Author Interview: Kristen Kooistra

Author Interview of Kristen Kooistra

For this month, I interview Kristen Kooistra, a dedicated writer who’s got her social media set up with a blog, Facebook author pageTwitter profile, Goodreads, and Amazon presence. Inspirational stuff.

Is your best friend a writer?

Kristin: No, he’s not. J My husband is my best friend and he’s never written more than a grocery list. He didn’t even really cross over into reader territory until we got married. I started handing him books and going, “You’d like this.” He still doesn’t read a whole lot, but there’s nights we’ll stay up reading our own things or I’ll read out-loud.

Do you think you could ever be best friends with your villain?

Kristin: Oh certainly, both of them. My two villains are my favorite characters and despite knowing they’re evil, I can’t help liking them.

Do you have a back cover blurb you could share with us?

Kristin: Yes! Here’s the one for Heart of the Winterland.

The Princess
On her 200th birthday, the enchantment that holds Princess Calisandra in a state of apathy breaks. Full of questions about her kingdom’s history and what lies outside the borders of her snow-cursed kingdom, she leaves home in search of answers.

The Sorceress
Fate has always been against Amee. Orphaned as a baby, she grew up with darkness snuffing out what little light she could find in her life. When her spirit breaks, she sequesters herself in the border forest. Powerful and angry, she waits …

The Guardian
An orb formed to protect Cali, Voice has never had a purpose beyond caring for the princess’s needs. But as she joins Cali on her journey and the spell that confined her breaks, she starts to wonder about her place in the world.

The Captain
Captain Kota, in forced exile from her homeland, swears that never again will she be powerless. Ascending the ranks of the Shayal guard, her latest mission is to find the one who has escaped Duke Bludgaard.

The Fugitive
A desperate search has brought Angel far from her home, but now Captain Kota’s relentless pursuit keeps her from her task. When she crosses paths with a naîve princess and a sage orb, she finds more than she anticipated.

What makes your books stand out from the crowd?

Kristin: First, I’d say the lack of romance. I still feel a little “ahhh” about that because romance is such a big deal for readers. A lot of people enjoy it as a subplot, and I kind of took a gamble with writing a story that didn’t have a romance. Especially with Fantasy, romance is usually involved. But I hope there’s people like me who love a book that focuses on other things.

Most of the praise for Winterland has been about the characters and how real they are.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?

Kristin: I don’t follow the trends of publishing, but I suspect it’ll be much the same as it is now.

For traditional publishing there’ll always be people who want to just write and leave all the other details of what it takes to get a book out there to someone else. There’ll still be people who only feel validated or accomplished if they’re traditionally published. And people who just know they don’t have the time, skills, or desire to learn how to properly assemble a novel(outside of writing it) and market it.

Same goes for self-publishing. There’ll always be writers like me who are control freaks and want to do it all themselves. Fail or win, there’ll be no one to blame but myself. There’ll be writers who don’t want to wait to get traditionally published, who’ll tire of getting turned down, or who want to take on all the work and not have to split the money.

And since I can see there being a significant portion of writers who want to choose self or traditional for any of those reasons(or others), I can’t imagine either is going away anytime soon. I also can’t really think of what new thing would come on the scene.

About Kristen

Kristen Kooistra fell in love with reading at a young age and never resurfaced. She loved solving mysteries, riding across the prairie, and sailing on the open sea. But her favorite books were those that held the fantastical. So when the time came for her to seriously approach publishing a book, it had to be fantasy!

Living in Michigan(her own winterland) with her husband, three kids, and two cats, she has lots of free time . . . Okay, so more like she squeezes in writing time late at night when only the cats are awake to pester her.

“Heart of the Winterland” is Kristen’s first novel, and though it started as a whim, it grew into so much more and has inspired a sequel(in progress), “Heart of the Sorceress”.

Tucked into a quiet countryside, Kristen spends most of her time being Mommy. She loves spending time with her family and hopes that her writing will entertain and inspire them as well.

Besides writing, Kristen enjoys reading(of course!), chatting with her writer’s group, sewing, swimming, gardening, and cooking(please no baking!). She’s also developed a fondness for water gun fights with her three year old. Actually, she’s found that most everything become a lot more fun with little kids.

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Author Interview: Christina Feindel

Author Interview of Christina Feindel

Now I have some questions for Christina Feindel, a science fiction author who is giving us a perspective on her debut novel. Exciting stuff and inspirational.

Do you write full-time or part-time?

Christina: I’m self-employed full-time and then some, which involves some writing, but not really the kind we’re talking about. That takes up a lot of my time and energy. I try to find time for fiction every day, even if it’s only a few minutes, but the reality is it often takes a backseat to everything else. I’d like to be able to strike a 50-50 balance between my job and my writing someday.

What drew you to write in this genre?

Christina: My fiction is always very character-driven. I really think I could have told the same story (or at least, a very similar one) in just about any genre. And I was never very interested in sci-fi as a kid. But I find that as I get older, it’s a good opportunity to explore the concerns we all have about the future of our planet and our legacy as a species.

Q: How much research do you do?

Christina: That’s the nice thing about fantasy and science fiction. It’s often better the further removed from reality it is, the more it engages and challenges the reader’s imagination. But there are things you can BS and things you can’t, and the hope is that the readers can’t tell the difference. I think Scott Lynch said something like that about one of his books. I can take liberties with technologies we don’t have yet, but there are plenty of things we do have–a significant portion of my book takes place in a jungle, for example, so I wanted that to feel as authentic as I could manage.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Christina: I try not to make plans or get my hopes up or have unrealistic expectations. I just want to enjoy the ride. I’ve always written as a hobby and I’m perfectly content to keep doing that. I already have a job I love that challenges and satisfies me in completely different ways than writing does. But I hope that when the book does come out, it entertains whoever happens to pick it up. Even if it’s only one person.

Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Christina: Absolutely. We all know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but we do anyway. Some books with amateurish covers might catch on, but I think those are few and far between. I freelance in graphic design, so the cover for The Revenant is something I put a lot of time and thought into.

Introducing Christina’s Debut Novel: The Revenant

the-revenant-halcyon-reach-book-oneWith its advanced weaponry, the ghost ship Revenant was supposed to turn the tide of the war… but went missing instead. Ten years later, the Federation’s hold on the three suns is firmly cemented and corrupt in every way, and any Separatist hopes or dreams seem to have gone the way of Old Earth and its dinosaurs.

Grayson Delamere was still a child when the war ended and she doesn’t much care why it was fought in the first place. In the cold, dark vac of space, most lives are short and brutal with or without the Federation’s interference. She’s worked hard and kept her head down, making her living as a mechanic on any ship that’d have her. If she’s broken a few laws and made a few enemies along the way, well, that’s just the way life is on the fringe of the Trisolar System.

But now, someone has discovered all of her dirty little secrets… and will hold them hostage to ensure Grayson’s help in the most dangerous job of her life: To recover the Revenant and rekindle the fires of rebellion.

About Christina

Christina Feindel resides in central Texas with her multi-talented husband, Noah. While traversing academia, civil service, and chronic illness in early adulthood, she founded the whole-foods blog ACleanPlate.com and now works as a cook, photographer, and educator. She pens fiction in her spare time, with a particular passion for character development and genre-blending. More info about her and her debut novel The Revenant can be found at CLFeindel.com.

Author Interview: Zeta Lordes

Author Interview of Zeta Lordes

Here’s an interview of yet another up and coming author. It’s great to see what others like to cover in their work!

Do you have a preferred tense or point of view you write in? And why?

Zeta: I always write in past tense versus present tense. I dislike present tense to both read and write… what it might gain in immediacy it loses in intimacy. For me, past tense is more conducive to storytelling versus story reporting.

I’ll often write short stories in 1st person (POV), but I write longer pieces in 3rd person. 1st person is much more confining (for both reader and writer) in terms of how the story can unfold. In longer pieces I prefer the elements of 3rd person which offer a wider scope to the story telling.

Are there particular themes you try to bring out in your works?

Zeta: Some of my favorites are

  • Ambition — getting what you want and what price you’re willing to pay for it
  • Discovery — stretching your world view beyond what you know to discover new places, new meanings, and new strengths
  • Fear — how it drives us, how we deal with it, and how we conquer it
  • Personal Responsibility — ultimately the choices we make are ours alone, how do we deal with the repercussions, do they make us or break us
  • Power — the search for it, how we deal with it both internally and externally, the loss and gain of it

Do you have a specific reader in mind when you write? What are they like?

Zeta: I suppose I think of a reader very similar to myself. Someone who likes intrigue, a certain level of sophistication, complex characters with complex motivations, and a story that supports those ideals.

What type of obstacles do you most enjoy throwing at characters in your stories?

Zeta: A lot of this ties into my favorite themes. I force my characters to face their fears, the costs of their ambitions, and the cost/responsibility of power. I love giving my characters impossible choices which often leaves them giving up more than they get. Battering their beliefs and preconceived notions of themselves is also a favorite obstacle, tying into personal responsibility and discovery.

How do you feel about endings? Is there a type of ending you strive for?

Zeta: I’ll often play around with different endings for short stories. But in longer works I’m always going for the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. Not sugary sweet, but definitely uplifting and buoyant. I love happy endings!

About Zeta

Zeta Lordes is writer of Speculative Fiction (mostly a blend of Science Fiction and Paranormal) flavored with plenty of suspense and romance. When she’s not writing, she’s often playing with photo projects, like book covers for herself and other author friends.

She lives alone in a rambling house littered everywhere with books, and the company of three cats—who have their own litter.

She’s just started reaching out on social media. You can follow her here:

https://zetalordes.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012450018026

Author Interview: J. R. Creaden

Author Interview of J. R. Creaden

Here’s another self published author also writing science fiction. It’s good to see that they are out there. Also, it’s good to see someone with similar reasons for wanting to write science fiction. I’ll let you read on.

contact-filesWhen you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?

J. R. I get a strong grasp of characters before I begin. They develop from that point as I write, but I already know their background, personality, goals, dislikes, quirks, and even secrets by then. Characters continue to surprise me as I write though, and I often find that what I thought I knew about the characters was merely the surface, that their truth lies much deeper within the narrative.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?

J. R. I’m on hold about this. In my lifetime, I’ve seen books enter the digital age while traditional bookstores go out of business. This is very sad to me, even though I love the availability of stories on every platform. Not all readers have that kind of access, though. I hope we don’t trend too far away from physical publishing. Paper books survive much longer than app companies or cell phone batteries.

What drew you to write in this genre?

J. R. I blame my children. No, really. I never intended to write for young audiences, but my children’s heartache over not finding stories at their levels that “matched” their interests drove me to creating a series built around their interests.

Since science fiction is the genre I prefer to read, it seemed natural that I would write in it eventually. I love how science fiction can help shape the real world, and I hope to be part of the science popularization movement, drawing readers to think outside of what “is” to what “could be” if they try.

Kids these days are smarter than they get credit for, in my opinion, and I see young readers fighting against the tide of anti-intellectualism sweeping the West. I don’t want to give them easy scifi, I want to give them something they can sink into, that can carry them away but still be “real” enough that it drives them to ask questions about our own planet, our own histories, about entropy and evolution, and that can grow with them as they mature.

Do you read outside your genre?

J. R. I read in all genres. I’ve taken a ten-year hiatus from historical fiction so my favorite authors in that genre can push out more works, but I know I’ll return. I don’t read much romance, but it falls in my lap sometimes along with paranormal fantasy, science fiction, high and low fantasy, women’s lit, mystery, crime, horror, memoirs, biographies. I read YA, MG, and children’s lit aloud with my children, but I read on my own even more.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

J. R. Covers have never mattered to me—the first thing I do with a purchased hardcover is toss that paper sleeve in the trash. I’m certain it factors into other readers’ choices, though. I like a cover to be recognizable and bold, otherwise I’m not particular.
Traditional scifi covers are some of my favorite art, however, and I think the role covers play within the genre is unique. For a space story, I definitely want to see an image of space on the book.

About J. R.

jrcreadenJR began her writing career as a child disgruntled with song lyrics. After some early success with poetry and essays, she spent decades distracted by songwriting and academia until her story dreams became too interesting to keep to myself. Her current YA space opera series Contact Files will soon be ready for public consumption or vivisection. Her goal is to share stories that inspire readers to embrace cultural diversity, the promise of science, and the value of humor and imagination to build a future that’s more Star Trek and less 1984. When she’s not writing, JR enjoys exchanging “your mama” jokes with her children, floating in lakes, and slaying virtual dragons.

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Author Interview: Tabitha Chirrick

Author Interview with Tabitha Chirrick

This month I have an interview with an author who has perhaps the best Twitter name of all, ‘tabkey’. It’s good for me to see that some of the challenges I face are those that others have to deal with. For me this is grate news because it means that it’s normal, i.e. nothing to worry about.

When you develop characters, do you already know who they are before you begin writing, or do you let them develop as you go?

Tabitha: I usually have a general sense of who my tabithachirrick-overshadowed-ebook-small-smallcharacters are before I start writing. Maybe it’s just their archetype, or a twist on that archetype with a flavoring of personality, but I don’t start with nothing. I don’t put in more effort than that because…well. You put new characters on a page with a plan, and most of the time they take that plan for a ride. They end up having more romantic chemistry with their supposed nemesis than their destined true love, and they always acquire a much dirtier mouth somehow, or an impossibly clean one.

And I get that it can be a little off-putting for me to talk about characters like subliminal beings with their own free will rather than fictitious creations of my own mind, but actually writing the story dredges up a sort of subconscious influence. I’ve sort of accepted this as part of my process.

Writing the first draft is a game of “get to know you” with my characters. By the second draft, they can be completely different people. Case in point: when writing Overshadowed, I actually cut an entire character and merged her ghost with the MC’s sidekick-sort, and the result was not only a much more well-rounded character but a much cleaner, more effective cast.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing as far as content?

Tabitha: I struggle with transitional scenes. Getting characters from point A to point B while maintaining intrigue. If anyone reading this has ever read my work, you’ll know I try to keep the transitions implied through chapter breaks. Tayel and her friends will end a chapter planning a fuel heist, and the next chapter will open with them executing the plan. No hand-holding transitions required.

But sometimes I need to get characters to the next plot point within the chapter, and those parts are always a massive pain in my ass. Such scenes need to exist to maintain flow and a sense of time, but intrigue has to be maintained, as does the current level of tension. It also doesn’t hurt to have some character or plot development happening in the narrative so it’s not just filler space.

Obviously every scene should take these things into consideration, but transitions are the hardest because finding a unique way to do all this while showing my characters travel or complete a long, mundane task can become tedious. It’s always worth it in the end, though!

What are your views on social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?

Tabitha: I do very, very little “hard marketing” on social media, which for me entails twitter, a blog, and goodreads. I don’t post buy links for my books unless they’ve just come out or there’s a sale or a giveaway, and I definitely don’t spam DMs to new followers. Basically: I don’t do to other people what I don’t want done to me. I don’t like spam, seas of buy links, or accounts that basically exist as a shop front for their work.

In my mind, social media is about being social. It’s about engaging with other people on popular issues or like interests, so I make my time on those sites about that. I try to talk about things in my life I find exciting – like writing and video games and books – and I support people who are doing exciting things. Just by engaging on a social level, I hope to draw people who like the same things I do, and maybe one day they’ll see a sale or giveaway and try out some of the content I create.

Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Tabitha: It’s a gift!

Writing is about humanity, about capturing the world or inventing new, better worlds. Fiction can carve through biases and create objective platforms for discussing liberties, it can unveil the true face of depression and make people empathize with something they themselves have never even experienced, and it always opens us up to new ideas, or at the very least, new adventures.

I think about the way Harry Potter affected my generation, about how millions of us were so deeply touched by a world of magic and bigger-than-life characters. One story told across seven books inspired a generation of new readers, took over Hollywood, got its own theme park, and constantly makes an impact in people’s lives (just check tumblr!).

To have the ability – or the drive to create the ability to write stories that have an impact is an incredible gift. We may never get to J.K. Rowling levels of status, but if one person reads your story and loves it, is maybe changed by it, isn’t that worth it? It is for me.

Maybe that’s a little pie in the sky. Of all the writers in the world, I’m certainly one of the least insightful and interesting, because I like writing about explosions and lasers (pew pew). But at the end of the day, sitting down to create stories others may love is the best feeling.

What is your favourite movie and why?

Tabitha: Okay, that’s kind of a big question. I love movies. The first one that popped into my head was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, though, so let’s go with that!

I know it’s not the quintessential film-lover’s Citizen Kane or anything by Hitchcock or Scorsese, but Scott Pilgrim is such a lively and fun film. The story is pretty darn basic, but the characters are rapidly characterized, crazy and quirky, and the interactions between their vastly different personalities are hysterical. Edgar Wright’s directing is fantastic, and the visual humor adds just as much as the spoken.

I saw the movie first (didn’t read the graphic novel. I know. shame. shame. shame.), so knew hardly anything about it before watching. It of course opens as a typical love tale with a nerdy twist, which was neat, but then the movie explodes into an action flick and none of the characters bat an eye at the genre change, like superhero fights in the middle of rock shows are just everyday occurrences for them. Just fantastic. I freaking love that movie! I’m gonna go watch it again now.

About Tabitha

tabithachirrick_smallTabitha Chirrick is an author of all things speculative, geeky, and/or badass. Her most recent release is a YA Space Opera called Overshadowed, which she feels includes an about-right number of explosions. She makes her base in a little-known town so close to San Diego that it’s just much easier to say “San Diego.” She lives in San Diego.

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Author Interview: Alasdair Shaw

Author Interview of Alasdair Shaw

For this month, I interview Alasdair Shaw, a writer who seems to have taken a different path to a self publishing career, specifically through non-fiction before getting into science fiction. It’s great to see the flexibility that comes with self publishing.

Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?

Alasdair: I feel like I should make one up just to answer this question. Here goes…

I once bumped into Steven Spielberg at Cannes. He thought I had written Independence Day, probably due to the first installment of the Two Democracies: Revolution series being called Independence, and started talking about a sequel. A reporter overheard some of it and ran a big story about it.

Now, if I ever get famous, I am going to see how long it takes that bit of rubbish to appear on Wikipedia!

Have you written works in collaboration with other writers, and if so: why did you decide to collaborate and did it affect your sales?

The Newcomer Book CoverAlasdair: I have some short stories in science fiction anthologies. One of which, The Newcomer, I edited myself. I wanted to be involved in a joint project, something that would be greater than any of us individually would create. It also seemed a good way to introduce readers to authors they hadn’t yet encountered.

They have brought more people to my series, and also garnered a few very involved mailing list subscribers.

Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?

Alasdair: Yes. Usually I aim for that time to be one where I am busy anyway, and so aren’t tempted. Having finished my first military science fiction novel, Liberty, I was posted to run a training exercise in south Wales. Days of caving, rock climbing, mountain walking, tactical exercises and live full-bore shooting forced the book out of my conscious mind. When I returned for the final edit, I saw several big flaws that needed addressing.

The Perception of Justice Book CoverWith my latest work, The Perception of Prejudice, I finished it just before Christmas then went back to it at the start of this month.

How much research do you do?

Alasdair: I spent a lot of time reading, searching, and walking the routes for my Walking through the Past series.

To be honest, I do very little research for my science fiction. The worlds are completely fictitious, so instead of researching real places I run things through in a sort of simulation in my head. I do a little digging into historical events that I want to resonate with references in my stories. The main piece of research is into the books, music, and artwork that Indie (my main character – a sentient AI) explores.

Was anything in the book inspired by your own personal experience?

Alasdair: Johnson’s command style is akin to some of the better officers I have met. She avoids micro-managing where she can, focusing instead on the big picture. She trusts her crew to do what needs doing, and refrains from pointless orders. It makes the story-telling harder – no “Shields up” to remind the reader they have shields when faced with an enemy attack, for instance.

One of the characters in my work in progress is partially based on my personal experience in life. Not his great riches, but his interpretation of the world and interactions with other people.

About Alasdair

Alasdair Shaw started his writing career with Walking Through the Past, a series of walking guides to archaeological sites in Britain’s uplands published by Archaeoroutes. He then got into writing physics textbooks, revision guides, and practice exam papers for OCR, Pearson, ZigZag Education and BBOP: School Physics Resources.

The Two Democracies: Revolution science fiction series starts with Independence, and continues with Liberty. A novelette, The Perception of Prejudice, comes out this month. The next full-length novel, Equality, will hopefully be released in summer 2017, followed by Fraternity the year after.

You can sign up to Alasdair Shaw’s mailing list at https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/k9x9t2  and see what else he gets up to on his website at http://www.alasdairshaw.co.uk.
The Two Democracies universe intersects with our own at https://twitter.com/IndieAI and https://www.facebook.com/twodemocracies.

Author Interview: Heather Hayden

Augment by Heather HaydenAuthor Interview of Heather Hayden

As a motivation for myself, it helps to look at others that are putting the work in and getting results. Here’s an interview with Heather Hayden, another Science Fiction author, one who provides some excellent advice (DON’T PROCRASTINATE).

Which writers inspire you?

Heather: This is a difficult question to answer. It’s like asking me what my favorite book is! I’ve been told by readers of my earlier books that I was influenced by Brian Jacques (too much time describing food…I’m not writing about Redwall Abbey!) Later books avoided this, though, and my writing style is definitely my own. However, my imagination has been stirred by many different writers and worlds, ever since I was a child first learning to read. I couldn’t pick a specific writer any more than I could pick a favorite book, but I can say that my influences are definitely a conglomeration of Jacques, Cherryh, Asimov, Novik, Colfer, Beddor, Jones, Collins…just to name a few.

From the Stories of OldHave you collaborated with other writers? If so, why did you decide to collaborate and did it affect your sales?

Heather: My first collaboration was released earlier this month, on the seventh! Myself and a group of other wonderful writers have put together an anthology of fairy tale retellings called From the Stories of Old: A Collection of Fairy Tale Retellings. Our goal is to reach new readers and hopefully publish more anthologies (some science fiction-themed!) in the future.

Do you have any tips for writers on what to do and what not to do while writing?

Heather: Don’t procrastinate. Seriously. Sometimes your brain will even try to convince you that those dishes Must Be Washed Now. Don’t listen to it. Pin that muse down by whatever means necessary, then apply butt to chair and fingers to keyboard (or pencil, pen, typewriter, brush, whatever your preferred medium.)

Do let your creativity flow. That doesn’t mean allowing your characters or plot to go haring off in every direction, but it does mean letting the story flex a bit if it needs to. (Pantsers may find this easier than plotters, or conversely more difficult.) Ignore that inner editor until you’ve gotten the first draft down on paper.

How do you relax?

Heather: I’m an avid gamer, so I do spend some free time gaming with friends—Minecraft is a current favorite, although I play MMORPGs at times, and 4X strategy games, and just-for-fun RPGs. I’m an even bigger bookworm, though, so I’ll frequently curl up with a good book and a hot cup of tea (or iced tea in the summer). Walking on the beach in the summer is also a great way for me to relax—I love listening to the ocean.

Do you remember the first story you ever read? What kind of an impact did it have on you?

Heather: That’s difficult to recall. I know I was reading by the age of five, because when I was in kindergarten I took books out of the school library. However, I don’t remember much of that year, or anything from before that. I do recall my favorite book from that time period, though—The Unicorn and the Lake by Marianna Mayer. It had beautiful illustrations and told the story of a benevolent unicorn and terrible serpent who end up doing battle. The story fascinated me and I read it over and over. A few years ago I tracked down a copy to buy—that’s how much I loved that book.

I definitely think it had an impact on me, as I grew up loving fantasy, and, later, science fiction (though one could argue that science fiction is simply another kind of fantasy!) I also recall wanting to be like that unicorn, so brave and selfless and beautiful, so it influenced me as a person as well.

***

Heather Hayden IconAbout Heather

Though a part-time editor by day, Heather Hayden’s not-so-secret identity is that of a writer—at night she pours heart and soul into science fiction and fantasy novels. In March 2015 she published her first novella, Augment, a YA science fiction story filled with excitement, danger, and the strength of friendship. She immediately began work on its sequel, Upgrade, which continues the adventures of Viki, a girl who loves to run, and her friend Halle, an AI. Her latest release is a short story “Beneath His Skin,” which is part of an anthology her writer’s group put together called From the Stories of Old: A Collection of Fairy Tale Retellings. You can learn more about Heather and her stories through her blog and her Twitter, both of which consist of equal amounts of writerly things and random stuff she’s interested in.

 

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Author Interview: Jim Moran

Today I have another aspiring Science Fiction author interview, Jim Moran, another person like myself, attracted to the craft of Science Fiction.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Jim: Yikes. That’s the big question, isn’t it? Two years ago, I had no ambitions for a career in writing. I never even considered the existence of such a thing. I mean, obviously such things existed. I just never had a call to think about them.

I grew up on an island in Alaska. Not . . . you know, not by myself. I wasn’t raised by wolves. There was a town there, with a stoplight and a McDonalds and everything. But I’d never really been exposed to any flavor of writing culture. No writing workshops, no conventions, not even an RPG group, really. And no prospect of driving to the next town for that kind of thing because, again: island. My youth was pretty much pre-internet, too, I didn’t so much as dial into a BBS until junior high. So while I was an avid reader, and conceptually I knew that an “author” was a thing, it was always just that: a nebulous concept that really didn’t apply to me.

Over the years, I discovered that good writing went a long way. I wrote a thank-you letter to a boot company once, and they responded with a fifty-dollar gift-certificate for another pair of boots. (They were exceptional boots.) I wrote a thousand words for this random on-line game universe, and won a hundred (Canadian) dollars. Little things like that. I never considered myself an author, just a guy who could put words together well enough to sometimes benefit from it.

Maybe some subconscious part of me always wanted to be an author, though.

An article in a Boy’s Life magazine introduced me to Applesoft BASIC when I was in the second grade. I subsequently lost my computer lab privileges for a week, because I got every computer in the lab to call one of my classmates “STOOPID”. It was a social coup for an eight year old, and I’ve been programming ever since. And a computer program certainly tells a story.

Programming scratched an ill-defined, barely-conceptualized itch. So did that gift certificate for new boots. But the itch remained.

Eventually, a Rube Goldberg series of events led me to an online community that allowed folks to give and receive critiques on early drafts. I poked around on the site for a while, read some great (and not-so-great yet) early drafts, and was content. For a little while.

I soon found that I didn’t really feel part of the community if I was just critiquing other. It was like I was dishing it out, but not taking it. I didn’t want to be that guy. So, on a whim, I started sketching out an outline of a story. Fleshed out a few characters. Dredged up a couple of motivations. In short order, I had a couple of rough chapters ready to post. Again, it was really just to have something out there, so that I could feel like I was participating. There was no real investment in it.

But the folks critiquing my stuff didn’t know that. They treated my posts as valid stuff from a valid guy pursuing a valid career. They approached my stuff more seriously than I did. Reactions were generally positive, so I just kept going.

In the process, I learned a ton. Met some great people, read some great stuff . . . really, this was my first introduction to a writer’s culture, to the grease and gears of real writing. A year, give or take, and I’m making serious revisions on my first story, Focus, which I don’t really want to call a “book” because of course it hasn’t been offered for sale anywhere yet.

And now here I am. Ambitions towards a career? So far, I’ve accepted that such a thing is something that people think about. Beyond that, I’m pretty much just making things up as I go.

I’m not sure if that answers the question.

How do you relax?

Jim: You mean, besides the whiskey? By myself, reading is a great way to relax. Or movies, computer games . . . basically, the ability to sit in one place and enjoy somebody else’s narrative for a while.

Of course, taking my wife out to a nice restaurant can certainly ease the stress. But just sitting and listening to her tell me about her day can also be relaxing. I suppose that’s just another form of enjoying somebody else’s narrative.

What do you do when somebody tells you that they hate your writing?

Jim: Well, it depends upon context.

If it’s just a random guy on the Internet, that’s to be expected. In fact, I’d think something was off if nobody said they hated my writing, not even to be ironic or countercultural. I will know that I have arrived as a writer when my writing is popular enough for random people on the Internet to tell me they hate it.

If it’s an official review somewhere, I assume the review would include reasons for the hate. If possible, I’d thank the reviewer for the insight, make notes of the issues raised, and consider them in my next project. At least, I hope I would. Some people just know how to push buttons, and I am not a perfect man. But I like to think I can be an adult in the room.

If it’s part of a larger rant “I hate your dog, your writing, your mother, your face . . .” I’d probably just punch the guy. Or laugh at him, if punching is not an option. What a loser.

If I know the person and respect that person’s opinion, I’d certainly ask for reasons why. Maybe they’d have good reasons that I might work with. Maybe it’s just not their thing. Either way, I’d accept the opinion and move on.

If everybody tells me that they hate my writing, well . . . that’s kind of a hint, isn’t it? I certainly wouldn’t stop writing. But perhaps I’d practice a bit more before I posted something else. Maybe do some reevaluation of methods, or genres, or writing styles. Maybe attend a workshop or something. Basically, I would pursue improvement, because the last thing I’ll do is stop writing entirely.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

Jim: Does anybody write on anything other than a computer anymore? I’m sure there are folks out there that do, but man. Not me. I have this vague understanding that writing professionally was possible before they had things like UNDO and CUT-PASTE, but . . . come on. Crossing the Pacific Ocean was possible before airplanes, too. Progress marches on.

Are typewriter/dictation/longhand writers still a significant thing? I’ve never been plugged into a writing community until very recently, and it’s an Internet community, which is some pretty significant observation bias. So I could totally be the ignorant one here.

Okay, maybe I’m willing to admit that dictation might be fun. Voice recognition software has come a long way. I wouldn’t be very enthusiastic about revising the stream-of-conscious nonsense that comes out of my mouth, but I could see how it might work for somebody.

Longhand, though. Man. My hand is cramping up just thinking about it.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

Jim: The effort’s not over yet. I’m still revising my first draft. But so far, the hardest thing for me has been addressing good criticism.

I don’t mean accepting criticism. I’ve learned an incredible amount from my critique group, and those parts that I’ve revised so far read a lot better specifically because of some of the critiques I’ve received. I’ve lucked into an exceptional bunch of folks to work with. Aside from that, I’m a programmer, and I’ve long since learned to not take code-reviews personally if I ever want to get better.

But when somebody pokes a hole in my logic, or finds a spot where I forgot to follow the rules that I’ve established, or pointed out where a motivation doesn’t work with respect to the character I’ve developed . . . resolving that issue is hard. Because now I’m not in the vanguard, leading the story down whatever path I find. Now I’ve already traversed that path. I’ve already arrived at an ending, I need to tear out something in the middle, change how somebody reacted to an impulse, yet still figure out how to reach the same conclusion. It can be hard to do without the result feeling contrived.

Normally, I can come up with a solution, and a good critique group can actually help in that regard. But a couple of times, the problem area grew to encompass thousands of words, even a chapter or more. I’ve thrown away over five thousand words because changing a character’s motivation changed their solution, which threatened to inexorably end up in either “deus ex machina” or “everybody you care about dies horribly”. (Everybody you care about in the story, I mean. I don’t think my writing is that bad.)

It can be frustrating and demotivating. In my limited experience, frustration and demotivation are two of the biggest obstacles to a successful writing endeavor.

***

Jim describes himself as a random guy on the Internet who accidentally fell into this whole “writing” thing. He is working hard at nearly every aspect of the writing endeavor, and is enjoying the challenging and rewarding journey.  He also has a blog.

Author Interview: Louise Ross

This month’s aspiring author interview is with Louise Ross. I’d like to thank Louise for giving her time to participate in the interview and look forward to seeing the results of her efforts.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Louise: Ha. There are so many things my younger self should know. Don’t let your mom give you a boy’s haircut, stop leaning your head to the left in pictures, embrace your awkwardness, and above all else go for it. Whatever you are doing, don’t hold any punches and go at it hard. I rarely held back as a child, but the times I did were the times I probably should have pushed harder.

What do you think of “trailers” for books, and will you create one for your own work?

Louise: I have visited a few author pages that have book trailers. I’ve even watched a few (usually the sexy romance ones). I keep my computer on silent, so I don’t watch a lot of videos. Unless trailers become industry standard, I don’t think I’ll make one.

What is your favourite movie and why?

Louise: Ack! Do I have to pick just one? Ok, fine. My favorite movie is The Scarlet Pimpernel from 1982. It’s my favorite because I have it memorized and can do laundry to it. It’s got romance and humor, the lead is sarcastic and clever, and his disguises are almost like magic. I never get bored of it.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

Louise: So here’s my disclaimer: I am not published yet.

Self-publishing frightens me because it puts the responsibility for success on the writer. Anyone can upload a novel and hit publish, but that alone will not create readers. Uploading a novel does not mean it is polished, well-written, properly edited or correctly formatted. Even if the novel itself is ready for publication, marketing is necessary. There is accounting to track, taxes to worry about, and long-term strategies to think about. While I actually have a business degree, I already have a more-than-full-time job, and I don’t think I could effectively manage the business side of self-publishing.

That being said, I have queried out one of my works a handful of times. Every denial stabs a little. Especially when the rejections say things like “while your story is good, it is simply not for me. This industry is highly subjective.” Which I translate to, maybe somebody else will want to buy/read your novel, but it’s not my thing. The gatekeepers work both for and against the industry. They may validate an author but they also control what gets published.

When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?

Louise: I love characters. I usually spend a lot of time developing them. I tend to keep a spreadsheet of my characters so I can track what is happening from their perspectives. I think the more differences in perspective that come up as I plot and plan the novel, the more exciting the novel becomes.

***

Louise Ross dreams then writes it all down. When governments are destroyed, wars destroy the land, and tech takes over, her stories explore the struggles of the common man to overcome.

Louise Ross on her websiteGoogle+, and Twitter.

Author Interview: Ash Litton

Introducing Ash Litton

Today I have a guest author. Ash Litton is working away at becoming a self published author and is currently working on a dystopian science fiction series based on near future exploration of the solar system.AshAuthorPhotoIt’s a real privilege to have this opportunity to interview someone putting such effort into their self publishing career.

Do you write full-time or part-time? What do you prefer to write?

Ash: I consider myself a full-time writer working two jobs. I have my day job, and on my breaks and lunch, I’m writing. Before work: I’m writing. After work: I’m writing. The wonderful thing about my job as a writer is that I can do it anywhere, anytime.

As to what I write: I love most things. I’m always up for some type of fantasy fiction, be it Science Fiction with FTL drives or Epic Fantasy with castles and dragons. Gimme Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Steampunk, Cyberpunk, the works. The stranger the better, and the more crossover between genres, the more likely I’ll be there reading and writing it.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, use a dictation program, or go traditionally longhand?

Ash: I’ve done a little of all, except I haven’t touched a typewriter in years (and, yes, that click-clack of the typewriter is so incredibly therapeutic).

Most, if not all, of my writing happens on the computer. I even bought a Surface tablet with a keyboard a couple years ago because I wanted to be able to write on the go, using a Microsoft-compatible system since I do all my writing in Microsoft Word.

If I’m in a place where I don’t have access to my tablet, then I jump to pen and paper, and if I don’t have pen and paper, I jump on my phone and use the voice recorder (which is so much faster than typing on my iddy-bitty screen, and actually really great in those moments when I wake up from a vivid dream and don’t want to turn all the lights on).

Do you ever get Writer’s Block, and do you have any tips for getting through it?
Ash: Oh, yeah, I’ve gotten it. I tend to approach it more as a Road Block, though. Sometimes you just have to detour to find the next best route through, so that entails taking a step back, assessing where I am and where I need to go, and looking at the key points of a scene to see how they’re connected and how best to connect them to the next scene.

If I still can’t get it, I “OnStar” my peers and pitch them my scene and see how they would get through it—very often we work things out within just a few minutes to hours of talking.

What’s your views on social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?
Ash: Like everything: use in moderation. Excessive chatter (even on a blog), means people aren’t paying attention to you because you’re just saying the same thing over and over again. They zone out. I even found that when I stopped posting once a week to my blog and switched to every 15 days, traffic to my site actually increased—and rapidly, at that!

People do appreciate quality over quantity when it comes to social media. So Twitter, Facebook, all of it: use it in moderation. Out of those that I’ve used, though, I say Facebook has been the one to increase sales for me. By making use of the Indie Author/Self-published Author groups out there, you can know up front how many people you’re potentially targeting with your advertising just based on how many people belong to the group.

You might be worried that it’s only other authors in those Facebook groups, but keep in mind: authors like to read, too. And authors especially know the virtue of leaving a good review.

Final question. Where do you see publishing going in the future?
Ash: I foresee a lot of crossover. Self-publishing has gained a lot of ground over the last decade, and I think given a few more years, it’ll be the way to go. When that happens, I think Trad publishers are going to scoop up more and more self-published authors (especially those that’ve already built up their audience and proven they have marketability).

Now whether all self-published authors will go for this? Eh, I think many will.

I’ve self-published my Appalachian Dream Tales, once a year for the last three years, and even though they’re short stories, I’ve put an incredible amount of time into getting them thoroughly edited and whipped into shape. Add to it that I’ve made my own covers, sought out peers for review, and set up marketing plans and schedules, and you can only imagine the hours that have gone in to each one. I think a lot of self-publishers will jump into Trad publishing if asked, just so they can spend more time writing and less time managing the full-circle platform.

***

Ash Litton is a writer and lover of sci-fi, fantasy, and all things fictional. She is the author of No Signal, Thoroughbred, Evening Hallow, and Comeuppance, and works on other Appalachian Dream Tales between her ongoing novel projects.

When she’s not writing, she’s drawing, and when she’s not doing either of those, she’s dreaming up new projects to work on. Born and raised in rural West Virginia, Ash has always wondered what things lay hidden in the hills around her. She attended West Virginia University, where she studied the English language before returning home to her family in rural West Virginia.

You can follow her on her website, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

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