Interviews with Four Local Authors About Their Latest Novels

Local authors Mike Squatrito, Janet Taylor Lisle, R.K. Bentley and Huntley Fitzpatrick share how Rhode Island and Southeastern New England have inspired their work, while also giving advice for aspiring writers.

Becoming a published author takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Plus, a writer needs a network of people and other writers to offer advice, guidance and editing suggestions. We corresponded with four local authors to find out how the Ocean State has inspired their collections of work, and we also asked for advice for other aspiring writers to get started writing that novel. Many of the writers suggested joining the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) to gain a network of supporting writers. ARIA is also hosting the seventh annual Rhode Island Author Expo at Rhodes on the Pawtuxet in Cranston on December 7 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. The event includes 130-plus authors, panels, guest speakers, raffle giveaways and food trucks. Find out more information at riauthorexpo.com.

Read below for four q-and-a’s with local scribes.

 

Mike Squatrito

Where are you from, and where are you currently residing?

I was born and raised in Bristol, and currently live in Tiverton with my wife, Lea, where I have resided for the past twenty-five years.

What are the names of your published novels?

I have written three epic fantasy novels in my Overlords series. They are, in order, The Overlords: Legend of the Treasure, The Overlords: The Talisman of Unification, and The Overlords: Journey to Salvation. My fourth and final book in the Overlords saga came out October 1st and is titled, The Overlords: Mission of the Kings.

How has Rhode Island influenced or affected your writing? 

Since joining the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) six years ago, I’ve met so many people on the same writing and publishing journey. I’ve been the vice president of ARIA for the past three years and continue to be amazed at our organization’s growth, now with more than 310 local authors. Within ARIA, I’ve forged friendships with authors in similar genres and we have banded together to attend and sell books at Comic Cons throughout the East Coast in places such as New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence and Tampa. We’ve been fortunate enough to sit on panels at every one of them, inspiring our fans and giving them advice on their writing journeys. If not for ARIA and the friends I’ve made, my writing career would surely have taken a different and less fun path.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, specifically ones located in Rhode Island? 

Never stop dreaming! Writing is such a creative outlet but many aspiring writers feel that their work is not good enough or that the process is overwhelming. First, take a deep breath. Second, if you live in Rhode Island, join ARIA. We have so many folks who are willing to offer advice and help. Next, make sure that you put aside time to write a page a day. If you do, you’ll have 365 pages written in a year, more than enough for a full length novel. Lastly, don’t do it alone! Find writers groups, attend conferences, meet people writing in your genre and bounce ideas off each other. Writing can feel solitary, and it is at times, but there’s always so much to learn. Be brave – you can do this!

I’d also like to talk a little about my new Overlords novel, Mission of the Kings. Mission of the Kings is the fourth and final book of my Overlords saga. My fans have had to wait almost eight years for the story’s conclusion, but their wait is almost over! The book has been for sale since October 1, and hopefully, if all goes according to plan, I’ll start on a book-signing tour. The story is a culmination of the adventures, trials and tribulations for our hero, Harrison Cross. Without giving too much away, Harrison meets his destiny and must do whatever it takes to reunite humanity. There’s much fighting, magic, monsters and fun throughout the 635-page novel. All of your favorite characters make a return as well as the introduction to new ones. If you’ve enjoyed my other three books, then this one is a must read! I’m so happy to bring my fans a conclusion to this story line and, who knows, maybe I’ll take Harrison and his friends on another epic journey in the future. I hope this book brings joy and closure for everyone. For more information, visit my website at the-overlords.com.

 

Janet Taylor Lisle

Where are you from, and where are you currently residing?

I was born in Englewood, New Jersey, but I’m not from there. My parents moved to Little Compton when I was a toddler and relocated four years later to Farmington, Connecticut, where my four younger brothers and I grew up. Our grandparents and many of my parents’ relatives lived in Little Compton. I spent all my childhood summers there. I’ve lived in many places since then but moved back to Little Compton twenty-six years ago, and have stayed.

What are the names of your published novels?

I’ve published seventeen novels for children and young adults. The first, The Dancing Cats of Applesap, came out in 1984. Afternoon of the Elves was a 1989 Newbery Honor book; The Art of Keeping Cool won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction in 2001. Others along the way include, Sirens and Spies (1985), The Great Dimpole Oak (1987), The Lost Flower Children (1999), Black Duck, (2006) and Quicksand Pond (2017), all ALA Notable Books.

How has Rhode Island/Southeastern New England influenced or affected your writing? 

Almost from the beginning, Rhode Island’s landscape and history have played important roles in my novels. I was a child here and care deeply for the places that first touched my imagination. Three of my novels have direct footing in Rhode Island history, though I don’t think of them as ‘historical novels.’ My intent isn’t to instruct anyone about the past but to weave a story that feels both real and shockingly new. In The Art of Keeping Cool, set during World War II, a young artist befriends an outcast painter in the woods, who may be a German spy. In Black Duck, which unfolds during the Prohibition days of the 1920s, young Ruben Hart is on board the famous rumrunner Black Duck when a Coast Guard Patrol boat assassinates the crew on a foggy December night. (The Black Duck was a real smuggling vessel in that day.) Southern Rhode Island is the landscape of The Crying Rocks, which takes readers back to the bloody struggles of the 17th Century, when Narragansett Indians fought and died to preserve ancestral rights to their home territory. Two other novels are set in present time around my own Little Compton backyard. In Quicksand Pond, twelve-year-old Jessie meets the wild girl Terri on a raft and gradually learns the terrible secrets of her life. (I can see the pond from my house.) The Lost Flower Children describes a summer when two young sisters investigate events in a garden that may or may not parallel a story in a book of fairy tales. I should say that if my landscapes are often taken from real life, my characters are all invented, though they contain bits and pieces of children and adults I’ve met or known.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, specifically ones located in Rhode Island or Southeastern New England?

To aspiring writers: Rhode Island’s rich history and emotive landscapes are home to views and colorful moments that could be a starting point for any writer. The trick to a memorable story, though, is not just to retell but to write through the very singular eye of your own imagination. No one else sees the world as you do. Whatever you write about, don’t be afraid to write it fresh, in your own voice.

 

 

R.K. Bentley

Where are you from, and where are you currently residing?

I was born and raised in Warwick.

What are the names of your published novels?

Where Weavers Daire is the name of my novel and it’s an ongoing space opera series that includes magic, machines and mortals. It’s a bit Star Wars, Firefly, Farscape, Babylon 5 with some Doctor Who thrown in. I grew up watching those types of television shows and it helped shape my writing.

How has Rhode Island/Southeastern New England influenced or affected your writing? 

What has helped my writing in Rhode Island is the Association of Rhode Island Authors. I found out about them during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrimo) in 2013, and back then, I was still working on Weaver but only to finish it, not to publish it. Thankfully, once I was done with the first draft, I did not just press the publish button, I had started a writers group for critiquing back in 2011 and they advised it needed editing. I listened to them and cut ninety-eight percent. I learned a great deal from ARIA regarding publishing books, how your table should look when you present yourself, and the networking involved with the other 300 authors was invaluable.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, specifically ones located in Rhode Island or Southeastern New England?

My advice to local writers is to join a writers’ group to get feedback on your works in progress. Getting critiques from complete strangers is always best and thickens your skin. They may not even like your genre, but many times getting critiques from non-readers is a good thing. They always bring up things you didn’t think of. It’s a big step to go from being a writer to an author. If you do want to become an author, I would highly recommend joining ARIA because there isn’t a better support group. There are 300-plus authors writing in different genres that all went about it in different ways. It’s great to hear what they did to get as far as they did. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t joined ARIA.

 

 

Huntley Fitzpatrick

Where are you from, and where are you currently residing?

I was born in New York City, but grew up on the shore of Connecticut — in Essex. Now I live in another shoreline sailing beach town, Dartmouth, Massachusetts. I’ll always be a beach lover and think that, as Isak Dineson wrote “The cure for anything is saltwater. Sweat, tears, or the deep blue sky.”

What are the names of your published novels?

To date, I’ve published My Life Next Door (2012), What I Thought was True (2014) and The Boy Most Likely To  (2015). I’ve also got a short story included in the Meet Cute anthology (2018)

How has Rhode Island/Southeastern New England influenced or affected your writing? 

Rhode Island, and the whole southeastern coast of New England is everywhere in what I write. The smells (the sea air, the salt marshes, the sweet scent of waffle cones being made at an ice cream stand), the sights (lighthouses, and horseshoe crabs and the way a full moon looks across the water), feels: gritty sand between your toes, and leaves crunching as you walk (or walk your kids) to school. Sounds: foghorns on misty nights, and sails flapping in the wind, and the crackles of bonfires. Tastes: wondering which is better — hot lobster rolls with grilled buns and butter or cold ones with mayonnaise and lettuce, trying to figure out which ice cream stand has the best soft serve, coffee milk…I love everything this area brings to me and to us all.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers, specifically ones located in Rhode Island or Southeastern New England?

My advice to any and all writers, anywhere, is this: pay attention — look and listen and be someone who, as Ralph Waldo Emerson (New England guy) said, “a writer is someone on whom nothing is lost.” Be that person. Notice. Remember. Care. Listen.

 

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