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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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.