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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, D. G. Driver

D. G. Driver’s book, No One Needed to Knowwon Silver for Preteen Fiction in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! Learn more about this author and her writing below.

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

I began writing very young as a hobby, creating my first picture book stories while still in elementary school. I started writing professionally a couple years after I graduated college, selling my first story to a magazine and having my first play produced in 1994.

What’s the target age group for your books?

I primarily write middle grade and young adult novels. The majority of my readers tend to be kids in middle school. No One Needed to Know is targeted at kids 8-13.

What inspired your award-winning book?

No One Needed to Know is based loosely on my own experience as a younger sibling of a brother with Developmental Disabilities. My brother is four years older than me and was starting high school when I was in 6th grade. He wasn’t diagnosed as Autistic, because that wasn’t a well-known disorder back then. We figured it out later on. Still, my brother and I were great friends and played together a lot. When I was reaching puberty, I became less interested in playing pretend or having adventures, and that’s when it dawned on me that my much older brother should have stopped wanting to play that way years earlier. I based the novel on this turning point in my life and also on the bullying that my brother and I both dealt with as kids.

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

“I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is” Forrest Gump – works a little for Donald, Heidi’s brother. He’s a true sweetheart.

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

I would like to do an audiobook, but I haven’t made any solid effort in that direction yet. I welcome all the suggestions.

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

I don’t really follow any audiobook narrators. If I were to find a studio here in Nashville to record it, I might hire my daughter who is 16 and a talented actress. I think she would sound great as Heidi.

Do you illustrate your own books?

My book isn’t illustrated, but I did the cover myself. I found an image from stock art for Heidi. Then I ran it through a program to make it look like a drawing instead of a photo. I used a background image of the iconic Autism puzzle pieces and changed the color to a more muted tone. The book takes place in the fall at school, so I wanted the puzzle pieces to appear a little like falling leaves. I put it all together on Canva.

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

I have many and the list grows. I have to admit I was inspired to write by Judy Blume and Louise Fitzhugh (Harriet the Spy – my favorite book in 6th grade). Current authors that blow me away consistently are my Nashville SCBWI friends: Tracy Barrett, Ruta Sepetys, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, and Sharon Cameron, (among others).

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

Not really. When I’m really under a deadline, I have to get away from the internet, so sometimes I’ll drive somewhere and write at a park or in my car, so I don’t have the option of going online.

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

It’s very difficult. I have a full-time job as a teacher, and I’m a parent and wife. Writing time is precious. I tend to do promotion stuff on weeknight evenings after work (and sneak in a tweet or two during the day at work), and I do my writing in sprints on the weekends. For this reason I’m a little slower than most indie authors at getting new work out.

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

Congratulations to all the 2017 winners. It takes a lot of courage and determination to write a book and then just a smidge more to enter a contest. I think an award for a book is a nice validation for hard work and effort. I hope for readers, it is seen as a marker that these books are worth their time. For my part, I feel certain that if the issues of bullying and special needs are dear to your heart, you will enjoy the story and message of No One Needed to Know.

Author Bio

D. G. Driver likes to write about diverse people dealing with social or environmental issues, but she likes to include a touch of fantasy or fun, too. She primarily writes middle grade and young adult fiction. She is the award-winning author of the YA eco-fiction series The Juniper Sawfeather Novels, which includes Cry of the Sea, Whisper of the Woods, and Echo of the Cliffs. She has stories in a variety of anthologies, and her newest book is a middle grade story about bullying and Autism awareness called No One Needed to Know. When she isn’t writing, she is teaching, performing in a local community theater musical, or probably watching TV.

Connect with D. G. Driver on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon, Goodreads, and her website.

Award-Winning Book

Heidi was trying to keep a secret. Her brother, Donald, is 16 and Autistic. She has always loved playing with him, but now she’s 11 and her life is changing. She’s embarrassed to have Donald around and tries not to tell anyone about him. High school boys bully him. When the kids at her school find out about him, she starts getting bullied, too. It’s not fair. No one seems to understand what she’s going through.

But Heidi needs to understand, too. She can’t change her brother, but she can change how she feels about him, and she can get people to see why her brother is special.

“Author D.G. Driver’s No One Needed to Know touches on many of the issues encountered by siblings of special needs kids. A book which will appeal to a broad audience, readers of all ages will appreciate Heidi’s story.” Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon (print ed.) and the Schoolwide Inc. Zing! Digital Library (ebook ed.). Learn more at www.dgdriver.com/no-one-needed-to-know.html.

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

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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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