Aiden Howarth: Poet, Dedicated Father, FRIEND, and Game Changer

This interview with my good friend Aiden Howarth first appeared on Technorati in 2012 (wow! 2012! I’ve know him a LONG time… and we’re still SO young but Mia is no longer 7 years old) but since there were changes made to that site, it is no longer available. I thought I would share it here, especially since I know Aiden is working on his second project. His first was a collection of his poetry and I fell in love with it immediately. While you wait for his second, catch up with him and his poetry here:
First, let me thank you for doing this. I really do love your work.  It is totally true that “Without You” is on my night table and I enjoy reading the poems whenever I am unwinding from my day. My sister has also taken to a few I posted or re-posted from you on Facebook. I think a few of them remind her of her daughter. 
I always wonder about the thought process when it comes to poetry and I thought others might enjoy this exchange :)
Q: You dedicated your book of poetry, Without You, to your beautiful daughter Mia Liljana Jeane Howarth.  Obviously she is a great inspiration to you.  Is she old enough to understand what all that this means?  Does she share in your artistic skills? 
Aiden Howarth: Mia is an incredibly bright child. She always has been. She’s now 7 years old and doing great in school, escpecially in her reading and writing, which is great. She is forever writing stories of princesses and castles and she enjoys being praised for it which of corse, I do every single day. She is my incredible little angle and not a day goes by where I don’t look at her and wonder what I did so right to be given a chance at bringing up such a wonderful little girl. As regards her understanding, I don’t believe she has fully grasped the fact that a book has been dedicated to her. Yes, she has seen her pictures and her name in print and yes, she thinks it’s great but hopefully when she is old enough to understand the full meaning of all the work that’s written inside, she will thinks it’s even more amazing. Of Corse, I didn’t write a book just to make my daughter happy, I did it for myself and for sharing what I write with the world. The opportunity to share with her my work in such a way arose and I jumped at the chance.
Q: Many of the poems are about loss, separation, and love.  Do you think these go hand in hand? Is it inevitable? 
AH: Like the old saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, I do believe that loss, separation and love are inevitable. I believe that to truly understand what love is, first you must feel the pain of having someone walk away from a relationship. The hurt of walking away yourself when you realise that the person you once loved is not who you first thought to be. Love, to me, is an awe inspiring feeling. In that, in some way large or small, we all at some point will feel it. Only some of us want to keep it going forever.
Losing someone, especially a child, is a moment in life where you know what love feels like. What love is. What love was created for. Losing a child like I did so many years ago I believe put me on the path I am on now. The path which forces me to praise everything Mia does, Is thankful for her every waking breath, scared that I may not be doing a good job. All feelings that so far, have given me some of the best moments in my life with her.
Q:  ”A New Page of Old Emptiness” to me, seems to be about not realizing what you have right in front of you.  What was your motivation for this piece? What thoughts were you harnessing and what reaction were you hoping to bring out in the reader? 
AH: You’re exactly right. It’s about how it feels to have someone you love so deeply, finally give upon the relationship you thought would last forever, and it is actually all your own fault. The title itself ‘A New Page Of Old Emptiness’ means just that… another day gone by with still the same old pain. The same old guilt. The same blame. It’s also a reference back to an earlier poem I wrote where once again, pages of life seem to be going unwritten, un read, torn out and discarded. As you’ve propably gathered, most, if not all of my poetry is written about love and loss. Hence the title of the book ’Without You’. Somewhat referring to being without that special person in your life but on the most part, it’s speaking to one’s self. Without You meaning myself. The feelings I tried to portray within this piece where the feelings of despair.
Q: “The Fairytale You Had Wished For” feels like it is warning us of forcing ourselves to be in idealistic relationships.  Sometimes we try so hard to create what we need with someone because we really believe they are “the one” when in reality it may not be meant to be.  What period of your life was that about or where you relaying someone else’s story? 
AH: This stemmed, again, from a relationship. In fact, all relationships. Women and I guess men too believe and want THEIR relationship to be the best one anyone could ever have. The have dreams, goals, aspirations. Everything is so idealistic. Just like a fairytale. When in reality, a fairytale could not be further from the truth of what it is we live. Fairytales are given to us as children as fantasy. They portray a happy ending every single time. It’s when you learn that a happy ending comes few and far between in love, that you realise a small part of yourself has died. This poem was written as almost a letter to the other person. Stressing my angst at our failings and pointing out that none of us did anything wrong, it’s that we believed too much that we were the fairytale we saw as children. Finding out that we could not live the way we hoped (be it problem free and with a happy ending) I end that poem with the stark reality of what believing in the fairytale of life will do to us all…
Taken by the hand and misled into the arms of hurt.
The fairytale that you had wished for?
Q:  ”Be Still My Heart” could be about love that is not returned or one person feeling something the other doesn’t quite feel.  Is it about a specific time in your life? Do you think most of us have to go through relationships or feelings like this before we find the “right” one?  
AH: This poem is about falling in love. The passion. The want to feel that ache of needing someone so badly that it hurts. But, as is my usual style, there’s a problem. It’s a poem about falling in love with some you cannot have or be with. Falling in love with someone who loves you too but life has put you both on very separate paths. I wrote this one quite recently, be it a year ago I think. It’s not in my fav poem section but its nice that you would chose it to ask questions about as since, I’ve gone back and re-read it and I’m put straight back in the room I was when I felt those things. It’s funny how life treats us so unfairly in love but how it seems to work out better in the end. I think. Ha ha. I still remember that person and I always will.
Q:  ”A Life, When All Life Has Gone” may be about a breakup.  It has a feel of being about an ending, something that was coming for a while but maybe one or both parties pushed off, perhaps for a bit too long.  What can you tell us about this piece? 
AH: This poem is in fact about my drug addictions back when I was young. It’s about being so far gone that death no longer seems a threat, but a need. I openly admit that drugs caused allot of the problems I had, but I also admit that without them, I possibly wouldn’t have had a book out now. I look upon what drugs did to me menatlly, emotionally and physically with not only small amounts of regret, but with a fondness. Drugs gave me what I needed at a point in life where I had absolutely nothing. I was indeed just an empty, lifeless being with no stability in my life, no home, no friends, no nothing. Drugs gave me a release. They gave me something to look forward to. But, as with everyone who touches them, they promised so much and when they had me, they took everything back. You will find more poetry in the book about drugs. Not worded as such but if you read between the lines you’ll see it. There came appoint in my life where I knew there was no escape from addiction but death itself. There was a point in life where death itself took me but gave me back to the world, possibly because I had alot more to give. That I am thankful for these days. I’m wiser, I’m older, I have great plans and dreams that I look forward to making a reality. 
Q:  Where can people purchase your work? 
AH: People can grab a copy of either the paperback or an eBook for their ipads, iphones, ipods etc at http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1964776 the eBook costs less than £2 and the paperback is £8.50
These, as you’re possibly aware, won’t be on sale for much longer. I don’t say this to try ramp up sales. Sales were / are never a priority. People can read my work for free at aidenhowarth.com if they wanted. I say this because as work on book number 2 is coming along nicely, I want to remove book 1 so that it remains special to the people who own a copy.
If people wanna get a hold of me, id happily invite them to join me on my many twitter exploits by just saying hello to @A1D3NH0
They can facebook me too if they wanna see more of my personal life, pictures etc by adding /AidenHowarth to the end of facebook.com
Or they can just leave me a note in the guestbook on my website 
Thank you for taking time out to show interest in what I write and I here by promise you a free copy of book 2 when it out. And believe me, that’s gonna be a game changer…… 
TG: If you don’t believe Aiden, then believe ME when I tell you that I believe Aiden and I know his next work will indeed change the game! Also, look out for a new interview with him as soon as he’s ready! 

Follow My Lead : What Training My Dogs Taught Me About Life, Love, and Happiness

We recently lost our dear friend, guide, counselor, and mentor. Carol Quinn was my Los Angeles mother, the person I went to when I couldn’t figure things out and someone I received great strength from. She encouraged me to be and do things I never imagined. She made me feel like I belonged and I mattered. She always made me feel loved and safe, as I know she did for all of her friends.

I found this interview I did with her about her book and I thought I would share it again. Please feel free to leave comments and I do recommend picking up a copy of the book, LOTS of lessons in there. It is one way everyone can share in her wisdom.

Follow My Lead : What Training My Dogs Taught Me About Life, Love, and Happiness  by Carol Quinn  is a story about a woman overcoming obstacles in her life by training her two Rhodesian Ridgebacks in the sport of dog agility. As Carol learns how to handle her dogs from her hard-nosed trainer, Irina, it is Carol who finds herself being trained in life.

I’ve known Carol for several years and when her book came out, I couldn’t wait to read it.  I have now read her book twice, the second time, highlighting passages that I know I will be referencing for years to come. Dog lovers will be thrilled with the story of the agility training, but everyone who has ever been in a relationship will find this book extremely eye-opening. The reader accompanies Carol on her journey that involves one bad boyfriend, a very demanding teacher, and two adorable dogs, Nairobi and Sheila.

At the heart of the story is Carol’s relationship with her fiancé Henry. He is the wrong man for Carol, but she’s determined to make it work. We’ve all experienced this.  Maybe we even knew that our big love wasn’t right for us. Perhaps, like Carol, we ignored the signs. I found this part of the story very relatable, and it’s fascinating to follow along as Carol applies a little “dog wisdom” to the course of her life and discovers a path to happiness.

I had the honor of interviewing Carol recently, and I hope you’ll be intrigued enough to run out to buy the book.  Please like Carol and her dogs on Facebookhttp://on.fb.me/x1yfQG and enjoy her website: FollowMyleadTheBook.com. http://ow.ly/a0VH

Q: “Follow My Lead” is a memoir about a specific time in your life. As you reflected back on that time as you wrote the book, were there any surprises for you?

Carol Quinn: The big surprise for me was that the events in my life actually came together to make a good story. When you’re living through tough times, it can feel disjointed and awkward. But as I began to write the story, weaving in the emotional twists and turns, I realized how much sense it all made. The arcs worked, the lows were there, the revelations timely. It was miraculous in a way.

Q: You are a very open person and normally very frank.  Did you have any reservations or fears about sharing so much about your life? Where there any moments where you thought, “Oh, I shouldn’t write about that,” or any moments that you actually did leave out?

Carol Quinn:  I wasn’t worried about exposing myself. I thought it might be cathartic (or amusing) for readers to watch me fail over and over, and then get back on my feet and make some good decisions.  I was uncomfortable with exposing too much about my ex-fiancé Henry, and my teacher, Irina.    So, I walked a fine line, sharing enough details to show Henry’s and Irina’s personalities without revealing things that would prove embarrassing to them.

In real life, Henry was more difficult—and meaner— than I portrayed him. He had a vengeful streak. Irina, on the other hand, was so hilariously larger-than-life, I’m not sure readers would have believed some of things she said and did. She was quite a character.

Q: Do you think people, in general, are more eager to forgive a misbehaved dog than a misbehaved human being?

Carol: Of course! Dogs are incredibly charming and adorable, and they know how to look appropriately guilty when we tell them they’ve done something wrong. Who could ever stay mad at a dog? If men and women learned how to apologize as well as dogs do, I think we’d all be more forgiving. But most people get defensive when they’ve misbehaved. That really is a very dumb strategy. The “cute dog apology” is definitely more successful.

Q: Irina, the dog agility instructor, is a woman with a very strong personality who seems to have always told it like it was.  Being someone with a strong personality of your own, did you find it hard to accept her advice/opinions when she offered them about more than just the training of the dogs? Are you still friendly with her now?

Carol: When Irina tried to run my professional life, I put the brakes on. When she had opinions about my love life, I listened, grudgingly. Her judgments about my “friends” and associates were harsh and unforgiving—even ruthless. She had a very black and white view of people in contrast to my own perceptions, which were made up of many subtle shades of grey. In the end, Irina was eerily right about her assessment of every single person in my life. She had an uncanny ability to unmask the core of a person.

I’m not friends with Irina. I don’t even know if she’s read the book. I suspect she hasn’t. She’s a proud and very private woman, and I exposed her to a degree that I imagine would make her uncomfortable. Our relationship was really a teacher/student one, even though I had great affection for her. When I learned all I could from her, we parted ways.
Q: Ah, Henry, Henry, Henry….. how about “Henry” the man who was in your life during this period of time, are you still friendly with him?  Do you think human beings can remain friends after break-ups?

Carol:  I got an email from Henry when he read the book, and he loved it, actually thanked me for writing it. I was shocked—then touched. For the first time in my relationship with him I felt heard and understood. It’s funny that I had to get a book published to get him to hear me…but that’s so like him.  I’m not friends with Henry, but I am with many of my exes. When emotions have cooled, I think former lovers can be friends. But it does depend on whether you still like one another after the relationship has ended.

Q: Chapter Five, Hard Lessons, begins with this statement, “Sometimes people and even dogs come into our lives to reveal exactly where we are– and where we’ve gone wrong.  The trick is to use the information to lead you to a better, more productive place– not always an easy task.” I, for one, know this all too well.  How does one determine when someone is in our lives for that reason and not allow them to “linger” too long or bleed into other areas where they don’t belong?  Is it instinctual?

Carol: I wasn’t in touch with my instincts—or my memory—when I was with Henry. A bad thing would happen, I’d be hurt, and then I would immediately forget it when Henry would smile at me or cook me a lovely dinner. Dogs are great teachers here. When a bad thing has happened in a certain place or with another dog or a person, dogs don’t return to the scene of the crime. They avoid pain—and they don’t forget to avoid it. People forget all the time. The trick for us is to remember the details. Write them down or keep a journal. That way you won’t be tempted to erase the reality of your experience. When you have enough information, you’ll know why this person is in your life and whether it’s time to let them go.

Q: There are many similarities between dogs and humans, as pointed out throughout the book. One difference, I think, is that at times humans know we are doing something detrimental and yet we still go ahead with it. Do you think dogs would do the same if they knew better?

Carol: If dogs knew that running into traffic could kill them, they wouldn’t do it. A dog’s goal is to get food, love, companionship, and safety. They are quite simply brilliant at sticking to their agenda.

Q: What is the one thing you want people to come away with after reading the book?

Carol: Happiness is achievable, but sometimes you have to get rid of a few things (and people) to make room for it in your life.

Q: Do you think people could benefit from trainers instead of therapists? Is Irina available?

Carol: Oh, I do think more people should get trained along with their animals. Therapy is a mind thing. Working with animals engages your body and emotions as well as your mind, and there are so many amazing lessons to learn—and so much fun to have. And I have no doubt that Irina (whose name isn’t really Irina) is still saving her agility students from all kinds of stupid mistakes, reconciling loved ones, breaking up bad marriages, and giving job counseling.

Q: How are the stars of the book, the dogs: Nairobi and Sheila?

Carol: I keep telling them that I wrote a book about them, but they’re more interested in what’s for dinner. Nairobi is aging, and has decided that the house rules, particularly the “no eating off the kitchen counter” rule, no longer apply to him. He thinks if he can steal food before I can stop him, it never happened. Sheila is still chasing squirrels, and has developed a new fixation: cats.

Q: You recently began teaching at a university. Did knowing how to train dogs help you with your teaching?

Carol: Ha! I have to say college students are far more difficult to understand than dogs, but I do think that training dogs is a good foundation for all human interactions. If we praised and rewarded our friends and colleagues more, I think we’d all be more successful.

Q: To quote the book, “My heart goes out to every man and woman who has walked away from the wrong thing without a clear picture of where to go next. My advice? Get a dog.” Any other advice you could leave us with?

Carol: I’d still offer the same advice, but if not a dog, then I’d encourage everyone to get an animal to care for. Animals restore us to our nature, they get us back in touch with the basics of life—and they interrupt our endless absorption with ourselves. Animals ask for nothing but affection, food, and our companionship. We get so much more in return.

 

Q: What’s up next for you and the dogs?

Carol: The dogs have good food, long walks, and comfy beds in their future. I’m working on a mobile/web platform based on some of the principles in the book. We have a great team assembled and are just beginning to raise funds. It’s kind of exciting, so stay tuned.

I’m also working on a novel that I simply adore. It’s set in Los Angeles and has a bit of magical realism, incorporates the financial and tech worlds, and even has a tech start-up at the core of the story, which is so much fun to write about.

I’m doing work that I love. Creatively, I’m on fire. I’m surrounded by good dogs and great people. That’s about as good as it gets. But I have to admit, I’m longing for a new puppy.

Jorge Enrique Ponce shows you why it’s good to be Grounded

My good friend Joshua Reid-Davis recently text me to tell me he was reading the most amazing book entitled “GROUNDED: The Untold Story of Peter Pan & Captain Hook”. Anyone who knows Josh, knows he is a Peter Pan fanatic (and that is putting it lightly). So, for him to be so excited about this book, I knew it had to be something worth checking into myself. When Josh offered to introduce me to the author, Jorge Enrique Ponce, I jumped on the opportunity.

“Grounded” is a story about Captain Hook and Peter Pan but it could be about any of us. We all have those friends who mean so much to us but circumstances take them away (hopefully we find our way back to each other in a favorable way). Even as I type this, I am thinking of my own story and I’ll admit, tearing up a little. It can be painful when we feel we have no control over a situation or things get so our of hand that we temporarily (or permanently) lose a friend. I think this story will hit home with just about everyone when it comes to that.

I really enjoyed talking to Jorge over the phone while I was on a trip to Atlanta and look forward to meeting him in person on my next trip to LA. I think we will all be hearing lots from him in the future as well but for now, read our interview and then pick up the book!

Q: Fairytales have always been popular means of escapism. What were some of your favorites growing up?

Jorge Enrique Ponce: Growing up, Greek legends were my fairytales. Not sure why, but I was incredibly drawn to both Greek and Roman mythology. Perhaps because there was never really a bad guy in any of them… Because with each legend (and there are so many of them), you always saw a new trait in every single character; whether they’d be a god, titan, demi-god, or mortal hero. Sometimes they were generous and forgiving; other times they were brutal and jealous. I think that’s what drew me to them; they weren’t black and white, but showed a colorful display of the human emotion. Like Shakespeare, in a way. But in the fairytale department, in addition to Peter Pan, I’ve always loved “Alice in Wonderland”, “Rumpelstiltskin”, and “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”. Now that I realize… they are all pretty dark. I guess I like dark.

Q: What drew you to the story of Peter Pan and Hook?

JEP: Ever since I can remember, the concept of Pan and Neverland fascinated me. There was something innately heartfelt about it, but there was also a dark sorrow that lingered in almost every character, which always left me with a bittersweet aftertaste. For years I couldn’t figure out why, until, not too long ago, while revisiting both the original novel and “Peter in Kensington Gardens”, I found the source of this bittersweet sensation. The Peter Pan character, as we know it, is constantly battling a lot of pain and J.M. Barrie did a fantastic job at masking it. Of course from a young child’s perspective, you don’t see this pain – or at least you don’t understand it. Only when looking back at Peter’s story can you pin-spot it. There’s no mistaking it. We are talking about a boy who was abandoned by his parents; a boy who found icy bars blocking his bedroom window one evening when returning home from a trip to Neverland. The moment I realized this, I saw Peter under a completely different light. “Not growing up”, for me, got an entirely new meaning. It had nothing to do with physically growing up, getting a job, getting married, and what not. For me, Peter’s “I’ll never grow up” meant “I’ll forever run away”; it mean “I will never face reality” (of being abandoned, in his case). And of course, the last thing Peter wanted was to turn into “them”; into adults who abandon the ones they supposedly love. Which is why Peter dislikes mothers (until he meets Wendy); to him, every grown-up represents that initial motherly betrayal; that initial trauma. By “not growing up”, Peter shields himself from suffering; he doesn’t allow himself to love or fall in love, or to care for anyone else, in fear that the other person might one day leave him behind. It was so sad, I realized.

When I went back to Peter’s scenes with Wendy in Barrie’s novel, I saw a girl head-over-heels for this boy, and a boy who simply didn’t understand (or who refused to understand) love. It felt like I’d unlocked some huge mystery! An underlining meaning in Barrie’s story! Even though I later on came to realize I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed this, which made me feel a tad less crazy. As I saw it, Wendy was the only “grown up” in Neverland; the only one mature enough to understand “love” and other complicated feelings, and at so, the only one willing to get hurt. Everyone else, pirates included, had turned into children before my eyes.

With this in mind, a second mystery bloomed inside me; one pertaining to Hook, his backstory with Peter, and the fact that the latter was practically non-existent! You have these two characters who hate each other with such passion – but why? Yes, Peter cut the captain’s hand off and fed it to the crocodile, and there’s the fact that Peter always aims for good form, which drives Hook crazy – but all of that was never enough for me. There had to be something else. There had to be some kind of game-changing feud that pushed them apart to make them hate each other that way. And boom. That’s when imagination hit me like a mallet. This unexpected mystery is what inspired me to dig for more; what fueled me. It became a game of “What if…?” What if… if indeed something had pushed them apart? What if… they were once friends? Really close friends; brothers even? The stories sprouting from the original Peter Pan classic are endless. There are so many sequels, Tinker Bell spinoffs, prequels… I’ve come across several that gave Hook a backstory, or even placed the captain as an older brother figure for Peter, but none that moved me the way the original novel did. I think that’s what did it for me. I needed that missing piece. I didn’t want to create another Peter Pan version, or something that felt like a Peter Pan alternate universe. I wanted to grab the original canon and build on it, fill in the gaps, and at the same time, force it to grow up, to face its darkness; which is why this story takes place before “Peter Pan” as we know it, during, and after.

Q: As a fan of the story and the characters, was this more of a labor of love?

JEP: Definitely a labor of love. It’s a tale of two best friends who, when faced with abandonment, grow scared and fall apart. There’s something magical about it. It’s a story everyone can relate to. We’ve all had that one friend, if not several, who we’ve either lost touch with, or have had a falling out of some sort, and, when looking back, you can’t help but think: “I wonder what he or she is up to? Hope she or he is doing well” and whatnot. And I believe that’s why “GROUNDED” is so bittersweet; it’s a story about friendship, a story about never forgetting, and a story about loss.

I love origin stories, especially those that deal with disintegrated friendships. It makes the antagonism so much more powerful. You don’t hate strangers or people you barely know. If you really despise someone, chances are, at some point you loved them. You have Moses and Ramses. Professor X and Magneto. The catharsis produced by exploring how friends become foes is beautiful. Heartbreaking even. At least to me.

I also thought it was extremely important to de-villanize (is that word? Just made up a word) Hook – to remove that stigma of “he’s evil for the sake of being evil”. I don’t think there’s “good people” and “bad people”. I feel we all make good and bad choices at different given points in life and it’s just a matter of putting yourself in the other person’s shoes to understand them; you don’t have to agree with them, but you can understand them. I love that a lot of big shows and movies are doing that now, such as “Dexter”, “Breaking Bad”, “Wicked”, “Maleficent”, “Frozen” – I think we currently lack that, empathy as a society, and it’s something we need a lot of.

Q: What reactions have you received from people who have read “Grounded”?

JEP: They vary from person to person, but overall, they seem to leave the reader with a deep sense of nostalgia, which I think is wonderful. The first person who finished it is, in fact, a good friend of mine from Peru. It was a Saturday and this unexpected email popped up in my inbox. I must’ve read the thing at least ten times because I simply couldn’t grasp what it was saying. The book had moved him in such a visceral way, that he couldn’t help himself and had to type up an email in the middle of the night, right after finishing it. Had it been someone else, I would’ve just told myself “Oh, he’s being nice, he’s supporting you because he’s your friend”, but that wasn’t the case. He’s read my previous work and has always been honest about it; supportive, but honest. His reaction to “GROUNDED” was something I had never expected. This has also been the case with other non-Peter fans. However, it’s when a true Peter Pan fan tells you he’s in love with the story and that he or she has been able to connect with a tale they’ve loved since childhood on a much deeper level, that’s when I feel that maybe (just maybe) I may have done something right. And that feeling—it’s just—incredible. It truly feels like flying…

Q: Where can people go to buy the book?

JEP: “GROUNDED” is available on both Kindle and paperback (would strongly suggest the paperback, as it’s beautifully illustrated by Nick Perlman, and the cover design is just gorgeous) at Amazon.com. I believe Barnes & Nobles also carries the book in their online store and you can request it for in-store delivery, but I’m sure you can get a better deal from Amazon.

http://amzn.com/0991297423

Q: Where can we find you online?

JEP: I’m all over the web! The Goo website for updates on upcoming projects (whether they are short movies or books): goofactory.tv

Facebook/Twitter page for updates in general:

facebook.com/eyedrip || twitter.com/sayheyjor

And Instagram for updates on what I’m currently reading, food, and my dogs, and what not: eyedrip

Q: What’s up next for you?

JEP: Currently working on my third book! I’m taking my time on this one. It’s titled “F*KTORY” and I actually included the first chapter at the end of “GROUNDED”, as a sneak peak / bonus feature treat. It’s completely unlike the fairytale, but most of the characters are also teenagers. In a nutshell, it’s about “E”, a 14-year-old drug dealer who puts her own life at risk to try and save her baby brother from the life she was brought up in. She’s the ultimate underdog and anti-hero. And there are superpowers involved. But it’s not your usual superhero story – not even close. It’s grungy, gritty, and it’s dark. I’m really excited to share it with everyone!

Let Peter Monn take you to The Before Now and After Then

I have known Peter Monn for a few years now but unfortunately, we have yet to meet in person but I do consider him a friend. This is the case with so many due to the gift of Social Media. I have followed him and his husband Alex on Twitter and been friends with both on Facebook. I love seeing all they are up to, accomplishing, and having fun with. When Alex told me that Peter had a new book out, I knew I had to get an interview with him right away. The couple have a website, raannt.com where they do all sorts of interesting stuff as well as celebrity interviews. You may see me show up there sometime (one can dream).
Peter’s new book is called ‘The Before Now and After Then’ and is about coming to terms with who you really are in this insane world we live in. It addresses the issues of bullying and coming out, among other important topics. I thoroughly enjoyed coming up with questions for this interview and so eager to hear the answers. I am thrilled to bring it to you here:
Q: First of all, I have to ask, how did you come up with the title ‘Before Now and After Then’?
Peter Monn: It’s actually kind of an interesting story.  The idea for the book actually came from a blog post I wrote on my personal blog, petermonn.com, titled The Gay Boy Diaries.  It was an article about my struggles growing up in the late 80’s/90’s as an outed gay teenager.  A friend recommended that I should write it as a book, but modernize it as if it were happening today and that is essentially what gave me the idea for the book, although it became so much more than just that original idea.  The working title was The Gay Boy Diaries, but my publisher and I felt it wasn’t all inclusive for all readers so I had to come up with a new title. “After Then” was actually the title on a B side of a mixed tape I had from high school, so I used that and included that story in the book. The real title comes from a deeper meaning in the story.
 
Q: What made you decide to write the book?
PM: I’ve wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember.  When I was a little kid my mom would take me to the library and let me check out all of these books even though she knew I wouldn’t read them all.  I remember telling her I was going to be a writer someday and my parents always encouraged that passion.  I never thought it was a real possibility until I was approached by my publisher.  I honestly just thought it was a pipe dream that would never happen.  Just as I’m sure you can understand from your celebrity interactions and interviews, even when you’re standing there with them it feels surreal.  It feels the same to me to actually hold one of my published books.  It feels weird like it shouldn’t be real, but it is.  It’s rather humbling.
Q: Do you think the “spotlight” of celebrity or notoriety is sometimes just too much for certain people to handle?
PM: I’m assuming you’re asking me this in reference to the website I run with my husband, raannt.com and our celebrity interviews.  Yes, definitely.  In all honesty, if you had asked me when I was in high school if I would love to be famous I would have said absolutely, but I’m not so sure today.  I think there are certain kinds of fame where you can still hide and no one really knows who you are, like writers and some DJ’s, etc.  But for the super-famous, like Lindsay Lohan or the Kardashians, I don’t think they ever get a break from the spotlight.  I honestly can’t imagine what that’s like.  I think most people sit back and think they’re super lucky but I have to believe it’s a trade-off.  A lot of people would like to have a closet full of Birkins but probably not at the expense of having absolutely no anonymity.  In a way, I think they subconsciously sabotage their celebrity because it’s too much for them.  I do think though that as the times change and celebrities are more approachable, we’re allowing them to be just normal people, which they are anyway.  
Q: Can you tell us a little about your personal background? With all the talk of addiction and depression in recent news, you must be reliving so much. What advice can you offer those who are suffering from addiction, depression, even bullying?
PM: Oh wow, I don’t even know where to start.  Let’s see, how about the fun stuff first.  I’m a Cancer born under a full moon during the Watergate hearings.  I love electronic dance music and old school country equally.  My friends would probably tell you I’m very funny but I cry a lot, mostly out of joy. I’m obsessed with carnival lights, driving late at night, Diet Dr. Pepper and strong coffee.  I’ve also been clean and sober for 19 and a half years and that’s fundamentally the foundation for everything I have in my life.  I worked as an adolescent counselor for drug addicted teenagers for 15 years and have worked in the field of addiction almost all of my life.  On the side, my husband and I run an entertainment website called raannt.com where we interview celebrities and post music and style posts.  I was bullied from a really young age for being gay and it was a constant through all of my school years.  I don’t ever remember suicide being an option or thinking about giving up, I just learned to deal with the bullying, but I was also surrounded by family and friends who supported me even if they weren’t necessarily aware of the bullying.  I don’t talk about the bullying or the addiction because I feel bad about them or because I feel like they signify anything deeper in my life, I talk about them because they are part of my life.  They don’t define me, but they are a part of my story.  I included bullying in my book for the same reason, although I know not every gay guys story includes bullying.  
Depression?  On the heels of Robin William’s death, I hope it’s a wake-up call that depression is a very serious illness in our country.  I had a friend once tell me that he believed very creative people suffer from extreme highs and extreme lows.  I have to believe that is true with the Robin Williams and Whitney Houston’s of our world.  It breaks my heart because I have found so much joy in life in my sobriety.  
My advice to someone with depression would be to find a professional immediately.  My advice to someone with addiction issues or to their family would be to find a professional or a 12-step program immediately.  Do not wait.  My advice to someone being bullied would be to beat their ass! No, I’m joking, but I do believe that we have to teach kids how to make their lives get better and to stand up for themselves instead of taking the abuse.  For me, not doing something was worse than the bullying because I stopped believing in myself.  If all else fails, email me.  I’m always around to help someone.
Q: Will there be more books from you in our future?
PM: Are you kidding me? You can’t stop me now! I have so many ideas I’m struggling finding the order for them to be released.  Actually, I was working on a book called Suicide Birds, but my publisher and I decided to back burner it.  My next book, Surrender to Technicolor, will be released in the Spring of 2015.  It is a project I’ve worked on for over ten years.  It’s about three teenagers who escape from a drug treatment center and go on a wild road trip, trying to find themselves, all told to the backdrop of The Wizard of Oz.
Q: Any plans to try and get a movie out of the book?
 
PM: I would love to have my book made into a movie! I can’t imagine a greater honor, but alas no prospects yet.  If you know of anyone who might be interested have them contact my publisher or me.  
Q: You are openly gay and married to your partner Alex Paredes. How long has it been now? Have you found people are becoming more accepting? Do you think we will ever see a day where it isn’t such a big deal to marry the person you love or profess your love for each other as a same-sex couple?
PM: We will have been married three years August 25th.  So here’s the thing.  I’m no kitchen secret.  I’m not the most flamboyant guy in the world but I’m definitely not super masculine.  It has always taken people about 30 seconds to figure out I’m gay.  The people who aren’t accepting of my being gay are the same ones who aren’t accepting of my marriage and quite frankly I don’t look for validation from them anyway.  Most of our friends are straight couples and they don’t seem to have any problem with our marriage and are the first to acknowledge our marriage being no different than theirs.  Part of the reason I wrote this book was that it was important for me to write a love story that just happened to be between two teenage boys.  It could have been two girls or a boy and a girl.  Love is the common denominator.  And yes, I believe in my heart we will have a day where same-sex marriage isn’t such a big deal.  I still remember the day Ellen Degeneres came out on national television and people went crazy and look at her now! By the way, do you think you could get me on her show! Huge fan! She’s a true pioneer.
Q: Where can we find you and ‘The Before Now and After Then’ online?
PM: Thanks for asking because I am, after all, trying to sell some books. Haha. You can find it on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and anywhere eBooks are sold. Print can be ordered on Amazon and hopefully it will be in book stores before the end of the year.
Q: What’s up next for Peter Monn?
PM: Well the Indiana State Fair ends this weekend and I’d kind of like to get corn dog and an elephant ear and maybe see the baby pigs before summer is over.  Other than that, finishing Surrender to Technicolor, reading on my front porch and going out to dinner with my husband.

Rose M. Brate Is Keeping Her Promise to You

When I heard that Rose M. Brate had written her first book, My Promise to You, I was very interested to learn more about it.  Rose and I have been following each other on Twitter for a long time now and I have always enjoyed our interactions.  Her journey to becoming an author will probably hit a chord with many people.  Rose grew up in the small town of Williamsburg, Ohio and had always written but just didn’t know she would some day be a published author.

I love that her journey started out as more or less a hobby and progressed into something much larger.  By allowing her writing to lead her, she arrived at a place where she fits quite naturally.  That place is where she was able to introduce the world to the love story of Marie and Tim.  Their story is bound to strike a chord with many of us or maybe even cause us wish we had what they had.  Either way, I am confident you will enjoy the ride.  Let me introduce you to Rose and allow her to tell the story and the story of ‘My Promise to You.’

 

Q: Have you always been interested in writing?

A: No. Although I’ve always kept a journal through out most of my life, I never once gave much thought to writing a book. I dabbled a bit in short stories posting them back and forth with my mom for fun. You can only imagine how crazy those stories got. A very dear friend of mine planted the seed, asking me to write a bedtime story. Once I started I just couldn’t seem to stop.

Q: Being from a small town, do you find there are advantages over someone from a big city when it comes to imagination and writing?

A: Absolutely not. I think every person holds a story. I think it depends which part of the imagination you write it from. The best part of fiction is you can write about anything and in a book it makes it real. So small town or big city it doesn’t matter. Dream and put it to paper.

Q: Tell me a little about the main characters in the book, Marie and Tim. Have they lived in your head for a long time or did you just come up with them?

A: Marie is a strong independent woman who takes care of herself. She is self employed and strong willed. So the idea of falling in love (or having these feelings) for her best friend is difficult for her. But once she decides to let go and let her feeling be known she goes after Tim and the love she so desperately wants with a vengeance.

She’s lived in my head for quite sometime. Although she is a fictional character she slightly resembles myself. I am self employed, have been since 1999 in the trucking (construction) industry like Marie. I poured a lot of myself into her character making her very easy to write about.

Tim, although not self employed, is a strong person as well. He’s strong, independent, extremely handsome, and funny. You know everything a gal looks for in the perfect man. Well if a perfect man exists. Everything about him is fiction. I think he’s lived in my head and in every girl in the world’s mind since Barbie married Ken.

Q: With the huge success of work like ‘Twilight’ and ’50 Shades of Grey’ it seems as though the relatively unknown authors are just soaring these days. Did the success of these books give you hope for your own work to be seen?

A: Now that you mention it I happen to love Twilight.. I even went as far as flying to Vancouver, Canada to see the filming of Eclipse. The Twilight Saga was the first complete series of books I had ever read. I love it.

The joke around my house is “look out Stephanie Meyer, here comes Rose Brate”. But in all seriousness I love her writing.
Sorry back to your question. Yes. It gives me great hope.

Q: What is a typical day like for you when you are writing? How do you juggle home and work?

A: A typical day of writing for me.. That’s a good question. My son just graduated from high school, so that has opened up some free time for me to write. However, for this book I worked through the day and wrote at night. Any chance I got, any free time I was blessed with I wrote. If I found I had some free time in my work day I would be jotting down ideas and notes for the book. What little sleep I did get usually brought on great ideas for the book.

Q: What’s up next for Rose M. Brate?

A: I am currently writing a sequel to the first book. I’ve been setting up book signings for “My Promise To You”. I’m so excited to get out there and meet my readers. I’m hoping to get the book circulated and sold so I can make the best sellers list. A gal can dream can’t she? I mean who would have thought I’d actually write a book? And people would actually read it? I love it. I’m a true romantic at heart and I love writing about it.

Take a moment to visit her site and purchase the book and be sure to look for Rose on her book tour!