Carla interviews Sandy Kelly, author of ‘Up the Creek Without A Saddle’

Hi, Carla Roma here! I recently spotted Sandy Kelly at a live music bar in downtown Calgary and followed her into the bathroom.

Carla: Sorry, I know everyone is told not to corner a writer in the bathroom, but this is the first chance I’ve had to chat with you when you’re not either up dancing or involved in a conversation with all your friends at the table.

Sandy: Ha! Not to worry… it’s actually publishers and agents you’re not supposed to follow into the bathroom. Writers are pretty much fair game! And you’re right – when I drive in from my little town to enjoy an evening of live music, fine wine and fun friends in the city, I’m rarely sitting quietly alone. Unless I’m in the bathroom, of course!

Carla: What’s the best part for you – the music, the wine or the friends?

Sandy: Hmmm… hard pressed to choose a favourite from that list, but I do love the energy that fills everyone up when they’re enjoying live music – indie music, in particular. My friends and I especially love a jam-session when a bunch of independent musicians come together to share their love of music and originality. It’s magic.

Carla: Is that why you have enjoyed participating in the Bandit Creek series? Is it like a jam-session of writing for you?

Sandy: Absolutely! You take a bunch of independent writers who are working hard on their own craft and then mix them all together to follow their own story lines from the same quirky little town of Bandit Creek. Stir in pretty much every literary genre imaginable, add a hefty dose of talent and a generous helping of support… and you have a perfect recipe for a unique and successful series. It’s magic.

Carla: Your story, Up the Creek Without a Saddle, sounds pretty playful.

Sandy: I consider it a ‘Bandit Creek-lite’! My story is one of the last few in a long and diverse story list. The Banditoes have taken readers on such a journey, from mystery to erotica, from children’s fiction to other worlds. I wanted to create something light-hearted and a little goofy. Up the Creek Without a Saddle plunks a very wealthy young woman into Bandit Creek and into the arms of a handsome rancher who believes he is coming to the aid of a beautiful, but poverty-stricken damsel in distress. The story pokes fun at what happens when a simple misunderstanding brings two people together. And when they start telling little white lies in an effort to stay together.

Carla: Sounds fun – thanks for the bathroom chat. It’s time to hit the dance floor again!

Carla interviews Alyssa Linn Palmer about ‘Prohibited Passion’

Hello, I’m Carla Roma. Welcome to Bandit Creek, a town with a startling history. I love a good glass of wine, but I can’t imagine it being against the law. Author Alyssa Linn Palmer has met me at the Powderhorn Saloon for a drink and a chat.

Carla Roma: First, tell us what you’re drinking.

Alyssa Linn Palmer: Jack Daniels. As a small woman, the bartender always takes me seriously if I order JD neat.

CR: Would you be able to go without a drink?

ALP: If I had to, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do so for the length of Prohibition. Imagine not having a flute of champagne on New Year’s Eve, or a scotch after dinner… for fourteen years!

CR: Can you tell us a bit about the history behind your story, PROHIBITED PASSION?

ALP: The Prohibition Act, commonly known as the Volstead Act, passed in 1919, and it wasn’t repealed until 1933. This made it illegal to produce, sell or even transport liquor. At first you’d think this might be a good thing: it could lessen things like public drunkenness and disorder, but really it made it worse.

CR: Why choose Prohibition over other historical periods?

ALP: There’s so much possibility for conflict. The idea came to me after talking to my great-aunt about the history of a Canadian town called Whiskey Gap. The town was a centre for rum-running in western Canada. Since Bandit Creek is just over the border, it seemed a good start. I’ll also admit to a certain fondness for the fashion sense of flappers.

CR: The finger-waved and bobbed hair is my favorite. Is that why you included a flapper in your story?

ALP: Partly. Cecilia – or CeeCee – came about because I needed a worldly foil to Ruth’s small-town naiveté. CeeCee’s what Ruth wants to be, if she can get up the nerve. The fashion is secondary, but imagine the stir a flapper in a sequined dress walking down Main Street would cause…. it was too good not to use.

CR: You mention Ruth. Who is she?

ALP: Ruth is the focus of the story. She’s the daughter of the town’s pastor and she’s never had much chance to spread her wings. She knows she’s different from the other girls, but she can’t do anything about it.

CR: What makes her different from the others?

ALP: She’s the only one who doesn’t like boys. She knows it’s expected of her, but she feels no attraction to any man. She felt something for one of the other girls at school, but until she meets CeeCee, she’s resigned herself to a lonely, loveless life.

CR: So here we have the second prohibition.

ALP: It can be hard enough in the 21st century being gay in a small town…

CR: I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but there must be complications for Ruth.

ALP: She has to worry about her father finding out her secret, but that’s not all. CeeCee’s not alone. She’s with a man.

CR: What?

ALP: I think I’ve shocked you.

CR: I’m not sure if shocked is quite the right word. Poor Ruth!

ALP: She has competition in the form of Patrick Sheridan, a Chicago gangster looking to make his fortune in rum-running.

CR: Did you have any particular inspirations for his character? You’ve mentioned on your blog that you’re a fan of the old gangster films.

ALP: There wasn’t one specific gangster, but he probably owes more to Bogart’s portrayal of ‘Mad Dog’ Roy Earle in the film ‘High Sierra’. At least, his ethics aren’t as black and white as the typical gangster thug. He’s no Edward G. Robinson or Paul Muni.

CR: I do have a thing for the bad boys, I must admit.

ALP: They have their charm. Sheridan’s no exception.

CR: I think I need to go watch ‘High Sierra’ now. Want to join me?

ALP: Definitely! I’ll bring the popcorn!

CR: You can find out more about Alyssa at her website, www.alyssalinnpalmer.com, or have a chat on Twitter. Her novella PROHIBITED PASSION is released on January 15th!

Carla Interviews CJ Carmichael about ‘The Gift’

Hi, I’m Carla Roma and welcome to Bandit Creek, a small town with a mountain of secrets. It’s no secret that I love mountains and when I was last in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, I was about to hike the beautiful Larch Valley when I came across romance novelist C.J. Carmichael. Before I could whip out my copy of “Perfect Partners” (which I always carry with me) for an autograph, CJ was warning me that a grizzly momma and her cubs were ahead on the trail and I’d better turn back. CJ, I guess you saved my life that day.

CJ: Not at all Carla. Grizzly bears rarely attack hikers. But it’s better to give them a wide berth if possible. Especially when they have young ones to protect. You know how ornery mothers can get if they think their babies are in danger.

Carla: Hm, I think you’ve just maneuvered our conversation to the subject of the short story you wrote for Bandit Creek.

CJ: That wasn’t really my intention, but you’re right. The maternal instinct is a central theme of THE GIFT. My main character, Amy Gold, has loads of it. That’s part of the reason she makes such an excellent kindergarten teacher. Her house is full of art projects and gifts her students have given her over the years.

Carla: She sounds like a real sweetie. But maybe a little dull, too?

CJ: Actually, she’s pretty complicated, which makes her an interesting character. Also, she has a secret she’s been keeping from her boyfriend, Gray Cassidy. He’s a rancher and part-time deputy in Bandit Creek. Amy never expected their relationship to be a serious one, but now that it’s turning out that way, her big secret is causing a serious problem.

Carla: Your tag line for THE GIFT is: “when is the wrong thing, the right thing to do?” This has to be a trick question, right? I mean, it’s never right to do the wrong thing.

CJ:  I have to disagree. Real life is full of challenging dilemmas where no right answer is obvious. I always feel these moral dilemmas make for the most interesting fiction. Take the subject of euthanasia for instance. I sure understand the arguments for not making this legal. The potential for abuse is really scary. On the other hand, if I was suffering terribly, with no hope of recovery, I’d be pretty grateful if someone released me from my pain. Then again, if I were actually in this situation, maybe I’d feel differently. This is what I mean by no right or wrong answers. I could probably argue this topic (with myself!) for a long time without landing on the “right” answer.

Carla:  So THE GIFT is a story about euthanasia?

CJ: No! That was just an example.

Carla: So what is the moral dilemma your characters face in THE GIFT?

CJ: I don’t want to give away too much. Let’s just say that Amanda finds herself in a situation where the law requires her to do one thing, but her heart tells her to do the opposite. If you remember, her boyfriend is a deputy, so the pressure to follow the laws of the land are going to be pretty high.

Carla:  So you would characterize this as a pretty intense dramatic story?

CJ: Yes. But it’s also heartwarming and sweet. I wanted to give my readers the sort of Christmas story that leaves them feeling all warm and happy inside when they’re done. Tis the season, right?

Carla:  That it is. I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, CJ.

CJ: Same to you, Carla! And to all our Bandit Creek readers!

Carla:  Thanks for coming by today, CJ.  You can find out more about CJ Carmichael at www.cjcarmichael.com/. Her short story, THE GIFT will be available from Amazon.com and Smashwords.com on December 15, 2011. If you have questions or comments for me or for CJ, please leave a response and we’d be happy to reply!

Carla Interviews Amy Jo Fleming about ‘Death at Bandit Creek’

Hi, I’m Carla Roma and welcome to Bandit Creek, a small town with a mountain of secrets. The fall is one of my favorite times of year. The beautiful colors of the leaves, the first snow, getting ready for Thanksgiving — it all brings back memories of Thanksgiving that we have shared with our own families. Like that first day of school, the fall also brings the promise of new starts. I have been delighted to read DEATH AT BANDIT CREEK. It’s clear from the title that this book is a mystery story, but, it’s also a story of redemption and new beginnings. Today, it is my pleasure to interview Amy Jo Fleming about her book, DEATH AT BANDIT CREEK, the fifth book in the Bandit Creek series.

Carla: As a writer, I imagine that one of the first questions anyone asks you is where do you get your ideas?

AJF: I come from a family of storytellers and teachers. The stories of the young women who went west and taught in one-room schoolhouses are stories of courage and adventure. I wanted to capture the traits in my heroine that would make her willing to dare this great endeavor. I wanted to write about these young women who ventured out alone, to teach the children of our settlers and acknowledge the important role they played.

Carla: How do you commemorate those early schoolteachers?

AJF: It was important to see Charlotte, my heroine, feeling lonely and unsure at the beginning of the book. Then we see her confidence grow when she makes a success of her job as a teacher. One of my favorite parts of the book is when she puts on the annual Thanksgiving Pageant. It was a chance to show her with her students, teaching them and encouraging them to be successful.

Carla: When we first meet Charlotte, she is waiting in a train station. It really brings to mind another great story where the heroine is first seen at the train station.

AJF: Okay, I’m busted. Anne of Green Gables is my favorite book ever. I did want Charlotte to have a lot of the same qualities as Anne did, like courage and spunkiness. Charlotte is almost an orphan, on her own in Bandit Creek because her parents have gone west, but she doesn’t have the innocence of a child. She has to rely on the kindness of strangers. She has to make her own way and decide who she can trust and who she can’t.

Carla: Annie is a school teacher who became a fallen woman. Why did you choose to make her a teacher as well?

AJF: Annie’s story is a cautionary tale for a young woman in the early 1900’s. She was originally in the same situation as Charlotte, a young teacher on her own in Bandit Creek. But she made very different choices. She lived to regret her choices. We all know that young women, who are on their own, face risks. That’s as true today as it was in 1911. Charlotte, with her attitude, was just better prepared to deal with some of the risks she faced.

Carla: We don’t get to see very much of the character of Eileen McArthur who opens the book.

AJF: No, we don’t. She is the focus of the mystery and the only way we get to know her is by the way the other characters talk about her. Her story is tragic because her life ended so early.

Carla: Now who is Alec Forrest?

AJF:  Alec Forrest is the true orphan in the book. He witnessed the death of his parents. Now we’re back to the question of how being an orphan affects a person. It left a lot of scars and he copes by blocking everyone out. But he never has lost that basic sense of honor and decency that his parents taught him.

Carla: And the way I picture him, he’s very good looking in his lambskin jacket.

AJF: Honestly Carla, when I think of Alec, I think of Alex O’Loughlin who plays Steve McGarret on Hawaii Five-O – that striking dark, brooding appearance. A hero to die for.

Carla: And throughout the book, the tension grows on two levels…

AJF: Yes, the real mystery is what happened to Eileen McArthur and is someone out to get Charlotte, too. But the other theme of the story is will love triumph for these two characters who have been so hurt in the past.

Carla: Your book was quite a ride, Amy Jo. I could hardly put it down.

AJF: Thank you for saying that. The kind of story that I want to tell is a page-turner. I want the reader to be swept away to the world of Bandit Creek and then have the satisfaction of saying that’s the ending I was hoping for.

Carla: DEATH AT BANDIT CREEK is your first fiction to be published. You must be excited.

AJF: So excited. The group of Bandit Creek writers has been spectacular to work with. I feel so privileged to be part of this project. I just can’t tell you — I am so excited that my book is going to be published.

Carla: Thanks, Amy Jo and congratulations on your first publication.

You can find out more about Amy Jo Fleming at amyjofleming.blogspot.com. Her book, DEATH AT BANDIT CREEK will be available from Amazon.com and Smashwords.com on November 15, 2011. If you have questions or comments for me or for Amy Jo, please leave a response and we’d be happy to reply!