Today author and RT Contributor Linda McMaken shares a look at Books By The Banks, the 2011 Cincinnati book festival. See the event through her eyes and check out the mini-interviews she conducted with five of the other published authors in attendance!

For the fifth year Cincinnati has been the hot spot for writers and readers. This year the festival welcomed over 100 authors, from local talent to internationally known bestsellers. The range of authors this year was staggering, from children's authors, to adult bestsellers. 

The one-day festival was free to the public. Readers could stop by the authors table, chat, have books signed and purchase the books all in one place. There were also author panels on regional cooking, classic literature, writing and illustrating children's books and of course, author sessions with Dennis Lehane, Chris Bohjalian and Judy Collins.

Families enjoyed special entertainment, as well. This included marionettes, face-painters, arts/crafts, story time with authors, storybook critters and scads of children's authors.

For all readers it was a smorgasbord of literary wordsmiths. Several of them were gracious enough to sit for an interview and eager to tell readers about themselves and their latest work ...


At the convention, I had the privilege of meeting debut author, Cynthia Ellingsen. Cynthia is as charming and funny as her novel, The Whole Package. I wasn't sure if this was her first book signing, but she was already a pro.

Can you share one detail from the book you're writing now with readers? 

Absolutely! Marriage Matters opens in Traverse City, Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes. I went to Interlochen Arts Academy, just outside Traverse City, and have a deep-rooted love for northern Michigan. 

Will you share a secret about your latest heroine that maybe didn't make it into the book? 

Yes. Cheryl married Sean because she was jealous of the relationship that Doris shared with Doug. Cheryl hoped that, by getting married, she could have the same thing. 

Who is your favorite historical author? 

I adore Margaret Mitchell. She wrote pieces of Gone With the Wind here in Lexington, Kentucky, which is endlessly exciting to me. 

Which authors are on your “must read” list? 

Maeve Binchy, Chelsea Handler, Jen Lancaster. It's hard to pick — really, I love anything that's funny and heartfelt. 

What would readers be surprised to know about you? 

That I was an international beer girl. Considering I'm a bit of a nerd and don't even drink beer, this brilliant little blip on my resume continues to strike me as endlessly funny. 


Next on my "buffet" of authors was the funny and down-to-earth, Jillian Kent (pictured here with fellow author Donna MacMeans, my next interview). Jillian laughs easily, got my weird jokes and she knows how to work a crowd of readers!

Can you share one detail from the book you're writing now with readers?

My heroine in Chameleon has a mastiff named Lazarus.

Who is your favorite historical author?

I’m guessing you mean historical romance author? That’s so hard. I have several but at the moment it has to be Julie Lessman.

Which authors are on your "must read" list?

Tamera Alexander, Dennis Lehane, James Scott Bell, Tess Gerritsen, Bruce Alexander, Ruth Axtell Morren, Harlan Coben and Jodi Picoult.

What would readers be surprised to know about you? 

I grew up on a small farm in Pennsylvania and rode in horse shows.

Any scoops on your upcoming books?

Chameleon is due to release in May 2012. My third book will be out in 2013 with the working title, Mysteries of the Heart.


Next up was the other author who Jillian Kent is pictured with above. With her usual dramatic flair, was the vivacious Donna MacMeans — feathers and all! I have never had a bad interview with this dynamic lady and she has an uncanny knack of remembering everyone!

Can you share one detail from the book your writing now with readers?

My current work-in-process is book two in the new series the Rake Patrol. The first book, The Casanova Code, is due for release in June 2012. Each book in the series will involve Victorian personal ads — yes, that had them back then. You know, man seeking woman, woman seeking man — but they were much better written than our modern versions. I’m hoping this book will be set in Scotland, but I haven’t received the go-ahead from my publisher yet so we’ll have to see.

Will you share a secret about your latest heroine that maybe didn't make it into the book? Hmmm...this is a tough one. In Redeeming the Rogue which released in August 2011, the heroine was originally kidnapped by the hero in an attempt to force her to marry him and solve his need for a hostess in Washington D.C. My editor didn’t like the kidnapping so I had to go back to the drawing board. I have a part of a deleted scene where the heroine confronts her kidnapper on my website, I can’t say as I held anything back on the heroine of The Casanova Code, and the heroine in the second book is still in the formulation stage. LOL, my characters are more likely to keep things from me, than me keep them from the readers.

Who is your favorite historical author?

I discovered romance through Diana Gabaldon so I owe her a debt of gratitude. I love Kathleen Woodiwiss, Julie Garwood and Amanda Quick as well. I think they all shaped my love of historicals.

What would readers be surprised to know about you?
Well they might be surprised to know that I considered myself a suspense writer when I began. I’ve written two romantic suspense novels and published one under the name of Donna Richards with Samhain. I started to write historicals when I planned to enter a contest on Lori Foster’s website. The entry involved a striptease and a contemporary setting just wouldn’t do. I looked for the period of time when women wore a ton of clothes and discovered the Victorian period. The more I researched, the more I loved the time period. That contest entry eventually became The Education of Mrs. Brimley and my debut novel.

Let’s see — during the day, I’m a self-employed CPA with a tax practice that seems to catch people by surprise. I can rip a phone book in half. There’s a trick to it, it’s not a feat of strength — though try to tell that to a man. Even when I tell them how to do it, they try to muscle it — which simply doesn’t work. I hate reality shows. Give me a good scripted sitcom or drama anytime. I used to paint in acrylics, but haven’t for a few years as writing takes so much of my time (and is so much cleaner — grin). In the name of research, I’ve created glass paperweights in a blast furnace, driven an ambulance, driven a fire truck, shot a gun at a shooting range, and tossed a policeman over my shoulder. LOL, research for a suspense novel tends to be more hands on than research for an historical.

Can you share a scoop on any of your upcoming books? 

This can change in a heartbeat if I get a great idea. Right now, I’m working on my new Victorian personal ads series called the Rake Patrol and those new characters have been fighting for books of their own. I want to write a book for Phineas Conner, the stage magician/spy from Redeeming the Rogue, and I continue to get letters asking for a sequel to The Trouble With Moonlight. I have a time travel started that I’d like to finish — so there are lots of possibilities and avenues in which to turn. 


Next, was author Judy Clemens. Judy is sweet, cute and is a very easy interview. Little would you suspect Judy writes dangerously intriguing dark mysteries and her new Grim Reaper series features Death himself. 

Can you share one detail from the book you're writing now with readers?

Readers of the series will find out a lot more about Casey's hometown and personal life — in Colorado.

What is a secret about your latest heroine that maybe didn't make it into the book?

Casey got her married name — Maldonado — from one of my husband's former soccer players. I heard the name and thought it was too great of a name to not use. Then from the name came her husband of Mexican descent. You never know how these things are going to play out! Casey's maiden name — Kaufmann — was my grandmother's maiden name, and it was just fun to use it.

Who is your favorite historical author?

Dorothy L. Sayers — does she count as historical? She's the one who started my love affair with mysteries! I was on a choir trip in college and needed something to read on the bus. I just happened to grab Have His Carcase, and then at every stop I ran to the closest bookstore and bought another one, until I ended up with the whole set!

What would readers be surprised to know about you? 

I love cooking and baking, as well as watching baseball, and work part-time in the office at a metal recycling yard. I spend my days there surrounded by heavy equipment, junked vehicles, and men. I love it!

Any scoops on your upcoming books?

The next Grim Reaper story will be out Fall 2012. So I guess I'd better get it finished! On other fronts, I am writing some YA and middle grade books, and hope to see them in publication sometime soon!


And finally, I interviewed the adorable Alayna Williams who is also known as Laura Bickle. Her books are smoking thrillers with a bit of fantasy, hard edges and just enough romance to leave you smiling.

Can you share one detail from the book you're writing now with readers?

I'm currently working on a YA paranormal thriller that takes place in a rural setting — farm country, actually — and I'm finding myself obsessed with ravens. They're such intelligent creatures, and so tied to magic in folklore. In my story, they are able to sense the approach of evil before humans can, and my characters first realize that something is seriously amiss in their world when the sky fills with ravens fleeing golden fields...and that's just the beginning of the creepiness. 

Can you share a secret about your latest heroine that maybe didn't make it into the book? 

My heroine has a deep rapport with nature. She lives in an Amish community, and the natural world is part of her everyday life. One "secret" is that in an early draft I considered giving her a pet raven that speaks — ravens have very sepulchral voices, and once you've heard it, it's not a sound easily forgotten. 

Who is your favorite historical author? 

Guy Gavriel Kay is my favorite historical fantasy author. His work is gorgeous. 

What authors are on your "must read" list? 

Robin McKinley is on my list. I adore her independent heroines and her world building. The first fantasy I ever read was her The Hero and the Crown when I was thirteen. From then on, I was hooked. 

I also love Alice Hoffman's work. She creates really lovely, immersive stories — time stops when I read her books. 

What would readers be surprised to know about you? 

My husband and I are amateur astronomers. I also belly dance a bit...but not in public. Nobody needs to see that, trust me! ;-)

I initially became interested in belly dancing because I wanted to help overcome my shyness. Since I spend so much time in my head, it helped me think of my body a bit more, get outside of myself. I still wouldn't dance in public, but it's a lot of fun to get together with a group of women to laugh and shimmy. 

I also created a belly dancing character in the books I wrote under my Alayna Williams pseudonym, Dark Oracle and Rogue Oracle. Not only is Pythia a dancer, but she's the leader of a secret society of women who are oracles. It seemed that with so much heavy oracle business to attend to, she also needed a whimsical hobby. 


So there’s my quick look at this year’s Books by the Banks. The festival has become an annual event bringing authors and readers together. Plans have already begun for next year!

- Linda McMaken

To find out more about Books By The Banks you can visit their website here. And for more from Linda McMaken you can pick up her debut novel, the contemporary romance series starter, Baer Truth, in stores now!

Tags: RT Daily Blog