Our first Get to Know our Bella Authors Better post was a huge hit, so we decided to keep things going with a brand new set of authors. Get to know Jessie Chandler, Kate Gavin, Lise MacTague, Riley Scott and Carolyn Elizabeth a little better!
What book would you recommend every person read?
Jessie Chandler: Since I’m totally not a literary reader and my niche is mystery, my recommend comes from that category. Well, I’m going to give two recommends, cause I can! I have to, I MUST call out JM Redmann‘s Intersection of Law and Desire. It’s the third book in the Micky Knight series, and one of the very first books featuring a lesbian protagonist I’d ever read. This book, people! The emotion, the craft, the storytelling. It moved me in ways I can’t explain, and in other ways I certainly can. Redmann’s series is why I decided to mess around with writing myself. My other choice would be Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger. It’s one of the biggest mindf***s I’ve ever read. Talk about twist after twist and twist on top of that. So freaking good. There’s also a follow up called Sliver of Truth, and while not as amazing as the first, it’s excellent. Whew.
Kate Gavin: The book that made me fall in love with reading was If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson. It’s beautiful and simple yet also deals with tough subjects.
Lise MacTague: The answer to this one changes depending on what I’ve read recently and loved. At the moment, I’m recommending Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. It’s spectral sci-fi with lesbian necromancers in a Gothic space mansion. If you think that sounds amazing (and it is!), check it out now!!! After I finished reading it, I sat there staring into space for a few minutes, then I turned to my wife and made her take it so she could start reading it ASAP.
Riley Scott: I’ve never been great at narrowing down the list to just one book, and even now, I’m certain I’ll leave something vitally important off the list. That said, one of the most recent books to really stick with me was Small Great Thingsby Jodi Picoult (I love most of her books, though, and she’s been one of the biggest influences on my writing style). Among the thousands of books I’ve fallen in love with over the years, some notable titles includeWuthering Heights (Emily Bronte), On Writing (Stephen King), and Same Sex in the City(Lauren Blitzer and Lauren Levin). I recommend each of these titles, as well as all of the incredible titles by my fellow Bella authors, and I’d recommend every person read whatever captivates their interest and inspires them to get swept away in a story.
Carolyn Elizabeth: Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. A nearly thousand page book about 12th century cathedral building that you don’t want to put down has to be experienced to be believed.
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
JC: Sleep. I love to sleep. And eat. New foods. Different foods. But not the kind of food they made people eat on the Amazing Race! I love to paint and have gotten into mixed media abstracts in the last few years. Art uses such a different part of my brain. I love it!
KG: Play lots and lots of video games. I NEED to finish my WIP so I can play The Last of Us Part II in February!
LM: I do lots of things when I’m not writing!! I spend time with my family, I have a full-time job as a librarian, I build video game props and armor, I record a bi-weekly podcast (shoutout to Andi Marquette and the Lez Geek Out!cast), I read, I play video games, I play Dungeons & Dragons, and sometimes I get a moment to sit still with my thoughts. Just kidding, I hardly ever do the last one!
RS: I enjoy kayaking, spending days at the beach, playing with my four dogs, and spending time with my wife. I also love crafting unique creations in the kitchen, playing and watching sports, and making all-natural soaps and lotions. As an avid learner, a strong passion of mine is research. I’ll lose an entire day looking up, reading and researching about random topics of interest for really no reason other than to learn all I can about it. It mainly all gets filed into the “useless knowledge” folder of my brain, but maybe it’ll help in trivia or in adding to a story one of these days. Whatever I’m doing, music is always playing in the background, and as often as possible, I’m experiencing the thrill of live music at concerts and small performances.
CE: I’m assuming you don’t mean my full-time job, but for those interested I work in tissue banking for cancer research. I have two boys age 4 and 8 and nearly all of my non-work time is spent with them. When I’m not picking up after them, making snacks, and cleaning up little boy pee from the bathroom floor, we’re playing mini golf, soccer, basketball or hitting the movies or arcade. Our latest fun thing is making up ninja courses on the playground.
I am the goalkeeper for a local women’s rec league soccer team. We won the championship this summer. My wife and I are starting ballroom/Latin dance lessons for fun and to actually spend time together just the two of us.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
JC: Typically I’d say writer’s block isn’t usually a problem, but then apparently I opened my mouth about this topic one too many times and the gods of writing zapped me. I’m an outliner, and I most often cruise right along, happily pecking away on my laptop until the book is done. That wasssss the case. Then came the most recent book I turned in to Bella, a romantic-ish, suspense-ish manuscript called Quest for Redemption. I don’t know if it was because I moved, because the content of the novel shifted from relatively straightforward to something entire more complex and darker than I’d expected, or because of the complete shakeup of my usual writing routine, but my tried and true process evolved into something straight out of a Tim Burton gothic horror flick. I’m hoping when I start on the sixth book in my Shay O’Hanlon Caper Series, Shanghai Murder, (very, very soon) the writing will return to its regularly scheduled output. So I guess I deal with writer’s block by crossing my fingers!
KG: Take a break. Whether it’s an hour, a day, or a week. I give myself time to do something else and to hash out the story with my fiance or friends.
LM: Therapy, mostly. The answer might sound a little flip, but I actually started going to therapy when I was dealing with some major writer’s block after the 2016 election. It helped a lot, and I’ve written another novel since then and started two more. It’s not that I don’t occasionally still feel that block hanging around, but it helps to have someone to talk it out with and to get to the root of what I’m really hung up on. I deal with anxiety, and sometimes that’s what gets in the way of my writing. Sometimes, I’m just stuck on a bit of the story, but it’s great to have a way to differentiate the sources of the block.
RS: When writer’s block strikes, I often find that it’s not all writing that escapes me–just the writing I’m setting out to complete. To combat this, I’ll pull out my journal and a pen and handwrite some poetry or a journal entry. That usually gets me out of the block, so I can focus on my work in progress. If that fails, I go outside and get some fresh air for a bit of fresh perspective. On the days when the words simply refuse to come, I’ve learned to accept that I’m human and give myself a break.
CE: I have multiple WIP going on all the time. Some will never see the light of day, some I am still hopeful about and a few are in the queue for publication. If one isn’t working I will move on to another or, god forbid, start something new entirely. As yet I have not committed myself to a publication date for a manuscript that wasn’t finished so I’ve never had a hard deadline where writer’s block comes into play and causes problems. When a book is as finished as I’m going get it (or when I get sick of it) I send it off for consideration.
What makes you happiest in this world?
JC: Aside from my wife Betty, the rest of my crazy family, and our three cats and three dogs, I MUST TRAVEL. I have a terrible case of wanderlust. I’m hardwired with a need to experience other people, places, foods, cultures. It’s an itch that won’t go away. I blame it all on my mom. She spent much of her life traveling, both in the US and abroad. Now, on the flip side, if you want to talk about the little pleasures in life, my happy place is eating a meal all by myself and reading at the same time. No interruptions, no chat I have to keep up with. Just me, my book, and some great grub! OH! Wait! One more thing. My pillow. I love my pillow. If the house was burning down my mom used to say I’d save my pillow first, the dog, and then her. Priorities, right?
KG: Simple nights at home with my fiancée and my dog. Nothing can beat that.
LM: What makes me the happiest in the world is when I can get my wife to laugh. She has the most open and honest laugh you’ve ever heard, and she makes no attempt to rein it in. It makes me incredibly happy to hear it, and I’m not above acting like a complete and total goof to surprise it out of her
RS: As a perfectionist, in years past, I would have said success makes me the happiest. As I’ve evolved into who I am today, I’d say it’s the simplicity and beauty in life, including: my wife’s smile, the love of my dogs, a day spent in the sun, getting lost in a good book, a strong cup of coffee, a sunset on the water, the smell of sandalwood, a flavorful whiskey, writing in my journal, working toward a dream with pure passion, a song that touches my soul, and working to better the world for future generations.
CE: Traveling with my family. Well, not the actual travelling part–that’s hell. Seeing new places and going on adventures together and seeing the world again, and for the first time, with my children.
“Oh, but all the wonders I have seen, I will see a second time
From inside of the ages through your eyes” – Brandi Carlile “Evangeline”
Halloween is coming soon, do you like to be scared?
JC: Love it! Bring on the Haunted Houses! Just don’t bring on any snakes. They make me scream like a banshee!
KG: I don’t mind it and tend to find it funny. I don’t like if it turns into embarrassment though. That’s not fun.
LM: I’m not the easiest person to frighten. When I was in art school, I took a couple of years of 3D Illustration courses where I learned how to make a lot of practical effects. As a result, most horror movies and haunted houses don’t scare me; I’ve seen what’s behind the curtain. And that’s good, because I don’t particularly enjoy being scared. What does scare me are ghost stories. I don’t believe in ghosts, until the lights go out, and then it’s just more fuel for my insomnia.
RS: Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and I enjoy a good scare. While I’m a bit more of a chicken than my wife is, with her by my side, I’ll happily enjoy haunted houses, horror films, and all the spooks and scares of the holiday.
CE: It depends on the genre of scary. I would enjoy a good family friendly haunted hayride or house. A well preformed Ghost Tour. In movies, I like a classic or comedic horror like Halloween or Scream and sci-fi films like Aliens are great.
Hard Nopes are religious horror, any torture genre, or any live haunted house where the scare is about the performers getting in your personal space.
Who do you admire most?
JC: Oh man, that’s a tough one. I admire so many people, both in my life and out in the big, wide world. Today I’ll go with my cousin Alyssa, the pastor/social justice warrior, fighting for women, the downtrodden, and anyone in need. Her mom, Susan, my cousin-sister, who stands for democracy, equality, and the environment in rural, northwestern Wisconsin. Not at all an easy task. These two are a total inspiration and I love them so much.
KG: Authors. Really any type of artist. Being new with only one book under my belt, I’ve realized how fear-inducing it is to put yourself and your words out there. But I keep trying to tell myself that people need art. They need books, movies, music, video games, etc. to inspire them and to let them escape the world around them.
LM: That list is long and varied, and changes depending on what I’m into at the moment. I admire Matthew Mercer, the amazing DM on Critical Role. I can only aspire to be a fraction as accomplished at DMing as he is. I admire Kameron Hurley, for her unflinching and sometimes gruesome prose, and her expansive sci-fi world-building. Felicia Day is an inspiration to me in her pursuit of fulfillment through creativity. She has explored so many newly-emerging media. Brittney and Bill Doran at Punished Props are inspirations for the cosplay props they build. I’ve learned so much from them; they were my main go-tos for tutorial videos when I first started making my own props.
RS: It might sound like I’m trying to score points at home, but I’d have to go with my wife. She’s the kindest person I’ve ever met and is always looking for ways to help make the world a better place. Before I met her, I thought I was involved in giving back to my community and helping others. However, I had no idea how low I’d set the bar and how much of an impact one person can really make. Every day since I’ve met her, she’s challenged me to do more and to be more–all without explicitly speaking that challenge. Her actions simply inspire the change and create a ripple effect of love. Her kindness, her world view, and her need to make a difference encourage me every day, as does her hardworking nature. She’s never afraid to roll up her sleeves and put in the work to achieve anything we dream. I admire her gentleness, her tenacity, and her selflessness above all. She is an incredible human, and I am exceedingly grateful for the ways she enriches my life and the lives of others.
CE: On the world stage, at the moment, Greta Thunberg. She’s amazing. In my small corner of the world, my older brother, Rob. I think he is the coolest and my sons couldn’t have a better role model in their uncle. We should hang out more often.