Category Archives: Author Interviews

Interview: Patrick C. Greene, Author of ‘The Crimson Calling’

Patrick C. Greene was raised in the rural mountains of Western North Carolina, where isolation and late night monster movies fueled an already fertile imagination. Excelling in English composition classes, Greene began writing horror short stories, complete with illustrations, and selling them to classmates as early as fifth grade. Delving into film acting, Greene learned the craft of screenwriting and then made the switch to fiction prose, scoring a publishing contract and glowing reviews with his first novel Progeny. He’s currently promoting the release of his latest novel, The Crimson Calling.

patrick headshot interviewsWelcome, Patrick! Tell us about The Crimson Calling.

Olivia Irons is a young lady fresh from a stint in the military, still reeling from the loss of both her child and lover, who is approached by a strangely alluring man named Vargas. The strange figure reveals himself to be a vampire, one of the last few hundred remaining on earth. And while his faction seeks peace with mortalkind, there is another growing sect who would prefer to subjugate us as slaves – and food.

Vargas introduces Olivia to the world of the modern vampire, asking her to lead them against his evil brethren while keeping a grave and potentially world-shattering secret from her.

What was your inspiration for it?

Two separate sources came together actually for The Crimson Calling. My wife Jennifer is not a horror fan but the one genre exception is vampires. When we first started seeing each other she introduced me to the Kindred series and we enjoyed other vamp flicks together, such as Shadow of The Vampire and The Vampire’s Kiss, though both of those films challenge the boundaries of the vampire concept. She was drawn to the tragic romanticism I think.

The other source was my affinity for kung fu films. Sometimes, the characters therein are capable of truly superhuman feats of combat, but of course, films force the action to remain within the confines of their budgets, so I was able to let my imagination run wild in imagining these insane fights between immortal creatures.

Crimson’s heroine Olivia is very vulnerable, almost still a child in some respects, forced into adulthood far too early. She’s more or less forced into immortality as well, so we have a bad ass vampire of nearly limitless combat capacity who is also an emotional wreck just beneath the surface, and that’s what made her so interesting and enjoyable to write.

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

There was some upheaval, some changes. I was getting settled from a move, starting a new job, dealing with an extended bout against depression. It was actually helpful to have the book distracting me from these issues but at the same time I had to push through the barriers. Writing when you’re on the edge emotionally can add passion and intensity to the project, no doubt, but it can also effect the focus. It became a balancing act and quite frankly, I hope I never have to write in that condition again.

crimsonDid your book require a lot of research?

A good deal, yes. I wanted to bone up on the vampire myth, past the image we have from movies. Like bigfoot and UFOs, it turns out that most cultures have some version of vampire lore. People were scared out of their minds over vampires. Angry mobs formed and unearthed graves, that sort of thing. Very interesting, so I tried to work some of that in and also connect the various legends. There was also some geographical research required, to capture the feel of being far up in the Balkans. Fortunately, there are some really good video and photographic references online.

How do you keep your narrative exciting?

Like many writers I start with an outline but in my case, I will tend to stray wildly from it on a mere whim, shocking even myself by going in, if not the opposite direction to what would be reasonable then certainly a direction where there isn’t a clear path or egress. So I paint myself into a corner. With blood.

Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?

Fairly so, but once I sit to write I do tend to goof around for a little while. But once I’m knee deep in the latest, I really want to get back into that world and bring it to life. Seeing the conclusion in the near distance makes it all the more exciting; it seems like I get a second wind. The later drafts might not be as exciting to write, but by then there aren’t as many problems to solve so I feel I can just have some afterplay with it, if you will, and add some spice.

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

Since I’m seriously introverted, I like that I can work without having a lot of people or distractions around. Don’t get me wrong; I like interacting with readers and other writers but I’m not one of those writers who can sit down in a coffee shop and get a lot done. I prefer to be in control of my environment a bit more, or at least have it predictable.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

My advice for any kind of artist is to do it, or it will kill you.

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?

I really hate to take part in that “writing equals misery” mindset because, one, I have a pretty good time with most aspects of it, and two, there are certainly more painful and crippling pursuits. The comparison of writing to a “demon” might be pretty reasonable though, especially in my genre of horror. We are said to either overcome or learn to live with our demons, so that means we need them doesn’t it?

Photo and cover art published with permission from the author and publisher.

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Talking Craft with Horror Author Brian W. Matthews

085-EditWeb.jpgBrian W. Matthews grew up in a small town in southeast Michigan. The oldest of three boys, his days were occupied with school, friends, and when he got older, work. Lots of work. He has been gainfully employed every year since 1977, running the gamut from making pizzas to waiting tables to working in a hospital to being a child therapist. He currently works as a financial planner and writes in his free time. He is married with a daughter and two step-daughters. The Conveyance is his third book.

The Conveyance can be purchased directly from the publisher at www.journalstone.com or from Amazon.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Conveyance. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: I loved watching horror and science fiction movies as a child. In Detroit, on Wednesday afternoons, one of the local channels would show a classic horror or sci-fi movie—Godzilla was particularly popular, but you would also see movies like see 20 Million Miles to Earth or The Fly. I would race home from school each Wednesday to sit in front of the television. This instilled in me a love for the bizarre, so when I started writing, I naturally gravitated toward speculative fiction and the supernatural. My first two novels were mash-ups of horror and urban fantasy and alternate history. When the time came for my third novel, I wanted to branch out. My mind kept returning to 20 Million Miles to Earth and its central question: how did life come to exist on Earth? For The Conveyance, I decided to approach that topic but with a twist, to keep the story fresh for the readers.

Q: What do you think makes a good horror or science fiction book? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: First, don’t focus on the zombie/alien/monster element of your story. You need to start with people—vividly drawn characters—and their relationships. The zombies/aliens/monsters are simply vehicles to apply pressure on your characters; to test their strengths and weaknesses. That is what makes your readers care about your characters, how they end up rooting for your heroes. If they don’t care about your characters, you’ve failed.

Second, the true horror is not the zombie/alien/monster theme: it is the extremes to which your central characters are pushed by these creatures. What is more horrific, a zombie attack or how it forces a mother to kill her child rather than let him or her become an undead fiend? If you’ve done your job well—if your readers really care about the mother and child and their relationship—then that act of mercy will be gut-wrenching; your readers will be far more horrified by it than by any graphic description of a zombie eating a human. This is exactly what made Night of the Living Dead such a hit; the movie was more about the people in the house and how they reacted and interacted under stress rather than the zombies.

Front_Cover_Image_The_Conveyance.jpgThird, the readers’ imaginations are far more descriptive than anything you can write. Yes, you can horrify using literary tricks like shifting narrative distance and time expansion and such, but if you over-describe your scene, you rob the reader of his or her input into the story. They can’t make it their own. Find one or two or three (at the most) elements of a particularly frightful scene and describe them, but only allude to the other elements. Let your reader fill in the blanks. Not only will they feel more a part of the story, this will help keep the reader from becoming fatigued.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I’m not big on story plotting. I typically have a beginning and an end, and I develop certain points I want to reach during the novel’s progression. Then I go ahead and write it. My main fear with plotting is that I will unintentionally telegraph what is coming. If I don’t know what’s going to happen next, how can the reader? In addition, discovering the novel as it progresses helps keep it fresh in my mind; I get excited by developments, my blood starts to race. Writing is a long, painful process, and this excitement keeps me writing with the energy I need to make the story effective.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: The main protagonist is Dr. Bradley Jordan, a child psychologist. I have a graduate degree in clinical psychology and spent many years as a child therapist. While Brad Jordan isn’t me, I used my experiences as a therapist to make him credible. I do utilize character interviews before I start writing, and I did with him.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: This is a harder question to answer because the antagonist is more a concept than an actual person. There are a few big baddies in the story, and similar to Brad Jordan, I did a character interview for each one. But these are mainly highlights. I enjoy coming up with character idiosyncrasies while I’m writing. The trick is to keep them straight and consistent throughout the book.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Conveyance is written in first person. That’s a difficult tense to use because a writer tends to revert to telling and not showing what is going on. There’s a tendency to overuse visual cues, and this can result in stale prose. I made a conscious decision to show and not tell as much as possible, and to rely on two other senses (touch and hearing) to help expand the narrative stage. Also, I vary my sentence structure and paragraph lengths. Reader fatigue sets in quickly with the same five sentence paragraphs, all fully formed and complete. Vary it up to keep the reader interested.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: Well, as I said in the last question, a writer needs to include descriptions other than the visual. I do use visual as a core descriptor, but I also try to triangulate the narrative stage for the reader by using the senses of touch and hearing. This helps the reader obtain the necessary spatial sense of your setting; your world becomes more realistic. Also, try not to describe too much. (I was guilty of this a lot in my early writing.) Let the readers supply some of the context. This will help pull them into your story and keep them reading, which is the brass ring on this particular carousel.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I need a theme in order to begin. I can’t simply say “a monster invades a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula” (as in Forever Man). Instead, I need a central struggle for my main character: Izzy Morris, a wife, mother, and the town’s Chief of Police, has always struggled with her role in life, and when her daughter goes missing, she is forced to confront this conflict head-on and grow into the person she was always meant to be. You tell me, which one is the more compelling story? For me, the combination of the two—a basic plot arc and a central conflict for the main character—is what makes me decide to write the novel.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: For me, you really can’t separate the two. For my first draft, I go for the fences. I write like no one is going to read the story so it ends up as big and bold as possible. But what you have after that first draft is a hot mess. That’s fine. The editing is there to turn your hot mess into a logical, artful story. Don’t underestimate what thoughtful editing can do for your story. There is a book called Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. If you’re serious about writing, pick up a copy. Read it over and over. I helped my writing tremendously.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: This one is hard to answer, because success means different things to different people. My vision of success is first completing a novel. I put a year or two of my life into writing it, and finishing it gives me a sense of satisfaction. Second—having people enjoy what I read. I wouldn’t want to put in so much effort and sweat only to have it panned by everyone. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened…yet. I suppose third would be some sort of financial success. It is certainly a gauge of how well received a novel is, but so few people can make a living at writing, and I’m reluctant to emphasize the monetary aspects too much. For most writers, it may never reach the level they think and still be terrific authors.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I think he was 100% correct. If you want to be a writer, you need to write every day. For some, that includes holidays and vacations. It’s like homework. My wife is a teacher. Each evening, we sit down and do our homework: she corrects papers, and I write.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: As I mentioned earlier, the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers is an invaluable asset. Another is the book, Scene and Structure, which delves into the framework of a novel. Both are very helpful. Also, join whatever organization represents your genre. I’m a member of the Horror Writers Association and the International Thriller Writers Association. I attend their conferences. That is where I’ve met other writers, picked up ideas about writing, and generally received considerable support knowing you’re not alone with your writing.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A:  While there are many benefits to writing, it is a difficult and lonely endeavor. You sit for hours by yourself, typing on your computer or writing in a notebook. It can take months to years for your work to see the light of day. Be prepared and be disciplined. In the end, the payoffs can be amazing.

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The Writing Life with Dawn Brotherton, Author of ‘Trish’s Team’

The recipient of the Global eBook Bronze Award, Dawn Brotherton is the creator of Softball Scoresheet, a bookused for keeping score during games. She is also the author of two Jackie Austin mysteries, Wind the Clockand It’s the Right Thing to Do, and a contributing author to A-10s Over Kosovo, a compilation of stories about being deployed for Operation ALLIED FORCE.  Dawn currently serves at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. as a colonel in the United States Air Force. She enjoys coaching softball, working with the Girl Scouts, and traveling.  Dawn and her fighter-pilot-retired husband live in Virginia with their two beautiful daughters.

What’s inside the mind of a youth fiction author? I have written adult fiction also, but I really prefer youth fiction. I like trying to see things with my 12-year-old softball players’ eyes. Things don’t always make sense for them in the same way it does for an adult. I have to think of another way to explain it. It helps that I have 13- and 15-year old daughters.

What is so great about being an author? Pink fuzzy slippers. That’s what my husband and I always joke about. When I can work from home wearing my slippers, I am happy.

When do you hate it? When I have to make corrections from the editor. You reach a point that you just want to be done with a story and go on to the next great idea. But there is always more work to be done, and you have to look at it ONE MORE TIME.

What is a regular writing day like for you? There is no regular for me. I am in the Air Force stationed at the Pentagon. I have an apartment in Arlington, but my family is at home in Williamsburg, Va. I drive home every weekend to spend time with them. I try to get my writing done on weeknight evenings, but life gets in the way. Right now it’s a fundraising project for my daughter’s school.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you? Not when it comes to writing. Sure, I can tell you the things I’m good at and that I have confidence in, but that mostly pertains to the Air Force. Editors have a way of keeping a writer humble.

How do you handle negative reviews?Defensively at first. I think that’s natural. Then I have to walk away and come back to it later. Then I try to dig out the nuggets that will help me, and let the other stuff go. For example, after my first murder mystery that has an Air Force setting, I had a reader say that the military would never send someone to an assignment for only one year…since I have spent a year in Korea, the rest of his comments rolled off my back. But it did make me go back and rewrite the sections about the military that I took for granted to give them a little more explanation for someone that has no military background.

How do you handle positive reviews?  They put me on top of the world. Seriously! I walk around with a smile on my face all day long, and I can’t wait to call my sister and tell her.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?People want to know how I got published. I understand because it was one of my first questions when I met authors. Still is sometimes, but now it’s more about sharing lessons learned with peers.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break? Take a break. I have too many other things going on in my life that distractions are never a problem. It’s making time for writing that is a problem for me. I spent a weekend in a monastery to finish my first Jackie Austin book.

Any writing quirks? No. I’m more of a night person than a morning person, but I can sit anywhere and write. I find white wine goes well with softball stories.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby? I think the only one that didn’t take my writing seriously was my husband. No one else even questioned my desire to be a writer. Now, after my fifth book, I think my husband is finally coming around.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?  Not really. I love it. But even too much of a good thing can get old. Sometimes I get really tired of a storyline and tend to rush through to get it over with. Then I have to make myself go back over it several times to get it right. I should just do it right the first time. That’s one reason I think the kids’ books are working better for me. They are a length I can stay focused throughout.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money? No.  Easy for me to say because I’m not famous yet. I track my expenses carefully and I know exactly how many books I need to sell to break even.  Then I consider it a success, because at least I haven’t lost money. But I think that’s different than being a successful author. Just to be recognized as an author is success for me.

What had writing taught you? That there is always more to learn. I am continually finding things I can do better, that I want to try, or that I can teach someone else.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I will learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Don’t be afraid to try new things.  You don’t know what you are capable of unless you try.

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Title:  Trish’s Team (Book 1, Lady Tigers’ Series)

Genre: Youth Fiction

Author: Dawn Brotherton

Website: http://www.blue-dragon-publishing.com/authors/dawn-brotherton/

Publisher: Blue Dragon Publishing

Purchase link:  http://www.blue-dragon-publishing.com/published-books-2/trishs-team/

About the Book: Trish learns what that really means when she tries to pull a fast one to get what she wants without thinking through the consequences. Her decision could affect the game, but more importantly—her friends. Trish has to learn the hard way that lying to get what she wants isn’t the way to go. She finds out that being part of a team isn’t just about what happens on the field

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Interview: Gin Price – Author of ‘On Edge: A Freerunner Mystery’

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Gin Price is a young adult author who specializes in action mystery thrillers. She loves keeping readers flipping out while flipping pages and uses the street knowledge gleaned from being born and raised in Metro Detroit in her stories. A proud mother of two children, she balances being a mom, an author, and a companion to her biologist beau as they travel all over the States in search of amphibians and reptiles. Gin loves to visit young writers groups, so feel free to contact her about a visit in person or on Skype.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, On Edge: A Freerunner Mystery. When did you start writing and what got you into young adult?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. In the sixth grade, I just wanted to have something to say for Show & Tell. I liked the story I came up with and was writing in old diaries since that day. I got into Young Adult because I’m wicked immature. JKing. I can just relate more to teens and twenty-somethings because a lot changed in my life in those years. They are the years that shape who you become as an adult. The friends you gain and lose, the loves you experience. Everything is a new adventure and when bad things happen, you keep going without coming up with too many reasons to use caution.

What is your book about?

It’s a new twist on a Shakespearean favorite. Star-crossed love and all that puddle of madness using a graffiti crew vs. a freerunning tribe to show the hate. The main character, LL (Emanuella), is being stalked by a serial-killing graffiti artist and she has to find out who the culprit is, regardless of how painful the truth may be, before her death starts a full-on gang war.

What was your inspiration for it?

00001Years ago, on the news, there was a lot of violence in a public school area because some rival schools were forced to merge into one due to budget issues. I couldn’t help but wonder why no one anticipated that, knowing what they know about gang violence in the area. Kids were dying! And the looks on the faces of those kids on the news still burn holes in my brain. I wanted to spread the word about the possibilities of this happening elsewhere using my fiction.

What type of challenges did you face while writing this book?

This book came very easy to me once I employed the use of two of my favorite forms of expression. Graffiti and freerunning. The challenging part came in describing both expressions with truth and clarity. It’s not always easy describing a move or a painting with enough detail to get the real feel.

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

Hours of entertainment! LOL. I’d love for readers to finish the book and do research on graffiti and parkour. I’d love to get people to move their butts. I’d also love for people to stand up and say…find the money. Don’t shut down schools and put rivals in one building. Even one life lost is too steep a price to justify merging.

Did your book require a lot of research?

Yes!! I watched a ton of athletes from pro to amateur do there thang on YouTube. I watched a ton of artists throw up a masterpiece in a matter of minutes, which just boggles my mind. I hopped around on my hikes to get a sense of freerunning, I tried to paint things to get a sense of graffiti. I read what articles I could to make sure I used the right terms. It was a lot of work, but it was awesome. I enjoyed everyone who posted on YouTube. Even the ones others ripped on and down voted. Someone out there is watching and appreciates you all!!

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?

I do! I have two. I have a wordpress that you can find under www.authorginprice.com and then I have a blog that I like to forget to write in at gintensity@blogspot.com.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

The road is only short for the lucky few. For the most part, it is a very long and tedious road to publication, but if you truly love it, you’ll do your best by it. Join writers organizations so you can feed your writing with knowledge. Go out there and talk to people in the industry so you can learn the steps and how to climb them successfully. READ! Don’t follow what is trending on the shelf, write what speaks to you. Watch what you say and do on social media. Ripping on editors and houses that passed on your manuscript isn’t going to work out well for you in the end. I see so many people do this, I always wonder if no one told them it was a bad idea…so I’m just throwing it out there in hopes of saving someone.

Author photo and cover art published with permission from the author and author’s publicist.

This interview was originally published on Blogcritics.

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Interview with Ken Lizzi, Sci-fi Author of ‘Under Strange Suns’

lizzi_author_pix (1)Ken Lizzi is an attorney and the author of an assortment of published short stories. When not traveling – and he’d rather be traveling – he lives in Portland, Oregon with his lovely wife Isa and their daughter, Victoria Valentina. He enjoys reading, homebrewing, and visiting new places. He loathes writing about himself in the third person. Connect with Ken on Facebook and Twitter.

About the Book:

In the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’John Carter of Mars, Under Strange Sunsbrings the sword-and-planet novel to the twenty-first century. War is a constant, and marooned on a distant world, former Special Forces soldier Aidan Carson learns there is nothing new Under Strange Suns.

Read Chapter One

Amazon / OmniLit / Twilight Times Books

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, “Under Strange Suns.” To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?  

A: “Under Strange Suns” is the story of a burned-out, former Special Forces soldier hired to search for the lost inventor of the Faster-than-Light spaceship drive. You can blame this one on Edgar Rice Burroughs. ERB popularized the sword-and-planet genre with his “A Princess of Mars” back in 1912, the first of the John Carter stories. But what cut it with readers in 1912 might raise some eyebrows a hundred years later. So when I decided to dip my toe into the sword-and-planet genre, I knew that getting my characters to another world would require a bit more heavy lifting on my part. The resulting novel, “Under Strange Suns,” works the mechanism of space travel into the narrative itself, driving the plot (in addition to driving the characters to their destination.)

Q: What do you think makes a good science fiction novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: As with every story, the primary consideration is to entertain. With science fiction, a secondary requirement is novelty, or at least some twist on a familiar theme. And finally, the story must entertain. Yes, I used entertain for two slots. That factor is twice as important as any other.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I worked out a moderately detailed outline, broken down into chapters and describing the events each chapter must cover. Once I began writing, the outline became more of a mission statement or list of suggestions. But most of the events described in the outline made it into the novel in one form or another.

UnderStrangeSuns_medQ: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: Since the impetus for “Under Strange Suns” was “A Princess of Mars,” I knew the main character would be a soldier. Other than that, his character owes little or nothing to John Carter. I spent some time in uniform, many years ago, and did have the opportunity to train and hobnob with members of the Special Operations community. Aidan Carson’s personality is based to some extent on my foggy memories of those unique people.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: My villains are fanatics, true believers. The primary step required to make them realistic was reading the news. Other than that, I needed to show sincerity, that the villains truly believed their actions were not only justified, but moral, even laudable.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Know when to end the chapter. Cliff-hangers never go out of style, because they work. Try to leave the reader with a desire to find out what happens next.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: With an alien landscape as a setting, I tried to reinforce the novelty and unique aspects of the place. I used frequent repetition to reinforce the unearthly lighting that two suns would provide. I also employed intermittent description of alien flora and fauna to occasionally remind the reader he’s no longer in Kansas.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: I considered theme at the outlining stage and stuck with it. The theme, or related aspects, have cropped up in my other work, yes. But theme is secondary to the obligation to (say it with me) entertain.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: There’s a question for you. Something to hash out over a pitcher of beer. I’d suggest that from traditionally published debut writers up through the ranks of mid-list authors, craft predominates. Art dominating craft, for better or worse, is found among either the self-published or the best-selling traditionally published authors. In between those two poles, editors are going to push conventional narrative voice and technique. And in most cases, I’d guess, rightly so. But I’m just speculating here. And without that pitcher, damn it.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: A firm grasp of craft, perseverance, and the ability to entertain.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: No one ever paid me to do homework. I like this writing gig better. Less math.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Any book on craft is useful. I’ve read several. The good advice stands out by repetition from multiple sources.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: Pay close attention to your editor. Even if you don’t agree with a suggestion, consider the reason for it.

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The Writing Life with Historical Novelist Joan Schweighardt

joanJoan Schweighardt is the author of several novels. In addition to her own projects, she writes, ghostwrites and edits for private and corporate clients.

Website: www.joanschweighardt.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/joanschweighardtwriter

Twitter: @joanschwei

What’s inside the mind of a historical fiction author?

I’m calling my book new book, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun, a historical novel because I haven’t been able to come up with a better classification. Actually the story is based in part on the true history of the times I write about and in part on legends that grew out of the same time period. Because I had these rich materials to draw on, I did not have to work as hard at being creative as I would have if I were making up the whole story. But where I got off easy regarding that end of things, I had the challenge of having to do a ton of research and then being able to blend historical and legendary materials so that they would come together seamlessly.

What is so great about being an author?

If you love to write, being an author is great, just the way that it’s great if you love horses and get to ride all the time.

When do you hate it?

attila coverI complain a lot about how hard it is in these times to draw attention to books that are not published by one of the five big publishing houses that are able to throw money and clout behind their titles. I’d love to have a wider audience for my work. Not having the audience I want sometimes makes me question why I bother. But then I think about all the reasons I bother and go back to writing again

What is a regular writing day like for you?

I am at my desk every weekday by 8:00 a.m. But I don’t work on my own projects until I’ve finished client work. Sometimes I have no client work for days on end and can work on my own projects.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you?

Well, there are two kinds of authors. There are a handful of authors who have made it big and there’s the rest of us. I would think those of us in the latter category probably don’t have big egos. I don’t know about the others.

How do you handle negative reviews?

Nowadays most of the reviews a body gets are from the public at large, as opposed to professional reviewers. Some people are used to reading very uncomplicated books with unrealistically happy endings. So, if they accidentally purchase something a little darker or more challenging, they may say bad things about it. That can be hurtful to an author.

How do you handle positive reviews?

Everyone loves to get a positive review. But in these times I think some people are more interested in the number of reviews they get than in whether they are negative, positive or somewhere in between. If you have 600 reviews on your amazon page, readers will think they’re missing out on something and want your book. That’s why lots of people “buy” reviews. I still can’t get my head around the idea of every “buying” a review, but I understand where the people who do buy them are coming from. We all want to sell books.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

I’m much better at talking about the books I write for other people than I am talking about my own books. So I usually talk about my ghostwriting and editing projects for clients.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

Since I write for a living as well as for my own pleasure, I am pretty much always writing. I take a break on weekends. Sometimes if I have having trouble with a project, whether for a client or myself, I tell myself that if I want I can get a book and go lie down on the sofa and read until I fall asleep. That’s my escape valve. Knowing I can do that if I want to keeps me from ever actually doing it (mostly).

Any writing quirks?

I’m sure I have plenty but I don’t know what they are. When I’m writing fiction, I do the dialogue between characters out loud, often saying the words with the intonation they would. That doesn’t feel quirky to me, but if my husband is home and happens to overhear me, he’ll raise an eyebrow and give me “the look.”

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

I’m happy to say the people who mean the most to me take my writing seriously. If they didn’t, I guess I would just have let it go.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate? 

I’m shrugging. I never “hate” writing. I do dislike many things about the publishing process, such as the need to market your work on social media and the fact that there are so few professional reviewers these days, and the ones that exist are inundated with review requests. But as for the process, I have no complaints.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

We all need money to pay the bills. While you can derive immense pleasure from doing the thing you love—whether it is writing or knitting or making flower arrangements—if you can sell your book or sweater or bouquet to someone who appreciates the love you put into it, so much the better.

What has writing taught you?

Writing taught me to think at another level. I don’t know if it’s a deeper level or just another level. I do a lot of lucid dreaming, where I am asleep and awake (or at least aware) at the same time. I think that comes from writing all my life, from trying to grasp the thoughts behind thoughts before they slip away.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

My best advice for first time writers and writers who just want to write better is read, read, and read. And don’t just read books in your genre of preference. Read everything, all the time.

Title: The Last Wife of Attila the Hun

Genre: Literary/Historical Fiction with a Legendary Component

Author: Joan Schweighardt

Website: www.joanschwweighardt.com

Publisher: Booktrope Editions

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

Two threads are woven together in The Last Wife of Attila the Hun. In one, Gudrun, a Burgundian noblewoman, dares to enter the City of Attila to give its ruler what she hopes is a cursed sword; the second reveals the unimaginable events that have driven her to this mission. Based in part on the true history of the times and in part on the same Nordic legends that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle and other great works of art, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun offers readers a thrilling story of love, betrayal, passion and revenge, all set against an ancient backdrop itself gushing with intrigue. Lovers of history and fantasy alike will find realism and legend at work in this tale.

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The Writing Life with Jonathan Raab, Author of ‘Flight of the Blue Falcon’

jonathanJonathan Raab is the author of Flight of the Blue Falcon, a military novel about the Afghanistan War, based on his time in the United States Army. He is also the author of the upcoming The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre, a novel about UFOs, conspiracy theories, militarized police, and what it means to come home. He is also the editor in chief of Muzzleland Press, a horror and weird fiction small press. He lives in Golden, Colorado with his wife Jess and their dog Egon.

What’s inside the mind of a military fiction author?

That depends on what type of book it is. This is a novel, and my intention was to write something that was funny, tragic, true, and accessible for people who hadn’t been in the military. I had to be careful not to be too cynical—but I also wanted to tell a true war story, as impossible as that may be.

What is so great about being an author?

Um, you get to spend long hours alone, you’re wracked with self-doubt and anxiety, and then people criticize the work you’ve poured your heart and soul into. But sometimes there’s a small royalty check which helps buy beer, so I got that going for me.

When do you hate it?

When people learn I’m a writer and then tell me they don’t have time to read, or that reading is boring. Great. Thanks for sharing, guys.

What is a regular writing day like for you? Be honest!

Coffee + butt in seat + turning off social media and avoiding distractions. And more coffee.

Do you think authors have big egos? Do you? How do you know?

All authors have to have some sort of ego—otherwise, why would we think anyone cared about what we have to say? I try to avoid the “misunderstood genius” line of thinking. I do think I’m pretty good, but I try to stay humble and hungry, so that my writing improves, and I’m not colossally disappointed when I don’t sell a million books. Although, maybe someday…

flightHow do you handle negative reviews?

If my book’s not for you, it’s not for you. I shrug it off and drive on.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

I don’t bring it up first thing. If the conversation goes in that direction, sure. Otherwise it seems like I’m begging for attention. Most people say “neat” and that’s the end of it.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

When I’m working on a project, I keep a regular writing schedule (five days a week). Right now, I’m pretty exhausted from writing back-to-back novels and constantly editing other people’s work, so I’ve allowed myself a couple of weeks off.

Any writing quirks?

Yes. My first drafts tend to be somewhat stream-of-consciousness. I’m not a perfectionist the first round. It helps me get through that all-important first draft.

Have you worked on your novel intoxicated? What was the result?

I’ve… imbibed a few while writing, sure. One or two drinks loosens you up. Any more than that and the quality suffers. The idea of the tortured artist or writer being an alcoholic because it helps their work is a total myth, and I get angry when people claim otherwise. Imagine how much better your favorite drunk writer could have been if they kept clean during the writing process.

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

Writing is somewhat of a selfish pursuit. It’s about working out your own issues, telling your own stories. If people don’t take me seriously and I never published again, I’d still keep writing. I’d still keep plugging away. Someone will appreciate it, somewhere. I hope.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?

I hear that. It’s a compulsion. It’s fun, sure, but it can also be excruciating. You write because you have to write, otherwise you can get depressed.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

Clearly not. Although money helps!

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Don’t let the blue falcons get you down.

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Title: Flight of the Blue Falcon

Genre: Fiction – Adult

Author: Jonathan Raab

Website: http://www.warwriterscampaign.org

Publisher: War Writers’ Campaign, Inc.

Watch the Trailer

Purchase on Amazon

About the Book:

FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON

By

JONATHAN RAAB

“Jonathan Raab is not only a genuine advocate for veteran causes, he is a preacher of their tales; both fiction and nonfiction. His writing will immerse you into a combat environment that parallels the imagination of those who have never had the pleasure.”

—Derek J. Porter, author of Conquering Mental Fatigues: PTSD & Hypervigilance Disorder

“Jonathan Raab uses his experience to illustrate the raw world of the common soldier. His masterful use of edgy humor and intellectual commentary creates a space for discussing the military culture.”

—Nate Brookshire, co-author, Hidden Wounds: A Soldiers Burden

In FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON (War Writers’ Campaign; July 2015; PRICE), a chewed-up Army National Guard unit heads to a forgotten war in Afghanistan where three men find themselves thrust into the heart of absurdity: the post-modern American war machine. The inexperienced Private Rench, the jaded veteran Staff Sergeant Halderman, and the idealistic Lieutenant Gracie join a platoon of misfit citizen-soldiers and experience a series of alienating and bizarre events.

Private Rench is young, inexperienced, and from a poor, rural, broken home. He’s adrift in life. The early signs of alcoholism and potential substance abuse are beginning to rear their ugly heads. He wants to do right by the Army, but doesn’t quite know who he is yet.

Staff Sergeant Halderman has one previous combat tour under his belt. He got out, realized his life was going nowhere, so re-enlisted to serve with the men he knew, and to lead the inexperienced guys into combat. He is manifesting the early signs of post traumatic stress, but is too focused on the upcoming mission to deal with it. He sees the Army for what it is—a big, screwed up machine that doesn’t always do the right thing—but he doesn’t think all that highly of himself, either.

Second Lieutenant Gracie is fresh, young, excited to be in the Army, and trying to adjust to the new to the military and his life as an officer. Although he faces a steep learning curve, he is adaptable and has a good, upbeat attitude. As he tries to forge his own path, he nonetheless turns to the experienced NCOs in his unit for guidance and support. He must continually make tough decisions that have no “right” or textbook answers. Yet these decisions are catalysts enabling him to grow in maturity, experience, and wisdom.

Preparation for combat is surreal: Rench is force-fed cookies by his drill sergeants. Halderman’s “training” is to pick up garbage in the blistering heat of the California desert for four days straight. Gracie contends with a battalion commander obsessed with latrine graffiti.

Once they reach Afghanistan, things really get weird.

FLIGHT OF THE BLUE FALCON is the story of three men who volunteer to serve their country. It’s about what it means to be a soldier, to fight, to know true camaraderie—and to return home.

This is a war story. This is their story.

Only the most unbelievable parts are true.

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