CHAT WITH C.A. ASBREY

Chris Asbrey has lived and worked all over the world in the Police Service, Civil Service, and private industry, working for the safety, legal rights, and security of the public. A life-changing injury meant a change of course into contract law and consumer protection for a department attached to the Home Office. She has produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and written guides for the Consumer Direct Website. She acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog, and been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

She lives with her husband and two daft cats in Northamptonshire, England—for now. She’s moving to the beautiful medieval city of York.

Time to chat with Chris!

What is your latest book?

The Innocents is the first in a trilogy of 19th century murder mysteries. My detective is a female Pinkerton and she has the skills the real women who performed that role really had; she is up to date with the modern detective methods of 1868, conversant with the sciences of the day, feisty, clever, and an expert at accents and disguises. She is nobody’s sidekick and goes in alone to collect intelligence– just like the real women did. In the first book she is sent in to help bring in the most cunning thief in the country, who also happens to be as forward-thinking and as interested in science as she is – except he uses it to commit better crime. When he saves her life, she owes him and resolves to bring in the murderer of a family friend. They find their respective skills dovetail perfectly, but if they’re found working together he could be jailed and she could be ruined forever. Neither of them bargained for their growing attraction either.

Is your recent book part of a series?

‘The Innocents’ is most definitely part of a larger body of work. It’s the first of a trilogy, but if people like them there’ plenty of scope to keep them going if there’s a demand. Each book is a self-contained mystery with the larger universe of the characters providing an over-arching connection between the books. The third book is written and at editing stage, but there are plenty of trials I can still put the characters through yet.

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

I kinda do. I write under my married name and feature on social media under my maiden name for social interactions on line. I also write under initials. I don’t hide my gender, but it’s not immediately obvious when you look at the book cover.

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

It definitely chooses me. I’ve loved mysteries all my life and read them voraciously all my life. I joined the adult section of the library at ten and read about three a week for years. I love the fact that there are there are rules to writing a mystery, and the writer has to keep to them if the reader is to be able to play along. The story has to keep moving, all the clues need to be available and the plot needs to be convincing. The rules were set out in ‘The Detective Club’ which featured members such as Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterson, and E. C. Bentley. Not all the rules hold true today; for instance, “No Chinaman must figure in the story.” That is simply a ridiculous premise today. Agatha Christie broke another rule. “The detective must not himself commit the crime” but they still provide a framework for the modern mystery writer. The method of murdering the victim must be a robust and feasible technique and not invented or spurious. The motive for murder in a whodunit should be personal, and not an act of war or part of a professional hit. That takes the killing into a different genre of writing. I think that pushing the boundaries in the mystery have to be done by taking the reader with you. It’s a really interactive medium and a mental game.

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

He was wanted. She wanted him more than anyone else.

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

I love it when they do that. One minor character took over and grew into a major one. Another decided to kill herself and left me wondering how to write my way out of this one. When creativity starts to play it’s important to go with it. It makes for a far more interesting plot.

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

I do start with a title, but it can change as the story proceeds. For some reason I need a hook to hang the story on. The ending can definitely change, and often has. I need to keep track of clues, red herrings, characters, and even aliases, but somehow it all comes together. In some plots it’s vital to know the ending. The third book in the trilogy is a howdunit. We know who kills and why, but my characters have to prove how he kills in a case which stretches their forensic skills to the limit.

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 always re-read what I wrote the day before and edit as I go but when I finish, I re-read and edit as well as sending the book out to trusted friends and beta readers who not only edit, but would point out any plot holes and scenes which don’t work. That results in more edits until the manuscript is honed and exactly as I want it.

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

Oh, yes. I’m already thinking what will happen in the fourth as I promote the first.

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

Copious amounts. ‘The Innocents’ has taken years of research into the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. I research everything, even the stationary, or the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The theatrical make up, used as disguises in the book, began to flourish right around the period the books are set in. Lighting had improved and people could see the flaws in the rudimentary makeup used previously on stages lit by candles.

Greasepaint was invented in the 1860s by Ludwig Leichner, building on the work of Karl Freidrich Baudius (1796–1860) in the 1850s. Lighting also improved costumes and acting techniques. It drove a desire for more natural representations in every area, simply because people could see the stage more clearly. Crepe hair went out and quality wigs came in. Colors were mixed to mimic skin tones and classes in their application were popular in the acting profession. Latex wasn’t invented until 1920, but prior to that rubber was molded or even applied to a light fabric backing. When it was the right shape it was expertly painted to look exactly like a nose, dewlap, bald cap, or any other body part. I even researched whether someone with as much hair as the average Victorian woman could wear a short wig. The answer came from a young woman who enjoys cosplay—and she explains online how to pleat her long, thick hair and coil it flat under the cap before putting the short wig on. It absolutely IS possible.

The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched, right down to what shades of clothes were available at that time. I don’t want all that to become a lesson to the reader though. It should be a backwash, a setting in which the plot unfolds. I’m first and foremost a storyteller and I want to carry the reader with the tale and not have them worrying about whether something was available at the time or whether it was possible.

I do enjoy finding things which seem like anachronisms but were actually invented much earlier than people think, but I have my characters discuss these things so it’s clear I’ve done my homework. I have a blog where I detail the strange, obscure, and the things too mundane to be taught in history classes. I was very flattered to be told by another writer that they’d used it as a resource.

CONNECT WITH CHRIS:

Blog (all things obscure and strange in the Victorian period)

Facebook (The Innocent Mystery Series Group)

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon

Goodreads

CHAT WITH INGRID FOSTER

Fantasy Suspense Author Ingrid Foster lists Pennsylvania Farm Girl, Veteran, World Traveler and Desert Dweller among her many descriptors. Having written her first story when she was eight, she didn’t officially get the writing bug until January 2005. She currently lives in the Sonoran Desert with her husband and furry babies.

What is your latest book?

My Fantasy Suspense novel entitled My Father’s Magic just went into print and later this year I plan to publish my second book in the Esme Bohlin Suspense Series, Revenge of the Dark Queen.

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

It chose me. My Instructor at Long Ridge Writer’s Group, Lynne Smith, told me after reading Fresh Meat, that I was a natural for the horror genre. But she never had a chance to read my novel, My Father’s Magic. While having some horrific elements, it is truly what I call Fantasy Suspense. It has the immediate telling of the villain of the story and the fast pace of a suspense novel while in a contemporary fantasy setting. So, in truth, I waffle between the darker stuff like with my Dark Desert Tales and the Fantasy, but all of it is dark, fantasy-based and an entertaining ride from start to finish.

Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Not intentionally, but there are some personality similarities between my characters and people I know in real life.

What else have you written?

I’ve published two short stories from my Dark Desert Tales Collection, “Fresh Meat” and “A Home for Rose.” Both will be included in a somewhat altered state and along with one novella, one novelette and a surprise story in my upcoming book, The Dark Desert Tales Collection, to be published next year.

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

That their books are poorly edited and unprofessional. The vast majority of Indie Authors spend a great deal of time on their craft, they value their readers and want to provide the best product they possibly can. Like many others, going Indie was not a hasty decision. I researched both avenues, listened to more experienced authors both Publishing House published and Indie and finally decided to go Indie with my own brand name, Lucky Nut Press. I wanted the freedom to make choices that were right for me and my stories without having to yield to the latest market trends and big house bottom lines.

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

All the time, every day and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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

The first book, I edited each chapter as I went. I stopped doing that. I see it as two completely different mindsets. I keep early mornings for writing and late mornings or afternoons for editing.

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?

Yes, after five years on My Father’s Magic I was done so I chose some objective people and had them read it. After two editors and a team of beta readers, the book was ready to publish.

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

“Oh, I’ve got a great story idea for you!” or they’ve sent me their stories without asking, expecting me to read them and give a glowing opinion. But, I didn’t choose writing, it chose me. So, IMO, we all have a need to write as a way to vent, but just because you do that doesn’t mean you’re a writer. A writer is someone who has to write, it’s as natural as breathing and we are happiest when writing. If you don’t have that drive, that desire and passion to write, look around you, your talent and passion are most likely doing something else.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Yes, the antagonist in My Father’s Magic. He had a lot of the same characteristics of someone from my past. Someone I came to despise. Needless to say, I was glad when my main character (protagonist) Esme kicked his ass.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Read everything, inside your favorite genre and outside and then when the need to write becomes so intense that you have no choice, write and write and write. Reading feeds your inner writer, gives you ability to think outside the box and original ideas and concepts are what sells. If you want to write something that’s been hashed a thousand different ways like vampires, come up with a different take on vampires or at least a character that is close to home for you.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

I’m 55 years old, I devoted my life to writing January 2005. That’s when I stopped fighting my inner writer. Long story, very personal, let’s just say a well-meaning family member convinced the 17-year-old me that giving into my need to write would drive me slowly insane. Over the past few years I’ve learned too things, that cutting off my need to write hurt me more mentally than writing ever could, and two, to embrace all of me, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the crazy. A whole life is a happy life. But back to being published, after a dozen or so query letters I decided writing was a much better use of my time and then when I decided to go Indie, a good friend helped me self-publish my first story, “Fresh Meat.” I’m a fast learner, so I was then able to epublish “A Home for Rose,” and My Father’s Magic.

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

I absolutely love a story that grabs me from the first paragraph. If a story doesn’t do that, most likely it won’t later and I’ll pass on it.

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

A lot. It took me five years to write My Father’s Magic and a lot of that was because I researched Goddess worship, Paganism, the European Germanic Migration and other topics along the way.

Is there a question I haven’t asked you that you would like to answer?

Where did the idea for My Father’s Magic come from?

After a few years of writing other stories, I got the feeling I had an emotional block inside me that needed to be addressed. Writing has always allowed me to explore my feelings. I’ve always wanted to tell my story, but when I started writing a memoir, the ADHD part of me said, “Boring!” So I decided, “Why not tell your story but in a fictional, fantasy way?”

So I drew a map of a fictional place on a whiteboard and the magical village of Albion was born. Then I started coming up with characters and even though the characters are not me or people I know, I used a lot of my own background, emotions and experiences to write this book.

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

Is it wrong to say your own novel is your absolute favorite read? In truth, I write stories that I myself enjoy. I believe that if I’m not enjoying the story, my readers won’t either, and so I write for me. It’s an absolute pleasure and bonus when others enjoy my stories as much as I do.

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?

The only negative reviews really involved my two Dark Desert Tales, basically that they were too short. So with that in mind, I decided to take them back to the drawing board and explore ways I can increase their story line. I wrote them both to meet assignment requirements for a class I was taking, that’s why they’re short. But with the freedom to expand and allow my characters to spread their wings, it will be fun to see what happens.

Do you miss spending time with your characters when you finish writing them?

Yes, always. My first book was about five friends and even though I couldn’t quite get the story to work I never forgot my five friends. A couple years back I put them into another story. It’s pretty much the same location, but a different plot and it will most likely be a trilogy.

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

I have this adorable little creature in My Father’s Magic that takes a bigger role in Revenge of the Dark Queen. He has six spider legs and two cat legs complete with paws. His fur is as soft as cashmere and changes color to reflect his mood. He has large Onxy eyes and he’s the last (as far as we know) of his species thanks to an flea-carrying plague that took place in the human world centuries before. I’d love for him to come to life.

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

I brake for katzenspinders!

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?

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

LOL, yes, The Gathering, the novella that will come out in my Dark Desert Tales collection, started out being about a middle-aged couple moving into a haunted apartment complex in southern Arizona. It’s now about a young widow who returns to southern Arizona to spread her husband’s ashes as promised. Unfortunately almost at the same time, a construction project disturbs a buried pile of ancient bones and all hell is about to break loose.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

Okay, this may be a little morbid. But I had a near-fatal car accident in 1994. After five days in ICU and pretty much out of it, I woke up to see my two-sisters entering my hospital room. Mind you, I’m the youngest of four by eight years and as we are spread all over the country it had been years since I saw them. Having them there when I opened my eyes was the absolute best surprise!

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

I’d love to learn how to fly helicopters.

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

My 5th Grade English class. I was in a bad place regarding school until 5th Grade, mainly because of severe dysfunctional issues at home. My parents divorced when I was in 5th Grade ending my severe abandonment issues and for the first time I could focus on school. I’ll never forget setting at my desk working in my Language Skills workbook and it seemed like everything opened up to me and I began my life-long love of words.

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

I have three movies: The Long Kiss Goodnight, Something’s Gotta Give, and Love Actually

Favorite books: The Prophetess by Barbara Wood, Stephen King’s It and William Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Doesn’t everyone? 🙂 Okay, mint chocolate chip ice cream and key lime or lemon meringue pie

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Spending time with my family, a child’s laughter and walking my dog.

 

CONNECT WITH INGRID

Website

Amazon

Blog

Facebook Author Page

Twitter

Goodreads

CHAT WITH STEPHEN M DAVIS

 

Steve was the grandson to a Thames-Docker, and son of a schizophrenic, alcoholic mother. Life on the streets of East London in the 60s was a testing time for him. In 1971, he moved to rural Essex aged 14-years. At 16-years old, he was in a house fire, leaving him with life-threatening injuries, which resulted in nine minutes on the other side. He believes he was given a second chance to write about Rebecca.

He went on to work for Royal Mail for 32 years, retiring at the age of 52. He then turned his attention to writing, aiming to improve his use of the English language. It took him five years to recognise his literary voice was a feminine one. Unbeknown to him, Rebecca had been waiting patiently.

Time to chat with Steve!

Is your recent book part of a series?

I only ever intended Rebecca & the Spiral Staircase to be a one-off story chronicling the adventures of a 15-year-old girl. I had finished – or so I thought – and was preparing my novel for a launch date. Then from nowhere, my beloved Rebecca called me for one final chapter. This chapter changed everything, and opened the door for Rebecca, A Way Back, and more…

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

My name is my name. I write with a feminine voice, but even son, a guy writing about a 15-year-old girl raised a few eyebrows. It was suggested I changed my name and instead choose a female pseudonym. I wasn’t comfortable with that, especially as it is so hard to spell ha ha.

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

 Aha, that’s an interesting, and in my case, fascinating question. When I first decided to get some words down on paper, a manly sci-fi novel seemed to be the obvious choice. After a couple of years of trudging my way through this story, I realised that either I didn’t fit it or it didn’t fit me. I tried some alternative styles with little joy. I was seemingly lost in literary oblivion. Then from nowhere, Rebecca called me. The moment I started typing she was there waiting. I had found my voice, and genre. Rebecca chose me.

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

Adults lose their ability to see.

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

My girl closes the front door and always turns left. Even though I have a set route or plan for Rebecca, she’s rarely prepared to be led, and instead chooses an unforeseen direction. When she speaks, however, I know how she thinks and responds. Either, I am in her head, or she’d in mine, so there’s rarely a surprise.

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

Oh, if only it were that simple. With an individual like Rebecca, there is no way she’d allow me or anyone else to pre-empt the ending. As with her first chronicle, just when I thought it was done-n-dusted, she shouted an alternative conclusion.

 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?

That’s quite a provocative question. Generally, the personalities of my characters or their roles within my novel will ultimately determine their name. I can see everyone’s individual’s facial expression, appearance, and characteristics, which mostly results in a perfect name fit. Sometimes though, I have no choice but consider era appropriate names as with Meredith, a lady from 1853. Rebecca, however, picked her name, and I went along with it because it suited her perfectly. I subsequently discovered that Rebekha was the wife of Isaac in the Hebrew Bible and one of the four original female names.

There are so many conflicting opinions out there about everything related to publishing: e-book pricing, book promotion, social media usage etc. How do you sort through it all to figure out what works best for you?

At the get go, I struggled deciding the right publication route for my novel. Initially, I believed the conventional road via a literary agent was the only way for my girl. I soon realised that in these times of austerity, a new author book deal was always going to be a difficult direction. Literary agents receive an endless list of proposals and invariably your beloved novel, can, and will end up on the ‘slush-pile’, even if your story is outstanding. I tried six agents and although their response was positive, there was always a, “at the moment, we cannot consider new authors.” Interestingly, I didn’t get one auto “thanks but no thanks” reply. Although frustrated, I was actually spurred on by their positive comments. I then looked at the e-book route, and decided to let Rebecca loose on the world. Ultimately, the readers decide if your tale is good enough, and so it has proven with a phenomenal response.

I do use social media as a platform for my novel and this has had a mixed response. I write an angling blog, and with a constant world-wide audience, I used that to promote my novel. Although my fishing blog employs a somewhat different literary voice, it led to a few sales. I also run an angling forum via Facebook, and this platform produced a decent level of sales. Of interest, all the female anglers who read my book openly shared their enjoyment. The male anglers, however, showed their pleasure via private messages. Mostly though, Twitter has been a fantastic method of promoting for my novel. I believe that providing you are proactive and engage your followers, then they will – it would seem – purchase your book once they get to know you.

I spoke with an employee of a large UK book store, and he had an interesting view on independently published books. He explained that while at university, he was tasked with exploring the indie author route. He suggested that over ninety-five percent of e-books are “rubbish,” and that if you have a good story, and it is well written, then it will, in time, rise up through the ranks. His view was that reviews, an attention grabbing cover, a fascinating tale, and believable characters are the keys to success.

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

Even if I could type five-hundred words a minute, Rebecca’s tale manifests itself at her pace, with the hands of the clock seemingly motionless. So no matter how fast I want to go, she keeps slowing me down, allowing her time to consider her direction.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

 As I said earlier, I write an angling blog. Interestingly, readers often say they feel they have been on a fishing expedition with me. Many have said that Rebecca takes you by the hand and leads you through every turn. Although the two are written with a slightly different literary voice, it appears, they both engage the reader in a similar way.

How would you define your style of writing?

 It has been said on a number of occasions, by many, that I have a feminine voice. My intended style is to engage people with thought provoking, between the lines, suggestions. I hope my readers are left unsure, wondering if the events surrounding Rebecca’s journey actually happen. Ultimately, I trust them to find the alternative, unforeseen conclusion. After all, I didn’t see it coming…

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

I don’t know what you could possibly mean. All my characters are alive, thriving, and very well, thank you for asking.

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

Reviews are king of the hill… Readers trust independent opinions. Today, the internet dominates people’s decisions. Those going to a new restaurant, holiday resort, or hotel, will check reviews first. Why would it be any different for a book?

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

I currently live with my wife in Essex, just north of London. We hope to move soon to rural Suffolk, known as ‘Constable Country’. It is a beautiful county, with lovely people, an amazing history, and stunning old houses.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

We prefer boats, or in our case, ships. My wife and I love to cruise and have most recently returned from a fifty night cruise that took us from Southampton, across the Atlantic, around the Caribbean, Latin America, along the coast of North America, and back home. We cannot wait for the next one, so buy my book 😉

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

A two way road of honesty and compassion without an agenda is important to me. Knowing they are there for you no matter what, and that you feel the same.

 Care to brag about your family?

I have been married to Jacqui for 38 years, and she is still my best friend. Before she retired, she was the court manager at the world famous ‘Old Bailey’, Central Criminal Court, in London. Our son, Ryan is currently resident in Vancouver, Canada living the dream. He is super intelligent, getting his brains from his mother, a fantastic footballer (soccer), and an honest individual.

CONTACT STEPHEN

Website

Amazon

Twitter

Angling Blog

 

CHAT WITH ELLIE DOUGLAS

Ellie Douglas loves horror and she wants to scare you. She is the author of the Hounded Series, Fear Inducer, Toxic Desire, The Dead Undone and the Dead Wake Anthology. Her passion and love of horror drives her and she strives to spook you. Ellie also creates adult coloring books and makes professional book covers, all of which she thoroughly enjoys doing.

Time to chat with Ellie!

What is your latest book(s)?

I have two new books that were published in December 2017. The Dead Undone is a tale set in a haunted asylum; the ghosts and paranormal activity are the least of the worries that the characters have. For their greatest fears are the dead rising. My second book, The Dead Wake Anthology, is all about zombies in bizarre, funny, and also serious situations. It’s a book of ten shorts that will raise emotions within the reader that they never thought possible when it comes to zombies.

Is your recent book part of a series?

It might be, though I don’t want to sound cryptic, my books can all become a series but I haven’t any plans at this stage to do so.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

The greatest challenge I found in writing my short stories was where to end them. Once I managed that it was a home stretch from then onwards.

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

Yes my first name Ellie is my chosen pen name that I got from my real name with a combination of my real first names letters. The reason for the first name change was because there is another author out there with my name and I didn’t want readers getting confused with who is who.

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

Both. The genre horror chose me and I also chose it. I tried my hand at a thriller but always found myself going back to my love of horror. Are your characters ever based on people you know?

Not directly, but some of my characters are based off of people’s personalities. In particular, my own children have inspired me with the different personalities that I see in them.

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

I am pregnant with aliens? No, my exciting news is that I just released two novels and that is pretty exciting.

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

Eat me!

What else have you written?

I’ve written six novels in total now. The Hounded series, book 1 and 2, Fear Inducer, Toxic Desire, The Dead Undone, and The Dead Wake Anthology. Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

No. I tend to fine tune the story as I go along, so the ending can change and has done multiple times. The title is either going to be extremely hard to reach for me in particular or easy. It just depends on the story. Sometimes I’ve come up with a title before I’ve even written the story and other times I’ve struggled with a title.

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 both, or have been known to do both. I’ll start off editing as I go. Then I’ll be so into the story that I just write it. Then I’ll go back and edit.

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

Yes, in particular my characters from my Hounded series. I often ponder about what they are doing. What are some of the crazy things people have said to you upon learning you are an author? How have you responded?

The craziest remark I’ve ever received was a simple word; ‘Really?’ to which I simply replied back, ‘yes’. I do so with a large smile and big wide eyes.

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

Yes, I’m very easily distracted. If I get distracted I have to stop. I’ll handle whatever has distracted me and then see if I can pick up from where I was. If not, I’ll do some reading, clean the house, watch TV or a movie and then get back into my writing.

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 believe it just comes down to who you know as well as having a massive financial backing. Without word of mouth and money in droves it is hard to do the advertising to get noticed.

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 place a huge importance on my books cover that probably is because I’m a book cover designer so it has to be perfect. Being a perfectionist aids in that largely too.

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

I have full control over my characters, though in my latest novel, The Dead Undone, one of the characters decided to kill himself and I had to bring him back as he was pretty vital to the story. Lol

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, how do you get around it?

I have once and how I handled it was walking away from my writing. I ended up leaving it for a period of two long weeks and then when I returned and re read what I had already written the writer’s block was gone and I was able to continue forward. 🙂  

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

I live where I was born, Auckland New Zealand. If I could chose another country I would go to England.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Boats and trains.

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

Favorite comfort food would be anything junk. lol Least favorite food is fish or basically seafood.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

Rob a bank! OK, I wouldn’t do that umm if I were to be invisible for a day I would go around giving everyone a terrible fright. It’d be fun to scare them silly.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

OK this is going to sound absolutely corny and it isn’t an actual gift but the best gift I’ve ever received is ‘Life’ 🙂

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

Honesty and outgoing.

Care to brag about your family?

Yes, they are all zombies. LOL I have four children and a wonderful supportive husband. One of my sons is going into medical science and I couldn’t be more proud. My youngest, the twin girls, are still in college and one of them is very artistic and creative, and has told me she’ll be an author and artist one day just like her mamma (That’s me). lol The other is going to be a saver of animals and wants to travel to places around the world to do so. Very ambitious 🙂 My oldest son has just had a baby and so yes I’m now a grand mamma 🙂 I love my family very much 🙂

What might we be surprised to know about you?

You might be surprised to know that I invented a slots machine game called Infinity slots, unrelated to the one on Facebook, mine is ad free and one that you actually win, true to the name of (Infinity) 🙂

What makes you angry?

Twitter jail! What is twitter jail I hear some of you ask? Well it is when you tweet your daily limit of tweets and then you are told by Twitter with a message that says; you have exceeded your daily limit and must wait a few hours before you can continue. That ticks me off just a little. The only other thing that makes me angry is bad drivers. Those drivers that are putting on makeup and holding up the lights to go. Those drivers who are on their phones and turn without looking almost causing a head on etc. Yeah, those!

What music soothes your soul?

Mostly any music is soothing. I’m very found of the 80’s and also of the latest stuff being released. Shakira is currently one of my favorites and one of my twin daughters is currently right into K-Pop and I have to admit some of that is rather catchy and I often find myself singing along and moving to the beat of the music.

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

Can there be two? If so it would have to be Art and English because they gave me the abilities to be what I am today, an artist and an author.

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

This might take a while there is a few. lol

The 100

The Walking Dead

The Fear of the Walking

The Preacher

Ash Vs Evil

The Strain

Grey’s Anatomy

X-Factor

Super girl

Flash

Inhumans

Lethal Weapon

American Housewife

Little Sheldon

Take me out

Blind Date

There are a lot more. I happen to love TV and movies 🙂

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

Funny that this question is here as it is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. If I had the chance to add another room, I’d fill it with a large screen TV and DVD player so I could put in a treadmill and watch movies while walking 🙂

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

I have. When I was 11 years old I was taken to see The Deer Hunter and well being a tender young age I couldn’t handle what I was seeing so I left. Much to the dismay of the friend that had taken me.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Seeing my kids laughing and giggling and having a good time. Seeing them grow before my very eyes. Watching movies and singing when no one can hear me, and trust me no one wants to hear me singing. But I love to sing out loud when no one is listening. Talking to my friends, and making them laugh.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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