Monday, April 30, 2012

Janelle Lee : The Author Interview

Welcome Janelle Lee from Rebel Ink Press!

Tell us a little about yourself:
I was born in Sydney, Australia and now live in Gol Gol, NSW with my husband, two dogs, an aviary of birds and a cat that I am not suppose to know that we have.

How long  have you been writing?
I can't remember a time when I didn't write. I used to write plays and make my siblings play the parts. They still remind me of this to this day and still complain about it.

What/ who  inspires you?
My grandmother used to bake and while she kneaded dough and rolled out pastry she used to tell me stories. She made up poetry on the spot. I think creatively I take after her but I never seemed to get her talent for cooking.

What is  your creative process?
My writings are character driven so I spend most of the process sorting out who they are, where they have been and more importantly where they are going. I worked on the premise of 'What If'. 

Do you struggle with anything in particular as a writer?
Finding more hours in the day. Being the Writer in Residence at the local school takes up most of my day and the rest or the time I write. I make sure I write everyday.

How do you prepare to write? What do you do to get in the right frame of mind? 
I don't have any set preparation although I just need to be left alone. It sounds terribly anti social but my family and friends are used to me. They are either very understanding or afraid that they will end up dead in one of my books.

What genre of writing would you love to try?
I would love to have a go at historical romance/suspense. Everything thing I write is            contemporary so it would make a nice change and I love researching.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up writing? If so, what changed your mind?
I came close once when 40,000 words turned into 250,000 asterisks and I had autosave on... I was gutted until the news came on that Japan had been hit by an earthquake followed by a tsunami suffice to say my 'loss' was put into perspective.

What's your favorite genre to read? Any favorite authors you care to share?
 I love thrillers. I have read everything Jeffrey Archer has written.

What advice would you give someone with a creative dream that doesn't necessarily fall in line with their normal lives?            
Find time to write, you can't be a writer without writing. 

What's your guilty pleasure?
It's rather boring I am afraid... I love eating vegemite and cheese on weetbix. It's an Australian thing. It sounds disgusting but it is delicious... Well I think so. 

What are you totally obsessed with right now?
I am currently working on a story about a little girl who went missing on the day World War 2 ended. I have been researching and interviewing for the last four years. It has been the most fascinating journey with the family to try and find the truth.  

Find more out about Janelle on and follow her on twitter @janellelee747  

Be sure to check out her novels and short stories :

Hell Has a Harbour View was released in Dec 2011.
Aisha was released April 2012.
Uncovered is set to release May 2012           
Saving Tim is set to release August 2012

Thanks so much to Janelle for chatting with me!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Time I (Almost) Quit

By Autumn of 2009 I had finished my first draft of The Low Notes. I had a half-completed manuscript for one other story and countless other seedlings for stories that maybe had a few sentences written. I had finished my writing class and a fire had been lit under me to get something published. I had a goal in mind. I would edit and submit by January of 2010.

A handful of people had read portions of The Low Notes and had given me good feedback so I felt hopeful that with some hard editing I could make my story into something sell-able. I decided to take a few weeks off from writing, give myself time to separate from my story for a little while before going back with semi fresh eyes for my first edit.

In early December of 2009 I found out the salon I was working in would close by the end of the year. I was out of a job. That month is a total blur to me now. I spent every day scrambling to find a new salon to go to, all while continuing to book my clients out for the new year. Even though I had no idea where I would be sending them. To say I was a mess would be putting it lightly. I can say that it was the worst feeling I had ever had and the most anxious time I've ever experienced.

The roller-coaster ride of the end of 2009 had so many twists and turns I couldn't see straight. But in the end, I had two days to make a snap decision of what salon I would be moving to. Two days to basically say 'yes' to anyone who would take me. Luckily, I found a place to work and started to figure out how to run my own business. Unfortunately, it was only a few weeks in when I realized that I had made the wrong decision.

I was so utterly unhappy that I was seriously starting to question whether or not I even wanted to be doing hair anymore. Suddenly, after about 5 months, I realized I still loved my job, I just hated where I was working. I could see my clients starting to slip away and my passion was starting to fizzle. Taking a leap of faith, I reached out to the salon where I am now happily employed and the rest is history.

So 2010 didn't start out great and though things started to settle down by the summer there was one thing that my depressed state had helped me successfully avoid. Editing. Hell, I hadn't opened a single Word Document in months! My head was too cluttered. I went from being down in the dumps to living on cloud nine when I got my own salon studio and jumped right into business-lady mode.

My nights were consumed with bookkeeping and promotional ideas, social networking and building a business plan for my salon. Writing was always sitting in the back of my mind but writing wasn't paying the bills.

The daydreams never stopped. Ideas never ceased to creep up on me. I'd find myself listening to the play list I had made for myself when originally writing The Low Notes and thinking about all of the things that needed changing. My brain was aching to get back to it but I was still stuck. I had taken too much time away from it and I didn't know how to break back in.

I suppose you could call it writer's block but I didn't label it that at the time. On days when I was beating myself up I was calling it self-sabotage. Other days I just ignored the thought altogether and tried to focus on the things I kept telling myself were more important.

By 2011 I had looked over The Low Notes a very small handful of times and each time I saw it I was hit with the weight of how much work I thought truly needed to be done. It seemed impossible. Some days it didn't even seem worth a try. I had tried to work on other things hoping maybe my creative juices flowing on another project would give me a jolt back into The Low Notes. It didn't.

Amazingly, by Autumn 2011 I was making breakthroughs with myself on a weekly basis. Figuring out why I was being so negative about the project and why I was keeping myself away from it, choosing housework over doing the thing I love most. And one day I told myself that enough was enough. I was going to finish that book come hell or high water!

At first it was damn hard. Painfully hard! And then, it was flowing like it was 2008 all over again. I was eating, sleeping, breathing Kevin and Nina. They were taking over my brain and it felt better than ever. Looking at it now, with my release date on a countdown and a contract signed, I wonder if I would've had as good of a story to tell if I had done my second pass back in 2010 like I wanted to.

Maybe I needed to be laid off, to have six months at a crappy job to reignite my passion for beauty, and a chance at running my own business to give me the confidence I needed to pick myself back up to the keys. Either way, I can't look at that time as lost, and I can't look at it like not meeting a deadline. I look at it like the path that needed to be traveled to give me the work I have today. I needed that time and experience, the sadness and even the contemplation of quitting my life's work to get me to be what I am today. An author.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's It About?

In case you haven't heard, this is what it's all about!

When a chance meeting between high school teacher Kevin Reed and singer Nina Jordan ignites an instant spark, they must decide if it's more important to follow your heart or follow the rules.
After caring for his dying father, Kevin Reed, returns to his hometown of Wexley Falls, bereaved, unemployed and exhausted at the thought of starting a new life. After a failed blind date, Kevin meets young singer Nina Jordan who takes his breath away with the sound of her voice. The connection is instantaneous and mutual on their first date, but both are crestfallen when they discover days later, to their horror, Nina is Kevin's student at the local high school.
Deciphering between notions of love and lust, fate and coincidence, Kevin and Nina find themselves unable to turn their backs on what they can't deny is a once in a lifetime feeling. Told from both perspectives, The Low Notes explores a love that feels right even though it seems wrong.

Stay tuned for more news and updates related to the release of The Low Notes. I can't be certain just yet but it might be sooner than you think.... :D

Monday, April 23, 2012

Home Is Where The Laptop Is

I'm not incredibly picky about where I write. I've written in hair salons and high school classrooms, coffee shops and airports. I really just need my laptop or sometimes if the mood strikes I will even write with a pen and paper.

When I need to write, I need to write and I can't let a little thing like setting mess me up. However there is something to be said about having a great place to write. Think cozy, good lighting, outlets and supplies. Peace and quiet and comfortable seating are a plus too.

A few months ago I made over our guest room into my own little writing nook. It has immensely helped me to become a more productive writer as well as a more diligent one. It might have something to do with the fact that I really want to be in this room and there's really only one thing to do in it. Typey typey!

The Nook

All I have in there is a desk with some supplies, a comfy chair with my laptop table, a crazy awesome lamp and my bulletin board. It's terribly simple and yet it is the most peaceful room in my house. The rain outside the window you see doesn't hurt either when it comes to getting in the mood to write. Nothing like hearing the tapping of rain on a window when you're writing some serious romance!

Survival Kit

 A candle for ambiance. A half-hourglass for...well for fun. I found it at Kohl's and thought it was neat. A jar of peppermints to curb my candy cravings. And my collection of writing reference books and helpers. I love baby name books and of course my bible, The Character Naming Sourcebook. Some of my other favorites in there are The Daily Writer and Take Ten for Writers, both have great creative prompts to get the juices flowing when I'm stuck.

Yes I own a cell phone but I prefer paper calendars
The bulletin board is the most helpful thing in the room! I have my calendar which tells me which blogs are going up on what days and I also have blog ideas scattered up there for when I go blank. In the past I've also put up motivational words or pictures that inspired me.

Lastly, elsewhere in my home I must mention a few other things that get me through when it comes to writing. I am thankful to have this....

Because sometimes you gotta wake up!
 And I'm thankful for this....

Because sometimes you gotta chill out!

When the urge to write comes on I'll do it anywhere I have to but I can't tell you how much I enjoy having this little sanctuary in my home.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review : Tears in the Rubble

I'm continuing the celebration this week for Britni Hill's release of Tears in the Rubble. I had the chance to read the book and I'm happy to give my review today!

After losing touch for a few formative years, childhood friends Layla and Taylor reconnect one night towards the end of high school. The seemingly innocent meeting leads them to rekindle not only a friendship they didn't realize they had been missing, but it also fuels a budding romance.

Layla is the type of girl who has it all planned out. She's determined to get out of her small town and make a life for herself elsewhere. But things with Taylor have love edging it's way into her thoughts. Should she give up her dream she's had for what seems like forever for the possibility that she and Taylor could be her new forever? Or should she leave behind everything the small town has to offer, including the boy she's in love with?

How will her choice change the future for the two of them and when will Taylor have a say?

This book is engaging and strikes a very realistic chord. It will remind you of those first love feelings and the everlasting love feelings too. I predict you'll fall in love with Taylor as I did. And you might just fall in love with Britni Hill as an author. I love this story not only because I have seen it come from it's infancy all the way to the amazing work that it is today but also because it's about something a lot of us have been through. It's about the mistakes we make along the way and the people who wind up being there regardless. It also makes you question whether or not to trust the idea of the 'best laid plans'.

Be sure to get your ebook copy of Tears in the Rubble here, here, here or here! Now available in paperback through Amazon as well! Check out Britni's blog and her Facebook page for news and updates.

Congratulations again to Britni on her debut novel, I look forward to seeing more from her :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Release Day Celebration : Britni Hill

Congratulations to my very dear friend on the release of her debut novel!
Here's a little bit about the book and a link to where you can get your copy.

Layla Swanson grew up in the lazy, small town of Hollow Oaks and can’t wait to get out.  She has big dreams and big plans in the big city.  Layla has worked hard and her senior year is nearly at its end.  She can’t wait to go away to college.  And she’s one step closer to getting what she wants. Layla isn’t letting anyone get in her way. 

Taylor Scott may not be your typical country boy, but he doesn’t mind Hollow Oaks.  His dreams may not be marked on paper and set in stone, but it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have them. 

A chance meeting between the two childhood friends may have Layla second guessing her longtime plan. Their rekindled friendship is leading them down a path neither one could have foreseen.  But with Layla leaving for college, many challenges face them, especially when she so stubbornly sticks to her solo plan.

Is Taylor’s love enough to convince Layla to let him in?  Or when everything falls apart, will Layla run away?   
Here is where you can get your copy of the e-book today!!

Barnes & Noble
All Romance Ebooks

Monday, April 16, 2012

Britni Hill : The Author Interview

It feels as though I've known Britni Hill my entire life but it was actually 2006 when we first met. We were in cosmetology school together and a conversation about Aerosmith was all we needed to spark a friendship. I've never had a friend that I've had so much in common with and got along with so well despite that. We often joke that we share a brain. Maybe we don't exactly share thoughts but we certainly share similar dreams and it's been so wonderful to have a partner and friend on the journey towards being published. Before either of us set out to be published we were constantly sharing our writing with one another and encouraging each other to grow as writers. It's been a blessing that I can't even describe. She is an amazing person and a wonderful author. I'm so proud to say she is not only my colleague but my friend.

It's six years later and I am celebrating Britni Hill this week and the release of her first novel Tears in the Rubble from Rebel Ink Press! See what she has to say in this interview.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m going to be 30 soon…scary.  I grew up in Indiana in the country even though I’m by no means a country girl.  I’ve been a hair stylist for the last 7 years and I absolutely love it.  I can’t imagine doing anything else.  Well, except writing.  I live with my boyfriend, and can’t wait to buy a house and move out of our too small apartment.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember.  I guess I would have to say it’s been pretty consistent since 5th or 6th grade.  I know I was always making up stories before then but I actually remember sitting down and writing then.  I’d climb into somewhere hidden outside with my Mickey Mouse pad of paper and write poems.  I did stop for a while, life can get hectic, but I’m back.

What/ who inspires you?

Life inspires me.  Everything around me gives me ideas and helps to shape my stories.  Movies, music, art, the sun…everything around me.  My friends and my family play a big part.  My best friend and boyfriend are my biggest supporters and they shape how I feel about things every day.  What can I say I’m like a sponge I soak up everything around me.

What is your creative process?

Process.  Hmmm….I don’t know that there’s much of a process.  This is a part of my life where I tend to be pretty random.  I usually don’t ever set out to start a new story.  I end up with characters talking to me or I will see a scene so vividly that I just have to write it out.  After that my characters usually take over.

What do you struggle with as a writer?

I like to over punctuate in the wrong places for one.  I also tend to see the things I’m writing so when I go back through and read then I have all this extra wording that I don’t need.  Blurbs are not my thing at all; they are like torture for me.  But I have to say coming up with a title for Tears in the Rubble was the hardest thing in that process.  

How do you balance writing with your day-to-day career?

There will always be time for writing in my life.  I try to set aside time to sit down every day.  Sometimes that doesn’t always work out, but I’m lucky I work decent hours.  And I have a very understanding boyfriend that loves to play video games.

How do you prepare to write? What do you do to get in the right frame of mind?

I get my favorite soft, purple blanket and settle in wherever I feel comfortable.  I usually have to read over what I wrote last.  Then I turn on some music, mood appropriate of course, and get to work.

What genre of writing would you love to try?

Horror.  A lot of stuff I write has a darker feel to it and I’ve written some YA, but I would love to give horror a try.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Just one?  I’m not great with favorites.  I always end up with list of top fives.  I can never narrow it down much more than that.  I love Edgar Allen Poe.  I don’t really know why I just love the way he paints a story.  And Shakespeare, his works are timeless.

What advice would you give someone with a creative dream that doesn't necessarily fall in line with their normal lives?

Go for it!  This journey has taught me that no dream is too big or too hard to reach if you just try.  And if you don’t succeed exactly the way you want to it doesn’t matter as long as you tried your hardest.  You just have to make time to go for what you want.  Putting yourself out there and letting people know something different about you can be scary, but it can also be eye opening.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Shoes and Taylor Swift.  I love shoes and quite often have too many pairs.  As for Taylor Swift what can I say she brings out the 17 year old girl in me.

What are you totally obsessed with right now?

The show Greek.  I turned it on one day because I wanted some background noise while I was writing.  I usually pick a movie or show I think will be stupid if I’m not into music.  Well, I chose Greek and next thing I know I’m hooked.  I’ve now watched 5 seasons in about 3 weeks.  Shhh….dont’ tell anyone.

Many thanks to Britni for letting me interview her. Follow Britni on her blog and on Facebook. Be sure to get your copy of Tears in the Rubble tomorrow on, Bookstrand or ARe. Check back tomorrow for links!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

For The Love of Boy Bands

Rounding out music week is a little confession of mine....

I certainly have always had eclectic taste in music. I like a bit of everything from classic rock to rap. But since I was a little girl there has been one constant. Through every era of my life I have sought out and thoroughly enjoyed the boy band.

It started with my sister. She's nine years older than me so when I was a preschooler she was a teen. I wanted so badly to be like her and that desire had me sneaking into her closet during the day while she was at school so I could see all of her tiger beat posters. I also took the opportunity to listen to her cassette tapes.
Sweet hair!

This was the late 80's/early 90's so the biggest stand out was the group The New Kids On The Block. I was too young to see them as idols or sex symbols but I loved the music and dancing. Whenever I hear "The Right Stuff" to this day I have to break out the leg swings.

As I grew up I found my all time favorite (Like seriously, to the grave. To hell with the haters.)Hanson. If I had had the chance to see them in concert in their heyday I would've been the girl with tears streaming down her face ranting about how Taylor clearly made eye contact! I did get to see them once shortly after I graduated high school and it was magical to say the least.
Yeah, they grew up.

In high school it was Nsync who I was equally as obsessed with. I saw them three times in concert and owned every piece of Nsync related merchandise you can fathom. I sometimes get a little sick to my stomach when I think about how much money I might have right now if I hadn't spend it on all those dolls, posters, magazines, board games and CD singles. Isn't it sad that kids today will never know what it's like to buy a hard copy of a single!?
Damn, that still gets me!

As I went to college, I kept my love for boy bands on the down low so I could maintain some street cred. But I would still squeal with joy and crank up the radio any time "Bye Bye Bye" came on.

I reached adulthood and figured I would love boy bands with a kind of sweet nostalgic fondness. That was until I heard The Jonas Brothers. Let the love continue!! Just the other day I heard the new group One Direction and I couldn't help but fall for their sugary sound.
Be honest, if you were 15 you'd be dying right now.

It's always the same and that's why I'll always love it. A group of 3 to 5 (sometimes more, New Edition) guys in their teens or twenties (unless it's a reunion tour y'all!) with songs about falling in love, breaking up, dancing, who cares. Maybe they're brothers, maybe they are friends, maybe they were put together by a creepy record executive who smokes a cigar, we don't know. Maybe I love the harmony or the formula of it all. You know, there's the sweet one and the funny one and the bad boy....

For anyone who says boy bands are a joke, I want you to have a look at Ricky Martin's career or maybe Justin Timberlake's. Hell, I want you to take a real hard look at The Beatles and accept the fact that they are a boy band. They might be the greatest band of all time but they are also a part of the coolest club in town...the boy bands.

So let's hear it for some of my faves. Hanson, Nsync, NKOTB, Backstreet Boys, LFO, O-Town, Jonas Brothers, One Direction, New Edition, 98 Degrees, Bel Biv Devoe, The Monkees, The Jackson 5, The Beatles, The Bay City Rollers, Boyz II Men, Duran Duran, Menudo and because I'm all about the fiction 2ge+her.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Spring Into Romance

Be sure to stop by Rebel Reasoning throughout the day to read all of the Rebel stories of their first kiss including mine. There's also a chance to win $25 worth of Rebel reading! Check it out, today only!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday : Songs I'm Obsessed with Right Now

Keeping with the theme of music for this week here are ten songs I can't get enough of right now. These aren't my favorites of all time but for the past few weeks (or days for some) I've been all about these ten.

10. Stronger by Kelly Clarkson

Kelly is one bad-ass chick and this song is a great anthem!

9. We Are Young by Fun.

Yes, me and every teenager. I can't help it this song is catchy and cool.

8. My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion

Okay I'm not actually obsessed with this song right now but I am obsessed with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. The movie has been re-released in theaters and every time I see a commercial with this song I get even more excited! Can't wait to go see the movie on the actual date of the sinking, April 15th.

7. Wig Wam Bam by Sweet

I love some glam rock in my life! This song makes my obsession list every few months. I hear it and remember how much I adore it.

6. Save Your Love For Me by Nancy Wilson

As I wait for the release of The Low Notes I'm also waiting to hear if I will be allowed to use lyrics to this song in my novel. Whenever I hear this song I'm transported into my novel and back to all the times I listened to this song as I wrote it. Fingers crossed everyone!

5. What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction

Check back here on Friday to read a post about why I've always loved boy bands. These guys are no exception. Plus, they killed it on SNL.

4. Love You Like A Love Song by Selena Gomez

Yeah I sometimes have the musical taste of a 15 year old, so what?! This song is so catchy and Selena is just so darn cute.

3. Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

My friend told me about this song and then it blew up on the radio. I'm just like everybody else, completely taken with this strong song.

2. Basket Case by Sara Bareilles

I've been listening to this one in my car almost every day and it relates to a new work in progress I have writing. It's inspiring me each time I hear it.

1. Hotel California by The Eagles

This might just be my favorite song of all time but I'm really obsessed with it right now for the same reason as number 2. This song plays a big role in one of my new projects I'm writing so when I hear it I get totally excited for writing my story. Plus, this song just plain rules!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Drew William : The Artist Interview

I'm starting a new experiment here on Kate Roth Writes. Themed weeks. This week's theme is music!

It's no secret that I am inspired by music in my writing. I'm also inspired by people like me. People who live regular lives and have normal jobs but pursue creative endeavors with drive and passion. So, that being said I introduce you to Drew William. He's a 26 year old Indiana native, songwriter and hip-hop artist who is also earning his MBA at Vanderbilt University. I've known him for quite a few years now and even got to play one of his first songs at my wedding! He was nice enough to grant me an interview and I am thrilled to share our conversation with you.

So much of what he has to say, I can relate to as a fellow creative type. His candor and answers may change the way you look at hip-hop music and the people of my generation. Not only is he incredibly well spoken and grounded, he is also a very talented musician. Be sure to check out the links to his music at the end of the interview.
Have you always been interested in music? When did you start pursuing it more seriously? Did something cause you to want to delve deeper into music despite your other career plans?

As a listener, yes, I’ve always been very interested in music. Some of my first memories are from when I was 5 or 6 years old listening to my parents’ Monkees records with them. I also remember calling in to a local radio station late at night with my brother and requesting “Downtown” by Petula Clark. My favorite song for the longest time as a child was “Two Faces” by Lou Christie. Which is hilarious if you know that record. I guess the point is, I’ve always had a pretty unexpected and eclectic taste in music and it’s always been distinct in my memory, not because my parents were big music fans or I was exposed to it all of the time, but just because I feel like there’s some kind of natural fit there that exists between me and music.

Another part of the equation is that my brother played in bands while I was growing up. He’s definitely been a huge influence on me and my musical taste in the way we’ve been able to share music and communicate why we like something. That’s ultimately, why I started to pursue music more seriously. Because he was so good at producing sounds and more so, sounds that I enjoyed, that I really felt compelled to find a way to fit what he was doing lyrically.

I sang in choir toward the end of elementary school and played clarinet in middle school. Also hilarious. But, it’s funny that those experiences have really equipped me well for rapping in the way that I know how music is read and understand tempo and rhythm, unlike rappers who just pick it up. Rapping just happened. I can carry a tune, but I’ve never had a voice melodically to set myself apart in singing. Rapping made sense because hip-hop was my generation’s rock and roll in a lot of ways. I grew up on the Def Jam era in music that served as the perfect form of rebellion for me and my friends. From there, I quickly found that I was just better at it than most and kept getting better.

The reason that I began to delve more into it is kind of two-fold. One, like most artists, writing is an outlet for me. It helps me to put my mind in a space that I wouldn’t otherwise go and kind of explore ideas and concepts in my head that stretch beyond everyday thought. Second, however, is that I live for the feedback I get from people who listen to my music. Not in the sense that I thrive off of compliments and people telling me that I’m good at what I do, but in hearing people tell me how they interpret different lyrics and the enjoyment they get from hearing certain songs, etc.There’s really no greater feeling than knowing that you provoked thought. I’ve always said that if our music positively impacted one person, then it would all be worth it. Those are things that keep me going and have made me more involved in the craft.

How do you balance your school life/studies and working on your music?

It’s not easy. Going to graduate business school has been more academically rigorous than I could have imagined. In many ways, it’s more difficult to pursue music than when I worked full-time professionally just from a pure time commitment standpoint. It’s not just class, but it’s out of class work, it’s meetings, it’s networking events, and on and on. It can be difficult to have a life, let alone a hobby. So, since my brother and I both have pretty similar demands in terms of school as he’s a PhD student at UCLA, we’ve utilized holiday breaks and the summer to get the bulk of our music done. I think it’s been good for us in that it gives you a way to recharge and find inspiration as it comes rather than forcing creativity.

I know your brother has been pretty involved in your music, what do your parents think?

I always say my brother is at least half of the operation. Not only because he produces every one of the instrumental tracks, but because those tracks and his ideas serve, in a lot of ways, as the source of inspiration for my writing. He may be the only person on this planet who understands my musical taste and what I’m trying to do as an artist.

My parents have always been supportive of what we do. I don’t know that they get it because it’s difficult for their generation to understand hip-hop. So their support is really more about them being very happy and proud that their sons are pursuing a creative endeavor and have something that they’re passionate about and believe in.

I’m very grateful that they kind of support it blindly and have shown that they’ll be proud of us regardless. The background on my phone is a picture of me performing in front of 300 or 400 people with a mic in my hand and my mom in the background smiling as she watches. I look at that every day as a reminder that she’s going to be proud of me and support me no matter what I do in life.

What/who inspires you?

First and foremost, it’s those listeners that I mentioned earlier and the feeling that they give me that no one or nothing else can. My brother is a huge influence, as I’ve said. And that extends beyond what he does musically. It’s really about the way that he’s shown me the way to attain my goals and how to want more for myself. It’s not difficult to end up in graduate business school when you grow up with someone whose intellect and aspirations are PhD-level. My parents inspire me not musically but by the way they’ve sacrificed over the years. There have been countless examples of them doing the right thing at their own expense. They’re the type of people who make you want to make the world a better place.

Artistically, I’m very inspired by Drake. He’s not only better than just about anyone else out there as a rapper, but he continues to try new things and really push music into a new space. He’s the most relatable artist to me in that he really represents much of what I do. Being vulnerable, having uncertainty about the future, acknowledging that we all have many different sides and emotions as human beings.

It’s so difficult to put yourself out there as an artist nowadays because it’s so easy to find out so much about you. There are few secrets. And no secrets when you’re a superstar. In fact, I love this line Drake has in the song “Lord Knows” when he says “…They takin greats from the past and compare us. I wonder if they’d ever survive in this era. In a time when it’s recreation to pull all your skeletons out the closet like Halloween decorations…” It takes an entirely different level of tolerance and discipline to remain grounded as a celebrity today.

Other sources of inspiration are my favorite R&B songwriters who really understand the intricacies of creating a song, beyond just piecing together lyrics. Those favorites are Miguel, The-Dream, and Rico Love. Ryan Leslie is a brilliant guy as well. Plays all of his own instruments, sings, raps, creates the whole body of work on his own. But I like him more because he actually graduated from Harvard and chose to pursue music instead of a traditional career. Another guy kind of like that is my brother and I’s favorite producer at the moment, Clams Casino. He really just started making beats while he was in college and got really good at it. Now he’s one of the best and does it for a living. So all of those guys inspire me, guys who value education but make sacrifices for their passion. That’s where I lie myself.

I often feel like non-creative people have a hard time understanding artists and their craft. Did you/ Do you ever struggle with people not taking you seriously? How do you overcome that?

Absolutely. I think that feeling is even intensified for me because I deal with so many stereotypes related to being a white person who raps. I think what makes it most difficult is that many people assume that if you’re doing something in the entertainment space, like making music, that you have these delusions of making it big and becoming a star. And that’s what you want. That’s what your goal is. When, in fact, I do it for completely the opposite reason. I do it because I enjoy it and it’s an outlet. I’ve never wanted to make any money from it. And one of my greatest fears is attaining fame, regardless of why. So, I struggle with that a lot in a just being subjected to people’s comments and dispositions towards it.

Most people don’t truly understand the vulnerability that accompanies creating something in the arts and then sharing it with people. That’s all I’ve really ever wanted from listeners is not for them to like my music, but to understand and be sensitive to the chance I’m taking on myself. That stuff takes its toll on you and really can work to temper your ambitions. One way I’ve dealt with it is by relying on people who I really trust and understand. My brother and some close friends have always kind of been the people to stand by me and tell me to keep going no matter what. The other way is by really just forcing myself into maintaining an unwavering self-belief in the face of tough circumstances. And with that, knowing that I stand to benefit much more as a human being by putting myself out there and taking chances than otherwise. I look at it in those terms a lot of times. What do I have to gain as a human being vs. what do I have to lose as an individual?

People might wonder why you would give your album away for free online. Explain why you did that.

It comes down to the cost/benefit of recouping costs and providing access. As I stated earlier, we’ve never been in this to make money. We did, however, have our album available for sale to start in order to both recoup the costs of recording the first album and fund future projects. We waited six months after release date to make a decision on what to do. I didn’t recoup the costs, but decided that it was much more important to build interest in and gain exposure for what we’re doing, especially in light of the fact that we’ve recorded some new material since the album. I want to remove any barriers that prevent potential listeners from hearing our music. So, we’re working to move into more channels and make everything more available. It’s still available for sale on iTunes, as well as for free download. This digital music movement is a fickle thing. We're learning, just as music execs still are today, what the best way to price and present our music is.

Name an artist or band that your fans might be surprised to hear you like (aka a guilty pleasure)

I’m usually pretty open about liking stuff people might find to be pretty embarrassing. It would definitely be something pop, however, because I’m a huge fan of pop music. Just yesterday, I heard the new Justin Bieber single “Boyfriend”. Not even as a listener, but as a writer and artist, I think that’s a super dope record.

The two more consistent ones that come to mind are Katy Perry and the Black Eyed Peas. What people don’t understand is that these pop music producers are truly some of the best musical minds in the world. The guy that’s behind all of the latest Katy Perry and Pink songs, and everything else on the radio is a guy named Dr. Luke. Phenomenal, phenomenal producer and writer but he’s not well-known amongst listeners.

There are a lot of really great records that are on the radio. And they deserve to be there. There are also a lot of really great records that don’t get radio play for whatever reason. But let’s not let these irrelevant factors dictate our tastes in music. In regard to the Bieber record, it’s well-written, with a bad ass track, and he sounds great on it. What are you so afraid of liking? Music isn’t made for certain people to like it. There may be a target audience, but it’s made for whoever gets enjoyment from it. That’s it.

What do you do to prepare yourself before writing? How do you get in the right head space?

Many times, I’m just driving and not thinking about music at all and an idea pops into my head. Then, it just kind of starts flowing and I’ll try to run with it that day and jot notes into my phone or come home and flesh the idea out in writing. What’s more important to me than anything is just realizing when I’m in that zone, then capitalizing on it. I’m very aware of not rushing and forcing ideas. I will say, however, that I always write standing up and pacing. And I always write either on a computer or on the iPhone, never pen and paper anymore.

What is your creative process? Do words or beats come first?

I have a huge advantage in that the man who creates all of my instrumentals is my brother. So it all usually begins with a phone conversation between us in which we throw out some ideas and roughly define the direction that we’re going to go in with the song musically and content-wise. Then, he’ll throw together a sample loop of the verse and hook. I take that and begin to develop the writing of the song. What the final concept is going to be and how I’m going to structure. Usually, as I start my process, we’re going back and forth deciding what needs to be done to the track and it’s developed further and further until I settle on specific lyrics and he’s settled on a final composition and we’re ready to record.

It’s kind of a parallel process that he and I take on simultaneously. Which is great because I think we both really feed off of each other’s ideas and it shows in the final product. I’m very particular about not writing anything until I hear the actual music. I’ve had full ideas that served as the basis for creating a song and then I’ll get the track from my brother and scrap the idea completely when I hear it.

What advice would you give to others who have a creative dream that maybe doesn't fall in line with their day-to-day careers?

I think what’s most important about putting your craft into perspective is to think about it in a gain frame rather than a loss frame. For me, I can look at what I do and question why I’m subjecting myself to the vulnerability and worry about guarding against colleagues knowing what I do. Look at the resources, in time and money, that I’m devoting to doing this. Or, I can say “Hey, I’m getting to perform impromptu in front of hundreds of people as a result of this. And that’s had an immense impact on my public speaking ability and confidence as an individual.” I’ve gotten to meet people and develop relationships, have conversations that I never would have had if I didn’t do this. It’s made my relationship with my brother that much tighter. I’m better at using criticism to improve and have developed creative ideas that have helped me to develop ideas in business. I think it’s easy for a lot of artists or creative people, no matter what their craft is, to judge their work on external criteria – reviews, how much money and fame you attain, etc. But when you focus on the intrinsic benefits that you get and how valuable those are, that helps you to make much better sense of it all and continue on undeterred.

Once again many thanks to Drew William!

Be sure to check out his music via these links:

Barometer for purchase on iTunes

Listen to and download each song from Barometer

Listen to and download new Drew William songs

Find Drew William on Facebook, Twitter and his blog

Also, coming summer 2012, a new place for all things Drew William

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Guest Author : Britni Hill - First Date With The Man I Love

First dates are always nerve-racking.  You never know what to expect.  Where to go?  What to do? A lot of first dates are pointless, never resulting in a second one.  But every now and then you have a first date that goes down in the books.  One that makes you fall in love, or start to anyway. 

My amazing boyfriend and I have been together for almost two years.  We live together and according to him we’re getting married when we’re 40.  Stay tuned to see how that works out.  I won’t tell you about the awkward way our first date came to be, but I will tell you about the date.

We had known each other for about eight years, friends of friends and all of that.  We’d see each other at the occasional party or out somewhere with the group.  I always thought he was cute (don’t tell him that).  Something sparked on New Year’s Eve and we started Facebook chatting randomly.  I invited him out for my birthday, which is in May, and we decided that we should hang out sometime.  After a week of non-stop texting and getting to know each other better we settled on dinner and a movie.  The usual.  We met at Cheeseburger in Paradise and the first date awkwardness ensued.  Starting with a do-we-hug, do-we-not-hug thing in the beginning.  He ordered a beer.  I didn’t. I ordered the messiest sandwich possible and I couldn’t figure out how to eat it.  Conversation was sparse at first.  Each of us trying to feel the other out.  I hate to admit it but both of us are kind of shy.  I couldn’t help but notice how often he was blushing when I would ask him questions.  It was so cute.  After a while we hit a flow and he had me laughing constantly.  Next was the movie,which he had already bought tickets for but dinner was much quicker than he had anticipated so we exchanged them to see a different movie.  We still had a bit of time so we sat in the lobby of the theater just talking.  It was so easy just to be with him.  We had the same sense of humor, we liked the same music and movies. 

I’ll be honest when we had planned the date I wasn’t sure how I really felt about it.  I had been through a horrible break up followed by months of secrets coming out about that relationship.  I went on a few horrible first dates in between.  So I was weary to say the least.  After the movie we chatted a bit in the parking lot then he hugged me and got in his car.  No sleazy invitations, no attempted kiss.  It was very refreshing.  After all, he’d assured me multiple times he was a nice guy.

Before I even made it out of the parking lot my phone chimed and it was a text from him.  Asking if I’d had fun and if I’d like to do it again.  That was the beginning of the end for me.  I’d never been made to feel more special in a simple way.  Now you know how I began to fall in love.
This goes a bit past our first date but it’s one of my favorite memories from before things got so routine.  It’s something that helps me remember how he feels about me.  It was our fourth date and we went to dinner and ended up going with some friends to a bar to see a cover band.  We walked back to the car and I knew the whole time that he was going to kiss me.  I could feel it.  It took him twenty minutes and about five goodbyes before he actually did it and his face was flaming the entire time.  It feels good to know you make someone nervous. 

Thanks to Britni for guest writing. Her first novel Tears in the Rubble will be released April 17th from Rebel Ink Press. She's also been my BFF for the past 6 years! You can find out more about her and read my guest blog on this same topic on her blog

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday : Perks of a Beach Vacation

I'm headed home tonight so I'll stop with the Florida bragging tomorrow. But I had to give you all my top ten reasons why I love this place and why I'll always be a fan of the beach vacation!

10. Wildlife
Being from the Midwest I’m used to cows and Cardinals. So coming to Florida gives me the opportunity to see everything from pelicans to little lizards and even the occasional dolphin jumping around out in the ocean.

9.  Shell Hunting
Sea shells are so beautiful and there is something very relaxing about focusing on the sand to try and find the best ones.

8. Being on “vacation” time
Time doesn’t matter when you have no obligations. And that’s freaking amazing! It doesn’t matter if you wake up at 11 or eat dinner at 9. Don’t even think about wearing a watch, it won’t matter.

7. Sunsets
If you’ve watched the sun sinking into the ocean, you need no other explanation.

6. Vitamin D
I’m not one to try and catch a tan (always wear your SPF 30 or more people!), but there is no denying that soaking up a few rays really can enhance your mood.

5. Day drinking
Honestly I don’t need to be on vacation to do this (just off work) but it’s certainly nice to have a cocktail on the sand and toast to great weather.

4. Reading
Vacation is the perfect excuse to catch up on your reading list!

3. Sand
It’s soft, it’s warm and it has magical exfoliating powers. Not everyone is a fan of the stuff but I sure am.

2. Sounds of the sea
 Nothing relaxes me more than the sound of crashing waves. The constant in and out of the tide is such a soothing noise.

1.  People watching

Whether I’m sitting on the beach, by the pool, at a local haunt or even in the airport I love to watch the people. It’s the perfect excuse to make up a fantasy world using strangers as inspiration.

Thanks Florida, see you next time!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Let Your Surroundings Inspire You

I’m writing this from sunny Siesta Key Florida where the white sand beaches are currently overrun by teenagers on Spring Break. My parents are what some people call “snow birds”; happily retired Midwesterners who spend the chilly months on the beach. Of course, as their daughter, I try to take advantage of this at least once a year!
Though this is a short trip I’m taking every opportunity to relax, write and continue to bask in the glow of the news of my publishing contract.
But the other thing that’s happening and it happens every time I’m near the beach. Every time I’m in new or different surroundings actually. I’m inspired. I’m taking in the scenery and letting ideas bounce around my head. The same thing happened last year when my husband and I were in London and basically every vacation I’ve ever been on. New places bring me new ideas and give me a realistic view of what different locations are really like. Of course, making it easier to write them.
So if you find yourself always writing about your hometown, the next time you leave home take notes. I can guarantee you (though it may not be named) Siesta Key will make an appearance in a future novel. I might just be writing it right now.