Indie Author Spotlight #10: Lee Richie

Indie Author SpotlightI’m back with Indie Author Spotlight #10, and I’m moving to a biweekly rather than weekly format. I really enjoy writing and sharing these posts, but I’d like to have time to write some other posts, too. I just don’t have enough time to do this weekly, blog about anything else, edit, AND, you know…do real-life stuff! So! Thank you for your patience with me, and please keep reading to learn more about one of my favorite indie authors, Lee Richie, and the stories behind his new release, Black Bones, Read Earth


black bones red earth

Black Bones, Red Earth is one of the best books I’ve read this year – it’s thought-provoking, emotional, and edifying. My interview with Lee Richie is focused mostly on the stories behind this book and how it came to be, as well as how it led him to become an advocate for the rights of indigenous Australians. I think you’ll find his interview compelling, and I do hope it’ll lead you to purchase and read his phenomenal book. I read it during my possible-COVID-19 isolation, and I have so many thoughts that I do intend to share in a separate review post. For now, I’ll let Lee speak for himself.

Why do you write?

Like most writers, there’s a compulsion to write. I think it’s a need to share thoughts and opinions, experiences and beliefs without having to justify them. I hate arguing. I’d sooner state my position and let others debate it, take it or leave it. For that reason, I hate forums. I think they can be very destructive places where anyone who has a differing point of view is often ridiculed or bullied by those who want only their opinion to be recognized. Writers of novels tend to see everyone’s point of view. We empathize with others and that allows us to get inside the heads of characters to tell a story. One of the biggest challenges is to write from another gender’s point of view. Or another culture. There’s been a lot of controversy lately surrounding who has a right to tell a story. Can someone of one color write a first-hand account of another? Is it right for a rich white author to tell the tale of a poor black slave, a German Christian to portray a holocaust survivor? I believe strongly in the freedom to write anything, on any subject, from any point of view, as long as it does not promote hatred and as long as the author is not trying to misrepresent themselves or their story. Obviously, you can’t pretend to have climbed Everest if you haven’t but you can write a fictional account of so doing. We are all human beings and have the ability to imagine what others are going through, be they saint or killer, rich or poor, black or white.  Of course, if you’re writing about certain sensitive topics like race or religion for instance, it comes with responsibility.

Are you a Panster or Plotter?

I’d have to say I’m primarily a panster. That’s what I love about writing fiction, you never quite know where it will take you and which characters will assert themselves in the story.  But it’s not quite as clear-cut as panster or plotter. When I’m writing a novel it’s like taking a road trip with different versions of me coming along for the ride. It starts with an idea I’d like to explore. For example: I heard about a little place out there somewhere and it might be fun to find it without a map. We then all jump in the car and head in that vague direction and see what we can find along the way. The panster in me takes the wheel first and is the carefree risk taker, sometimes driving a little too fast, taking a sudden turn on a whim and just going for it on winding roads and unknown territory. Once a novel begins, I write until the end without a plan and without reading it until finished. That’s when we change drivers and I take a nap in the passenger seat while another me takes control of the wheel and starts the re-writes. Then there’s the couple of kids in the backseat arguing over where to go next and what our final destination should be. Writing a novel is hard work and it would be easy at times to take a shortcut home. I enjoy the start of the journey – the first write – and the end when it finally comes together. But, the graft in the middle is navigating those long straight roads and takes a lot of discipline and concentration just to stay the distance.

You previously wrote a young adult novel, Alexander Bottom & the Dreamweaver’s Daughter, which I got to beta read and look forward to sharing my kids when they’re a bit older. Why the switch in genre?

Alexander Bottom & the Dreamweaver’s Daughter is the first in the Alexander Bottom series, and came about after writing weekly installments for my grandson. He liked it so much that I decided to turn it into a book. I never intended to write for that age group. At the same time, I don’t want to restrict myself to any one genre. I write whatever offers the best challenge at the time, whatever takes my fancy.  I currently have two thrillers finished as first drafts and I’m working on the second book in the Alexander Bottom series.

What inspired you to write Black Bones, Red Earth?

There were several threads of inspiration for Black Bones, Red Earth. The main one, and the starting point for the book, being my mum’s story. When she was almost eighty, it was accidentally discovered that she had been orphaned with her two sisters; she was four years old at the time. Mum had kept this secret all her life. I was astonished that she had been able to hide her story and wondered why she felt the need to do so. Her mother died of TB and her father – my grandfather – just gave the girls up to an orphanage. They told the sisters that men weren’t made to raise girls. Mum came out of the orphanage at thirteen when she was sent to work as a parlor-maid. She vowed to keep her past a secret and created a fantasy childhood in which she attended boarding school while her father roved the world during a distinguished army career. Mum confided that she created her new childhood because she felt ashamed of the truth. Eventually, she almost believed her own story. It got me to wondering what it would be like to keep a secret, even from family, all your life and what terrible stories from their past must some people be hiding?

The second story to inspire the novel came from my dad’s brother. He came to Australia after WWII as a young lad under the Big Brother movement, a charity created to help British youth start a new life after the war in Europe. His initial experiences were extremely traumatic after being despatched to a remote sheep station and into the care of a cantankerous old land owner. His tales of those early years in Australia and the stories of thousands of migrant children sent from Britain to Australia played a big part in the crafting of the novel.

Black Bones, Red Earth was an emotional story to read –  I can only imagine it was so much more emotional to write.

Yes, it was emotional on many levels. My mother’s story obviously stirred personal emotions; the thought of any small child being wrenched away from home and into care is awful to imagine let alone your own mother. How does a child of four understand why she’s been abandoned? Then, there’s the thousands of child migrants who were sent away across the world under the pretense of going for a better life. Some were orphans but many had been given up by parents who felt they could no longer cope, or unmarried mothers shamed into giving up their children. The children were often told their parents and siblings were dead. They were raised in homes and institutions, were often treated cruelly and subjected to abuse. The treatment of Aboriginal children and adults was even worse. The Australian government policy of separating families, sending children to live on missions and forcing them to abandon their culture was absolutely shameful. These true events play deeply into the novel and caused a great deal of emotional turmoil during the writing process. 

How did your contact with the Aboriginal community shape the novel and your understanding of First Australians and their history?

As I said previously, once writing begins, the story takes on a life of its own. New characters enter the story and, being set in the Australian outback, it was inevitable that Aboriginal characters would emerge. Sensitive to cultural aspects and the need for authenticity, I began to research and sought help on Indigenous issues. It wasn’t long before I realized how little I knew about indigenous Australian culture and the true history of a country I have come to call home. The more I learned, the more upsetting I found the stories of a people overtaken by white settlement and discriminated against in their own land. At first I found it difficult to get help with my research; there is a natural distrust in Indigenous communities after years of inequality and repression. Eventually, I was able to sit with Aboriginal Elders and hear first-hand accounts of life in the fifties, during which time the novel is set, as well as their stories going back in history. Of particular help was Gundungurra Elder, Aunty Val Mulcahy, who allowed me to sit with her week after week of my research. Aunty Val was raised on an Aboriginal mission by order of the Aboriginal Protection Board. She told of a life which denied her basic rights and kept her a virtual prisoner until laws were changed in the sixties. “They wanted to breed the black out of us,” she told me. Aunty Val went on to get a university degree – though it took her into her fifties to achieve it – and worked in promoting Aboriginal health and welfare until she retired from active employment. Her work in health and education earned her the Order of Australia in the Australia Day honours. It’s stories like Aunty Val’s and others like her that feature in the novel, many of which are true accounts of real events.

We’ve seen protests around the world with the Black Lives Matter movement. They must resonate with you in Australia and the issues depicted in your novel.

Definitely. Recent events in America have brought Australia’s own racial issues to the forefront. Protests have highlighted the ongoing problems with racial inequality, particularly in rural and remote parts of the country where there have been 437 Aboriginal deaths in custody since 1991. A Royal Commission (a major public enquiry) set up in 1987 to investigate deaths in custody resulted in over 330 recommendations for change. Thirty years later only a very few recommendations have been acted upon. It’s just not acceptable. The Indigenous population makes up 2.8% of Australia’s population, yet statistics show they make up a fluctuating rate of around 20% of all deaths in custody.  It’s a complex problem but one that can be addressed if the government committed to the solutions already recommended in their own report. Many of the core causes behind the high percentage stem from poor healthcare, lack of educational opportunities, poor prospects for employment and substance abuse. Like most remote and rural communities around the world, the exodus to city living has left those most vulnerable behind. Aboriginal Australians have spent the years since colonization being brought to their knees and dominated (where have we heard that before?). Now, when it suits us, we expect them to get up and get on with it.  Perhaps there will be progress after the protests but it’s up to us all to make sure it happens.

The protagonist in Black Bones, Red Earth, struggles with her faith; how does her story relate to your own?

My own spiritual journey is a lot like Katherine’s in the novel. My faith wavers from time to time but is always there behind me, propping me up. Mum was a devout Christian. I’m one of five children and she brought us up as such. I followed my three older brothers into the church choir and had to attend three services each Sunday. Mum did a lot of work for the church and for the Church of England Children’s Society. Now, of course, we know why she was so passionate about that particular cause. But, as I got older, I began to question my faith and the church itself. I stopped going because I felt church was too focused on literal interpretations of faith. I saw this kind of battle between religions, each promoting their brand at the expense of another, and it made me shy away from it. I think anyone can find God in their own way without having to claim they have the only true franchise on the story. I believe you are just as likely to find God in a synagogue or a mosque as in a cathedral in Rome. Personally, I now find my faith everywhere and in everything. I don’t need a church to help me connect. I’ve had my struggles in life but I’ve been blessed to have Angels watching over me and guiding my faith.    

Please visit Lee Richie’s website for monthly blog posts and to learn more about Lee and his books.


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Indie Author Spotlight #9: Thomas Fenske Writes “With a Slice of Life”

Indie Author SpotlightHere in our ninth edition of the Indie Author Spotlight I am aiming to keep bringing positivity despite what’s going on in the world, which I’ve pretty much withdrawn from for a bit. Today I’m chatting with Thomas Fenske, who I’ve mentioned here at The Edifying Word many, many times over the years; most recently I reviewed his latest work, The Hag Rider, which released just this week. I’ve been a fan of Fenske since I read his first book, and I hope you will be, too.



Thomas Fenske now has four published books and one more coming out this summer (yay!). As he is one of my favorite authors, I’m always thrilled to feature him and his books and I’ve had the great pleasure of writing advance reviews for the last two, which are included in the books (and that makes me feel special). His first three books and the upcoming release are Adventure/Mystery, while The Hag Rider is historical fiction. Good historical fiction, that manages to be obviously anti-racism (which we all need right now) despite being told from the point of view of a Confederate Cavalryman. Now THAT takes some writing skill, my friends, and you should check it out! Now, let’s let him speak!

Thanks for joining us here for the Indie Author Spotlight! Let’s start out with this: what do you want readers to know about you?

My biggest goal is to entertain readers and get them to think. I try to add a little humor and always add as much human realism as I can, in small snippets. I call that writing with a slice of life.

I LOVE that phrase, and I think it perfectly encapsulates what I love about your writing. Please tell us about your published books and any upcoming projects! 

As of this writing, I have four books in print and one more coming out this summer. The Fever, A Curse That Bites Deep, and Lucky Strike represent the inaugural trilogy of my Traces of Treasure series. The Hag Rider released this week, and the fourth book of the Traces of Treasure series, Penumbra, will be released in August. A fifth story in the series is planned, and I have a couple of science fiction plots I’ve toyed with for a while, one of those might pop to the surface soon… but with two releases coming out in quick succession I’ll be consumed with marketing for a short while.

Ooh, I’m so excited for Penumbra, book five, AND your sci-fi plans! You’re becoming quite prolific, and I appreciate that you can write well across genres. Have you always been a writer?

I majored in English and took a lot of creative writing course, because it was an upper-division course you could repeat! I dabbled in writing over the course of about 35 years, then finally about ten years ago I dug in my heels and wrote my first (still unpublished) full-length novel. I’ve kept hammering away and managed to interest a small publisher, through which I’ve published all of my books.

Can you tell us about your writing process?

Writing has become a compulsion. When I start a new story, I tell my wife my brain has shifted into novel mode. I have a hard time thinking of anything else when I get into novel mode. I like to fast write, NaNoWriMo-style (sometimes during NaNoWriMo), and work from a loose outline. I find fast writing to be extremely creative because as I push forward, the story tells me where it wants to go. **Quick note for all of you who are wondering what on EARTH NaNoWriMo is — the writing community has an annual “National Novel Writing Month” each November, where participating writers aim to pen an entire novel in one month, with the community to help keep them accountable.

So do you read the same genres you write? Do you have any other hobbies?

I like hard history, and fill in with science fiction, mostly, although I have an abiding appreciation for a masterfully told cozy mystery. I don’t have many other hobbies outside of writing these days. I collect cookbooks, but I’ve run out of space. It loses its appeal when most of your new acquisitions are relegated to tubs.

Sounds like you’re quite busy writing and marketing these days. Are you living your author dream?

I just want to keep writing and publishing. Success? Not sure what that entails. Like I said before, my primary desire is to entertain readers.

And he does! Find Thomas Fenske’s books exclusively at Amazon, visit his website, and look for him on social media: Twitter: @thefensk  —  Instagram: @thefensk  —  Facebook.  


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Indie Author Spotlight: It’s Launch Week for Aimee Shaye

Indie Author SpotlightWelcome to week EIGHT, which is awesome! I’m still learning so much and loving getting exposed to new indie authors on a regular basis. I’m definitely opening myself up to different genres, and I hope you will, too. My favorite part, though, is to get to know the person behind the books – what makes them tick? As I learn more about them, it’s a lot of fun to see how parts of each author emerge in their writing. There’s a lot more to come, so please keep coming back and supporting the wonderful people who have signed up to chat with me!   


Aimee's NEW NEW Logo V3.jpgToday I’m bringing you a conversation with Aimee Shaye, whose new book, The Broken Daughter, launched this past weekend after Aimee took a two-year hiatus from publishing. You’ll find Aimee to be very open about her struggles, and how they shape her life, which is so brave and encouraging to others (like me) who battle our own mental illnesses. In the spirit of full disclosure and to follow Aimee’s lead, I have to be honest and say I did not finish reading The Broken Daughter; the book has a lot of emotion tumult and dark magic, and I’m in too emotionally-vulnerable of a place right now. I felt like I was taking on all of Aymeri’s fears and insecurities, which is a testament to the fact that her character is powerfully written. So, I made the difficult decisions to DNF, but still wanted to share Aimee’s work with all of you because I am impressed by her strength and honesty. When I asked her what she wanted readers to know about her, this is what Aimee said: 

I want readers to know that I am just like them. I’m not anything special. I suffer from depression and anxiety. I have made many bad choices in my life. But I stay grounded by my family, by my husband. To me, family is everything and to find friends in your family is magical. I write for myself, not for what is going to sell. I want them to read my books and get a semblance of what my life is like beyond the pages. 

Wow. Thanks for joining me, Aimee, and being so candid. Can you start by telling us what genre you write?

I write fantasy, and just published The Broken Daughter. About two years ago, I published two romance books based on a previous emotionally abusive relationship because I needed it out of my system. Then I took two years off to recuperate and find my true self. I also have stories in a few anthologies; you can find all of my published works on my Amazon author page.

Have you, like many authors I’ve profiled here, always written? 

I was very young when I started writing. I started making up stories when I was eight years old. One particular memory I have is going to my mom’s bank where she worked. It was summertime and it was take-your-daughter-to-work day. I was sitting at Mom’s desk and wrote a story about a girl going on an adventure with animals. Everyone in the office asked for copies so my mom taught me how to use the copy machine. I have no idea where the original copy is, though! I wish I did! Then it got really serious in high school. I published a poem and short story under my real name in a high school catalog of writers. Then in 2014, I published again. It was my first fantasy novel and I did it because my ex told me I’d never amount to anything. It got stellar 3-5 star reviews but the poor editing (due to my rush of proving him wrong) was always commented on. I finally took it down this year and I am rewriting it.

That is so brave of you, and I look forward to seeing your rewritten book! You mention that you wrote your romance novels to get things out of your system. Is writing cathartic for you? How do you fit writing time into your life? 

It is. I write because it makes me happy. When I get depressed or anxious, it helps me to cope. Whenever I have free weekends, I spend as much time as I can writing. My day job is as a teacher and I plan my lessons a month in advance, making small tweaks here and there. All of my grading gets done at work. So I also write during the week when my night winds down around 9 or 10. 

You clearly devote a lot of time to your writing! What else is important in your life?

I am married and live with my parents so these are two very important things in my life beside my job and writing. It’s an easy balance because my husband is a graphic designer and he helps me write (he’s a great writer who refuses to admit it). I also have three nephews who are constantly at my house since my siblings live mere blocks away!

Ok, now please tell us about your new release! 

The Broken Daughter (The Cursed Kingdom Book 1) by [Aimee Shaye]Of course! The newest book I am releasing is The Broken Daughter. It is the first novel in a trilogy titled: The Cursed Kingdom. This book took me six months to write and I could not be more proud of it! The main character in the book is Princess Aymeri Maudlin. She believes she is an ordinary princess, until it turns out that she is not. She’s actually the Princess of a Sentinel Kingdom, Dramolux, whose royalty has long protected the world from all magick. At the start of the novel, she finds her mother dead and things go downhill very quickly from there. I don’t want to give too much away but there is magic and strong female leads. The men take a backseat here.

All right, like I said, the emotions are powerfully written, and I think a lot of people will be able to identify with Aymeri (even though we’re not magical). Can we wrap up by hearing your author dream?

Just to sell books. As long as I sell a couple, I consider it success! I just love writing so much.

Ok friends, let’s help Aimee Shaye’s author dream come true and buy her books. You can find Aimee at the following places: 

Website  —  Facebook  —  Twitter  —  Instagram  —  Pinterest  

And the following cover images will take you directly to where you can purchase her books:

The Broken Daughter (The Cursed Kingdom Book 1) by [Aimee Shaye]  Silenced by [Aimee Shaye]  Have Mercy by [Aimee Shaye, Matthew Picinich] If You're Listening...: A Short Story Collection Kindle Edition  


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