Marshal Law Hits the Shelves

November 9, 2019 at 12:57 am (Interviews, Press Release) (, , , , , , , )

Marshal Law is live on Amazon as a paperback, an e-book, and for anyone with Kindle Unlimited… Check it out.

This is a fantasy novel…but it’s a little different. Tell us about that.

Marshal Law is a fantasy story, but it looks like a western. It takes place on a world with two suns, which makes most of the planet a dry desert. So it’s a magic story set in a frontier world.

How does magic work in this frontier world?

Strange stones can be found deep underground, and there are various ways to coax power out of them. Some use these stones to build powerful machines, but there are rumors of men using them to perform wondrous deeds.

What’s your favorite part of Marshal Law?

The characters. I love the setting, the picturesque western scene, the dual suns and endless deserts, but the characters who fill the story really stole my heart. Early on, our hero meets a scientist named Dawn who’s run away from the Republic. She’s a genius who can turn the villain’s machines around and make concoctions that do amazing things. Really fun character. Then they meet a boy named Raine who’s on the verge of a breakthrough. His whole life he’s believed he could revive the old magic, even though no one’s ever taken him seriously.

Tell us about your protagonist, Marshal.

He just wants to enjoy his quiet life with his wife and kids, but good stories never let anyone get away with that, do they? Marshal has to leave his family to fight the war, but he ends up playing the role of a father figure to the motley crew that gathers around him, holding them together while they battle to save the frontier.

Is Marshal Law the start of a series?

I’ve got three books planned. The sequel, “Desert Raine,” should be available in the spring. It’s coming along great. Marshal Law does a good job of setting the stage, so in the sequel our characters can further explore the magic and the machines and really push the boundaries of what they know about their world.

Sounds like Marshal Law is a story with a unique setting. Is it similar to any other books?

Anyone who likes Stephen King’s Dark Tower series should find themselves right at home. Same goes for Sanderson’s Alloy of Law. It’s fun to writing at a time when fantasy stories are finding new settings, because, even though there’s plenty of steampunk books with magic thrown in, I can feel like I’m writing something new and not always following another author’s trail.

Did you have to do any research to write about this new world where your story takes place?

A little. Most fantasy stories don’t require research since we just tend to make up whatever we want, but I really loved the idea of planet with twin suns. I did just enough research on binary star systems to make sure the idea would work. Apparently, two suns would probably make the planet a very dry place, so most of Marshal Law takes place in a desert environment. Only a few spots on the continent benefit from nicer weather. Grass and trees are a rarity enjoyed by the wealthy and elite, but Marshal’s revolution may change all that.


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Interview with Author Kristen Bickerstaff

October 25, 2019 at 9:15 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , )

Who is Kristen Bickerstaff?

Writing since she could pick up a pen, Kristen has always loved exploring the worlds and characters that live in her head. She loves writing (and reading) all forms of speculative fiction, from hard SF to urban fantasy. As a member of DFW Writer’s Workshop and Writer’s League of Texas, she’s a firm believer in taking part in her local writing community. Kristen also works with Rooted in Writing as an editor and marketing coach, and she loves helping other authors turn their writing dream into a reality.

I had the pleasure of reading Bickerstaff’s work in The Lost Legends anthology earlier this year and am excited to share an interview I had the opportunity to conduct via Facebook.

Prior to The Lost Legends anthology, what projects had you worked on or completed?

 Lost Legends is the first anthology I’ve been a part of, but I also have another anthology coming out in early 2020 around pirate stories that I’m very excited about, called X Marks the Spot. Other than that, I’ve been working on my fantasy novels Embers on the Wind, which is about elemental magic workers called crafters, and Howl to the Stars, which I usually playfully call my “werewolves in space” book. 

Lost Legends is a fantasy anthology and you’re known for writing speculative fiction, what draws you to read and write this genre? What is your favorite aspect of it?

I’ve always been one of those people that looks at something mundane as a subway or an overpass and asked “what would happen if someone with magic encountered this?” So that’s how I tend to see the world. Most of my story inspiration comes from odd things I see in real life. A door in someone’s front yard, a glowing necklace, a harvest moon. And I usually just take that a step further: what if the door opens to a place beyond our realm? What if only one person can see the door? Those are the questions I love to ask. 

Ray Bradbury once said, “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices.” What do you think about this statement?

I agree and don’t agree with that statement. I feel like I learned some great things about craft, about the  historical landscape before us, through my college writing classes. Honestly the plethora of genres and authors I read during college were so impactful for my formative years. But I was often looked down on for writing fantasy or encouraged to write something more… “literary.” I hope that’s changed since I’ve been at school (and as fantasy has become more mainstream). But I did feel stifled in school for sure, in terms of creativity. 

What were your educational experiences like? Do you think these experiences have influenced the kind of writer you have become?

One of the best memories I have of my educational experience is my unfettered access to the library. So many books that I considered touchstones in my literary development, I read because a librarian looked at the book I was returning and then said “you might like this.” Beyond that, I had a couple teachers that really encouraged creative exploration as a child. My third grade teacher loved Shel Silverstein and Roald Dahl, and I remember her encouraging us to try writing in their styles to see how that felt. To this day, she’s still one of my favorite teachers. She encouraged us to think, to daydream, to wonder. I loved that. 

Stephen King wrote in On Writing that writers should read a lot to keep their technical and creative tool box full. What are your favorite “tool box” books?

My favorite craft book right now is probably The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas. When I went to the Superstars Writing Seminars this spring, he taught a hands-on workshop based on the book, and it really did change the way I write. 

What have you read for sheer pleasure recently?  What did you enjoy most about it?

 I’ve been re-reading Anne Bishop’s The Others series recently, and it’s still such a fun read. It’s a really cool spin on the urban fantasy genre, where non-humans are the dominant species in the world, versus where they’re usually in hiding or downtrodden. I love the characterization throughout the series and the suspense she builds throughout. 

What other means do you use to explore fictional worlds? Do you participate in larping, cosplay, pen and paper RPGs, or role playing video games?

 No, I don’t participate in the above activities but I’m always really interested in different explorations of fictional worlds. 

If you could interview any author (alive or dead) and pick their brain, who would it be? Did that particular author influence your work in any way?

Tough question. I’d love to ask Brandon Sanderson about how he developed the Cosmere universe, because I love the detail of his magic system. I’m doing a re-read of his works this year and it’s just so impressive. I’m a person who always asks “but how does this work” for fantasy elements, and he always has an answer. 

Any conventions or events in your near future? Where can fans find you to have copies of their books signed?

Next conference I’m at is Superstars 2020. Then if everything works out, I’ll be going to DFWCon and Dragon Con later in the year. 

[Note from Anakalian Whims to readers: If you haven’t been to Dragon Con, GO! I loved my experience in 2016. If you don’t know what Superstars is, visit this site: https://superstarswriting.com. I’ve been wanting to go for years and the timing just hasn’t been right. It’s on my list of to-dos.]

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m focusing on drafting Howl to the Stars and I’ve been really enjoying all the research behind it. 

Follow Kristen on Goodreads and Twitter and stay tuned for her future ventures.

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Interview with Author and Editor Adam D. Jones

September 27, 2019 at 8:31 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , )

Adam D. Jones is a high fantasy author and editor recently responsible for publishing The Lost Legends anthology. Longtime writer, historian, and musician, Lost Legends is his first book.

Who did the cover art? How did you find them?
The very talented Ryan Swindoll handled that. You can reach him at ryan.t.swindoll@gmail.com if you ever need a cover designed. He also took care of designing the insides, the font, the cool little decals, and everything makes it fun to hold a book. Talented guy. Having a great cover is half of the work.

As a writer, what made you decide to pursue editing an anthology for your publishing debut?
At various conferences and writing groups I’ve met talented fantasy writers and always thought it was a shame they weren’t published. I also needed a project to learn how self-publishing works before launching my own novels. It turned out to be a good move. I’ve learned the ropes, but also got some really good stories into the hands of readers.


You have two short stories included in Lost Legends, do you find short stories to be easier or more difficult to write than longer fictions?
Are you kidding? I spent more than years working on Idna’s Journals and it’s only three pages! I completed two novels in that time.

Lost Legends is a fantasy anthology, what draws you to read and write fantasy? What is your favorite aspect of the genre?
It’s fun. I could go on about the mythopoetic origins of the grown-up fairy tale, the foundational works like Phantasties, and how fantasy helps us understand the abstract truths by taking place in another world, but the best part is that it’s just more fun than any other genre. I want to read about monsters and magic. Who doesn’t?

Did you always love fantasy? What were your favorite books as a child?
The Gunslinger by Stephen King is incredible, and I read it every year. I read all of the books every year until the last one finally came out, and I was up until 4 a.m. finishing that one. I read these books when I was…a little too young for them.
I also devoured the Dragonlance stories and always wanted to write something as big and exciting as those.

Stephen King wrote in On Writing that writers should read a lot to keep their technical and creative tool box full. What are your favorite “tool box” books?
Stephen King’s The Wastelands is a perfect study in “how to write a fantasy book with multiple characters.” Rachel Neumieier’s The Floating Islands has great descriptions throughout, and I often open it to the beginning where she explains scenery and somehow it makes for an incredible opening. And many scenes in David Coe’s Children of Amarid are dogeared so I can remember his neat tricks for making things work.

You’re in a writing group. What does that look like? (What do your meetings consist of?) How has this helped you as a writer?
The Milford Method, a critique approach pioneered by Virgina Kidd, is used every meeting. I can’t recommend it enough.

It’s helpful that the group includes science writers, fiction writers, and songwriters, so we all learn a lot from each other.

Of your stories in the anthology, are there any you anticipate seeing spin off into other work?
I’ve been asked to write more about Idna’s Journals, but I prefer to keep it self-contained, leaving the audience to wonder. When I write short works, I try very hard to avoid the temptation of sequels and spurring on further works, because that often leads writers toward bad work. If you’ve only got a few pages, there’s no room for breadcrumbs and easter eggs that lead to the next story.

But there is a place for that sort of thing. Sarah Bale’s evocative story, Thundermoon Bride, will tie into other works she has coming, and I think that’s a good example of using a short story to hint at something bigger.

If The Lost Legends were to become a Netflix Original or Amazon Prime series, who would your ideal cast be for The Candlemaker?
Interesting story. The protagonist was female in the first draft of The Candlemaker. A real dainty woman who looked as threatening as a sofa cushion, making it easier for people to underestimate her. I pictured someone like Emilie de Ravin’s role in Once Upon a Time. I switched the character to a man because my other story in this collection already had a female protagonist, and it was more fun to write about an awkward guy trying to be cool around a woman who obviously knows more than him. Grant Gustin could pull it off.

Jones has another book coming out in November 2019, called Marshall Law, the first in a fantasy/steampunk series, where the discovery of old magic empowers a few survivors to take on the wicked machines of their oppressors. This new voice in fantasy is here to stay.

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Sandra Smith Returns

September 18, 2019 at 10:54 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Sandra Smith grew up on a farm with a tremendously large garden. She maintains that if you can’t taste the soil on a carrot, it’s not fresh enough. Although she now lives with her husband, cats, and three chickens in the city, she still manages to grow fruits and vegetables in their backyard garden. 

A licensed ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher, Ms. Smith has enjoyed teaching students from around the world. She began writing her Seed Savers novels while teaching middle school, and the diversity of her students are well-represented in her stories.

Smith is a member of IBPA, the Independent Book Publishers Association and is an 2012 OSU Master Gardener graduate. She gardens and writes at her home in the beautiful and green Pacific Northwest. Smith is the author of the  award-winning Seed Savers series, an MG/YA series set in a future where gardening is illegal.

Recently, after the publication of the last in the Seed Savers series and the republication of her earlier works, she has agreed to do her third interview with Anakalian Whims.

  1. Recently your books got new covers, who did the new art and how did you find them?
    The cover designer is Shannon Bodie of BookWise Design. She helped me find an illustrator through Illustration, Inc., a company she likes to work with. We both liked the work of Alan Baker, so he was hired as the illustrator.
  2. Early in your writing career your books were all published simply under S. Smith, what inspired the change to Sandra Smith?
    When I went with the new publishing company, Flying Books House, I worked with a marketing person and she really wanted me to change to Sandra Smith, so I did. It’s just hard when you have such a common name, which is why I had chosen S. Smith when I first began. Plus, I was already used to signing the double S on bathroom passes as a teacher. 🙂
  3. Now that the series is complete, what do you think has been your greatest lesson? Your greatest reward?
    That’s a tough one. I guess I wish I would have been able to have great covers from the beginning. You know, do everything right. But sometimes the money just isn’t there. Greatest reward? It’s really rewarding to look at the five finished books and think, “I did that. I wrote not one novel, but an entire series. It’s finished.”
  4. I’d like to say I’m one of your biggest fans; aside from myself, who are some of your greatest fans over the years who have really spurred you on while writing?
    You are one of my biggest fans, and definitely my earliest fan outside of family!
    My nieces and nephews were the ones who spurred me on. They were the ones that would ask, “How’s your book coming? Is the next one done yet?” You really need someone to do that. I procrastinated book 5 for a long time. It was such a task to think about how to end things and how to bring all the storylines and characters together. I wrote an entire fantasy novel in between book 4 and 5! That’s how much I put it off.
  5. Stephen King wrote in On Writing that writers should read a lot to keep their technical and creative tool box full. What are your favorite “tool box” books?
    I love On Writing by Stephen King! I try to read current popular middle grade books to know what’s trending. I also like to read just very well-written books that aren’t necessarily middle grade. It helps me see such a variety of writing styles and to know that I don’t have to worry so much about every little thing.
  6. You’ve interviewed with AnaklianWhims before (https://anakalianwhims.com/2014/05/06/texas-tour-interview-with-s-smith/) regarding the book signing tour you did in Texas. What have been the most memorable events you’ve participated in as an author since then?
    School and club visits are always fun. I also really enjoy vending at the National Heirloom Expo or Master Gardener conferences. Places where I get to meet people and tell them about the Seed Savers series. I also spoke at the National Children & Youth Garden Symposium a couple of years ago, and that was a great experience. Oh, and this past April I went to Chicago where I attended an awards banquet and Seed Savers-Treasure won a silver award. That was very exciting!
  7. Prior to that tour of Texas, you also did a general interview and we talked of politics and your intentions for the series (https://anakalianwhims.com/2012/06/15/interview-with-s-smith/). It referred back to one of your own blog posts regarding a seed cleaner eventually losing his job. Do you feel the same way about the direction of society and the purposes of your story? Did you accomplish your goals?
    Yes, I do feel the same way. I still have some goals to meet in terms of the books becoming more widely read, but I’m happy with the finished product.
    People have gotten away from the land. I know not everyone has even a house on a lot, but if a person has even a fairly good-sized pot and some soil and seeds, they can grow something! My husband and I buy no vegetables at all during the summer just because I made part of our lawn a garden space. But that’s a little beside the point. I think eating fresh food is important for good health, and knowing at least where your food comes from and what’s in it, how to prepare it, that’s important. Food rights is (are?) important.
    I like to say there are a lot of nonfiction gardening books out there, “how to” books; Seed Savers are “what if” books. That’s the power of fiction. To immerse yourself in a world that hasn’t yet happened and make you realize you can make a difference.
  8. Now that the series is done, what’s next?
    I need to spend a good amount of time marketing the series now that so much has been invested in it. But I have another book already written and several others started. I’d really like to start something new as well, because editing and rewrites aren’t the same as that first initial draft. I’ve also started writing poetry again, because my soul was really missing that.
  9. Last, but not least, what do you have growing in your garden right now?
    Fall came really abruptly this year. I had a feeling it was going to. So the garden is dwindling. There’s a little corn, beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers, chard, a little broccoli, one kale plant, poor showing of carrots, cabbage, herbs. The usual suspects.
    Thank you for the interview!

Visit the author’s website: https://authorssmith.com

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Addleton Heights and GWP

December 12, 2016 at 6:52 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

15319117_1073863462722883_5887181406873428498_nI had the honor of reading an advance reader’s copy of Addleton Heights by author George Wright Padgett. In addition to that honor, I got to interview him for the release celebration!

AddeltonHeights-Book.pngWho did the cover art? How did you find them?

God bless the internet. I discovered a fantastic Italian artist by the name of Michele Giorgi (http://michelegiorgiillustrator.com). I have a commercial graphic art degree and have done my covers in the past, but Addleton Heights was different. This novel is solidly situated in the steampunk genre, so I wanted a classic romantic image with all the flourishes. While I do plenty of layout and design, I’m no illustrator; it’s an entirely different discipline, so I sought out someone with those skills.

I came across Michele’s art on the internet when I was a third of the way through the first draft and fell in love with his style. He hadn’t had any book cover commissions at that point, but I took a chance and contacted him in the hopes that he’d try something different. I emailed him with highlighted samples of his work which struck the tone I was looking for.

Many of the Steampunk images I’d come across to that point were often dark and grimy. I love those murky atmospheres, but wanted to go a completely different direction in an effort to make the book stand out. The end result is an image of bright sunshiny day in January with the snow gently falling to the ground. It’s wonderful contrast to many scenes contained within.

Is there any possibility of a graphic novel using the same illustrator in our future?

That would be amazing! I’d love to see that happen someday. Michele, if you’re reading this, I’m 100% up for it.

How much research was involved with writing a Steampunk novel set in the turn of the century (1901)?

Believe or not, I found myself doing as much research on this novel as I did for the space clone mining novel Spindown (www.georgewpadgett.com/spindown)

I tend to get caught into these perfectionist cycles where I compulsively need to know everything about the subject before putting anything on the page. The idea being that the more that I can understand the world that the characters exist in, the easier it is for me to immerse the reader into the scene. The end result is great because I get to transport the audience into the center of wherever I’m taking them; the downside is it’s a slower process. For instance, because I tend to go overboard, I now know all about the migratory birds of the Nantucket/Martha’s Vineyard area though there’s only two or three mentions of birds in the entire novel.

I’m not complaining; I love learning so the research was fun. A huge component steampunk stories is their connection to history/alternate history, so I spent time studying about the area’s whaling oil industry losing out to Pennsylvania coal as a source of energy, the use of immigrants for the transcontinental railroad, Queen Victoria’s death later in the month the story takes place, the Boxer Revolution in China, etc. Weapons play an important part of the story, so I spent time with weapons expert Drew Heyen to make sure everything was authentic. Hopefully there’s enough history in the book to satisfy the cravings of those that are looking for it, but not too much as to bog down the story for those that have come to it looking for a mystery-action experience.

How was writing Addleton Heights different than writing your other books?

First of all, it’s the first full-length work that I’ve written entirely in first person narration, meaning we only see what our detective hero, Kip sees and thinks. He tells us everything we need to know. He has this delicious deadpan sense of humor mixed with a bitter melancholy. Life has been hard on him and he’s developed all of these colloquial sayings that he spouts out when describing things. These ‘Kipisms’ (as I came to call them) were a blast to write.

Also, I wanted to be true to the genre while offering something enjoyable to those uninitiated to steampunk stories. While the steampunk genre doesn’t officially have any set rules, there are elements that help to frame the story. As the story developed, I sent chapter sections to a group of beta readers for feedback. Doing it while the novel was written, allowed for me to tweak it as I went to ensure everything was ‘firing on all cylinders’. As a bonus, one of beta readers, a fellow writer, Christian Roule was well versed in the genre. More than once, he’d respond to what I’d submitted to him by saying, ‘It needs to be steampunk-ier here’. He and others helped me balance the story and not overwhelm it until it became a gadgets manual.

cruel-devices-signingI love that you cross genres and have not pidgeon-holed yourself as a storyteller.  When did you first meet the world of Steampunk? Did you find the genre or did the genre find you? (Did you read something Steampunk that inspired Addleton or did Addleton birth itself in your brilliant brain that resulted in needing the Steampunk label post development?)

Years ago I was signing books at a science fiction convention with some other authors. We were sitting across from a friendly booth of steampunk ‘makers’. They were selling all of these fantastic clothes and enhancement components (cogs, gears, and whatnot). I asked fellow author, Leo King (www.foreverwhere.com) who was next to me ‘What this steampunk thing was all about?’ He proceeded to educate me in the ways of alternate Victorian history. It was such a fresh concept to me, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

As for the story of Addleton Heights? The concept that serves as the core mystery (finding the Jason character) was an idea that I when I was seventeen. I’ve carried the idea around with me all of that time until it found a home in this novel.

You write every sub-genre of the science fiction realm… are there dragons in our future? (I, for one, would love to see what you came up with involving dragons…)

Dragons, huh? Currently I’m hard at work on a kind of time travel hide and seek adventure called Drift Pattern, but I do have a rough draft for a story which involves dragons and people using them for transportation. The working title of this fantasy-ish tale is ‘Kern’. Maybe we’ll see that in a few years.

As a woman, I adore reading Janae. She’s bold and fierce, but not without flaws.  She is not flat, but dynamic. She’s not all wonderful, nor is she a ninny. Tell me about her and your experience writing her.

I’m fortunate to have a number of strong women whom I admire in my life. I wanted to pay homage to these ladies by avoiding writing some messed up ‘damsel in distress’ trope.

Enter: Janae Nelson.  She is a force of nature! She’s my favorite character that I’ve ever written. I spent a lot of time to achieve a balance within her of being strong without forfeiting her femininity. I was careful to make sure that no man ever rescues her in the story; that she would save herself. I attempted to turn the stereotype on its head by having the damsel do some saving of her own when the male lead gets tied to the metaphorical train tracks.

If Addleton Heights were to become a major motion picture tomorrow, who would your ideal cast be?

Oh this is a tricky one… When I write I do ‘cast’ the characters with actors from movie roles and people that I know (I even print out photos for reference as I’m writing about them).

The problem with sharing this type of thing with a reader is that it’s unlikely that we visualize the same exact ‘players’. If I envision a grisly Kurt Russell for an old sea captain character, but you imagine an unshaven Dustin Hoffman for the same part, then I reveal who I’ve chosen in the role, does it reduce or nullify your experience? As with painting, what’s on the canvas is a conversation between the artist and the person witnessing it. The viewer’s interpretation is neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’, but in the same vein, the creator of the art shouldn’t have exclusive say once the paint has dried. In that same spirit, I humbly must decline to answer here and leave that to the reader’s imagination.

ah-mapYou’re typically a one book storyteller, completing a story in its entirety at the first go.  But I’m dying for more Addleton Heights  – is there a continuing series in our futures?

Detective stories are typically based on a single event; if it’s a who-done-it the question is who the murderer is and possibly the ‘why’ of the mystery. One thing that’s nice about these types of novels is that once the case is solved there can be another one right behind it. So we may see Kipsey again someday.

How can readers order posters and prints of the book cover and map to go with their copies of the book?

By contacting my publisher, Grey Gecko Press (www.greygeckopress.com) or by visiting www.georgewpadgett.com

Warmest thanks for your interest and support of Addleton Heights.
GWP

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George’s steampunk detective masterpiece releases 12/13/16. Order your copy online from www.amazon.com , www.barnesandnoble.com , www.greygeckopress.com, and everywhere else that sells quality books.

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Chris Rogers Talks About Emissary

March 6, 2015 at 9:17 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , )

175496I’m a long time Chris Rogers fan.  I met her a few years ago booking signing for Half Price Books books and I’ve enjoyed reading her work, featuring her on my blog, and hanging out in bookstores with her ever since.  The following is an interview regarding her latest work, Emissary, which I read and reviewed toward the end of 2014.

1. Emissary is drastically different from your previous work in the Dixie Flannigan series, but I understand you started writing it first.   What was it like finally getting such a long term project completed?

The idea came to me just after I published the third Dixie Flannigan book, Chill Factor. I do a lot of driving, and this is often when I get the ideas I turn into stories. On a long trip to Wyoming I was sort of cursing the sun beaming emissarythrough my windshield no matter how I tried to block it, then reasoning that rain would be even worse, when I flashed on the idea of having no sun at all. What if our sun went supernova? We’d fry, right?

But our scientists would surely see it coming long before the actual event, so what would we do? Build spaceships and try to escape? But to where? And how could we possibly build enough ships for the world’s population?

After pondering that idea for a few miles, I flipped it. What if the supernova occurred to an inhabited planet in another solar system? They’re more advanced that we are, so they build ships and look for a planet that will take them in. One emissary is sent to Earth, where he becomes embroiled in our political and criminal problems. Naturally, I’d want the emissary to connect closely with an interesting individual, and I chose a cop.

I liked it, but when I pitched it to my agent, he said, “Can you do it without the alien?” So I continued writing the next Dixie Flannigan book. But the story stayed with me, and though I wrote others over the years, I kept coming back to this one. So yes, I love this story and it’s wonderful to have it finally launched so readers can enjoy it, too.

2. Emissary is so much bigger than the Dixie stories.   Dixie is sort of self contained, the impact is on her own life, the lives of the criminals, and the safety within her community; whereas Emissary involved a full cast of lives, cultures, and worlds.  Was this a more difficult writing task? Or  was it nice to stretch your wingspan a bit?

Not easy, I’ll admit, but a book I fell in love with as a child was Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein, which is about a boy who attends school on Mars and takes his pet, Willis the Bouncer. So science fiction has been as dear to me as mysteries. When I envisioned Emissary Ruell, I knew he would be young (as most front-line soldiers are young) and inexperienced (since no Szhen had been in this situation before), and the whole “stranger in a strange land” feeling came to me. When I’m writing, I become the characters in my book, the good ones and the bad, so I envisioned how I would attempt to communicate the plight of my people, and also envisioned the difficulties I would encounter. Ruell would start with the “most powerful person in the free world,” which brings in American President Addison Hale. As with any novel, he can’t succeed on the first try, so he expands his efforts globally, which means the book also expands, because extraterrestrial emigration would be a global concern. Then, to rein in the story, I introduced Ruell to Officer Kirk Longshadow, who has his own problems, and they eventually create the “close community” feeling you mentioned, even as they pursue solving an international crime involving the president.

Tackling a story that exists on a broader canvas than my previous books challenged me on many levels. Considering the result, it was well worth the effort.

3. You did your own cover art, which I love by the way.   Was this painting done specifically for Emissary or did it merge as one project later?

I was poised to self-publish Emissary when I met Jeffrey Hastings, who was launching his Houston publishing company, Chart House Press. The book was finished except for the cover. The painting I chose was actually one of my early works, but the sleeping woman with blue skin resonated for me with Ruell’s girlfriend, Jianna, who appears in the book only in Ruell’s memory.

It seemed like a great starting place, yet I really didn’t know how to prevent it appearing as purely science fiction, when it’s more of political thriller with science fiction overtones. Once I decided to link my efforts with Chart House Press, I inherited a team who turned the painting into the final cover art, with an excellent result. Sometimes we get too close to a project, and fresh eyes can save the day.

4. I would love to see Emissary put to film.   (Despite what it may seem, I’m a huge science fiction nerd and one of my own long term projects is a time and space opera.)   If that were to happen, who would be in your ideal cast?   What director would you desire?   Do you have a favorite film score composer?   Would you want a lot of involvement or a little?

For Longshadow, I’d definitely choose David Giuntoli, who plays Nick Burkhardt on the TV series, Grimm. David doesn’t have the appearance of a “typical cop”, which fits Officer Longshadow, who often wonders why he ever thought he was cop material. David does have the toughness of a copy when he needs it, which Longshadow also has. Ruell would be harder to cast, but Neil Patrick Harris in his younger years as Doogie Howser, MD, would’ve been great. President Addison Hale is the third major character in the nuclear family of Emissary, and my choice would probably be Tea Leoni, who is terrific as Secretary of State on Madam Secretary.

And while I realize this is the expected answer to the choice of a director, it has to be Steven Spielberg. It’s not only that he’s an incredible director who makes excellent blockbuster movies but that his attitude about extraterrestrials is similar to mine. In most science fiction films, the aliens are bad guys who come here and make war, or we make war with them in space. I recently watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind again. No war, and I was as moved by it as when I first saw it in 1977. Yes, I know that dates me, but facts are facts.

As for musical score, I’d have to leave that to the experts, and being intricately involved in the film production would be terrific—but not likely. Hollywood likes to keep writers at a distance.

5. Now that you’ve emerged into the science fiction world, after being a long time mystery genre writer, are you here to stay?   (I look forward to reading more projects like this one.)

My early writing attempts were neither mystery nor sf. Back then, I didn’t believe I could plot the exciting and intricate stories I loved to read. So I started with children’s books, mistakenly thinking they’d be easy since I had four children. I was wrong. Then I tried the romance genre because I’d had a few romances in my life, whereas I’d never killed anyone and wasn’t a science nerd. Romance wasn’t easy, either and my stories kept being rejected for having “too much mystery.”

A diehard sf reader might say the same of Emissary, that it has “too much mystery,” but it’s a combination I enjoy, and it works for me. So yes, I plan to continue in this venue. For readers, Emissary opens the door to a world where humans interact with extraterrestrials, the way J.R.R. Tolkien created Middle-earth, Isaac Asimov created a world where robots with positronic brains dwell alongside humans, and J. K. Rowling created Hogwarts. Without giving

away the story, I can say that I planned Emissary as a trilogy, and the ending of this first book is the beginning of an exciting new future for the humans who dwell in that story world.

At present, I’m also working on a paranormal mystery about a 300-year-old pirate who runs his many times-refurbished ship today as a Caribbean cruise ship. Passengers attracted to a Molly Dore cruise always include at least one person with a dark paranormal problem that Captain Cord McKinsey helps resolve, despite the fact that he can’t cure his own curse of immortality. I started this story in 2011 and put it aside to work on Emissary. Now it’s scheduled for release in May 2015.

6. If you could interview any existing science fiction author and pick their brain, who would it be?   Did that author and their work influence Emissary in any way?

Sadly, I don’t read current sf, but my favorite sf author of all time is Harlan Ellison. He writes the sort of speculative fiction I enjoy. My first introduction to Ellison’s work was his short story, “A Boy and His Dog,” which first published in 1969 and was adapted into a film in 1975 by L.Q. Jones. I’m a feminist, and the story’s hero, 15-year-old Vic Blood, is a knuckle-dragging brute, but I still enjoyed the story. Many fans will know Ellison for his work on the original Star Trek series, his numerous Hugo- or Nebula Award-winning stories, his often caustic personality, which he demonstrated as Guest of Honor at the first AggieCon in 1969, or from his being the first author to win a copyright dispute against a major television network. In picking Ellison’s brilliant brain, I would come away with scars, but I’d still love to sit down with him for an hour or so.

As to whether Ellison’s work influenced Emissary, how can I judge? I’ve read literally thousands of stories and seen hundreds of movies, and all that material is muddled together somewhere in my consciousness. But no, I didn’t base Emissary on any author’s work. That’s not to say I don’t steal from the best when I fall in love with an idea or a great line. What author doesn’t?

7. What’s the main thought you would want readers to walk away from Emissary thinking?

This is the question I tell my students to consider early on in the process of writing a book, yet it’s a hard one to answer without sounding a bit full of myself. I suppose it’s this: people are complicated and wonderful and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into any sort of group analysis. Each of us has value and heart but we also have a dark side that rises at times, and no one is without flaws, so stop throwing stones at strangers who are “different” and look for the wonder that each person can bring. On the other hand, remain watchful for the horrors that rise in certain malcontents, because they really are out there and can be devastating.

8. Do you plan to take Emissary to any sci-fi conventions in the future? (Say, Comicpalooza in May?)

I’m signed up for AggieCon 46, which happens March 27-29 2015 in College Station, Tx. Never having attended a science fiction convention, I’m a little scared.

9. What would you say to a graphic novelization of Emissary?

I grew up reading EC Comics, such as Vault of Horror and Tales From the Crypt, which I loved, so for me graphic novels are still comic books. I know there’s a difference. I have a copy of The Illustrated Harlan Ellison, which features several of his stories and was produced by Byron Preiss in 1978. It’s great. Some truly talented illustrators were selected for this graphic compilation, but I believe some of the stories converted well to graphic presentation while others didn’t. In that light, I don’t see Emissary as a graphic novel. But that’s just me.

10. Has the publication of Emissary opened any new doors for you as an author that were previously closed in the mystery genre?

Not yet. I’m not even sure which doors I’d knock on, but I’m open to whatever happens. Meanwhile, writing and painting continue to make me happy, and that’s what really counts.

On the other hand, Emissary is already available in print, e-book, and audio—which took much longer when I was associated with a major publisher. For me, that’s an important door, because it makes this big-format story that’s so dear to me available to more readers.

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The Best Interview Ever!

November 20, 2014 at 3:09 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , )

ToriI had the privilege of reading an advance copy of George Wright Padgett’s latest novel, Cruel Devices. I was pleased to share a cover reveal earlier in the season here on my blog; and now, I’m proud to post my latest interview with an author I’ve grown to respect and adore.

AW:I’ve done an interview with you before and I don’t want to ask all the same questions as last time…

Yet, Cruel Devices is so different from your previous novel, Spindown, that old questions apply to your new work. Never mind that you added the pressure of the two of us conducting the best interview ever! I’m not sure I can fill those shoes. 😉

Cruel Devices feels like the story just rolled out of bed completely wonderful and polished without effort. Maybe it fell from the sky like a dream; maybe it didn’t – but was its inception as easy for you as it feels? What drove you to write something so unique from what fans thought they could expect from you?

GWP:

That you say the writing feels effortless is a high compliment. I assure you that it wasn’t the case (just ask my editor and beta readers). It’s said that gold is refined by putting it through the fire seven times; Cruel Devices went through the ‘refinement process’ a lot more than that.

As for the differences between this novel and the last: Let me begin by saying that I love science fiction and I’m so very grateful that Spindown has been well received by the sci-fi community, but I felt it important to avoid being cast as only a writer of that genre. I know it can be risky to genre hop, but I want to establish early on to any readers that may follow me I intend to do stuff that may or may not involve outer space or robots.

I’m hopeful that someone that enjoys reading George Wright Padgett novels are reading them because the stories are well crafted and require them to think about aspects of life while going on an adventure. So after Spindown, I chose a story topic and setting that was as far removed from it as I could get. Cruel Devices takes place on modern day Connecticut on Earth (no alternate universe or anything like that). Just a semi-normal guy around normal people, but exposed to extraordinary circumstances.

I’ve always enjoyed how an author like Michael Crichton would write something like Andromeda Strain (which is a hard sci-fi story if there ever was one) and then he’d jump the fence to do something like Jurassic Park, or Rising Sun, or tackle time travel with a story like Timeline. Or look at H.G. Wells, he delivered The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau and all those other great tales. They’re wonderfully different stories (BTW he didn’t write any sequels to these), but they can’t be confined to a single genre other that than they’re all speculative fiction – to use a modern term for it.

Hopefully Cruel Devices (and the steampunk detective novel to follow it) won’t alienate my hard sci-fi readers. I’ll return to the genre in a few more books.

Cruel DevicesCoverAW: Cruel Devices feels like you really dug deep into your inner Stephen King (although it is very much your own work and I love it!). Is he an author you typically read much of?

GWP:

Stephen King is without a doubt one of the grandmasters of horror, and Yes, I’ve read him. What’s interesting is the reason that I began reading his work was not for horror at all. My colleagues kept going on about how wonderfully developed his characters were. I realized that I had to check their claims out, and discovered that he is a master of the craft and has a remarkable ability to create characters that seem as real as your next neighbor. It’s worth noting that the main character in Cruel Devices is also a master horror writer on the level as King and even mentions him as a contemporary.

AW: The main character is an author who starts the book out dreading his book signings, finding his fame a nuisance. I love having you out for book signings, please tell me that this particular aspect of your character’s development was not drawn from your own feelings or experience. 😉

GWPGWP:

*Smiles* No, I love meeting my readers in person. Please come see me Dec. 13th at Half Price Books in Humble and I’ll prove it.

I suspect that the character of Gavin Curtis did enjoy his readers at one time, but soured that’s over time. The reason he’s become embittered towards fans is he feels that they’ve trapped him artistically. He views himself as victim of his own success held captive by his creation. He wants to move on from writing pulp vampire detective stories, but his audience won’t let him. A major theme of the book is control, and his readers control him by forcing him to write what he doesn’t want. So he naturally rebels and resents them and the vampire detective character of his stories.

Many years ago I heard something about abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothco. The story goes that when is ex-wife hooked up with his agent, Rothco attempted to sabotage his painting work so the couple wouldn’t financially benefit from him. The more he tried to offer sub-par work the more his popularity and fame increased. I don’t know how true any of that is, but the idea intrigued me enough to include my version of that concept in the novel. Gavin’s fan base grows exponentially the more he mockingly offers worn out tropes in hopes that the readers will stop reading so he may pursue ‘serious literary writing’.

PumaJacketAW: Every author, like Gavin, has those questions they get bored with people asking about their book and their writing process – but also like Gavin, every author has those questions and comments that grab their attention, the questions they wish they were asked. What do you wish people would ask you about Cruel Devices? Why?

GWP:

Again, I’m not jaded like the character of Gavin Curtis, I love answering questions. I think it’s amazing that I get paid to lie (on the page) to people. I especially like questions surrounding themes and concepts of my stories. Some readers simply read for plot and action, which is fine, but I enjoy talking to people about how the work made them think and possibly examine their own opinions on things.

AW: If a book club were to read your book, what would you hope they would talk about? (If a book club were to read your book, would you make a guest appearance?)

GWP:

The protagonist is a spoiled, egotistical, prima donna who at first seems as unlikeable as Ignatius J. Reilly in A Confederacy of Dunces with a mix of Billy Halleck from Thinner. As the story unfolds, the complex layers of Gavin’s personality are revealed one by one until we see at his core he’s actually (do I dare say it?) a hero, or maybe it’s better to call him a reluctant hero. I enjoyed the reactions of my beta/critique group when presented with a seemingly unredeemable main character. Early on in the critique process one of the other novelists in my group took me aside and sheepishly asked “Should I like this guy? He really seems like a jerk.” I informed him that the character’s off-putting manner is deliberate, but he’d be rooting for him by the end of the book.

As far as participating in a book club:
I’d consider it a privilege to attend a book club reading Cruel Devices (or Spindown) though I think it’d be more fun to appear anonymously and at some point during the discussion dramatically tip over the coffee table exclaiming “That’s not what the author meant by using that metaphor!” When the other readers gathered there would challenge this, I’d reveal who I was and storm out of the meeting. Talk about making an impression!

Spindown CoverAW: How was writing Cruel Devices different from writing your previous work, Spindown? I understand that asking an author to pick their favorite out of their own work can be a little like asking a parent to choose a favorite child – but really, which one do you enjoy more? Which one did you enjoy writing more?

GWP:

The question is easier to answer than you might think because I enjoyed them both for different reasons. First of all, the stories are structured completely different from each other. Spindown is more of a quest adventure in which the characters are attempting to gain their freedom by reaching the superintendent station before they expire. Though a lot of introspection takes place along the way, the goal to make it to the end of the moon base is as destination driven as Dorothy finding Oz or Joseph Conrad’s Marlow character in Heart of Darkness going up the river to find Kurtz.

Cruel Devices on the other hand is more of a mystery. Gavin spends much of the book trying to understand what is going on and why things are happening to him.

The second thing I want to mention is since Spindown and Cruel Devices are books in two very different genres (sci-fi and horror) it didn’t feel like I was writing a second novel at all. The storytelling rhythms are noticeably different for the rise and falls of horror opposed to sci-fi. I think I’d actually convinced myself on a subconscious level that I was writing a second 1st novel (which in fact, I sorta was).

AW: Do you feel like you’ve grown as a writer between the two books? In the last few years as a published author, what have you learned about books, publishing, and the writing process that you didn’t know before publication? What do you wish you had known prior to your book deals?

GWP:

My experiences from Spindown helped me know what to pack for the journey of writing this book. Having gone through the process before, I knew to expect there would be times when things would get tough, but I had the confidence to get through because eventually you come out the other side.

I also learned to trust my instincts more on this book – to recognize and allow ideas in that maybe were not in the original blueprint outline for the story. Permitting that flexibility resulted in a much more ‘organic’ story than if I’d remained rigid to concepts that snuck aboard later in revisions. I think this may be how that ‘fall out of bed’ natural feel that you mentioned above was achieved.

As for the publishing business questions, I am grateful to have met up with a small publisher called Grey Gecko Press. I tip my hat to anyone who self-publishes; I understand that to be a tremendous amount of work that I’m just too lazy to do myself. My publisher takes care of all the non-writing behind the scenes details that are necessary to make and format my books. This allows me to focus on writing without getting bogged down in the machinery.

AW: I can’t help but long for a replica of the deadly typewriter to be present at your future events. Any chance of that happening?

GWP:

Unlikely – It’s at the bottom of the river *wink*

AW: If you were to select a soundtrack for people to listen to while they read Cruel Devices, what songs would make the list?

GWP:

I love this question. It’s funny you ask because the book originally had a number of songs embedded into it. In the first draft of the novel a lot of attention was paid to the grand re-opening of the bridge near the resort. Radio station WHCN, The River 105.9 (which is a real Connecticut station) was heard in the elevators, restaurant, cab rides, etc. The station contest played songs about bridges and rivers so I had the music constantly in the background of whatever was happening to Gavin.

I used Bridge Over Troubled Water-Simon & Garfunkel, The River– Bruce Springsteen, Take Me to the River – Al Green, etc. to name a few. The only reference to survive the editing process was Bobbi Gentry’s 1967 hit Ode to Billie Joe in which the lyrics describe someone throwing something off the Tallahatchie Bridge. As of yet, I have not attempted to listen to these songs while reading the book. If you try doing this, let me know how it turns out.

A final note: I appreciate all that your blog does to support Indie authors, mainstream writers, and everyone in between. Thanks for featuring Cruel Devices.

Madame K

http://george-p.com/cruel.htm http://georgewpadgett.wix.com/author

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Interview with J.L. Powers

September 7, 2014 at 6:10 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , )

BraniganlibraryRecently I had the great joy of reading Colors of the Wind by J.L. Powers.  Even more recently, I had the chance to do an interview with her! (I just can’t get enough interviews these days!)

1. How did you find out about George Mendoza? When did you first meet in person?

I met George a dozen years ago when I was asked to write a feature story about his life as an artist. I had no idea what I was getting into—and I suppose that’s a good thing.  I have to be honest and say that I’d never thought a lot about what it was like to be blind before I met him, except to sort of assume that it was like being in the dark and then to realize that this couldn’t be exactly true either. But when I heard him describe that being blind, for him, meant seeing things that weren’t there—floating eyes, brilliant sunbursts, squiggly colors flashing by—and also like looking into a kaleidoscope, with images multiplied and reflected back, I was fascinated. The artwork speaks for itself but when you know the story behind the artwork, it’s even more amazing.

2. Did you do much research to tell George’s story, or did you let him tell his story to you?

George told me his story, several times, on different occasions and I kept getting more detail over time. We were initially working on a glossy, coffee-table style artbook, but couldn’t sell the concept to any publisher. Admittedly, it took me awhile to put two and two together and realize that this would make an amazing picture book, but finally I did, and here we are.

3. You have written award-winning novels for young adults and you’ve edited two collections of essays. What made you decide to branch out into the picture book arena?

I’ve always loved picture books but it’s an astonishingly difficult genre to write and to break into. George’s story seemed perfect for it—a story of perseverance, a story where his disability becomes the literal source of inspiration for him as an artist.

It is clearly a picture book but I’ve had several high school librarians tell me that this is also a good book for reluctant readers at the middle-grade to high-school level because it isn’t a cutesy story and it doesn’t have illustrations that are clearly aimed at the younger crowd. So it seems like a picture book for all ages, if that’s possible.

Amina4. Can you tell us a bit about your young adult novels? (Which one do you recommend my daughter and I read together first?)

I have 3 young adult novels, though one of them (Amina) is currently only available in Australia.

The Confessional, my first novel, is a gritty novel about a young man getting murdered and it explores the problem of violence among young men and their friends. I’d recommend you wait until your daughter is late teens just because it is so gritty. But that all depends on the kid, right? It explores important questions about friendship and loyalty and faith so there’s lots to talk about when you do read it.

This Thing Called the Future is a great novel for 12 & up, an entertaining read about a young woman growing up in post-apartheid South Africa. Just as Khosi starts falling in love for the first time, a loved one starts dying of a mysterious disease, a witch curses her family, and she is being stalked by a man with shape-shifting powers. The book deals with the HIV-AIDS epidemic as well as the very real problem of young girls being preyed upon by older men, and it introduces American readers to the clash between traditional Zulu culture and the so-called modern world.

Amina is for 10-14 year olds, if you can get ahold of a copy here in the U.S. It tells the story of a young girl, Amina, an artist growing up in Mogadishu, Somalia. Her father is taken captive by al-Shabaab, and her brother is abducted to be a soldier. She is left to fend for her pregnant and ill mother and her elderly grandmother in a dangerous, violent city where young women are vulnerable. Will her artwork save her—or be her demise?

I would recommend Amina to start with (again, if you can find it—it just came out last year but isn’t available in the U.S.), then This Thing Called the Future, and last, The Confessional.

5. Will you and George work together to tell more stories? (We love his illustrations and your storytelling and would love to see more.)

Well, that’s an interesting idea, one I hadn’t really thought of. This book really required the publisher to have a vision for using George’s paintings as the main illustrations, so I’m grateful that Jill, our editor at Purple House Press, had that vision. I’ll have to explore the possibility, obviously with George. Thanks for the idea!

braniganlibrary106. Colors of the Wind doesn’t just feature your writing and George’s paintings, there are also drawings by Hayley Morgan-Sanders. Did you work closely with Sanders as well, or was she hired separately by the publishing company?

She was hired separately by the publishing company. It worked out well, didn’t it? I’m grateful for Jill’s hard work designing this book as well; she did a fabulous job.

7. I review children’s books and conduct interviews with my three year old daughter. She wants to know how a female author could write about a man’s life so well. (She is convinced that you must be a man because the story is about George and he is a man!)

My first novel, The Confessional, was first-person view point multiple narrators, all young men. I spent lots of time observing young men to write that. My second novel, This Thing Called the Future, features a young modern South African woman as the protagonist. And my third, Amina, features a young modern Somalian woman as the protagonist. So far, none of my novels have featured protagonists exactly like me—a white woman who grew up as a minority in a blue-collar Mexican and Mexican-American neighborhood along the U.S.-Mexico Border. It’s not that I’m uninterested in my own story, only that I have had compelling stories I wanted to tell about people who are not exactly like me and I believe that any novelist can and must explore the lives and stories of people who are, in some way, different than themselves. But often, it turns out that our differences are more surface than people think—but we focus on those surface differences until they seem really important. So I guess in the end, I feel like I write about people, and since I’m a person, I’m writing about people who are basically similar to me. Having said all that, I am a very careful researcher; I invest a lot of time and money into travel, friendships, and research so that I can write with as much accuracy and authenticity as possible. And I always have people from the group in question read and vet my manuscripts for possible errors. If one of them says there is a problem, no matter how minor or how major, I change it.

8. In your bio it says you teach English at Skyline College in California. Has teaching English helped you write better, or hindered your ability to produce more work?

Teaching writing and literature has helped me become more intelligent about how the writing process works and to talk about the elements of any kind of written work. This, in turn, has definitely made me a better writer. I used to write and sort of hope everything would come together. I didn’t understand the elements of a story and I really really didn’t understand the process of revision. I was afraid to truly change things because I was afraid I would ruin things. Now I just go at it. Nothing is sacred. Teaching definitely did that for me. Being able to see the problems in another person’s writing allows you to begin to see the problems in your own.

braniganlibrary89. Have you done any book tours yet? Presented Colors of the Wind at Elementary Schools or Festival Events?

We did two events in El Paso, Texas and one in Las Cruces, New Mexico, all with children in attendance who did artwork after the event. It was great fun. We have an upcoming event in September in Santa Ana, California and I hope we have a good showing there. We haven’t YET gone into schools but I hope this book will lead the way.

10. What is one thing you’d like your readers and fans to know about you?

I travel as much as possible. The world is a fascinating place. Travel expands your ability to understand other people, to love the world, and to see how complex problems are so that you can never again offer facile solutions to the problems that plague the world. Literature—from picture books to novels—is a form of travel without ever leaving the safety of your own home. So encourage reading for people of all ages, and encourage people to read as much and as widely as possible!

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Interview with Author Amy Woods

September 2, 2014 at 7:29 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , )

AmyRecently I read an reviewed His Texas Forever Family.  Shortly after reading the book, I had the opportunity to interview the author!

1. Your debut novel His Texas Forever Family is Harlequin’s September 2014 Special Edition® release. That’s incredible! What’s going through your head right now?

To be honest, I’m a little overwhelmed. As a new writer, I’ve worked hard to put together the absolute best book I can at this point in my career, but it’s scary knowing that not all readers will love my story. Falling in love with a book is such a subjective thing, and it’s almost impossible to please everyone—something that every author knows when that book hits the (physical and virtual) shelves. Being new, I haven’t yet gone through the experience of reading reviews from people who don’t like what I’ve written, and I imagine it’s not a great feeling. All that any writer can do is write her very best book at any given time, and hope that each subsequent book will get better and better as her writing and storytelling skills improve—I just keep reminding myself that this is enough.

His Texas Forever Family2. How has your Harlequin experience been? Do you hope to write more for them, pursue other ventures, or both?

Harlequin has treated me very well and yes, I do hope to continue writing for them. I love my editor, Carly Silver, which makes things run really smooth. She and I get each other and she understands my writing and my goals for each story, which makes the process of readying each book for publication a pleasant experience. I do plan to venture into indie (self) -publishing at some point, but I want to write for Harlequin as long as they’ll have me.

3. This is a romance novel, do you plan to stay in the genre or get your toes wet in another area of the book community?

For now, I’m very happy writing romance. I also love to read cozy mysteries, and at some point, I’d love to spend more time learning the craft of writing one and try my hand at that genre. Lots of cozies have a romance subplot, as well, so at least I would have that part down.

4. What authors influenced your writing of this book?

I’ve spent a lot of time reading Nora Roberts’ old category romances—the ones she wrote long before she was the romance writing icon that she is now. When Roberts started writing category romance, she broke a lot of the genre’s conventions with her strong, intelligent, independent heroines that often had very interesting or unique careers. I’d love to follow in her footsteps with my heroines. And, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want a career like hers? Roberts worked hard to build a readership and to make a name for herself—actions I very much admire and hope to emulate in my own romantic fiction career.

5. What authors do you generally read? What is your favorite genre?

I read widely—both genre and literary fiction—anything from scifi to biography, and I love it all. I’m not sure I could choose a favorite. I think it’s important for writers to read both in and outside of their genres, to stay open to new ideas and new worlds.

6. In addition to your budding writing career, what else do you have up your sleeve?

Right now I’m just concentrating on keeping up with my contracted book deadlines, and promoting my debut release. In the near future, I’m planning to write and self-publish a new series, in addition to continuing to write for Harlequin.

fredri 27. How much of Peach Leaf was drawn out of real experiences? You seem to know your way around an elementary school and children…

Although the book’s setting, Peach Leaf, Texas is a fictional small town, it’s loosely based on one of my all-time real favorite places—Fredericksburg, Texas. Fredericksburg is a town in West Texas with a population of a little over 10,000, and was founded in 1846 and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. Both Fredericksburg and Peach Leaf are home to several amazing German restaurants boasting excellent beer and mouth-watering Reuben sandwiches, and Pioneer Museums that share artifacts and tons of information about the towns’ intriguing histories. As for the school setting—I was a teacher myself for a bit, though I taught high school rather than elementary.

8. What made you choose Texas as a setting?

I chose Texas mostly for the low risk of messing up.  I’ve lived here my whole life, so I figured for my debut novel, I’d better stick to what I know best. I plan to travel, do some research, and branch out a little in the future, but Texas will always be in my bones.

9. What brought you into the writing world? What got you writing?

I’ve always loved to read and I think, like many, for me writing was a natural response to having enjoyed so many books. I’ve always written here and there, but, despite a degree in English, I never considered making a career out of it until I found myself in a job I loathed and needed a creative outlet. Once I started writing frequently, I fell in love with the process, and eventually decided to submit some work.

Amy 210. What is one thing you would like your readers/fans to know about you?

That I’m pretty easygoing and open. I love hearing from readers and I’m always happy to answer questions about the writing or publishing process, and to help out when I have something to offer.

Readers are always welcome to contact me via my website.

For additional information on His Texas Forever Family, please visit the Books page on my website, or find me on Facebook as Amy Woods Books, or on Twitter as @amywoodsbooks.

Thanks so much for having me as a guest today!

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Seashells, Gator Bones, and an Interview

August 5, 2014 at 8:08 pm (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Interview with Susan Adger

seashells and gator bones1. Seashells, Gator Bones, and the Church of Everlasting Liability. What a title! Can you tell us a bit about it?

Actually, my daughter Emily came up with the title, based on three of the stories in the book. Seashells are reminders of a girl’s first love, one of the characters makes jewelry out of gator bones, and the Church of Everlasting Liability is one of the town’s churches; the name came from the fact that the members are supposed to be “libel” for each other – to take care of each other – which means they have to know everybody’s else’s business.

2. What made you choose Florida as a setting?

My family has been in the Tampa Bay area for five generations, and the characters in the book are based on some of the old stories my Grandma Keathley used to tell us. When she was born in Mango, FL in 1891, the population swelled to thirty-eight people. Her mother was one of seven children, and her grandmother was one of eight, so there were plenty of crazy, I mean interesting, relatives out there to get ideas from. While everything in the book is fiction, my relatives will be able to tell you who some of the characters are based on.

3. Can you tell us a bit about your earlier work A Quiet Voice?

A Quiet VoiceThe book was inspired by a man named Eugene Hairston, who grew up in grinding poverty, then to keep himself out of trouble – he thought – he enlisted in the army and ended up fighting in Vietnam. When he reported the rampant discrimination on the base, his sergeant pushed him out of a helicopter into Viet Cong territory. He survived almost by accident, when some American soldiers on patrol happened by a few days later and rescued him. After the incident was reported, Eugene was given the opportunity to return home, which he did. With untreated P.T.S.D., he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, spent almost two decades in jails and prisons, and lived on the streets of Tampa for eight long years.

In 1998 he changed his life. I met him a few years later and we started working on A Quiet Voice in 2005. It took us almost two years of meeting weekly to complete it. Today he is married, holds a responsible position at the Bay Pines Veterans Administration Medical Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, and is held in high esteem by hundreds of people who know him. The V.A. sends him to speak to veterans about his life at conferences nationwide, and he has received many incredibly heart-warming letters from readers. I’m very gratified to know that writing this book has helped him reach so many people.

4. Ray Bradbury once said, “You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices.” What do you think about this statement?

Well, actually, I never studied writing in college, but for me it has been really important to read a lot, to learn from what others do, and to get feedback on my work. I’ve done this mostly with other writers; I’m in two critique groups and value their input. When I’m critiquing others, however, I always remind them that what they’ve written is their work, and while it’s good to listen to input, in the end it’s their creation.

SusanPHLibInitially, I was told that I should know my entire story inside and out before actually writing it; have my outline and character sketches completed and go from there. And heaven knows I tried to do that. But when writing fiction, the only way that seems to work for me is to have an idea about a character and then just watch to see what happens; when there’s a knock on the door in the story, I go along to answer it and we both see who’s there. Of course, I do a lot of editing that way, but it works for me.

I enjoy writing short stories, keeping it light. These days I can hardly bear to watch the news or read the paper; seems to me there’s plenty of negative out there and we could all use a laugh once in a while.

5. What were your educational experiences like? Do you think these experiences have influenced the kind of writer you have become?

I was never too wild about school and wasn’t a great student, partly because when I was growing up my family moved almost every year so I was always the new kid on the block. I remember in the second grade, looking out the classroom window and thinking I’d give anything to be outside with the guys trimming the hedge rather than sitting at my desk. But somehow I ended up with a B.A. in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Education.

I’m sure everything I’ve experienced in my life has colored what I write. I don’t think any author can avoid putting themselves into their work, even if they want to. I spent a number of years working in child abuse and neglect, as well as with young children with behaviour/emotional problems or developmental delays, and their families. Being able to watch people work to make changes in their lives has been both rewarding and heart breaking. They all taught me a great deal.

6. What brought you to the writing world? What made you decide to write?

I am definitely a late starter. I first began writing when the last of my three children moved out. I remember coming home from work that day, sitting on the couch in an empty living room and listening to the quiet; nobody yelling that somebody stole her sweater (nothing was ever misplaced, it was stolen), no loud music competing with the television, no phone ringing off the hook. I felt let down, a little lonely. For about ten minutes. Then it occurred to me that after twenty-two years of raising kids, mostly as a single parent, I had a life of my own again and could do whatever I wanted. I started with family stories, and branched out from there.

7. Do you have future projects up your sleeve?

I’m in the middle of recording the Seashells book, in my grandma’s old Florida vernacular and hope to have it done this fall. (Why is everything harder than it looks?) And I have a number of stories completed for a companion book.

8. Who are your favorite authors? Do you have an author whose career you aspire to emulate?

Years ago I discovered Lee Smith, whose stories about poor families in Appalachia drew me in. While I haven’t intentionally used her as a model, she has unquestionably had an influence on my work.

9. I see on your facebook page that you do a number of public speaking events and lead group discussions on your books. What do these events involve? How do they work out for you?

I’ve been fortunate to be asked to give a number of book talks at local venues, and have been gratified to see how encouraging and supportive audiences have been. When I first started speaking, I found it quite challenging (read terrifying), but with practice, I no longer feel that I’ll have a nervous breakdown before it’s over.

I talk a little about how I got into writing and my Florida family’s background, read some excerpts from the book, and encourage listeners to record their family histories.

10. If there were one thing you would want your readers and fans to know about you, what would it be?

One of the reasons I thought to write this book was because of interviews I did with my Grandma Keathley. Years ago I sat down with her and recorded her reminiscences about growing up in Mango, and later raising her six children in Tampa. I had to kind of twist her arm to do it; she finally relented after I talked her into reciting poetry like she did to her kids when they were small, and singing a few hymns. Then I just kind of sneaked her into the interview by asking questions.

I love hearing her stories about growing up in Mango in her voice with the old Florida “southernisms” Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I’ll make myself the breakfast she’d always fix me, a fried egg on top of some buttered oatmeal, then listen to one of her interviews, and I feel better.

When I speak, I strongly encourage the audience to interview the older members of their families – these days it’s easy to videotape them – or write about their own histories. The little details are what I love most – knowing that the oxen my great-grandfather hooked up to the wagon to take his vegetables to market were named Red’en and George; and when my great-grandfather would pull my grandmother up on the horse with him so she could see the baby birds in their nest; and once, when my grandma was at a “Church Sing” with a new boyfriend, the horse took off with the buggy and when they found him he’d gotten stuck halfway over a fence. For me, details like that make my family history come to life.

And you can quote me on this: “There is NOTHING more interesting than families.”

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