Meet Guest Author Peggy Bartlett (and a character interview with Katherine Doyle)

Peggy BartlettI was born on Valentine’s Day a long, long time ago in South Baltimore, Maryland, less than a mile from Fort McHenry and Federal Hill. I’m a very simple person. I love my life and am always striving to make it better for myself and my family.

I write, I draw and I still work full-time. I’ve been married for almost 20 years and together we have two sons, a daughter, three beautiful granddaughters and a nine year old Maine Coon cat named Columbus.

Esme yardI’ve wanted to write at least one book for almost my entire life. I think my mind and imagination were simply collecting experiences and knowledge in order to build up lots and lots of material. The truth is that the time was right for me to finally follow my dream. It took me 49 years to do it but who’s counting? It isn’t as if I sat around doing nothing for all of those years anyway. I worked a full time job—sometimes two. I got married, had two wonderful children and a great step son, traveled, loved, unloved, won some and lost some and found myself standing still—well, not quite still I was actually on a treadmill at the gym and it hit me…I’m ready to write this book.

From there, it all just snowballed to where I was researching until two o’clock in the morning for weeks almost every night. I’m not big on strict outlines but I created a sort of synopsis of the story with one paragraph goals per chapter.

Then they got in. Once Teagan and Ennis wormed their way into my imagination, there was no turning back. I’d hear their voices while I was driving, lying down to go to bed or simply walking on that treadmill, until I was spending at least one to two hours per night telling their tale and continuing my research along the way.

With my second book now released, I suppose it’s easy to tell that I can’t stop. I even have two more books in the works but those are completely different from the “Fireflies” series. However, depending on how well both “Fireflies” and “Hope from the Ocean” are received, there will definitely more to tell of the Whelans.

TwinniesI knew absolutely nothing about how to publish a book. I flew by the seat of my pants and luckily for me, I’m a really fast learner and have the ability to weed through bull**** and get to the do’s and don’ts without wasting much time. When I wasn’t writing “Fireflies,” I was reading about the process of publishing, asking other authors what worked for them and putting together a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a blog before I ever found a publisher.

I followed agents, publishers and other authors around on the web like a stalker until finally; I began submitting my query letter to my targeted agents and publishers. Over half of them (and there were at least 50) did not even reply. I actually had one agent reply to me 9 months after “Fireflies” was published. I politely replied with thanks and gratitude for their rejection and gave them the link to my author page on

I submitted my query letter for three months in the fall and winter of 2012 and the week before Christmas, I began following a brand new small publisher on Twitter named Great Minds Think Aloud, LLC—GMTA for short. I messaged her because she was not requesting queries due to the holiday. She replied to go ahead and send it along because she would most likely read it anyway over the Christmas break. A few days later, she requested a three chapter sample. A few after that, she requested the entire manuscript. The week between Christmas and New Year’s, she informed me that she wanted to work with me and sent me a contract. The rest as they say is history.

Me writingI’m also an artist. I specialize in portraits and they don’t have to be the stoic / statue kind. I prefer funny expressions, interesting poses or just people acting naturally. I often use candid photos to work from.

I love my family, football, food, and spending time with my gorgeous granddaughters; Esme is four and Scarlett and Harper are seven month old identical twins.

I love to travel but I hate to fly which can make being able to travel a stressful situation. However, once the plane touches down safely and I’m in that new place, even if only for a few days or a week, my soul soars and I feel like a kid again.

About my Books:

FirefliesFireflies: Is a story about a family whose parents are Irish immigrants. The story takes place in 1881 in rural Pennsylvania in a small coal mining town. Their youngest child, named Ennis, has miraculous abilities. His older sister is the first to discover them but when she feels her mother does not want to hear anything about it, she consults her best friend, who also tells her there must be some earthly explanation for the things he’s done. From there, over the course of a week in early spring, it becomes impossible to hide his gifts and he is exposed to everyone in the family and beyond.

There are other children in the home too (7 in all) and they each have a backstory that mingles with Ennis’. Everyone is touched by him in some way. His parents fear for his safety and go to great lengths to keep his gifts a secret. However, when he begins to show the gift of sight, his father becomes the most concerned because Ennis is getting way to close for comfort to something he has hidden in his past.

HftOHope from the Ocean: This is the story before the story. As much as I wanted to write what happened to the Whelan’s after “Fireflies,” and I most likely will, something kept pulling me back to Ireland and back to when Owen was a child. I wanted to know what happened to him and what lead him to come to America in the first place. What I found was the story of two very lost little boys and how their journeys in life took such completely different directions.

This novel starts in Ireland and takes you through the turbulent emotions of a lost boy and the feeling of longing for something but you haven’t the slightest idea what that something is. Unlike “Fireflies,” this book spans over forty years and weaves Irish history with family, struggles, faith and the ultimate triumph of reaching a place in your life where you know in your heart you are meant to be.

However, we all know that in reality, that comfortable place won’t last forever.


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Book Trailer

If you have time, please scroll through some of my thoughts below, I hope you find them interesting and maybe even useful to you when writing your stories 🙂 

Character Interviews

A Chat with Katherine Doyle:

What is your name?
Why it’s Katherine Doyle. Thank ye for asking.
Why were you given that name?
I believe the author thought I reminded her of her own Aunt Katherine.
Is there a nickname you’re known by? Do you prefer it?
No, I can’t say that I’ve ever had one of those.
What is your birth date and current age?
It isn’t polite to ask a lady her age ye know but I will say I’m over thirty.
What, if anything, does your zodiac sign mean to you?
Isn’t that some sort of fortune teller nonsense?
What is your height, weight and build?
I’m about five feet three inches tall and I’m average sized for a woman.
What is your hair color and style, eye color, and skin tone?
Me hair is light brown and so are me eyes, with a few specs of green here and there.
Do you have any scars, tattoos, piercings? What do they mean to you?
No scars luckily and what’s a tattoo?
How much pride do you take in your appearance?
It is important to me to always look my best.
How do you feel about your appearance? Favorite / most hated features?
I’m satisfied with me looks thank ye very much.
Do you have any siblings? If so, what are their names and ages?
I have one sister named Rachel, who is one year younger than me.
Who has been your greatest influence (parent, friend, idol)? Why?
I suppose that would be my husband Dell. He’s trained me to take care of him very well, although it isn’t always a pleasant experience.
13. Where did you grow up? How do you feel about it now?
I grew up in Swords in Ireland. It was lovely there but I prefer
Philadelphia now.
14. Where do you currently live (town, neighborhood, locale)? Do you like it?
We live in Philadelphia, PA and I love it here.
15. What sort of a home is it (castle, apartment, cardboard box)?
I used to have a lovely single family home of the Victorian style in north Philadelphia but I’ve since moved to my nephew Owen’s lovely five bedroom mansion in Center City. He’s moved to the country with his wife and children and has left it in my capable hands to care for.
16. With whom do you live? How do you feel about that person / people?
I used to share the home with Owen but now it’s just the dogs and
17. Do you have any pets?
As I said, I have two dogs. They are lovely and well trained Irish Setters.
18. What is your current job title / social station / rank?
I consider meself a gentlewoman. Although I am a widow, I have taken on many new friends and acquaintances and spend most of my free time assisting with the women’s clubs in Philadelphia society.
19. How do you feel about this role?
It is a role I was born to play.
20. How do you think your colleagues would describe you?
Me goodness, I hadn’t even imagined how they would describe me
but I would hope they’d say she’s a mighty fine woman.
21. What sort of vehicle / transportation do you rely on?
Me nephew Owen was kind enough to leave his carriage and keep
the driver employed indefinitely.
22. What is your favorite or most dreaded holiday? Why?
Christmas would be me favorite holiday as well as me most dreaded
as it is the day me dear sister Rachel left us.
Going a bit deeper…
23. Is your family currently close? Are they a source of support or stress?
There was only Owen and I for quite a while but now that he’s married and has children and moved to the country, I still consider us close although we don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like.
24. Have you ever been abused? If so, how? How do you feel about it now?
Apologies but I feel that question is far too personal for a woman of me dignity and stature.
25. How deeply does your job / social role define you as a person?
Me social role as you call it is everything to me. It defines me completely.
26. Whom would you contact first to share good news?
Owen and Sarah!
27. What is your relationship status at the start of the story?
I was married for fifteen years to Dell Doyle.
28. Describe your past relationships. How many? Who? Why did they end?
Just Dell—that is all.
29. How do you feel about money?
You cannot survive in polite society without it—nor can you assist those who are less fortunate.
30. Do you have any irrational fears / phobias?
What are those? Me only fears are being poor and lonely.

How to Make Your Characters Believable

Sometimes when I sit down to work out an idea for a story that’s been dancing or in some cases stomping around in my head, I first try to identify who the story will be about or who the main characters will be. Once I figure out what they want and need, I name them, color them in and dress them according to what century they’ll be living in, what their income level might be and what they either do or don’t do for a living.
Once these characters are drawn in my imagination, their personalities begin to take shape. In “Fireflies,” I named the characters according to the personality traits I planned for them to have. I researched name meanings and outlined each of them as to what kind of person they were, their likes and dislikes and even how they spoke, before they ever found their way into the pages of the book.
Fireflies” is a character driven story as well as being a paranormal historical fiction story, so it was very important that these people come to life for me and my readers. The story takes place in the nineteenth century. It wouldn’t make much sense for these young people to be using twenty first century slang and high fiving each other would it? I know that seems a bit extreme but our readers are super smart and they can spot a time traveler a mile away. Do your research. It’s so important and so worth it.
Consistency in a character’s behavior is important. If they do evolve and change, make that evolution a natural transition and not something to where your reader becomes confused as to who is speaking. For example; in chapter three, your character might be jumping fences and wearing her brother’s clothes, and in chapter four, she’s wearing a dress and acting like a total lady. It’s fine for her to change her clothes but under the dress, she’s still the same person and most likely hasn’t a clue how to wear a dress or how to behave in one.
The most important part of creating believable characters is to draw from your own life experience. Being the youngest of eleven children and having a very large extended family, I have so many characters to draw from I don’t think I’ll ever run out of material. Get out and live. Watch people and really listen to them. People are how they speak and behave, not who they may tell you they are. As Henry David Thoreau said, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

10 Things I Wish I Knew About Being an Author

Unless you’re already famous for something else; rock star, movie actor, professional athlete—you most likely will not sell a million copies of your book—your first book let’s say. For Joe Shmo and P.S. Bartlett and many other authors, being successful takes a good deal of time, good marketing and a great support base. If you’re hoping to get rich quick by being a writer, you may want to get that record deal or Lakers contract first.
You have to have either a very good memory or be incredibly organized. Between scheduling writing time, writing your blog, tweeting, running contests, Facebook pages, email addresses, writing your book and not to mention holding down a full time job, keeping house, cooking, cleaning and keeping your significant other from leaving you due to you forgetting not only their birthday but their name, you may have time to pee and walk the cat—I mean dog.
It can be a very lonely career. Writers need a lot of solitary time to write. I’ll admit, I’ve been writing and someone will come into the room and most often they will ask that all too important question, “Are you writing?” but occasionally the matter is important to them. Forgive them because they don’t realize you’re right in the middle of taking down an army of giant trolls and when you read back over what you wrote later, try not to get upset with them when your troll has forgotten to do their homework and needs an excuse note for their teacher or they’ve set the kitchen on fire.
People want your swag. If you’re not an author and you’re reading this, no, they do not want your lovely new curtains, they want goodies that show off your books. There is a bit of an investment involved but it’s oh so worth when your fans want something special to go with their books. Bookmarks, buttons, charms and t-shirts make great swag but always remember your fans love your books and they are going to want some swag so you better have it ready.
Getting published is as easy as 1, 2, 3 (and other fairy tales). There are literally millions of books on Amazon alone—go look if you don’t believe me. Looks pretty simple doesn’t it? (I’ll be right back I’m rolling on the floor laughing). Even if you become frustrated with the process of querying agents and publishers and decide to self-publish your book, there are plenty of really nice and friendly people waiting in line to take your money and help you do just that—choose wisely. Do background checks if you have to but please be careful.
Depending on which genre you write in, you must do your research. Nero didn’t smoke cigars—neither did pirates. I’ll bet you didn’t know that did you? Okay well even if you claim you did, do you have to be 100% historically accurate? Well yes, you should. Of course you can use your imagination to create new scenarios, for instance Abraham Lincoln as a vampire hunter but if old Abe whips out his iPod or says, “Hey, pass the Grey Poupon,” I’m sorry but your more experienced reader is gonna close the book on you.
I didn’t know authors were zombies. I’ve learned to accomplish more things while half asleep than some people do wide awake—I think. Well I try. Okay I thought I did those things!
Social networking is very important but don’t beg. If you’re a new author, currently writing your first novel or even thinking about it, you better have a Facebook, a Twitter, a Google+ and a blog at the very least or you are already way behind. The irony of all of this is under point number 3. I compare this lifestyle to living like a gopher. In the hole, out of the hole. In the hole, out of the hole. We hide and write and in the next breath, we stick our head out, make a bunch of really cool new friends, say hello to our fans and then run back in our holes. Please, just don’t bombard people with “Over here! Look at me! PLEASE look at me! WILL YOU FREAKING LOOK OVER HERE!!!” Build relationships. Support your fellow writers and above all, don’t steal their golf balls.
Not everyone likes you and once you’re published, they may like you even less. As we strive to write that perfect, wonderful book that of course everyone wants to read and it miraculously gets published and we’re deliriously happy and sharing our happiness with anyone who will listen on every social media site and at every cocktail party or barbeque we attend, there is someone or someones lurking and guess what—they don’t like you, never did and they’ll be mean to you. They’ll give you anonymous bad reviews or say not so nice things about your book—since it is of course the source of your happiness. The answer to this is very simple. Write them into your next novel and kill them. Done.
People will like you and they’ll love your book. The most incredible feeling you get when your book is published and you start receiving feedback from complete strangers as to how good or even great it is will blow you away. Besides the birth of my children and grandchildren, giving birth to my first novel and holding it in my hands for the first time was nothing short of euphoria. Within its pages or gigabytes lies your blood, sweat and tears. It’s an asexual reproduction of your deepest thoughts and your wildest dreams, and you don’t need an epidural or puff puff blow to bring it into the world—however, a little shot of tequila or in my case RumChata to welcome its arrival never hurt anybody.

Inside the Mind of the Author

After I chose this topic to write about, I started to take it back but then I though, “Where’s the fun in that?” The inside of this author’s mind isn’t completely uninteresting so perhaps, there’s something inside this big blond head that you may be interested in knowing. Besides, I have this agonizing way of not taking things back. I have things that do not fit or that I hated when I got home from the store or gadgets that just didn’t work but I just couldn’t take them back. I made the choice to bring those things into my world so I should be stuck with them, right?
Stuck is a good word for my mind. Things go in but they can’t get out.
I realized early on in life that I could draw and paint and did that pretty much daily until I could write, then I did them both. On that journey, I also realized I had the ability to remember things other people couldn’t and could draw and write things I’d seen or heard directly from memory but only if those things left an impression on me. These images did not necessarily have to be enclosed in what by most standards are major events. They just had to leave an imprint for some unknown reason. This has been a lifelong curse as much as it has a gift. I can still see Christmas Eve 1969. We were running up to my sister’s apartment next door after midnight. I can still look down at the sidewalk and see my pink furry slippers in the light bit of snow on that city street. Unfortunately, I can also vividly remember finding my sweet cat Pumpkin, bloody and lying dead beneath the tree outside of my sister’s apartment when I came home from school one day. He’d been hit by a car.
I don’t even have to close my eyes. The really rough part of it all is the emotional memories live in there too. That flash-memory of Christmas Eve makes my heart race and seeing poor Pumpkin in my mind can bring tears to my eyes and then anger. No, I couldn’t tell you what I wore the first day I ever went to school but I can tell you I was wearing a red and brown plaid dress and brown Mary Jane’s the day a goat ate a chunk of it at a petting zoo, on a Saturday at the old Glen Burnie Mall. I was about four or five. I was scared to death. I can still see that crazy goat dragging me along as I screamed for help. Stop laughing. Okay, go ahead and laugh, I’m sure most of the people at the mall did too.
Inside my mind is fifty years of memories, visuals, emotions and yes, even voices from my entire life and if you don’t believe me, I might as well not even bother to tell you about the day I was in WalMart and heard a woman speaking a few racks over and immediately said, “That’s Mrs. Morris, my first grade teacher!” It was. I hadn’t heard her voice in over twenty years. The true blessing in all of this mushed up gray matter is being able to remember the majority of every significant event in my life. They may fall into the category of what one may not think of as significant but to my brain, they were. Having a vivid imagination married with a photographic memory may not be a blessing if you’re trying to forget things but to a writer, it feels like you’ve been given a library of work that is yet to be written.

How to Avoid the Rejection Blues

Admit it, we’ve all been told no a time or two in our lives. Actually, we’ve probably been told no more times than we’d care to remember but from the time we started telling ourselves yes, for some reason those no’s got even harder and harder to take. When we become adults, we constantly tell ourselves yes because we love ourselves and we want us to be happy. For example;
Yes, of course I can have that pizza.”
Yes, I worked hard all week. I deserve that new pocket book.”
Yes, I’m a grown up now, I can eat ice cream for dinner and chase it with corn chips!”
After all, why would we tell ourselves no anyway? We only tell ourselves no when it’s something we probably don’t want anyway or we have to for health or financial reasons. So the problem with rejection as we grow up is now, we have that big ole ego and we’ve been eating ice cream for dinner and buying new pocket books so we even get a little perturbed when a cab passes by us and doesn’t stop. I know it seems like I’m leading you into the woods here but honestly I’m not. The point I’m trying to make is the only way to overcome the rejection blues is to stop making it all about you.
When we realize that for the most part we are the only people alive who are going to tell us yes again and again and that we have no control over anyone else’s decisions, it’s much easier to move on to the next agent or publisher or taxi cab. Sure, it will still hurt a bit but I’m talking about the difference between a bee sting and being hit by a bus. Unless you’re allergic to bees, there’s a real big difference in how either of those will affect you.
When you get that rejection, it’s okay to feel bad. It’s even okay to eat ice cream for dinner if it makes you feel better but when you can accept the fact that it isn’t about you, it’s about the agent or publisher’s personal or business choices and what they are looking for, you’ll do whatever it is you do to feel better and get back to work on the next submission. It also wouldn’t hurt to freshen up that query and get another opinion—just to make sure you’re giving it your all. However, stay true to who you are and stay at it. Not that I’m telling you no but try not to eat ice cream for dinner every night. It really isn’t good for you.


2 thoughts on “Meet Guest Author Peggy Bartlett (and a character interview with Katherine Doyle)


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