During the month of April, I participate in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. That is 26 posts in one month, for each letter of the alphabet, time off for good behavior on Sundays. Over 1800 bloggers are participating this year. Last I checked, I was #831. This year, Millie and Willie Cottonpoly, my sock puppet creations, are here to tell you their story and share reviews, ideas, and inspiration with you. They’re also helping to teach theatre classes for kids in the Brainerd area, and continue to view and review theatre productions and some books. This retired couple doesn’t just sit around watching reruns on MeTv. (Although, Willie does like to put up his feet whenever Petticoat Junction comes on. It’s that sound of the train whistle. Millie makes no apologies for watching the Lassie marathon while holding her dog Tillie on her lap.)

VV is for Silvia Villalobos, blogger friend and author of Stranger or Friend, her first novel. She’s also participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge and has been using personal stories that relate to her novel. I’ve really enjoyed them. Millie and Willie are also enjoying the book and have invited her as a guest on their radio show.


Silvia Villalobos, author of Stranger or Friend

Silvia Villalobos, author of Stranger or Friend

Millie: Good morning, and welcome to the Candid Canine Call-in Show. I’m Millie Cottonpoly, a friend to all canines, and most humans.

Willie: And, I’m Willie Cottonpoly, a stranger to no one, once we’ve said hello.

Millie: Our special guest today is Silvia Villalobos, author of Stranger or Friend.

Willie: Welcome, Silvia. Thanks for being on our show today.

Silvia: Thank you so much for having me. How about a hug? Thank you.

Millie: I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and I enjoy your posts about your home country of Romania. How old were you when you left Romania, and what brought you to the U.S.A?

Silvia: At the age of twenty-two, I entered a study-abroad program that required a sponsor. My cousin Luminita, who’d been living in the U.S. with her family for many years, became the sponsor, and a couple of months later I arrived in California. A bit scary, yes, but also fun and interesting.

Willie: You live in California, now, right? Have you done much traveling across this vast country? Do you like to travel by train, either here or in Europe?

Silvia: I like the freedom of driving — stop any time, change course or even destination. There is a different kind of freedom when traveling by train, and that is to enjoy the scenery and relax, be able to write, read. So, it’s a toss up. In Europe, I would travel by train, as the train system is excellent and the distances manageable, but here in California and across the U.S., I like the the freedom of driving my car.

Millie: So, you grew up in Romania, and now you live in California, how did you decide to use the rural state of Wyoming as your setting?

Silvia: I traveled to Wyoming several years back, and loved it. I was struck by the small-town curiosity, the welcoming people, and also by a different curiosity from what I’ve encountered here in California where we have all nationalities and cultures represented. Also, Wyoming is close enough to Los Angeles without being too close, and it make sense for the main character, Zoe Sinclair to return home, to her small town.

Willie: I enjoy reading about food.

Millie: You enjoy eating food while reading, Willie.

Willie: I like your descriptions of the food they eat at holidays, etc. How do the food descriptions add to your story?

Silvia: They add to a sense of home. I wanted to distinguish between the characters being in a house or at home where we spend time with family, sit by the fireplace, cook and serve holiday meals. So, definitely food was symbolic of home, the warmest place in our hearts.


Millie: You are very good at writing suspenseful scenes. Are you a fan of suspense novels and/or movies?

Silvia: I love suspense and of course mysteries — books and movies. They are a wonderful intellectual challenge, they invite the reader inside the story, and in most cases ask the reader to participate. In a suspenseful mystery, the reader can be more than a casual observer while enjoying the literary beauty of language, which is what I tried to do in Stranger or Friend.

Willie: If you were to murder someone, (Millie raises her eyebrows) in your fiction, what method would you chose?

Silvia: Oh, great question. In the past, I liked fast and easy, not too much gore. But in one mystery I’m planning, the end might look different, like say murdering the bad guy by applying pressure with bare hands. Still playing with ideas. Currently, though, I save the gore for after the fact.

Millie: Do you think most families have dark secrets?

Silvia: Absolutely. In fact, I would have a hard time believing the opposite. Humanity is complex. And it’s those dark secrets that make for excellent mysteries. The secret in Stranger or Friend, for example, differs greatly from family to family, and it’s this uniqueness that makes each story interesting.

Willie: What’s your favorite song? Mine is I’ve been working on the railroad, all the livelong day.

(Silvia and Willie start a duet. Millie rolls her eyes.)

Millie: Oh, for heaven’s sake.

Silvia: Oh, I love that song. So lovely singing with Willie. Millie, won’t you join in? No, okay. My husband is a rocker, so I like anything that rocks and grabs me. But as a huge music fan, I love music in general — guitar and piano. Mary plays the piano, and she’s quite good at it.

Willie: We always sit in the music room when she plays. It’s soothing, and lovely. What’s one place on your bucket list to visit? And, would you go by train?

Silvia: Ireland. Just look at all the greenery. It’s beautiful, and they have good food, I hear.

Millie: I’d add their music to that list. I love Irish music. You should hear Mary play an Irish jig. Really gets our toes tapping! I don’t remember reading about any animals in your book. I’m a dog whisperer, and our dog Tillie is definitely a character. Do you plan to include animals in your next novel? Do you have any pets?

Silvia: We had two dogs, but no animals at the moment. My son wants a dog again, so we’ll definitely adopt one soon. I most certainly plan to include a dog or two in my work, and one of them might even play an important role, but I’m still working on details.

Millie: Thank you, Silvia. I’ll have to let you in on a little secret in the Cottonpoly family. Willie likes it when I read to him… when we’re traveling.

Willie: Especially by train.

Millie: But, if the book is really good, he’ll run a bath for me, and sit in the bathroom while I read to him. Sometimes, he even gives me a foot rub.

Willie: Millie, that’s too personal. But, um, you know, we are getting to the exciting conclusion of Stranger or Friend, and the winds have blown in some wintery weather again. It might be a good evening to soak in the tub.

Millie: Where is your favorite place to snuggle up with a good book, Silvia?

Silvia: In bed. The most comfortable place there is. Under the blanket. In silence. Love reading in bed, before I go to sleep.

Millie: Thanks, Silvia.DSC_0427

Willie: I’ve enjoyed visiting with you. Ride up to Minnesota sometime. The Biker Chef could cook you up some walleye from one of our 10,000 lakes. I consider us friends, not strangers.

Silvia: Thank you. I had a blast you guys. This is the most fun interview I’ve done. And Willie can sing. Wow. I also want to thank Mary, just because she is so cool.

Mary: Thanks, Millie, Willie, and Silvia. Looks like Millie is relaxing in the tub, and Willie is getting the book. You can learn more about Silvia and her book, Stranger or Friend, on her website, Silvia Villalobos.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What’s your favorite place to snuggle up with a good book? Do you ever travel by train?