Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Author interview with Naomi E. Kennedy


This month we’re meeting writer Naomi E Kennedy who published her first book 'The Boy with the Best Laugh' in 2022. It sits in the Literary Historical Fiction and Romance/Love Story genres but before we get into that, let's get Naomi to introduce herself: 

'I am an author, freelance writer and editor, poet and artist. I am also the mom to an awesome son and a grandma to one grandson, the sweetest most wonderful little 7-year-old! I am his “GiGi”!
I live in the Hudson Valley, NY, USA where the glorious Hudson River and mountains surround me with beauty. This is where I became an artist and then eventually a writer. '

It sounds beautiful! I asked her for a tweetable introduction for you to tweet (tweet here):

'As an author, it is gratifying to know that readers are enjoying and benefiting from my words. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.' 

What a lovely start! Her novel is Indie published and I was interested in knowing what made her want to become a writer? 

'I’ve been writing poetry since my youth. Poetry flows out of me when I am experiencing strong personal feelings or if there is something that moves me, or current events which need to be spoken and heard.

When I went back to school to finish my degree as an older adult, I pursued and received a BA in Art and Journalism. I had already been working as a freelance writer and editor for newspapers. In the journalism curriculum, I took a novel writing course. The professor encouraged me to continue working on my novel and finish it. He felt it had a good chance of succeeding. Throughout the years, as I wrote short stories, essays, and poems, I realized my need to always write something, significant or otherwise. The writing process will always be a part of me!'

I always find it fascinating when people take the decision to go back to college as an adult, can she tell us more about it?

'I attended college in my early 20’s pursuing a degree in Music Therapy, my true passion. I was very close to graduating but unfortunately had to discontinue at that time. However, my dream to receive a degree in this field continued for many years. In the interim, a became a jazz vocalist performing at different venues.     

I was finally given an opportunity to go back to college, but I decided to switch fields. After working for newspapers as a freelance writer and editor, I realized my other passion was writing. Apparently, I had several passions! Music, writing, and art. I grew up in the art world; my dad’s profession was commercial art. I became a professional artist, giving art lessons and exhibiting my work throughout New York. At present, I will definitively say that my novel, “The Boy with the Best Laugh” has become my sole passion!
At the age of 59, I received my BA in Art and Journalism! A very emotionally charged time for my son, family, and myself! I had finally arrived!

What motivated me to return to college is what always motivates me: the need to learn, grow, and succeed! I most definitely recommend that people of all ages, if possible, earn their degree, but more importantly educate themselves in any matter available. I believe education gives us purpose and strength as humans. It is food for our souls!' 

Oh wow, how inspirational! As writing is her passion now, what part does she find the most challenging?
'Writing is not hard, but it is challenging at times. I must walk away from the computer, clear my head, and in this way, let the thoughts come to me. Sometimes, it feels like putting a puzzle together, one piece at a time. 

Getting published was another story! It was an extremely difficult process. I certainly learned a tremendous amount. It was a fascinating experience, totally foreign to me.' 

Oh dear! Having found it such a steep learning curve, does she have any advice for other writers just starting their journey?

'Getting your work published can be educational. It is very challenging, along with learning social media and marketing. It drives you away from your creativity because you are using your left side of the brain more consistently. I suppose that might be good for all artists to occasionally deviate and stretch ourselves. 

My advice for those who embark on this part of the journey is to be prepared for difficulties in learning something so different and new, and therefore be patient and persevere. 

And now I will print this portion out for myself and read it every day as I sit by my computer ...LOL!'

🤣🤣 I think I'll do the same! What does Naomi's writing routine look like?

'Throughout the day I find myself jotting down thoughts which apparently have been brewing in my subconscious. At some point, I pull things together and finish incomplete pieces. However, my daily writing routine for this novel and for its sequel required me to sit for hours on end without interruption, which means I’m off to the library!'

We know that she loves it, but what does Naomi enjoy the most about writing?

'Writing helps centre me. It funnels my thoughts into a meaningful vehicle. I suppose the best part is sharing my thoughts, poems, and stories with others and receiving reactions, negative or positive.'

So that begs the question, how does she handle negative reviews?

'I’ve been fortunate so far and have only received positive reviews! If I were to receive a negative review, I believe I would welcome it if it was constructive towards future writings. It’s interesting to hear different perspectives. This helps you grow as an author and perhaps a human being.'

That's a great way of looking at it and Naomi kindly sent me some of her reviews that demonstrate how well-received her novel has been so far - see * at end of post. How long did it take her to write this book, and does she have any other books underway?

'“The Boy with the Best Laugh” took me over a decade to write! There was a surprising amount of research involved. A sequel is underway!'

As I'm not reviewing the book, I asked Naomi for a synopsis:
1970, Vietnam era. A story of one man’s journey and struggle as a draft dodger and his autistic daughter who rises to fame. Relive unforgettable moments in history as these two characters and their families come alive.
Adam’s life changes forever when his lottery number is selected. Terrified, he flees to Canada. He leaves behind all that matters to him ‒ his childhood sweetheart, Liz, pregnant with his son. Liz raises Will without divulging his paternity.
When Adam returns home to the US, an affair with a woman results in the birth of their daughter, Lillie. As time passes, Lillie is diagnosed with autism.
All their lives are connected by one man.
“The Boy with the Best Laugh” is a moving story in a turbulent time in history when our country is at war; an unnecessary war of atrocity.

Oh wow, it sounds amazing! I asked if she could give me a tweetable version for you (tweet here):

'The Boy with the Best Laugh is an important story to be told. Draft dodgers, and veterans, along with their families still feel the effects of this era. The inclusion of an autistic child was vitally important, as well. Many people are uninformed on both subjects'

Being set in recent history, did she have to undertake a lot of research?

'The research process was ongoing because of the era. Although I lived during this time, I wanted authenticity in everything I wrote, anywhere from music to historical events. The most gratifying research came from draft dodgers! I spoke with several men who fled to Canada and are still living there with their families. I am forever grateful that they shared their stories with me.'

And she won an award last year, one that was voted for by her peers, how did she react to that? 

'I felt ecstatic pride in receiving the “Historical Fiction” award and wish to thank once again those who voted for me! This was an enormous honour!'

I am very proud of myself for receiving it as I'd worked on my novel day and night for 13 years. This accomplishment was obviously very rewarding. My hope had always been for people to learn about this time in history. Surprisingly, the Vietnam War era has not been adequately taught in the US school systems as much as other wars. Many Americans opposed the war, and many resented this opposition causing conflict within the country. The more I worked on marketing for my book, the more valuable this time in history became for me. The Historical Fiction award validated my efforts, but more importantly my emotional connection to this era.

Also noteworthy: I see a strong parallel between the Vietnam War era and the Pandemic of recent time. Health devastation, loss of life, financial crises, confusion, and mental health issues, surrounded and had engulfed all of us. This parallel awakened me to what we already know but tend to forget. People have struggled for centuries. Our fortitude has been paramount!

Could she give us a tweetable extract? (tweet here)
'….the train made a stop at the border. My heart was pounding. Two military policemen boarded the train and searched each car, finally taking a person into custody. My car was spared, but …. What’s going on?'

That's got my heart pounding too! Which scene did she find the hardest to write and why?
'There were two which brought me to tears and still do.
The scene where Adam witnesses and experiences a child dying; I experienced this when I was 13 years old.
And, the last scene of Adam’s death was one I also experienced. This was a painful time in my life with someone I cared about very deeply.'

Oh gosh! And in general, what has she found the most difficult about writing characters who are very different from her?

'I was utterly shocked when I got “into character” with the male and child persona! All at once, I was each fictitious character! I honestly don’t know from where they originated. And, I do not know anyone having similar personalities! 

The humorous part for me was that acting has been one of the few artistic endeavours I didn't do well with; however, years ago I did enrol in acting classes. I have other pursuits in the arts which come naturally, but definitely not acting. And yet, I fell right into character with the people in my story.'
I ended by asking if there was anything else she'd like to say to you and she responded,

''I am very excited to share the news that I have signed with E-Audio productions. Hopefully, for those who prefer audio recordings, will soon enjoy my book too!  Currently, we are conducting actors' auditions. The production company will also distribute my novel, “The Boy with the Best Laugh”, throughout the world in places such as: Barnes and Nobles and libraries, and online in Google, Spotify, and many other venues!'

So exciting times for Naomi! If you'd like to find out more, please visit Naomi's links below:

My Website:

Naomi adds 'Please read the article I wrote for this magazine, which speaks of why I wrote my novel. Enter my name or book title in the search engine':  

* Some of the '5 star reviews' received by Naomi so far - please do review books and if you're not sure how, see my post all about it here

Good Emotional Read
There has been numerous books that covers war and post-war. How about those individuals that decided to dodge war. "The Boy With The Best Laugh" by Naomi E. Kennedy gives you a close look inside a draft dodgers life, and the guilt that followed. The story takes you on an unpaved road with many pot holes. On this journey the author controls your comfort level. Naomi makes you feel for the troubles of a broken family, while dealing with a disability like autism.
The authors shares the raw realities of life we can't hide nor disguise. Lost hopes, failed relationships, and the triumphs we manufacturer in between.
She delivers a moving story where in the end, the children are left to carrying the torch of hopefulness unto victory.

Fantastic.. Engaging.. ! Must read!
I don't write book reviews often but this one really deserves 5 stars. Very very well written and everything about it seems so realistic and adapts to circumstances that anyone can happen to live through. It keeps the reader engaged throughout. You just really want see what happens next. Well done to the author. I really recommend this one!

A first novel...and so good.
I grew up in the era this story takes place and the issues related to this time were accurately portrayed.
Even more interesting were the characters, their relationships with each other and insight into each of them individually. A page turner indeed. I would highly recommend it and I also will look forward to the authors next book.

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