I first had the idea to write this book 15 years ago, but every time I sat down to write I froze. I knew what I wanted to say. I knew what the book was about. For years Party with a Plan® was a keynote presentation that I did on college campuses around the country. So why was I having so much trouble putting it on paper?
Then a good friend of mine, as I was talking about my frustration with not getting my work done, said, “Have you ever been checked out for ADD?” “What? ADD? Me?”
I looked up ADD on the web and I fit all the criteria. I showed a lot of the signs. So I made an appointment to see an ADD specialist for an assessment and lo and behold, on the continuum of mild to severe ADD, I was off the scale on the severe side. I started taking medication and three weeks later, I sat down to write and the first book poured out of me. Then the second, and the third.
The challenging part of writing non-fiction is that all of your information has to be accurate and factual. I had been quoting statistics for years, but now I had to know exactly where they could be found if I had to back them up.
Another aspect which is important for me is to be passionate about the topic. And on the topic of alcohol and other drug use, I am very passionate. I’ve watched too many people die or hurt themselves because of the misuse of alcohol or other drugs, including myself. I am an addict and alcoholic in long-term recovery (since 1984).
Somewhere during the middle stages of my recovery I remember making a comment that “no one ever taught me how to drink.” And I realized that nowhere in our society are we taught how to drink in a way that will keep us out of harm’s way. So I went on a quest. A quest to learn the formula that would help people learn how to drink. And more than “responsibly” or “moderately” which have no validity because they can be defined in so many different ways. I looked at the research and found tipping points between low-risk drinking and high-risk drinking. I found a way for people to identify if they might have a problem with alcohol and a way to reinforce for those who are making low-risk choices that they are doing something positive for themselves.
I know this is my life’s work. I know that everything I went through was for the purpose of writing this book and filling this hole that so many have fallen into.
For those of you writing non-fiction, all I can tell you as a new author is: check your facts, let the words come from your heart, and make sure you have fun along the way.
Randy Haveson knows addiction. As an alcoholic in long-term recovery (May, 1984), he has dedicated his life to helping others make more empowered choices in their lives. He is a 25 year veteran in the substance abuse field with extensive experience as a counselor, Director of Health & Alcohol Education at highly accredited universities, and speaker on over 100 campuses, speaking about harm reduction, self-esteem, leadership, and supporting students in recovery.
What genre do you write and why?
I write horror and general fiction for young adults, teens and children. I love sharing my personal experiences growing up with my sister in the South Bronx. These stories are part of my Bertha Series. My Faces Behind the Stones series is told from the point of view of the person behind the gravestone that has wronged someone else. The purpose is to teach teens lessons in life. The third genre I write in is non-fiction, which includes my books on Alzheimer’s and tips for caregivers.
Tell us about your latest book.
Hidden Truths and Lies is the fourth in my Faces Behind the Stones series. Each story is told from the point of view of the person who is deceased behind the gravestone and has either been wronged or someone did something to him or her. Each story in this series teaches a lesson the person behind the stone should have learned before committing crime, hurting someone else, or generally failing at life. We’re about to enter Golden Stone Cemetery, where these unfortunate people are buried so deep you can barely find their markers. Their crimes are so heinous and their deeds so cruel that family members buried them here because they want to forget they ever existed.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
The marketing methods I employ vary with each book. This is the first time I have decided to have a blog tour to help promote my title. It is really exciting and great to have so many authors, reviewers and bloggers take an interest in my work. I promote on the social media and send out review copies to reviewers upon request. I have given copies of the book to people in many restaurants that I frequent, neighbors and the staff of the local Starbucks who make my morning cappuccino.
What formats is the book available in?
The book is available in all digital forms and in print.
Who are your favourite authors?
My favorite authors are: Steve Berry, Shelley Shephard Gray, Lisa Unger, Jon Land and Harper Lee. These are just a few.
What advice do you have for other writers?
When I decided to write my first set of Bertha stories I was told by more seasoned authors to write about what you know. When I decided to write my mom’s story about her journey with Alzheimer’s I once again asked several other authors what their thoughts were on this subject. Writing about her journey is something that I know about and experienced. I find that this helped me get started. When completing your manuscript and having to decide the right publisher it is crucial to do your research on the company you have chosen to check out the complaints and the reviews. I would also suggest that you make sure your manuscript is properly formatted and edited and if you are going to send a query letter that you get someone experienced to guide you. When dealing with reviews do not get discouraged if some are not positive. As a reviewer I never pan books and if I find that a book would be rated less than three stars I will create a summary for the author and will not review it. I won’t post it on a site that requires a rating. That‘s just my way. What I might not feel is a great novel someone else might.
What's your favourite quote about writing/for writers?
Stay true to who you are. Believe in yourself
The best thing about being a writer is the fun of creating your stories, getting positive feedback and seeing you name in bold print on the front cover. Being a writer allows me to share my childhood experiences with other people and writing the Faces Stories a chance to teach teens and young adults some life lessons. The best part is you are in control of the plot, the storyline and the outcome.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
You can read my reviews on just reviews: https://tillie49.wordpress.com/ You can read my reviews on Facebook: Fran Lewis’s reviews. You can read more about me if you Google my name and on LinkedIn.
Who is you favourite character in your book and why?
Bertha is my favorite character because I am Bertha.
Why do you think readers are going to enjoy your book?
Young adults who have read my Bertha Series think that it is pretty cool that I wrote about real life incidents and fun times with my sister. I shared the fact that I was as a teen overweight and how difficult it was to lose the weight, which I did. I shared what happens when you are bullied and how you have to learn to fight back but in the right way in my Bertha Fights Back book. My Faces Books teach lessons to both young adults and adults hoping they learn from the mistakes of others.
How long did it take you to write your book?
Hidden Truths and Lies took about 6 months to write.
Who designed the cover?
My publisher Robin Surface is quite amazing. I gave her the specifics of what I wanted on the cover and sent her some samples and she did the rest.
Did you learn anything from writing your book that was unexpected?
I learned that I could create stories that remind me of the old Alfred Hitchcock shows that I watch today. I learned that it is really fun to try your hand at new things even if you are not sure how they might turn out. I learned that writing Hidden Truths and Lies would give me a chance to include two Science Fiction Stories and what did I not expect: The amazing outcome!
Where can a reader purchase your book?
You can purchase my book on Amazon, Smash words, Barnes and Noble
What are you doing to market the book?
The Blog Tour is first. Interviews on radio shows to promote the books. Promote it on my own radio show. Mailings, emails, sending out copies to anyone who wants to read and review it. Press releases and links to where to purchase using the Social Media.
Who inspires you?
Before my sister passed away she dared me to review my first book. I don’t cook and she dared me to review a cookbook. I took that dare and went with it. I reviewed a cookbook and the creator of the recipes and the book thought my review was original and quite humorous. After that it just snowballed and other authors asked that I read and reviewed their books. I am a reading and writing staff developer. Growing up my mom insisted that I read at least ten books a week and using index cards take notes on the characters and the plot. I had to include my thoughts about whether I liked or disliked the book too. She has always inspired me to read and create my own stories and my sister’s dare keeps me going even now. Knowing that I can capture the true meaning of an author’s work and help them spotlight it inspires me to continue for an infinite amount of years to come.
How do you research your books?
Writing the books on Alzheimer’s and caregiver tips I did quite a bit of research on the causes, stages, care giving. I contact Alzheimer’s, downloaded information for ADEAR and many other websites making sure that my information was accurate.
What is your work in progress? Tell us about it.
My work in progress is Faces 5, which will be a little different than the other four. Faces five will start with three stories told by three different people behind the stones but these will be based on real people and real life events.
What are your thoughts on self-publishing verses traditional publishing?
I have self-published my Bertha Series and was not pleased with the outcome the first time. I had all five books republished by another self-publisher. I found that being new in the field I did my research but obviously I did not realize that the editing would be poor and that I would be charged for corrections after they claimed that I signed off on the final galley. Needless to say that did not sit well with me and I made sure it was corrected. However, when the final books did come out and I reread the galley’s they had no errors yet the published ones did which is why I had them republished. My first three Faces books were traditionally published by a small publisher who created a great final copy but did nothing to help market the books or promote them. At this point I have not decided which way I will go with the next one.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
My sister inspired me to write about growing up in the South Bronx and my aunt, my mother’s sister concurred that that would be fun and exciting. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I had to retire early from teaching. My sister wanted to know if I was going to become a huge couch potato or do something with my life. Retiring was necessary because someone had to oversee my mom’s care. Becoming a couch potato definitely not!
Does your family support you in your writing career? How?
I am pretty much on my own. My nephew Jake did write one of the stories with me but I am not sure that he will write another one with school and homework. He thought it would be cool to write a baseball story and he did a great job.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reviewing and reading: Serpents in the Cold by Thomas O’Malley and Douglas Graham Purdy. I tend to read at least five books at one time. I am also reading and reviewing Ink and Bone: Lisa Unger, On the Run: Izai Amorim and will be starting Progeny by Tosca Lee and Hot Start by David Freed.
What books or authors have most influenced your life?
The books that have made the greatest impact on my life are: To Kill a Mockingbird, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, and Gone with the Wind. Presently the authors I love to read are: Jon Land, Allan Topol, Steve Berry, Terry Shames and Shelley Shepard Gray. I also love Brian Freeman and his Jonathan Stride character as well as anything written by Steve Martini.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I love to meditate. I love walking and going to outdoor parks. I love museums and enjoy art galleries and art shows. I love listening to classical music, opera, the three tenors and of course shopping. I really love a great flea market, tag sale and art shows.
Thank you so much for doing this interview. Fran
Some of the greatest writing can come out of personal experiences! Every summer I whisk off to an exotic land, whether it be to Russia, Morocco, Turkey, or Brazil. I've definitely had my share of experiences traveling the globe, some amazing, some terrifying! Si, I have climbed through ancient pyramids in Egypt and hiked the Great Wall of China (Good). But on the flip side, I have taken scary taxi rides in the middle of the night in Dubai and have also been detained and interrogated for seven hours by the Israeli Mossad (Bad).
I share all this as an example of some of the experiences I chose to draw from when it came to writing my YA novel, Sovereignty. While in Israel, my eyes were definitely opened, to say the least. I used a lot of my circumstances and run-ins with the Israeli government as juicy writing fodder. Now, I’m not saying Israel is a bad country- it happens to be my favorite of all the places I have traveled! I’m simply relaying that even scary times in life can make for excellent writing material.
Take that incredible hot air balloon ride and turn it into a short story. The hilarious white water rafting debacle where everyone was catapulted into the rapids? Use it in your next writing piece. Start a blog on your own travel! Keep a daily journal of interesting experiences for your next novel. Inspiration can come from the least expected places! J
With master's degrees in education, special education, and counseling, Anjenique "Jen" Hughes is a high school English and math teacher who loves teaching and mentoring young people. She enjoys traveling and has worked with youth on five continents. Saying she is "young at heart" is an understatement; she is fluent in sarcasm, breaks eardrums with her teacher voice (students have complained when they were within earshot), and cracks sarcastic jokes with the best of her students. Her work with ethnically and socioeconomically diverse youth has inspired her to write books that appeal to a broad variety of students seeking stories of bravery, perseverance, loyalty, and success.