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.

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: 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: 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.

Self publishing and Insults

Every now and again there’s an article or something published that just screams for a reply.  Here’s one that argues self publishing is an insult to literature

Gatekeepers have existed in many industries and usually gatekeepers add one of two values: (1) marketing (2) access to otherwise expensive infrastructure (production and/or distribution). The e-publisihing trend affects (2). To compare: Recording companies were gatekeepers, especially in the age of LPs and CDs.  Physical shops were gatekeepers for clothing and fashion. Books are following that trend. Essentially Amazon (and Co.) reduce production and distribution costs to near zero.

This leaves (1) and it seems traditional publishers are their own worst enemy here. I hear so many accounts of books being published but not being marketed.

If production and distribution are free (that value has gone) and marketing is not provided  (that value never arrives) then what is the value that traditional publishing brings.

Quality? Really? I’ve read some traditionally published books that have very poor plots and flat characters. Spelling and grammar.  Potentially, yes. Traditional publishers may do a better job of enforcing spelling and grammar.  But if that’s the argument why self publishing is an insult to the written word, it’s a very weak one.

Besides, there’s another way to judge works according to their quality, let the market decide.

Traditional publishing also has a lot to answer for. The limited space for published work versus the high volume of submissions has created a side industry exploiting their clients. It’s so bad that there is a mini industry just to expose these abuses.  For every site listed here (http://pred-ed.com) there is at least one (and probably many more) author who has been ripped off. That’s the sort of issues that a traditional publishing model creates.

Apart from the significantly higher commercial and legal risks you face when publishing traditionally (see you really going to sue yourself for missed earnings?) the main difference between the two is on where the slush pile resides. In the traditionally published world, it exists within the office of the publisher.  With self-publishing, it exists online. Amazon and other retailers provide a look inside, a ranking system and a robust and monitored review process to allow the slush pile to exist alongside the more successful works and some people who have seen it says something amazing work resides in the slush pile.

Ultimately the ease and cost of doing business in the world of written fiction has plummeted. The barriers to entry have significantly reduced. That’s something that almost every government aims for.

What I struggle with is why people are so dead against the democratization of the publishing world. It’s hardly as if the existing structure of traditional publishers have any robust regulation to protect those in the industry  (http://pred-ed.com).

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.

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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.

 

The most Important Writing Skill of All

One of the problems with writing is motivation and with any endeavor, one of the main demotivators is re-work. Having to do something twice or three times is perhaps one of the main motivation killers of all. Here’s the experience of another writer I know. I’m much calmer about a reviewer finding deep rooted problems with my work but it is just as demotivating. This, more than anything else, may explain why writing is hard work. Persisting in the face of adversity is perhaps the most important writing skill of all.