Character Interview: Aldra Malimore from Doubling Back by Rose Fishcher

I recently had the pleasure of reading Doubling BackA Story of Synn (The Foxes of Synn, Book 3) by Rose Fischer. Needless to say I loved the story, and fell for the charming and talented fox, Aldra Malimore. So imagine my excitement when I got to interview Aldra! Now I get to share that with you.

RBF_08-27-2015_3023RBF_08-27-2015_3024Aldra Malimore’s hope for a career as a sorcery scholar is over. Now, she’s working as waitress in the capital city of Arcanion and trying to resist the strange pull she feels toward Sorrell DeGray. When she stumbles on a thief with advanced technology that mimics the behavior of Synn’s color magic, it’s Sorrell she must turn to. But will trusting Sorrell be a mistake or a new beginning?

 

Interview with Aldra Malimore (The Foxes of Synn)

 Mel: You trained for several years as a sorceress, can you tell us about your experience?

Aldra: In the Northern Realms, you have to apply to one of the schools. There are seven.  If you’re wealthy, a teacher or mentor affiliated with one of the schools comes to you, or if you’re poor but really lucky, you can get a scholarship to live at the schools. I was fortunate because two of my parents are already sorcerers, so I had a mentor.   He taught me some things and helped me design a personal curriculum taking different classes at various schools.  I was also allowed to incorporate classes from Earth.  Sorcery is an interdisciplinary field.  You study magic and a variety of other things.  We know how the weather works, and chemical processes, and geology, and things like that. We can combine that knowledge with Colored magic to do things.  Lifespans are longer, especially among people who know magic, and that puts a different perspective on continuing education.  You have to be able to do a little bit of everything, including employable trade skills.  Magic doesn’t make money, though some well-known magicians have noble patrons. Most sorcerers have more learned skills than innate powers and abilities.

I guess we’re more “the people with special knowledge” than “the people with special powers” although we have powers that others don’t.  Witches have inborn powers to manipulate nature, so they don’t always need as much technical knowledge.

Magicians work in groups and there’s more of an academic emphasis than a standard “adventurer” one like your readers would probably expect.  The degree I have, called an Intermediate Holdership, typically takes between 8-10 years to acquire. It’s worth about as much career wise as an Associate’s Degree on Earth, and once you get it, you need a research grant and approval from one of the schools to go to the next level.

Mel: That’s quite an educational system. It has me all the more intrigued by the magic in Synn and the commitment to your craft. In Doubling Back you mentioned a few spells and, I’m curious, what’s your favourite?

Aldra: Synn has several different magic systems, so “spell” can mean a lot of different things. The main type of magic that’s really widespread is Color magic. That’s what you saw in Doubling Back. I have a hard time picking favorites, but in Color magic there are styles of spell more than stock phrases or rituals to perform.  A spell is like a painting or sculpture.  You learn the technical skills and history; you study memorable ones, but when you’re working with magic, you make your own.  I do have a few of my father’s spells that he let me modify for practice when I was younger.  I still use those because I’m sentimental, I guess. Usually that’s frowned upon, like plagiarism.   I like experimenting with combinations and incorporating woodworking.  One of my nephews does magic with words and runes.  It’s really interesting, older magic than the Color practices.

Mel: It does sound fascinating, but then, mastering Color magic must certainly have its challenges. You shared a little about the different ways to travel across worlds, one being by magic mirror. How does this work exactly, can you share anything about the fairies without giving too much away?

Aldra: Sure. The mirror fairies live in a transitional dimension that exists between Synn and other places. You can go in and out of Mirrorveld through a magic mirror, and once you’re there, you need to pay a guide to lead you to the right exit.  They don’t let very many humans in, and even foxes have to be vetted before we’re allowed to come and go freely.  My father, Thad, is friends with Nyx and Eos, the Queens of the Skies there, so we’re allowed more leeway, but the queens are not people you’d want to cross, so we’re always careful there.

Mel: In that case, I’d want you at my back if venturing to Mirrorveld! You’ve had various experiences in the past few years. What is the most memorable?

Aldra: Ummmmmmm…Honestly, the most memorable was getting mugged, because I didn’t even know I was being mugged until I was halfway on the ground.  But that’s probably not what you’re asking about.  I lived with a merchant family in the city for a while and learned their trade.  Worked on a riverboat.  I’ll go back to that someday.  Semi-dated a princess, memorable because it was horrid…

Mel: I get the feeling the less said about that the better! I’m sure those experiences influenced you, and it’s clear you feel a great deal of responsibility – especially when it comes to protecting people. Did your fathers influence this desire to make the world a better place?

Aldra: *laughs* The less said the better, though I’m sure someone will decide to write that story eventually.  Did my fathers influence my social concerns? Indirectly, maybe. My fathers are thousands of years old. They were all victims of exploitation when they were younger, and I think they feel like they’ve paid their dues and done their time getting involved in world affairs. For most of my life, we just lived on our mountain, visited the city once in a while, went shopping on Earth, and didn’t get involved in causes, because that’s how my parents want to live.  Micah used to be involved in the world-literacy movement in the more recent past, but he retired from it to build their magic greenhouse and help manage the Rangers who keep the family forests safe. Diana represents us in the Royal court during the summer and fall months, but that’s just a game to her. The only goal is to keep the family in a position where we have leverage with minimum involvement in any conflicts.  It’s all about maintaining equilibrium so we can be as non-involved as possible, and I think it’s boring.   Everybody else says “it’s not important as long as the family’s safe.” I can accept it from my parents.  They’ve all lost their families before.  Their priorities are different.  From my sisters, it’s harder to relate to.  Anyway, that’s not how I feel about it.  I don’t want anybody to suffer the way my parents suffered. I want to be involved.  I grew up with all these priveliges.  If I can help somebody, why shouldn’t I?  I want to contribue something meaningful to the world.

Mel: You’re right. Why shouldn’t you. I agree with that philosophy, and admire your commitment. The ability to absorb energy is a wonderful gift. I know you battle against the draw of shadow magic – is this a unqiue gift within the family?

Aldra: Thank you. Yes and no. Foxes are… Well, the only way I can think of to explain it is “energy vampires,” but that’s an oversimplification. We gain sustenance from intimate relationships and contact. The energy most foxes need isn’t just the color magic you saw me absorb; it has to be personal energy from another being.   Young kits get what they need from cuddling with their parents, but as we get older, most of us can only get it from sex.  Micah is part of a plant species that  absorbs ambient energy of all kinds.  Sunlight, colors, whatever’s there.  Its autonomic, similar to photosynthesis; he can’t pick and choose.  On Thad’s side, there’s a family gift for being able to draw shadow magic out of people who’ve been possessed, or release ghosts, but I’m the only one who can ingest the shadows or pick what magic I take in.

Mel: That sounds like a great deal of responsibility, and dangerous too. You’re all unique, which is a good thing, but it must be difficult not being able to change into a fox as your father and some of your siblings do. Do you gain support from your family?

Aldra: Some foxes can change and some can’t.  Some only have two forms; some have three.  Some have the upper body of a werefox and a fish tail like mermaids. I shouldn’t let it upset me as much as I do. It’s really not a big deal if I’m thinking clearly. The problem is, once I get upset, I’m upset about everything, and I think the reason it bothers me is that I have so little in common with my family. That is one of the most obvious things, but it’s a lot more about how we think differently and have different interests and  values.  I  feel like an alien speaking some strange dialect that only has minor similarities to whatever language they’re speaking. They’re wonderful people and great about practical help if you want to learn something or there’s a problem. There’s always someone to spy for your back you up in an emergency, but for anything emotional, I’m more likely to go to my wife — I mean, my girlfriend — I mean…okay, spoiler.  Sorry.  >.<

Mel: Oops, let’s skip over that part! I can relate to those feelings, even if I’m not a fox; all families are challenging! But I’m glad to hear you have someone to rely on for emotional support.

Thank you for talking to me today, Aldra. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning more about you, your family, and how things work in Synn. Taking the journey with you (in a manner of speaking) in Doubling Back was a pleasure.

So now it’s over to my readers, who I’m sure are as charmed by you as I am.

If you have any questions for Aldra, or indeed the talented Rose Fischer, please leave them in the comments below.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Author Interview – Celine Jeanjean

I have a special treat for you today, an interview with Celine Jeanjean, author of The Viper and The Urchin. I loved the book, and will be reviewing it next Sunday. But first, let’s find out a little more about the author herself. Please welcome Celine to WR101.

Photo

Celine Jeanjean is French, grew up in the UK and now lives in Hong Kong. That makes her a tad confused about where she is from. During her time in Asia she’s watched the sun rise over Angkor Wat, lost her shoes in Vietnam, and fallen off a bamboo raft in China.

Celine writes stories that feature quirky characters and misfits, and her books are a mixture of steampunk, fantasy and humour.

To find out more about Celine or just to chat, visit  her on:

interview with celine jeanjean

Mel: Do you have any strange writing habits (like writing in a lucky pair of socks? Or using a special pen?)

Celine: My strangest writing habit is that I write best when I listen to one song on loop, so I tend to go for weeks at a time listening to a single song (through my headphones, or my husband would have been driven crazy by now). Basically, the way it works is, rather than listening to the song, I almost immediately stop noticing it (the longer I’ve been listening to it, the quicker this happens), and it becomes a kind of white noise that blocks out anything going on around me. It does wonders for helping me focus.

One of the songs that works best for this is Radiohead’s Creep. I do worry a little what it says about me that Creep is the song that gets me in the zone, but I figure that as long as it works, I won’t question it too much. I’ve also noticed that I’ve kind of conditioned myself so that, as soon as I put in the headphones, and Creep comes on, my mind switches over to thinking about whatever story I’m working on.

Once I was out in a bar that played 90s music and Creep came on. About halfway through the song I realised that I’d completely drifted away from the conversation and I was daydreaming about my book. Good thing it’s not a song that’s played much these days!

Mel: That sounds like an excellent way to focus your mind, and allow the inspiration to flow. Do you set yourself time limits, or a schedule, or do you snap on your headphones whenever you have the time to write, and crank up Radiohead?

Celine: I set myself working hours, but one thing I need to get better at, is taking regular breaks. I’ll work for a couple of hours without stopping or moving, all hunched over on my computer, and then my back and neck end up being in absolute agony. I’m trying a new approach where I set timers and when that goes off I have to get up and move around. I’m not very good at sticking to that though if the writing is going well. On the other hand on those days where writing is about as fun as pulling teeth, I spend most of the hour checking on the timer to see when I’ll be able to take a break.

But I definitely like having set hours. I’m a creature of routine and habits. I tried writing as and when, and I didn’t get anything done.

Mel: We’ve all been there, when the characters refuse to play ball and drive us crazy! And speaking of characters – who would play your favourite characters in a movie?

Celine: Ooh, good question, but a very tricky one to answer! All my characters are non-white, since they live in a hot tropical place, and I came up with a blank as to non-white actors that would be suitable for Longinus or Rory. Makes you realise how saturated our screens are with white actors, doesn’t it!?

The closest answer for now would be for Longinus to be played by an Indian version of Benedict Cumberbatch, while Rory would be an Indian version of Arya in Game of Thrones – but with dreadlocks obviously! There’s nothing similar to India about the setting of my story, that’s purely based on how I imagine the characters look.

Mel: Longinus is an intriguing name. How important are names in your books? Do you choose based on the sound of the name, its meaning, or some other method?

Celine: I chose my character’s names based on how they sound, and the general ‘feeling’ they generate. So, for example, for Longinus, I wanted something that sounded both a bit old fashioned and that brought to mind someone a bit fussy and pedantic. Whereas, for Rory, I specifically chose a name that’s a bit ambiguous in gender because that suits her personality.

Mel: If you had an endless budget, describe the trailer for The Viper and The Urchin.

Celine: If I had a limitless budget, I would definitely get someone to do a CGI backdrop of Damsport — it would be amazing to see the city come to life! The trailer would start with Rory and Longinus separately: Rory picking a merchant’s pocket, Longinus working out what adjective best describes his nose. There’d be a voiceover throughout, outlining the story.

We’d then see the moment when Rory saves Longinus and blackmails him into teaching her sword fighting, followed by the discovery of the copycat’s first kill. After that, we’d get a quick montage of scenes from the rest of the book: aboard a giant steam-powered spider, a pool of blood creeping along the floor, lost in an underground maze, a sword fight at the top of a mast, running through the Great Bazaar, and then Rory, bleeding, leaping off a high place and into water, at which point the screen would go dark and the title would appear.

Mel: That sounds awesome – I want to see that movie!

But let’s move on to you, and more about your writing process. List five adjectives to describe you or your writing habits.

Celine: Impatient, Obsessive, Imaginative, Bookworm, Silly.

Mel: Tell us about your next project.

Celine: I’m currently working on the sequel to The Viper and the Urchin — The Black Orchid. Without giving too much away of the first book’s story, in the sequel Longinus and Rory are still working together, and they find themselves having to figure out why people in Damsport are disappearing and turning up completely emptied of their blood.

I’m having a lot of fun writing this one. So far, I’ve gotten to play with smugglers; I’ve created a mysterious place called the Black Orchid, and I got to write yet more capering aboard the steam-powered spider. It’s also been interesting to develop some of the more minor characters, and look a bit more into what makes them tick.

Mel: It does sound as though you’re having a grand adventure! What has been your greatest challenge as a writer so far?

Writing first draft material continues to be the biggest challenge for me. I love edits and rewriting, but writing that first draft is like pulling teeth. Most of that is due to the voices in my head telling me that what I’m writing is the Worse Thing Ever Written. Once the first draft is done and I read through it, it’s never as bad as I imagined. For me, it really is all about hammering out that first draft as quickly as possible so I can get to the edits.

Strangely, I find writing The Black Orchid harder than when I worked on The Viper and the Urchin. I’m now conscious of having set a precedent, and I keep second guessing myself, wondering whether what I’m writing is as good as book 1, whether people will find it a suitable sequel… With the first book it really was just me writing, as Stephen King says, ‘with the door closed’, and I got to make the story up without worrying too much about what people would think. I’m finding it much harder to keep that door closed this time around: I’m a lot more aware of having an audience.

Mel: Thank you for the candid reply. I can relate to these feelings, the times when my inner critic gets a bee in her bonnet! All authors experience doubt, and we push through it to get the story out there, because we believe in our characters. There’s a reason writing is described as opening a vein!

Are there any other genres you would love to explore?

Celine: Definitely! That’s the great thing about being an independent writer, we’re completely free to explore stories and genres that interest us, without needing permission from anyone. I have ideas for novels coming out of my ears, so the issue for me is more figuring how to tell these stories, and finding the time to write them.

I have plans for a more traditional epic fantasy story, following the traditional quest format, but with very unusual characters. I also plan to retell a classic Victorian gothic novel but adding a fantasy/steampunk twist to it, to write my version of a fairy-tale, and to do a cross between dystopia and dieselpunk (which is like steampunk but modelled on the Twenties and Thirties, and featuring diesel-powered technology, rather than steam-powered).

I don’t know that I’ll ever venture too far out of the general Fantasy genre though: I absolutely love taking readers to new worlds, whereas writing about the real world we live in doesn’t interest me very much. I would be interested in trying historical fiction though, or possibly alternate history — although I don’t have any plans on that front yet.

Mel: I agree with you. It is great to have the freedom to go in whichever direction we choose, and I wish you the best of luck on your upcoming writing adventures. Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview, Celine. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with you.


viper_promoThe Viper and the Urchin

Being Damsport’s most elegant assassin is hard work. There’s tailoring to consider, devilish poisons to concoct, secret identities to maintain… But most importantly, Longinus has to keep his fear of blood hidden or his reputation will be ruined. So, when a scrawny urchin girl threatens to expose his phobia unless he teaches her swordsmanship, he has no choice but to comply.

It doesn’t take long for Rory to realise that her new trainer has more eccentricities than she has fleas. But she’ll put up with anything, no matter how frustrating, to become a swordswoman like her childhood hero.

What she’s not prepared for is a copycat assassin who seeks to replace Longinus, and who hires Rory’s old partner in crime to do away with her, as well. Rory and Longinus must set their differences aside and try to work together if they’re to stop the copycat. But darker forces than they realise are at play, and with time running out, the unlikely duo find themselves the last line of defence against a powerful enemy who seeks to bring Damsport to its knees.


Thanks for stopping by. I will be reviewing The Viper and the Urchin (a tale which definitely lives up to that wonderful blurb), on Sunday the 26 August.

Mel

Author Interview: Phyllis Moore

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Phyllis Moore, author of the Pegasus Colony. You will find links and further information about the novel below. But first, let’s find out what Phyllis had to say.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like writing in a lucky pair of socks? Or using a special pen?)

Phyllis_MooreI can write pretty much anywhere. I don’t need everything to be quiet. I can write in my head while I drive, at work when things are slow and people are talking, at the park, or in a coffee shop. And I can write when everything is turned off and silent.

When an idea comes. I write.

If I get stuck somewhere and have to sit with nothing to do or read, give me paper and pen, and I write.

That process sounds familiar. Is there a book you wish you had written?

I’ve thought about it and I don’t think there is a novel I wish I’d written.

There are authors like J.K. Rowling that I wish I was as well read.

It would be nice it my characters were so well known that when some one says, Jessica Hewitt or Nu Venia, people know who they are.

Pegasus Colony is my first novel. I have my future in front of me and I have goals to meet.

That’s certainly an admirable goal. If Pegasus Colony was adapted for the cinema screen, who would play your favorite characters in the movie?

May I tell you a story instead?

I have many friends who bought my book and laughingly asked when the movie was coming out. My first thought was, this is not movie material.

But the Bible says where two agree it will happen. So I agreed with every statement of my book becoming a movie.

I told my friends when the movie came out I’d rent a movie theater and invite all of them and their significant other. I’ll have a buffet at the front of the theater just under the screen for people to eat and visit before the viewing.

And yes, we laughed good-naturedly.

But …

A met a gentlemen who bought a book and whose his son is screenplay writer. He planned to have his son also read the book.

I haven’t heard from him as of yet, but you never know.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed. You mentioned a few names from the series. How important are names in your books? Do you choose based on the sound of the name, its meaning, or some other method?

From other books I’ve read, names are very important from names like Stephanie Plum to Sherlock Holmes to Romeo and Juliet to Albus Dumbledore.

Sometimes my characters change their names several times before I settle on the right one.

Sometimes I hear a name and have to use it. A friend’s middle name is Samard. I’m using his name for a king in one of my fantasy stories.

I have a running list of names that I’ve heard or made up that one day might become a great fictional character.

I like to use friends’ names too. And following on from the earlier theme. If you had an endless budget, describe the trailer for Pegasus Colony.

It would be spectacular.

If I had unlimited money I’d find creative people who know how to catch an audience eye and wanting them asking for more.

One thing I would not do is tell the whole story in the trailer like so many movies do today. It’s annoying. If I know the story and how it will turn out, why bother to go see the movie.

I want my trailer to be intriguing with just enough information to create a mystery that encourages people to buy my book because they want to know what happens.

I get that. Sometimes there are so many spoilers it reflects badly on the movie. But, moving on, can you list five adjectives to describe yourself or your writing habits.

Persistent. Committed. (These two maybe the same. The point is I don’t easily give up. I also don’t start something unless I plan to finish it. I may have to put the story to the side and let it mature for a bit, but I have plans to get back to it.)

Intriguing. (I like to create mystery so the reader wants to keep turning the page to see what happens.)

Misleading. (If you’ve read my short stories, you’ll know I like to lead the reader in one direction only to surprise them with an unexpected ending.)

My last adjective would be “Hone,” as in honing my skills.

I strive it to learn from my mistakes and to improve on what I’ve already written. I want each book to be better than the last.

I think that’s important, because we never stop honing our craft. Tell us about your next project.

I’m presently working on the second book of People of Akiane, Storm’s Coming. I originally wrote People of Akiane as one book, but it was too long, and it kept growing, so I turned it into a trilogy.

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer so far?

Becoming a great writer.

There are so many different elements of writing a novel such as: plot, characters, description, and dialogue.

I’m great at story and dialogue. If I could write a novel with only those two, I’d be happy, but I must also develop strong, interesting characters. I must give details that make the characters and their world seem real.

Yes, the characters are certainly key. Are there any other genres you would love to explore?

My trilogy is science fiction, but I also have a couple of fantasy ideas in the works.

I’d like to write humorous novels that seemingly goes nowhere, but in the end, it all lines up into a good laugh and “Wow that was great!”

My goal is to entertain readers. To take them out of this world and place them in an adventure in another world.

It’s the ultimate goal, isn’t it – taking our readers on a journey. I wish you every success. Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview, Phyllis. I had great fun chatting with you.


Connect with Phyllis Moore

My Blog: MythRider

https://mythrider.wordpress.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/PhyllisMooresMyths

Web page: Moore’s Myths

http://www.mythriderpublishers.com/moores_myths.php

Pegasus Colony is available on Amazon, Barns & Noble, and iBooks.

CT001-PegasusColony-PhyllisMoorenewLt. Jessica M. Hewitt can’t find peace for her own life, yet her mission is to bring peace between two worlds 28 light-years apart. Her orders are to convince the rough Pegasus Colony that they are still an Earth colony.

Soon after she lands on the alien planet, her nonexistent negotiation skills immediately prove their worth, within seconds she’s failed. Their leader has walked out on her.

The colony wants nothing to do with their home planet. They’ve been on their own for over 300 years. They’re not about to give up their independence.

At last that’s what they say is the problem. But there’s something else going on.

Why has the Earth team has been exiled to the farther reaches of the colony habitat? Why are the colonists so secretive about one particular garden? What are they growing? And why will not one colonist speak to anyone from Earth.

Most importantly what will it take to convince the colonists to just speak to her? The answer to that question may cost Jessica her life.


Thank you for stopping by.

Mel

Interview with Charles E. Yallowitz – Author of Newly Released Ichabod Brooks and the City of Beasts

I have an extra special treat for you today! Not only has Charles E. Yallowitz released his short story, which I introduced in this post Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, but he also agreed to an interview. You can find a copy of Ichabod Brooks by clicking here.

 

Ichabod Brooks

Interview with Charles E. Yallowitz

Mel: Do you have any strange writing habits (like writing in a lucky pair of socks? Or using a special pen?)

Charles: Nothing really strange other than I usually need music. Silence puts me on edge because I’m so used to it being a precursor to people interrupting me. Also, the music seems to remind other people in the house that I’m working. Beyond that, the only other thing I can call a strange habit is that I reward myself with pizza after writing a first draft. If I have a really hard time with publishing something then I use the same reward. I might be getting to the point where the local pizza place knows my order by heart.

Mel: I know what you mean. I’m on first name terms with the baristas at our local coffee shop! I like the idea of having a signal, a kind of writer at work – do not disturb soundtrack! What does your writing space look like? Can we take a peek inside? Is it safe to enter!

Charles: Currently, my writing space is the den with the desktop and the TV. I have an open window with a view of the backyard . . . sort of. Normally, I’m on my laptop in my bedroom with no view and terrible back support. I might try to take over the sun room for easy drink access and a less stuffy atmosphere. As you can tell, I don’t have a specific writing space and have to work wherever I can find space and quiet.

Mel: I can relate (it’s quite often my car!). But, moving on. What book do you wish you had written?

Charles: The one I’ve yet to write. Seriously, I never really thought that because I like certain books because of the author’s style. Me being behind it would turn it into a different story, which kind of defeats the question.

Mel: That’s a really good point. Perhaps the question should be then, which books have inspired you to create similar adventures in your own unique style?

Charles: I took some from The Books of Lost Swords by Fred Saberhagen, Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard, and tons of other stuff. I try to take something from everything I read, so that I learn more about the craft. Being a present tense third person author, there aren’t many books that I can connect to my style. So I feel like I’m making this up as I go along.

Mel: I think that’s a really important point; reading and learning from others. I’ve enjoyed reading your recent posts on the characters who bring Windemere to life. So my next question is about them. Who would play your favourite characters in a movie?

sleeper-of-the-wildwood-fugue

Charles: To be honest, I have no idea. Back when I started, I’d pick actors and actresses for the characters because it was fun to dream of that happening. A movie or TV show has really become the next rung for authors, but I’m actually more focused on the books right now. Besides, all I did in the past was go through IMDB to pick the top names for characters. Maybe it would work best with unknowns in all the roles.

Mel: It’s an interesting one isn’t it? The characters we see in our minds; whether ours or those conjured by others, rarely translate.

It’s like names, sometimes we have to go through a few before we find the right fit. How important are names in your books? Do you choose based on the sound of the name, its meaning, or some other method?

Charles: I use a baby naming book and a few ‘meaning of names’ sites to choose. At least for several of the characters. It depends on their importance to the story. Main characters get this treatment if they aren’t from an old game where a friend played them. Supporting characters tend to get a careful choosing based on their personality or role. For example, a Paladin might get a name taken out of a list of biblical warriors. Finally, very minor characters and unique names are nothing more than letters thrown around. A lot of times I’ll take a word from some packaging and rearrange it to get a name. Creates some interesting combinations.

Mel: I can imagine! Have you ever regretted a name you’ve given? Perhaps, a minor character who decided they wanted to have their day in the sun.

Charles: I’ve been lucky enough to have changed the original names that simply didn’t work. So I haven’t regretted anything yet. The closest would probably be the character of Kira Grasdon. She was a minor character with one scene and evolved into a romantic interest for Luke Callindor, which meant appearing more often. Problem was that her original name was Linny Grasdon. Horrible name, but she wasn’t supposed to come back. The romance created an ‘LL’ thing that somebody pointed out, so I searched for a new one. Kira kind of popped into my head and that’s what she’s been for a while.

Mel: Kira Grasdon is a really cool name. Though I’ll admit I like LL – it brings a certain Mr Cool J to mind!

And if I can use a tenuous link to my next question. If you had an endless budget, describe the trailer for Legends of Windemere.

Charles: I actually think this way when getting into the mindset for writing. It’s typically when listening to an orchestral version of the Legend of Zelda theme. You’re following a flying creature who is zipping around Windemere as if searching for something. You run into various characters from the books and even series that I haven’t touched on yet. For example, you see Sari dancing in a tavern, a future thief character bounding over rooftops, the vampire characters on a battlefield, and whatever else pops into my head. It usually hits a high note with Nyx and Queen Trinity having a full strength caster duel in the mountains. The force sends the flying creature spiraling away and the whole thing ends to reveal you’re following Fizzle. He lands on a branch over Luke Callindor, who is sleeping in the forest next to his dog.

Mel: Now that’s one trailer I’d love to see!

But before I get distracted by magical lands and grand adventures, let’s move on. List five adjectives to describe yourself or your writing habits.

Charles: Prolific, dedicated, anxious, creative, and wonky.

Mel: How about your next project. What can you tell us about that?

Charles: So many to choose from since I’m editing Book 8 and writing Book 11 of Legends of Windemere. Neither of those are close to going live, so I’ll talk about the one that I published today. Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts is a short story I wrote to simply have some fun and put something out between big books. It follows an adventure of Ichabod Brooks, who is a middle-aged man with a reputation for accepting dangerous odd jobs. In his words, a man has to eat and feed his family. The current job is to clear out a ruined village, which has become infested with strange creatures. It doesn’t go as planned and Ichabod finds a bigger mess than he expected. I aimed for simplicity, humor, and action with memorable characters. At least I hope they’re memorable. Feel free to check it out on Amazon.

Mel: I always appreciate good humour in an adventure novel. Is this something readers can expect from you in general? Do you like to use humour to balance all the action?

Charles: I like to use humor (you can tell I’m American here) to break tension and show a more flippant side of the characters. Since it’s an ensemble cast, cracking jokes and teasing helps reveal the growing bond between them. This feels natural to me. I also grew up reading a lot of Spider-Man comics, so battle banter turns up as a way for some heroes to throw the villains off their game.

Mel: You’ve got to love Spidey’s one liners! And it seems the humour comes naturally to you. But what about challenges? What has been your greatest challenge as a writer so far?

Charles: Hard to pick a greatest one because I always feel like I’m fighting against the tide. As far as being a published author, the biggest obstacle was accepting that I can’t please everyone with my books. I knew this would happen, but it’s a lot harder to put into practice when you have the ‘publishing’ high going. Submitting to agents and publishers got me ready for rejection. The negative reviews and angry messages over the years was something else. I’d like to think I’m better at letting it roll off my back, but there are times when one hits when my mood is already in the gutter. Nothing I can do about it.

Mel: Negative reviews are hard, and angry messages can be soul destroying. Do you have any tips on how to deal with unconstructive feedback?

Charles: I hate to use this phrase thanks to a certain movie, but my advice is to let it go. If the review struck a nerve then rant to a friend in private, take a break from the Internet, and focus on the next project. You can’t please everybody.

Mel: That is excellent advice. I find you a really supportive fellow author, and writing networks are really important. So let’s get back to the writing. I know you recently ventured into thriller writing, but are there any other genres you would love to explore?

Charles: I’ve tried poetry, gore horror, and a fairy tale/dystopia combination in the past. Right now I don’t think there’s anything else I’d jump into. The paranormal thriller was spontaneous and unexpected, so who knows what the future holds. I could end up trying my hand at a Western or High School Drama. Though I’ll always come back to fantasy where I feel the most comfortable and happiest.

Mel: Who can resist a good Western!

Thanks so much for agreeing to the interview, Charles. I had such a good time chatting with you today.


Charles E. Yallowitz
Charles E. Yallowitz

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.

BLOG: LEGENDS OF WINDEMERE
TWITTER: @CYALLOWITZ
FACEBOOK: CHARLES YALLOWITZ
WEBSITE: WWW.CHARLESEYALLOWITZ.COM


On the 13 June 2015 I will be reviewing Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, and Charles will be joining us the following day for a guest post. You don’t want to miss that!

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Author Interview: Luther M. Siler

Sanctum_72dpiWelcome back to my feature on Luther Siler, author of Skylights, The Benevolence Archives and The Sanctum of the Sphere. Today I would like to share an interview with you. I had a great deal of fun discussing Luther’s reading and writing habits, so much I couldn’t resist a few follow up questions! If you don’t already follow Luther’s blog, you’ll soon discover that he has a great sense of humour and an engaging voice.

An Interview with Luther M. Siler

Author of Skylights, The Benevolence Archives, and The Sanctum of the Sphere

Mel: Do you have any strange writing habits (like writing in your favourite pair of socks? A beer in one hand, your pen in the other!)

Luther: I use it more for heavy-duty blog posts than for fiction, but I have this Jackass wristband that I wear every now and again when I really need to concentrate.  I did the last 10K words or so of SANCTUM in a day, because if I didn’t finish the book I was going to go mad, and I’m pretty sure I had that wristband on the entire time.  I need to be listening to music, but that’s about it.

Mel: Anything is particular? The film score by John Williams perhaps? Or do you just rock it out with your favourite musical accompaniments?

Luther:  Rocking out, and to a wide variety of stuff, although I seem to recall Mac Lethal, Mika and Chuck D getting a fair amount of rotation while I was working on this particular book.

Mel: What book do you wish you had written?

Luther: John Scalzi’s LOCK IN.  Saladin Ahmed’s THRONE OF THE CRESCENT MOON.  The entire HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE series.  Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN.  No doubt many others.

Mel: I imagine, like Weir, you had to do a fair bit of research for Skylights. You’ve talked about your interest in statistics on your blog, but how did this translate to the book – did you have to make a conscious effort to pull back, or was it easier because of your teaching background?

Luther:  Keeping Zub in his own voice whenever he was explaining anything was REALLY tough, because the sixth grade curriculum includes astronomy and that unit was easily my favorite part of the year when I was teaching sixth grade.  He tended to sound a lot like me in those moments.  I ended up being pretty happy with the amount of exposition I included in the book– I think it’s all stuff that needs to be there, and enough non-sci-fi people have enjoyed the book by now that I think I did a decent job of not being overwhelming.  Those who complain will be forced to read THE MARTIAN, by Andy Weir, which was one of my favorite books of last year and includes actual equations and chemistry.

Mel: Who would play your favourite characters in a movie?

Luther: Most of the BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES characters would have to be mo-capped CGI– Grond is eight freaking feet tall and Brazel is covered in fur, but Zub from SKYLIGHTS was explicitly based on DJ Qualls.   I could also see Jim Parsons playing him, but Qualls is a little bit more manic and twisted than Parsons is.  You’ll have to go find one of my old archaeology professors to play Tsvika.

This is Asper.  Xe’s real.

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Mel: Qualls certainly fits the image in my head, though I can see Parsons fitting the role too. That doesn’t always happen. Is there a particular character that stands out for you – a person you envisioned in your head who doesn’t translate to film?

Luther:  I’d have a hell of a time casting Gabe, actually.  I’m tempted to racebend him and cast Don Cheadle or somebody.

Mel: How important are names in your books? Do you choose based on the sound of the name, its meaning, or some other method?

Luther: Pretty important, actually.  Zub’s nickname is a reference to Robert Zubrin, who is a champion of Mars exploration, and his actual name came later.  Both of Gabe Southern’s names are family names, and Zvi is named after that professor I just mentioned.  Most of the rest of the characters in that book are named after former students.  I wrote a whole article on my blog about naming practices for BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES– long story short, I’m really careful about names in that setting, and there are rules.  Grond is named after an old D&D character.  Note that the name was not originally intended to be a reference to the ram in RETURN OF THE KING, but I’m not bothered that it worked out that way.  🙂

Mel: Maybe that’s the trick, a respectful nod to those who influence us in some way. I’m sure you’ve been asked by a friend or family member to write them into your work – are you ever tempted? Or does that go against one of your rules?

Luther:  The biggest butthead in fourth grade is a tuckerization.  She didn’t ask, and I don’t know if she’s noticed yet.  She made me send her a signed copy of the book, though.

Mel: If you had an endless budget, describe the trailer for Skylights.

Luther: I’m starting to think that you picked up on one of the things I tried to do with that book, which was to have it feel cinematic.  🙂  I’m not sure about the entire trailer, but I know exactly what the last shot should be– a Michael Bay-style swooping camera shot of a monkey in a spacesuit taking a flying leap into a black, bottomless pit.  Then, BOOM: Title card.

Mel: Skylights would certainly translate really well on the big screen. Have you created any of your own trailers? If not, would you consider making one to tease your readers?

Luther:  I haven’t.  I’m not terrible with iMovie, but I’ve never quite figured out what book trailers are for.  I may need to spend a couple of days watching a bunch of them and see if inspiration strikes me.

Mel: List five adjectives to describe yourself or your writing habits.

Luther: Um… “flailing” and “panicked” should probably be two of them.  I’m not good at this.  Is “Batman” an adjective?  It is if he says it is, right?

Mel: Right.

Tell us about your next project.

Luther: My next book is currently planned to be a nonfiction book about teaching called SEARCHING FOR MALUMBA– mostly a collection of reedited blog posts, although I’ll be drawing from previous websites I’ve run and writing some new stuff as well, so people who have been reading infinitefreetime since the beginning won’t be seeing nothing but old stuff.  That said, I’ve tried to write that book three times and walked away, so it may not happen.  I’m planning for it to be out this fall.  After that, the sequel to SKYLIGHTS and then another short story BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES collection.

Or maybe something else.  We’ll see.

Mel: I’m thrilled to hear a Skylights sequel is on the cards. I think we can all relate to those difficult projects, the equivalent of a literary brick wall. Do you have any tried and tested methods (other than letting it sit for a while) when the going gets tough?

Luther:  Blind panic generally works well for me.  That said, sometimes I just have to let a piece sit until I know where it goes next.  Sometimes just skipping to the next chapter will work, but not always; frequently if I’m having trouble getting through a section it’s because the section is wrong and I just don’t know how yet.

Mel: What has been your greatest challenge as a writer so far?

Luther: Time.  Writing nonfiction is terribly easy for me, but I need an hour of staring at a blank screen and “thinking” before I can get even a couple of sentences of fiction out– the fact that I have three books out is a small miracle.  I need to either get more efficient as a writer or get real famous real quick so that I can quit my day job and have the desk time to write.  I will admit that my teacher’s schedule does help, because beginning a project is always the hardest part.  But I’m still working six days a week at two different jobs right now and have a three-year-old in the house, so finding time to write fiction is occasionally really, really difficult.

Mel: I imagine you have to find new and inventive ways to steal time, as it were, to write. Inspiration can strike in unusual places too. Can you give us an example of an occasion when an idea hit and you just had to write it down?

Luther:  I have an app on my phone called “Wunderlist” that I use almost solely to record story ideas as they occur to me.  Some of them are only a word or two long, and occasionally I look back at them and realize I have no idea what the heck I was thinking later.  I really wish I could remember what was going through my head the day “Mars Needs Internet!” got entered into that list.

Mel: Are there any genres you would love to explore?

Luther: Sooner or later I’ll write a straight fantasy book.  I’d love to do a detective story, and historical fiction appeals to me as well, possibly combining the two– but I don’t know that I’m a strong enough plotter for a detective story and the idea of doing all the research that would be necessary for a historical fiction makes my teeth hurt.  One of these days, though…

Mel: Perhaps something like Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – I could see that!

Thanks so much for agreeing to the interview, Luther. I’ve had an absolute blast, and I’m sure the readers have too!

***

LutherSilerHeadshotLuther Siler was born in 1976 in northern Indiana, where he currently resides along with his wife, three-year-old son, two cats, and a dog. In his spare time he works at a school helping other people be awesome.   he writes about space gnomes and Mars.

Sanctum_72dpi“Go rob that train.” Nice, normal. An everyday heist.

But nothing is ever normal for Brazel, Grond and Rhundi.

A simple act of motorized larceny quickly explodes into a galaxy-spanning adventure for the two thieves. Blade-wielding elves, a fast-moving global war, a secret outlaw space city, incomprehensible insectoids and one impossibly lucky human are just the start of their problems. And that’s before they learn that someone from Grond’s past has gotten the Benevolence involved…

What is happening on the ogrespace moon Khkk?

Who are the Noble Opposition?

And what is the secret of THE SANCTUM OF THE SPHERE?

***

Thanks for stopping by. If you have any other burning questions for Luther, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

Mel

Interview with Scott Keen, author of Scar of the Downers

I’d like to welcome back Scott Keen to Writing Room 101 today. Scott kindly agreed to answer a few questions. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know Scott better; his background, writing techniques, and current projects. I’m certain you will too.

Interview with Scott Keen

IMG_6555Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Script & Screenwriting back in 2006. Currently, I am a stay-at-home dad of four daughters, ages 2, 4, 7, and 10. I homeschool my two older girls, and just play blocks and baby dolls with the little ones.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

Frankly, I write in the genre that I found the most interesting, which is fantasy. I didn’t necessarily set out to write a “young adult” book. It’s just that some of my characters happened to be teenagers, and with marketing, you must categorize it. I find YA books more appealing sometimes because of the lack of cynicism and interesting and innovative world-building.

What is your first memory of writing?

When I was younger, if I called my brother or sister a name, my parents would make me write lines as punishment. That was the earliest form of writing I can truly remember.

Now my earliest form of creative writing took place when I was in high school. I would usually write songs and poems. I spent a lot of my high school and college years in a band, so I spent a considerable amount of time writing lyrics. That was my first foray into creative writing.

How did you come up with the title?

The title was originally called Child of the Downers. Child was the name of my main character. Through the editing process, however, I changed the name of Child to Crik, who was actually a character I used to have in the story. The original character of Crik was written out, and I took his name.

As the story continued to develop, I realized the story was, in a way, bigger than Crik. It was about the scar that every Downer has branded on the arm. How do you escape something like that? Can you escape something like that? So, it almost seemed inevitable that the story would be called Scar of the Downers.

What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

I have two books that I’m currently working on. One, called The Cry of Kilhaven, is finished, and I’ve put it aside before I go back and start editing it. It follows a young man who lives in an idyllic village in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world. He finds himself involved in a mystery that could shatter everything around him.

The other book is the 2nd novel in the Downer series. The working title is called Rise of the Branded (or Rise of the Downers). Not sure which one yet. This sequel will follow the main characters from Scar of the Downers, and some of the creatures that were more side characters in the first book will play a more prominent role. What I can say about this book is that you see more of the world outside of Ungstah in which the Downers used to live.

I’m also working on a musical that I plan on putting up locally. I have a portion of the script and two songs completed, so we’ll see where that goes.

Is there any advice you’d like to share?

Don’t give up! If you want to write, you are going to have to ignore a lot of people’s whispers. And frankly, you may find you are your own worst enemy.

The reason people are successful in life is because they didn’t give up. In my opinion, perseverance has always trumped talent. You always have to keep going, keep pressing on. As soon as you stop, you fail.

Do you start with character or plot?

I usually start with plot, or at least a situation, and then I build from there. Sometimes I have a clear idea who I want the character to be, while other times, I discover the character’s true personality as I write and as the character makes their decisions.

Do you use an outline or just write?

When I begin writing, I usually form some type of outline, but it’s typically brief. I just wrote the first version of Scar of the Downers with no outline. I made it up as I wrote with no real plan or idea where I was going.  Writing like that, however, forced me to do extreme editing. It took a long time.

For book two, I just wrote out the major points for the plots and subplots. That way, I have room for something to “spontaneously” grow as I write, while still having a map for the storyline. Sometimes, I will just write out a brief step outline, hitting all the major points I want to hit. It really just depends on the story and how much I’ve developed it in my mind before I actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

In your words, what defines a good story?

While there are many ideas out there about what makes a story great, in my opinion, it all centers on plot. You can have the most unique voice, the strongest character, the best writing, but if you don’t have an interesting plot, you don’t have a story. Dull voice and characters are far easier for me to tolerate. But if the plot is stagnant or all over the place it is difficult for me to get into the story.

What book are you reading now?

Currently, I am reading The Night Eternal by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro, finishing up The Strain series. After that, I plan on reading The Enemy by Charlie Higson.

Click on the image to be redirected to Amazon, and get your copy of Scar of the Downers
Click on the image to be redirected to Amazon, and get your copy of Scar of the Downers

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel

Interview with P.S. Bartlett, Author of Demons & Pearls

Demons_&_Pearls_Cover_for_Kindle

Welcome back. I’m pleased to share P.S. Bartlett’s interview with you, and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

An Interview with P.S. Bartlett

Pirate meHow old were you when you wrote your first piece?

I honestly don’t remember but I started very early writing poems. I used to make my own greeting cards as a child, complete with illustrations. I thought I would grow up to work for Hallmark.

What made you write it?

Lack of money I suppose and having plenty of ideas and art supplies.

What have you written since then?

Poetry, short stories, plays and in recent years, novels. I am about to publish my fourth novel in two years.

What was the inspiration for your current book?

My favorite inspiration; PIRATES!

Tell us a little about it, and where it’s available.

I’ve developed a pattern of what I call writing backwards. It sounds a little crazy I know but twice now, I’ve written a novel and instead of moving forward in time, I want to go back to the beginning and find out what makes my characters tick and why they became who they are.

This story is the beginning of Ivory Shepard. Ivory is a fictional character but the things she goes through and the life she lives as she is becoming the woman she ends up being, is authentically pirate based. Ivory and her cousins are orphaned at a young age during a Spanish raid on Charles Towne, South Carolina and left to fend for themselves. They end up surviving and doing well for themselves until one night, the pirates show up.

This book chronicles the lives of the four cousins as they embark on a journey to Port Royal aboard a pirate ship and what comes after. The next book in the series, Jaded Tides, will follow them even further into their lives as pirates.

Is there a particular place or setting where you get your writing ideas?

The easy answer is no. I can get ideas anywhere from sitting and watching television, reading or driving in my truck. It’s storing it all in my memory until I can get to my computer that is the challenge.

What made you choose either traditional or independent publishing?

I tried to go traditional but I was rejected so many times I can’t even remember. The only book I submitted to agents was my first novel, Fireflies. Fireflies went on to win awards, including the silver medal in paranormal fiction from Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews and Awards. I guess agents don’t always get it right.

If you had to choose the most important element in an author’s platform, what would it be?

Good relationships with other authors and peers in the industry. I have made friendships and connections with people that I believe will be life-long. We support each other through ideas, suggestions and encouragement, as well as advertising and social media.

What mistakes have you made in regards to publishing and marketing your work, and what will you do differently in the future?

I’m not sure if I’ve made any mistakes other than paying a good deal for certain types of advertising on book web sites. Other than that, my mistakes have all been learning experiences and we all have to make them in order to find our way.

Do you have an idea for your next book?

I actually have two books in the works right now. The first is jaded Tides, which is the second book in the Razor’s Adventures series and it is almost half written. The second is collaboration with another writer on another book that will be a part of the series but will focus on a different main character. I don’t want to give any more away on that one though!


Thanks for stopping by. If you have any further questions for P.S. Bartlett, please leave them in the comments. I’m sure she would love to hear from you.

Mel

Interview with Karen Mann – Author of The Woman of La Mancha

Karen Mann, author of The Woman of La Mancha and The Saved Man, kindly agreed to an interview. Here is what Karen has to say about her writing process.

karenmannphoto-2Interview with Karen Mann

What is your first memory of writing?

In third grade, my best friend got in trouble with the teacher, and I thought my friend was treated unfairly. I wrote a play, like a court-room scene, that explained the incident as I thought it really happened. I can’t remember now if I had the courage to even show the teacher, but I do remember writing made me feel as if I had some power and had control over the situation, even though that situation didn’t have anything to do with me.

When and why did you begin writing?

I loved to read as a child, and I believed I could create stories, just as the authors I read did. But I had a feeling I wasn’t any good at it, and I didn’t know how to get better. I don’t think I even realized there were classes for creative writing when I went to college. I was in my late thirties when I decided that I had to find a class that would teach me how to write because I wanted to write.

Do you have a specific writing style?

All of my ideas for my manuscripts come to me in connection with some experience I have. My mind leaps from the experience to an idea for a novel. When I begin writing, I hear the characters talking and I see scenes and events in the novel. I have ideas that seem unrelated to anything I have written before, so I think my writing style changes from manuscript to manuscript.

How did you come up with the title?

The Woman of La Mancha is a companion book to Don Quixote, which has been brought to stage and screen under the title of The Man of La Mancha. My title seemed a natural for the woman’s story of Don Quixote.

Are your characters or scenes based on someone you know or events in your own life?

All of my characters have parts of me or parts of someone I know. Sometimes I take physical characteristics from someone I know but the character’s personality might be completely different or pieces of other people I know or characters I’ve met in other books. What has been interesting to me is that the tiniest experience in real life might find its way in a book and that’s helpful because you can flesh out characters or scenes based on your experiences but the story comes from your imagination. Using your own experiences is time-saving because you don’t have to make up everything about the book. The experiences get woven in.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Sena Jeter Naslund, award-winning author of the modern classic Ahab’s Wife and eight other books, is my mentor and colleague. My first creative writing class was taught by Sena. She challenged me from the beginning to improve my writing. Even after I was no longer her student, she would give me writing assignments that I took very seriously. I’ve been to dozens of her talks about her books and every time I hear something new about how to be writer or how to be a good friend to writers. Dozens, maybe hundreds of people, would say Sena was their mentor because she has taught hundreds of students. She is warm, intelligent, and generous, and there is much to learn from her and from her writing.

Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

If you like historical fiction, I think you’ll like The Woman of La Mancha, which is set solidly in sixteenth-century Spain, the time of the end of chivalry, Cervantes and Shakespeare, and the settling of the New World. There is a knight who quests after his maiden. And a maiden who is lost and needs to be reunited with her family and her knight. It explores the contemporary questions of how we treat one another and how we take ownership of our own lives. The book is tongue-in-cheek and serious at the same time. There is romance and sadness. The story is mysterious and true-to-life.

Do you suffer from writers block?

I don’t really believe in writer’s block. If I sit down to write, I can write. It might not be very good, but I can write until it gets better or I can go back and revise. Although I make this statement, and I have to say, I’m stuck on a manuscript that I am writing right now, but it doesn’t feel the same as writer’s block. I can’t write on it because I haven’t figured out the story all the way through and I’m not sure how to proceed. This has never happened to me. With all my other manuscripts the story came to me as I wrote it. The story is a dystopian sci-fi set 70 years in the future. There has to be a world war or something; maybe I just can’t write about that.

What was your favourite chapter to write?

Chapter 24 “in which Guido is challenged by Honor” was my favorite chapter to write in The Woman of La Mancha. One of the scenes came to me totally unplanned and unexpected. It wrote itself as smooth as butter (much of it coming in iambic pentameter which has mostly been edited out). When you are writing like that it’s the best high in the world. The chapter expresses the core of several themes of the book: the roles of the sexes, equality of women, and honor. It a chapter that I love but cannot read from at a reading because it gives away too much of the plot and needs a lot of set up for it to make sense.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another writer?

There is a difference between true to life and true to fiction. The funniest, saddest, most outrageous things—the things we think will be the most interesting in our novels—that happen in real life often do not work in fiction. We have to be able to let go of the intersection of our life and our story in order to write the best fiction.

Is there any advice you’d like to share?

Do not shy away from revision. Take advice from your readers if they say something is confusing or doesn’t make sense, fix it. Be willing to delete your most favorite scenes for the sake of your writing. Avoid didacticism and sentimentality, which is easy to do if you avoid abstractions and write scenes, dialogue, and characters that are fresh and evoke honest emotions and vivid scenes.


Karen Mann is the author of The Woman of La Mancha and The Saved Man. She is the co-founder and Administrative Director of the low-residency Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program at Spalding University (www.spalding.edu/mfa). She is also the managing editor of The Louisville Review, a national literary magazine since 1976 (www.louisvillereview.org). Having lived in Indiana most of her life, she now lives in San Jose, California. See more about her books at www.karenmannwrites.com.


coverauthorbuzz-2The Woman of La Mancha, a companion book to Don Quixote, tells the woman’s story of Don Quixote by recounting the story of the girl he called Dulcinea, the woman he loved from afar.

It’s 1583. An eleven-year-old girl wakes in the back of a cart. She has lost her memory and is taken in by a kindly farm family in La Mancha. She adopts the name Aldonza. She doesn’t speak for quite some time. Once she speaks, there is a family member who is jealous of her and causes a good deal of trouble, even causing her to be forced to leave La Mancha in tragic circumstances. Having to create a new life in a new location and still unaware of her birth family, she adopts the name Dulcinea and moves in the circles of nobility. While seeking her identity, she becomes the consort of wealthy men, finds reason to disguise herself as a man, and learns herbal healing to help others.

There is a parallel story of a young man, Don Christopher, a knight of King Philip and the betrothed of the girl, who sets off on with a young squire, Sancho, to find the girl. Christopher’s adventures take them across Spain and force him to grow up. Does he continue the quest to find his betrothed or marry another and break the contract with the king?

Both young people have many experiences and grow up before the readers’ eyes. Floating in and out of each other’s paths as they travel around Spain, will they eventually find each other and be together?

Author Spotlight – K. P Gazelle

 

The_Color_of_Happiness_KINDLEFaith Lane is the girl who has everything.  At least, that’s what everyone thinks when they see her rocking a killer dress while laughing with her best friend, Tiffany.  But Faith’s life is far from flawless.  Her peers torment her relentlessly, and her parents expect her to be the epitome of perfection.  Criticized and pressured at school and home, Faith retreats into silent acceptance and finds an escape in her passion of dancing.  Then she meets Alex – quirky, forever with a pass, and concealing a mysterious secret of his own.  And through his encouragement, Faith starts believing in her gift for dance and gains courage to stand up for herself.  But will she be able to keep her footing when the events of one night consume her with the need to jump off the rocky cliffs near her coastal home?  And what has pushed her to the edge of reason?

 Author Bio:

K.P Gazelle has been connected with young adults in some way for as long as she can remember.  She’s obsessed with coffee, books, and big dreams.

Author Websites:

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In the hot seat – an interview with K. P Gazelle

1.  How did you come up with the title?

The title was inspired by Faith’s love for fashion.

  1. Are experiences based on someone you know or events in your own life?

There definitely are some elements in the book that are inspired by people and events from my own life. I’ve been blessed to have friends who support me, which is one of the themes of the book.

  1. What book are you reading now?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I loved Eleanor and Park, and I’m SO excited to get into Fangirl as well.

  1. What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Hmm . . . editing was definitely a pain. Revising, revising, revising!

  1. Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?

To always keep faith no matter what you’re going through life! This is one of the central messages of The Color of Happiness.

  1. Do you suffer from writers block?

Oh, yes! Sometimes, I’m just not feeling it and it shows in my writing, which I promptly delete!

  1. Do you use an outline or just write?

I just write. Although, I do have a general idea of where I want the story to go.

  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given by another writer?

To keep writing and reading.

  1. Do you start with character or plot?

It just depends; it really can go either way.

  1. What kind of questions do you ask yourself when you get an idea for a project?

I like to get to know my characters, so I’ll ask myself questions about him or her. What are her hobbies? What’s her favorite food? Etc. The answers don’t necessarily always pop up in the story, but they’re important in building the character.

Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson

takemetomorrow

Today I have the great pleasure in welcoming Shannon A. Thompson, author of Take Me Tomorrow and Minutes Before Sunset (part of The Timely Death Trilogy). Shannon kindly agreed to an interview, and I thoroughly enjoyed our discussion. Later today I will be providing a review of Take Me Tomorrow, but for now, here’s Shannon to tell you a little more about it.

 

 

Interview with Shannon A. Thompson

I read in one of your articles that, growing up, most of your friends were guys. I can relate to that. Do you think that’s why you felt so comfortable writing about male experiences? Because you shared a number of close friendships at a pivotal age?

It’s difficult to say why I write more about males than females, but on top of being friends with more males, I was also (mainly) raised by males. My mother died when I was eleven, so I spent most of my teenage years with my father and my brother and my brother’s friends, so I gravitated toward befriending more males. So, yes, I think growing up around males has affected my writing in the sense that you will see more males around the females, and you will see males that are simply just friends with females (no romantic feelings), not just because I feel comfortable writing stories that way but also because I think it’s important to show those relationships in fiction since male-female friendships get a lot of judgment in society. On that topic, I wrote an article called Why Most of My Characters Are Male: http://shannonathompson.com/2014/10/08/why-most-of-my-characters-are-male/

Thanks for sharing the article. As I said, I can relate to your experiences, and I agree that it’s important to reflect positive male-female friendships. You certainly did that in Take Me Tomorrow – I enjoyed the dynamics of the group. The ending left me wanting more (in a good way!) How many novels will be in the series?

There are three novels in The Tomo Trilogy: Take Me Tomorrow, Take Me Yesterday, and Take Me Now. That being said, my original publisher for this series closed down, so these books are no longer under a contract. I do have a new publisher – so there is still hope for this series – but for now, I’m concentrating on re-releasing The Timely Death Trilogy with Clean Teen Publishing, and I will keep everyone updated about all of my novels via www.ShannonAThompson.com

I’m sure I can speak for my readers when I say, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that the new publisher offers a contract for The Tomo Trilogy. You mentioned in an article that the idea came to you after a discussion with your father. Did this include the characters or did they only begin to take shape when you decided on the plot?

The characters definitely came later. My father and I were discussing drugs and addiction and what it might look like in the future if we keep treating drugs and addiction how we treat it now. Drugs and addiction is very close to my heart. My mother died of a drug overdose, so I spent many years of my childhood trying to understand drugs – legal and illegal – and how they affect society. This post is probably the most important post I’ve written about Take Me Tomorrow: Why I Write About Immigration, Drugs, and Addiction: http://shannonathompson.com/2014/07/18/why-i-write-about-immigration-drugs-and-addiction/

I can image that the series is close to your heart. I enjoyed the article. You found a unique way to tackle the subject of immigration and drug addiction. 

Let’s talk more about your process. Do you plan out a novel (or series), or do you take a more flexible approach?

I am definitely a planner, but I like to look at novel writing as a road trip. I have a beginning, ending, and a few spots in-between in mind, but I am always up for a detour. The characters are always in charge, and they often change my plans, but I do have a detailed plan before I begin. I even write a screenplay before I write the novel. 

I love the idea of writing a screenplay, that’s certainly one way to get your characters communicating! One thing I found compelling about the novel, was undoubtedly the mystery. It was a definite hook. Did you struggle with the balance at any point, or did you know exactly when to drop vital information?

The mystery happened naturally. It’s confusing for me to say this, but since I knew more than Sophia, it wasn’t really a mystery to me. In fact, many times I was fighting myself because I wanted to include more information. In fact, originally, Noah told half of the story, but he was either on drugs – and didn’t make sense – or sober – and told too much – so his parts were ultimately cut out in order for the rest of the trilogy to make sense. The next two books, for instance, explain the massacre, how Phelps came into power, and who Sophia is – all of which were things that I think people expected in the first novel (and, trust me, I wanted to include it). But The Tomo Trilogy is written a little backwards. It’s set up so that the first novel is in the present, the second novel is in the past, and the third novel is in the future, and there’s a reason for the lack of information. I promise. I can actually admit that many of my novels work this way. Call it my style. But The Timely Death Trilogy had much of the same mystery in the sense that the creatures existence isn’t explained until the last book, but there was a reason for it, and that reason couldn’t be said earlier or it would’ve ruined the entire story. 

Well, it was certainly an exciting journey, and you have me intrigued. You’ve talked about your planning, but what does your writing schedule look like? Tell us a little about your habits.

My writing habits recently changed because I went through a huge transition. I moved to Missouri, and I started editing and marketing book reviews for authors full-time via my Services (http://shannonathompson.com/services/). Currently, I write on my days off in a local coffee house. I’m working on an exciting project too! And it’s nice to have a giant cup of Americano coffee next to me while doing so.

That certainly is a big transition. I’m sure the authors you work with are grateful for your support. It must be an interesting balance between editing and writing. Speaking of which, how long does it take you to write the first draft?

That depends on what someone considers the first draft. I spend a couple of months (sometimes even years) just letting an idea unfold in my head, but I consider the first draft the prose part, and that takes me anywhere between 3 and 6 months, but – again – I have a ton of planning before that, not to mention a practical screenplay. Writing is different for everyone. I try not to worry about how long it will take. I only try to enjoy it and be honest to the characters and tale.

That’s the most important thing, I think – enjoying the process. It reflects in the story itself, which benefits our readers.

Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview, Shannon. It was lovely to learn more about the novel and the experiences which influenced the series.


Shannon recently revealed her cover for the second edition of Minutes Before Sunset, book one in The Timely Death Trilogy.

CoverTwo destinies. One death.

“Her kiss could kill us, and my consent signed our death certificates.”

Eric Welborn isn’t completely human, but he isn’t the only shade in the small Midwest town of Hayworth. With one year left before his eighteenth birthday, Eric is destined to win a long-raging war for his kind. But then she happens. In the middle of the night, Eric meets a nameless shade, and she’s powerful—too powerful—and his beliefs are altered. The Dark has lied to him, and he’s determined to figure out exactly what lies were told, even if the secrets protect his survival.

Jessica Taylor moves to Hayworth, and her only goal is to find more information on her deceased biological family. Her adoptive parents agree to help on one condition: perfect grades. And Jessica is distraught when she’s assigned as Eric’s class partner. He won’t help, let alone talk to her, but she’s determined to change him—even if it means revealing everything he’s strived to hide.

Thanks for stopping by.

Mel