Interview with Maxine Sylvester

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Maxine Sylvester, author and illustrator children’s books Ronaldo The Reindeer.

Mickey glasses

She has a great website which shows off her talents beautifully. I’m very jealous!

Kirsten: What made you start writing?

Maxine: I wanted a reason to illustrate. I created a character; a young reindeer called Ronaldo and intended to write a short story, about him going to flying school. But once I started, I couldn’t stop! It turned in to a chapter book. I had no idea I had such an imagination (courtesy of a lifetime of watching Disney movies). I now love writing as much as illustrating and enjoy flitting between the two. I feel my strengths are illustration and imagination, so I use a professional editor to check my work. A good one is worth their weight in carrots!

Kirsten: What do you think of when you think about your readers? Do you have a constant reader like Stephen King or do you write for a friend/loved one?

Maxine: I think of children as a collective. My two main characters, Ronaldo and Rudi, are like my children. When I write I imagine how they would feel in certain situations. I want my readers (aged 6-10 years) to connect to those emotions.

I add humour to my books as I want to entertain, but I also use words of wisdom and encouragement. You never know what is going on in a child’s life and a book can provide comfort, life lessons, and friendship.

RFA Cover BW APRIL 2018

Kirsten: Do you have a writing process/formula, or is it more random?

Maxine: I have a rough idea in my head how to start the story, but sometimes it veers off in a different direction, and then I am thrilled because I never saw it happening that way. I always keep a notebook handy because once my brain is in writing mode, ideas keep coming at the strangest times and I might be in the bath or at the cinema.

Kirsten: Who are your favourite authors?

Maxine: Last week I read All the Light you Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. As a norm I wouldn’t choose a book so large but the blurb intrigued me. It’s a WWII drama and I thought about the characters days after I finished it. I think that’s the mark of a truly good book. (It didn’t get a Pulitzer prize for nothing!)

As a child I loved the Paddington books by Michael Bond, The Railway Children by E. Nesbitt and The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (I loved the television show, Little House on the Prairie). Nowadays I enjoy a good thriller by Jeffrey Archer or Lee Childs, or an inspirational biography or self help book. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle was life changing for me. Oh and how could I forget J.K. Rowling? Every Harry Potter book was like picking up an old friend. (I hope children feel the same way about Ronaldo books!)

Kirsten: Have you tried other formats like articles/screenplays/plays etc, or do you stick to novels?

Maxine: For now I am sticking to children’s books, but you never know what the future holds. Never say never!

Kirsten: Do you write as a hobby or a profession?

Maxine: I am a full-time writer and illustrator.

Kirsten: Where do your ideas come from?

Maxine: Real life! There’s a lot of my childhood in my books (although I cannot fly!) I was a shy child and frightened of most of my school teachers. Looking back I wish I had had tools to help me – a book, maybe, that offered words of reassurance.

There are also a lot of funny incidents that have happened over the years. In the third Ronaldo book, Ronaldo: Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza, there’s a hysterical chapter about Rudi and a giant needle. It’s a true story! Although I might have exaggerated the size of the needle!

 Kirsten: When it comes to marketing and promotion, how do you approach this area?

Maxine: I ask my partner, Mark! He’s computer savvy and helps me with Facebook and Twitter. Social networking can be time consuming but it is essential for a self published author. It can be very rewarding; author groups can give great advice and offer reviews which help to sell your book.

Kirsten: What would you most like to sit down and discuss with your readers?

Maxine: As my audience are children, I would like to know what makes them laugh, what they like or dislike about the characters in my books. I’d also ask what troubles them. I could then weave their issues in to the next Ronaldo storyline and come up with a solution.

 Ronaldo: Rudi’s Birthday Extravaganza deals with bullying. I asked a lot of parents and teachers for their advice and added their comments to the book.

2. RBE cover

Kirsten: About what would you most like to chat with your favourite author?

Maxine: My favourite story-teller is Walt Disney. I would thank him for the joy he has brought in to my life, and ask where he got his inspiration, how he handled pressure, and what he thinks of today’s 3d animation. I would also have a good old chat about the awesome Disney theme parks.

Kirsten: What is coming up for you, new book/project wise?

Maxine: It’s a busy time! I have just released the paperback of the second Ronaldo adventure, Ronaldo:The Phantom Carrot Snatcher. I am also working on the fourth Ronaldo instalment, Ronaldo: The Vixen Pederson Workshop. It’s so exciting; Ronaldo and Rudi go to the North Pole to compete in a sleigh race. The manuscript is ready for a second edit and I have illustrated 75% of the book. I plan to publish the e-book on Amazon in October, in time for the holidays.

PCS Cover NOV 2018

Kirsten: What are your greatest writing influences?

Maxine: Walt Disney was the biggest influence on my life. I still get as giddy as a five year old child every time a new Disney or Pixar film comes out. Pixar’s Inside Out blew me away; to venture inside a little girl’s head and make a film about her emotions. Wow! Imagination really is limitless.

Kirsten: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Maxine: I would like to thank you for this opportunity!

Kirsten: You’re very welcome. And good luck with future books


You can follow Maxine on:

Spotlight on Grant Leishman



Today, I have the privilege of interviewing, Grant Leishman, multi-genre author of several books, including his trilogy of semi-fantasy adventure romance, called The Second Coming Trilogy (The Second Coming, Rise of the AntiChrist and Holy War  


Grant comes from the beautiful country of New Zealand and explains that ‘as I write this interview my heart is breaking over the tragic events that unfolded in my beloved country a few days ago. That New Zealand, a country so renowned all over the world for its inclusiveness and the friendliness of its people should be drawn into the horrors of terrorism like this is absolutely heart-breaking. Growing up in Dunedin in the 1960’s was the safest, most child-friendly world you can imagine. I shudder when I compare the world today with the world I knew as a child in suburban Dunedin. How life has changed in fifty years and not always for the better.’

Kirsten: I agree Grant, it’s heartbreaking news, and as you say, New Zealand isn’t a country you associate with such horrors.

Grant describes himself as a voracious reader as a kid and dreamed of one day of actually writing the books that inspired him as a child. The highlight of his week was when his father would take Grant and is wee sister to the Dunedin Library every Saturday morning to choose a new adventure of “daring-do” to read in the coming week.

Kirsten: I share those memories- although nowhere as exotic as Dunedin Library! My memories are of a small, cold dreich, North East town in Scotland, but the library was always warm and inviting,  with kids tables and chairs, and book stacked high on the tables tops. I loved it

In reality, it took another forty years before he grew up and followed his dream of becoming a writer.

He has now authored or co-authored some ten books and is finally “living my dream”.

These days he lives in Manila in the gorgeous island of The Philippines with his beautiful wife Thess and for the first time in fifty-nine years can he is truly say; “I am a happy man.” 

He writes across all genres, whatever the passion of the moment dictates .

His latest book is a Historical Romance, Love Beyond, which takes place during the little known (outside of The Philippines) Philippine Revolution against the Spanish colonialists.

He also written; Horror (Paranormal Alley and The Photograph); Modern Day Crime/Romance (Just A Drop in the Ocean); a psychological, supernatural thriller with two other authors, Colin Griffiths and Rachel McGrath (Tortured Minds); a couple of compilations with other authors (Limitless and Tales of the Fantastic); plus a trilogy of semi-fantasy adventure romance, called The Second Coming Trilogy (The Second Coming, Rise of the AntiChrist and Holy War). 

He loves every book he’s ever written. Each of them has something of himself in them and it would be hard to choose a favourite, but, if pushed he would have to choose Just a Drop in the Ocean. This is an intensely personal book, as although it is fictionalised it does actually tell his story through one of the characters. Writing it was both cathartic and difficult because the emotion was real and the act of putting on paper the sheer stupidity of some of his actions and the resultant consequences of those actions was sobering and at times horrifying. He loves the story, though, and even were there not a real truth to the character, it would stand as a rollicking adventure. As they say – truth is often stranger than fiction.

Kirsten: Now that does sound intriguing, and I guess if you really want to find out about the true Grant, this is the book to read!

Just a Drop in the Ocean follows Nick (from New Zealand) and Teresa (from a rural village in The Philippines) who meet and connect as pen-pals during their school days in the early 1970’s. By the time they are grown up, they have a future, together, planned out for themselves but as so often happens, life intervenes and tears all their plans to pieces. They both follow two very different paths, each fraught with danger, peril, and angst. Neither ever forgets their first real love, though and they separately wonder if somehow, someday, they may reconnect and finish what they started as innocent children. Nick’s life takes him down some dangerous paths, an unsuccessful marriage and brings him into direct conflict with the law. Teresa the victim of domestic violence is determined to make a successful life for her many children and is prepared to do whatever it takes to make that happen. She faces a world of corruption and greed, endemic to her Country that somehow she must rise above in order to ensure her safety, her success and the future success of her children.

Always, though, is that unanswered question: Can these two star-crossed lovers ever find each other again? Readers have told Grant they want to scream at Teresa to “wake up” and shake Nick furiously telling him to “get his shit together” but, of course, each must follow their destiny until they can maybe find each other again.

‘There is a perception of the writer as a lonely, crazed and often drunken individual who walks the narrow tightrope of sanity (Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Wolf etc. etc.) but thankfully these days this can easily be far from reality. The Internet has some terrible aspects to it, I’m sure we will all agree with that but it has one defining characteristic which makes life, for authors, so much more bearable – its connectedness.’

Social Media and email has allowed authors to connect and more importantly to share and support each other. Grant’s experience of other Indie Authors has always been of their willingness to share their success and their methods with others. Of course, there are always the ones who just want to lord themselves over everyone, but they are very much in the minority and the exceptions that prove the rule.

Grant is a member of many social media author communities, but one in particular stands out, for him, above the others. That community is Moms favorite reads

He explains ‘A while ago, when I suddenly realised I wasn’t going to be a superstar author right off the bat (can’t understand why!!!!) I looked around trying to find the most successful Indie Author among my indie friends. That person was Hannah Howe and since then I’ve done my best to “hook my wagon to her star” hoping some of her success, knowledge and understanding of the industry would rub off on me. When Hannah started an EMagazine called Mom’s Favorite Reads, I was one of the first to jump on board. I saw this as a unique opportunity to spread our literary message further and wider’

Kirsten: I would second that. I jumped onto Grant (not literally!)  jumping onto Mom’s Favorite Reads which has been one of  the best groups I have joined

Mom’s Favorite Reads produces a free, monthly magazine chock full of wonderful articles, inspiring stories and, of course, amazing Indie books.

Grant tries to contribute an article of some sort to every edition of the magazine. In addition to this Mom produces a Quarterly book catalogue which contains all the member’s books. Hannah also maintains an Amazon UK Mom’s Favorite Reads Store, which his books are, or will be, listed in. The plans for the future of Mom’s are exciting and promising for future sales. What Grant gets from membership of Mom’s is not just the hope of sales of his own work but the opportunity to give something back to the community that has given him so much over the past four years, both personally and professionally. He is a very proud to be a member of this awesome community.  

‘Thank you Kirsten for this opportunity to have my little say; I do appreciate it.’

Kirsten: It’s been a pleasure. As you say, Indie authors are very supportive of each other but sometimes we know so little about each other, that it’s good to get to know the person behind the books

For anyone who would like to check out Grant’s portfolio on Amazon, this link will take you to his author page:

To view individual titles, you can take the following links:

The Second Coming:

Rise of the AntiChrist:

Holy War:

Just A Drop in the Ocean:

The Photograph:

Love Beyond:

Paranormal Alley:

Tortured Minds:


Tales of the Fantastic:


Social Media Links:                          


Author Services Website:

Email Address:

Facebook (Personal A/C): (Happy to Friend You)

Facebook (Author A/C): (Please Like)











Interview with Anna Rashbrook

Anna Rashbrook describes herself as a Christian, Writer, English teacher, librarian, dog owner, Brit in Austria! 

Anna trying to look author-ish

Anna trying to look author-ish!

I first came across Anna through our mutual involvement in Mom’s Favorite Reads

Anna is a Mom’s contributor and is on the editorial team running the Good reads page.

She writes books about horses and the people they help. Always a countryside setting with a Christian message, and a little romance and drama. Her first book, Challenger is described in a review as ‘An interesting story set around a stable yard that examines human emotions and use of animal therapy to untangle them’

Anna is currently working on Compromise, a standalone follow-up to Challenger.  which will hopefully be out for Easter. 

It is set in the mythical parish of Hazeley between Southampton and the New Forest in the UK and  introduces the unlucky Mollie, who through a series of disasters, loses her job and home and ends up moving to live with Chris on his farm. They agree on Compromise living, she gets a home, all the ladies from the local riding club are deflected from chasing Chris if they think Mollie is his partner. Mollie finds a whole new life, moving on from being a riding teacher to working with the cows, which she finds she loves. The deeper theme is of gender identity and healing which is explored with some explosive events. There’s also a very dippy palomino stallion called Keith who has a major role.  I found myself really liking Chris, but wasn’t going to write a follow-up, until a dream gave me the start of the sequel, which I hope to get on with in the next month!

Kirsten: I for one am looking forward to reading it, and coincidentally, my own follow-up to A Sorry Affair is also set in Southampton and the New Forest- I visited it once and fell in love with it!

She has also written some other short stories, all animal based: Ducks, Pigs, Sheep and Ponies

Anna has been living in Austria for 12 years in a remote rural, mountainous area which she describes as wonderful. She is a life long horse lover, having worked with them in riding schools and in equine assisted therapy. She has had horses on and off all her life, the last of whom was Monty who she sadly had to leave behind when she left for Austria.

Anna with Monty

Anna Rashbrook Monty and me

Married for 37 years to Dave, they live in a little flat with a nutty dog called Swingle. Her two children are grown up and still live in the UK.  

Anna has a wonderful webpage with some beautiful photographs of Austria. In her blog, ‘So where’s the Snow?’ you can find out more about her books, the background, inspiration and freebies AND her life in Austria!


You can find her Author page on Facebook @horsesandogs

And on Twitter:Anna Rashbrook@AnnaRashbrook

She doesn’t do mailing lists at present but would love to receive emails, and will send personal updates.


Interview with Bradley Simpson

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Bradley Simpson, author of four fantasy-romance books and publisher/editor for Stellar Being Productions. Bradley describes himself as a wildly creative individual deeply devoted to storytelling and semi-addicted to a game called Final Fantasy Brave Exvius.

Bradley tells me that the reason he started writing is because “One day I decided I could write better than what I was reading.”

Kirsten: Fair enough! I think many authors probably start for the same reason, but just don’t admit it!

Bradley describes his writing process as extremely random. He writes what he enjoys, searching for inspiration in everything around him, hoping to craft something his readers will enjoy.  “I write from the depths of my spirit, I draw small pieces of myself that need a voice,” and if you ever get a chance to speak to Bradley, about his work, he’s likely to ask you which of his stories intrigue you the most. If you have suggestions for good stories, he’d be keen to hear from you, so don’t hold back!

Like many authors he reads widely, listing stephen r donaldson , tad williams, michael moorcock and William_King amongst his favourite authors and the question he’d most like to ask of one of them is “How did he come up with Felix’s personality?” Bradley says “I read all genres. My first guiding light was the Hobbit in my middle school library.” That makes me feel old!

Currently, he writes as a hobby, but hoping to turn it into a profession one day.

Kirsten-Qlthough I’d say he’s not done too badly, with seven published works under his belt! That’s pretty good going for a hobby. 

Bradley tells me he is “currently editing book four of the Atlantis Chronicles series for a good friend of mine. The title is the Kordam Party. Space Opera, heh.”

Kirsten: I am always amazed at anyone who can write fantasy or Sci-Fi. It requires a vivid imagination but also the ability to make it plausible. Any of us can make things up, but to make it believable and turn it into a good story is another thing altogether.

If you keen to get an insight into the workings of Bradley’s mind, check these out!

Rose of Tolarius

Dwynwen of House Breoch was a weaver and a slave, but she was about to find her life turned upside down. The depths of caring and danger would plunge her quiet wold of tending for her mistress into utter turmoil. Will she lose herself to the madness or emerge triumphant?

Orchish Dreams

An elf prince slays an orc king and becomes cursed to transform into what he hates the most for all eternity: an orc. Now many centuries later, he has at last discovered true love

Gems of the Druid

Clan Peydon is in serious trouble. Lord Teobaud plans on conquering all the lands of Parras starting with the clans around him. Can Aslata and Gareth come up with a scheme that will save the day?

You can follow Bradley on



Author Spotlight on Thomas Jerome Baker

I am very pleased to have been able to interview Thomas Jerome Baker, multi-genre author of over 100 books including both fiction and non-fiction. Here, he tells us about himself, his writing and inspirations. 

So first of all Thomas, tell me about what made you start writing?

I honestly believe I have always been “predisposed” to writing. What I mean by that is I am an “autodidact”, a person who learns without the benefit of a teacher or formal education. A very important tool for me as an autodidact is writing. For me, my writing process involves the evolution of my initial thoughts, ideas, observations into its final, polished form. In the end, what I have is clarity, something that is meaningful to me. This process of arriving at clarity in thought and word is what motivates me to write again and again, in a wide diversity of genres. In sum, it is how I learn, as a human being, and make sense of the world around me.

What do you think of when you think about your readers? Do you have a constant reader like Stephen King or do you write for a friend/loved one?

I am writing to tell my story in a meaningful way. It involves me starting out without knowing what is going to happen in the end. Many times, I am surprised by what is there on the final page. But, if I have the feeling that the story, as I have told it, is faithful to itself, to its essential nature, then I write those fateful words, “The End.” The story is finished, and it will find its reader(s). I am only the writer…

 Do you have a writing process/formula, or is it more random?

I have a process that goes like this: 1.Tell the story. Write, and write and write until the story is done. 2. Read the story. Happy? Content? Satisfied? No? Go back and rewrite. Yes? 3. Do the editing. 4. Publish.

Kirsten: So simple when you put it like that!

Who are your favourite mainstream authors?

Kirsten, my All Time Favourite Number 1 writer is William Shakespeare(s). As you know, there are some people who doubt that his body of work was done by just one person, or several. So, for me, my favourite authors are the Shakespeares(s), if you will allow me to answer that way. The writing of Shakespeare transcends time and place. It captures the human condition in all its various expressions.

Kirsten: Great answer! The fact that his works are still mainstream reading in schools today must say something about the significance of his work

Have you tried other formats like articles/screenplays/plays etc, or do you stick to novels?

I am a multi-genre author, including both fiction and non-fiction. I have not yet attempted a screenplay or a play, but I honestly don’t rule it out as a future possibility for me.

Do you consider writing a hobby or a profession?

Kirsten, this is a great question. The hobby or profession dichotomy asks a writer to consider their profession in terms of whether or not they are able to make a living at it. My conservative guess is that fewer than 10% of writers are able to make a living only by writing. However, history gives us multiple examples of great writers who never earned a dime in their lives. Only after their death did the world “discover” their wonderful literary works. Let me name a few people: William Blake (considered mad by his contemporaries), Soren Kierkegaard, Henry David Thoreau, Du Fu (Chinese poet), John Keats (his contemporaries hated his work), Emily Dickinson (poet), Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick), John Kennedy Toole (1981 Pulitzer Prize winner, he committed suicide 12 years BEFORE he won the prize)… I rest my case. To sum up, I am a professional writer not by my ability to earn a living at my “profession”, but by the dedication with which I pour all of my talent, skill, and ability to tell the best story I possibly can, while always seeking to grow as a writer. I think that is a definition of a professional writer (me) as opposed to a successful, commercial writer (which I am not)

Kirsten: That’s probably the fullest answer I’ve ever had, but an interesting take on the whole professional v hobby question

Where do your ideas come from?

My life. Fortunately, my life has been lived in Europe, North and South America, and I have come into contact with an incredibly diverse group of people. As a soldier (10 years), nurse (10 years), and teacher of English (20 years), my life experience has given me an infinite number of topics I can write about in both fiction and non-fiction.

When it comes to marketing and promotion, how do you approach this area?

To be honest Kirsten, I’m not very good at self-promotion. Fortunately, social media (and interviews like this one) gives me a viable solution to get my work in front of people who otherwise would not have a clue about my writing. It is sometimes time-consuming, but it is economically the only viable option I have. I’m comfortable using it to maximise my earning potential.

What would you most like to sit down and discuss with your readers?

I sometimes choose to let my stories go off in directions that some readers would rather I hadn’t. I don’t seek controversy for the sake of controversy, but if the story demands a certain path, I won’t avoid it simply because it might “turn off” some readers. I sincerely believe that a story will always find its readers, so I don’t avoid controversy in the hopes of achieving greater commercial success. Two books come to mind that exemplify this: 1. Emily and David’s Quest, and, 2. Jewish & Nazi Shoah U-Boat Catchers: An Amazing Tale of Holocaust Betrayal. Both books are difficult to read because neither one gives readers what they expect, and quite frankly, would rather have, namely, a triumph of good over evil.

About what would you most like to chat with your favourite author?

I think Shakespeare (the man) is a person who would not measure up to the mythological literary persona that has been created around him. So, I’m thinking this is a guy who would find it extremely funny that we hold him in such high esteem now and have done so for the past 600 years. In that sense, having a beer with him and listening to him clarify what his life was really like would be a fascinating way to spend an evening in London before taking in a play at the Globe Theater.

Kirsten: I agree. I wonder if he’d be overwhelmed at the impact of his work or just find it hysterically funny that we have made so much of him

Where do you see yourself in five years? What is coming up for you, new book/project wise?

Currently, I am in the final year of studies at Universidad Católica Silva Henriquez in Santiago, Chile. I’m studying for a degree in Career and Technical Education, which will be my fourth career after being a soldier, a nurse, and an English teacher. That’s my priority at present, so writing has had to take a backseat to that aspiration. I see myself in five years time able to dedicate increasingly more of my time to writing, maybe at some point opening a bookstore dedicated exclusively to the more than 100 books I’ve written already.

What are your greatest writing influences?

Kirsten, I think that writing books is a way for the dead to speak to the living. Voices from centuries past whisper words of wisdom, wonder and advice into your soul. Accordingly, I am influenced by every single writer who I have ever read, both the living and the dead. It is impossible not to acknowledge that in the search for oneself, one finds those who came before us somewhere within us, connected to the stories and the ways in which we give form and meaning to our stories. I would go so far as to include not only those writers who we accept and admire, but also those writers who we reject and despise. For me, this is an inescapable truth. My originality is embedded in the originality of those who came before me. I am a part of them, and they are a part of me, in their totality as human beings.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to use your platform as a way of presenting my thinking about writing and writers with you and your readers. I appreciate the work you are doing very much in this regards. Have a wonderful day!


You can follow Thomas on

Twitter @profesortbaker