The Interview: Maria Thompson Corley

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Letting Go_Maria Thompson Corley
Author Dr. Maria Thompson Corley talks about her beautiful novel ‘Letting Go’ with us at
And we must say we totally loved to interview the amiable author and musician.

Dr. Maria Thompson Corley, the author of Letting Go earned her Doctorate in Piano from the renowned The Juilliard School.  Her vast portfolio shows her immense talent in different fields of art. She is an acclaimed musician, voice over artist, a reviewer at the art magazine ‘Broad Street Review’ a reputed blogger at Huffington Post to name a few.  The author of the highly appreciated novel ‘Choices’, ‘Letting Go’ is her second novel.

‘Letting Go’ is a series of letters, personal memoirs and more! The personal touch in each of these documents will create a wonderful story that is worth a read.

Learn more about the author, her novel and why you will totally enjoy reading Letting Go through this interview with Dr. Maria Thompson Corley.


WeLoveQuality Books: Hi Maria, thank you for the interview. How are you feeling with the release of ‘LETTING GO’?

Maria Thompson Corley: I’m very pleased! I worked on it for a long time and did major surgery at least once. The response has been very positive. It’s interesting that some people pick up on the issues of race, and some just seem to focus on the romantic aspects of the story. Either way, I’m glad they seem to like it!


WeLoveQuality Books: The front cover of ‘LETTING GO’ is gorgeous. Please tell us more about it.

Maria Thompson Corley: A pivotal scene takes place on a beach in Bermuda, which is where my mother was born.  I knew I wanted to represent that setting on my cover, so I got in touch with my friends and relatives with ties to the island, and my dear friend Cherie Sikking, who is also a painter, sent me the cover shot. I love that the ocean seems so powerful, and yet, the picture relaxes me.  The rest of the design was the result of a back and forth with Ose Solutions, a graphic design company I found on Fiverr. I got input from a number of friends during the process, because in the end, I was very indecisive. I learned a lot, though, and I know I’ll be clearer next time. Much to the relief of Ose, or whoever does my graphics in the future.


WeLoveQuality Books: What is the novel all about?

Maria Thompson Corley: In a nutshell, the novel is about overcoming fear, whether it’s fear of getting hurt in a relationship, or fear of letting go once the relationship has run its course, or fear of disappointing our families, or fear of revealing our innermost thoughts, or fear of the unknown. I think the fear of the unknown sums up most fears, actually. There’s a Scripture that says, “Perfect love casts out fear.”  The quote isn’t about human relationships, and yet, I think that as we start to perfect our love of ourselves, we can be open to loving others more perfectly. Fear can have no part in this equation.


WeLoveQuality Books: We are completely bowled over by your positivity. How do you keep yourself focused on being optimistic even on the darkest of days?

Maria Thompson Corley: Full disclosure: I’m not always optimistic! That said, I do believe that bad situations are temporary, or at least, that there is always something we can do to try to improve the state of affairs. And if there’s nothing we can do, then why worry? It won’t help!


WeLoveQuality Books: Maria, you have a doctorate from theThe Juilliard School! What made you choose piano as your tool of self-expression and creativity.

Maria Thompson Corley: I wanted to take piano lessons from the time I was two, apparently, and started when I was four. My mother was my first teacher, but I started studying with other instructors by the time I was 6. I also played the violin for 12 years, but the piano was my first love, perhaps because we had one in our home. That said, you can do so much with a solo piano. I love to collaborate with singers and other instrumentalists, but while they have some repertoire that doesn’t need accompaniment, you can’t match a piano for true self-expression, since so many pieces are written for the solo instrument.

WeLoveQuality Books: How did writing happen?

Maria Thompson Corley: I always liked to write. When I was young, I was much more secure expressing myself in writing than in speech. Not that I never spoke, but I was always more self-revelatory in writing. I would write my parents notes, sometimes, instead of speaking to them about things that bothered me. I wrote my first novel at 14 (no worries—I have no intention of inflicting it on anyone!). My first published novel was Choices, which I wrote on a whim. I had the rather confident attitude that I could come up with something as good as a lot of the books I was reading, so I sent my manuscript to Ballantine and received a letter back from an editor. She said her list was full, but recommended that I get in touch with someone at Kensington since they were starting a line of books aimed at African American women. I was kind of in the right place at the right time.
That was in 1996! My book was published as a romance, and my follow up didn’t fit the genre, since I had a prominent gay character who was in a relationship. I didn’t want to get rid of him, deciding instead to focus on being a pianist. I had married by then, and my daughter was born in 1997, followed in 1999 by my son, who is on the autism spectrum. It took me a while to get back to writing, with all of that on my plate. When my marriage broke up, I found writing very cathartic, and I can truly say that the written word has turned out to be as much a part of me as music.


WeLoveQuality Books: You are a pianist, an author, an educator and a voice artist. How do you manage to do so many varied things at one time? What is your secret for keeping the balance?

Maria Thompson Corley: Balance? What balance? Mainly, I’m busy all the time. Some things are foreground at certain times–right now, I’m practicing the piano like crazy, and just thinking of ideas for writing, rather than actually doing it. I’ve started editing a novel I have worked on several times (the one with the gay character), and will probably add some additional material to that. The teaching is ongoing; I enjoy it, but mainly, it pays the bills. The voice acting happens randomly, so it’s not a constant part of the equation. I wouldn’t pretend to have advice for someone else!

WeLoveQuality Books: Your first novel was ‘Choices’ and now ‘Letting Go’. Do your novels have an autobiographical touch?

Maria Thompson Corley: They do, and they don’t. Letting Go is much more autobiographical since the female protagonist is a Juilliard-trained pianist, but not everything that happens to her happened to me, and she handles some things differently than I would. There are characters in that book who are based on real people, but I always make changes. The characters in Choices are far more imaginary. Both books have musicians in them, though, because I understand that world very well.
I try to write “real” people, and the way I do that is to incorporate human behavior, as I have observed it or lived it. So in that way, my novels do reflect my own life, or at least, my perspective on the world.


WeLoveQuality Books: Is ‘Letting Go’ an extension of ‘Choices’?

Maria Thompson Corley: No. I may write a sequel for Letting Go, though.


WeLoveQuality Books: Your YouTube channel has beautiful, soothing music. Does music inspire the writer in you?

Maria Thompson Corley: I attempt to write about music in Letting Go, but I can’t write and listen to music, because too much of my brain is focused on the performance. I do think that the architecture of a good piece of music and a good book are similar—Fibonacci Series if you want to get scientific. I wasn’t that analytical when I wrote either of my books, btw. Both a musical performance and a novel should take you on a journey, and I believe in choosing both notes and words with care. If I’m not composing or arranging a piece (which means I’m not choosing the notes myself), I am very careful about phrasing—where something slows down a bit, or lingers, or becomes faster, whether it’s smooth or disjointed (staccato), how I pace my crescendos and diminuendos (the getting louder and softer), how much I emphasize dissonance. These are all things that can translate to writing. So in that way, I am always thinking like a musician, I suppose.


WeLoveQuality Books: Maria, you have traveled the world, showcasing your talent as a pianist. Do you want your books to be translated and read across the world as well?

Maria Thompson Corley: That would be a dream come true.

WeLoveQuality Books: To any struggling songwriter and author, what will be your advice to keep working on their dreams?

Maria Thompson Corley: I don’t write a lot of songs so I’ll focus on the idea of being a writer. I’d suggest working, first and foremost, on becoming the best writer you can be by reading others analytically, not just for enjoyment; finding books about writing; ideally getting critiques from people who write on a higher level than you do;  and revising ruthlessly. After that, it’s hard to advise, because there are no guarantees you’ll write a bestseller, regardless of your dedication to following the trends or honing your craft. Marketing is something I’m still learning, to be honest. If becoming the best writer possible is a goal, you can always achieve success.


WeLoveQuality Books: What will the readers take back from ‘Letting Go’?

Maria Thompson Corley: I hope they will look at the process of learning to love, whether it’s yourself or another, with fresh eyes.


WeLoveQuality Books: How did ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie inspire you to pen your latest novel?

Maria Thompson Corley: Actually, it didn’t! I read Americanah after I had written my book, and saw some similarities. She is much more political than I am—brilliantly so. Letting Go and Americanah both deal with issues of race and gender, built into a long-distance love story.


WeLoveQuality Books: Where can we get this wonderful novel from? I am sure we all want to read it.

Maria Thompson Corley: That’s very kind. I’ve pasted links below. Thank you!

Tom Starita Engages us with this Conversation

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“Growth and Change are Highly Overrated|”
Tom Starita talks about his breakout novel ‘Growth and Change are Highly Overrated’ that we at totally to recommend to all book lovers.

Tom Starita, the author of  Growth and Change are Highly Overrated commenced a recent conversation with the line, “My dream is to one day be remembered as one of the top 75 writers to ever come from Staten Island, New York.
Here are the experts of the witty, engaging and fantastic interview with Tom Starita that shout out the author’s skills as a writer.

‘Growth and Change are Highly Overrated’ has a fascinating plot, an unforgettable protagonist and many engrossing happenings making it a fiction with a heart.

Learn more about the author, his novel and why you will totally enjoy reading Growth and Change are Highly Overrated through this interview with Tom Starita.


WeLoveQuality Books: Tom, many Congratulations on the release of your second book, “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated.” How does it feel?

Tom StaritaThank you very much! It’s a smooth combination of happiness, excitement with a hint of anxiety.


WeLoveQuality Books: What motivated you to write this novel?

Tom Starita: My incessant need to tell people stuff they may or may not be interested in. There’s always a voice inside my head jabbering away about God knows what, so why should I be the only lucky one to hear it?


WeLoveQuality Books:   The press release of your novel says, “Starita … writes in his spare time.” Do you think an author’s mind ever stops getting inspired, thinking of ideas, collecting experiences, even when they aren’t writing?

Tom Starita: No and they often happen at the worst times – showering, falling asleep, driving, brick laying. Even worse is when you’re in a serious conversation with someone and they say something that’s golden or triggers something interesting and now you missed the last 45 seconds of what they’re saying and there is no easy way to say, “sorry you just gave me a great idea could you repeat the end to that heartbreaking story that brought you to tears one more time?”


WeLoveQuality Books: Please tell us what inspired you to write, “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated”?

Tom Starita: It was February 2013, the week of Valentine’s Day. I was living alone in the lovely town of Weehawken, NJ and to put it bluntly, life sucked.  Like one continuous bad day for months at a time. On top of that, I came down with the worst flu in the history of modern medicine. It was so bad my doctor wrote about me in some medical journal.
So life wasn’t good.
All week I had been locked inside my apartment, sleeping the days away. I was finally well enough to crawl out of bed Saturday night and I was starving. Beyond starving. I basically hadn’t eaten anything in days. I looked over at the clock and saw it was 11 P.M. Okay, ordering takeout was no longer an option. I looked out the window and noticed almost a foot of snow had descended upon my town while I was hibernating. So I wasn’t going to go out and get food either. My last option was the kitchen and that’s when I remembered I hadn’t gone food shopping in almost two weeks. In summation, it was too late for taking out, I was snowed in and I had no food in my house. And that’s when I officially declared that this, this was the worst moment of my entire life.
And then randomly I thought, this would be one hell of a beginning for a book. I went into my office, started typing and immediately found my main character, Lucas James. He made me laugh that night and for a long time, my only real motivation to get out of bed each morning was to find out what else he was going to tell me.


WeLoveQuality Books:  How is it different from your first book, “Two Ways to Sunday”?

Tom Starita: “Two Ways to Sunday” was my way of showing the people in my life that yes I can be serious, I just choose not to be. That book is about a man’s journey of faith, (or lack thereof) through life to find out what exactly is important, what makes life worth living and are your problems the fault of an uncaring God or just a series of stupid decisions you made yourself?
“Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” is also about a man’s journey but this time I wrote it as an easy breezy fun book to read while you’re on the beach or sitting under a big tree canoodling with your honey.


WeLoveQuality Books: What is the USP of “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated” that will make readers love it?

Tom Starita: It’s a comedy without a conscious. It’s a diatribe with depth. It’s the kind of book that works as an easy read or as one that you can read over and over and keep finding hidden details. I’m not going to say it’s better than the Lord of the Rings, but if you asked me which book has a self-absorbed main character who doubles as the narrator and will take you to deep dark places like Mordor, I think my book gets the nod.


WeLoveQuality Books: Do you think the term ‘maturity’ is overrated in our times?

Tom Starita: That’s a great question! I think one of the problems we have today is the heavy burden of assumed behavior. You are a certain age so you must behave a certain way and do certain things. Don’t get me wrong, the world would be miserable if we had nothing but man-child and woman-child running around. It would probably involve a lot of jager bombs.
I think the key to life is to realize that the only opinion that matters is your own. If you’re good with your decisions and the outcomes of those decisions, who cares what anyone else thinks? All those people who pass judgment will be dead in less than fifty years anyway, so live your life, have fun and try to outlive as many of them as possible.

WeLoveQuality Books:  It takes a lot of effort for authors to write a book/novel. At which stage of writing this novel did you really have to challenge yourself to keep up the mojo, to keep writing?

Tom Starita: The complete opposite. This book was the sole reason I had to wake up in the morning for a very long time. I had no idea what the book was about, where it was going or how it would end. All I knew was I loved listening to the Lucas James voice in my head. He made me laugh and he gave me a purpose. If anything I was sad when it was over. It’s kind of like saying goodbye to that one really good friend you made while away at college knowing you’ll never see them ever again.


WeLoveQuality Books: Do you think it is only the fun people, who can write comedies? Is it one of the toughest genres?

Tom Starita: How do I answer this question that doesn’t make me sound like a pretentious jerk? I don’t think I set out to write a “funny book.” I just wanted to write a book that made me laugh. I figure there have to be some people out there with similar tastes, so if I’m laughing odds are at least 8 people in this world will too.


WeLoveQuality Books: The protagonist – “Lucas James” is a performer, a rock-n-roll aspirant. Did you ever have a rock-n-roll dream too?

Tom Starita: You want to hear a story? It’s September of 1987, the beginning of fourth grade for a young Tommy Starita. One Friday my teacher, Mrs. Markowitz told us that they were going to be holding auditions to be in the school band. All of us grew excited at the thoughts of playing drums or guitar or saxophone or some other cool instrument. But before we got to that point, we had to take a basic hearing test to determine how we heard the music.
Turns out I failed the test, badly. Really badly. I was actually told I was tone deaf and just like that, my dreams of being like Floyd from the Muppet Show, playing the ‘cool sax were dead.’
The funny thing is for the past sixteen years I’ve owned an electric blue acoustic guitar.
Do I know how to play it?
Absolutely not.


WeLoveQuality Books: By the end of the book, how do you envision “Lucas James” will be received by the audience?

Tom Starita: I want people to think, “I really didn’t like that guy but he kind of grew on me, like an unfortunate fungus.”
If you told someone to rank how much they like Lucas James, on a scale of 1-10, “1” being actively rooting for Lucas James to die a violent death, “10” being wishing they were married/best friends with him and “5” being they wouldn’t mind having him in their life, I hope they would say, “4.”

WeLoveQuality Books: Talking more about rock-n-roll and the main character, which song do you think best describes him?

Tom Starita: Another great question! Good job.
Lucas James LOVES 90s rock. So if we’re trying to find THE song we have to look at a number of bands, most of which you’ve probably never heard of. I’m talking Fuel, Eve 6, Lit, The Sheila Divine, Cool For August, Third Eye Blind, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Live, Better Than Ezra, Harvey Danger, post Vitalogy Pearl Jam, Collective Soul, Splender, Tonic, Stir, Brother Cane, Soul Asylum, Mother Love Bone, Oasis, Everclear, Dramarama, Pushmonkey, Filter, Bush, Hum, Joe 90, Remy Zero, Screaming Trees, Vast and Lemonheads.
But ultimately, I think it would have to be “Teen Angst” (What the World Needs Now) by Cracker.


WeLoveQuality Books: Do you think it is only the fun people, who can write comedies? Is it one of the toughest genres?

Tom Starita: Another great question! Good job.
Lucas James LOVES ’90s rock. So if we’re trying to find THE song we have to look at a number of bands, most of which you’ve probably never heard of. I’m talking Fuel, Eve 6, Lit, The Sheila Divine, Cool For August, Third Eye Blind, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Live, Better Than Ezra, Harvey Danger, post Vitalogy Pearl Jam, Collective Soul, Splender, Tonic, Stir, Brother Cane, Soul Asylum, Mother Love Bone, Oasis, Everclear, Dramarama, Pushmonkey, Filter, Bush, Hum, Joe 90, Remy Zero, Screaming Trees, Vast and Lemonheads.
But ultimately, I think it would have to be “Teen Angst” (What the World Needs Now) by Cracker.


WeLoveQuality Books: Apart from “Lucas James” which other characters play a pivotal role in the book?

Tom Starita: On the surface, you have the employees of “That Store,” the place Lucas James begrudgingly works at. First, there’s Ralph, who desperately wants to be Lucas James’ best friend. Next, Lori. God knows what’s going on in her mind and finally Victor the Dictator, his manager and a man drunk with power.
The hovering presence throughout the book is his former fiancee, Jackie, “My Apple Jack.”
And subconsciously you have four people, a dad who ditched him, a mom who never knew how to deal with him, an older brother named Eddie he can’t live up to and a younger brother named Franky who idolizes him. These are the people that for better or worse helped mold Lucas James into the man he had to be.


WeLoveQuality Books: This is all so interesting! Can we get a copy of “Growth and Change Are Highly Overrated”?

Tom Starita: Do you have a Kindle?
If yes –
If no – download the Kindle app for FREE on your phone/tablet/computer, then click on the link above, buy the book and enjoy!


WeLoveQuality Books: Thank you for the wonderful conversation, Tom. Before we go, please share with us some of the remarkable reviews for your latest creation?

Tom Starita: Here are a couple of them:
Rating- 5 stars: “This is Starita’s second novel, and while wildly different than his first success, “Two Ways to Sunday” it has proven to be just as riveting. This is a light, humorous read that will go by quickly because you won’t want to put it down! Lucas James, the protagonist, is despicable at times but also endearing in the way that you have either known someone like him or see glimpses of yourself in him. James takes you on the hilarious journey of a guy figuring out how to be independent and whether growing up is even worth it. This book had me laughing out loud and there were even serious moments that any reader can empathize with. Even with James’s deplorable antics, you’ll end up loving him and loving this book. Bravo again, Starita!”
Rating- 5 stars: “A fun read. Everyone will relate to Lucas James because everyone knows this guy. He is the quintessential man-child who you both love and hate. Best part is he knows that’s what he is. Starita writes fun dialogue and captures the spirit of a modern day Ignatius J. Reilly, proving that sometimes growth and change really IS highly overrated.

We Interview Craig Pomranz

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‘Made By Raffi’ — An Interview with Craig Pomranz.

‘Made by Raffi’ is a touching children’s book by Craig Pomranz with illustrations from Margaret Chamberlain.

The hymn ‘Pass it on’ sings, ‘It only takes a spark to get the fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing…’ That is how you will feel when you read this warm interview by Craig Pomranz the proud author of ‘Made by Raffi’. Soon you will be passing on, sharing this interview with your friends and loved ones and then ordering the book for your children, little cousins, young relatives and also for yourself.

Made by Raffi is for children, young adults, and older adults. Anyone who will pick up the book will remember how feeling different (which everyone does at some point of time or another) isn’t too bad after all.

Deservingly Made by Raffi has been nominated for the Little Rebel Children’s Book Award as well.


Learn more about the author, his novel and why it is important to read Made by Raffi through this interview with Craig Pomranz.


WeLoveQuality Books: Craig, the title of your story Made by Raffi sounds interesting! What is it about?

Craig PomranzIt is the story of a young boy who feels different at school, and even more so when he discovers he likes to knit and sew.  He learns how to be comfortable in his own skin and also learns that if you have confidence in who you are, others will accept you. It sounds like a serious message, but it is a funny and entertaining story!



WeLoveQuality Books: What motivated you to write this novel?

Craig Pomranz: The story is inspired by an incident with my godson.  He came home from school one day, feeling really out of sorts and when his mother told me what he was going through and how he felt different I knew it was a story that had to be told.  After all, haven’t all of us felt different at some time? 



WeLoveQuality Books: How has the book been received around the world?

Craig PomranzThe positive feedback has been amazing!  I have learned not only how powerful a children’s book can be, but how we are all basically the same – the messages in the book cross all cultures. The book is available in 11 countries and eight languages to date.



WeLoveQuality Books: Do you think we as writers have a voice to change preset mindsets?

Craig Pomranz: I don’t believe we can fundamentally change people, but I do think we can help people evolve and awaken the good in their hearts. People of all ages experience feelings of alienation, so when they are reminded how it feels they might treat the outcast more kindly. That’s something writers do best — remind us what we already know.



WeLoveQuality Books: Did you personally witness bullying at school when you were a child?

Craig PomranzHaven’t we all?  I was teased as a child. I performed professionally from a very young age.  I didn’t play team sports, and that brought on negative attention, too.  But, like Raffi, as people saw how committed I was to my art, they started to respect me.  Having the support of family and friends was extremely important.



WeLoveQuality Books: How did it change you as a person?

Craig Pomranz: As an outsider, I was sensitive to others being teased and bullied.  If I could, I tried to be supportive of the one being bullied.  Even as a relatively shy person, this helped me engage with people more. It felt like the right thing to do and somehow pushed me, even if it wasn’t easy.



WeLoveQuality Books: What is the next project you are working on?

Craig PomranzI’m working on several more books that I hope will empower children.  I have also been in talks about a television show for and by children that I am really excited about.  I continue to travel the world singing in clubs and will release another CDsoon.



WeLoveQuality Books: Please share some of the reader’s feedbacks that made you feel that your efforts were worthwhile?

Craig PomranzI hear from children and adults from all over the world.  Sometimes I’m sent adorable pictures of children knitting.  One of my prized possessions is a drawing a little girl from Korea sent me of a cape she thought Raffi should make.  One of the first emails I received was from a man in Istanbul:

Today I enjoyed to preorder your beautiful and meaningful children book for my cousin.  Especially here inTurkey we need to learn respect to the one who is different than us. Thanks for your effort to make the world a better place to live.”

Other exciting developments:

  • Composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s “The Rose”) and Michele Brourman (The Land Before Time) read the book and were inspired to write a song “Different” for me to sing. Link here: Different

  • Oprah’s guru Geneen Roth (Women Food and God) wrote: “I wanted you all to know about this one…although he is bullied, he really does stay true to himself — and it all comes around in the end. So touching.”    

  • A donor has given 75 books to the Archdiocese of New York Catholic grade schools for their libraries.


WeLoveQuality Books: How did you balance the fun element of the book with the pertinent message it tries to convey?

Craig Pomranz: Margaret Chamberlain‘s illustrations really help to keep the messages playful.  Also, I really tried to speak to children as they speak to one another.  Finally, Raffi never sees himself as a victim so the book is never sad, instead, he keeps on smiling and knitting and the others learn to love him.



WeLoveQuality Books: Please tell our readers why Made By Raffi is a must buy?

Craig PomranzNo one can completely prevent bullying.  Instead, we must find a way to help our children find self-assurance so they can avoid becoming victims. Made by Raffi can help parents and teachers start a conversation about tolerance, how it feels to be bullied and how to cope when you feel “different.”  This is also good for those who may be the bullies.  For them to see their behavior and learn empathy and embrace our differences.  I hear from parents of bullies, that it helps them understand and hopefully to empathize and find a different way to interact. 


It is available on Amazon: