Seven Questions with NIWA

NIWA is the Northwest Independent Writers’ Association.  NIWA’s primary goal is to help Northwest area writers achieve professional standards in independent writing, publishing, and marketing. Every year, NIWA releases an anthology, this year’s writing topic was Asylum.



The back book blurb reads;

A religious refugee fleeing for his life in his own country. A trickster asking an enemy for safe haven. A horrific visit to a psychiatric ward overrun by its charges. An unexplained theft from a biomedical lab. The last known survivor of a mysterious plague. A wormhole to the most peaceful and secret place in the world. A detective on the trail of a human trafficker. 

What does asylum mean to you? 

In the 2015 anthology collection from the Northwest Independent Writers Association, seventeen authors explore the obvious and hidden meanings of this theme—from a werewolf on a mission and self-sacrifice in a post-apocalyptic world, to shadowy wizardry, a questing knight, and a gentle prison for geniuses. 

Featuring stories by: 
Jeffrey Cook • William Cook • Pamela Cowan • Jonathan Ems • Ginger Dawn Harman • Connie J. Jasperson • Madison Keller • Cody Newton • E.M. Prazeman • Katherine Perkins • Dey Rivers • Walt Socha • D.L. Solum • Laurel Standley • Rebecca Stefoff • Jennifer Willis • Matthew Wilson


I asked a few of the authors some questions, this is what they told me;



1) Using a brief answer, without spoilers, how does your story define ‘Asylum’?

Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins, who collaborated and wrote Bedlam Asylum;

With the title “Bedlam Asylum,” we have kind of a pun. The story is about legal asylum, as our heroine grants safety to a fugitive sprite, but having multiple faeries in her home makes her feel like she’s in a madhouse. It also works well with her studying the artwork of Richard Dadd, who painted fair-folk imagery from inside the real Bedlam Asylum.

EM Prazeman, who wrote Travail;

The definitions of Asylum are embodied in an ancient building that serves multiple purposes for a culture currently in its 14th century. Run by a monarchy and employed by the noble class, one wing holds politically-important patients with mental afflictions, another wing serves as a refuge for nobles from other countries, several floors are elaborate suites used by ambassadors, and yet another wing is a kind of gilded prison for foster children or potentially reluctant affianced political figures. It serves as a holding house for political hostages as well. It’s particularly useful for that, since the monarchy can claim that those hostages are in fact there of their own free will or for their own good rather than for nefarious purposes.

Ginger Dawn Harman, who wrote Permanent Ink;                                

Permanent Ink was inspired by a PBS documentary on Dr. Walter Freeman.  I was shocked at the report that Doctor Freeman performed 75 lobotomies in one day. Furthermore, he lobotomized 19 children under the age of 18 including a 4 year old.  By the 1970’s he had performed over 5,000 lobotomies. I explored a fictional perspective of a young girl and her interpersonal relationships developed between others living in an Asylum and played with the “what if” a narcissistic physician was in charge of fate of these children.

Madison Keller, who wrote, Clary’s Asylum;

My story, Clary’s Asylum, explores what is like to be a patient in an asylum and whether the facility truly is an asylum, a place to recover from the horrors she witnessed that drove her out of her mind.


2) Since NIWA focuses primarily on authors without traditional publishers, how did if feel going through the submission process of being accepted in NIWA’s annual anthology? Or, maybe this isn’t your first rodeo with being traditionally published...

Madison Keller;

This was actually my second traditionally published story. My first story came out in an anthology just a few months before Asylum. The process of submitting and waiting for an answer back was nerve-racking both times, wondering if my story really was good enough or not. Several times I was tempted to go back and make changes to my story, but I resolved to wait to hear back first and was glad I did, as my story was ultimately accepted with no changes required.

EM Prazeman;

I have been traditionally published, but in magazines. I wasn’t sure how my story would fit in an anthology, especially one that didn’t have a specified genre, so I was pleasantly surprised to have my story selected! I love working with editors, and working with Jennifer Willis was yet another great experience. There’s something satisfying and reassuring when someone who acquires your story because they love it helps you make it the strongest story possible. That’s quite a bit different from hiring a copy editor who won’t (and probably shouldn’t unless they have a lot of experience with it) look at content, or vs. hiring a content editor who may or may not love your work and then does their best to make sure that the structure is sound, among other things. It’s more like two people cooing over a baby as opposed to getting an analysis on American Idol.

Ginger Dawn Harman;

This is the very first short story I have ever written. Permanent Ink is also the very first story I have had published. At the time, I was taking a short story class with Fish Publishing. I saw that the NIWA had posted on the internet an open submission and decided to give it a try. I was thrilled to even be considered and grateful for the opportunity. Moreover, I was also terrified that my lack of knowledge of the craft and experience would be discovered. As a matter of fact, Author Leland Dirks helped me write my author bio.

Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins;

Katherine and I’ve done a lot of submissions to anthologies before—occasionally even getting in—and have helped organize a series of charity anthologies for Writerpunk Press. On my own end, I’ve had a book published by a small press, so it wasn’t too alien an experience.


3) Are you an avid reader? If so, about how many books do you read in a year?

Ginger Dawn Harman;

Yes, I am an avid reader. I try to keep track of the books that I have read on Pinterest. As a child I would trade toys for books. I once even ran away to a library as a teenager in foster care hiding in the True Crime section. However, I became so scared reading about Charles Manson and Ted Bundy (The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule) that I confessed my crime to the librarian and we called my attorney ad litem. I have always been a fan of Burl Barer and he suggested that I should write a book review and share my thoughts on books that I read. This led to a short lived radio show on Blog talk where I interviewed several author.  Next came the opportunities to become a beta reader. It was during this time that I was encouraged by author Alan McCluskey to write. So I started a short story course with Mary Jane Holmes of Fish Publishing. Permanent Ink was started as a class assignment.

Madison Keller;

Yes, I’m a very avid reader. I probably read at least a hundred books a year, possibly more.

EM Prazeman;

I read mostly non-fiction, probably about a half dozen a year, plus a smattering of fantasy novels. I also try to get around to reading at least one classic a year, though that doesn’t work out. I’m not sure if that’s considered avid. I think it’s a pretty poor showing, actually, and I hope to find more time to read once I retire from my day job on the first of January.

Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins;

…admittedly fewer per year now than when we weren’t writing them.


4) By your tastes in reading, do you write the same genre? And/or, as an ‘indie author,’ do you tend to read more indie authors, or is there a particular ‘brandname’ author you enjoy reading?

EM Prazeman:

I do read in the same genres as I write, including my non-fiction. As a fan and writer of historical fantasy, I read a lot of books about history, period technology, ancient science, old school philosophy, and other related stuff. Call it research, but we both know what’s really going on. I also read about travel, both the practice of traveling effectively and about places, not just because my characters travel a lot but because I love to travel.

Travel and reading about history are both really bad habits, as evidenced by a recent visit to the bank. I spent about an hour talking about the Renaissance, WWI and II, the various versions of the Bible, and the Vietnam War with one of the employees. Fortunately it was a high level employee and the bank wasn’t very busy, so neither of us got into trouble. This time.

Ginger Dawn Harman;

Oh No, I read everything—even the stories on the Chipotle cups! I have a passion for learning and expanding myself. I read first time indie authors to classics. I like to read about everything and this includes Romance, Young Adult fiction, Horror, Sci-fi, to Legal ethics books about the Iran kidney sellers. My writing is equally all over the place.

Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins;

Katherine and I dedicated our latest novel to the late Sir Terry Pratchett for many reasons (among them that we’re huge fans, and we both always go back to fantasy despite broad taste), but lately I only make the time to sit down and read books by indie authors with whom I’ve worked.

Madison Keller;

I tend to read a mix of indie authors and traditionally published authors in a slew of different genres. I don’t read just the genre I write in. Currently I’ve been writing YA fantasy, but read pretty much everything from urban fantasy, steampunk, horror, humor novels, classics, pretty much anything I come across that catches my attention.

A couple of particular brand name authors I like reading are Jonathan Howard, who writes the ‘Johannes Cabal’ series of comedic horror and Ilona Andrews, who writes the ‘Kate Elliot’ series of Urban Fantasy.


5) Is there a particular ritual you do to help you write? (Example, Earnest Hemingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober.” That was his ritual. Hunter S. Thompson wouldn’t sit down at his keyboard unless he was loaded out of his skull. I write early in the morning after at least two cups of strong coffee and wearing headphones with ear-splitting music—generally old Motorhead or Tool.)

Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins;

Music or the late-night quiet of a sleeping house help, but the major constant is the collaborative process. That’s different with different collaborators, of course. Katherine and I work out the outline together before she goes through and non-sequentially writes random sections of dialogue and character moments. Then I go through, write all the action scenes, and fill n the gaps, before she edits out the rough edges.

Madison Keller;

No ritual around my writing. I do have to write from at least a rough outline, but other than that it is turn on the computer and write.

Ginger Dawn Harman;

I write when I am inspired, have an odd dream, or my curiosity is sparked. I do like to have a cappuccino or a cup of hot tea.

6) If you had only three words to define your writing style, what would they be?

Madison Keller;

Descriptive, conversational, simple.

Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins;

Collaborative. Speculative. Referential.

Ginger Dawn Harman;

Emotional, Engaging, and Voice.

EM Prazeman;

Visceral, elaborate, honest.


7) This is the favored question of nearly every author I’ve ever interviewed; What scares you?

Madison Keller;

Oddly enough birds really give me the creeps. Mostly it is their eyes, I think.

EM Prazeman;

Probably too many things, which makes for good writing fodder. A stand out is being eaten alive, or being hit by a car and not dying instantly. I read an account by someone who’d been mauled by a lion. When asked whether his body’s natural opiates combined with shock helped dull the pain, he said no, he felt every single tooth with every single bite enter his flesh. Chilling.

I also have a fear of spiders, but many years of desensitizing myself to them has helped. Now, instead of screaming I can say, calmly, “Somebody please take that outside before it hides, comes out at night while we’re asleep, dangles from the ceiling, and sucks out my eyeballs.” Spiders are notorious for that. BTW, an inconvenient part of my phobia makes the killing of spiders almost as horrible as having live ones running around. When my husband kills them he has to hide the bodies.

Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins;

Katherine wants it to be clear that nothing is scarier than jellyfish, unless it’s social anxiety.

Ginger Dawn Harman;

Honestly, I am most afraid of someone hurting those I love and am attached to in order to hurt me. However, I am also rather disturbed by creamed corn. There is something completely terrifying about a white blob that spills over into every region of your dinner plate with golden sweet kernels that remind me of emotionally detached emoticons. Shivers!




6 thoughts on “Seven Questions with NIWA

  1. Thank you so much for the opportunity. I really enjoyed the other author’s answers. Yet, a mischievous side of me knows who to put the fake spider in the drink at the NIWA Christmas party that I would love to crash.

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