Gardening with Guns: A Memoir details the road you traveled from childhood to adulthood. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I have wanted to be a writer since reading my first novel as a child. To me books are pure magic. As my life unfolded it became more and more clear to me that my path was quite different from the norm. I felt that others would find my story interesting and that some who had experienced similar obstacles would draw inspiration from knowing they are not alone.
I appreciated how you didn’t shy away from the dark times in your life and shared them along with the good. What were some important memories you wanted to capture?
My childhood home. I have only fond memories of that house, our yard, and our garden – in spite of the negative things that happened there. I also wanted to capture my beloved grandparents. I often attribute my perseverance to them and their unguarded love for my brothers and me. It was also very important for me to capture the trauma I experienced surrounding my father’s death. In a way it is a tribute to him.
Looking back on you life after you’ve written a memoir, is there anything that you see differently?
If I could sum it up, I would say that all of the fearful and awful memories that loomed large in the back of my mind were greatly diminished and their effect on me neutralized.
I found this book to be ultimately uplifting. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Just that! I wanted very much to tell the good and bad and to show that you can overcome. The keys are self-reflection, honesty, forgiveness and love. Oh, and one more important one – courage! It takes courage to face your fears, but the rewards are immense!
In the prime of her life, AJ seemingly has it all – a successful career, three thriving children and a marriage that spans two decades. Her hard-fought, adult life beams bright and in sharp contrast to the dark, gun-wielding, serial-parent changing, and starkly silent world she grew up in.
On the heels of her father’s sudden and tragic death, AJ finds herself questioning the life she has so carefully architected. Estranged from her mother, she seeks comfort in the revival of her relationship with her two brothers, all that remain of her childhood nucleus. The three siblings find themselves in a sad, yet familiar place as they bond in the midst of their loss, and relive together similar times from the turbulent and siloed childhood they shared.
In the months following her father’s funeral, AJ’s reminiscences compel her to see her current circumstances through a fresh lens. Concerns that her husband is leading a secret life turn from suspicion to fact as the void in their relationship widens, creating a troubling likeness between her marriage and the dysfunctional relationships she witnessed as a child. She struggles with the decision to honor her intuition and end her failing marriage, but the consequences of divorce still loom ominously in her memory. She realizes that she can no longer deny her buried past, nor its implications on her current situation.
This is a fascinating true story of one woman’s journey to overcome childhood trauma, and to listen to the inner voice that she has been ignoring for years. Written as a novel, her memoir traverses past and present, all the while painting vivid pictures of both her childhood and adult worlds, the similarities of which have become too numerous to ignore.
Posted in Interviews
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Daisy Jane, affectionately known as D.J. by family and friends, has experienced great loss and faces the challenge of attending a new school. With the support of her loving father, D.J. heads into the daunting situation with strength and a resolve to make friends and succeed academically. D.J. has another source of strength–her fern. Unlike many girls her age, D.J. opts for outdoor activities instead of games, stuffed animals, and make-up. Having inherited her mother’s love and great skills for gardening, D.J. strives to introduce her new friends to her interests as she learns from a unique acquaintance of her own that friendships involve compromise.
Ellie Collins book, Daisy, Bold and Beautiful, is a highly engaging tale woven with bits of mythology. Collins has managed to take some of the more complex elements of Greek mythology and finesse them into verbiage that is relatable and entertaining for tween readers. Most middle school students would not choose to read about gods and goddesses in the formats with which we are all familiar. Collins is providing her readers with a sure-fire hit that will involve readers, teach them the basic outline of the story of Persephone and Hades, and never let them realize how much they are learning. That, my friends, is the true hallmark of a successful writer.
Collins hits the mark with her dialogue, her main character’s emotions, and the dynamic between two very different friend groups. Young readers will be able to find themselves easily in one or more of the characters. The mere mention of popular video game titles is a huge draw for gaming fans, but Collins is thorough with descriptions, the exchanges between the characters as they excitedly discuss scenarios, and the way they are wrapped in the world of the game itself to the exclusion of all else. The author, without a doubt, knows her stuff.
As I read, I became increasingly amazed at Collins’s stunning ability to pull out the most relevant parts of Persephone’s story and meld them into modern day scenarios. Nowhere else have I read such perfectly revamped story lines. It takes quite the imagination and a firm grip on the mentality of today’s youth to manage a task like this. If I am being completely honest, I have to say I learned a great deal myself regarding Hades and Persephone’s relationship. Collins nails it. I would not hesitate to read this story to and with fifth graders in my after school tutoring group and recommend it to any teacher or parent seeking to spice up a reading list.
As a teacher, I am thrilled to see such highly relatable text for middle schools students. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Collins follows this exceptionally well-written piece with many more. Her ability to teach young readers Greek mythology on the sly is to be envied!
Pages: 150 | ASIN: B07BKRVGDX
Posted in Book Reviews
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The Mage Sister is an epic fantasy novel that follows a young girl named Arinda as she struggles with controlling her magical powers. What was your inspiration for Arinda’s character and the struggle she faces against the Circle of Mages?
Arinda is a girl I met in a dream, as are most of the people in Kynllaria. Almost all of them were all there. Arinda was special and powerful and terrified because, in the dream, she was being hunted for that power. The dream ended when she was caught, and I woke up, my heart racing from Arinda’s fear. It was a difficult point in my life. Someone I had cared about had told me that I couldn’t be a writer because I didn’t have anything to say that anyone cared about, and I felt a bit lost because I’d loved writing and story-telling since I was little. I don’t know what it was about that dream, but it lit a fire in me, and I decided that person was wrong. I started writing, started working out how that dream scenario came to be, and how I could make it work out for Arinda. It took a long time, and a lot of growing and learning about writing and what makes a good story, but that is how The Mage Sister came to be.
The wilds are full of magical creatures, and small spells and devices are commonplace. How did you handle balancing the power and use of magic in the story?
I wanted magic to be treated as an everyday, commonplace thing – something as simple as math or reading or any other subject of study, so that it was an accepted part of the environment. I didn’t want the wonder of magic, as we might view it, to take away from the development of the characters and their story. It took a bit of work to map it out and dissect it and organize it in such a way as it might be taught as a part of a curriculum, but it helped me understand it, too.
There’s a large cast of characters in The Mage Sister. Arinda, Jahx, King Nathan, the Royal Household, other Mages, and Sebastien who makes a perfectly nasty antagonist for the novel. What was your favorite character to write for?
Nathan and Cullen are my favorites to work with. Their antics and banter are a lot of fun to write, and they keep me laughing. Cullen is a fierce personality, constantly on a low simmer, but he’s as kind as he is contentious. He’s described as everyone’s favorite thug healer. Nathan is one of the noblest, most generous souls you might ever meet. He’s goofy, but tough when he has to be. He stands up and does his duty, but he’s bored with a royal life he didn’t want in the first place and just wants to live a common life. These two are as close as brothers, fight like demons, but would do anything for each other. It is rumored that Cullen might have been responsible for the death of Nathan’s viciously abusive father. Cullen was the Royal High Healer and certainly could have done it, but no one could prove how Nathan’s father died or who might have done it, and Cullen won’t say one way or the other. He only smiles and shrugs.
In The Mage Sister mages can command powers from many branches of study. What would be a branch that you would choose for yourself?
That’s a hard question! It would be a creative skill. Perhaps Cullen’s ability to grow plants out of anything, because I like to garden but I don’t always have the time for it. Wouldn’t that be fantastic – to grow a beautiful garden by just thinking it into existence?
The Children of Fi is the sequel to The Mage Sister. Can you tell us what happens to Arinda and where the story goes in the next book?
In The Children of Fi, Arinda has decided to begin her own Magicker program for girls. She faces a lot of obstacles, and works hard to overcome them. When her program finally does get going and becomes quite successful, she is invited to another kingdom to discuss her work. When a different kingdom demands a visit, too, Nathan feels it would be diplomatically unwise to refuse, even though he suspects their interest has nothing to do with Arinda’s school at all. As their journey begins, secrets that have been buried for a very long time begin to unravel, an old enemy returns, and a game of political cat and mouse begins that forces the kingdom of Rowan into war and leads everyone to question who can be trusted.
Arinda must choose between a life of drudgery or facing her worst fear – the Circle of Mages. But when her magic betrays her, the decision is no longer hers. Fifteen-year-old Arinda has no idea how extraordinary she really is. She only knows that she has a different kind of magic, different in a bad way. She also knows that she must never reveal this difference to anyone, or she’ll be sent away to a society called the Circle of Mages. There she would be magically bound to one of these monstrous mages forever, and bring shame on her family. Even so, Arinda desperately wants to learn about her magic, and becomes a little more rebellious than is wise. After a magical experiment goes awry, Arinda is sent away to school, run by well-loved and stunningly handsome Headmaster Jahx Rife. Unfortunately for Arinda, the handsome Headmaster is secretly a member of the Circle of Mages, and Arinda is alarmed by the amount of interest he shows in her, terrified that he might find out about her dire secret. Then her world is turned upside down when her own magic betrays her. Now she must face the very people she has feared her whole life, and call upon powers she has been too afraid to explore in order to endure in a society she has been taught to dread.
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