award-winning author

Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Danielle A. Vann

Two of Vann’s novels won awards in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! The Whizbang Machine, Book 1, won Silver in Preteen (11+), and Tunney’s Curse, Book 2, won Gold, also in Preteen.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a child—seriously! I was the kid that stayed up all night reading and writing. I started writing intensely in high school. I had an English teacher that pushed me to write more, be better, focus. She submitted one of my pieces to a contest called Wings of Freedom. It won and was displayed in the White House and then the later in the halls of Congress. It inspired me to keep writing. I selected journalism in college so that I could write daily. I knew that being an author was ultimately where I would finish my professional career. Roughly ten years ago I shifted my focus and started to write for the commercial market. Since then, I have five traditionally published books to my credit.

What’s the target age group for your books?

I’ve been very fortunate to not be stuck in a genre. I have two children’s picture books series, a non-fiction Christian book with friend and celebrity carpenter, Brandon Russell, and then the Young Adult series, The Whizbang Machine, book 1 and The Whizbang Machine, Tunney’s Curse, Book 2, that placed silver and gold in the CLC awards. I’m the mother of three children ranging in ages from 12 ½ to 5. I began to notice that my older daughters were struggling to find engaging, clean series for their age groups. I wrote The Whizbang series free of sexual content, extreme violence, etc. I wanted to give them a book they could read without being exposed to questionable behaviors. I too wanted it to be a series that children from ages 10 to college level could read as a part of classroom materials.

What inspired your award-winning books?

This is an easy one, and honestly something I like to refer to as serendipity.

One month before I was given the pleasure of signing my contract with the Waldorf Publishing team, my dear friend Erin snapped a photograph of an old Royal typewriter, seated in a beautiful tan and maroon case, which her family had been gifted. Knowing my affinity for antiques, especially those that deal with writing and literary works, she sent me a text one early Sunday morning with the words, “Look at what David’s father gave us.”

I hadn’t yet made my way out of bed as it was still very early. Hearing the familiar chime of my phone, I wondered who was texting me at that time. As the photo came through, with it came the idea for the first book. I sprang from bed and began outlining. Unbeknownst to Erin, that single photo became my muse. In honor of this gift, her oldest daughter became the basis for the character of Elizabeth Yale. The rest of the series has honestly taken on a life of its own. I write as it comes and once I start, it’s impossible to get the characters to stop finding their through my fingertips.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

Oh, I’m cringing but it’s true: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” HA!

Elizabeth Yale tries to get out of the drama, but well, sadly, she’s a drama magnet.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your book(s)?

I’m very lucky to have had Audible buy into the rights for Book 1 and Book 2 very early in the game. In fact, they were sold before book 2 was nothing more than a single chapter. The Whizbang Machine is available on Audible.com and it is also can be purchased in physical copy through Audible, Barnes and Noble, Target, and other select retailers. We are hopeful that Audible will continue supporting the Whizbang series and buy into book 3 and 4 soon.

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Bailey Carr is my voice actor for book 1 and book 2. She is an INCREDIBLE! She has many award-winning books to her credit. Working with her is easy and pleasurable. The exciting part is both Whizbang books are full of Dutch words as they are set in Leiden, the Netherlands. She has been amazing to make sure she brings to the table all she can in the way of correct pronunciation and inflection. Truly, Bailey is a star in her own right.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

One of my favorite writers is Garth Stein. He is amazing. He brings a simplicity to the page that I would be so lucky to employ. I can’t help but marvel at his talent. My favorite book of his is called, The Art of Racing in the Rain. I loved the fact that they moved it over into YA and republished it. The minute they did I purchased a copy for my oldest daughter and forced her to read it. I’m happy to say she loved it as much I do and did.

Clearly, there are so many other masters of the craft such as J.K. Rowling. I love that she refuses to back down from long, somewhat complicated text and gives it her all. Readers, whether reluctant or not, are pulled into her spell. That, to me, is her true gift of magic.

Lastly, I’m a fan of Ridley Pearson. His Kingdom Keepers series is something I’ve read with my children. They eat up everything he writes. He, too, works to keep the scenes clean and accessible to the young and old. That is something we need more these days. I’m no prude, mind you, but I do believe in the magical time of childhood. There is plenty of time to muck it up later, both in life and in fiction.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

Actually no. I don’t think so. I am a straight from the book kind of girl. I work from a detailed outline. I stick to deadlines. I love quiet and no music while writing. If I am not feeling it, I walk away and come back. End of story. Kind of boring if you ask me. The scene is all the noise I need. Oh, I guess I do bounce my legs like I’m running a timed marathon when the action is happening. That’s quirky, I guess.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Oh boy, this is the million dollar questions, isn’t it?! Well, since I’m traditionally published the weight of promotion doesn’t fall directly on my shoulders. I have a wonderful team that backs what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I do a ton of my own. I write in the morning between 5 a.m. and roughly 10 a.m. every single day except for Sunday. I work for a publisher as the marketing specialist so I do my day job after that, and make sure I’m available to my family when and where they need me. That is, if I’m not traveling. However, they have been very lucky to travel with me as well.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

Absolutely! To the readers, thank you! I truly know that without someone to read my work what I do is meaningless. Truly, it is. I am always thrilled to hear from readers. I love it when they attend my events and speak about different scenes or even about the impact one of my books had on them. That truly is amazing to me. Oftentimes I feel that they know my work better than I know it! And for that, I’m so grateful. I welcome anyone to reach out through my social media sites and open a productive and positive conversation.

To my fellow award-winning authors, CONGRATS! Congrats! I recently was in Paris at another awards ceremony and while I was speaking I was able to say something that I truly believe in. And that is, writing is the intersection of determination and passion. I didn’t say talent and luck. I said determination and passion. Because, you see, I believe that once you have placed your intention and goals on what you love, passion sparks talent and luck is nothing but hard work in the making.

Author Bio and Award-Winning Books

Danielle A. Vann started her career as a television news writer at the tender age of 18. With a passion for writing Vann committed to learning every aspect of the newsroom as she worked her way up to reporter and anchor within two short years. After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma she took an anchor position in Louisiana. Her career as a reporter and anchor earned her an Associate Press Award. Her book genres span a wide-range from children’s books with two highly reviewed series, award-winning YA fiction, and five star non-fiction title. Danielle lives in Texas with her husband and three children.

Connect with Vann on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.

After years of running from his tragic past, Jack Yale books a flight home. With him is a typewriter that is intended to be a gift for his granddaughter, Elizabeth. The minute Elizabeth’s fingers cradle the large black and cream keys the machine responses: popping, sizzling, and roaring to life with a Whiz-Whiz-BANG!

Elizabeth quickly discovers the typewriter has powers beyond anything she has ever seen. The more she types, the more the machine spells out guarded secrets. Each secret leads them deeper into a haunted past. Each secret must be revealed in order to set history straight and remove a curse that has been on their family for centuries.

To solve the mystery, Elizabeth Yale, alongside Jack, will have to crack the code of the Whizbang Machine. What they find challenges their most basic assumptions of their family, the history of the typewriter, and even Elizabeth’s father’s death. The ultimate goal is to remove the curse. The question is: will Jack and Elizabeth be able to carry out their mission?

“The Whizbang Machine is an incredibly suspenseful book which will have readers of all ages eagerly turning pages with enthusiasm as they wait to see what will become of Elizabeth and her eccentric grandfather, Jack.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Amazon ~ Target ~ Barnes&Noble

“The Whizbang Machine, Tunney’s Curse” finds Elizabeth Yale clinging to life. Her plan to save the Whizbang machine has backfired. As her grandfather, Jack, feverishly works to save her, the Whizbang factory begins to topple down around them. Narrowly escaping, the pair realizes the Whizbang machine is missing. Jack and Elizabeth must follow the clues Elizabeth’s deceased father, Jesse, left behind to unravel the secrets of Tunney’s Curse and stop it once and for all. This must be done before Elizabeth’s mother’s 40th birthday—which is mere days away. As they dig, they are sent on a wild chase into the dark underbelly of the Netherlands, into the city’s canals looking for a sunken ship, and through the private chambers of a Queen. Each new secret exposed only deepens the mystery of Jack and Elizabeth’s family’s past. The ultimate questions remain: will they gather the clues and stop the curse in time? Or will someone fall to the curse once and for all?

“Recommended for home and school libraries, The Whizbang Machine: Tunney’s Curse is a dynamic fantasy adventure with mystery, action, suspense and intrigue.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Amazon ~ Target ~ Barnes&Noble

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Luke T. Harrington

Author, Luke T. Harrington, won three awards in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! His novel, Ophelia, Alive (A Ghost Story), took Gold in High School Horror/Paranormal, and Silver in both High School Mystery/Thriller and College Horror/Paranormal.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

Probably before I could technically “write.” I think my mom still has some of the construction-paper-and-crayon “books” I “wrote” as a kid—which, if memory serves, were mostly about me defeating alien invasions. She promised to embarrass me in front of all my high school girlfriends with them, but I’m not sure she ever made good on that threat. As far as I’m concerned, they’re still a ticking time bomb—my mom could still blackmail me with them at any moment.

I really didn’t get serious about writing until a few years ago, though—right around the time my first child was born and I realized I’d probably never be a pop star. (There was a whole quarter-life crisis involving a failed American Idol audition, which…the less said about that, the better.)

What’s the target age group for your book?

In my mind, I was writing my book for an adult-ish audience, but despite that, my good friend best-selling author K.B. Hoyle (name drop!) encouraged me to submit it to Literary Classics, who gave it two votes for “high school” and one for “college.”

I’d personally recommend it for a college audience, since that’s the life stage my main character, Ophelia, is at, and the themes are pretty “adult.” Mature high school audiences could probably handle it, though—my mom (there she is again!) donated a few copies to some high school libraries, and no one’s shown up at my door with torches and pitchforks yet, so I guess that’s a good sign.

What inspired your award-winning book?

Ophelia, Alive is a novel about how “the killer” might be lurking within each of us, which is a question that’s been gnawing at me for a long time. I’ve long been fascinated by stories of “homicidal somnambulists”—people who go through their lives as normal, upstanding citizens, but then, one night, just get up and commit a murder or three in their sleep. Assuming the stories are true, are those people really different from conscious, deliberate killers? And are any of us? Or are we all just waiting to have that particular “switch” flipped?

What inspired me most directly, though, was an article I read about a stop-smoking pill called Chantix. It’s a psychoactive drug that, for most people, just prevents them from enjoying cigarettes; for a handful of people, though, it triggers symptoms analogous to paranoid schizophrenia. It kind of blew my mind—both that it exists and that it’s FDA-approved—and it seemed like way too good of an idea for a story to pass up.

Then I threw in some ghosts and Shakespeare. And poop jokes. Every good novel needs poop jokes.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

“Poor Ophelia / Divided from herself and her fair judgment, / Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts.” —Gertrude, Hamlet Act IV Scene 5

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?

That’s the sort of thing I’d love to do, but my publisher would have to give the greenlight to it. Actually, I’d love to just record the audiobook myself (“record an audiobook” is def on the ol’ bucket list), but my narrator is female, so…eh. No one wants to listen to twenty hours of me trying to sound convincingly female.

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

I’m going to say Kristen Stewart, mainly because I just watched Personal Shopper (another good ghost story), and her performance in that was beautifully understated. Also because I’m sure there’s a ton of money to be made off of Twilight fans.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

Louis Sachar is the one who immediately comes to mind here. He was essentially the author I grew up with, and who grew up with me—he got me early as a kid with his wacky Wayside School books, but my jaw dropped when I read his thoughtful coming-of-age novel Holes as a high school student. Sachar taught me, indirectly, that it’s possible to be funny while still pursuing insight and depth.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I only type by smacking my laptop keyboard with a dead fish.

But for real, not really, I guess? I get up before sunrise to write every day, and I use my kitchen island as my desk. Are those things weird? They’re kind of weird.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

I have no clue. I was hoping you’d tell me.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

You all should buy a Nintendo Switch. Those things are more fun than an explosion of rainbows and puppies.

(Chess’s Ed. Note: Remember the line above about being funny while pursuing insight and depth? Yeah, me too. Pretty sure it applies here.)

Author Bio

In addition to three Literary Classics medals, Luke T. Harrington’s debut novel, OPHELIA, ALIVE (A GHOST STORY) also snagged itself an Independent Publisher Book Award for horror. Luke’s writing has also appeared in publications such as Cracked, BuzzFeed, Christianity Today, and also the back of a napkin once.

Luke lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife and two young daughters, where he’s a stay-at-home dad, a freelance editor, and basically a pro at Nintendo Switch.

Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Award-Winning Book

Trapped in the fifth circle of state university hell…
…flat broke…
…and then the bodies start piling up.


I should have sensed something wrong when my mortician sister offered me a job. And I should have known something was up when she talked me into taking those pills. At the very least, the hallucinations should have been a red flag.

But now, here I am, standing over a half-eaten corpse.

I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming.

“Horror meets literary fiction in this unique novel in which Shakespeare, Poe, and the like join efforts to create a surreal montage of thoughtful introspection.” Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Rebecca Hammond Yager

Author Rebecca Hammond Yager received the Literary Classics Words On Wings Book Award for her YA novel, Beauty & the Beast. Words on Wings is one of the contest’s Top Honors awards, given to extraordinary young adult fiction. Beauty & the Beast also won Gold in High School Romance.

Congratulations on your achievements! When did you first start writing?

Thank you! I first started writing around age 8, dipping my toes into poetry first before discovering novel writing at age 11. But I’ve been telling stories pretty much since I learned to speak. My mom always said I was alarmingly quiet at first, not starting off with all the typical baby words, and that when I finally started talking, it was in complete sentences. And once I was forming sentences, I was telling stories.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Beauty & the Beast is… I don’t know…12 and up? I think of it as for all ages really.

My first novel, Winds Cove, a YA mystery published in 2004, was also about the same, maybe for ages 10 and up. I think, or at least I hope, that my books are crafted well enough that they can’t be outgrown. My future books, several in the works but none finished yet, will be for teens and some for perhaps a slightly older audience though not because they’ll be inaccessible to teen audiences, more because the heroines will start to range more in age.

What inspired your award-winning book?

This is perhaps a longer answer than you were looking for, but here goes:

I dine on fairytales almost daily. They are not the only things I read—I love all kinds of Fantasy, Supernatural, Murder Mystery, some Horror, as well as Science Fiction/Science Fantasy—but I obsessively collect fairytales. Fairytales were my introduction to the Fantasy genre, and some of my earliest memories are my mom reading me fairytales before tucking me in at night. I can still hear her voice in the cadence of the words in one particular version of Cinderella, and I’m on the hunt for the particular version of Sleeping Beauty she read to me which I have not ever come across since. That’s a long way of saying fairytales are important to me. They’re literally woven into the fabric of my imagination. So in the midst of all the writing projects I have going, I’ve always wanted to squeeze some fairytale retellings in as well.

I had a vague idea, a lifetime or two ago, about a story centering around a cursed black lion. I knew immediately it was a Beauty and the Beast type of story, although I didn’t know how closely it would mirror its source. And then my ideas regarding the noble, raven-furred lion were lost to my piles and stacks and mountains of notebooks as other story ideas threw themselves in my path. I never forgot him. But his story has been stuck on the back burner ever since. Growing up with Madame Beaumont’s 1756 “Beauty and the Beast” and of course Disney’s enchanted retelling, I was utterly unprepared for Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s 140-page original version, The Story of the Beauty and the Beast, published in 1740, sixteen years before Madame Beaumont severely condensed it into the tale commonly found in fairytale collections. Moreover, I didn’t even know Villeneuve’s version existed until I stumbled across it on Amazon and realized Beaumont, so often credited as the inventor of the tale, was in fact only a reinventor like Disney and everyone else. While I completely understand why Beaumont chose to streamline the rambling story so much, I was simultaneously thrilled and dismayed to discover that the version I knew was only half the story. Beauty’s heritage and backstory had been shorn away and have now been all but obliterated from common knowledge. I was mesmerized in particular by Villeneuve’s Fairy Realm, a kingdom in the air belonging to a fairy race with their own laws, their own hierarchy, their own customs, and which fit so seamlessly within a fairytale world I was already constructing involving a Sky Kingdom and a race of Fae creatures. I also immediately felt I owed it to Beauty to finally get her story out there—or at least my version of it. I read and watched every version of BATB I could get my hands on, marinating in the story and seemingly infinite interpretations of it. Villeneuve’s & Beaumont’s versions of BATB, and the Brothers Grimm “Singing, Soaring Lark” were together the wellspring for my own reimagining. The three greatest influences for my inspiration aside from the fairytales themselves would have to be Jean Cocteau’s beguiling and eerie cinematic adaption released in 1946, the 2014 visual feast directed by Christophe Gans, and Hilary Knight’s magnificently illustrated 1990 rendition, all of which had me falling in love with the story over and over again each time I read or watched them. It is my hope, among many other hopes, that someday people will be as swept off their feet by my reimagining as I was about theirs.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

The Beast – “The eyes are the windows to the soul.”

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

I have not. To be honest, I haven’t even thought about it. Hmmm…

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Are we talking dream voice castings here? For the Beast it would be Liam McIntyre. I think he’d be smashing in a live action film adaptation too, but the reason I thought of him for the role was first and foremost for his delicious voice. Manu Bennett would be pretty spectacular too. If we’re talking reality then…. I have no idea. I have a friend who’s an actress who I would probably beg and plead to read for Beauty.

Do you illustrate your own books? If not, how did you find your illustrator?

My book doesn’t have illustrations but I did do the cover art myself. All the photography as well as the graphic design to put it all together. I did a fair bit of photography on the side before my allergies to the vulture sun forced me into a more vampiric nocturnal lifestyle.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

Alexander Key for middle grade/YA. His books were my gateway to science fiction, and he captures a marvelous sense of wonder of the Universe while still seeing it as both broken and beautiful. It doesn’t matter how old I get or how many times I read them, his books haunt me and inspire me and sweep me away to this day.

For children’s books, there are probably too many to name but thinking in terms of picture books I would say Jan Pienkowski, Hilary Knight, the Sisters Johnstone, and Kinuko Craft are the ones I specifically look out for. I’m aware that they are all illustrators but some of them do their own writing, and while Kinuko Craft does not, her paintings make me want to fall inside her stories. In fact, she is one of my writing inspirations even though she’s not a writer—she is a master storyteller through her art, and I like to think of my writing as word painting. Even though I use a different medium, I want to tell stories the way she does. She’s fantastically brilliant.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I don’t know if they’re quirky—they all seem pretty normal to me anyway, lol. I write inside and outside, at the zoo or the lake or the park when I can find a shady spot, but most of the time I’m holed up in my house, surrounded by plants and animals and stacks of books as I write. I stare into space for days, weeks, even years, mulling and meditating over my ideas and letting them marinate in my imagination. I outline my stories usually halfway through writing them, which perhaps is one of my less practical habits. I also tend to write out of order, writing whichever scene overwhelms me when I pick up my pen and then stitching all the scenes together afterward. I’m trying to break myself of that habit actually since it makes for a lot of extra work toward the end.

I like to surround myself with things that inspire me specifically in the tone of whatever it is that I’m writing. For Beauty & the Beast, for example, I bought up every vintage version of Beauty & the Beast I could stretch my tiny paycheck to accommodate as well as a few lion statues, a pewter pegasus, and along with a pewter castle I’ve had for years that inspired the castle in the story, I would literally surround myself with them, the books open to my favorite illustrations and carefully overlapping each other in artistic piles, the lions and castle etc perched all around me while I wrote so that every time I glanced up my eye would fall on something beautiful and magical, my rescued cats and dogs in fuzzy heaps around me, with youtube enchanted forest videos playing in the background. It’s in those quiet, creative moments that I’m overwhelmed by the fact that no matter how little money I’m making, the writer’s life can be intensely beautiful.

Oh, oh! I don’t know if this is a habit exactly, but while I never ever put real people in my stories, myself included, I do give real animals cameos and roles. My stories always have animal characters as well as human ones, and they’re often inspired by or based on specific animals I have known. It’s sort of my way of imparting a slice of immortality on them. Beauty & the Beast contained 4 animal characters inspired by real life animals.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Book promotion is brand, spanking new to me so I’ll have to get back to you on that one. As far as the balance in my life between writing and keeping up a home and rescuing as many animals as possible, I’m afraid the housekeeping is what tends to fall by the wayside, lol. I’m still working on finding the right balance to be productive AND healthy AND have a clean house. It’s a challenge. My husband is very patient, although I am frequently banned from the kitchen due to my tendency to novel-plot and wander off to parts unknown while handling knives or using the stove.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To writers—just write. The hardest part for me is gluing my rear to a chair long enough to be productive because I’m so easily distracted. So to writers like me, just write.

To my readers—thank you for getting swept away by my story. I hope I can sweep you away many many more times.

To all readers—Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like reading fiction is a waste of time. Fiction and Fantasy and Beauty have tremendous value. Savor beauty. Revel in it. It’s a treasure that can be anywhere and everywhere, and yet we can never have too much of it in our lives.

Author Bio

Rebecca Hammond Yager grew up in the bewitching realm of Vermont. She has a degree in creative writing and a lifetime love of monsters and beasts. When her nose isn’t in a book, her head is firmly in the clouds where all dreamy heads ought to be. She now lives in South Carolina with a menagerie of beasts and her handsome, longsuffering husband where she obsessively collects fairytales, devours fantasy and science fiction, and rescues animals.

Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Award-Winning Book

Winner of the 2017 WORDS ON WINGS Award, Literary Classics’ Top Honors Award for Young Adult Fiction

A young woman sacrifices herself to save her father and enters a moonlit kingdom of beasts on the borders of Faerie, overrun by thorns and roses, haunted by memories, and ruled by lions. To have any hope of seeing her family again, Beauty must unravel the riddle of the Beast and dispel the shadows of her own past in this lush and vivid reimagining of the timeless fairytale.

Those who yearn for poignant prose and vibrant imagery will no doubt delight in Yager’s brilliant representation of this timeless classic. Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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