Interview with Erin Bartles, Author of WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS

by Dan Stout in

As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on

Today, we’re continuing the series with a conversation with Erin Bartles, author of WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, releasing from Revell Books on New Year’s Day, 01/01/19.


CoverFlat200x300 (1).jpg

The story begins when journalist Elizabeth Balsam is tasked with returning a box of never-before-seen photos of the 1967 Detroit riot to a relative she didn’t know she had. Elizabeth wants to use them to further her flagging career. But as she connects with her long-lost great-aunt in the family’s 150-year-old farmhouse outside of Detroit, she begins to uncover the stories of two women who lived in that very house a century apart, who were involved in the Underground Railroad and the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. What she discovers about her family’s past has repercussions for her own future.

Interview Excerpt:

How long did it take for you to write WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS?

The first inkling of the idea came in 2011 or 2012. I researched for all of 2013. I drafted it in 65 days at the beginning of 2014. Then it was revise, revise, revise. I signed with my agent in 2015. We went on submission in 2016. In 2017, I signed my publishing contract. And it finally hits shelves January 1, 2019. It’s been a long road. 

How much research did you do for WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS?

I read well over a thousand pages on women in the Civil War, Michigan’s involvement in the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, funerary practices in the Victorian Era, Reconstruction, the Great Migration, Jim Crow, the development of the city of Detroit, civil unrest and the Detroit riot of 1967, and more. I also watched documentaries, listened to podcasts, and interviewed people who had lived in Detroit in the 1960s.

How did you get into writing?

I was an English major, so I adore great writing, be it novels, poetry, plays, short stories, or essays. After reading other people’s novels for work for about a decade, I think it was inevitable that I would try my hand at writing one.

 What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Finding time. I work full time. I’m a mom. I have a house to keep up. Etc. Finding time is always, always a struggle. But if something is important to you, you make it work.


Full interview here:



ERIN BARTELS is a copywriter and freelance editor by day, a novelist by night, and a painter, seamstress, poet, and photographer in between. Her debut novel, We Hope for Better Things, is scheduled to be released in January 2019 from Revell Books, followed in September 2019 with The Words Between Us, which was a finalist for the 2015 Rising Star Award from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. Her poems have been published by The Lyric and The East Lansing Poetry Attack. A member of the Capital City Writers Association and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, she is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine.

Connect with Erin:







by Dan Stout

Author Interview with B.P. Donigan, author of FATE FORGED

by Dan Stout in

As part of the ongoing celebration of upcoming debut novels, I’ll be running highlights of interviews from a number of my fellow debuts through the end of 2019. The full interviews are available on

Today, we’re kicking off the series with a conversation with B.P. Donigan, author of FATE FORGED, an urban fantasy from Red Adept Publishing, releasing 12.18.18


Growing up on the streets of Boston, Maeve O’Neill learned to rely only on herself. Paying bills isn't glamorous, but her life is on a better track—until she starts having agonizing visions of torture. Desperate to rid herself of the paralyzing episodes, she follows her visions to the scene of a murder. Instead of answers, she gets an unexpected gift from the victim: Magic.

With the unwanted power, Maeve becomes the access point to all of Earth's untapped magic. Now, powerful enemies are after her and staying alive means striking a bargain with an untrustworthy ally with a long-shot plan. Maeve has to keep the magic in check until she can get rid of it, but her control is slipping and everything could go wrong. If the plan fails, her unlikely ally betrays her, or her enemies catch her, she'll be handing over all of Earth's magic...and her life.


Interview Excerpt:

How long did it take for you to write Fate Forged?

I first sat down to write a novel four years before Fate Forged was published. The first year was all about learning how to write a novel. I've always been an avid reader, and I knew what I liked, but I had no idea how to plan, plot or pace a novel. An entire second year was spent editing my work in progress and then getting beta readers and critique partners.


How much research did you do for Fate Forged?

I researched everything! For the story itself, I had to map out the character's road trip, and Google search weapons, how to realistically kill someone in hand-to-hand combat, and watch lots of videos online just to make a coherent fight scene. For a while there, I was pretty sure my internet searches were going to flag an FBI raid on my house.

Did anything change significantly in your book during the writing or editing process?

A: Yes! Many of the character's names changed, and the title of Fate Forged used to be The Lost Sect, which I liked, but the publisher didn't think had enough depth. After some soul searching, I decided "Fate" was a thread that will reach across the entire series, and then I attempted to find a title with the word Fate that didn't sound like a romance novel! To make it all cohesive, I ended up coming up with titles for the first three books (as well as the Series Title) so the extra effort was worth it.


Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Plotter all the way. I’m always looking for better ways to plan out the plot, the characters and pacing. For me, it’s so much easier to write creatively if I know the bones of the story are solid.

Find FATE FORGED on: Amazon | Kobo | Red Adept Publishing | B&N | GooglePlay

Full interview here:


authors19 photo.png

B.P. Donigan was born and raised in Wasilla, Alaska (which would later become famous thanks to one infamous politician who could see Russian from her house, but at the time was about as rural as you can get).

She attended college in rural Idaho earning a degree in Print Journalism, and then not-so-rural Utah earning a degree in Marketing, and finally moved to very-not-rural Boston where she lived and worked for ten years. After paying her dues to the Extreme Winters, she resides now in sunny California, with her two kids, two fish, two dogs… and one amazing husband. Like any good superhero she spends her daytime building her cover story behind a desk, and her nights saving the world (on paper, at least).

by Dan Stout

Holy Crap we got a Cover!!

by Dan Stout in

I couldn’t be happier to share this incredible cover with the world. I mean, c’mon: just look at it. It’s got FACE MANDIBLES!!

Titanshade front cover LOW RES.jpg

Carter's a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It's also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster.

Chris McGrath’s art is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and the team at DAW Books did an amazing job of capturing the grit and decay that permeates the city of Titanshade.

The cover will be popping up soon in places like Goodreads and Amazon, (where it's already available for pre-order).  And of course it will be available in bookstores, libraries, or whatever your favorite story-swapping location might be.

Every day brings us closer to the March 12th, 2019 launch, and I’m continually stunned by how much fun (and work) each step of the process is. Whether you’re new to Titanshade or have been following along since the beginning: Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and sharing in the story!

If you want to make sure you get all book-ish updates as they happen, be sure to click on that Mailing List link.

by Dan Stout

Week 5 of #Debut19Chat

by Dan Stout





Day 26

Currently reading: QUEENPIN, by Megan Abbott. A brilliant, calculating gangster. Her protege. And the male fatale who carries destruction behind sorrowful eyes. I could quote my favorite lines, but I'd just end up re-typing the whole thing.


Day 28

Currently working on the sequel to TITANSHADE. 

My *completely unrelated* side project is screaming obscenities at my computer monitor while rocking back and forth in my chair, fingers clawing at my tear-stained cheeks.

Day 30 

Other places to find me!

Mailing List: 
Curious Fictions:
Twitter: @DanStout
Butt: InChair

If you're local to Columbus, OH, you can also find me teaching the Story Structure & Business of Fiction class at the Columbus Idea Foundry!

Day 31:
Final Day!
Thanks to everyone in #DebutAuthors19 - so great to learn more about the amazing debut authors of 2019! TITANSHADE's cover art hasn't been released yet, but it is available for pre-order on Amazon.
And it's also on Goodreads.

by Dan Stout

Learning my Lines: Earning the Emotional Beat

by Dan Stout in ,


One of the most powerful tools available to writers is to read and study the work of those who have gone before. For me, hand copying and examination can reveal the techniques of another author and help me advance my own craft. I've written up some of these observations to share with other readers & writers.


Okay, I recently read Edgar Cantero's Meddling Kids. There's SO MUCH great stuff in this book, but today I want to highlight one passage in particular that jumped out at me, and see if we can peek under the hood to see why it works.  


"Tomorrow, Tim, we'll be in Blyton Hills. You know what that is?"
She scratched his head, their eyes locked and perfectly level, and Tim listened closely.
"You've never been there, but your great-grandfather had. It's the best place in the world," she told him. "A very little town in a valley filled with summer homes, not like those shitty plastic suburbs, but with cute gardens and really old trees, where not yuppies, nor rednecks, but real nice people live. And all around it, in every direction, and the green mantle of woods, miles and miles of... adventure."
Her sight, and Tim's, and strayed into the stars.
"Mountains to climb and creeks to cross in every spot. Swamps where you can build rafts, and caves to take shelter in when it rains, and old mills and barns where hand-wringing bad guys think of their plots, and lakes with monsters, and haunted houses where pirates used to live."
She paused. Tim nose-prodded her like she was a music box that had stopped playing.

This section comes after a lengthy road trip, in a bit of a narrative pause, as the main characters have assembled and are about to enter into the next phase of their story. It's certainly Cantero talking to the audience, as much as it's about the characters expressing their own sense of wonder.

The interesting thing is why is works so well. This direct stating of fact and theme is pulled off because the characters have gone through so much heartache and trouble to get to this spot. The speaker, Andy, in particular has been through a lot, and has been the primary driver in reuniting the gang and returning them to their childhood haunts. She's picked up physical and emotional scars getting this far, and her moment of reflection (with Tim, a dog, who can't speak or judge) feels like a reward to her and the reader, while also serving as a promise of where the story is headed next. 

It's this sense of earned honesty combined with wonder and anticipation that makes this section sing. Truthfully, I'm not even sure it will seem striking if you haven't seen it in the context of the full book. 

But it damn well works if you have.



Edit:  Interestingly, Jason Sheehan chose the same excerpt to lead his NPR review of Meddling Kids.

And for another Meddling Kids review, check out this one from Sarah Hans


by Dan Stout

Week 1 of #Debut19Chat

by Dan Stout


I'm excited and proud to have my novel Titanshade coming out in 2019, and I'm consistently astounded by the quality of the other debut works I've seen. 

As a way to get to know each other and to put us in touch with readers, a group of 2019 Debut Authors have banded together to answer a series of questions on social media. 

Here are my responses for Week 1.


1) Introduce yourself

I'm Dan Stout, and I write quirky noir fiction of all flavors, from gritty crimes to magic-rich worlds and even shakedowns on a middle-school playground.

I'm very excited to be part of #DebutAuthors19 & #Debut19Chat ! My fiancee and I have 2 ridiculous mammals: Greta & Pixar.




2) Introduce your Novel

TITANSHADE is a noir fantasy thriller set in an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, & all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. 
It's Men In Black meets Chinatown, it's ridiculously fun, and I can't wait to share it with everyone!


3) Your Journey: Years, Tears, Cheers

#Debut19Chat Day3 The Journey
In 2014 I lost my job during the holidays. I sent out resumes by day & stocked shelves at Toys'R'Us till 6am to pay the bills. I'd had a total of two stories published, w/no prospects for more. Out of the blue, I received an email from Nat Sobel.

He'd enjoyed one of my stories, & offered to look at my first chapters if/when I had a novel. He made no promises, but that gave me something to latch on to. Every night I listened to podcasts on craft as I organized Transfomers & Monster High displays, & every day I kept writing.

Today, I'm represented by Sobel Weber, and TITANSHADE comes out from DAW Books in March. I wrote my book, but it's my agent & my editor, my fiancee & friends, and all the other writers forming a support network who helped see it to completion. And that definitely includes the folks in #Debut19Chat!


4) How has your Life Changed

The biggest change is that I wake up so damn excited to start the day. 
Writing to contract comes with its own set of challenges, but man... there's nothing like the feeling of opening your eyes and knowing that today you'll get to tell a story.

by Dan Stout