Is your bookshelf looking a little empty? Are you suffering from a recent book hangover? Are you searching for the perfect new novel by the latest thought-provoking author? Look no further. Whether your favorite genre is nonfiction, historical fiction, or mystery, your next book obsession is waiting to be discovered. I interviewed five female authors about their newest books and writing habits. Keep reading to learn more about these lovely authors.
Meet the Authors
Julie Carrick Dalton
Julie Carrick Dalton is the author of Waiting for the Night Song, a suspense novel about friendships forged in childhood magic and ruptured by the high price of secrets that leave you forever changed. When forestry worker Cadie Kessler gets an urgent message from her long-estranged childhood friend, she must return home to confront a traumatic secret from her youth. Set against the backdrop of a slowly changing climate, Waiting for the Night Song is a love song to the natural beauty around us, a call to fight for what we believe in, and a reminder that the truth will always rise.
Sheri Cobb South
Sheri Cobb South is the author of several Regency mystery and Regency romance series. Her most recent release is Brother, Can You Spare a Crime? as part of her John Pickett mystery set. In this tenth installment of the award-winning series, Bow Street Runner John Pickett learns he has a half-brother apprenticed to a criminal gang—and ten-year-old Kit is linked to a violent crime by the toy soldier he dropped while fleeing the scene. For the first time in his career, Pickett must work against one of his colleagues to extricate the boy before he is arrested and hanged. The investigation will take Pickett back to the rookeries of London where his own childhood was spent. But can he return to his old haunts without being pulled back into his old way of life?
Guineay is the author of Dark Wave, which takes a new approach to the classic crime novel. George Green is an ex-surfer-turned-private investigator. His bygone fame and fortune as a professional surfer have lost their sheen—he returns to the sea for solace, nothing more. An unexpected call from his ex-girlfriend, Paloma, sends George onto his next case. Photographer Paloma is back on Songbird Island, a family-owned resort in the Whitsundays. After receiving a letter suggesting the family may be in danger, George travels to the island to investigate. On one level, Dark Wave re-works the classic detective story—trapped on a private island, with red herrings, cliffhangers, lies, and simmering tensions—on another, it’s a portrait of a relationship over seasons, from bloom to decay to regeneration.
Brouck is the author of The Influential Voice: Saying What You Mean for Lasting Legacy. The Influential Voice is a compilation of stories, personal and historical, that remind us of the power of our voice—along with practical techniques for how to use your voice, on stage and off, in a way that will be the most effective. With over thirty years of experience in film, TV, and theater, Tricia Brouk uses her platform to create a safe, inclusive space for others to learn how to share their stories. The Influential Voice is a powerful reminder of the responsibility we have to use our voices for good, and that by staying silent, we are preventing someone from hearing our powerful story. When you become an influential voice and share your story, you can change—and even save—a life.
Cameron is the author of Beyond the Ghetto Gates, a historical novel set during Napoleon Bonaparte’s Italian campaign (1796-97). When French troops occupy the Italian port of Ancona, freeing the city’s Jews from the ghetto, two different cultures collide. Mirelle, a Jewish maiden, must choose between duty – an arranged marriage to a wealthy Jewish merchant – and love for a dashing French Catholic soldier. Francesca, a devout Catholic, must decide if she will honor her marriage vows to an abusive and murderous husband. Beyond the Ghetto Gates depicts how the Jews and Catholics of Ancona wrestle with ancient traditions, prejudices, and the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
1). How do you hope your book(s) will impact future generations?
Julie Carrick Dalton: Waiting for the Night Song takes on tough themes related to climate change and immigration. But I never try to offer up specific solutions. Although I definitely have opinions that come through in my story, not all of my characters agree with me. Generational divides exist between my characters. I hope that their relationships and conversations will encourage readers to listen to the opinions of young people. As a mother of four, I have a lot of faith in our next generation. I hope Waiting for the Night Song invites conversations about tricky topics. I love Zooming in for book club discussions to unpack these complex issues.
Sheri Cobb South: A couple of years ago I volunteered as a guest reader during the Read Aloud Day sponsored annually by the local school district. I read to a class of fourth-graders; it’s such a great age because the nine and ten-year-olds are just beginning to transition from picture books to “chapter books” without illustrations. Because the move can be intimidating to some young readers, I chose to read (or rather, perform) The Book with No Pictures in order to demonstrate that books don’t have to have pictures to be enjoyable. (Note: If personal dignity is important to you, avoid reading this book aloud at all costs!) When I entered the room and introduced myself, the teacher recognized my name from the Bantam Sweet Dreams series of teenage romances, five of which I’d written at the very beginning of my career. She went all fangirl, telling the kids in her class that I was a writer and how she’d read my books when she was only a few years older than they were now.
I can’t think of a greater compliment than learning that adults are sharing my books with the children in their lives.
Lana Guineay: I recently read Bird by Bird by the wonderful Anne Lamott, and there’s a whole chapter on generosity as the writer’s state of being; I think this is true! What my books give to readers will differ with each person, as it does with all books, but I hope they provide a measure of joy, of surprise, a deepening of the idea of life. One aspect of art is to suggest that life could be better, that there are reasons for hope, or at least to mutually recognize the absurdity and beauty of it all; if I can do that in any incremental way I’d be happy.
Tricia Brouk: It is my hope and desire that this book gives everyone the courage, support, and tools to step into their role of being an influential voice. And to understand the power and responsibility that comes with this role. Whether you are a parent across the table from your kids, a teacher standing in front of your classroom, a partner communicating with your spouse or loved one, a CEO in the boardroom with your colleagues, or a thought-leader at the Barclays Center speaking to 15,000 people, you are an influential voice. You have an impact on every person you speak to and becoming conscious of this is how we can all become influential voices.
Michelle Cameron: By writing about Jewish history, I hope to combat the deep-rooted ignorance that feeds into antisemitism. While my novels deliberately depict the good and bad in all my characters, no matter what they observe, I find that many readers – including Jewish ones! – don’t fully understand how difficult our history has been. With the discouraging rise in antisemitism in the US and Europe, promoting this understanding has become increasingly important.
2). What have you been reading recently?
Julie Carrick Dalton: I just finished How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue, One Two Three by Laurie Frankel, and Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy — all of which tackle environmental issues in different ways. I highly recommend all three!
Sheri Cobb South: I’ve been doing a lot of re-reading of old favorites during this Covid year; maybe it was the comfort of the familiar in the midst of a world I didn’t recognize anymore. On the other hand, when I did pick up a new, or new-to-me, book, I tended toward dark, gothicky tropes: Simone St. James’s The Sun Down Motel, Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic, and Erin Morgenstern’s sophomore effort, The Starless Sea, the follow-up to her brilliant debut novel, The Night Circus.
Lana Guineay: My latest reading theme: just devastatingly good prose. You know those books that are just so stylish, so technically accomplished, that they thrill you with the possibilities of language, make you want to pick up your pen? Part of it is reading like a writer, hoping via osmosis to pick up some of their skill and originality. But I also love it as a reader, I’m geeky about those perfectly-formed sentences that make you sit up. To that aim, I’ve recently finished Michelle de Kretser’s The Hamilton Case and Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, both books I wholeheartedly recommend.
Tricia Brouk: I’ve been reading The Knowing by Saje Dyer and Serena Dyer Pisoni, Dr. Wayne Dyer’s daughters. I’m interviewing them on my podcast about their book and it’s amazing. There are so many synchronicities at play here. Tune in to the podcast to hear exactly what they are, it’s unreal! I also recently devoured Tim Grover’s Relentless, Abby Wombach’s Wolfpack, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
Michelle Cameron: Hamnet is the book currently on my bookstand and I’m enthralled by it. Other recent reads include Circe, The Jane Austen Society, and The Jane Austen Project. (Yes, I adore Jane Austen and both of those novels honor her without trying – and failing – to ape her style.)
3). What female authors or writers do you admire or draw inspiration from?
Julie Carrick Dalton: Charlotte McConaghy, Jesmyn Ward, Barbara Kingsolver, and Octavia Butler are among my favorite authors because they combine beautiful prose, complex characters, and compelling, meaningful stories that stick with me long after I finish their books.
Sheri Cobb South: Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, obviously, since it was their books that introduced me to England’s Regency period (1811-1820), where most of my books are set. I think it’s a pity that these days their books are marketed as strictly romance, when in fact they’re so much more. Yes, they usually end with at least one marriage in the offing, but Austen’s readers would have recognized her often biting social satire, and her concern with a woman’s need to balance the financial stability that marriage offered with the quest for personal happiness, in the form of a husband one could both love and respect. With Georgette Heyer, it’s her humor and her clever use of language that make her work so re-readable.
Lana Guineay: An author I admire greatly, Michelle de Kretser, once said, “There are writers whose books create an environment, an ecology, in which one’s own work can grow and flourish, can be received and understood.” She describes it as the “great trees” in her patch of forest. I love that idea. My own patch of forest is full of female authors who inspire me on matters of both craft and personal bravery. Michelle herself is one, Virginia Woolf is another, Donna Tarrt, Zadie Smith, Deborah Levy, Joan Didion, MFK Fisher, Joan Lindsay, Barbara Hanrahan. Then there’s my patch of ancestral trees from the crime and mystery genre, including Dorothy L Sayers, Sue Grafton, and Tana French.
Tricia Brouk: Ntozake Shange and Zora Neale Hurston were some of the most influential writers in my life. They showed me worlds that I was not able to see where I grew up. They told stories that I felt, tasted, and smelled. Pema Chodron and Amy Sedaris are two women I am always inspired by. And I love Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval’s book on Grit.
Michelle Cameron: I’m extremely fortunate to have several friends who are writers, including Stephanie Cowell, Susanne Dunlop, Kris Waldherr, Christina Kapp, and, of course, my business partner in The Writers Circle, Judith Lindbergh. I’m also delighted to have several women students who have published in their own right and whose work I admire wholeheartedly. It’s been an honor to help them find their publishing feet.
4). Did you encounter any barriers to writing or publishing?
Julie Carrick Dalton: To be honest, I don’t feel like I did. Early on in my journey to getting published, I didn’t recognize that privilege, but I do now. I had the resources to access writing classes, and the ability to work part-time and focus on my book. I’m not saying I didn’t work hard or face struggles along the way, but I also know that a lot of doors were open to me. I try to hold that door open for other writers whenever I can and lift up voices that might not be heard. Successfully publishing a book comes down to several factors: hard work, talent, access, resources, and luck. I can’t necessarily help someone write a good book, but I can stick my foot in the door and hold it open for emerging authors, especially marginalized writers who face barriers I did not.
Sheri Cobb South: Not at first; in fact, I got very lucky, very quickly. It wasn’t until Bantam’s Sweet Dreams line folded that I had to pay the dues I’d managed to avoid at the beginning. By that time, I was ready to write for adults and was trying to find a publisher for a Regency romance I’d written called The Weaver Takes a Wife. I loved it because its hero was so completely different from any of the Regency romances I’d read. The response from the New York publishing world was underwhelming; in fact, one editor told me point-blank that “no woman could possibly fall in love with a man like that unless he was devastatingly handsome.” (Incidentally, that editor was a man. I’ve never met him, but I hope for his sake that he’s devastatingly handsome.)
Thank goodness for those five Bantam Sweet Dreams books! Because of them, I no longer had any doubt as to my writing ability. I had enough faith in my Weaver that I eventually published it myself—keep in mind that this was in 1999, when self-publishing was considered professional suicide. I sent it to a few book-review websites, and felt vindicated when they praised the book for having a hero who was different from all the others! Based on those reviews, I sold the large-print rights to Thorndike Press, who publishes hardcovers for the library market.
Lana Guineay: For me, the barrier was one of creativity in a capitalist framework: how do I afford to just write? As a debut author, how do I carve out the sustained time needed—and it takes a lot of time—to write a novel? It makes you look at the power of leisure time, the ability to work on your own ideas with no clear product or assured outcome. It’s a gamble. And it’s not easy. Once you have a manuscript, it becomes incredibly important to find where your work and your voice belongs. You have to do your research. I feel blessed that I found a publisher and editor who believed in me and championed my work.
Tricia Brouk: I’m of the mindset that anything is possible. If you desire to write a book, then write a book. If you desire to get a publisher then you will. The barriers that I experienced were unconsciously self-imposed. Everyone said, “You should write a book on public speaking.” So I thought, “Okay, I’ll write a book on public speaking.” We shopped the proposal around to agents, and publishers and got a few meetings but everyone passed. And when I realized that I didn’t actually want to write a book on public speaking, it all clicked. After Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd’s murders, I sat down and wrote chapter one of The Influential Voice: Saying What You Mean for Lasting Legacy about the systemic racism in this country, the lack of dignified communication, and how we need to become conscious of how the power of our words impact humanity. After I got to the heart of what I really wanted to write, I got a book deal in two days.
Michelle Cameron: Yes, I’ve encountered many barriers. When my erstwhile agent shopped Beyond the Ghetto Gates to mainstream publishers, she was told that they were only taking “contemporary historicals” – especially stories set during World War II. So I had to go the non-traditional route, publishing with She Writes Press, a hybrid publishing company that resembles a mainstream publisher in their professional production values and distribution, but which required a significant investment on my part. Having been published by Simon & Schuster for my first historical novel, I can say that my experience with She Writes was actually both more transparent and more collaborative – and that they made it clear what they would and would not do for me as an author, not offering empty promises.
5). What method do you find most helpful to overcoming writer’s block?
Julie Carrick Dalton: Accountability. During the pandemic, I found it really hard to stay focused, so I formed an accountability trio with two other debut authors, Sarah Penner and Nancy Johnson. We met up on Zoom every Sunday to talk about our writing goals, our struggles, our successes. Knowing they expected updates on my writing every week gave that needed boost of encouragement. I also respond well to self-imposed threats or bribes. For example, if there’s a show on Netflix I want to watch, I bribe myself to finish a certain number of words first. I also like to bribe myself with the promise of chocolate.
Sheri Cobb South: Habit! Once I stopped waiting for “inspiration” and started going to a coffeehouse four to five days a week and writing 1,000 words a day, I could have a complete rough draft in six to eight weeks. Many of those days, I have no idea what I’m going to write: how I’m going to manage that scene, what happens after that, etc. But there’s something magical about the act of writing. Once I begin, the words at some point begin to flow. Granted, they’re not always good words; sometimes they’re a hot mess. But bad writing can be fixed; blank pages (or blank computer screens) can’t.
Lana Guineay: I try not to think of it as a “block,” but I’m definitely aware that writing has its ebbs and flows, that’s just part of the process. Writers aren’t machines and writing isn’t (just) a mechanical activity. To sustain the effort needed to write a full-length work it’s about showing up, showing up, showing up. No matter what the day brings.
I do have a few tricks to encourage the flow! Megan Abbott recently described the creative process as “casting a spell on yourself” which is a pleasingly witchy way of putting it. I conjure the fictional world through my senses; Pinterest mood boards of locations and characters, playlists, each of my main characters had a different perfume which I would spray to instill a Pavlovian response. Works for me!
It’s also important to remember that writing isn’t only about getting words on the page. You’re writing when you’re walking in nature, taking a shower, reading. Giving your subconscious time to percolate is hugely important, and getting over the idea that success or progress can simply be judged by word count.
Tricia Brouk: Just sit down and write. There is no perfect time of day. There is no perfect candle or tea that will help. It’s literally putting your fingers to the keyboard or pen to paper and doing the work. It’s not about perfection, it’s about generating content, flexing the writing muscle, and being consistent. I would encourage the reader to find the method that works for you. And stick with it. If you are a morning person, like me, give yourself the space to write in the morning. And keep your promise to yourself. If you are going to schedule that time to write, then write. If you are a late-night person, then turn off the screens, and give yourself the gift of writing time. When you talk yourself into doing something else out of fear, guess what? You are putting off the creation of your powerful and beautiful book that is meant to be read by others. You have a powerful story. You have a powerful voice. Own it. Write it. Share it. I cannot wait to read it.
Michelle Cameron: I sit down and write – even if what I write is nonsense or bad. In this, I follow the example of my youngest son, himself a writer. As a teen, he used to talk about having a date with his muse, whom he called Angela. He’d say that he needed to show up every night (I write in the morning, he at night) even if Angela stood him up. But at least he’d be there, working. I honestly believe that the best way to overcome writer’s block is to write your way out of it.
Finding these books
If you are interested in learning more about these lovely authors and their books, you can find them on Amazon.
If you would like to hear more from authors, check out our 5×5 series!