Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ameera Unveiled by Kathleen Varn

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Kathleen will be awarding a $10 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

A special thanks to Kathleen for stopping by to chat with us.

Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?

When I started Ameera Unveiled, women’s humor picked me. I’m the type of person who likes to find a chuckle even in stressful situations. I’m the oldest of four daughters—one of them is my Irish twin. Being military dependents, we were nomadic which bonded us together a little more than the average family. Because I had the privilege of strong positive female sister bonds, I value the same quality as an adult with my girlfriends. Through my career as a legal assistant for an adoption attorney, I picked up social worker skills. I’ve seen so many women take some hard knocks—sometimes with a support system, sometimes not. I think my writing style attempts to fulfill the scriptural reference of “older women teaching the younger.”

What research is required?

I’m a stickler for authenticity. I want my characters and their environment to be round and colorful—like life. I check photographs, web sites, read ‘how to’, or find someone that can relate to a situation I’m trying to capture. I was surprised at how much research I had to do for a book using belly dance as a platform in that I belly dance. Once I had started pushing out a few chapters, I decided to research the existence or definition of dance therapy. I was shocked at how accurate my characters described their own healing journey through dancing.

Name one thing you learned from your hero/heroine.

No matter how successful or strong you are in other arenas of your life, never stop learning and facing the unknown. Ameera’s stage fright threatened to rob her of a wonderful female adventure.

Do you have any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?

I like to write while I listen to my DVR shows or re-runs of favorite CSI shows. If I’m writing during the day, I will make a bowl of Ramen noodles with hot sauce.

Are you a plotter or pantser?

I was encouraged by my writing coach/editor, Shari Stauch of WhereWritersWin, to just write and turn off my internal editor. My stories and scenes tend to develop and clean up after we go back and cut more words and distractions.

Look to your right – what’s sitting there?

I’m hooked on the MadMen series! Season Three is tempting me to ignore my birthday dinner being prepared downstairs. Anything new coming up from you? What?

I’m in the midst of getting the word out that after three years of work, Ameera Unveiled, was released July 25, 2013 by BQB Publishing. As soon as I can catch up with the freight train, I have a couple of ideas that I need some research. Some readers have asked if I plan to do a sequel. I couldn’t see a way to do that until I was approached by someone earlier this week. That may be a possibility.

Do you have a question for our readers?

I’d love to know what character resonated with them and why after reading Ameera Unveiled.

At the age of forty-eight, happily remarried and retired from her legal assistant gerbil wheel, Kat decides to break out of her shell and try her hand at belly dancing. What begins as a hobby leads her to filling a coveted spot in Palmetto Oasis Middle Eastern Dance Troupe. With less than eight weeks to prepare, Kat’s thrown into a world of performing she is terrified to face, all leading to a week of giving lessons and performing in Jamaica. Traveling with eight glittery strangers, she forges deep bonds under outrageous circumstances at what they’d soon all discover was a clothing-optional resort. Struggling with paralyzing stage fright and searching for the deeper root of her fears, Kat feverishly seeks a way to release Ameera, her inner dance queen. By the end of the week, the audience is mesmerized by the powerful presence and synchronicity of women joined at the hip by scarves and some glitter. Kat soon knows, with the help of eight sisters in dance, that she is finally part of a tribe, discovering an oasis to refresh her thirst to be part of a circle of women.

Enjoy an excerpt:

In the hall ahead of me, Sybil was struggling with a CD player, a small suitcase, and some music. The CD binder was slipping from under her arm. I rushed forward to offer assistance. “Can I help?” I asked.

“Sure,” Sybil said, handing me the CD player. “How was your week? Did you practice?”

“I’m trying to, but I don’t have a huge dance background,” I answered. “You make it look so easy in class, but when I stand in front of my mirror at home, it’s discouraging. I’m so stiff.” I didn’t want to sound like a whiner. “I practiced isolating the three regions of my body though.”

“That’s typical,” Sybil said. “Just keep practicing so you’ve got a good base. When we work on transitions from chest to hip, head to hands, undulations on various level changes, you’ll see the payoff.”

Transitions? I was still learning my alphabet. We headed into the drama room. Sybil and I dropped what we were carrying on the wooden floor. I saw my dance neighbor, the brunette from the first class, chatting with a young ethnic woman who looked as if she’d been born to belly dance. Not a hair out of place, she exuded confidence . . . and the tiny dancer in me cringed. Tying my hip scarf, I scooted closer to them.

“I’m so excited about this class, but it’s harder than it looks,” the brunette said. “But it’s good. I’m challenged.”

“It’s hard, but I love watching belly dancers,” the exotic one remarked. “Sybil belongs to a belly dance troupe. Can you imagine?”

Before I could add my own glittery story, Sybil had us form a circle. “Let’s review what you learned last week,” she said. “Grab one of my veils. I’m showing you the beginning of a dance to a Shakira song.” She reached into her suitcase and pulled out a stack of paper. “Take one and pass it around.”

I looked at the words. They might’ve been English, but my brain saw hieroglyphics as I read, “Pose for eight counts, veils tucked in hip. Hip lift A/B/C (right). Repeat left.” I looked at my neighbors, who were laughing at the idea of learning a dance.

In less than an hour—following week two’s round robin, reviewing modules and isolations, introducing the first half of the choreography, and a quick two-minute cooldown—Sybil slipped away. My hips were facing some serious homework.

“We’re learning choreography?” I asked, my heart banging at the thought. “I can’t believe she’ll move us this fast.”

“Hey, my name’s Polly Taylor,” the brunette said.

“I’m Kat Varn,” I answered.

“I’m Cheryl Curcio,” the exotic one informed us. “And we’re supposed to bring three yards of material for a veil?”

“I guess there isn’t a belly-dance store in Charleston,” Polly said, chuckling.

“I loved the tie-dyed veil that Sybil’s letting me use,” I said. “I guess she wants us to have something at home to practice with.”

As we walked together to the parking lot, I learned that Polly and Cheryl worked at the Medical University of South Carolina, or “MUSC,” as they called it. Introductions aside, we stopped to synopsize our lives by Polly’s car.

I went first. “I retired after working twenty-three years for an attorney. Spent last year homeschooling my son. He finished his senior year here and graduated this past summer. Taking this class was kinda my reward.”

“I’m single but dating a doctor from our pathology department,” Cheryl said next, beaming. “I saw the ad for this class in the local community paper.”

“I’m fifty-two and single—not looking for anything serious,” Polly volunteered last. She looked at Cheryl. “I saw the same ad! My life slowed down a little when my son went off to college. I love dancing and working out. Doesn’t belly dancing sound like an adventure?”

We all nodded, three dissimilar women from ages ranging in the late twenties to fifty connected by one ad. Streetlights flickered overhead, reminding us to get home to evening routines that didn’t involve hip scarves.

“Y’all, the gnats are biting,” I said. “See you next Monday—with three yards of material.”

As I pulled out of the parking lot, my heart felt lighter. That brief conversation with my dance mates reminded me how blessed I was to be retired from my legal assistant work with Thomas Rawlins Calhoun, a Charleston blue-blood attorney branded by his ancestors. Mr. Calhoun was a Confederate, and I was a Virgo. I’d juggled all my plates and his . . . too well. Each morning, I knew I’d find a flustered boss rifling through well-ordered drawers. I’d join him beside a file cabinet, resigned to the fact that I’d eventually fetch a mysteriously missing file. As he’d step aside, I’d go to the “S” tab, find the “Smith” file, and pluck at a manila folder like a captured mouse with my thumb and pointer finger. He’d shake his head and chuckle before he’d saunter off without so much as a thank you. I’d fake indifference.

Smiling, thankful that that relationship was a thing of the past, I eased my car through the back streets. Steve and I were creating our new Monday night after-class routine. Porch light on? Check. Kitchen light on? Yes. That meant Steve was cooking to reruns of Two and a Half Men. I closed the garage door and headed inside.

He pelted me with questions the minute I walked in the door. “How was class? Did you learn anything new?” Steve asked as he stirred food in a wok.

“We have to bring three yards of material next week,” I answered, casting my hip scarf on the sofa table. “She’s teaching us a short dance and how to use the veil.” My tuxedo cat, Melkey, rubbed against my legs.

“How’s that make you feel?” Steve asked. Apparently, he sensed my discomfort from my short description.

“Pushed,” I said. Suffocated, overwhelmed, scared. Admittedly, this hobby was an attempt to heal something I’d felt robbed of in my childhood that had been amplified in other areas as I entered my adult life. It was an attempt to put my creative side and my body in shape. It would take physical muscle and psychological muscle memory.

“I think six weeks is a bit ambitious to learn the craft,” I said.

Steve looked at me and smiled. “Have fun with it. You’ve earned this time to chase some girly dreams. Go get comfy.”

I kissed him then said, “I met two girls in class tonight. I’m not sure we have anything in common besides dancing, but who knows?” I left to snuggle into soft flannels. I could then join my hubby for some dinner and celebrity dance moves on Dancing with the Stars.

About the Author:
Kathleen Varn’s love affair with words manifested when she turned four and taught herself to read. As she grew older, books and reading were an escape from responsibility. Eventually, Kathleen dove into journaling, which helped her find solace in the grief of a toxic relationship. Throughout her journey to extract her family from oppression, she explored the idea of freedom through allegorical short stories. Kathleen is now very happily married to her soulmate. She resides in Charleston, South Carolina, where she worked for an adoption attorney for twenty-three years. With her two children settled in adulthood, she is exploring a beautiful world, from scuba diving in Fiji or photographing in Alaska’s frozen tundra.

Kathleen hopes her readers enjoy Ameera’s journey to pursue the forbidden zone of dance while becoming part of a larger experience—embraced and bonded to eight glittery belly dancers, each of them aware they may have never met without the common denominator of a six-week belly dance class under the tutelage of their troupe director.


  1. Thankd for the excerpt and interview. I appriciate your commitment to research and authenticity in novel

    fencingromein at hotmail dot com

    1. I was taught to do my best (and of course, that is a relative concept!) and my book coach, Shari Stauch, accepts nothing less! Thanks for the encouragement.

  2. I enjoyed the excerpt, thank you.


    1. Thanks for stopping in! The eclectic group of friends discovered on this journey, gave me a lot of fodder for the book.

  3. Sounds like a great read!!
    Thanks for the chance to win!
    natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

    1. I tried to make an uncomfortable late life goal as humorous but as honest as possible. Just got back from my own belly dance troupe night! What a great group of girls in Palmetto Oasis Middle Eastern Dance Troupe. I may throw in a hip scarf!

  4. Nice excerpt

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  5. Glad you enjoyed it. There is an amazing amount of humor in the back of the book. But, you've got to get the bones of the character's attempt to bust an old voice out of her past!

  6. Thanks for speaking about your research. As a librarian, I'm always interested in that aspect of the writing life.
    catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

    1. The research is one of the most important aspects of creating a realistic scene and challenging the reader to wonder "did that really happen." I just recently was loaned the MadMen series and am findng a huge amount of research already done for me as a baby boomer for one of the next ideas I have. Thanks for stopping in, Catherine.

  7. I haven't read the book yet, but when I do, I'll let you know! :-)


    1. Would love to know. Feel free to contact me on my Facebook or website, Thanks so much for stopping by.

  8. I always enjoy a touch of humor.


    1. As I told Gary Fearon from Southern Writers Magazine, this is a perfect example of the country song, Forever and ever.... old ladies talking about old men (but we aren't old!) Women have a very amazing way of weaving into each other's lives regardless of the diversity.


So... inquiring minds want to know: what do you think?