getting killed by friendly fire in battle, but the fact that I’m an Arizona State fan and he’s one of the best to ever play there makes his story a bit more personal for me.

JRR: Good answers and reasons!  If you could go anywhere in the world without worrying about time or money, where would it be?

I really want to work with more at risk youth, so if time and money were no object, I’d start a bunch of social programs and organizations to give inner city kids more choices and access to more positive male role models. I was fortunate that my parents were able to be involved in my life growing up and to lead me down the right path, but growing up in South Phoenix, there was lots of opportunity to fall off track. Sports and my parent’s constant parenting allowed me to be successful.

 JRR:  Are you working on anything else currently or ‘taking a break’ with this new release?

I am working on a children’s book at the moment, Harry the Hippo, as well as the third book in the Theo series.

JRR:  Is there anything else you would like to tell us? 

I am so honored and appreciative of the support and feedback from readers and bloggers alike. I hope that everyone who reads the books is able to take something personal from it and that it touches a nerve of some sort. Thank you very much for this amazing opportunity.

Thank you for your time Jason!  It was great to get to know you!

Buy To Die To Live Now!

Thelonious “Theo” Mitchell is a down on his luck teenager, wandering aimlessly through life with no desire or focus. When tragedy strikes, he is taken in by his aunt and uncle. Thrown into a new school with unfamiliar surroundings, he befriends the class “troublemaker”. After yet another tragedy, will Theo fall victim to life, or use the tragedy as a spark and motivation to embrace all that life has to offer?

Pre-order The Chosen Path(Out May 3rd)

From the author of the emotional “To Die To Live”, comes the next riveting chapter of one man’s search to find his purpose in life.

Thelonious “Theo” Mitchell, now a college freshman, is eager to put the death of his friend, Draven, behind him. Devoting himself to school and sports, he meets Sabrinna, a beautiful co-ed who sweeps him off his feet. Untrusting and hidden behind a wall, he allows himself to fall for her.

Will he find his soulmate and someone who can restore his faith and trust in people? Or will she leave him reeling and continuing his search for a purpose in life?
Contact Jason:

Twitter @therealjhershey
Amazon UK