Author Interview: Debbie Manber Kupfer

“My brush with cancer made me realize my mortality.  I learned that if I really wanted to write and be published, I needed to start now.” -Debbie Manber Kupfer

What happens when you choose to be an indie author? How do you get yourself into anthologies? What essential message does Adana the Earth Dragon have for children? Meet the brains behind the P.A.W.S. Saga, logic puzzles, and more when you—

Meet Author Debbie Manber Kupfer!


Introducing Debbie:

Debbie grew up in the UK in the East London suburb of Barking. She has lived in Israel, New York and North Carolina and somehow ended up in St. Louis, where she works as a writer and freelance puzzle constructor of word puzzles and logic problems. She lives with her husband, two children and a very opinionated feline. She believes that with enough tea and dark chocolate you can achieve anything!

Let’s get started!

You are an extremely prolific writer! Which genre or genres did you start out with? Was there a genre you thought you’d focus on first, but ended up going in another direction?

I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid, but only started taking myself seriously as a writer when I started writing P.A.W.S. in 2012. My first love has always been fantasy, and that’s where my main series lies, but I like to experiment in other genres in my short stories.

I also love cats, and nearly all of my stories have cats of some sort in them.

Adana the Earth Dragon.jpg

With Adana the Earth Dragon set to launch this spring, you must be super excited. How did this little dear of a dragon hatch for you? What plans do you have for the launch?

I wrote Adana’s story originally for a fantasy anthology that was supposed to have the theme of the elements. For various reasons the anthology never came about and my little dragon was left without a home.

Finally I was fortunate to meet my illustrator, the wonderfully talented Tina Wijesiri, online and slowly my little dragon came to life. I’m so thrilled how it’s all come together. We not only created a picture book, but Tina also made me line drawings for a companion coloring book and activity book and I added puzzles. I’m currently talking to several local bookstores, libraries and schools about release events.

I officially release on Earth Day (April 22) and am already taking preorders for signed copies of Adana the Earth Dragon and the companion coloring/activity book.

What do you hope children will take away from Adana’s story?

That no matter how small and insignificant you think you are, you are important and have unique strengths. Also that it is important to protect our Earth – so no stomping on flowers.

Cecilia's Tale Front.jpg

I love your concept for Cecilia’s Tale. Is Cecilia based on a particular cat of your acquaintance, or cats through the ages?

Yes, Cecilia’s Tale is loosely based around the story of how my cat, Cecilia (Cici for short) found me and adopted me as her human when I was living in Jerusalem.

Eventually after I met my husband (an American) I moved with Cici to the States. She wasn’t a huge fan of the plane ride. She lived with us for twelve years until she finally crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in 2007.

I wrote Cecilia’s Tale in her memory and Cici also appears in my short story, Will There Be Watermelons on Mars.


Let’s talk P.A.W.S. The plots in “The P.A.W.S. Saga” look thrilling. How did your characters come to mind? How challenging is it to write with a supernatural twist?

The P.A.W.S. Saga has been living inside my head now for six years ever since I first came up with the beginning scene – Miri receiving her grandmother Celia’s silver cat charm the night before Celia dies. Fantasy is my natural genre – both what I most like to read and to write. I see magic everywhere and often times folk I see around me or snippets of conversation I pick up become part of P.A.W.S. Actually when I write other stories they usually end up being part of the P.A.W.S. universe even when I didn’t intend it that way.

So, for example, my evil green fairies, the Tegs, started off in a short story I wrote for an anthology and then found their way into Argentum (book 2 of my series) and have stayed ever since.

You’ve contributed to several anthologies, such as Sins of the Past. How did you get involved in these collections? What tips would you have for authors who are interested in being part of anthologies?

I love being part of anthologies and have been in quite a few. Some like “Stardust, Always” and “The Longest Night Watch” raise money for charities which is an added bonus.

The Sins of Time series is a joint project between me and Chasity Nicole. I’m the editor of the horror series which so far has three titles – Sins of the Past, Sins of the Future, and Sins of the Gods. We’re currently working on book 4, Sins of the Fae, and I encourage any of your readers who like to write horror to join our Facebook page for details.

Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled for calls for submission to anthologies. There are so many out there, but if you don’t find one you like you can always start your own!

What appreciable differences do you find among writing for children, writing for teens, and writing for adults? Has anything surprised you at being the same across ages?

I don’t set out to write for any particular audience. I just write my story and see where it goes. And I don’t believe in dumbing language down for younger readers (or for older ones for that matter). At all ages we want to be drawn in the story and care about the characters. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little earth dragon, a homicidal android (I wrote about one of those for Sins of the Future), or a werecat, the reader needs to care about the characters.

I love logic puzzles, and you’ve got a set of 39 in Paws4Logic! Have you always created your own? When did you first start getting into these puzzles?

Creating puzzles is my “other hat” so to speak. About half of the time I write and edit. The other half I write puzzles, mostly for Penny Press magazines and my website, Paws 4 Puzzles. I write all sorts of word and logic puzzles. Paws 4 Logic was a passion project for me and my son, Joey. We both adore puzzles and wanted to create a book together.

I first discovered logic problems when I was a kid in London. I remember my excitement when I bought my first magazine. I was home. It didn’t take long until I started creating my own and my son Joey also has the puzzle bug.

When you started publishing your books, what would you say surprised you the most about the publishing experience (good or bad)?

I started off published by a local small press. My biggest surprise I think was that they didn’t do very much when it came to marketing. Most of that still fell on me. Two years later when my contract was up I decided not to renew and today I self-publish with CreateSpace and KDP and like it a whole lot better. I still of course have to market my own books, but I also get to make my own publishing decisions about covers, release dates, prices, etc.

Small press has its place and is particularly good for those who are new to the business or are not very tech savvy. But I’m happy as indie and would only go back to trad publishing if one of the big boys came knocking.

What are you planning to launch next?

My next release is Adana the Earth Dragon on April 22 (Earth Day) along with the companion coloring and activity book.

I’m also working on book 5 of my P.A.W.S. Saga, “Cotula”, which I hope to have out by the end of the year. Also my illustrator, Tina Wijesiri, is currently drawing the pictures for a junior tale from P.A.W.S. story geared towards younger elementary school kids.

Adana the Earth Dragon - FBbanner.png

Now for some just-for-fun challenge questions…

What type of book do you reach for to lose yourself in? Any favorite titles/authors?

Fantasy or sci-fi mostly. Favorite authors include Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, Neil Gaiman and Cornelia Funke. I’ve also become a fan of a few indies who put out awesome books: Michelle Proulx, E.A. Copen, R. R. Virdi, Jen Ponce, and M.A. Ray to name but a few.

What’s your favorite non-writing, non-reading activity?

Puzzles and board games, often with my son, Joey. Plus going to concerts with my daughter, Ronni.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or challenging ones?

Yeah, I mostly read them. I try not to let the negative get me down (it’s par for the course when you’re a writer. Not everyone’s going to like what you do.)

When you get a story idea, do you scribble it on any scrap of paper or napkin you can find, or do you have a special notebook or online tool where you keep all the inspiration?

If I’m out and about I yes scribble it on whatever I can find. At home I’ll put it in a doc on my PC for another time. (I’m trying not to get distracted from my work-in-progress.)

If you could go back in time before you started your author career, what advice would you give yourself?

Start earlier. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, but didn’t start taking my writing seriously until 2012 when I came out of cancer treatment. Before then I had thought that I had all the time in the world to write, so I delayed it thinking I’d write a novel when my kids were older.

My brush with cancer made me realize my mortality. I learned that if I really wanted to write and be published I needed to start now. If I could go back in time I would have started earlier.

Here’s where to find and follow Debbie, and purchase her books!

What does success look like to you?


I just read The Honest Answer to Why You’re Not Successful (It’s Not What You Think), and there’s a reason why this is the top highlight:

“What holds you back from success is never the obstacle itself. It’s how obsessed you are with finding the solution.”

I think most of us start out the same. We have dreams. We set goals. We can see what success will look like!

. . .we just have to figure out how, when, and where to do all the work in between. No problem, right? Other people have done it! Look at all the reviews that author has! Look at the sheer mass of drawings in that illustrator’s portfolio!

Then, such is the nature of such things, life often gets in the way. You miss first one deadline, then another. You feel derailed, dejected, and other demoralizing Ds. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself in a setback that lasts months if not years.

Before we get into the obsessing part, here’s what we’re forgetting:

1. That success you see others have mostly, largely, almost certainly did not come overnight. Take the concept of going viral. You know how suddenly a certain video is all over your Facebook feed or on YouTube? All your friends are talking about it! It’s awesome!

Check the date on that video. I haven’t done any research into this, mind you, but so much of the time, my eyeballs show me that the video has been out there for awhile—even two or more years. That’s positively ancient! And yet here it is, the first time I’m personally seeing it. Doesn’t mean I’m living under a rock, but it does mean that things take time—especially when everything else is out there struggling to go viral, too.

But taking time isn’t as attractive as the success point.


2. When the should-dos start piling up, we should focus on the Can-Dos instead. We spend a lot of time chastising ourselves for things that are often beyond our control.

Say your end-goal is to have 50 reviewers on your book by X date. X date is not, unfortunately, a hermit in an inviolate cave. Things are going to happen. The cave may get put on a Hermitage Tour. Or it may happen that this cave also hosts a very large, very disgruntled bear.

When hijacking times come, think like this: What one thing can you do today toward your goal? Is it to research top reviewers on Amazon? Is it to email four reviewers a day? Even doing just a little bit instead of not-a-bit will get you further than you were before.

You’re probably already thinking of things to do, so I’ll go on to #3.


3. Comparisons are evil. Right now I’m drawing a blank on when comparisons have ever helped a person really think better of themselves, long-term.

“Well, at least I’ve got more reviews than that author!” —okay, sure, but someone’s probably saying the same thing about you, and in the end, what does that really do for you, anyway? What time are you wasting comparing yourself, for better or for worse, that you could be spending on your can-do steps toward your goals and dreams?

Envy and resentment come naturally, as does bolstering ourselves up with the good feels.  It happens. The trick is not to get caught up in those games. Remember, it doesn’t matter what the actual object is: Someone’s always going to have fewer and someone’s always going to have more. Focus on what you can do so you won’t hijack your own path.


This has nothing to do with comparisons; I just thought he looked adorable.

So far, so good, right? Here’s another quote from the article:

If you aren’t reaching the levels of success you would like, you need to ask yourself, plain and simple,

“Is this something I am obsessed with?”

Yes, you do have to have that drive, that ambition, that gumption; he’s absolutely right.

I do think there’s another facet to this and it’s all in the approach to success. So here’s point 4.

4. Sometimes, we have to change our definition of success to succeed. Most of us, when we dream of being a published author or an illustrator with commissions busting down the door, only envision that actual success point. It’s not a surprise; it’s very enticing! Often it comes with complete Immers-o-vision, where you can practically see, feel, and smell the awesome.

But if you’re feeling too bogged down while getting to that point, you may be more likely to give up along the way. So perhaps it’s not a matter of not having that goal or not having the ambition or obsession to get to that goal. It may be just reframing what success looks like…for now. For this year. This month. This day.

  • This day, I will write a blog post (done!).
  • This week, I will interview three authors (two done, one to go!)
  • This month, I will block out time (give myself permission for) a recreational, non-book-marketing, non-worrying activity!

You get the picture.

A success is a success. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: All big things are made of little things. Success—your dream, your goal—is no different.

So I ask you, because I really want to know:

What does “success” look like to you? And how are you getting yourself there?


Why You Should Subscribe To “Authors Publish”

It’s one of the better email newsletters I’ve received. Each one contains something I can take action on, with time to noodle over my best approach. And it’s a short and sweet email!

Here’s a recent one I received: 72 Poetry Manuscript Publishers Who Do Not Charge Reading Fees. You can subscribe to their newsletter from that page, too.