CHAT WITH JOHN DOLAN

“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.” John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between Thailand and the UK.

Time to chat with John!

Is your recent book part of a series?  

My latest novel, Restless Earth (which was published last week), is the first in a trilogy of books entitled Karma’s Children, and it features my anti-hero private detective David Braddock. Braddock is the lead protagonist in a series of four mystery books published between 2012 and 2016, collectively called Time, Blood and Karma. My original intention back in 2011 (when all this authoring madness came upon me) was to write a series of seven books; but I decided for various reasons to split these into two series. Restless Earth has been constructed in such a way that readers who have not previously read any of my books can jump straight in without getting lost. For those resilient bookworms who have somehow had the stamina to burrow their way through the previous four novels, Restless Earth picks up where the last series left off.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?  My Karma mystery books were all conceived at the same time: there was always going to be seven of them. One might say there is one long narrative arc spanning all seven books, with each individual book also containing a self-contained story. For me, there were (and still are) three specific challenges. First, I want the concept of karma and some underlying aspects of Eastern philosophy to permeate the writing and plots, and to provide a unifying theme. Second, the reader must be aware of a broader story trajectory while finding enjoyment in the particular plot of any specific book. While there will be loose ends at the end of each individual novel, I did not want to create a cliff-hanger scenario: I personally find this annoying when I encounter it – and it makes me feel cheated. Third, character development must be paced: a collection of seven books is, after all, more of a marathon than a sprint.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?  I describe my Karma books as mystery novels. They do, after all, feature a private detective and multiple crimes to be solved. However, in my view, they hover around a number of genres – sometimes literary fiction, sometimes thriller, and with some philosophy thrown in for good measure. And, without (hopefully) getting too pretentious about it, over the course of the seven books, they are more like a family saga incorporating the story of one man’s life journey. Wait, that is horribly pretentious. Oh, OK, too late now. The funny thing is, when I started writing Everyone Burns – my first book – I didn’t even consider genre, and I certainly wasn’t writing to any kind of formula. Plus, I very rarely read crime or mystery stories, as I tend to prefer non-fiction. So, where all this stuff came from is the real mystery.

What else have you written?  

I am currently editing a collection of my poetry, and trying to decide whether I have the courage to put it out into the public domain. Three years ago, I collaborated with another writer, Fiona Quinn, in co-authoring a completely off-the-wall black comedy/romance/thriller novel titled Chaos is Come Again. The most fascinating aspect of that project – which was fun, by the way, as Fiona is a great sport – was that Fiona and I have never actually met in person. We did the whole thing over the Internet, using Skype when we needed to chew things through. The time difference was a problem, as Fiona is on the US East Coast, and at the time, I was living in Thailand. But we found ways around the difficulties. Someday, we should probably write a book about the experience!

Are you easily distracted while writing? If so, what to you do to help yourself focus?  

Did you see that butterfly? I’m sorry, what did you say? I can be easily distracted. It depends whether I am ‘in the Zone’ or not. I am not one of these people who can sit down at their laptop and write for hours. My creativity soon dries up, and my monkey mind starts jumping off in different directions. Recognising this, I do my writing in bursts of about two hours, usually sitting at a corner table in a coffee shop. If I try to write at home, I find there are too many other things to think about. So, if you enjoy my books, you can thank Starbucks. If you don’t like my books, blame Starbucks (I know I will).

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?  

The choosing of character names is very important for me for two reasons. One, many of my characters are Thai – and Thai names are notoriously long and complicated; yet I have to find ones that are accessible to a Western readership. Two, I have LOTS of characters in my books, so I’ve learned to make sure their names are sufficiently different (and memorable where necessary) so as not to confuse my audience. In Everyone Burns there were two Thai characters whose family names began with the same first three letters (‘Cha-‘), and in retrospect, I consider that a mistake. As to the second part of the question, no, I’ve never changed a character’s name later.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?  

I have it in mind one day to write a philosophy book. My working title is Bloody Humans. As you might surmise, it’s not going to be a laugh a minute. Not recommended for anyone on suicide watch. Or indeed anyone, probably.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?  

Here’s one from my currently-unpublished poetry collection, so your readers are the first to see it. (I’m not sure whether that’s a reward or a punishment, but hey ho!) It’s an author’s plea, with due apologies to Philip Larkin.

This Be the Book Review

They fuck you up, your readers do;

They keep you always on the edge.

So, when you read that bad review

You feel like jumping off the ledge.  

 

But they were fucked up in their turn,

(A fact on which we should reflect)

By mums and dads who sought to spurn

And criticise their intellect.  

 

They’ve had bad days like you and me

Therefore, be gracious, let them live.

Their lives may be such shite, you see,

It’s better if we just forgive.  

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?  

For a limited time, I have some free/discounted book offers – but you’ll have to act fast for some of them! On 27 and 28 November, my novel A Poison Tree is FREE on Amazon Kindle, and Everyone Burns is discounted to 99 cents. The short story Jim Fosse’s Expense Claim is permanently FREE (if you’d like to dip your toe into my writing). Also, until 31 December, you can enter a FREE giveaway for three paperback copies of my latest novel Restless Earth on Goodreads. Click on my Amazon Author Page link below and go from there for the Kindle offers. For the Goodreads giveaway, you will find a button below.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

For another few weeks, I live in Dubai, where I’ve been based for the last two and a half years. Our next ‘home base’ will be on the Thai island of Samui, where my wife and I built a house a few years back, and where many of my stories are located. For the next year or two, we will be splitting our time between South East Asia and the UK, and doing some travelling to exotic and/or weird parts of the world. After that, who knows? Since we started off on our expatriate odyssey in South Africa in 2004, we’ve become rather nomadic. I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?  

I really, really wish I could be modest, but frankly, I’m so talented this is impossible. But seriously, there is no skill I hanker after. The secret to a happy life is being content with what you already have. Don’t you agree?

Do you have any guilty pleasures? Yes, but obviously I can’t talk about them. If they were the sorts of things I could mention in public, then I don’t suppose they’d be guilty pleasures. I suppose I can just about mention chocolate, buying too many books, and talking way too much.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?  

If about five billion of us humans all stopped breathing today that would give the planet’s other species a well-earned respite. That aside, I would advocate (1) being more compassionate toward each other; (2) watching fewer advertisements so we want less useless stuff; and (3) eating less meat. I’m working on all three of these – but so far with mixed success.

CONNECT WITH JOHN

Amazon Author Page

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Restless Earth by John Dolan

Restless Earth

by John Dolan

Giveaway ends December 31, 2017. See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
 

Enter Giveaway

CHAT WITH ROBIN LYONS

Robin Lyons, Author of the School Marshal Series, lives a quiet California life in the foothills of Sierra Nevada Mountains. After twenty-nine year career in public education, Robin’s fiction aims to bring awareness to crimes taking place on school campuses and crimes involving the people connected to schools in the School Marshal Series.

Is your recent book part of a series?

The most recently published book is Mac, a prequel novella in the School Marshal Series. Mac takes the reader back in time, providing a glimpse of the main character’s roots (Cole ‘Mac’ MacKenna) and helps readers better understand the leading man in the series.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

It’s important to keep the characters’ information and stories straight as they move from book to book. Equally important is keeping the places and settings consistent. In case I need to refresh my memory about someone or something, I keep a few books open and readily accessible while I’m working on a new book.

One aspect I love about writing a series is it’s pretty easy to pick out something mentioned in an earlier book and then twist it into a plot or subplot down the road.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

One time, as I wrote a plotted scene with a character I had planned to also use in a future book, I felt the character needed to go another direction. I remember telling my husband about how it felt like the character made the scene turn differently from what I had intended.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I outline the entire book using index cards before I begin to write scenes. Once the scenes are plotted, I lay the index cards out to arrange and rearrange until I have them in an order I believe flows. When it’s time to write scenes I have the entire story swirling in my mind. I start out writing in order, but I’m able to bounce around when one scene speaks louder in my head than another.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

It’s so hard for me to ignore and continue writing when I see a squiggly colored line under a word or sentence, so I correct typos and incorrect words as I go. I don’t recommend editing as you write because it brings the creative flow to a screeching halt. But for me to ignore those darn squiggly lines would be the same as not picking up a tissue I’ve dropped.

Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

Yes and I factor in other things besides whether the name feels right or not. I do an internet search of names, titles, fictional business names, fictional locations, fictional cities, etc. I change the name if something pops up that I wouldn’t want to be associated with me or my stories.

I write in Scrivener and love the name generator tool. If you aren’t familiar with Scrivener, you can select the gender and region the character is from to influence the name choices suggested. It’s pretty cool.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Don’t do what I did. I spent years learning as much as I could about writing, editing and publishing that the publishing world changed as I was learning. I thought I wanted to pursue traditional publishing, then vanity publishing. After six years of learning, researching, writing, and re-writing—in that order, I ended up independently publishing. All of what I did was necessary for me to proceed, but it didn’t need to take six years. The priority should have been writing.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

Social media is a challenge for me. Through trial and error, I’ve learned where my comfort zone is.

I’m active on Twitter and enjoy getting know Twitter friends. Direct Messaging (DM) on Twitter can be frustrating. You get inundated with DMs asking you to buy this and like that. Often people send a DM suggesting they’ll like your Facebook page if you do the same for theirs. Assuming the person is genuine, I’ve liked someone’s Facebook page and then replied to their DM letting them know I’ve done so and include a link to my Facebook page so they can do the same. More often than not, I don’t receive the same in return as promised in the DM. Twitter Lesson #1 – Some people are dishonest.

I’m active on Facebook as well. I enjoy Facebook for providing tons of interesting and relevant content but I haven’t mastered Facebook friendships other than in groups. There are some fantastic writer groups on Facebook. I’ve found most people in the groups are super friendly and helpful.

I’m also on Goodreads and LinkedIn but seldom go there; I don’t fully understand how to interact with others on either platform.

My Instagram account is mainly personal for connecting with friends and family.

How much research was involved in writing your book?

I love research! And therefore I do too much research. To accurately write about something I sometimes get bogged down with the tiniest detail. For example, do crickets make noise year-round or only during certain seasons? If I’m going to write about a cricket making noise—the time of year must be accurate.

*Nerd Alert* For the School Marshal Series, after I researched the names of everyone and everything, I created a town map to give me a bird’s eye view of where everything is. When I write about going to a restaurant or the police department or sitting on the back porch enjoying the view, I know exactly where the character is on the map. And with each book written more is added to the map. At some point, I may have the map professionally drawn and include in one of the books.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

My covers are super important to me. I began saving book cover graphics that appealed to me long before I began to write. For me, the cover has to relate to the story. I like my covers to come alive in the first few chapters so the reader can connect the cover to the story and the story to the cover.

What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

I’d say it’s the Power of ONE.

ONE dollar donated to a worthy cause.

ONE kind comment said to someone having a bad day.

ONE instance of helping an older or disabled person cross a street or open a door.

ONE time helping a bird with its wing caught on something.

ONE call to a friend or relative you haven’t talked to in a long time, etc.

ONE review has the power to help thousands of people decide what book to purchase.

ONE review also has the power to help boost a book’s ranking.

ONE review does matter.

Have you ever started out to write one book and ended up with something completely different?

Yes, I sure have. As soon as I retired, I went to the small town in South Dakota where my mother grew up because I wanted to write her life story as a fiction novel. After the trip, I did extensive research and then began writing. Not having a clue what I was doing or that there is a structure to novels I struggled to write chapter one. I tried first-person POV, then third-person POV. All of the research was shelved, and I began writing a story about a gigolo. Upon completing the gigolo story, I sent a sample to an editor and was kindly told it was crap.

Unsure what to write next, I began to study the craft. At that time, I was an elected school board member in my hometown. Our community was suddenly thrust into a tailspin when a beloved school principal was gunned down in his office by a co-worker. I’d known him for more than twenty years; he was my children’s middle school principal and my grandson’s elementary principal. The loss felt by the school district and community was tremendous. I knew then I needed to write the School Marshal Series with an imperfect protagonist keeping a watchful eye over the school and all who are connected to the school. The protagonist doesn’t always prevail because there is no such thing as a perfect world, but he sure gives it his all. It comforts me to think if there had been a security guard or a school resource officer or a school marshal on the campus the day of the shooting, maybe the outcome would have been better.

Mom’s story is still in the queue…

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I’ve skydived. Tandem with an instructor, but still an incredible experience.

What makes you angry?

Very little. I’m an easygoing person. I may get frustrated or turned off by someone’s behavior, but I try not to get riled.

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school?

Journalism.

Why?

Those valuable lessons taught so many years ago now help me understand how to format. A necessary skill for an indie-published author.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Stop judging others based on your opinions.

Say two positive comments or praise for every negative remark.

Praise children for what they do right instead of criticizing what they do wrong.

CONNECT WITH ROBIN

Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

Goodreads

LinkedIn

Twitter

BARRIE HILL REUNION: The Very Long Birth of a Novel

When I was eighteen years old, and a drama student at Pace University in New York City, my grandmother came to visit me for the weekend.

That Sunday, she took me for brunch at the Algonquin Hotel. I had no idea what an impact this outing would have on my writing life.

While we were enjoying our meal, my grandmother told us about the Algonquin Round Table, the celebrated group of literary New Yorkers who met for lunch every day from 1919 to 1929 or thereabouts. I wish I could tell you more about what happened, but my memory of that day is so vague it barely exists. All I can distinctly remember is being fascinated, looking around at the décor, and deciding that I was going to write a story, based on a hotel like this, about the reunion of a college literary group. And I felt very passionate about it. Maybe the ghosts of members past had whispered to me. I wouldn’t be surprised.

 

(standing, left to right) Art Samuels and Harpo Marx; (sitting) Charles MacArthur, Dorothy Parker, and Alexander Woollcott

I can’t even remember when I actually began writing my short story. I really loved the concept, but I was not the disciplined writer I am today. I do remember the first line, though: “Leah received her invitation on Tuesday.”

In my early twenties, I was living in Queens, NY with my roommate, Gail, who worked in an office. I was working as a bartender at the time. Because I had no access to a copy machine (which everyone called a “Xerox machine” back then), I asked Gail if she could make me a copy of my story. I knew it was special, and I didn’t want to lose it.

It was so special that when Gail forgot to make a copy for me, I completely forgot I had ever asked.

Fast forward several years. I was living in Los Angeles, working at Paramount Studios. One day, I received a piece of mail from Gail. She had been going through her things, purging a lot of stuff she had saved, and found my story. She thought I might want it. Did I ever! I was ecstatic! It was like being reunited with a dear friend whose existence I’d forgotten. That said, I’ve never forgotten the existence of any dear friends. Only this one.

It didn’t take me long to turn my unfinished story into a one-act play. I mailed my nascent creation to theaters all over the country. I did receive some positive feedback, but no luck. The play was not without its fans though, as many of the people who read it had a strong positive reaction.

Years later, back East, my mother (a Journalism professor) introduced me to the director of Temple University’s theater. He read the play and really “got” the characters, but told me that it needed to be a two-act play. I agreed with him, and promptly reworked it as per his suggestion. He had been enthusiastic about reading the new, expanded play, but when I gave it to him, he simply never got around to it. For years, every time my mother would run into him on Temple’s campus, he would lament, “Oh, I never got around to reading your daughter’s play.”

In 1996, I finished writing my first novel, Squalor, New Mexico. I knew then that I wanted to write novels, not plays, and I went on to write five more novels. Finally, something in my brain decided it was time to dust off “Barrie Hill Reunion” and turn it into a novel.

 I wanted to stay true to the original characters, which for the most part I did, but there were some major tweaks in a few of them, as I was now writing a much more nuanced and in-depth story. Also, while I had never attributed a specific year to the play, I knew that the novel could not take place in the current year. Nothing about that felt right. It made sense that the characters had gone to college in the 1960s and were meeting again, twenty years after graduation, in 1986. It was important to me that there were no cell phones or personal computers involved. To modernize the story that much, would have destroyed it.

It was a really interesting process to write a novel with characters that had been with me for a lifetime. While I’ve written villains in other stories, I don’t think I’ve ever written a character as cruel as Leah Brent, one of the Barrie Hillers who attends the reunion. While writing her dialogue, I would often look at the computer and curse her out for what she had just said. Yeah, I called her some really bad names. I think my writer friends will understand this; others might think I am a bit nuts.

Some of the original dialogue from the one-act play appears in the book, but that said, I did not force it. In fact, after I while, I stopped following the play altogether. As I do in all of my novels, I create multiple story arcs, something I could only hint at in play form. So it was important to go in some new directions.

I don’t want to say too much more, only that I’m happy to finally bring this story to life. You can read the synopsis below or on Amazon.com.

In the mid-1960s, at an elite college in the quaint town of Barrie Hill, Connecticut, a group of literary-minded students met regularly off-campus at the Vanessa Grand Hotel. Often late into the night, they would discuss the day’s news, analyze literature, philosophize, trade barbs, and socialize.

Twenty years after graduation, in 1986, the group’s founder, Clare Dreyser, organizes a weekend reunion. Seven former Barrie Hillers and one guest get together, eager to re-create an extraordinary time in their lives and reunite with old friends.

From the outset, and baffling the group, Leah Brent displays a brash, condescending attitude for nearly everyone and everything. To the chagrin of actor Bart Younger, Leah immediately lays out the unwelcome mat for his wife, Aimee. No one, not even Leah’s husband, Colin, is immune to her wrath, but Leah is relentless in her bizarre and cruel quest to bring down her primary target: Clare.

As the reunion progresses, the Barrie Hillers strive to enjoy their time together as they become enmeshed in personal dramas, struggle with matters of ethics, and weather escalating uncertainties that threaten to destroy their lives. By Saturday night, the second day of the reunion, karma makes a surprising and shocking visit. As the Barrie Hillers’ time together draws to an end, each is changed forever.

Thanks for reading!

Kindle (Universal link)

Paperback (U.S.)

Barrie Hill Reunion is also free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Save

Save

Save

Save

CHAT WITH JULI D. REVEZZO

Juli D. Revezzo loves fantasy and Celtic mythology and writing stories with all kinds of fantastical elements. She is the author of the historical fantasy Frigga’s Lost Army, the romances, House of Dark Envy, Watchmaker’s Heart, and Lady of the Tarot, the Antique Magic paranormal series and Celtic Stewards Chronicles series and more. She is also a member of the Independent Author Network and the Magic Appreciation Tour.

What is your latest book?

Frigga’s Lost Army. It is an historical fantasy set about a World War II POW who survives his time in captivity with the help of the Norse goddess Frigga.

Is your recent book part of a series?

No, it’s a standalone this one.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I’ve always written fantasy into…just about everything I write. History always seems to be blended in there somewhere, just depending on what era strikes my fancy at the time. I’ve written worlds set in the Victorian era as well as some (Lady of the Tarot) based in the 18th century, and some, like my Celtic Stewards Chronicles, covering darned near every era.

What else have you written?

 I’ve written the Antique Magic paranormal fantasy (about a woman living in current day Florida, who finds her husband plagued by demons due to a family curse. She has to embrace her witchy powers to save him), also the Celtic Stewards Chronicles, which is a fantasy romance series about a family to whom the Celtic (Irish, specifically) gods come and request the use of their property for their sacred battle; I’ve also written a few historical romances, and odds and ends of novellas and some short stories that are published in a few anthologies.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That you can throw up a book in a minute and make a million bucks. Yeah, it happens, but only to a very, very few. And the other misconception, still, is that we’re all… writing a book in a minute, and not taking care with our stuff. That may be true for some, but certainly, not for me.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I enjoy writing the novel the most. I don’t enjoy writing the synopses! 🙂

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

It depends on the story but I do seem to jump around more than just write straight through.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

An ending, yes. Or at least, I like to have a vague idea. As for titles, I usually only need something workable to save it under, then worry about what to use as the marketable title after the fact. I usually have to bounce a list of ideas off friends. We usually end up with some keyword heavy thing I wouldn’t have thought of on day one of the manuscript. Because, you know, keywords don’t figure into some of the best titles:

Elric of Melniboné. (What the heck is that?) The Mabinogion? To the Lighthouse (what lighthouse?) , Mrs. Dalloway, Carmilla (who are they?). Or, take Pickman’s Model by Lovecraft. Who’s Pickman? What kind of model? Is he making toy cars? Or taking something as a model for his life? Is Pickman even a man? (If you haven’t read it, I’m not telling!) Ah…there’s no real keyword there, and (if you don’t know who Lovecraft is) you can’t tell the genre or what the story’s about just from the title, can you? That’s a clever title, in my opinion. 😉 Based on the long history of titles in literature, the current trend doesn’t stack up. Something as keyword heavy as The Detectives of the Elves in the Forest doesn’t work quite so well, in that light, does it? Especially if you realize, tomorrow, your “hot keywords” could very well be out of vogue. Anyway, long story short, based on my influences, that’s why I have to bounce title ideas off friends before I make the ultimate decision.

Have you ever imagined what your characters are doing after you’ve finished a book or series?

Sometimes. Ben (from Frigga’s Lost Army) is more or less settled right now. My novelette “Bicycle Requiem” tied itself to my Antique Magic series, in a way that, I didn’t anticipate when I started either one. I have tons of ideas for what comes next in Antique Magic, and some, yes, that have had me rearrange the end of what I thought would be the final book. I’m not sure I’ll write all of them, (don’t want to have a 25 book series, after all) but I do have them all written down.

After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?

I usually have two or three manuscripts in flux at once, so when I finish one draft, I’ll put it away, and work on something else for a while. That usually clears my head of draft one, so I can go back to it objectively. Then of course, I have betas and editors go over them, as well, who help me pick out what’s wrong.

Are you easily distracted while writing? If so, what to you do to help yourself focus?

No, I’m…*squirrel* 🙂 Seriously though, if I get distracted, it’s usually a sign I need a break, so I’ll stop and maybe go poke around in the garden a little, if it’s a nice day. Or read something else for a while, or poke around on the internet, maybe write a blog post, watch a movie. Things like that. Sometimes just a little rest helps.

Over the years, many well-known authors have stated that they wished they’d written their characters or their plots differently. Have you ever had similar regrets?

Not really. I have things I’d like to tweak, but I don’t usually feel the need to tear everything down and start again. If a book ends up that messed up (and there have been times!) I’d rather move on and write something new.

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

Constantly! I have one character right now who I wish I’d changed the name before I published the book. Too late now.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

I really can’t say. Sure talent has something to do with it, but sometimes, it seems like it all comes down to luck.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

Least favorite part about it…. Everything. Well, not everything, but a few things: DMs on both Twitter and Facebook have a tendency to get lost, so do Twitter comments. I also dislike those ridiculous “please verify yourself” DMs. No. Please stop it.

What do you like best about the books you read?

The storylines, if you’re a fantasy writer, the magic you include. For mysteries, a clever twist. For paranormal cozy mysteries….well, the magic. J

What do you like least?

Fantasy stories where the writer makes a mythological god a villain based on his/her looks and dress, without checking into what the mythology actually says about him/her (Cernunnos is not a devil in Celtic mythology, for instance, even though he has horns). Those kind of mistakes/ uses of “poetic license” drive me batty.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

With Frigga’s Lost Army, I spent the most time reading accounts of how the POW’s lived life in the camps. Most of these accounts are online, so it was lot of web reading and link culling.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I tell you what, my betas and editors prefer to read the entire first draft. They always have, so while I have a critique friend I bounce ideas off, I never let them read it until I’ve finished that draft.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

Interestingly, men seem to enjoy my Antique Magic series. Since the main point of view is a woman and so I thought they’d be my target audience (women who love things like the Hollows and Anita Blake series). That surprised the heck out of me.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

 Yes, I am, but I’ve never timed it. (I’ll be humble and say I have average typing speed) How does it affect my writing? I’ve given myself carpal tunnel—which, as you can guess—tends to stop the writing, sometimes.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I have a blog (link below) and my journals.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I’ve been telling stories since I was a child, so yeah. Born to write. I didn’t write my first novel, though, until I was 18.

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

Yes. Why? I find it hard to boil down the whole book to just a few lines. Bane of my existence! If it wasn’t for friends who graciously allow me to bounce various versions off them, I don’t know where I’d be.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

 Herm….probably something about history…Most likely Medieval and Renaissance history. Or something about the Celts. J I adore them! (And as an aside, I actually wrote a little something about the modern paganism in my Antique Magic series, but it’s only available through my Patreon account)

Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?

Get a team to help you decide what makes a good story, and help you flesh yours out and make it better. Even a beta reader or critique partner is helpful. Learn everything you can—yes, even cover design and (especially!) html and ebook coding. Learn to do everything you can yourself. That way if you lose, or can’t barter with, part of your team or your schedules can’t line up, for whatever reason, you’re not totally screwed. (Hey, life does get in the way! Hello, hurricane season!)

What have you done to market your novel and what did you find the most effective? The least effective?

The least effective? Giveaways. See below. And paid promo. I’ve tried a few different paid ones and never found them worth the money, or let’s put it this way, never made my fee back.

The most effective? Well, I’ve been trying different things lately, so what’s effective might be a combination of a lot of them. I can’t say, really.

I’m sure you’ve read many interviews with your fellow authors. In what ways do you find your methods of creating most similar and dissimilar?

I think we’re pretty much the same across the board, when it comes down to it.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

Of course I love Frigga, but my favorites? Lady of the Tarot, both for itself and for being my first Audible audiobook.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

Just ignore them. Really that’s the best you can do. Anything else might get you in trouble.

Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?

No. Unless it’s a group promo where one can get in front of a larger cross audience I don’t generally find them a useful way to promote.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

Funnily, I pay more attention to designing my book covers. But as a reader/buyer? Very little. There are only a handful of books I’ve ever bought because of the cover.

(But I tell you what men with naked chest covers and covers where the woman’s head is cut off drive me insane.[That would be, I’d said, one of my pet peeves]. I will buy a romance novel, but not for that! For judging romance books, I turn right to the back cover)

Every day brings forth new changes and shifts in the world of publishing. Any predictions about the future?

I see covers moving into the gif realm. I’m not sure if Kindle will ever support them in ebooks; I guess we’ll see! More audiobooks might be in the future, too. I had fun making the two I have so far (my two historical romance novels, Lady of the Tarot and Watchmaker’s Heart) so I’d like to see them become more popular. Maybe. I’d love to see holographic novels, but that might just still be a science fiction dream.

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

Most of the time, we have a mutual understanding to work together.

How would you define your style of writing?

 Quirky and unorthodox. 🙂 No. To be a little less succinct, my tagline is “The Enchanted Word” and what that means is I write books that are laced with a little bit of magic, a little mythology…even here and there in my purely historical romances you’ll find a nod to the fantasy realm, now and then.

Have you ever wished that you could bring a character to life? If so, which one and why?

Yes! Gabriel (from Frigga’s Lost Army), and Aaron (from Passion’s Sacred Dance/Celtic Stewards Chronicles—or Isaac from Druid Warrior’s Heart). Because *sigh* they’re my favorite heroes of my bunch. And Caitlin. Man, I’d love to have a best friend like her! J Oh. Wait. I do, actually.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

They do! So please, if you enjoyed the book, put a review up saying so! (Amazon’s temperamental algorithms aside) It’s important to know our work is being loved—and “word of mouth” helps spread the word to others you think might enjoy the book. And hearing you loved our books can really brighten a writer’s day.

What genre have you never written in that you’d like to try?

 I’d like to try writing a proper cozy mystery. J

Have you ever started out to write one book and ended up with something completely different?

Actually, funnily enough, I had a science fantasy series I was writing, back in 2000 and when friends got hold of it they said it was romance. That was a total knock me over with a feather” moment, let me tell ya!

Do you know anyone who has ever received any auto DM on Twitter (with a link) who was happy about it?

Depends on the link. If it’s a book link and it sounds interesting, I might look anyway. What I really hate? Those auto-verification tweets. Gah! Please, people, turn that stuff off. I also am perplexed by comments that don’t show up because the commenter marks his account private. I haven’t figured those out yet.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

I love lasagna and …well, Italian food. Least favorite? Yucca.

Have you ever played a practical joke on a friend? Ever had one played on you?

 My little brother used to throw plastic spiders at me, now and then. Does that count?

Care to brag about your family?

 They’re the best. Always been very supportive of my work. J

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

 I’d love to be able to paint. Like, really represent life with a brush and oils. When I try to draw or paint, it all comes out like …well? What’s it called? Outsider art. Very amateur. So my main “plastic” art medium (outside writing) is photography. But yeah, I’d love to be able to paint.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

Junior year in high school. J Because that’s when I met my husband.

If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?

 Books!! And maybe it’d be nice to have a greenhouse, an extra bathroom…

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

 Excalibur would be my favorite movie. Favorite book? Elric of Melniboné or The Warhound and The World’s Pain (both by the fantasy author Michael Moorcock). After that, I’d say the Welsh tome The Mabinogion.

Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. This was years ago, so I don’t remember why, right now. A shame because we’d loved Christopher Lambert in Highlander, but Legend of Tarzan was very dull to us, I do remember that.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

 I’ve been collecting way too many tarot decks lately, for a non-professional reader. It’s the art thing.:)

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Agree to disagree, and practice “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” That would help, for a start.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

 Believe it or not, I love it when my garden does well. And ravens make me smile. I always get excited when I hear or see one outside.

CONNECT WITH JULI:

Website

Newsletter

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Createspace (paperbacks)

Itunes

Audible (for audiobooks)

Instagram

Patreon

CHAT WITH SUZY HENDERSON

Suzy Henderson was born in the North of England and initially pursued a career in healthcare, specialising as a midwife. Years later she embarked upon a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. That was the beginning of a new life journey, rekindling her love of writing and her passion for history. With an obsession for military and aviation history, she began to write.

Suzy is a member of The Alliance of Independent Authors and the Historical Novel Society and her debut novel, The Beauty Shop, was released in November 2016.

Time to chat with Suzy!

What is your latest book?

Having released my debut novel in November 2016, The Beauty Shop, I’m now writing the next book that I hope to release early 2018. Once again, it’s historical fiction, set mainly in France and covers the mid-1930s to 1944. I’m frantically in the middle of rewrites and edits, and as usual, my main character is shaping the story her way.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

Great question. I think it’s fair to say that the historical fiction genre chose me. It all began with my passion for history, mainly military history. Of course, like so many people, there is also a family connection to both world wars, with grandparents, great grandparents and great uncles who served in both conflicts. It’s such a fascinating period, rich in undiscovered and little-known stories and with such remarkable people. I’d like to think that those of us who create within this genre are helping to keep history alive as well as providing exceptional stories for readers.

When I first encountered the story of the Guinea Pig Club – a club for severely burned airmen, and the plastic surgeon who cared for them, I knew I had to write it. I find that I’m drawn to such real people in history – what drives them to do what they do. I’m intrigued by their choices in life and going in search of the answers often uncovers many intriguing facts. For me, I wanted to know what led Archibald McIndoe to do what he did for the burned and injured airmen in his care. Why did he engage pretty girls for his ward, encourage relationships between nurse and patient, allow beer to be freely available and so many other things? His methods were unorthodox, raised many eyebrows and caused many problems within the hospital establishment.

He battled many people to get his own way, which in his mind was the only way. His objective was simple. The men in his care faced a lifetime of ridicule, discrimination and the loss of a previous way of life. He had to change people, society, and attitudes to disability and disfigurement and of course, this is an ongoing issue although times are improving gradually, thanks to people like Archie McIndoe. For a young, handsome pilot to have his whole life ahead of him one day and to feel almost finished the next when his entire face has been burned away, is simply unimaginable and so I found myself compelled to delve into the archives in search of a story. Hence The Beauty Shop was born. The title was the nickname for Archie’s ward at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead. As the men used to say, “it’s where they send you to make you up again.”

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

It happens all the time, irrespective of how well I’ve planned each chapter. Just when I think I know where I’m heading, a character takes me on a little detour and it’s always interesting and often useful, becoming an integral part of the story. Usually, it’s my main characters who quite literally take over and re- shape the story, as has happened with my current book, and I found myself having to do further research, covering an area I hadn’t envisaged at all, although I’m so glad of it.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I think I prefer the editing stage, which may seem odd. Planning and writing the first draft is enjoyable but equally frustrating, especially when the writing is not flowing. Things don’t always go to plan as characters have a way of evolving during the written stage, and sometimes more research is required, which hinders my writing. Once I have the complete draft, the real work begins, and that’s the greatest stage for me. I enjoy the shaping and fine polishing phase, but I must admit I’m not so keen on proofreading.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

The title is not important right at the beginning just as long as I have one in time for the design of the book cover. As for endings, well I do like to have the beginning, the middle and some idea of the end at the planning stage, but like everything, it’s always open to change. Right now, I have three alternative endings for my current book.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

The cover is vital – it’s the first thing people will notice in the book store or the Kindle store on Amazon. It must fit your story, look fantastic, and it should stand out. It’s all part of grabbing the reader’s attention. Often, it’s the cover you spot before you read the title, author’s name and certainly any blurb. I’m not a graphic designer or an artist and certainly not competent enough to design my own covers, so I have a professional to do that.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I know many writers who edit as they go, but I simply can’t do it. For me, having tried this, I found it broke my flow and hindered my writing. I prefer to draft and then rewrite and edit afterwards. The first draft is like a free write in a sense – like turning on a tap and going with the flow. I feel it’s where the true story emerges from, and I have no wish to interrupt that.

Do you have any secrets for effective time management?

I wish I did and I’ve concluded that I need to know how to freeze time – that would be incredibly useful but alas I have no superpowers. I think that social media can so easily become a huge drain on your time, especially while you’re at the initial writing stage. I’ve found that I must be strict and limit my time there. I write when I’m most productive which is early mornings and in the evenings. I generally find myself multi-tasking, and I try to keep up with social media during non-writing periods, perhaps when cooking dinner or watching TV. I’ve also begun taking regular breaks away from social media that not only frees up more time but allows you to ‘recharge your batteries’ so to speak. Living in social media can become quite stressful and we all need an occasional rest. You must do what’s right and what works for you at the end of the day.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

Oh, for me it most definitely came later in life. I can recall being in English class and having to write stories about our summer holidays or suchlike and I hated it. The problem for me was that I loved reading, and enjoyed stories, but when it came to English studies, my imagination took a vacation! Maybe I’m one of life’s ‘late bloomers’. One benefit of this happens to be life experience. I have so much more now in my fourth decade than I did in my second for instance and it’s a useful tool that influences and shapes my writing.

Do you dread writing a synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

I absolutely dread writing the synopsis, which is so ridiculous! The synopsis is essential if you’re pitching your book to agents and publishers. That said, even if you’re self-publishing it’s useful and assists with writing your book blurb for one thing. It sums up your entire book, so if you know what you’re writing about, it shouldn’t be a problem. One benefit of writing the synopsis, I’ve found, is that it identifies any ambiguity and helps you to iron out any niggles with your story and plot.

Have you been involved with the Kindle Direct Program? If yes, do you believe it’s worthwhile?

I’m currently enrolled in KDP, and I believe it is worthwhile even though it means I can’t sell my e-book anywhere else for the duration. However, the benefit of the higher royalty rate and the Kindle lending library perhaps makes up for this. Like many writers I’ve discovered that I get many Kindle reads via the library which is fantastic to see my book being widely read around the world.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Sometimes, maybe just a little. I’m probably like many writers in that I observe and listen to people. It’s impossible not to overhear conversations at times, and it’s fascinating to do so. So, the bottom line is that as a writer I’m always collecting information to use later. Sometimes a character may be based on an actor even – I do find movies to be a rich resource and a great writing tool and even the actors themselves, after all, they’re people. There is also a little of myself in my books, which happens to be unavoidable.

If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?

I would make it a writing room specifically for me so I would have it furnished like a library, with shelves from floor to ceiling filled with books. I’d have my desk, a comfy armchair and a treadmill in the corner – keep fit while I’m creating – I’m a multi-tasker! Perhaps I’d have a coffee-maker too and a lovely wood-burning stove for winter.

What music soothes your soul?

I love music, and I particularly enjoy jazz and classical which I find to be very soothing. Also, different songs or classical pieces fit different pieces of writing and often help set the mood and even aid creativity. It’s amazing how that works and I must say it’s not often that I write without music.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

Well, here in the UK I’m a long-time fan of a show called Emmerdale. I also love Only Fools and Horses that finished ages ago, so I watch the re-runs. Just recently I discovered the hype over Outlander and became hooked. I watched all the available episodes and am now right up to date and about to begin watching Season 3 – can’t wait!

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I always longed to play the piano but never had the opportunity to learn. Now my youngest son is taking lessons and is becoming quite accomplished. I keep asking him to teach me, and he does try, but I seem to be a slow learner! I used to play the flute, and I can read music, write music even, but learning to play the piano seems to be out of my grasp. It’s going to take time and perseverance.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in Cumbria, right near the top, so I’m within easy reach of the Scottish borders. We have lakes, mountains, literary connections such as Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter and many fabulous walks. Add to that the rich Roman heritage, Roman Forts and Hadrian’s Wall – it’s an inspiring landscape for many an artist.

If I had to move, I’d hope to relocate to either Lincolnshire or Cambridge in the UK simply because it’s ‘bomber county’ where many of the RAF and USAAF bomber bases were during WW2. There are also many old airfields and aviation museums to visit. Aside from there, I’d probably choose somewhere in the south of France. I love the French language, something I excelled in during my school years – I did far better in French than in English!

Thank you so much for inviting me here today, Lisette. I had fun answering the questions, and it has been an honour. I’d also like to say a massive thank you to all who have read my book. Lest we forget.

CONNECT WITH SUZY

Universal Book Link for The Beauty Shop

Blog

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Google+

CHAT WITH JULIE ELIZABETH POWELL

She cannot ignore her dreams, so many of them, with names and places and ideas that spark her imagination and compel her to write; to create stories, whether fantasy or horror, or mystery or psychological thriller or murder or even humour and adventure. So, her garden is sown, flourishing, with all manner of growth, and still the dreams come.

Julie Elizabeth Powell, her soul lingering within her imagination; maybe you’ll join her?

Time to chat with Julie!

What is your latest book?

My current work is called, Maisie, a fantasy about a blind girl – that’s it, no more clues. It’s a novel which keeps growing, so I’m now becoming desperate to have the first draft completed. As always, it’s the characters who dictate what happens.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

I have written stories in various lengths and genres. I like to write short stories because ideas come through dreams and I must write them. I don’t always know how long the story will be. The greatest challenge? I suppose it’s making the characters intriguing, believable and relatable, which is vital to any story. And to keep the reader guessing and wanting more.

Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?

I first started writing seriously about 20 years ago, so I used my married name. I have since remarried but continue to use the other as a pen name because it would be too difficult to change it all now. I also like to use my middle name; hence, Julie Elizabeth Powell. No, present hubby does not mind and encourages me to write.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

I love writing fantasy because I can allow my imagination to soar. My first book, Gone is a fantasy and it had to be so because of the subject matter.

After my daughter, Samantha, died from her heart stopping at the age of two, she was resuscitated and left severely brain damaged. She survived for seventeen years; her body a suffering shell, waiting for death. During that waiting time I had a question: Where had my daughter gone? Because what had made her who she was – her essence – had been wiped clean, no longer able to know me or anything around her.

So I created a world and went in search of her. Gone is the result. It is not a depressing read but tackles many issues such as loss, guilt, fear and so on, but it is also about hope and has been called a fairytale for adults.

The world I created (Avalon and the Star Realm), was so good that I couldn’t let it go to waste so wrote The Star Realm (for a younger audience maybe and yet…). However, the story became so big that I had to divide into a trilogy. #1 The Star Realm, #2 Invasion, #3 Secrets Of The Ice. It’s an epic fantasy adventure, while tackling a variety of issues such as loss, the dangers to the planet Earth, friendship and more.

I do write in many genres, including paranormal, crime, psychological, humour, mystery, adventure, for adults and children(ish)and non-fiction because I like to challenge my writing and I’d become bored if I could only write one thing. However, fantasy will always be my favourite due to the fact that I don’t have to follow any rules and can make it up as I go – such pleasure.

Whatever I choose to write must be meaningful.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Some. I think my characters are the sum total of me and everyone I’ve known and those strangers I see in passing, including dreams. They pop into my head from dreams or even while shopping at the supermarket.

Henry Ian Darling, for example, came to me in a dream, but did not remind me of anyone specifically. He is an amazing character and can be found in the Weird series.

I hear you have some very exciting news! Can you share it with us?

Hopefully, my new novel will surprise readers. It’s something I’ve not tried before and though it’s complex to write, it won’t be to read. There are many characters (as there are in the majority of my books) with all manner of threads to tie in.

I’ve also begun the next missive in the Weird: A Henry Ian Darling Oddity series. This will be missive four and again something way out of my comfort zone.

I’m also compiling stories that I’ve written for the Mind’s Eye series, so to produce collections of the same genre. Just in case folks haven’t read the series, I thought it may be good to bring them into several volumes.

There are many others stories in the pipeline but I have only so many hours a day in which to write.

I have video book trailers for most of my books, in addition most can be found as audiobooks, too.

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

Come, Join My Imagination.

What else have you written?

So far, I have written 25 books, some novels, one epic trilogy, short stories, collections and one non-fiction. Slings & Arrows is the factual account of what happened to my daughter, Samantha, and why I wrote Gone. FYI – I could not write Slings & Arrows until after my daughter’s second and final death at the age of nineteen after suffering for seventeen years.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

That we are unprofessional and sloppy! I can’t speak for all independent authors, but in my case, although I can’t afford an editor or designer etc. my work is as professional as it can be. I work very hard to make sure it is. Yes, there may be typos (but then I’ve never read a book without one, even those from the traditional houses with expensive eyes), however, I am constantly re-reading and trying to catch those pesky gremlins.

I design all my own covers and think they are great! I write and edit and proofread (hate that most of all because it’s so difficult). I am useless at marketing!

I read many, many books, mainly from the independent pool (and self-published) and overall, I think there are good. Some are poorly edited and sloppy and occasionally a story is just awful – but that is in the minority. I also review everything I read; unless it’s so bad then I won’t because I will not destroy dreams with negativity.

There is a difference between independent and self-published and I think most of us understand that – think small presses – but in my opinion, and from what I write and have read, the source of good writing does not always come from the traditional route.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

Ha, ha, ha! I am led by my characters. They are in charge and constantly surprise me – and annoy me. I may think a story is going one way but then they twist it and demand their own way.

This may sound crazy, however, it’s true.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love it when I’m ‘in the zone’, where the writing is flowing freely and I’m there in the story and nothing can stop me. There are so many distractions in life that it’s not always practical for me to write – busy, busy, busy – but when I do and when it carries me completely, it’s brilliant.

Sometimes the middle of a story, especially if it’s growing due to the characters telling me ‘go this way, not that’, I can get impatient. Nevertheless, listening to their voices is the only way to make the story the way it should be.

I don’t like having to check up on things too much – remembering things about what characters have said or done, so I do make notes if things are particularly complex.

I hate proofreading!

Many times, I’ve actually dreamed plot twists, character names, and many other tidbits that I’ve need for my WIP. Has this ever happened to you?

 Absolutely! Most of my stories and characters come to me through dreams. Ideas are sparked and I must write them. Short stories are usually the way I tackle those sparks unless they grow into something more. I don’t know that until I’m writing and it’s the characters that show me the way.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I usually write the story in order, although it does sometimes go back and forth in time. There are instances, however, that I need to write a particular scene so I don’t forget what I want to say later or the character prompts an idea; this is typed at the bottom of the story so that I can insert it when appropriate.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

Hmm, I don’t usually know the ending until I’m at certain phases of the book, because there are twists and turns where the characters lead. I do have a vague idea how I want things to end, but that doesn’t always work out. The title usually comes first, although not always.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I do like to get things down within the flow, and unless it’s some whopping error, I leave the editing until I’ve finished the first draft. But even then, different ideas come and whole scenes and chapters need to be changed.

What are some of the crazy things people have said to you upon learning you are an author? How have you responded?

I don’t know about crazy things, unless it is folks telling me I’m crazy (yep, true). However, I’ve been told that I’m wasting my time and that my writing is only a hobby unless I have a literary agent or publisher.

“Anyone can self-publish now, so it’s probably rubbish!”

Not many understand how important it is to me and it’s not a hobby.

What can I do but smile and shrug and continue to write?

How important is the choosing of character names to you? Have you ever decided on a name and then changed it because it wasn’t right for the character?

Characters usually choose their own names. Sometimes, I’ve found a suitable name, especially for a fantasy, but then it can change, as the character evolves. I do like to choose (if I’m allowed) names that are appropriate for the genre and story, but do try to find or create something original and stay away from clichés.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very well, while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

Luck! What else can it be? I consider my work to be great – well, if I don’t say it, who will? But I don’t sell many of my books. This could be down to poor marketing? I have read stories that are awful (not just independent) and yet they sell very well.

I am often puzzled as to why some of the most popular books are, um, popular. They are poorly written with awful storylines and wooden characters.

Yes, a conundrum.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Write if you want. Ignore naysayers. Don’t think you’ll make money. Only do it if it’s in your blood. Beware of clichés, although they can sometimes be used to your advantage. Be as professional as you can.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

Lulu was my first ‘publisher’. It was the first place that was available for self-publishers. It’s free and easy to use.

However, because fewer readers choose paperbacks (too expensive and bulky), I am glad that there are places for eBooks, such as Amazon’s Kindle. All my books are available as Kindle editions or print (and eBooks) on Lulu. Most of my books are now audiobooks through Audible. Draft2Digital also have my books listed.

I have tried all the relevant literary agents and publishers but always had similar replies – no new clients or not what we’re looking for….though what they are actually wanting is beyond me?

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

I use Facebook for three book pages and writing groups. I even have one of my own. I use Twitter to both advertise and post fun things and tweet for others and their books. I use Amazon to buy and review books. I am on Google+, Pinterest and a few other sites. I have two websites.

None really work for me as regards selling, though if I didn’t do anything, my sales would be zero instead of a few now and then.

I can be distracted with Facebook, but it is nice to ‘talk’ to others and have some fun. I like to help other authors.

I dislike hate speech regardless of the subject and think that Facebook should be curtailing such things.

Do you have any grammatical pet peeves to share?

The misuse of apostrophes! I wonder if anyone ever had an education when I see so many mistakes. Bad spelling is also on the rise. I know ‘text speak’ encourages bad spelling / grammar etc.   I often want to go around with a pen and put them right with a message: use apostrophes properly. It amazes me that advertisers spend so much on ‘posters’ and yet it’s either apostrophes in the wrong place or poor spelling or both. Yes, I think there should be the apostrophe police. 🙂

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

I love a story that pulls me into it so much that I don’t want to stop reading it. Characters are very important because if you can’t engage or relate then you don’t care what happens and that spoils the story. I also prefer stories that are ‘different’, with something that makes me think and wonder…and definitely meaningful.

Being a reviewer as well as an author, I am asked to read books I wouldn’t normally try, some are brilliant, while others are boring. I do not like formulaic stories or those that don’t have meaning. Strong language and sex scenes are okay if they are appropriate to the story.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

I don’t research, especially for fantasy as I make it up, but if I need ‘facts’ or verification, then I will check on the Internet. It really depends on the genre. I think that’s why I wouldn’t write a historical novel, for example, due to the massive amount of research I’d have to do.

Do you have any secrets for effective time management?

Ha!!! Nope. No time management, just write when I can.

What would your dream writing space look like?

My dream writing space would be ultra tidy (everything having the perfect place) with plenty of room for note taking and boards on the walls for plots and character analysis. A wall of ‘real’ books. A top of the line PC – fast and efficient. Of course, the room would be silent except for the sound of typing. And a vast window that opened up to the sea for when I’d had enough for the day.

Dreams, eh?

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

Sometimes I do wonder if folks have actually read my book, as the points they make are nothing like the story. At others, I’m amazed at the compliments.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

I think I type fast. Unlike a typewriter, however, it’s great that I can easily correct errors. Most of the time though, my mind is far too fast for my fingers so it can be frustrating – and it doesn’t help that I can forget what I wanted to write if I don’t get it down fast enough.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I have written a non-fictional account of what happened to my daughter, Samantha, called Slings & Arrows. I have also played with poetry, some of which is included in short story collections (Figments and Expressions) while others can be found at the end of some stand-alone short stories.

Do you feel your latest book is your personal favorite or one of your previous novels?

To me, my most important book will always be Gone. Yes, it was written because of a true event, but I also think it will help others, too. It will always be my personal favourite. Nevertheless, each book is central to my mind at the time of writing.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

There is nothing you can do but ignore the bad stuff, except maybe you could learn from it. Don’t let negativity stop you doing what you love. Negative reviews may shake your confidence but in the end it’s up to you to move forward and write in the way you think is best for you.

Many authors do giveaways; have you found them a successful way to promote your book?

I have had many giveaways over the years without much feedback. I rarely get reviews but when I do they are positive (mostly). All my books are 99p /99c and two are free, so I can’t do much more than that. I offer promo codes for my audiobooks, too, but even then I don’t always get reviews from it.

I hope to get my work ‘out there’ and then maybe…? Luck?

Have you been involved with the Kindle Direct Program? If yes, do you believe it’s worthwhile?

If you mean are my books available as Kindle editions, then yes, they all are. Yes, it’s worthwhile because there’d be no sales otherwise. I don’t use Select anymore because of the restrictions. But they have allowed two of my books (The Star Realm #1 Avalon Trilogy and Weird: A Henry Ian Darling Oddity: Missive One) to be permafree.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

I suppose it is important, as it’s the first thing folks see when choosing a book. I try not to take any notice when I’m choosing and prefer to look at the sample of writing to decide. Having said that, I usually stay clear of the ‘bare chest’ stuff, as it’s usually some insipid romance with maybe sex scenes thrown in for titillation. I can’t see the point of those stories. Although, I have read some and they’ve been okay because the storyline and writing has been good.

I design all my own covers. I love to do it; it’s enjoyable and creative but still connected to my writing. I think they’re great! J

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

They control me!

How would you define your style of writing?

Into the minds of the characters. Action above too much description. What – Difference – Consequences. In that, what is happening, reaction to that event, what difference will it make and what are the consequences.

No formulas, no rules, thought-provoking.

A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are? What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?

Reviews are vital, especially in today’s world because others usually make choices on what others say. I like to make up my own mind, and nothing should be banned. Amazon is making it difficult for authors to secure reviews due to their new policies, which, from what I’ve learned, is rather hypocritical. I don’t believe in paying for reviews and would never do so, nor would I ever take money for one. I am honest – even if I sometimes struggle to find something positive to say (if it’s too bad, I won’t review). Traditional houses (I’ve read) do pay for reviews and yet Amazon is supposed to be frowning on such behaviour.

I would say to readers – please review honestly, but if you can be kind that would be a plus. All reviews matter and thank you for your time. To trolls, I would say – yukkity yuk!

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

In the years of our lives

We can choose one of two paths

To be honest and true

Or harness the selfish

Ways of greed

 

Whatever you decide

Will be your reward.

But beware of your choices

For you never know who

Is watching.


Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

 I live in the south of England. If I had the choice (and money), I would live in Florida.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I have met Tinker Bell and have her autograph. Such fun!

What makes you angry?

Greed, selfishness and unkindness.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

The Walking Dead, Major Crimes, Prison Break

 What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

Film – Legend (and anything magical)

Book – (not fair there are many) – um, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Be kind, give not take and read!

Thank you, Lisette, for allowing me on your site.

Thanks to everyone who reads my books – reviews always welcome 🙂

Oh, yes, if you’ve found those gremlins, kick them out!

CONNECT WITH JULIE

Website

Amazon U.S.

Amazon U.K.

Audible U.K.

Audible U.S.

Twitter

Lulu

Goodreads

Google+

Save

Save

Save

CHAT WITH REGINA PUCKETT

Regina Puckett writes sweet, contemporary and Regency romance, horror, inspirational, steampunk, picture books and poetry. There are always several projects in various stages of completion and characters and stories waiting in the wings for their chance to finally get out of her head and onto paper.

Time to chat with Regina!

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

A good book cover is the first thing that attracts a reader to a book, so it’s extremely important to choose a good one. As a reader, it’s what I look at first. As a writer, I love looking through photos to find the perfect one for my books. I’ve even written a couple of my books because I found a photo I loved so much I knew it had to have its very own story.

Do you have complete control over your characters or do they ever control you?

All of my characters control me. I begin each book with a general idea of what the story is going to be about, and then I let my characters take me through each chapter until the end. I’ve tried having everything plotted out, but my characters always say or do something that changes the book’s direction. I’ve discovered that it is easier to let them have the control from the very beginning. It saves me from having a few headaches and loads of regret.

What is your latest book?

I Close My Eyes is my latest book and is my first attempt at writing a historical romance. Regency romance is the hardest genre I have ever tackled. It took so much research. I thought I could just jump in and begin writing, but before I could write the first line, I had to figure out the type of clothes my characters would wear and how they would address each other in conversation. I had never dealt with using titles before so I stayed baffled for nearly the entire book about when I should say The Duke or Lord Such and Such. Even after I figured that out, I still had to research a million other little things I had never had to think about before.

Fortunately, my editor was able to catch the gaffes I missed. Although I may have driven the poor man to drink by the end of the editing process, I’m pleased to say that even though my American ways didn’t mix well with English society, Clive agreed to edit the next book in the series, Closed Hearts. Book two should be ready for release by the 1st of June. At the moment I’m writing book three, Enclosed in this Heart. You never know, I may get good at this Regency thing yet.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

In a shorter story the biggest challenge is creating characters the readers can become invested in. If you can’t do that, then you’ve failed. The reader should want your characters to find their happy-every-after or for them to die that miserable death they so deserve. Making that happen is easier with a novel. A longer story offers plenty of opportunities for you to write the scenes that grab a reader’s heart. When writing a short story, it’s important to reveal your character’s good traits and flaws early on. Those are the things that people can relate to and make it feel as if your characters are real – breathing people.

Saying all of that, I’ve written several short stories and have discovered that they are easier to write than a full length novel. Over the years my attention span has shortened. I love wrapping it all up in a few days instead of the usual months it takes to write a novel.

There’s an ever-growing market for short stories. Time is so precious, so readers want something they can read in thirty minutes or less.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

 I write in several genres, so I guess I choose the genres instead of them choosing me. I like jumping out of my comfort zone and trying new styles of writing. It always starts out with the thought – I wonder if I can do that? Once that thought takes hold, I have to try. My first love was writing romance but I have discovered by trying new things that horror can be just as rewarding to write. It gives me a chance to take a peep at my dark side.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

I’m a people watcher, so my characters are bits and pieces of everyone I’ve ever seen or met. A lot of me winds up in my books, because I know what makes me tick better than I do anyone else. My bad characters are based on everything I dislike about other people, and I take the chance that’s what other people dislike too.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

People assume indie authors aren’t good enough to be published by a traditional publisher. I’ve gone the traditional route but I like the freedom of making my own decisions. I can pick my own book covers and choose the best editor. It also gives me the freedom to switch back and forward between horror, romance, steampunk, poetry and children’s picture books at will.

Of course it, all comes at a price. Everything falls on my shoulders – paying for the book covers, editor and promotions. If I fail, I can’t blame anyone but myself. Some days it’s all a little overwhelming but it’s also very rewarding. I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

My characters surprise me all the time. In Songs that I Whisper, Suzette warned Bill to not to slip up and reveal to her mother that they had once been arrested. I’m like – what? It took me two weeks to figure out the reason for their arrest. It had to be something minor but bad enough to get the two of them hauled in by the police. It would have been so much easier to delete that entire conversation, but I thought it added an interesting morsel for the readers to savor.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I like the beginning and the end. It’s always so much fun introducing new characters and I love the excitement of wrapping their story up. Writing the words the end means that once again I have won the battle. Everything in between those two things can be just plain old, hard work.

A longer piece keeps me in my characters heads for months. I feel every emotion they feel. That means that I’m happy when they’re happy and sad when they’re sad. I have to constantly think about how each person reacts to each and every situation. The process can be exhausting. There are nights I can’t sleep because my characters won’t shut up. Those conversations can be a curse and a blessing. I know when my characters are finally talking to each other that the book is going to be good. Unfortunately, all of that talking only means that I’m going to lose some much-needed sleep.

The truth is that I wouldn’t trade my life with anyone else.

Many times, I’ve actually dreamed plot twists, character names, and many other tidbits that I’ve need for my WIP. Has this ever happened to you?

The first book to be written because of a dream was Concealed in My Heart. I didn’t get up the next morning and write the book, but daydreamed about it for the next two years until the story got too big to stay in my head. The latest book to benefit from my going to sleep was A Man Called Rat. I was three fourths into writing the book when I realized the plot wasn’t going to work. I had been writing for months and it looked as if I might have to trash the whole project. Too disgusted to do anything else, I took a nap. When I woke up, I knew how to fix the hole in my plot. A dream didn’t necessarily help in that case, but resting my overworked brain did.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Someone I can trust.

What makes you angry?

I used to never get worked up about anything, but the older I get, the more things get on my nerves. I’m a little crankier and a whole more snappier than I used to be. I can just imagine that I’m going to be that crazy old lady who smacks you with her cane if you get too close.

What music soothes your soul?

 I enjoy listening to all types of music and love listening to it whenever I’m writing. I can be annoying though, because I usually play the same song over and over again. There’s nothing better than a sweet love song.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

I have enjoyed watching NCIS since the beginning of the series, but this year a new show took over that top spot, Lethal Weapon. I’m ashamed to say that I also love all of the Housewives’ shows on Bravo. There’s nothing like a little of backstabbing and a lot of bickering to put your own life into perspective.

 

CONNECT WITH REGINA

Amazon Author Page

Website

Goodreads

Google+

Pinterest

Twitter

Facebook

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

WordPress

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

BRANDING: a guest blog by Ace Antonio Hall

 

 

Recently, I spoke at StokerCon at the Queen Mary in Long Beach and the Sisters-in-Crime conference in Sacramento, about developing your brand. There are some key elements into doing that. They include writing a strong bio, creating an interesting personality on social media, having a professional headshot of yourself, and mastering an overall tone that marries you with your books.

Biography

First, and foremost, it should be written in third person. I’ve seen many, and when I fist started wrote mine in first person, but when sending out to professional publications, and organizations, please, please, please, keep your biography in third person.

Secondly, the length of the bio is also important. In the age of hurry up and wait, our attention spans have shortened considerably. Most writers I’ve come across are the best skimmers in the world. It’s why my good friend, and President of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (GLAWS) always barks that writers don’t read. In itself, that’s a conundrum. We read to inhale, and write to exhale. The entire process of reading work, and then writing our own is how most writers breathe creativity.

A professional bio can be up to three paragraphs of four to five sentences each. However, most publishers and literary agents prefer one short paragraph in a query for them to review your work.

Just as the rule of thumb (before you master writing and can break the rules) is that you never, ever use adjectives and adverbs in your novels and short stories. That also applies for your bio. Gimmicks or adjectives about how incredible your story is, won’t impress, but rather turn off the reader of your bio.

If possible, include your achievements in one or two sentences, tops. Of course, if you’ve published in one or two major print publications, include that, but if there are many, then summarize your body of work in a sentence that best details it. Always include any awards your books or novels have won. Some authors like to keep a humorous tone to their biography, and that’s fine. Personally, I feel that if it reflects your writing, it’s appropriate. If not, subtly match the tone of your writing. Branding yourself means continuity.

Social Media

For this, I only have one rule: Never argue with anyone on social media. Additionally, when I had dinner with Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Robert J. Sawyer, a couple of months ago, Jerry said to me that its better to not talk about your books as much as keeping the focus on you. “The more interesting your life,” he said to me, “the more you can expect to sell books.” I try not to spam everyone with my work, but that’s a hard one. It’s why it’s truly better to do book and blog tours; the word of mouth is spread by others.

Professional Headshot

Please spend a few bucks at Sears (so sad, so many are closing) or hire a professional photographer at no more than $150, and get yourself a good headshot. I’m so tired of seeing writers’ photos of them on their websites and promotional swag of them in front of a garden with their cat, or somewhere where clearly, everyone knows he or she used their iPhone and a few Instagram filters to deliver that less-than-professional picture. Continuity is key so match the tone of your book with your look. This is branding. Even if you write about gardens and cats, get your pics done professionally. Writing is not only something you do, it’s your business. Invest time and money into your writing business and stamp your brand on the world.

****************

Ace Antonio Hall (born July 4th, 1966) is an American urban fantasy and horror writer. He is best known as the creator of Sylva Slasher, a teenage zombie slasher who also raises the dead for police investigations, which includes novels and short story collections. He was born in New York, but grew up in Jacksonville, Florida with his grandmother, Sula G. Wells. He is the youngest son of artist and jazz songwriter, Christopher Hall and RN Alice Hall (Thomas). A former Director of Education for NYC schools and the Sylvan Learning Center, Hall earned a BFA from Long Island University. While teaching English, he studied to be a certified ACE personal trainer with the Equinox Fitness Club one summer, but never pursued it professionally. Hall currently lives in Los Angeles with his bonsai named Bonnie.

Just published:

Amazon: Lord of the Flies: Fitness for Writers

Twitter

Facebook

 

WHY ISN’T MY BOOK SELLING by Sarah E. Boucher

Why Isn’t My Book Selling?!?

Authors are prone to what I like to call Extra Special Writer Freak Outs.

It’s understandable. People have only been LYING to us all of our lives. (Trust me, I’m a fairytale writer, I know all about carefully crafted falsehoods.) The problem is that few successful authors take the time to debunk the myths about book publishing.

So my darlings, that’s where I come in. I’m a second-time author and a full-time educator and it will be MY pleasure to share the Dirty Dark Secrets of the publishing process with you. The following is for a) newbie authors, or b) those who are completely delusional about the publishing process, like I was.

Dirty Dark Secret 1: Success is a direct result of hard work. Gone are the days when publishing ONE book resulted in instant popularity and millions of dollars. (Okay, unless you’re really, really lucky.) Most writers only become successful after they have produced and released a number of books. Much like childbirth, birthing your novel is just the beginning of the process.

Quite simply, if you’re not doing anything your novel probably isn’t either.

Dirty Dark Secret 2: Most of the marketing and promotion will fall to you. We’ve all heard of elaborate book tours and publishing houses using their immense influence to promote books. But big publishing houses are highly selective in the books they accept for publication. And if current trends continue, even traditionally published authors will be responsible for the lion’s share of marketing, sales, and book promotion.

If tackling marketing and promotion seems daunting, just remember than indie authors do all it the time. You will survive!

Dirty Dark Secret 3: The learning curve is pretty steep. Marketing isn’t easy. Add sales and book promotion to that and you may be ready to hug your laptop to your chest while rocking and crying at the same time. But no one’s book deserves to sit in the dark. (Okay, some people’s books deserve to sit in the dark. Possibly forever.) If you can afford it, there are people out there who will handle marketing and promotion for you. But if you’re like me, your marketing budget is pretty slim. However, if you’re brave enough (and/or stubborn enough) to educate yourself, you can conquer anything.

Whether you have lots, little, or no experience, there are plenty of resources out there to help you. Put those big brains to work!

Dirty Dark Secret 4: Connection is key. Most writers tend to be introverts. News flash, that won’t fly if you want people to know about your books. Pull up your big girl/boy pants, put on your best smile, and prep that book blurb, baby! Then kindly and respectfully connect with bloggers, readers, reviewers, shopkeepers, and librarians both online and in person.

Building a support group will take time. Be genuine and be prepared to swap favors.

The Dirty Dark Secrets revealed above may come as a blow to anyone who has big dreams of publishing. Especially if you have no solid plans to back them up.

This is the moment when I should tell you something inspirational, like:

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

—Eleanor Roosevelt

But I’m not going to do that. Because if dreaming what you want, you’d better go back to bed and let the rest of us get on with it.

Instead of reciting pleasant platitudes, I’m going to remind you of the following:

You are a WRITER. You make up entire worlds and paint them so vividly that others can live in them as well. And you’ll do it over and over and over again until your mind or your body grows too weak to continue. Don’t be afraid of hard work. There are as many amazing vistas before you as there are behind you.

And hey, I don’t know about you, but I’m in this for the long haul. If I can do it, you can too.

About the author:

Sarah E. Boucher is a lover of fairy stories, romance, anything BBC and Marvel, and really, really cute shoes. On weekdays she wears respectable shoes and serves as Miss B., the Queen of Kindergarten. On school holidays she writes stories about romance and adventure. And wears impractical super cute shoes.

Sarah is a graduate of Brigham Young University. She lives and works in northern Utah. Her novels include Becoming Beauty and Midnight Sisters. Visit Sarah at SarahEBoucher.com or connect with her on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

 

 

 

Save

Save

CHAT WITH LINNEA TANNER

Linnea Tanner passionately reads about ancient civilizations and mythology which hold women in higher esteem. Of particular interest are the enigmatic Celts who were reputed as fierce warriors and mystical Druids. Depending on the time of day and season of the year, you will find her exploring and researching ancient and medieval history, mythology and archaeology to support her writing. A native of Colorado, Linnea attended the University of Colorado and earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry.

Time to chat with Linnea!

What is your latest book? Is your recent book part of a series?

My debut book is Apollo’s Raven, was released on April 10th. It is a tale that follows two star-crossed lovers and weaves Celtic mythology into a backdrop of ancient Rome and Britannia. In a story of forbidden love and loyalty, the Celtic Warrior Princess Catrin is caught in a political web of deception when the emperor Tiberius demands allegiance from her father, King Amren.

Catrin is drawn by the magnetic pull she feels for Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, who stands in the shadow of his scandalous forefathers. When King Amren takes Marcellus as a hostage, he demands that Catrin spy on him. As she falls in love, she discovers a cure that foretells a future she desperately wants to break. Torn between her forbidden love for the enemy and loyalty to her people, Catrin urgently calls upon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that looms over her.

The historical fiction/epic fantasy is the first book in the Apollo’s Raven series. The series was inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony but with a Celtic twist. The epic series spans from 24 AD when Catrin and Marcellus first meet to 40 AD just prior to Emperor Claudius’ invasion.

Some authors always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I write scenes both in and out of order. I usually start with a broad outline, but as I write the story, other threads in the plot develop and I may need to write others scene to make everything connect in a logical manner. When I write in multiple points of views, there are times when I write scenes out of order, so I can stay in one character’s head to play the basic plot. Sometimes, I surprise myself and can go in a completely different direction from what I had first planned. This provides twists to the plot.

How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?

My characters sometimes surprise me as I discover more about them when I’m writing the story. At first, I was hesitant to explore the inner essence of the heroine, Catrin, in Apollo’s Raven. She has a darker side that broils to the surface whenever she must overcome life-threatening situations. Her biggest fear is that she could abuse her powers and transform into someone evil like her half-brother, Marrock. Conversely, I added more depth and back story to Marrock, so a reader could relate to him and understand his vile deeds.

Characters must ultimately act consistently according to their true natures and background. Nothing they do should come as a shock to the reader.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

The title of my book was important to me, because it conveys an image taken from both Roman and Celtic mythology. In the writing process, I am open to changing any part of the story that I had originally planned. Twists in the plot come from moments when I ask myself, “What if I did this instead of that.” When a “wild idea” flashes in my mind, I usually go for it, as it comes from a deeper core of my creativity.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

In preparation for the series, I did extensive research on the history, mythology, and archeological findings of 1st Century Britain before the Roman invasion in 43 AD. A major challenge researching the Celts is they passed down their history and mythology through oral traditions. Most of my research had to be gleaned from the biased accounts of Greek and Roman historians, medieval writers who spun Celtic mythology to fit their Christian beliefs, and archaeological interpretation. I also visited many areas in the United Kingdom and France that are described in my series. I’ve hiked over 12 miles over the white cliffs of Dover so I could catch first-hand what my characters are experiencing when Apollo’s Raven first opens.

In the story, I wanted to capture the essence of the Celtic noble warrior society. The Greek historian Poseidonius writes, “The Celts engage in single combat at dinner. Assembling in arms, they engage in mock battle drill and mutual thrust and parry, sometimes inflicting wounds.”

In my research, I discovered southeast Britannia evolved differently than Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. After Julius Caesar’s military expeditions to the region in 55 – 54 BC, Rome strongly influenced the internal politics and trading of southeast Britannia. Many of the rulers were educated in Rome as hostages and adopted the empire’s taste for luxuries. Several powerful Celtic kings expanded their territories by conquering other tribes.

There are written accounts that Celtic rulers pleaded for Rome’s help to intervene on their behalf. Recent archaeological findings support a Roman military presence that protected areas of Britannia vital to trading with the empire before Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. Of note, Shakespeare’s play, Cymbeline, is based on the Celtic King Cunobelin whom the Romans referred as the King of Britannia. One of the plot points in the play is Roman forces invade to restore tribute that Britannia ceased to pay. The play was likely based on oral traditions or medieval accounts in which there were some historical accuracy.

My extensive research sets the stage for the Apollo’s Raven series which spans from 24 AD to 40 AD.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I work with a developmental editor and coach. His feedback gives me guidance on how to make the plot or characters’ motivations clearer. I then have a couple of trusted who provide further feedback. If there are any holes in the story, I have a chance to readjust or change sections of the plot as I proceed.

If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about?

It is my hope that I can write a book on how the Celtic tribal kingdoms evolved in southeast Britannia before the Claudius’ invasion in 43 AD. I’ve written several posts on my blog regarding the research I’ve done on the Celts. I would like to use this as a backbone for the book.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

My road to publication has had lots of twists and turns. After I retired from the pharmaceutical industry in 2010, I began writing the Apollo’s Raven series in earnest and drafted almost three books in two years. After receiving comments from agents and other writers on the first book, I realized that I needed to start the story earlier in Britannia and provide a more comprehensive background of the Celtic culture and mysticism. Thus, Apollo’s Raven is actually the fourth book that I wrote in the series.

With the dramatic changes in publishing, I decided to independently publish my series in 2016 instead of taking the traditional route. However, I wanted to make sure that the quality of my book would match that of traditional publishers. Thus, I worked with the AuthorU organization consisting of established authors and professionals in the publishing business dedicated to helping authors fulfill their dreams. On my journey, I’ve met wonderful writers, authors and other professionals who have generously provided advice and inspired me.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

The book cover design is the first impression that a potential reader has of your book. It needs to stand out from the other books and immediately draw a reader’s interest. Thus, I placed high priority on the design of my book, so it looks professionally done. I was very fortunate to work with a fabulous graphic designer who captured my vision of the book cover and designed the interior so it was easy to read.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

The qualities I most value are loyalty, honesty, sense of humor, compassion, and curiosity to learn more.

Care to brag about your family?

My greatest inspiration was my mother who raised five children after my father died. She held me to the highest standards, but allowed me to follow my dreams.

My husband, Tom, is my loyal and supportive soul-mate. He is the reason I believe in love at first sight and true love.

My daughter is the epitome of Catrin—tough-minded and athletic, but has a heart of gold.

My son demonstrated his loyalty and compassion by caring for his wife who died of cancer a few years back, but he gained new happiness by marrying again.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I finished my bachelor’s and master’s degrees after I married and had two children. I took lessons in flamenco dancing and crafted dried floral arrangements which I sold at an art market in Boulder, Colorado.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Be respectful of other’s beliefs and cultures.

Be open to new ideas or opinions

Learn from history and don’t repeat the same mistakes.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

I smile whenever I watch the wonderment on a baby’s face that a balloon can float while everything else falls on the ground.

CONNECT WITH LINNEA

 Website

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

LinkedIn

Pinterest

Google+

Goodreads

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save