You love their books (or will, for our new writers) but who are the authors behind their beloved books? We asked authors Lara Hayes, Marie Castle, Melissa Price, Stacy Miller, and E.J. Cochrane seven questions so you could get to know them a little bit better.
What is your bio in a 100 words or less?
Stacy Lynn Miller (Bella debut author): Author, veteran, tech nerd, chocolate lover, and terrible golfer with a hole-in-one.
Lara Hayes: Lara is a smol Midwestern born gay, raised in Kentucky. She loves Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The Golden Girls, spreadsheets, commas, podcasts about murder, shows about murder, and listening to sad songs for neurotic people.
Marie Castle: Marie is the award-winning Mississippi-born author of the paranormal romance series, The Darkmirror. She likes good jokes, bad puns, and smart people. She has been known to chase rainbows and her own tail on occasion. Marie has been legally-blind since her late teens. She believes this has expanded her creativity while hampering her secret desires to become a roller derby diva and brain surgeon. She refuses to let physical limitations stop her from pursuing her dreams and encourages you to pursue yours but does warn against skating with scalpels in hand.
Melissa Price: Melissa has coined the term “Lesbianage” to describe her lesbian romantic spy thrillers. Her first two Lesbianage novels, Steel Eyes and Skin in the Game were published by Bella Books, as is her new release, Smile Number Seven—an age gap feel-good romance.
Formerly, Melissa was a Board Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician in private practice, where she worked with professional and top-ranked amateur athletes and maintained a family practice.
Her affinity for distance swimming suggests that mermaid-human hybrids might actually exist. A lifelong guitarist, Melissa is often found recording in her music studio.
E.J. Cochrane: E.J. is the author of the Matilda Smithwick mysteries Sleeping Dogs Lie and Double Dog Dare. Under her pen name, Blythe H. Warren, she’s the author of Lammy-and Goldie-finalist My Best Friend’s Girl and the Goldie-winning Bait and Switch. She’s a former college English teacher and aspiring beer snob, and she promises she’s hard at work on her next novel
What book made a huge impact on you as a young person?
Stacy Lynn Miller: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was the first book I got lost in and rooted for a character. Ponyboy did all the things I wasn’t allowed to. Besides making me think not every rule was meant to be followed, The Outsiders made this book-hater love reading, if only for a day.
Lara Hayes: My mother read to me before bed when I was growing up. I know that Sleeping Beauty was the first story I memorized, and I preferred Grimm’s Fairy Tales to Andersen’s. She also read a lot of poetry, mostly 19th century English poets like Byron, Shelley, Browning, and Christina Rossetti. It didn’t seem to matter whether or not I understood every word she read, I could find the rhythm, I could feel it. I think Edgar Allan Poe made quite an impact. His work was easier to follow, the language was more accessible while still being lyrical. I can remember the first time my mother read Annabel Lee from her enormous copy of Poe’s collected works. I remember the first time I read The Raven, and Alone. Prior to that, I didn’t realize that poems could tell stories. I didn’t know stories could have rhythm. Listening to those poems taught me that the written word didn’t have to sacrifice beauty in order to be understood.
Marie Castle: My Teacher Glows in the Dark and My Teacher Fried My Brains, both by Bruce Coville. Really the entire My Teacher is an Alien series. The first book is about a smart, shy kid who feels invisible to everyone in his life. While I never had an alien for a teacher…as far as I know…I did often feel like the odd kid out. Identifying with the main character helped me feel less lonely. The second book in the series is told from the perspective of the bully. It made me want to reevaluate people’s actions, look for deeper motives, and be more empathetic. The last book in the series, My Teacher Flunked the Planet, dealt with serious environmental issues and global hunger. These were deep, eye-opening subjects for a 4thgrader from a postage-stamped-size rural town in the Deep South. To this day I can’t bear the thought of anyone anywhere going hungry and am very invested in environmental issues.
Melissa Price: My earliest recollection of being completely invested in a book was at about the age of two with a story titled, The Outside Cat. I believe that story set me on a long journey of animal rescue. (I hated that this cat was stuck outside!) As for lesbian literature, I was living and studying in France when a friend gave me the book Orlando by Virginia Woolf. That was a game changer for me when I realized that lesbians actually existed in literature.
E.J. Cochrane: Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is the book that made me fall in love with reading (displacing previous favorite Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel).
What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
Stacy Miller: Golf. After a series of strokes, golf was the thing I missed the most and it ended up serving as my primary rehab. My group of gal pals, ranging in age from 53 to 83, tossed me in a golf cart the first day I could walk without a cane. I cheered them on from the steering wheel until I could swing a club of my own again.
Lara Hayes: When I’m not writing I’m usually cooking or playing with my dog Gum.
Marie Castle: Garden. I grew up on a farm and love nature. I particularly like useful plants that are not simply beautiful but serve some function like edibles, air-purifiers, food for pollinators, and medicinals. I love plant-swapping, which is exactly what it sounds like, and hope to soon acquire a few carnivorous plants. Seriously. *Cue Little Shop of Horrors soundtrack.*
Melissa Price: When I’m not writing, I’m often waiting at red lights on my way to the lap pool, jotting down notes for when I will be writing. When not jotting or swimming, I occupy my music studio like a squatter camping out.
E.J. Cochrane: I have an unnatural (some might say obsessive) love of running marathons, which offsets my great love of beer. I also watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer (except for the lackluster episodes “Amends” and “Forever”) so often I can pretty much quote all of the dialogue
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Stacy Miller: My dad taught me never to be the one to start a fight, but always be the one to end it.
Lara Hayes: This gem from Ira Glass, hands down: “Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take a while. It’s normal to take a while. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
Marie Castle: “Sometimes you have to laugh or you’ll cry.” Jeri, a friend of mine who was blinded at age 9, told me this a couple of months after I found out my eyesight wouldn’t return. Her advice was invaluable. I chose to turn the often frustrating and awkward learning experiences (like getting lost in Sears for an hour at Christmas-time because I couldn’t find my way out of housewares) into humorous tales. Every time I rubbed a stranger’s back because I mistook him for my grandfather, spilled a glass into my lap because I misjudged the distance, or was mistaken for a carjacker because I jumped into the wrong but similarly-colored vehicle parked two slots over from my ride, I decided not to stress. I knew I would laugh about it later, which meant it couldn’t be that bad…even if my flaming face and stammered apologies said otherwise. I’ve yet to be shot, kidnapped or flattened by an eighteen-wheeler, so I figure I’m doing okay and can spare some chuckles.
Melissa Price: While I’ve had many extraordinary people share meaningful advice with me throughout my life, perhaps the single most memorable piece of advice I’ve been given came from my dad when I was very little: “Throughout your life, whatever be your goal, keep your eye upon the donut, and not upon the hole.”
E.J. Cochrane: Writing is mostly revising, so don’t worry about the first draft being pretty.
What makes you happiest in this world?
Stacy Miller: When my daughter from the opposite coast calls me out of the blue just to say “I love you.”
Lara Hayes: Well, I don’t think I can pick just one so let me give you a couple. There is a mild form of elation that accompanies a particularly honest writing session. Maybe it’s not the most words you’ve ever written in a single sitting, maybe it’s not even figuring out an exciting new direction. Sometimes the best feeling is the excitement of saying precisely what you mean, and knowing you’ve got something real to offer your readers. Even if it’s only a paragraph. I also love talking to readers. I love it more than I ever could have imagined. In my personal life, it makes me happy to feed the people I love a good meal. To help them if they need help, celebrate with them, or listen to them. It makes me happy to know I’ve been a good daughter, sister, or friend.
Marie Castle: Creating something beautiful and unique as part of a group. I played the trumpet for seven years in school until it became impossible to read music. The most wondrous part was during concerts when, after months of practicing, every person, despite our vastly different personalities and life experiences, was in sync. We were different but the music was a unifier. We each had our part but came together to make something magical, something that couldn’t be recreated with technology or without each of us playing our individual pieces. I missed that experience for a long time. It’s still an amazing sensation to create individually, whether I’m drawing a picture or growing and shaping a plant, but I didn’t again feel that sense of bridging the gap and joining with others to make something uniquely ours until my first book was published. Yes, I’m the author, but each editor, proofer, cover artist, and so forth has their hand in molding the finished product. They’re all experts, practiced in their trades, and their different life experiences means each leaves a distinctive mark. When the book is done, I’m left with a sense of awe and satisfaction much akin to what I received from performing an inspired piece of music with a talented group of other musicians. I still miss making music, probably always will. But as with my concerts, eventually the music must always fade away. Yet the books we create continue on and, over the years, will continue to go home with new readers. Knowing this, knowing people will be touched, pleased, and hopefully inspired by our creations and dreams, leaves me extremely happy.
Melissa Price: I celebrate life with each breath, so for me, happiness is giving and receiving love, and experiencing deep peace and creativity. And there’s nothing more uniquely exciting to me than the sensation I experience during a two-mile open water swim in the Caribbean followed by a shared ocean sunset.
E.J. Cochrane: My cats Motor, Beatrix and Juniper and my pit bull Gonzo (even when they’re annoyed with me because I’m paying more attention to my laptop than them).
What’s one of your hidden talents?
Stacy Miller: I have a knack for finding the best deals, so I rarely pay full price for anything.
Lara Hayes: My uncanny ability to remember any actress who has ever played a queer character in a show or film.
Marie Castle: That’s hard. Social media makes hiding a talent difficult, but of my talents I think most people don’t know that I’m a mean yo-yoer. For realz. My mom can verify. Growing up, I broke quite a few irreplaceable knick-knacks while learning. As it turns out, yo-yos can fly hard and fast if the string breaks while you’re doing certain tricks. It is perhaps no coincidence that I don’t yo-yo as often now that I’m in my own home and must replace the broken glassware using my wallet.
Melissa Price: Hidden talents are just that…hidden. Two that I won’t regret revealing in the future are dancing and sculpting.
E.J. Cochrane: I’m pretty sure I could still do the ladder fall and the somersaulting-through-the-air-because-of-an-explosion thing I learned in stunt school twenty-five years ago. (Regrettably, I dropped out before learning how to properly be set on fire or struck by a car.)
What are your guilty pleasures?
Stacy Miller: Taking a hit straight from the chocolate whipped cream can (it’s so good), driving thirty miles for a Fosters Freeze chocolate soft serve ice cream cone, and binging Perry Mason and TJ Hooker episodes.
Lara Hayes: RuPaul’s Drag Race, dark chocolate, and spending money I don’t have (which could technically double as an answer to the hidden talents question).
Marie Castle: It’s hard to list only one, but I believe my partner would say my current and perhaps most guilty pleasure is keeping late nights. I love to stay up when it’s dark and quiet and everyone else is dreaming. Sometimes I write into the wee hours. Other times I’m reading, plotting some new project, or wondering what thoughts and dreams my lover and neighbors are sending out into the ether. The guilt comes later when I slip into bed and invariable awaken my partner, who is a light sleeper.
Melissa Price: I’ve gone beyond the “guilty pleasures” phase in life, and now simply refer to them as pleasures. Since I’d like to keep this “G”-rated, I’ll just cop to loving chocolate. Chocolate is my daily reward for still being alive. Oh yeah, and then there’s…chocolate.
E.J. Cochrane: I can’t resist the truly terrible movies I used to watch with my sister, Heidi—Just One of the Guys, My Chauffeur, Night of the Comet, Gotcha! and Red Dawn to name a few. And I will watch any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie ever made.