CHAT WITH DEAN MAYES

DeanMayesAustralian author Dean Mayes has established himself as a writer of great literary style and dedication since the release of his first novel The Hambledown Dream in 2010. He continues that tradition with his landmark new release Gifts of the Peramangk for Central Avenue Publishing. Dean lives in Adelaide, Australia with his wife Emily and their two children Xavier, 6 and Lucy, 3.

Time to chat with Dean!

What is your latest book?

I’ve recently released my second novel titled Gifts of the Peramangk through Central Avenue Publishing.

Gifts of the Peramangk tells the story of an 8-year-old Aboriginal girl named Ruby who is an undiscovered violin prodigy living on the struggle streets of Adelaide’s suburban fringe here in Australia. Ruby has been taught to play by her frail and elderly grandmother Virginia who, herself displayed a prodigious talent for the instrument as a child but was never able to fully realize that gift because of her circumstance. Virginia was a child of the so called “Stolen Generations” here in Australia. During much of the mid 20th century, Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families as part of what was known as the White Australia policy. They were put to work, often in appalling conditions, as domestic servants or farm hands and were stripped of their culture and their family links. Virginia was one of those children and the ramifications of her being taken have huge ramifications for her family.

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Is your recent book part of a series?

Not really, however one would be encouraged to read my previous release The Hambledown Dream as there are some subtle linkages between both books.

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

That they are undisciplined and don’t take the time or the care to produce high quality work. I have met and worked alongside some really talented indie writers who have produced novels that are far and away more polished and offer a much richer reading experience than their big name/big published counterparts. I think that has come about because these independent authors have taken much more care with their work and have crafted it rather than handed it over to a big publishing machine that act to arbitrarily “manufacture” a product for mass consumption.

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

I write on the proviso that my characters be allowed to direct the storytelling to a certain extent. I will draw the basics of a character at the very beginning of the writing process but I won’t lock them in to a particular arc because my stories tend to evolve organically from the basic structure that I begin with. I discover a lot about my characters and I find that really stimulating.

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

Funnily enough, I really enjoy the editing process. It’s the part of the journey where stories are really made. I’ve learned not to allow myself to become too invested in story elements during the initial writing phase because I’m always looking for the best ways to serve the story. Research can be a tedious process but I recognize that it is an essential part of the journey. This was especially the case with Gifts of the Peramangk which dealt with historical subject matter that I had to portray faithfully.

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

I always have a basic idea of what the ending to a story will be but I allow myself the flexibility to change the ending. So yes it is important to me but not essential. The title of a story is not as important to me because I tend to discover the title of a work in the process of writing it.

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’m getting better at writing without editing as I go along but I have been known to edit incessantly as I go along. That habit grew out of my tendency to procrastinate incessantly and I used the micro editing as I went along as a way of avoiding writers block. I have, with subsequent projects, becoming better at planning so I’ve been able to resist the temptation to edit until I have produced a draft.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Be open to change and don’t allow yourself to be locked into a particular story arc. Always look for alternative pathways to reach your destination and don’t be afraid to work with your ideas. You will find that you’ll be less likely to run into problems associated with writers block if you have those alternative ideas available to you.

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

Oh man, I have such a love/hate relationship with social media. I mean, I love it because I have met some wonderful people through my platform and it is but I tend to become overwhelmed by all the noise it creates. In the beginning, I felt as though I had to have a presence on every available platform there is and it seriously got insane. I have streamlined quite a bit to a suite of four key platforms, those being my official site of course, my Facebook page, Twitter and Google Plus. Occasionally I’ll make use of my WordPress account but it’s usually just to post a link to whatever I’m showcasing on my official site. My official site is at the core of how I communicate with my readership and my platform serves to promote that. While I regard engagement with my audience as important, I’ve tried to limit my activity on my social network – otherwise I’d never get any work done.

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

I have a really eclectic and varied taste in the books that I read but in all of them, I really look to the voice of the author and how it engages me. If the voice speaks with enthusiasm about the subject, then I’m usually drawn in. If there is a lack of enthusiasm, I’ll spot it pretty much straight away.

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

There was a huge research curve involved in Gifts of the Peramangk because I was setting it against the back drop of one of Australia’s most controversial periods in the 20th century. The White Australia Policy was instituted as a means of addressing the “problem” of half caste Aborigines in Australia over the life of the Policy, many thousands of children were forcibly removed from their families and fostered out to white families or were put to work as domestic servants or farm hands, doing menial jobs for little to no pay. They were prohibited from returning to or having contact with their families. The resultant Stolen Generations was the result of this policy – Aboriginal Australians who had their identity and culture stripped away from them. It lead to massive social problems which still resonate today. In order to portray the effects of the White Australia Policy on one particular family with a sensitivity and accuracy, I devoted nearly a year to reviewing literature, examining case studies, talking to individuals who were directly affected by the Policy.

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?

During the writing of Gifts of the Peramangk I did share my work with a couple of people who were able to assist me with the technical aspects of my writing as well as the accuracy of my portrayal of Aboriginal Australians. I was happy to do so and I think it really benefited the story.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I have posted a number of short pieces at my official site which are examples of my trying out different writing styles. I’m really proud of them and one or two of them have the potential to be expanded on in the future if I want.

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

I realized I had a love of writing from an early age but I guess you could consider me somewhat of a late bloomer as a serious author. For me it was a case of my life getting in the way – school, university, work, family commitments and so forth. And these aren’t bad things of course (laughs) but they certainly gave me little time to devote to writing. Also, I don’t think I was really in the right head space to write until my mid 30’s. I had a couple of failed attempts at it before then but for whatever reason, I couldn’t make the stories work. When the idea for (my first novel) The Hambledown Dream germinated, it seemed to be the right fit at the right time.

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

I’m very proud of both Gifts of the Peramangk and The Hambledown Dream and they each have qualities that I’m drawn to for different reasons. I think Gifts of the Peramangk is a more accomplished work mainly due to the research effort I undertook for it and I edited it more heavily than The Hambledown Dream. Hambledown is a more personal work and it represents facets of myself. I really explored both the dark and light sides of myself to craft the dual protagonists in Hambledown and so, for that reason I tend to look upon that novel in a more personal way.

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?

I have come to view negative reviews with the maxim “There’s no such thing as bad publicity” in mind. I try to respond to every review that is left for both my novels and I always thank the reviewer for taking the time to read my work. I look for constructive criticism of my work and I do take on board what each reviewer has said in that sense. Where there hasn’t been any constructive criticism, I like to encourage the reviewer to elaborate on their comments. Most of the time however, such reviewers don’t hang around so I don’t dwell on them for too long.

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

It is a good way to interact with readers but I personally, haven’t seen a huge knock on effect in terms of promotion.

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

As far as I’m concerned, the less said about Kindle Direct the better.

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 do place quite a bit of stock on cover design because I have an artistic streak in me that just won’t let me go. The way I see it is a book as a whole is a piece of art and the cover itself is very much an artistic component that will help sell the overall piece. So it has got to be eye catching and attractive. I’ve seen many a good book fade into obscurity because of a poorly designed cover.

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?

Your review matters. It really, Really matters. We slave away on these writing projects, often with little support and understanding from those immediately around us and it is only when our work is done and we turn it over to the world do we really wait for and covet those reviews. They remain the only true measure of whether it was all worth it or not.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

I suck at poems.

What makes you angry?

Unshakable belief in the morally indefensible.

What music soothes your soul?

Vince Jones. He is an Australian jazz singer/trumpet player who I regard as a personal hero. I’ve been listening to his music since I was a kid.

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

The Talented Mr Ripley with Matt Damon. I love Matt Damon but that film was a complete toilet bowl.

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

The 1985 drama Witness starring Harrison Ford is probably my most favorite film of all time. The True History Of The Elephant Man by Michael Powell and Peter Ford is my most favorite book.

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CHAT WITH TIFFANY KING

Tiffany King is the author of The Saving Angels Series, Wishing For Someday Soon, Forever Changed, Unlikely Allies, and Miss Me Not. Writer by day and book fanatic the rest of the time, she is now pursuing her life-long dream of weaving tales for others to enjoy.

Time to chat with Tiffany!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is a YA novel called Miss Me Not. It’s a YA coming of age/romance type of story, but with an edgy, hard-hitting undertone. I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone this time to write about more serious social issues. The idea of writing about teen suicide made me extremely nervous, but the response from readers has been wonderful.


What else have you written?

I wrote a YA Paranormal Romance Series called The Saving Angels Series: Meant to Be (book 1), Forgotten Souls (book 2), The Ascended (book 3). I have also written three other YA Contemporary Romance novels: Wishing For Someday Soon, Forever Changed, and Unlikely Allies. All are available in ebook and print.

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

If you are the type of reader that refuses to try a book because it is self-published, more power to you. That is your choice and there is not much I can say to change your mind. That being said, you are missing out on some wonderfully imaginative stories by truly talented authors. Even before I started writing, I loved reading. I still do, and I wish I had more time to do it, but whether or not the book is traditionally published or self-published makes no difference to me. If it’s good, it’s good, regardless of how it is distributed. Obviously, most of the reading public feels the same way judging by the sales rankings. Plus, look at the number of indie authors being signed by traditional publishers. All that has happened over the past few years is that authors have more opportunities to make their work available to the reading public who will then decide if it is good or not.

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

I always have the story mapped out in my head before I start writing, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t necessarily change by the time I reach the ending. I usually just let the story take me where it wants to go.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

First, start by writing what you enjoy reading yourself, not just because you feel it will sell. Not to say that you can’t eventually step out of your comfort zone, but you have to establish your voice first. Second, always continue to believe in yourself. Remember that reading is subjective. For every person that hates your work, there is another that loves it.


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

Social media is invaluable to an author. There is simply no better way to get your name and your work out there. It can be grueling because it takes countless hours to maintain, but I have met so many wonderful friends in the past few years through social media.


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?

Usually, only my daughter reads my work in progress because she is in the target age group for my books; however, I have several trusted individuals who read pre-edited versions of the completed draft, and then even more individuals who read the work when all the edits are complete. The book definitely goes through many sets of eyes before being released to the public.


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

I will never cease to be amazed by the positive feedback I receive from readers. I was especially nervous with Miss Me Not, considering the subject matter, but the response has been overwhelming. I get contacted everyday by people who thank me for writing about teen suicide because it has helped them relate to their own lives. Just knowing that they not only appreciated the work, but that they trust me enough to share their personal feelings is truly humbling.


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?

That’s funny. I haven’t met an author yet who enjoys writing a synopsis. You have this piece of work that you spent countless hours of blood, sweat and tears to finish, and now you have to sum up the entire story in a few paragraphs. Try pulling out your own hair in handfuls. Sometimes it can feel the same way.


Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

Both. I try to write mostly during the day, but I have been known to jump out of bed at 2:00 am if an idea suddenly pops in my head. Thankfully, I always have chocolate around when I need it.

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

Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate. My least favorite food is onions. I hate them on anything and everything.

Care to brag about your family?

I have a wonderful and supportive husband of 18 years and two teenagers. I say supportive because working as an author requires a great deal of time, but fortunately, my family is so understanding, and they are always willing to help me in any way they can.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I’m shyer in person than you might think. If you follow me on any social media channels it may be hard to believe that, but it’s true. There was even a time when I was terribly afraid of public speaking, but I have since overcome that phobia as well. Of course, once I get to know you, I can talk your ear off.


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

I have a pretty sizable collection of books that are in my office, but I would love to build my own library in my house. I would line the walls with shelves, all filled with first editions of all my favorite books. I would cover the floor with a nice plush carpet and have a comfortable chase lounge that would sit in front of a fireplace. Oh, it would be heaven.

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

1. Be nice
2. Be tolerant
3. Love one another

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CHAT WITH EDEN BAYLEE

Eden Baylee writes literary erotica and infuses erotic elements into many of her stories. Incorporating some of her favorite things such as travel, culture, and a deep curiosity for what turns people on, her brand of writing is both sensual and sexual.

Her latest release is a book of erotic flash fiction and poetry called HOT FLASH.

SPRING INTO SUMMER is her second collection of erotic novellas and the companion piece to her first book, FALL INTO WINTER.

Time to chat with Eden!


What is your latest book?

My latest book is Hot Flash. It’s a book of erotic short stories and poems, with two non-erotic pieces as well.


What else have you written?

I have two other books of literary erotica called Fall into Winter and Spring into Summer. Each is an anthology comprised of four novellas. Though the two books are companion pieces, the stories are distinct and cover varying levels of eroticism.

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

As an indie author who writes full time, social media is a necessity in promoting myself. I’m on numerous networks because it’s important to be as connected as possible.

Having said that, striking a balance between my work and social life is essential. There are only so many hours in a day, and it’s easy to be swayed toward “chatting” on Facebook or Twitter as opposed to writing.

My favorite part of social media is meeting incredible writers, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some in person.

My least favorite part is dealing with social media ‘newbies.’ These are people who only use the medium to sell their products and treat others as if they are their own PR firm. Rudeness and the hard sell do not work in real life, and they don’t work in the virtual life either.

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?

I have no fear of reviews because readers are as diverse as writers. Tastes differ.

As an author, it’s important to grow a thick skin. Don’t let negative reviews affect you emotionally. If you think there is merit to what the reviewer says, i.e.: holes in the plot, bad grammar, etc., do something about it to improve on the next book. If you don’t think there’s merit to the bad review, move on. There’s no point dwelling on it.

Writers are not perfect, and there’s always room to improve. Bad reviews should never stop you from writing. Don’t take it personally.

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 lot of importance on the design because there’s another old saying, “You only get one chance to make a good first impression.” I’m a visual person, and my initial response to a book is usually from the cover.

If the cover is poorly done, then I infer the content inside might be poorly written. This isn’t necessarily true, of course, but it’s important to have a professional appearance. It entices readers to look inside. In a less competitive market, this would not be an issue, but we all know our books are competing with millions of other books out there.

A great cover design is one way to help your book rise above the crowd.

How would you define your style of writing?

I don’t like formulaic writing. Mine is filled with original storylines, strong narratives and written in an easy style. Though my books fall in the erotica/romance genre right now, I write in many genres, including thriller, suspense, and poetry.

I don’t like to be bound by style or genre.

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?

I’d explain patiently that it does matter, but I would never get frustrated with a reader for not writing a review. They may not feel comfortable with writing reviews for various reasons.

Ultimately, readers (who are not authors) read for pleasure. They support authors by buying their books and spreading the word if they liked what they read. It’s not their job to “promote” the author, and writing reviews is certainly not part of a reader’s mandate.

As authors, it’s good to encourage reviews but never to coerce them from readers.

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

I live in Toronto, Canada now. I’d love to live in New York City if I could afford to.

London, England is also a favorite.

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

Loyalty and an adventurous spirit. Though my friends may not do everything I want to do, they are always open-minded to me doing it—especially if I make a fool of myself, and they can say “I told you so!”

What makes you angry?

People who are rude, mean, insincere, intolerant, uncaring.

What music soothes your soul?

I love old blues and jazz – Nina Simone, Van Morrison, John Lee Hooker. I’m also a fan of virtuoso guitar and listen to Jeff Beck and Pink Floyd a lot.

Many thanks for inviting me to your chateau, Lisette. It was a pleasure to be here,

eden

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CHAT WITH DAN McNEIL

Dan McNeil was born in Toronto, but raised in Ottawa.  He is an author and a video editor, spending 24 years at CHRO TV (now CTV 2) in Ottawa and the last 4 years as a freelancer at Canada Post in the video department.  His first book, The Judas Apocalypse was published in 2008. It was only natural that his love of writing and music would lead him to pen his latest, Can’t Buy Me Love, a lighthearted romp about a heist during the Beatles’ first visit to the United States in 1964. 

Time to chat with Dan!

What is your latest book?

It’s called Can’t Buy Me Love. It’s the story of Sonny Carter, an aging bank robber just recently released from prison in 1964 after a 25-year stretch for bank robbery. Hard-nosed and unrepentant, Sonny is determined to finish what he started back in ’39: knocking over New York City’s prestigious Hudson National Bank and Trust Company. It won’t be easy because banks are a whole lot tougher than they used to be, and the members of his old gang are just about ready for the retirement home. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the man responsible for Sonny’s jail stretch is now the president of the Hudson. This time, however, Sonny has a plan that just might prove to be foolproof, thanks to two unlikely sources: a sexy bank employee with secrets and a shady past, and the four unsuspecting mop tops from Liverpool about to make their historic American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. It’s my second novel and published by Pulse.

What else have you written?

My first novel, The Judas Apocalypse was published in 2008 by I Publish Press. It’s about Dr. Gerhard Denninger, a German archeologist who is approached by infamous Grail seeker Otto Rahn at the outset of the Second World War. Rahn tells him a fantastic story of the Knights Templar, a church scandal and the lost treasure of the Cathars. When Rahn disappears, Denninger finds himself in possession of a long-buried manuscript that is the key to finding the famous treasure. During his hunt for the treasure, Denninger is captured by a group of American soldiers separated from their company just after the D-Day landings. Denninger, with the help of his unwelcome accomplices, continues his quest for the secret of the Cathar treasure. As you can tell, I love historical settings.

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

Happens all the time. For instance, in this book, I have a character named Genevieve, who is the assistant to the executive producer of the Ed Sullivan show. I initially envisioned her as a cute and shy French Canadian. As the story moved forward, I found myself toughening her up somewhat as she becomes more frustrated with her boss. That toughened up personality begins to shine through, usually couched in rough Quebecois invective. I’m sure this happens with every writer, but I find that characters tend to take on a life of their own. Very often it seems that instead of creating situations for them, I feel like I’m following them around, chronicling what they’re doing.

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

I think so, because you have to know where you’re going. It’s a journey, right? You can take as many detours as you want, but ultimately you need to know your destination. You need to know where your characters are going to end up so you can get them there safe and sound (not sure where these travel analogies are coming from). As far as titles go, I never know what it’ll be until I’m finished (sometimes even months later). I went through 4 or 5 titles before I settled on Can’t Buy Me Love.

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

As I finish each chapter, I’ll read it over and see how it flows. There may be some issues with word or phrase repetition but I’ll wait until I’ve actually finished the book before I do any major editing. If anything drags, no matter how much I might like it, it’s gone. Once that’s done, I have a copy editor (fellow author and good friend Selena Robins) do the real red pencil stuff. Having a great copy editor is key. Selena did an excellent job with CBML and I believe that it’s because of her whipping the book into shape that enabled me to get my deal.

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 have a very good friend of mine (Ziyada Callender) who read every chapter as I wrote them. She really enjoyed my first book so when I mentioned I was thinking of writing a second one, she was exceptionally enthusiastic. At that time I wasn’t sure I wanted to even write another book, especially so soon after the first one but it was that enthusiasm that spurred me on to finish it. Her passion and affection for the story and in particular the characters told me that I was on the right track. I also had other friends of mine (who tend to be brutally honest and not afraid to say how terrible things are) read the manuscript as well.  Their positive reaction was terrific reinforcement.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I like to write music. My cousin, Steve Casey and I used to write pop songs together. We wrote and recorded two CDs of original songs – no hits unfortunately, but we did manage to win a number of songwriting contests here in Canada and in the US. We were once picked by Canadian Musician magazine as one of Canada’s best unsigned acts and we also won the Nashville Songwriters Association’s 2002 songwriting competition. That was pretty cool.

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

I certainly never thought that I was born to write. I’ve always had ideas for books, but writing seemed to be something other people did. It wasn’t until about ten years ago that I decided I’d give it a try. When I had finished my first book, I printed it out and put it on my shelf. There, I did it – I wrote a book. I had no intention of trying to get it published. I just wanted to see if I could do it, to satisfy myself really. It wasn’t until a friend of mine insisted that I try to get it published. In retrospect, it was a good thing he did. If I hadn’t had that first one published I probably wouldn’t have written this one.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

Definitely an early bird. I find that I work better first thing in the morning. I got into the habit of getting up an hour earlier than my usual time when I started writing because it was quiet and easier to get things done. The only “must haves” I need are an absence of phone calls and a cup of coffee.

How would you define your style of writing?

I’m not sure how I’d define it. I’d say it’s pretty straightforward and uncluttered, I guess.  I always try to follow Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing, especially number 10 – “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” I never want to be boring – and I hope I’m not.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

I’m not a traveler at all. Don’t like airports and I really abhor long drives. If I have to travel, I’d pick a train. There’s something about the sound of the wheels that I find relaxing – it always makes “Rhapsody in Blue” pop into my head.

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

Favorite food – hickory smoked ribs with a tangy BBQ sauce. I could eat ‘em every night. My least favorite food is the turnip. It is the most loathsome and repulsive thing I’ve ever had. If I think about them for anything longer than 20 seconds, I’ll throw up (just writing about them is enough to make me queasy).

What makes you angry?

Terrible drivers – It seems like no one knows how to merge or use their turn signals in this city. It’s inexcusable, really. The crap factor is right off the scale. I think if I ever struck it rich I wouldn’t buy an expensive car. I’d just take cabs everywhere or hire a limo so I wouldn’t have to put up with the truly appalling driving here.

What music soothes your soul?

Obviously I’m a Beatles fan. I’m also a huge Neil Finn/Crowded House fan too, probably because Crowded House is a very Beatlesque band. I also believe Neil Finn is the best pop songwriter living today. I’m a prog rock nut as well – Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Supertramp – when I was younger I learned to play keyboards by putting on their records and playing along with them. I like to say Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies from Supertramp taught me how to play piano.  My vinyl version of “Crime of the Century” is virtually unplayable now. I think I wore out the grooves.

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

My all time favorite film is American Graffiti. I remember going to see it back in ’73 with my family because the movie I wanted to see, The Sting, was sold out. I was pretty ticked off because of that so when my dad decided to take us to American Graffiti instead, I was determined to hate it. As it turned out, it was brilliant. I wound up seeing it about five or six times on that initial run. I’ve watched it dozens of times since then. It’s still great. The Godfather, Casablanca, and Stalag 17 are close behind it. Favorite book? Catcher in the Rye. Cliché? Probably, but I don’t care – I love it.

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CHAT WITH C.A. KUNZ

The mom and son author duo, C.A. Kunz, thoroughly enjoys writing about things that go bump in the night and futuristic action-packed romances while drinking massive amounts of English breakfast tea and Starbucks coffee.

Time to chat with C.A. Kunz!

What is your latest book?

Carol and Adam: The Modified, a young adult Dystopian novel.

Is your recent book part of a series?

Carol and Adam: Yes, it is book one of The Biotics Trilogy

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

Carol and Adam: What would YOU sacrifice?

What else have you written?

Carol and Adam: We’ve written the first two books in our middle grade/young adult paranormal series, The Childe. Our first book, The Childe, was published in March 2011 and the sequel, Dark Days, was published February 2012.

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

Carol and Adam: That we’re not hard workers! Our first novel took us nine months to write. Then we had it edited, paid an experienced graphic designer to do our cover, and finally a year after we started, we published it. We do all the leg work and marketing to get our books out to the public. Though it’s hard work, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished, and get a certain sense of satisfaction that our books are totally ours from cover to cover.

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

Carol and Adam: Yes, and since there are two of us that write the book, we not only have to know how the book will end, but we also need to have a concrete outline that we work from. If we didn’t, we’d probably end up with two completely different novels that don’t mesh. The title? Yes, because the title of the book tends to encompass the description of our book in our opinion.

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

Carol and Adam: Our first book, The Childe, was a learning experience with many, many hours of editing throughout the whole novel. I have an office with a couch and a recliner and Adam and I have spent up to eleven hours a day editing while reading the story out loud. From what we learned from our first book, our second and third books were much easier.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Carol and Adam: Don’t give up! Not everyone is going to like, or even love your book, and there are some really mean-spirited people who will try to tear you down. Ignore them. We know it’s hard, but you just have to do it. Look for people who will support you, but will also give you constructive criticism.

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

Carol and Adam: Carol mainly attends the social media since Adam works full-time. She’s met some AWESOME people online, and when we go to events and book fairs we meet them in person and have an amazing time. It’s definitely time-consuming and hours fly by while online, but the rewards are well worth it!

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

Carol and Adam: We wait until our first draft is completely finished, then we give it to five or six people who read all different genres.  Can you elaborate? After their constructive criticism, we edit some more and when we feel like we have reached a point where it’s time for a professional editor to handle it!

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

Carol: I live in Florida but ideally I would love to live in England. My mum is English and my dad is American. I spent 15 years of my young life in England and I miss it.

Adam: I currently live in Orlando, Florida, but if I had to move to another place it would have to be New Zealand because it’s so darn beautiful there.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Carol:  I love the first three, but I’m not a fan of boats. The Titanic movie is a horror movie for me. My worst fear is to be out in the middle of the ocean with no hope in sight.

Adam: I’d have to say trains…mainly due to my love of Harry Potter.

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

Carol: Bread, any kind of bread is my comfort food.  Mushrooms! Not into eating fungus.

Adam: Chips and queso are definitely my favorite comfort foods, and I have to agree with my mom and say that mushrooms are absolutely my least favorite.

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

Carol: Finding out I was pregnant with Adam! He’s the best stomach flu I ever had!

Adam: Getting a four-star review for our first novel, The Childe, in the magazine RT Book Reviews.

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

Carol: Healthy Children.

Adam: A loving family.

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

Carol: Honesty and kindness. I strongly dislike catty and mean people. I would never intentionally hurt others feelings and I want to be with people who feel the same way.

Adam: I’d have to say honesty, loyalty, and positivity.

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CHAT WITH JOEL BLAINE KIRKPATRICK

When not reading, he is writing. When not writing, he is reading. Author Joel Blaine Kirkpatrick lives with his lovely wife and their two boys in Southwest Colorado.
A novelist with five published works—only four of his books are available as e-books.

Being a fierce supporter of independent and self-publishing, Joel straddles the fence quite well in the industry. He is the current Senior Acquisitions Editor for JournalStone Publishing, and is the first contact for authors wishing to be published in the traditional modes.

Time to chat with Joel!

What is your latest book?

When America Slew Her King. It is an alternative history, so plausible that readers might wonder what parts I really made up. The only bit of fiction in it, is that none of it happened. I rewound reality and played it differently from one instant of madness.

Is your recent book part of a series?

No.

What else have you written?

Four other books…but, I can’t remember what they were.

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

That one of us, somewhere, is earning huge money on pure trash. Only traditional publishing can pull that off. Indies are ordinary people, writing exciting books between the mundane episodes of daily life.

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

On every page. I don’t script my characters. They lead me and I only listen and type.

One character, in my fourth book, did something so unexpectedly that it took me several minutes to write the sentence. I just sat in silence trying to find the words. I’m still shocked at that scene every time I read it.

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

I love the sounds in my head. It’s a madness that is so comforting. I get to hallucinate and write it all down. You would think that would lead me to write naughty shower scenes into every book…but, I’m too old for that nonsense.

What I like the very least, is the continuous toil and drudge after the book is written. That is the real work. But, I’m too old for that nonsense, too.

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

I know which direction to go, but endings have changed. My first novel did that to me—demanded a different ending than I wanted. It’s a horrible, boring book now and I love it.

Only my third book ended according to plan. That was tougher than I expected…getting all the plot to work properly. There might be three extra chapters in Breathing into Stone, because the conclusion had to be supported properly.

I always know the title of the book before the second page is written. Titles never change.

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 don’t edit. Music fans have to deal with Bob Dylan’s voice; readers have to deal with my writing. Traditional publishing has edited all the life out of books for a generation. That’s why they are suffering. An editor would make me sound a pompous shit, and I can do that on my own.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Shut up and write the book. When you are done, get to work and learn something.

Look at it this way—no one ever learned to swim without getting in the water. Until you have finished the book, you haven’t done a thing. Forget every expert. They are not writing your book. Forget the readers…half of them will hate it anyway and you can’t write for them. Write for yourself.  Just get it done.

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

I had no clue at first, but had three complete books in my hands before starting to even think of publishing them. Every book was queried out to agents over two hundred times. That led to some very interesting conversations with people in the know, and I learned what a mess that industry has become. Social media got my attention only because there were thousands of writers out there just like me. I went online to converse and learn—and stayed. I’m savvy, but I’m also lazy and loathe self-promotion.

The best thing that happened for me was discovering BestsellerBound.com. That is hands-down the finest author-centered forum on the web. There is some extraordinary talent collected there. Of all the members, I’m really the only boorish jerk.

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

That question should pull a trailer behind, just for the answer.  I do not choose what to read now. That is both the best, and the worst thing about reading. In eighteen months, I’ve read 300 different authors.  JournalStone Publishing, in San Francisco, employs me as their Senior Acquisitions Editor. That means every book submission comes to my Outlook inbox.

I read Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult…with smatterings of Paranormal and Mystery. Sometimes it overloads my senses. Only so many zombies a week will fit into my brain.

When I do chose…I turn to books like yours. Crooked Moon, or Squalor, New Mexico. I can read you when I’m tired of reading.

One thing is fact: I only read Indie books now and love them.

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

Tons of research for Harmony’s Passing. I pulled up two monitors on my PC and had star charts, orbital calculators and human anatomy websites opened the whole time. The internet teaches me as I write.

There was only a smattering of research for books two and three, just to get the story elements right. Shared, my fourth novel, actually went interviewing. Nearly a hundred people answered my questions about their spiritual beliefs. From their experiences, I built my characters. That book has earned some strong reaction, and plays with issues of faith and character. I did not play nice.

When America Slew Her King took about four hours research for every hour of writing. There isn’t a single fictional character in the book. Even the sailing ships were real. You can Google your way through the whole thing. I even include an enigmatic white horse in the story, and you won’t believe who owned it, or why it has its own place in our history.

Is there a question I haven’t asked you that you would like to answer? If so, what is it?

Do I really write in my bathrobe?  Yes. (but, not right this moment. J)

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?

Only with my fifth novel did I let anyone know about the project. About a dozen people read the first half of that manuscript. Normally, I don’t share until I’ve formatted a book for publication. When America Slew Her King was different. To me, the idea of Ben Franklin as a murderer was something delicate and not easily written. Early reaction was crucial to convincing me to complete the project. It is a book that readers might hate in the first page. The whole story is complete in the first one hundred eleven words. The rest of the novel is reaction to those first paragraphs. Four of my beta readers sent back the draft, refusing to read it. They have never said why.

I also had to share it, because the whole thing is an experiment. WASHK only exists in hardbound. It will never be available to the public in eBook or paperback. Early reactions to the story helped me decide that it can survive as a hardbound-only book.

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

A few reviewers have bothered to explain how they would have written my stories. I always find that amusing, and pointless. Caraliza confuses readers. About two-thirds of them have disliked the modern half of the story, preferring the lyrical, historical language of the early 1900s that I employ in the early chapters. Some readers believe it was an accident—that I couldn’t have planned the two time periods to sound different from one another.

There is a general consensus of my works, finally. Readers are telling me that I write beautifully, stupidly.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I’ve played with a couple of short stories. One is really almost flash-fiction. My problem is only that I never get brief ideas…

Someday, I shall write a play (because of you), and I shall write a book that my wife won’t write. It will be based on one of her nightmares, and she does not want to go there to put the words on a page.

My two short stories can be found here, and here.

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

I was born to talk. Writing shuts me up.

My first book was only a reaction to a devastating, personal situation. I turned all my despair into that text, and survived the event. (…the book AND the personal disaster.)

I truly should have begun writing twenty years ago. I’d have eighty books in print.

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 love writing blurbs. Other people have used blurbs I wrote for their books. That is not difficult at all. But then, I love writing reviews. Those are easy, too.

Now, after saying that, I must offer this as a professional reader for a publishing company. A synopsis is not the text on the back cover of the book; a common misconception. The text on the back cover of the book is a marketing invention of the last hundred years. Authors don’t write them—a committee from marketing writes them. When a book blurb is poorly written, it is the publisher’s fault.

A synopsis is not for public consumption. They exist only for promotion to agents or publishers.  If your synopsis is poorly written, YOU have fallen flat on your text. It is not the book’s fault… it is not the editor’s fault…it is not the character’s fault.

When an author get the synopsis wrong….it would have been better they had left it off entirely. (Extend that bit of advice to prologues as well. If they are not perfect—rip them out of the text.)

Too many authors write a synopsis as though they were the voice-over guy for Hollywood summer movies…

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

The history of a life-long slave. I discovered him while writing When America Slew Her King.

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?

Settle for being an author first. Complete a book without a plan to get it into print. Expectations are only a prison, and your book might die while you try to decide how it should exist later.

Don’t try too hard. Let your writing come naturally. Readers can instantly spot a writer who is trying to create by the rules.

Write first. Send it out to everyone for reaction. Publish it yourself. Publishers only want to know if you can earn them money. Prove to them you can, by pocketing all of it yourself first.

Here is something else to consider. No publisher will have your book on the shelves in less than about nine months. (Longer, if they are already booked up with other projects.) Why waste all that time?

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

My books sell when I leave them alone. I’m boring. My books are not.

Oh, Okay… I own six websites. I have three Twitter accounts, two Facebook pages. I’m on a dozen social sites and Pinterest. I’ve run ads on Facebook (fair response), Google Books (no response). All of my books are in one small town library, and those folks love them.

I don’t have a clue how to sell books, except by handing someone the actual printed copy. THAT sells books. One of my books is in a bookstore in The Netherlands.

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

I am proud of my latest book. It might be my finest work yet. But, I love a few of my characters, dearly. Anoria, from Breathing into Stone, is so real to me I can hear her voice.

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?

Ignore them. No author ever printed has been free of negative reviews. Nowadays, they say more about the reviewer than they do about the book. Amazon seems to attract all the snotty twelve-year old book trolls. If you are too sensitive for bad reviews, find a less dangerous hobby than writing—like alligator wrestling.

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

For every ebook sold, I’ve given away 100. I infrequently give away prints books, because I’ve never had the budget to keep a large stock. Giveaways work, though. Do it, or you will never be read.

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

No. I’ve not heard from anyone who was satisfied with their results. Also, I think Amazon should have its nuts smashed for demanding that authors remove their books from other retailers while enrolled in the KDP. While we are at it, let’s remind folks that Amazon is only a store. They are not a publishing company. They sell pet supplies and garden tools online for crapsake. We treat them like they are leading publishing, when they are only a retail monster without any brains. Amazon is to publishing what combs are to hair color.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

Let’s see… I sleep four hours each night. While the house is asleep, I read. I’ve not written anything in half a year. But, I adore coffee and candy. I also love to sit for hours with headphones on, writing. The music has to be instrumental. I cannot block vocals out of my concentration, and I can’t read or write while someone is singing or speaking.

Oddly, I can do both during a Godzilla movie.

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?

Very good question. I love good book covers. Two of mine are beautiful, and I didn’t make the images, but hired them both. However, my last novel has no cover art, except for online promotion. It is a plain, blue linen cover, with only the title on the spine. One hundred years ago, books didn’t need splashy, printed covers. I wish they didn’t now.



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

Small-press publishers will remake the industry. A couple of the Big Six will do a phenomenal amount of corporate expansion, buying up small presses to try and stave off their own death. Big Traditional Publishing has doomed itself to mediocrity and irrelevance. Ebooks will continue to expand, but never overtake printed books.

Book agents…are toast. Their livelihood and usefulness has dried up.

How would you define your style of writing?

I am the elephant in the rowboat. Get in with me, and you won’t have much say in the results.

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?

At best, a review is a get well card to an author with a broken heart. But, reviews are half trash. Say you like the book, or disliked the book, and then stop saying anything.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

You were—once— here;

you couldn’t be.

You—now—are memory;

you shouldn’t be.

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

Well, I’m in Durango, Colorado. We chose to be here for our kids, and because this is a beautiful, stress-free place to live. (if you can tolerate the 50% of the population with opposite political views from yours. They are such nitwits.)

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Tall sailing ships. I was born four hundred years too late. But, we have a Narrow Gage Steam Train in Durango, and I adore that thing.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
I love to eat. ANYTHING. I don’t give a hoot about nutrition. When you stop eating…you die.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
Gather proof that a few famous people are not worth their public adoration.

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

My two sons. I had cancer once, and those boys were not supposed to be here.

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

The woman who married me.

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

Yes. I had a manager once who was a mean practical joker. We had his wife call him to say his garage was on fire one day and he nearly drove all the way home before realizing he didn’t have a garage.

I’ve always been the butt of little gags, cause I blush bright crimson when embarrassed.

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

Honesty, and common sense.

Care to brag about your family?

They haven’t put me away yet. That makes them wonderful.

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

I wish I could play a musical instrument. It hurts me that I was born without any skill in that area. Don’t suggest that I try. I have.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

Hated school. Every year of it. My sixth grade teacher was a fine fellow, and made that year less hell than the others were.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

That I seem to be able to put out street lamps by driving past them.

What makes you angry?

Dirty socks on the floor.

What music soothes your soul?

Traditional Oriental music, Chinese or Japanese. Tibetan Throat Singing is something very special. If the tune is a thousand years old, and played on the same instruments, I’ll probably love it.
Sure do love Bossa Nova too, though.

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

Books. And a shower.

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

Crap! I have to say Fearless Vampire Killers. But, Fiddler on the Roof comes in at a very close second.

My favorite book is Aztec, by Gary Jennings.

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

Fantastic Voyage. For some reason, that film creeped me out.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Dirty socks on the floor. Again.

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

1. Listen more than we speak.
2. Expect less from everyone.
3. Look in the mirror more often, to see what a true hypocrite looks like.

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CHAT WITH MARIA SAVVA

Maria Savva lives and works in London. She is a lawyer, although not currently practising law. She writes novels and short stories in multiple genres.

Time to chat with Maria!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Haunted. It’s my fifth novel, a psychological thriller/paranormal suspense novel. I hadn’t written a novel this dark before, so it’s new territory for me, but it seems to be quite a popular one so far. At least three readers have told me that they’ve been unable to put it down and have read it in one sitting. That’s a massive compliment. I always envy people who can read so fast. I was moving more towards the paranormal genre with my novel, The Dream, which includes an element of time travel and also a ghost. If Haunted does prove to be popular, I may consider writing more dark fiction, although having said that, I promised myself I would write a happy novel next because Haunted was so difficult to write, emotionally.

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

I never know the ending of a book until I get there. Even if I plan an ending, it never turns out that way. With Haunted, for example, I started off knowing I wanted to write a book about how crime affects innocent victims’ families, but also how it affects the perpetrator. I started off writing it intending to show three different crimes and have them linked in some way. The original title was 3 Crimes. I began writing Nigel’s story and it took on a life of its own. The story developed and became a novel.

As for the title, I go through three or four titles while I’m writing the book, and then reflect on the story at the end and pick a title that suits the finished story. Haunted was called Aftermath for a while, but I settled on Haunted because of the paranormal element and I think it fits.

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 usually (maybe because I am mad) write the first draft with a pen and paper. I then edit the story as I am typing it up on the computer. I go through at least 10 edits before I am happy with the finished product. I find on each reread there are things that jump out at you that you had completely missed on the previous reading. It’s so important for writers to make sure they read and reread the book until they are happy with it. You usually know when you are nearly finished editing when you look and feel like a zombie, and could quite happily throw your computer out of the window. Who said writing was easy?

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Heaps and heaps of advice. In fact I could probably write a book about it. In my 15 or so years as a writer I have made every mistake known to man. I could help authors avoid some of those. However, making mistakes is a good thing as it’s the only way you learn. The most important advice I can think of off the top of my head is DO NOT publish your book without getting it professionally edited. When you are starting out as an author you simply do not have the tools to edit the book yourself. Furthermore, it is much more difficult to spot errors in your own work than it is to spot it in the work of others.

Even after editing, make sure you have as many beta readers as possible, preferably people who will give you an honest opinion of the book.

Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I write short stories, poems when I am inspired, and song lyrics. I have published a few short story collections, and some of my other short stories appear in the BestsellerBound Short Story Anthologies. I haven’t done much with my poetry, probably because I don’t see myself as knowledgeable enough about poetry and feel like a bit of a fraud. I did once enter a poem into a competition and never heard back, so I took this to mean I’m right about me being a crap poet. Who knows, I may find some more confidence later on and publish a few of them. As for the song lyrics, I’ve always written them with the intention of adding music to them at a later date, but have never done that either. Maybe because if I tried, it would shatter the illusion that I have of myself as a fantastic song writer, and would make me realise that I am not destined to be the next big thing in music. I always like to have an unrealistic dream to fall back on.

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

I was born to tell stories, you can ask my long-suffering younger sister about that. I used to keep her up until the middle of the night telling stories that I would make up. Reading was an addiction for me when I was young and due to this love of the written word, I always had a dream that I would one day write that bestselling novel. I wanted to emulate what my heroes had done. As a child, I used to watch films that were based on novels and fantasise about my own novels being made into films. Writing is now an addiction, and like any drug it’s a hard habit to break. I started writing my first novel in 1997, but before that I always wrote short stories, poems, song lyrics. My earliest writing would have been a comic series that I made up where my main character was a monster named Shag (that was long before the meaning of that word became a bit rude – or at least, I didn’t know it was rude). I used to draw pictures for the comic and write the stories. That was back in the ‘70s, unfortunately, I never kept any of those. When I was in my pre-teens and teens, I used to ‘write’ songs, although this was more me and my Casio organ, and me making up the lyrics as I went along. I wrote short stories at school and always enjoyed creative writing. I suppose I was bound to end up in some kind of job that involved the written word. I studied Law which involves a lot of reading.

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

Maybe I would write my memoirs. But I won’t do that until I’m at least in my sixties or older. I think it’s always good to have a lot of life experience under your belt before tackling writing an autobiography, unless it’s something written about a specific important event or something about you and your life that is different to other people’s lives. I quite like reading memoirs as I think we can learn a lot from each other, and unfortunately people don’t listen much to other people anymore because everyone has busy lives. Sitting down and reading an autobiography is like paying attention to one person and listening to what they have to say about what they’ve learned and experienced.

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?

I like author Darcia Helle’s tip best, she says: ‘Don’t read reviews’. I have heard that advice from others before as well, and you know, it makes a lot of sense. Reviews are after all one person’s opinion. Not everyone is going to like our writing, let’s face it, not everyone is going to like us as people. That’s life. I think the quandary is that reviews are needed in order for an author to gain a following – good and bad reviews- so we tend to obsess over them a bit too much. A tip for handling a negative review is to ignore it. I have a hard time with this but am finding it easier to restrain myself lately. Of course we love our books, but we need to take a step back. The worst thing an author can do is think that his or her own book is perfect. You need to be open to criticism; that is part of growing and becoming a better writer. I have always listened to every negative comment, and after crying for a few days I have asked myself how I can use that to make my next book even better. I will continue to do the same thing.

Writing is a learning process; I am learning new things every day. Contained in most negative reviews will be lovely gifts from the reviewer as to how we can improve ourselves as writers. If we ignore that we are doing ourselves a disservice. Remember, reviewers read a lot of books, other people will probably be thinking the same things about your book; don’t shoot the messenger. Sometimes you should take note of the things said in a review and use it to help you. Of course there are the nasty 1 star reviews written by nasty people. You can pretty much ignore those. Another tip is to go to your favourite author’s Amazon page and take a look at the reviews. There will be 1 star and 5 star reviews, which just proves that what some people love other people hate. I also heard recently that there is a saying that one third of the audience will hate you, one third will love you, and one third will be indifferent. So if you’re only attracting negative reviews, you just haven’t found your target audience yet. And remember, it’s impossible to please everyone, and no one should try to do that.

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 actually think that with independently published books you can certainly judge how much effort has gone into a book by looking at the cover. If someone is passionate about their work they will take time to make sure that the cover is something that adequately reflects the book’s content. For example, I design my own covers and put a lot of effort into making sure that it is something I would like to look at, something that would attract me to the book. I often purchase a book based on the fact that I like the cover and for no other reason. Usually, if it’s a good cover, it’s also a good book. I suppose it’s a matter of personal taste. All art is subjective, but if the author has designed their own cover and you like that, chances are you are also going to like the book; they both come from the same artistic spring. I’ve noticed that most big name publishers don’t put a lot of effort into book covers; that’s probably because they know the book is going to sell due to the hype and adverts. As an artist, I appreciate that book covers are a great way to showcase art. I used my own art work for the covers of Haunted, Pieces of a Rainbow, and The Dream; those were inspired by the books. I also took the photograph that is now the cover of Coincidences (second edition). For my other books I have used photographs from Morguefile.com, and have used iPhoto to play around with the original photos and adjust them to suit the book. For example, the photo of the swan on my cover for Fusion was originally in colour, I think, and was not at an angle, but I played around with it to try to get the swan to look a bit more intimidating, as one of the stories is a bit of a horror story involving swans.

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

Favourite: Cheesecake or chocolate, or better still: chocolate cheesecake.

Least favourite: Broad beans

What music soothes your soul?

Heavy metal/rock. I remember once walking out of Metallica concert and saying that I wished life was a Metallica concert… I always get a great vibe when I’m at rock/heavy metal festivals and gigs.

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

I have lots of favourite films and books, but if I had to choose one of each, it would be:

Favourite film: Shirley Valentine

Favourite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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

Listen more, be kind, smile more

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CHAT WITH SHYKIA BELL

Shykia Bell developed a love for writing at a very young age and often dreamed of authoring books, but her career took several turns before she penned her first sci-fi/fantasy novel, Camileon. She is presently working several projects, including the third installment of her Camileon series. Shykia currently resides in Brooklyn, New York with her husband Max, their cat and cockatiel.

Time to chat with Shykia!

What is your latest book?

Hi, Lisette. Congratulations on the launch of your brand new site and thank you so much for having me here at your lovely Writers’ Chateau! I’m thrilled to be your guest. My most recent novel is CAMILEON: Beyond The Veil. It’s the second in a series that chronicles the life of a young woman who wrestles with her identity and her past as she undertakes a harrowing task that could either help or hurt humanity in their fight against malevolent forces, both seen and unseen.

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

That all indie authors are lazy, which couldn’t be further from the truth. If I recall correctly, Sue Grafton recently faced heat for making such an implication. The truth is, there are talented and not-so-talented authors on both sides of the literary spectrum, whether traditional or indie. Even so, indie authors often have to work alone in various aspects of the publishing process. Not only do they have to work on the book itself, they also have to figure out what their brand is and how to market themselves efficiently in this highly competitive industry. It can be downright overwhelming, particularly for those who dare to go against the tide by producing something different than what the current trends dictate.

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

My characters surprise me quite often. For example, in CAMILEON: Beyond The Veil, there’s one character who I intended to be gentle and nurturing, but he turned out to be the polar opposite. It certainly made the story a lot more intriguing as the reasons for his nature unfolds. It actually scared me, how easy it was to write him, though some of his actions were tough to process.

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

A combination of both. I used to write a lot from elementary school through high school, but fell out of it during college. It wasn’t until years later that I rediscovered my passion for it. I’m so grateful that I did. It led me to meet some truly fascinating people.

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

My current novel is certainly my favorite for a number of reasons. It’s multi-faceted, and though it’s a sci-fi/fantasy novel, it contains situations that were inspired by some of the challenges I’ve had to overcome in reality. It was something I included subconsciously and I didn’t realize how truly connected I was to the characters until I saw fragments of my life in their experiences. That was actually kind of scary since I’m not the type of person who opens up so freely. For a while, I was apprehensive about publishing it, but figured by doing so I was somehow redeeming myself from some of my past mistakes.

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?

Negative reviews can be really tough to swallow, but in the end, everyone is entitled to their opinion. It’s impossible to put forth a product the entire world will like, because not everyone perceives art, or life, the same way. The best way to handle a negative review is not to dwell on it. If constructive criticism is given, you don’t necessarily have to take it, but you can give it some consideration if you feel it may help you grow. I’m always searching for ways to improve my craft and sometimes paying attention to reviews can be helpful in this regard. Yet, not everyone writes reviews with noble intentions. There are those who simply seek to tear others down by writing scathing reviews, in some cases without even having read the book. It can be tough to figure out the motive behind a negative review, especially if it is written in a non-specific manner, but rather than exert valuable time and energy worrying about it, my advice is for the writer to use those resources to write their next masterpiece.

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 think presentation is extremely important. I’ve heard many readers state that an author’s lack of polish on their cover reflects the level of integrity they hold in their work. I’m not sure if that’s always a fair statement since there are people who care very much about their work, but simply lack the skills and/or resources necessary to put together a sharp-looking cover. I happened to be lucky; I used to work as a graphics coordinator and possessed the skills I needed to design my own cover. The photography, however, was done by my extremely talented friend.

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?

Reader reviews are crucial since fellow readers look for an objective opinion on products before putting their hard-earned money behind it. Not only that, but authors truly want to hear their readers’ honest opinions; at least I know I do. Whether the opinion is favorable or justifiably critical, it shows that the author was successful in making some sort of connection. Isn’t that what we all want anyway; some form of connection that reminds writers that we’re not alone, that the reader also walks the path of our words once the book is finished?

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

That’s a tough one. There are so many wonderful gifts I’ve received and I’m not referring to the material sort. Other than the gift of life, the best gift I’ve ever received was a second chance to live my dream and to find true love.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I never learned how to ride a bike. Embarrassing to admit, but it’s true. Don’t judge. It’s on my bucket list.

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

1. Always keep an open mind. One of my mottos is a flexible mind isn’t easily broken. No one is right or wrong all the time and everyone, at some phase of their life or another, plays the role of student and teacher.

2. Find peace and happiness with yourself. Whether knowingly or not, we tend to project our unhappiness onto others, creating a terrible cycle of misery.

3. Be generous with your kindness and patience. It’s free and the more you give, the more comes back to you.

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