Fiction Fest: A peek behind the mask of ‘What is Hidden’ author, Lauren Skidmore

Fiction Fest: A peek behind the mask of ‘What is Hidden’ author, Lauren Skidmore

Lauren SkidmoreDebut author Lauren Skidmore’s “What is Hidden” hit the market early last month and promptly earned praise from a national publication.

“Crisp dialogue and quick pacing propel the story, a riff on Cinderalla, to an action-filled ending,” wrote Publishers Weekly.

The book has also earned an overall rating of 4.13 stars on Goodreads.

Skidmore recently took some time to field a few questions in the Fiction Fest hot seat, so let’s see what she had to say.

What inspired the creation of “What is Hidden”?

I think Venetian masks are beautiful and imagined a scenario where people could wear them all the time. Then I crossed that with the masquerade balls of fairy tales and the mystery and wonder of Cinderella and it just kept growing from there.

Are the characters in your book based on real-life people?

Not really. There are parts of different personalities I pulled from different people, but I couldn’t link any character to any one person.

Who would you cast as the main characters in the “What is Hidden” movie?What is Hidden 2x3 WEB

Based on looks alone (and some time traveling): Nicole Munoz as Evie, Darren Criss as Aiden, young Aishwarya Rai as Arianna, and Jun Matsumoto as Joch.

What’s your writing routine like?

I like to write a brief outline and think about how I want everything to play out in advance, mulling it over in my mind for a long time, then binge-write for hours on the weekend or in the middle of the night. I’ve never been very good at sticking to a schedule. I also like to make playlists for whatever I’m working on, so when I listen to it my brain switches to writing mode.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Write the book you want to read. I don’t remember where I heard it anymore, but I always figured that if I like it, chances are other people will, too.

What’s your current work in progress?

I’m working on the sequel to “What is Hidden.” Can’t say too much about it yet, but I’m excited to be working on it!

What do you like most about being a published author?

Being published is a goal I’ve had for a very, very long time, and it feels fantastic to have finally accomplished that goal. I also love talking to people who’ve read and enjoyed my work.

What do you like least?

I’m not very good at talking about myself. I like talking about my work with readers as one fan to another, but I never really know what to say when they want to talk about me.

What’s the most joy writing has brought you?

It allows me to go all sorts of wonderful places and experience things I’d never be able to in real life. It can also be a great stress reliever.

What advice would you like to offer aspiring novelists?

Never, ever give up. Keep learning, keep writing, and keep moving forward.

Fiction Fest: Getting to know Hannah Clark, author of ‘Uncovering Cobbogoth’

Fiction Fest: Getting to know Hannah Clark, author of ‘Uncovering Cobbogoth’
‘Uncovering Cobbogoth’ author Hannah L. Clark.

You read several excerpts from her book right here last month, but now it’s time to get to know a little about the author behind “Uncovering Cobbogoth,” which was released on May 13.

Hannah Clark recently took the time to field questions in the Fiction Fest hot seat. Let’s dive right into that interview, shall we?

When did you know your writing was good enough to be published?

I don’t know if an author ever knows when they’re good enough to be published, they just know when they’re done. When I self-published Cobbogoth back in 2011, it was my way of saying, “Okay, I’ve given you everything I’ve got, and now we just have to see if it’s enough.” I knew I wanted it to be better, but at the time, I just didn’t know how to make it better. I’d been working on this baby for six years already, so putting it on the shelf really wasn’t an option for me; I needed to be done with it.

When I submitted to Cedar Fort two years later, however, I had no intention of revising, but once we got accepted, I couldn’t pass up the chance to change the things that had always bugged me about it. That’s when I was surprised to find how much I’d learned since self-publishing. Because of those revisions, I think Uncovering Cobbogoth–while not perfect–is finally the story I always wanted to tell.  That’s both thanks to experience and the fantastic editors at Cedar Fort!

What motivates you most to write?

It makes me happy. Truly. Writing is one of the hardest, most grueling kinds of work I’ve ever done, but it’s also like an anti-depressant for me. I’m not my best self if I don’t do at least a little writing every day. I think, aside from being an emotional release for me, it’s also because I’ve been writing a little every day since I was 10 years old. It’s just kind of a habit for me.

What’s the most joy writing has brought to you?

‘Uncovering Cobbogoth’ illustrator Rebekah Shakespear. Also Hannah Clark’s sister.

As I said above, writing in and of itself is very joyful for me, but I think 1) being able to work with my sister Bekah (the illustrator) and seeing how it has brought other members of my family joy, and brought us closer together–because of  the positive energy in something like this–has been incredibly rewarding. 2) having my little boy come into my office at night, climb onto my lap, and point to my Cobbogoth map on my wall while asking me to tell him the next part of the story is probably the best experience EVER. And 3) I also kind of love seeing my husband get excited about the story, and then watching him enthusiastically act out suggestions for a certain scene in the book. It’s pretty much adorable.

What’s your writing routine like?

Well, it changes with my family’s schedule. They are my first priority, so during school, I write from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. every day while my boy is in school. During the summer time, I just write whenever I can get a chance. And during holiday time, I try not to write at all.

If you could have a literary do-over, what would it be?

You know, every mistake and failure I’ve had during this process, I’ve learned SO much from, so I don’t regret anything. But if I could, I would go back and not ask a former friend to edit my manuscript. For reasons I have yet to understand fully, that cost me her friendship, and it kind of broke my heart for a while. But even still, I learned some incredibly valuable lessons from that as well.

Who would play the main characters in “Cobbogoth: The Movie”?

I really like Anna Sophia Robb. She’s lovely, and she played a really smart alien in “Race to Witch Mountain,” so I think she’d do Norah’s peculiarity really well.

What role, if any, does music play in your writing process?

Music plays a huge role in my writing process. I don’t listen to music when I’m writing–I can’t concentrate that way–but I do listen to it a lot all of the rest of the time. I also sing and play the guitar, so when I’m stumped on a story issue, I’ll just step away from the computer and go fiddle around on my guitar for a while until I figure it out. Making music relaxes and rejuvenates me.

What song has the most plays on your iPod?

Good question. I think it might be “King and the Lionheart” by Of Monsters and Men. But I don’t know if any single song has the most plays; I can definitely tell you which album has the most plays, though. Mumford and Sons’ album “Babel.”  I love folksy music with literary references.

Uncovering Cobbogoth 2x3 WEBSince we’re on the topic of music, who would score the Cobbogoth motion picture?

Oooo…that’s tough. I think it would probably have be Radiohead for all of the Boston scenes–my husband is from Boston and listened to them all of the time when I first met him back there, so they just remind me of Boston–and Of Monsters and Men for all of the Iceland and fantasy scenes. They are Icelandic and have this seriously cool fantasy sound that I listened to a lot while revising “Uncovering Cobbogoth.”

In the spirit of social media, which is a priceless tool in today’s book biz, what 140-character or less piece of advice would you offer to aspiring novelists? 

No matter what challenges stand in your way, if becoming an author is your dream, learn to work really hard, and then never, EVER give up.

(Ed. Note: The last answer came in at 138 characters.)

Fiction Fest: Q&A with Brock Booher, author of ‘Healing Stone’

Fiction Fest: Q&A with Brock Booher, author of ‘Healing Stone’


brockBrock Booher makes a living flying commercial airliners, but that’s not all that he does professionally. His debut novel, “Healing Stone,” was released in April and is a paranormal story set in 1950s Kentucky.

Booher recently took some time to field questions in our Fiction Fest hot seat. Take it away, Brock!

What inspired the creation of “Healing Stone”?

'Healing Stone' by Brock Booher
‘Healing Stone’ by Brock Booher


The nugget for the story came from a short story that I wrote at a writing seminar with Orson Scott Card in 2009, but the inspiration came from the stories my parents told me about growing up in Cumberland County, Kentucky. Add some research of my own, and some old-fashioned imagination, and you have the inspiration of a novel. During the writing process I pulled from all the tools in my toolbox, and a few subconscious ones to bring the story to life.

Why a paranormal, racially charged tale and not one about, say, a commercial airline pilot who moonlights as a secret agent?

Because airline pilots a really boring. (laughs)

Well, I don’t mind pulling from personal experiences, and “Healing Stone” does that, but I didn’t want to write a “Mary Sue” novel (a novel with an idealistic protagonist that is secretly a wish-fulfillment for the author). However, my wife loves your suggestion. Perhaps…

Cedar Fort will publish a book later this year about drones that wreak air travel chaos. Given the fact that you’re a commercial pilot, can we expect a novel along these lines from you in the future?

The trouble with writing what you know is that it is too easy to find the plot holes. Because aviation is a field with which I am very familiar, it is harder for me to come up with believable plots. It is harder for me to exaggerate and twist the truth like a fiction writer needs to do in order to please readers. I am afraid that any story I write with aviation as the centerpiece might be boring.

Who would you want to see play the main characters in the motion picture version of “Healing Stone”?

Chris Brochu as Stone; Timothy Olyphant as Leck; Tommy Lee Jones as Billy Malony; Annette Benning as Ada; Shailene Woodley as Ruby; Ed Gathegi as Samuel; Forrest Whitaker as Otis; Marjuan Canady as Wonnie; Laverne Cox as Patsy Ann; Vince Vaughan as Cortis Russel; Jesse Plemons as Jed Mock.

Which writers have had the most impact on your writing style?

That is hard to say since I have only written one novel and my “style” is very undetermined, but I love Jesse Stuart, John Steinbeck, and of course have been taught by Orson Scott Card. I am still discovering my voice.

What’s your writing routine like?

I am a disciplined person and I try and fit 10 hours of writing into each week. I find time to write at home when I can and on the road while I am stuck in a hotel room. As for a writing routine, I like to listen to classical music to drown out distractions. I also have to turn off email and force myself not to check social media every 15 minutes. I carry a notebook with me all the time. You never know when an idea will come to you.

What’s the most joy writing has given you?

I wrote a short story titled “Stone: An Easter Story” (nothing to do with the novel) and even though it has no commercial potential, I love sharing it with people. My goal as a writer is to entertain and inspire you.

What one message to you hope readers take from reading “Healing Stone”?

We all have unique gifts. How we use those gifts is up to us.

What’s your current work in progress?

I just finished a manuscript about a street orphan in Peru that gets caught up in an organ-smuggling organization.

What advice would you like to offer aspiring novelists?

Figure out why you are writing. Then once you have your reason, write, write, write. Submit. Then write some more. Take an occasional class or seminar about writing. Write some more. Never forget why you are writing.


Fiction Fest: Getting to know ‘Fractured Truth’ author, Rachel McClellan

Fiction Fest: Getting to know ‘Fractured Truth’ author, Rachel McClellan

rachel mcclellanReleased in April, Rachel McClellan’s “Fractured Truth” brings to a close the critically acclaimed Fractured Light series.

As is our tradition, we like to give our previous month’s authors a little extra love by grilling them in our Fiction Fest hot seat, a process to which McClellan is no stranger.

Without further ado, let’s see what we can learn about McClellan from the mastermind behind the books.

Are you happy with the way the Fractured Light series concluded?

I am. I left it slightly open ended because Llona’s life is really just beginning. She finally learned to control the darkness inside her and also realized what she wants from life.

In a previous Fiction Fest interview, you mentioned Dean Koontz was one of your favorite authors. Which of his books creeped you out the most?

My favorite books of his are the Odd Thomas series. Odd was such a charming and funny character, yet the book was full of creepiness. A great combination.

What’s next for your writing endeavors?

I’m hoping to have a book released by the end of this year titled “Unleashed.” I’m also in the middle of editing a YA dystopian titled “The Original.”

Fractured-Truth_2x3What’s the most difficult part of writing for you?

Balancing my writing time with my family, especially in the beginning. It took me a couple of years to find the happy balance where my family’s needs were being met as well as my desires to create new worlds.

If you didn’t write, how would you get all the creativity that’s inside of you out?

I would become a party planner. I love hanging out with people and centering these events around themes.

What do you like most about being a published author?

The sense of accomplishment. It really boosted my much-needed confidence.

What do you like least about being a published author?

There’s a lot of marketing you must do yourself. It takes time away from writing.

Which genre most intimidates you to take on?

Realistic fiction scares me. I live in realistic, and, believe me, it would be much better with a super power or two. And possibly a good looking vampire. No sparkles please.

What about Rachel McClellan would surprise people?

Three quick facts, all true:

1. I was once pushed out of an airplane (luckily I was wearing a parachute).

2. The first boy I kissed is currently in jail for murder.

3. I was once detained for being a suspected communist spy at the age of 15.

Which song in your iTunes library has the most plays?

“Sail” by Awolnation

Fiction Fest: 10 questions with Jennifer Ann Holt, author of ‘Discovering Peace’

Fiction Fest: 10 questions with Jennifer Ann Holt, author of ‘Discovering Peace’


Jennifer Ann Holt released her second novel, “Discovering Peace,” last month. The book is a story about mistakes, healing, and moving forward.

Book synopsis:
Placing her baby girl for adoption isn’t the mistake Ally is running away from, but everyone else seems to think it is. As Ally tries to move forward in her life, her past keeps pulling her back, and she wonders if she will ever find true love again. Only holding onto hope can help Ally find the peace she’s seeking.

Holt is no stranger to the adoption process, having adopted two children while battling infertility and a difficult pregnancy that resulted in her youngest son being born three months prematurely.

We’re grateful to Jennifer for taking a few minutes to field questions in the Fiction Fest hot seat.

Discovering-Peace-2x3Is “Discovering Peace” a sequel to “Delivering Hope”?

Yes, although people are telling me that both can be read as stand alone titles, as well.

What role has your personal experience with adoption and infertility played in these books?

I think my personal experience has made the emotions much more realistic. I wanted the story to be very true to life, so I dug into many of my own feelings to help the story mirror reality very closely.

What is your current work in progress?

I have a couple of things I’m working on…a Christmas novella and a general fiction novel for the national market.

What is your writing routine like?

I squeeze in writing whenever I can. I have three children who are in elementary school, and they are my first priority. I usually make time to write while they are at school.

What do you like most about being a published author?

I like that my stories are able to be enjoyed by many people. It’s great to get a note from a reader telling how one of my books helped them through some of their own struggles.

What’s the most joy writing has brought you?Delivering-Hope_2x3

For me, the most joy has come through getting my words down on paper. I had a story in my mind that I was very passionate about telling, and it was great watching it come to life on the page.

Which authors had the most influence on your writing style? 

I love the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen. They really influence my writing, and I have to work hard to make my style more modern.

Who would play the main characters in the motion picture version of “Discovering Peace”?

Hmm…for Olivia, probably Keri Russell, and for Allison…maybe Emma Watson.

What’s your sure-fire method for battling writer’s block? 

Take a break and read something fun.

What advice would you like to offer to aspiring novelists?

Write about something you know and are passionate about. Even if it’s complete fantasy, you should know it inside and out and understand the characters (think J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter).