Monti Sikes- Author and Artist
Marilyn: I met Monti at a PSWA conference and we share the same publisher so I do know a bit about her, besides being a writer, she is an accomplished artist. Why don't we begin by you telling us something about your background?
Monti: I’m a native Virginian who loves to travel. My husband and I have three grown daughters who seem to have picked up that wanderlust from us. Right now, two of them are traveling in Australia—said they planned this trip to attend the Australian Open tennis.
Marilyn: Which came first the art or the writing?
Monti: I don’t know. Both have always been there. Mother saved drawings I did when I was three years old. Each year when school started, I was treated to a new box of crayons and I could hardly wait to get them. You can imagine how much I cherished one of those bigger 24-crayon boxes! As an art teacher, even today, I am thrilled when I open up the new art supplies I order for the children. My studio at home is filled with hundreds of tubes, bottles, and sticks of pastels, watercolors, acrylic paints and much more. I often have five or six paintings on canvas underway at one time. As a child, I loved to write poetry. Edgar Allen Poe was a favorite author, and I wrote his type of short story when I was in high school. Over the years, several freelance writing jobs have literally fallen into my lap. Once years ago, when our children were small, I wrote a letter to the editor of our small town newspaper. To my surprise, the state editor of a major city newspaper saw my letter and contacted me, inviting me to write as a stringer for him. For many years after that, my articles appeared as the lead stories on the state pages of that newspaper, and I got to take the photographs as well. What a different process articles and photographs were then! I had to call into to the newspaper and dictate my stories (for breaking news). I sent the undeveloped film by special delivery mail to the newspaper.
Marilyn: How do you manage to balance them both?
Monti: It’s hard. When I have a special project, like a book, to finish, that takes priority. When I was writing freelance, those interviews and stories had to be completed and filed on a deadline. When I have an art show or special exhibition coming up, then getting paintings completed takes precedence.
Marilyn: Tell us about your books and include where they can be purchased.
Monti: My publisher, Oak Tree http://www.oaktreebooks.com, created a special series for my books, “Passenger to Paradise,” because all of them feature an exotic destination. Night Watch is the latest book and is due out soon. It’s set in Trinidad and the Grenadines and is based on some adventures I actually had when visiting that island a few years ago. Hearts Across Forever is my first book and is a reincarnation story. Secrets by the Sea is a ghost story set on the island of Antigua. Eagle Rising is a love story with a bit of paranormal thrown in. The three earlier books are available as Kindle books on Amazon. They are also available as paperbacks on Amazon, or you can order directly from the Oak Tree Web site.
Dangerous Hearts, a gothic novella from the “Shadowed Hearts” series, is due out in late spring from Red Rose Publishing. The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, VA is part of the setting for this book. I am working on the idea of creating a story for each of the 20 hotels featured in my coffee table book, Hotels to Remember.
Marilyn: When you aren't writing or painting what do you like to do for fun?
Monti: I love to play tennis! Right now, I’m playing in a league in Williamsburg once a week and am also playing with a group once a week. Since fitness is so important to me, I take three step aerobics classes each week. My mother used to call me a baseball fanatic because I adored the St. Louis Cardinals and followed every move they made. I’m still a Cardinals fan. We are heading down to Jupiter, Florida soon for their spring training camp. During the baseball season we watch all their games on satellite television. Even when we are traveling, the first place I have to locate in a town is a sports bar.
Marilyn: You are also good at promoting, would you share some of your promotion tips?
Monti: Promoting is probably more important than writing when it comes to the book business. But it takes so much time. The Internet has changed everything! A few years ago, I collaborated with four other writers to write Published! Now $ell It!, a book on marketing and promotion focusing on traditional methods of getting attention for books. Newsletters, radio shows, press releases, etc. from that book are still essential, but now we have even more with all the social networking on the Internet. Penny C. Sansevieri has written a marvelous book, Red Hot Internet Publicity, that I would recommend to anyone getting ready to promote a book. It’s an understandable guide to internet promotion that writers will want to keep next to their computers.
Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd like my readers to know?
Monti: I am working on a new project—a book about hotel ghosts. I would love to have people share with me any ghostly experiences they’ve had. They can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.