As regular readers know, I am a participant in The Hotel Paranormal series. Since I’ve enjoyed all the stories I’ve read by fellow authors in the series, I’ve decided to open my blog to visit with them. This week, we get to know the author of the book released November 6, Sheri Queen:
- How did you come up with the title for this book? It’s my protagonist’s job—bounty hunter. I decided I wanted to separate my novel from the many other bounty hunter ones, so I came up with the gender switch of huntress. It worked.
- Is there a message or theme in this story you want readers to be aware of? There are several themes within the story, mostly about family and relationships, but the biggest one is that it’s okay to be different. Love who you are, and don’t let what others say make you think you’re not good enough.
- Is this part of a series? If so, can you share a little about what’s coming next? This is a short novel that’s part of a multi-author series, The Hotel Paranormal. Over twenty authors have penned their own paranormal story set in a common world—the Hotel. It’s been so much fun to do. You can find out more about the series at www.thehotelparanormal.com, but basically it’s a hotel set in an alternate dimension that’s a gathering place for paranormal creatures.
The Hotel Paranormal is THE place for supernatural beings looking to get away from it all. Beings like werewolves, vampires, elves, sprites, djinn and more check in from all over the world for business and for pleasure—and sometimes for both.
Also, I’m using this as an introduction to a new series I’m working on, the Sleepy Hollow Hunter series. The next novel will be out in 2017, although I don’t have a release date as yet. It will see Janda Gray take on her hunter role in earnest. She’ll have great joys and even greater sorrows as a Sleepy Hollow Hunter.
- Is there a process you go through when deciding your character’s names? I find names in all sorts of places—street signs, town names, shop names. My character, Janda Gray, was inspired by a florist shop—Janda’s Flowers. Lol. If the name fits the character, why not?
- What made you become an author? I love reading. It was my go-to activity growing up. I make up stories in my head all the time, so I thought it would be good to actually learn how to write them down. The other thing about being an author is that you can do it any place. It’s portable. I spent years getting uprooted as a Navy wife, and it’s hard starting over all the time. This is something I wish I had done sooner, but at least I’m doing it now.
- Beginning writers look to published authors for advice, so what words of wisdom can you give new authors? Well, I’m still a new author. This is my first release. I have other stories written, but other than some short stories in a college journal, I have not been previously published. I’d say, keep at it. Don’t give up.
- Do you have one particular character in your current novel that you just love? Besides my main character, I have several I really like. Sebastian, the vampire in the story, is probably one of my favorites. He was a lot of fun to write.
- Social media takes up a lot of an author’s time, but it’s crucial to expanding our readership. Can you tell me which social media platforms you prefer to use when connecting with your readership? This is a hard one for me. I’m building my following, so I try to hit most of the major platforms. I connect with a lot of people on my personal Facebook page, but I restrict that to people I know. Pinterest is a lot of fun, but Twitter and Instagram seem to be the best spots for me to connect with potential readers.
- How do you want to be remembered as an author? I write stories I hope people will enjoy and that will resonate with them in some way. I don’t need to be remembered, but if one of my characters makes a difference in someone’s life, then I’d be happy.
- What new stories/projects are in your pipeline? The next story in the Sleepy Hollow Hunter series is a priority. I also have an SF short story that may be dusted off to become part of a group anthology in the spring. That’s plenty for me at the moment.
Sheri Queen received her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She grew up in the Hudson Valley region of New York—an area she loves to depict as a backdrop for her stories—and enjoys traveling to new places where she is constantly discovering inspirations for her writing. In particular, she loves visiting old graveyards.
You can follow the author at:
BUY LINKS for BOUNTY HUNTRESS:
It’s that time again: One of my online author friends has released another book. This time it’s the second in a series, the first of which, Even Villains Fall in Love, I reviewed last year. Here’s the blurb to what looks like a great follow-on tale:
When your mother is America’s Superhero Sweetheart and your daddy’s the Number One Super Villain, you grow up feeling a little conflicted.
Angela Smith has superpowers—nothing that will ever make her comic-book famous—but her ability to psychically sense and manipulate the emotions of people around her has drawn unwanted government attention. Forced to choose between her quiet life as a teacher under constant surveillance or the life of a rogue, she chooses the latter. She plans to hide out in sunny Los Angeles where being a blue-eyed blonde won’t make anyone bat a false eyelash.
Silver screen star by day, superhero by night, Arktos is a triple-threat. He can fly, freeze anything, and see glimpses of the future, all of which he needs to keep the city of Los Angeles safe, but which does nothing for his social life. When a frightening vision of an explosion leads him to rescue a damsel in distress, he finds himself trading Shakespearean insults with a rogue.
Angela knows just how dangerous well-intentioned superheroes can be: one tried to kill her family when she was young. Arktos knows he should hand the rogue over to Company justice; it’s not safe for someone like her to be in the middle of a fight.
But they can’t seem to stay apart. And together, they just might be able to melt all the obstacles standing between true love for a hero and a villain.
To celebrate her new release, Liana has been on a virtual book tour since the 11th. I get to close out her stops with an interview that lets you in on some of her quirks.
In my mind Angela is a quintessential flip-flop girl, but I suppose for school she’s be wearing something more conservative, a skirt with tights perhaps. And she’s a math teacher with some youthful quirks so I imagine she’s wearing THESE tights from ASOS.
2. Does the kind socks she’s wearing change as she makes the cross-country move? (More pics…) 😉
Angela’s keeping a low profile as she’s fleeing across the country, and she’s the type who wouldn’t worry about riding the bus. But the bus is definitely a place for closed toed shoes, so Angela’s going to have her favorite socks at the ready Apple socks, these constellation socks because she’s wishing on her lucky star, and of course her kick butt BLAMMO! Socks because she’s getting off the bus in L.A. ready to fight and rebuild her life.
3. Tour visitors are getting to see an excerpt and a blurb; I’ve gotten to see a little bit extra. What prompted your idea of a hero trying to fly under the radar in this story?
I think this is a reaction to what happened in EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE, the whole family realized how dangerous it would be if the children were exposed. Angela grew up knowing that people would want to not only use her, but kill her, and she’s also a little bit scared of her own power. Angela is terrified of what could go wrong, and so I had to put her in a situation where the right thing and the easy thing weren’t the same thing. She has to face her fears to save people she loves. Isn’t that the definition of being a hero?
4. Also, the Hollywood setting is something a little different from any other of the stories you’ve written. How much research did you have to do to get it to where you’re satisfied it represents the reality you wanted to share?
First, I need to thank the marvelous David Voderberg for answering a plethora of questions. Second, I need to apologize for twisting reality so much for the purpose of fiction. I did a great deal of research: maps, licenses, looking at how auditions worked (but not actually auditioning because there was nothing locally), looking at a lot of behind-the-scenes footage… but in the end I had to use only the highlights because the timeline of the book didn’t allow for Angela to take years to find her way onto a movie set. Her career path is not realistic, but it works for a daughter of Doctor Charm.
5. How many more books are you planning for in the Heroes and Villains universe?
I think my editor and I talked about doing seven books total, and then maybe doing the eighth book as Tabitha’s story. I actually wrote that a year ago, and people have been winning a chapter of it by changing their social media avatars to the cover of EVEN VILLAINS GO TO THE MOVIES, but it wasn’t good enough for my readers yet. Some books need a little more time to cook than others.
6. Who’s next on the roster to get a full-length book?
The next book has the working title of EVEN VILLAINS WANT THE TRUTH and it’s Delilah’s book. She appears briefly in EVEN VILLAINS GO TO THE MOVIES, you’ll see her towards the end, and she has an interesting life. You’ll like it. Promise.
7. It seems recently there is a greater appreciation for minions in fiction-land (I’m thinking of “Despicable Me” here), though for me, the first minions I’d encountered were the ones your Dr. Charm manufactured. If you were to use something like http://minionslovebananas.com/minion-maker/ what would your personal minion look like, be named, and do especially for you?
A minion named Meanwhile (Meanwhile, back at the ranch…) who could wash dishes, fold laundry, and change diapers so I had more time to write. I don’t care what it would look like, but I strongly suspect it may need eight arms to keep up with the chores.
8. This is your 6th release. Do you feel like an old pro yet?
I like the tradition where everyone goes and buys my book. Otherwise, no, I haven’t had enough serious releases to come up with a tradition. Maybe I’ll go buy myself some new socks. 🙂
10. Is there anything you hope your readers will take away from the series that might not be an obvious moral?
When you encounter a masked man, your first order of business should be to take his mask off, and always make sure your stolen motorcycle has a full tank of gas.
11. Author’s choice: What question should I have asked that I missed?
I think you hit all of the questions you needed. Great job! This was a fun interview.
Thanks for stopping by, Liana, and good luck on your latest release. For the rest of you… There’s a giveaway and I’m posting the links for you to be able to find Liana and all her books:
Website – http://www.lianabrooks.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/LianaBrooks
FaceBook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Liana-Brooks/278779308851471
Tumblr – http://lianabrooks.tumblr.com/
GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18620101-even-villains-go-to-the-movies
BookLikes – http://lianabrooks.booklikes.com/
Breathless Press – http://www.breathlesspress.com/index.php?main_page=product_free_shipping_info&cPath=15&products_id=22
Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Liana-Brooks/e/B007S9DB2A/
Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/liana-brooks
All Romance eBooks – http://www.allromanceebooks.com/storeSearch.html
Kobo – http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/Search?Query=liana+brooks
iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/liana-brooks/id476454626?mt=11
As a follow-on to the book review I did Tuesday, let’s get to know Erica a little more…
1. You attended the University of Pittsburgh. How did you choose that school, and did you know then that you wanted to become an author (I’m guessing so, from your major)? I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. Even in elementary school I wrote stories. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to write the next best seller.
2. Was there anything in particular about your education (major) that serves you well in your writing now? I think the only thing about my major that truly helped was the exposure to different genres and authors. Reading a lot is what helps your writing. That’s my opinion, but I don’t remember learning anything specific that carried with me…other than good grammar.
3. You blog daily about your travails on your farm. Do you ever regret moving out into the countryside? Sometimes I miss a quick trip to a bookstore or a coffee shop, but generally, no. I love waking up and looking out over the rolling hills at the mountain views. I love the quiet. The friendly people. I can visit the city anytime I want to. But I’m glad I live in the country.
4. What was the impetus that allowed you to decide you would be able to give up your career as a banker? Basically, the stress was getting to me. My husband told me to quit and just write. I don’t think he realized what he was getting himself into.
5. How much of your experience shines through your main character, Katie? Katie is very much a part of me. She got my epic clumsiness, my awkward, “foot in mouth” syndrome, and my propensity to obsess over a guy.
6. You produced a long-running webfic series about vampires. Do you plan on revisiting that story in novel form? Or will you create a new “season” for the series soon? I’ve been plotting the next Daywalkers adventure for months, but can’t seem to find the time to write it. I know I owe the fans more snarky vamps, and I promise I’ll get to them soon.
7. Given the widely divergent genre of your first published novel to your webfic series… Do you have a preference? Will you produce a paranormal romance for publication? I love them both. My next novel is actually a paranormal romance. It’s not filled with vampires, but it’s definitely a slight departure from Katie.
8. You also have a background in poetry. Would you ever release a book of poems? How did you find out about my poetry? Do you have a spy? Haha…I don’t know if I’d ever do a book of poems. I haven’t written poetry in some time, but I won’t rule it out.
9. Do you have plans with your current publisher to produce more novels in the “chick lit” genre? Or would you consider additional relationships with other publishers? Or even going indie? I’m in the process of writing a few books in the chick lit/romance genre. I love my publisher, so at this time, I’m not making any plans to move. I don’t think I’d ever go Indie, just because I like having the support system, but like anything else, I can’t see the future, so I can’t rule anything out.
10. What would you consider a successful release? I’d find it pretty successful if the people who read my book enjoy it. That’s really what it’s all about. I could sit here and say, “Oh, I want to sell millions of copies” and sure, who doesn’t want to sell a million copies? But ultimately, I want people to enjoy the book. That’s the most important thing to me.
11. Author’s choice: What question did I not ask that you think I should have? You didn’t ask me what my deepest, darkest secret is. But it’s probably best, because I probably wouldn’t tell you anyway. I mean…deep, dark secrets are pretty sacred. They should be kept hidden until you’ve had at least three drinks…
And, since I know you’re all excited about the possibility of winning a copy of her debut novel, here’s the Raffelcopter one more time:
I’m elated to introduce you to another one of my crit group members, who, today, celebrates the publication of her first novel, Changing Tracks. In honor of her achievement (and to start the romance of the weekend of my 15th wedding anniversary!), and to kick off her publicity tour in style, I’ve invited her for a mini-interview, complete with a sneak peek at her story and writing. Take it away, Sarah Cass:
1. What’s the first piece of fiction you remember writing?
Oh, sure. Start out with a tough one 🙂 Let’s see. I know I wrote some stories in elementary school, but I don’t remember anything specific. Same with high school – I remember the mopey poetry of a teenager, and a play I wrote with my friends for a project. I tried a few times to write something more in depth, but without the consistent availability (or capability) of computers like we have now, that whole hand-written stuff annoyed me. So…the first thing I clearly remember writing was a piece of Cats: the Musical fanfiction. Yeah, I mean it. And yes, I have a really poor memory if I can’t remember anything before that, because I know I wrote plenty in high school.
2. How often do you have to battle the guilt monster for writing when your family is waiting for your attention? Do you have trouble finding work-life balance?
All. The. Time. I openly admit I have an internet/computer addiction. I am currently making a concerted effort to be off the computer more, usually logging off before the hubby gets home from work so we have dinner and family time together. This current level of self-restraint came from the fallout of editing insanity earlier this month. I’ve always had trouble finding that balance, but I’m working pretty hard at managing to find it now. I do better scheduling myself and having to-do lists to cross off, but it doesn’t always work.
I’m open to any tips anyone has to offer, too. LOL
Hm. That’s a trick question, isn’t it? For the first (very rough) draft it took me about 3 months to write the original trilogy in the series…once I got started. The first couple of chapters were written and half-way abandoned for about 3 months…and then I picked them up again and within 3 months had written the entire 3 books 1st drafts. Once I decided to turn them into something I wanted to try and sell, it took another 2 years to re-draft, edit, and re-write again until I was happy with them. Books 4 & 5 were originally written as one mega-novel because I couldn’t say good-bye to the characters. That first draft of approximately 175k words took me about a month to write. I haven’t officially edited them to fit into the re-drafted world of the original trilogy yet, but I’m estimating two months per book.
4. What will be the hardest part of saying goodbye to Jane and Cole?
I don’t even want to think about it. I adore Jane & Cole. I even have some more book ideas for them fluttering around in the back of my head. Books that may never see publication, but they are still there. I don’t know that I ever can say goodbye to them. I have met new characters that I adore, and started to build new worlds that are amazingly fun, but Cole & Jane still reside in my head. They’ve been amazing to work with and watch grow. I love her strength and book-smarts, I love his constant growth into a better man…not to mention his looks…those eyes. ~sigh~
5. Can you share an excerpt here?
You betcha. In this excerpt, Jane and Cole just had a brief argument after she kneed him in the groin. She ate some crow and apologized so that she could ask a favor of him. Once the door is open for her to ask, she hesitates…and this moment of conversation occurs. I love it because it shows she’s not afraid to tell it like it is, even with full-on amnesia…and Cole…well, he just gets her.
Jane stepped back. She used the moment someone crossed between them to gather her thoughts. With a sharp exhale, she turned away and leaned on the hitching post.
He leaned on it right next to her. “It ain’t gonna help you to—”
“Please don’t.” Desperation laced into her voice and she groaned in frustration. Burying her face in her hands, she took a deep breath. “I’m so tired of this.”
“Knowing nothing.” Before he could interrupt, she blazed ahead. “Knowing no one. Not even myself.”
“Seem to know enough to speak your mind.”
“Does that bother you?”
“Well, you are a woman.” He eyed her appreciatively. “And women should keep their mouths shut. They don’t get opinions.”
“Just because you own the women you bother to keep company with and they must do as you say doesn’t mean they lack opinions. Just means you lack the fortitude to listen to them.”
“If you’re trying to curry favor, you ain’t on the right path.”
“You just said it doesn’t bother you I speak my mind.” She leaned toward him. “Is it you don’t care for my opinion? Or you don’t like hearing the truth?”
Matching her stance, he eyed her from top to bottom and back again. A grin spread across his features. “You don’t get intimidated easy. Good way to get yourself killed. Most men around here don’t mind looking or touching, but they don’t want a woman saying what she thinks.”
“Thanks for the advice.”
“That mean you won’t take it?”
“I’ll take it under advisement.”
6. Now that you’ve broken through with your first published novel, how long will your readers have to wait for the next one?
Not long! I’m thrilled to say that I have another novella coming out in April with Secret Cravings Publishing. Masked Hearts was my first foray out of Jane and Cole’s world in about 3 years. I really enjoyed Minnie & Roy, and researching the world they came from, basing Roy on a real living person was a new challenge for me. Especially when the person I was researching disappeared from any public knowledge after a certain age – which of course left me open to turn him into what I wanted. 🙂
On top of that novella, I have a short story, An Uncivil War due out in an anthology in March called HerStory (Pagan Writer’s Press).
And for something different, I have another short story Eternal Asylum, that should be out in 2013 in the horror anthology Mental Ward: Echoes of the Past. No official release date on that yet, but Siren’s Call Publications will be releasing it this year.
7. What kind of release schedule are you planning on over the course of the next few years, as your writing career picks up?
I’m still waiting on word, but I’m hoping that Secret Cravings will pick up the rest of the Dominion Falls Series and put those on a 3-4 months schedule to keep me busy throughout the year. While I’m waiting on word for that, I’ve started work on 2 new books. One is a slow burn, the other is taking off and I’ve already planned it as a series. I have to admit I’m loving the new series, it’s more Urban Fantasy than romance, and each book will me much more ‘stand-alone’ than my Dominion Falls books. The heroine, Rose Red is one badass chick. She rocks my socks…and I hope to sell her book and the concept for at least 3 more in the series before the end of the year.
8. Will you ever get back to your stage career, do you think?
Oosh…you sneak, getting this question in there. To be honest, I really don’t know. I want to, I dream of it some days. I miss the stage, the lights, the cake makeup, the amazingly talented people I got to work with. I miss it all, except the crazy amount of time we put those shows together in; the fact that I didn’t see my husband or son for approximately 5 weeks while rehearsing because I’d leave for the theater right from work.
Theater is amazing, and (almost) every show was worth the work and time I put into it – but it just doesn’t fit in my life right now. If I ever reach a place where it could, I’ll probably try again.
9. What else would you like to share with your readers regarding your chosen genres and style?
I don’t choose genres. I choose characters – and they lead me to genres. Cole & Jane, nymphomaniacs that they are, demanded romance. Minnie & Roy, sweet couple that they are requested the same. I love historicals; I love the old west. I’m gaining an appreciation for the Civil War – but I’m not restricted by the past. When Red popped into my head – I found myself researching fairy tales to fracture, and steampunk of all things. Steampunk? I’ve never done it before, but I’m loving every minute of it. My latest piece is turning out to be contemporary (unusual for me) – not to mention fantasy with dragons and phoenixes and I have no idea what I’m doing, but it’s a wild ride.
For me, the story pushes me where I go. I’ve been published in horror with a flash piece, and have a short coming out this year in the same genre. While I favor historical western (cowboys and whores and adventure and fun!), I’m not bound by it. I’m an organic writer and go where the story pulls me. Sometimes that means a story crosses genre barriers, and I just go with the flow. I like not being able to narrow down a genre with 2 words.
I hate restrictions – and to me genres are restrictions, so I ignore them. I pants the hell out of my stories 95% of the time. I like being surprised and taken for a ride. It means my readers are going to be taken for a ride too.
For anyone who likes historical/western romances, run, NOW, and buy Sarah’s debut. Her blog is worth a visit, too, for her commentary on Redefining Perfect. 🙂
1. You mention Above Ground is the first in a new dark fantasy series. How many books do you expect the series to run?
In my mind, the main series has always been a trilogy. The second book will be called Between Worlds; as for the third, the title’s as yet undecided. But I do have a rough outline of what is going to happen in all three books.
I do also intend on writing side novellas set in the same universe. I have two of these planned, but who knows? I could write more.
2. You’ve crafted this novel over the course of more than three years. When did you know you were ready to let it go?
I still don’t! I knew it would be hard to let go of something I’ve worked on for so long, so I just forced myself to set a publication deadline and worked towards it. Otherwise I’d spend far too long tinkering away.
3. What inspired the story?
A number of things. A nightmare provided the original spark of an idea. My imagination inspired the first couple of chapters. My sister inspired me to continue writing, and my webfiction readers inspired me to finish. It’s been a collaborative effort!
4. Do you still write your own webfics?
At the moment, no. I do intend to serialize the sequel to Above Ground when I start writing it, but I don’t have a timeline yet. I can only handle one project at a time!
5. You stay busy with editing, podcasting, and qazyfiction. What’s your favorite thing to do in dealing with all these various forms of words?
Definitely writing. It’s my first love, and what got me into all the rest. Editing is a (pleasurable) job and podcasting is hilarious silliness, but writing will always come first.
6. What inspired you to start indiebookreviewer.wordpress.com?
When I first started hunting for book reviewers to review my zombie anthology Hungry For You, I quickly realized how much of a job it was to check each individual site and verify if they accepted not only just my genre, but also small press or indie works. Then I figured that if a list of indie reviewers would be useful for me, it would be useful for other authors as well, so I put it online.
7. What would you consider success with your first novel release?
Success is such a hard thing to quantify. From a numbers point of view, it’d be great to match (or exceed!) Hungry For You’s sales. From a qualitative perspective, it’s all about the reviews and audience reaction. I guess I’ll have a better idea of what success means to me in a few months’ time.
8. Which countries’ chocolates have you not yet eaten?
Haha! I’m actually right at this moment nibbling on my first Ukrainian chocolate. It tastes fairly similar to Polish chocolate, from what I can tell.
Unfortunately there are still innumerable countries whose chocolate I haven’t sampled. I’ve tried chocolate from all of Western Europe, North America, Argentina, Japan…. Eventually I aim to get around to each country.
9. What is your favorite genre, and the best examples of books in that genre in your opinion?
Ooh, tough question. I read quite widely; my favorite genre depends on my mood. I guess I most prefer speculative fiction, whether science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism….
10. Your day job is in publishing; do you aspire to being able to quit that some day, or is that just another reflection of your obsession with words?
Well, I work in financial publishing, which isn’t quite the same as fiction! One day it would be amazing to be a full-time author, but I know that is fairly unlikely to happen. Besides, I like all aspects of publishing, so since I have to have a day job to pay the bills, there’s no other industry I’d rather work in.
11. Author’s Choice: What question did I miss that I should have asked?
What superpower would I like to have?
The answer is most definitely shape-shifting.
When Lilith Gray goes above ground for the first time, she hardly expects to stay there — much less be trapped on the surface with no way home.
Hunted by trackers and threatened by the infected, Lilith is on the run, desperate to return underground. Her only hope for survival lies with a taciturn werewolf with a dark agenda of his own.
Lilith’s old carefree life has been reduced to one choice:
Adapt. Or die trying.
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This author interview comes to you on my birthday, as a way of me being lazy, not having to actually blog on my day of being me-centric.
Tracey found me and left a review request that pushed all the right buttons for me, so expect to see that coming soon as well. When I investigated and discovered her blog, I knew I had to interview her too. She’s been blogging for quite a while, so has let a few secrets slip over the years, some of which she’s willing to share in this interview.
1. You mentioned once that you couldn’t recite Shakespeare in Klingon. If time and other factors weren’t an issue, is there a made-up/fantasy world language you would like to learn? Which character would you want to talk to in that language?
To be honest it’s not something I would do: I understand those authors and readers who feel it adds veracity to a universe but it’s not for me – I have enough trouble with real languages!
2. You’ve been blogging since 2009; how has that impacted your novel-writing schedule?
Well, in some ways it hasn’t – my first two books were published a few years before I started blogging. But I went through a phase where I was starting to find writing a bit of a slog, and blogging became a way of just writing for the fun of it, without being weighted down by worries about whether it would be published, whether it was ‘good enough’ – which I found reignited my passion and made me more productive, so it’s had a positive influence on me. Also, blogging about science fiction and fantasy gave me the confidence to write about it more; I don’t think I would have written Dark Dates had I not been writing at Body of a Geek Goddess.
3. You say there are Roma in your family history. How has that inclination toward the supernatural played out in your stories?
I’m wary of any suggestion that Roma = interest in/belief in the supernatural, and no one in my family is particularly traditional anyway, so I don’t think there’s any real connection. I think it’s more that as a child I was drawn to those kinds of stories, so it’s natural that that has played out in later life.
4. Also on the topic of personal history… Blue? From head to foot? This is a story we have to hear!
Oh, dear, no, the story of how I once accidentally dyed myself completely blue is one I only share after a couple of glasses of wine. And this was before Avatar came out, so I couldn’t even pass it off as failed cosplay. Trust me, though – not a good look!
5. You have a lot of foodie inclinations; have those seeped into your writing at all?
I think it’s not that I’m a foodie – in fact, most of my friends would laugh at the very suggestion – but I’m fascinated by the social and emotional rituals around food. I’m lucky enough to know some great cooks – some of whom are also amazing food bloggers – and I love being cooked for, but I think a big part of that is the nurturing aspect of someone taking the time to prepare a meal for you. One of the characteristics I share with Cassandra from Dark Dates is a complete lack of domesticity being drawn to it in other people. In the book, as her relationship with her assistant Medea changes from professional to personal, and they become friends, I think she’s very drawn to the comfortable domesticity of Medea’s life because it’s lacking in her own, and I think that’s reflected in a lot of my relationships. Nothing makes me happier than sitting around someone else’s kitchen table!
6. You’ve regularly posted about your love of Star Wars/Game of Thrones/X-Men. If someone held a gun to your head, which one would be the one you couldn’t live without? Do you have an analogous series in written form?
I think at the moment Game of Thrones simply because it’s a new and unfinished universe to me, and I’m desperate to know what happens! In terms of books, I would probably say the Terry Pratchett Discworld novels and the Jim Butcher Dresden Files. I love series like the Harry Potter books, where you really care about the characters and what happens to them.
It actually started as a short story I wrote to cheer up a friend who loved vampires. I liked the idea of an ancient vampire looking at the modern world, including its fascination with the supernatural, and being slightly nonplussed by it. That sort of coincided with me feeling frustrated at the kind of books I was finding in the genre: I couldn’t seem to find anything where the heroine wasn’t completely kick ass – which I love, but isn’t exactly relatable – or drippy and annoying. I wanted to write a modern, fun, flawed heroine, the kind of woman we could happily have a girls’ night out with, and who had a job, and friendships, and wasn’t all about just falling in love with a vampire. I was also keen to write a book set in London, because I think it’s such a fascinating city with its juxtaposition of history and modernity, and I thought it would make a good backdrop to characters who are centuries old but exist in a very modern world.
8. How many books do you anticipate this series will run?
At the moment it’s going to be at least 3 – I’m just finishing the second draft of the sequel and that leads into another book – but after that I’m just going to play it by ear. I tend not to plan miles in advance, more see how things unfold (and, of course, it depends a little on if anyone wants to read them!)
9. In your experience, do you prefer indie or a more traditional publishing path? Which would you recommend to new authors?
I think the best route, still, is the traditional one – get an agent, get a publisher – simply because that’s still the most efficient way to get into bookstores and to make money, and without that network in place it can be very hard to promote yourself. But obviously that’s an increasingly difficult route: agents and publishers are very risk adverse these days, and much less likely to take a chance on an unknown author. Self-publishing is hard work, simply because you have to do everything yourself, which can take a huge amount of time, and require skills that many writers struggle with, like marketing, so I think if you want to go down that route you have to be willing to devote a lot of energy to things that you may not be that keen on doing. But I think we are in an interesting period for publishing, and that may be changing – so I think that indie publishing is a fascinating space to be
in at the minute.
10. What made you decide to self-publish this one?
Partly because it wasn’t a fit with my existing publisher, and partly because I was struggling to find an agent – the feedback I was getting was very much along the lines ‘we really like it, but vampires are over’. I thought that rather than wasting the next six months sending it out and simply hoping it would end up on the right desk, I’d take matters into my own hands and put it out there and see what people thought. Plus I think because so much of my work these days is online, the immediacy of digital publishing appealed to me hugely.
11. Author’s choice: What question should I have asked, but didn’t?
Haha, I think you covered it all pretty well! In fact I’m slightly scared by how thorough your research is…!
Please enjoy this interview with Tricia Stewart Shiu, author of the paranormal YA novel with a literary bent Moa. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, 5 autographed copies of Moa, and 5 autographed copies of its sequel, Statue of Ku.
1. The Moa Book series has a metaphysical theme. Do you have any expertise in this area?
I am an energetic intuitive and have a talent for creating powerful healing essential oil blends and gem elixirs. The unearthing of these talents occurred as I embarked on a metaphysical journey, which included studies in mediumship, pagan and Huna rituals as well as an energy healing technique called “Crystalline Consciousness Technique.” I also studied a variety of shamanic clearing methods and healing rituals.
2. You get pretty heavy into the metaphysical. Are you, in fact, a witch?
Like, Hillary, I question who I am on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. For centuries, women have been persecuted and even killed for being labeled a witch. I have studied many forms of healing rituals and magic and discovered that I have talents for using essential oils and crystals for the highest good. Others, who have witnessed the results of my practices, have called me many things: healer, shaman, and yes, witch. I choose not to accept any of these names but to embrace all of them as one growing changing name—wishealer or heshitch—to coin a phrase…or maybe not. As I discover more talents, gifts and unique parts to myself, this unusual word is sure to undergo a metamorphosis and may grow to the size of Moa’s real, and quite lengthy, Hawaiian name.
3. What are your favorite books and how have they touched you as a reader?
4. How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
Good question. I went back into my notes and discovered that it took me exactly three months and ten days to write Moa from beginning to end. That seems to be my average writing speed, three months. My aunt Rebecca Gummere is my editor extraordinaire. We have developed a comfortable and productive working rhythm that balances creativity and structure and brings such joy and enrichment to the work.
5. Who designs the covers for your books?
The brilliant and talented Sydney Shiu took the cover photos when she was six during a trip to Hawaii. Scott Torrance brought his years of experience in photographic art and design to the layouts.
6. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The time between stories is the most challenging for me. When I am inside a story and writing I am filled with peace and joy. When I finish and have to leave that world, I mourn the loss of this comforting place–the same is true when I finish reading a great book. Nevertheless, I believe that this sadness brings with it a great opportunity and depth of creativity and I wouldn’t change a thing about the process.
7. Any take-away message you want readers to grasp?
Each of us has at least one divine gift to remember. The moment we wake up and retrieve the memory of who we are and what we are here to do, that’s when the adventure begins.
8. When did you first consider yourself an author?
I was in middle school and read James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist for the first time. About an hour later, I was overcome by an urge to write, an impulse I readily indulged. Time stood still, I still can’t quite remember what happened during that frenzied period of first creation. All I remember is coming to with pages upon pages filled with words in front of me. It felt incredible to express myself so freely. I’ve never looked back.
9. Did you start out writing novels?
No. I started out writing short stories when I was young. Then when I began acting, I wrote one-woman shows and plays, eventually combining my efforts of performance and writing in a piece called Doing Lunch which made it’s way into a short film trilogy directed by Hal Trussel. That film won “Best Dramatic Short” at the Houston Film Festival.
10. What was your main source of inspiration for the Moa book series?
When I was five, I was visited by a vision. I’ll never forget it, I was running down the stairs and the entity, a girl with dark hair, stopped me in my tracks. The spirit said that I would go through a deeply challenging time in my life, but would resurface, later in life, with unimaginable joy and fulfillment. That vision stayed with me. In middle school, I would sit quietly at my desk adding up the years to figure out exactly when my life would turn around.
And then I forgot. I got busy, my work and the stress of family life took over and I was completely overwhelmed and in desperate need of a vacation. My husband, daughter and I decided to go to Hawaii.
When the plane landed in Honolulu, I remember feeling the difference in the atmosphere as I disembarked. The air made me somehow, remember that there was a part of me that knew…something…what was it?
Never mind, I was in Hawaii it was time to see the sights! So, I sped off to see Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach and then headed home for an afternoon nap before an evening luau. As I drifted toward sleep, I heard my name being called. In my mind’s eye, I saw a beautiful young woman with dark hair, who said her name was Moaahuulikkiaaakea’o Haanaapeekuluueehuehakipuunahe’e—Moa for short.
And then I remembered.
As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Moa and Statue of Ku eBook editions have both been dropped to just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing either of these fantastic books at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $600 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of each book.
All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!
To win the prizes:
- Purchase your copies of Moa and Statue of Ku for just 99 cents
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
- Visit today’s featured social media event
About Moa: Eighteen-year-old, Hillary, anticipates adventure as she embarks for trip to Honolulu, but gets more than she bargained for when Moa, an ancient Hawaiian spirit, pays her an unexpected visit. Get it on Amazon.
About Statue of Ku: The second book in the Moa Book Series, “The Statue of Ku” follows Hillary and Moa as they jet to Egypt on the Prince’s private plane to reclaim Moa’s family heirloom, the inimitable statue of Ku. Get it on Amazon.
About the author: Tricia Stewart Shiu combines her addiction to the written word with her avid interest in the healing arts and all things metaphysical in her novels Moa and Statue of Ku and looks forward to finding new ways to unite her two loves. Visit Tricia on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.
Here’s the second stop of me being a little lazy by reposting an interview someone else did with indie author Frederick Lee Brook, while I catch up on Camp NaNoWriMo. I’m also finishing up reading this book, so plan on doing my own review of it at the end of the week. In the meantime, enjoy this description of his inspiration and process (and I remember when Tiger was attacked by his wife, too!). I’m also posting the Raffelcopter at the very end to help give you the possibility of winning prizes including $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.
1. What was the inspiration behind your novel, Zombie Candy?
There was a famous golfer whose wife chased him out of the house with a golf club in the middle of the night a couple of years ago. It was funny that she attacked her husband with his own weapon of choice. I got to thinking what must be going through a woman’s mind in that situation? I thought it would be interesting to explore the thought processes of a woman who discovers that her husband is a serial cheater. After the denial comes anger, but there is also a phase of grief. There’s guilt. Maybe she blames herself, rightly or wrongly. Candace oscillates between wanting revenge and wanting her husband back, and as the novel winds up she makes discoveries about herself that I thought a woman in her situation would be likely to make.
2. Do you think Zombie Candy will appeal to true zombie fans?
What’s a true zombie fan? I don’t want to give anything away, but any active zombie fan who participates in zombie walks, goes to festivals, etc. will love Zombie Candy. That being said, this is a book that has elements of mystery, horror and romance all in one. It had quite a few early readers, fans of all different genres, and the consensus is that it really works.
3. The book contains some of Candace’s favorite recipes. Why?
I confess, I love to cook, and it’s such an important part of my life, it just felt natural to have Candace want to share her recipes. We are all vulnerable to being attacked through our taste buds. I like reading about cooking, and I love watching cooking shows on TV. I feel like I’m learning something and tasting it at the same time. It felt right for this to be really important for Candace. At the same time, her husband Larry is so incredibly lacking in appreciation of her talents, not just the cooking itself, but organizing complex meals and directing the preparation of them by her class of twelve people. These are amazing skills, and Larry is blind to them. I thought marriages are sometimes like that, where people get to a point where they are totally ignorant of what their partner is great at.
4. There is a no-cilantro label on the back cover of the book. What is the significance of it?
Candace is a gourmet cook, and her cheating husband Larry insists on covering all his food with cilantro. This is one of those minor points of contention in a marriage that flares up and becomes important, like a trigger. I thought it was funny. And it seems a lot of people really do have strong feelings about cilantro, either for or against. When I was searching for a good graphic I came across pages on the internet like ihatecilantro.com and facebook.com/i-hate-cilantro.
5. After starting out in Chicago, why did you decide to set the story in Tuscany?
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Italy forty or fifty times in my life, sometimes for a two-week vacation, sometimes just for a very short trip. I absolutely love it there, from the food to the language to the beauty of the countryside and the architecture. In Zombie Candy, Candace realizes at a certain point that she has to get Larry out of his comfort zone. This is a guy who travelled all over the country every week for his work, and cheated on Candace with waitresses, flight attendants, whoever. He can adapt just about anywhere. But in Tuscany Larry discovers two things: 1) it’s not so easy to find a willing waitress or flight attendant to spend the night with him; and 2) there are zombies here.
6. How would you describe the way you work as a writer?
I guess I’m a bit of a chameleon, able to adapt pretty well to circumstances around me. My wife and I have three boys and they are not quiet. I can do most revision with significant background noise and interruptions. Only when I’m writing a first draft or doing some serious planning work do I need peace and quiet. Then I’ll often take a walk in the forest anyway. It helps a lot to be adaptable. If I had to put off writing every time someone asked me to cook dinner or help them with their homework, my book would never have been finished. For me, being able to jump right back in has been the key to being able to finish big projects.
7. Did you always want to be a writer?
I was an early reader and this led to curiosity about writing stories. My sister and I wrote stories during long car trips. In high school and then in college I dreamed of writing novels, but I only started writing short stories after graduating from college. That writing phase lasted about five years, and I learned a lot about writing, but life got in the way, with marriage and job and career and kids. Only when my kids were halfway grown and my career reached a certain level of success did I find a way to return to writing. Now I’m fulfilling a lifelong dream.
8. What process do you go through to define your characters?
I start with an image of them as basically good or basically evil, and put them into a context or a situation, and then just basically make sure there is plenty of conflict. My characters are never perfectly white or black. I think we’re drawn to weaknesses. We want to watch them mess up, and see how they’ll extricate themselves. Of course, sometimes all my planning goes out the window. It’s a cliche to say that characters surprise you with their actions, but they do. They’re defined by what they do and what they say. I did some acting in high school and have always loved the theater, and knowing what it means to be in character helps me be in character when I’m writing dialogue. My books are fairly dialogue-driven. What the characters say reveals what they are thinking and feeling.
9. What writing advice did you receive that was most beneficial to you?
I had to learn to love conflict. The conflict is the story. The conflict shows the true colors of your characters. I grew up in the suburbs in a family where we avoided conflict at all costs. We talked like diplomats. So embracing conflict has been something I had to learn.
10. You’re an indie author. Any thoughts on the divide between independent publishing and traditional publishing?
I think the market will sort itself out, but it’s going to take time. Good books will find their way into readers’ hands somehow, whether in printed or electronic form. We need our stories every day. We can’t live without stories. For me personally, independent publishing has been the perfect solution. I found an excellent editor who professionally edited my manuscript. I like the idea that I can control the timing of the publication of my books. If my first book, Doing Max Vinyl, had been traditionally published in April 2011 instead of the way I did it, it probably would have hit the remainder tables by Thanksgiving, and it would be out of print now. I think Zombie Candy might spark some interest in Doing Max Vinyl, so it’s a benefit to readers as well as to me that it continues to be available, rather than going out of print and being forgotten. E-books are clearly here to stay, because the consumers (readers) and providers (authors) are the big winners. The only losers are the bookstores, publishing companies, agents and others who refuse to adapt.
As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Zombie Candy eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $550 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.
All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!
To win the prizes:
- Purchase your copy of Zombie Candy for just 99 cents
- Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
- Visit today’s featured social media event
About the book: Weaving elements of mystery, horror, and romance in a hilarious romp that starts in Chicago and ends in a quaint medieval town in sun-drenched Tuscany, Zombie Candy is a genre-hopping knee-slapper of a novel. Get it on Amazon.
About the author: Frederick Lee Brooke has worked as an English teacher, language school manager and small business owner and has travelled extensively in Tuscany, the setting of part of Zombie Candy. Visit Fred on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads accounts.
I’m happy to introduce friends and family to another friend I’ve made online. Justin Bog (or Bogdanovitch from his original, really-hard-to-get-your-mouth-around family name) joined Triberr at about the same time I did last October. He had just started building up his online presence then, so we didn’t get to see much of the historical stuff you can find with people who’ve had accounts for a while, but we didn’t need any of that background to discover his warm-hearted, supportive nature. He’s been involved with books and writing his whole life, and now that he’s taken the plunge and published his first short story anthology, I’m happy to welcome him here to help promote that work.
First, Tonya, I thank you for inviting me to your wonderful place. I’ve been reading (and subscribing to) your blog since last fall, and I love the books you review. I look forward to reading your new book, Dust to Blood (Red Slaves).
Well, I used to be more private. I didn’t have much of an online presence until I joined Twitter at the end of June 2011 at the insistence of my partner at In Classic Style, the e-Magazine where I provide pop culture recommendations. Last year, I sent my first novel out to a publisher using a contact, bypassing agents. At the same time I had started writing my own blog, posting about once a week. While I waited and waited to hear what the publishing house thought about my novel, I quietly toiled away, and published ten stories on my blog by the end of the year, and also a holiday story. I never heard a word back after six months, and sent the book to someone else in the same big publishing house, another contact, a higher up, and, still no word. I do know that the offices of the editors look like an episode of Hoarders, with stacks and stacks of print manuscripts dotting every surface, and more “invisible” stacks of emailed PDF manuscripts, as mine was. These people don’t have much time to discover any gem in a stack like that. Not even Rumpelstiltskin can help them out. A bit discouraged, I just kept my head down. Within three months, people started to converse more with me on Twitter and Facebook, and I enjoyed talking to so many people of diverse backgrounds, not just writers either, although the writers are lovely. I like to cook so I follow a bunch of foodies. In October of 2011 I received an invitation to join Triberr, and found entry into a group of writers and bloggers who help share each other’s writing and blog content. This was great, but my old Posterous blog couldn’t link up correctly so I had to ditch it for WordPress at the beginning of 2012. Then, I really connected to many more people, and, luckily, I watched a Webinar on turning your blog content into a book. I thought: I have those ten short stories just sitting there and I loved writing them, revising them and putting them into a book to share with others who love the short story form.
2. How did you select which stories to include? What stories didn’t make the cut? Can we expect a second collection soon?
I used all ten of the stories from last year. I have other stories I have written, but they aren’t revised enough to post on my blog. I like publishing them on my blog in their second and third drafts. Then, I edit them more, see mistakes, fix awkward sentences. So, I will probably have more stories for a second short story collection ready to publish by next year. I have a novel ready to publish this coming fall after another round of editing, even though this has been professionally edited. I do believe writers should hire editors, and get a lot of people to read their work in early form.
I’ve loved my father’s crowded beach painting ever since he painted it back in the early nineties. This Boardwalk collection of paintings was shown at a very fine arts gallery in Chicago, and this particular painting sold to someone with a second home in Wisconsin (or, that is the story I was told). There are several stories in the collection with a sea, beach, shore, Lake Michigan, or island setting. The title story called out for a book cover like this. The funny thing though is I even mention a red-and-white-striped beach umbrella in one of the tales, and the art fits. I wanted to lull any reader into the piece, look at the happiness on display, and realize, after reading what lies within, that happiness might be a shell.
4. You were born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, whisked off to Pullman, Washington until the end of first grade, and then landed in Granville, Ohio until high school graduation. How does that central US perspective play out in your work?
Well, I left Ohio to go to the University of Michigan. I know: traitor! A couple of the stories are set in Michigan: Typecast and Mothers of Twins. Only two of the stories are set in Granville, Ohio: Cats In Trees, and the story where I used my family home as a setting, On the Back Staircase, is the most autobiographical. The rest are all over the map: Atlanta and a cruise ship, an island off the coast of Maine, a beach on the Jersey shore (that’s where Sandcastle takes place even if I don’t say it in the short story. My dad is a Jersey shore guy from the fifties), New York City, two stories are set in California, one in L.A., one on the beaches below San Francisco, and a train station that could be anywhere. I moved to Idaho after my final schooling, and then finally made it to the Pacific Northwest coastline. I love living close to water.
5. You spent quite a few years managing book stores. What gave you the push to join the other side of the ledger with your freelance writing?
I was always writing, but before last year, I never spoke about my writing with anyone, and I never sent anything out except to the rare story contest, just to keep my engines going. With ePublishing becoming a simpler thing to do, I finally wanted to jump in. After my mom died in 2008, I realized life is too short, and why not share the writing that I already enjoy with my friends. I like the stories. The friends seem to like them too. If a stranger picks up and reads the books I write, all the better.
6. What drew you to the short story format?
Short stories are what I have always loved to read. Novels too. My short stories all start out very short, maybe one or two pages. There’s a beginning, middle, and an end, even if everything isn’t nicely wrapped up by the end — like in life. Then I work on expanding the scenes, adding characters that need to walk on stage. Sandcastle began with the image of a balloon let loose by accident on a crowded beach and the little girl is crying to her mother. Then I thought: what if the mother is at the end of her rope, having one of her days, just wants to not have to look after her even though that is her job. And then: what if there is someone watching the mother and daughter, someone who would find their discomfort interesting . . . that was all on one page, and then the story unfolded.
7. Do you plan on eventually writing and releasing a novel-length work?
Yes. Wake Me Up is going to get one more copyedit this summer, and I’ll start the ball rolling all over again for its publication date sometime in November. This story is about a crime in Missoula, Montana, and what happens to the victim and the victim’s family afterwards. The first chapter is a Bonus at the end of Sandcastle and Other Stories. I wrote a second novel, and I’m halfway through a first draft edit on that one. This is tentatively titled The Shut-Ins, and it is a contagion horror/thriller set in an isolated, small Pacific Northwest mountain town. I also just started writing a new psychological suspense story set in the San Juan Islands, called The Volunteer, and I already love the characters in this one a hundred pages in. In my spare time, hehe, I finished the first draft of a screenplay that needs a really good revision. It’s a supernatural screenplay titled The Banishing of Antonella Novi, and it has a House of the Devil, and Harvest Home feel to it.
8. You seem drawn to the suspense and thriller genres. Why?
My father loved horror films. I read MAD magazine and collected comic books as a kid, and I remember the spoofs of The Exorcist, Jaws, Halloween, Alien. So excited about Prometheus coming out. And my dad dragged all five of us to see any film we wanted to see, and of course we wanted to see them all. Psycho is a particular favorite. I read all genre of books, and I see all genre of films. All About Eve, The Hours, and Gosford Park are three films that I can watch anytime. The Hours, especially, captures on film that moment of epiphany a writer can achieve when thinking about a work in progress.
9. Who are your biggest influences and favorite authors?
Both my parents were artists, and, now, looking back on my childhood, I totally understand their creative urges; they influenced me the most. My dad was not comfortable being away from his painting studio, even for one day, or a short driving vacation. If we drove to the Jersey shore — Seaside Heights rocks — it wouldn’t take long for my dad to say it was time to drive home — maybe four hours after arrival he’d say this. The biggest influence on my writing were Raymond Carver, Shirley Jackson, Rachel Ingalls, Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Chris Claremont, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, John Byrne, and a little-known author named Cris Freddi, whose book of interconnected short stories, Pork, should be required reading, but fades away.
10. What is your writing process? Are you a pantser or plotter?
I am a tried and true pantser. I love getting into a character’s head and watching where he or she takes me. I don’t take notes, I don’t use note cards, or an outline, and some of my longer stories and novels have a large cast of characters. All those works in progress, all the separate story lines, I can somehow keep track of. I do read a lot, and research many subjects I need to learn more about. Preparing to write Wake Me Up I read a book that helped me understand why a father would act out the way he did, and another couple books on an affliction that becomes part of the mystery. Anything I get wrong I apologize here for.
11. Author’s choice: What question should I have asked that I didn’t?
That’s the toughest question, Tonya, but here goes: how do you conquer your fears?
And my answer is an unknown. I grew up with a huge fear of failure mixed with a perfectionist’s fear of success. I chose to be very private for the longest time, kept things close to the vest, and never let anyone into my world, real or imagined. I am taking life one day at a time.
Thank you again, Tonya.
Thank you, Justin! He’s a consistently gracious, creative fellow, so I’m happy to point any interested potential readers to his social media outposts:
Since I’ve been underway on family business since last week, I’m trying something old, with a new twist: This interview with Brian Holers is part of a blog tour sponsored by Novel Publicity. They provided the interview… and the prizes, which include $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of Holers’ new literary novel, Doxology. Good luck on the contest!
The characters in Doxology don’t really set out to rediscover their faiths—they simply rediscover them when everything else is lost. My two central characters, Vernon and Jody, uncle and nephew, are just living life as the story begins. Jody has a pretty good, interesting life, he has a stable job working for a nice family, he’s in love with the daughter of that family and works for the son and father. He has totally inserted himself into this family, and his life has promise. Only when he learns that his father is dying does he decide to return home, deal with things he has successfully avoided, and discover the great role faith has played in making him who he is. Vernon, conversely, is making his way through life, but just barely; the tragic loss of his son has made him a mere shell of the man he once was, and the greatest joy of his current life is his ongoing endeavor to show his disdain for God. Only when he fails in the one pitiful thing he has left, when he is broken down to absolutely nothing, is a return to faith possible. The story is entirely fabricated, without really a shred of reality, though I can recognize parts of myself in many of the characters. Particularly Jody’s girlfriend.
2. What was the inspiration for this book?
The inspiration for Doxology was the longstanding concept of “my brother’s keeper,” superimposed on the Jewish concept of “dayeinu”. Dayeinu is what Jews say during the Passover seder in contemplation of the many things God has done for us—the concept of “it would have been enough.” “If only God had led us out of the desert, dayeinu, it would have been enough. But no, God did something more.” In 2005, when I finally started writing, I worked on short stories and met twice a month with a group of other writers. When my wife and I decided to leave the country for a year, I figured, well I won’t be meeting with a writers’ group anymore, maybe I’ll just write a book. And I wrote the first several drafts of that book while we were traveling, from a smelly dive-shop hotel in Zanzibar, where I had to drag a rickety wooden table into our room and kick my wife and son out for the afternoon, to a beachfront room in Phuket, to the lobby of a YMCA hotel in Jerusalem, to a coffee shop with stale cookies in Malaysia, where my family and I helped build a Habitat for Humanity house during the day. And really that trip cemented for me the idea that anywhere you go, the stories are the same. We all care most about our families. There are so many good things God does for us.
3. What surprises did you encounter in writing Doxology?
The greatest surprise I encountered when writing Doxology was the way Vernon kept trying to take over. When the story began, it was all about Jody. The problem was, Vernon’s conflict was more immediate right from the beginning—dealing with the death of his only son, his constant drinking and self-destructive behavior. He just kept taking over—maybe Jody’s struggle was so much harder to portray, since he seems to be doing pretty well in his current life, unlike Vernon. I overcame this problem by letting go—I stopped fighting it. I let Vernon take over, and then struggled to really work my way inside Jody, which took a long time. I overcame the problem by deciding the book was going to be done when it was done, and I couldn’t rush it.
4. Why did you decide to become a writer?
I discovered my passion for stories at a young age—I have always been filled with stories. It took me awhile to begin to try and write them down. It also took me a few years to discover that trying to tell people the stories I imagined just made everyone think I was weird (which is a fair assessment) and that I talked too much. I’m glad it worked out this way though—if I had discovered my passion for writing at a young age, I would probably have struggled in a losing battle to make my living that way, and I’d be discouraged and burned out by now. What I discovered instead, in my twenties, is that for a guy so animated by imaginary stories, I’m surprising adept at negotiating the physical world. A dozen or so years of self employment allowed me to strip away a lot of detritus, have a lot of time alone to think. Once, a consultant I hired to help me manage my tree service told me that the world inside my head was more vivid to me than the world outside, and that’s when I decided I had to get serious about my writing.
5. What is the most effective resource you have found for writing?
The only effective resource I have come across to hone my craft is time. And the best advice I received is not to rush. Even when you think you’re done the first or the first several times, put the book away for awhile and come back to it. Don’t rush. I wish I had kept track of how much time I spent on this book—I would guess between 3,000 and 4,000 hours. For one little book! But the advice goes deeper—don’t rush, make a schedule and sit there and write. Give yourself the time and then sit there and do it. If you’re like most of us and have a job, don’t try to commit too much of your day to it. Give it an hour a day, two hours, whatever. Just commit to it. It’s so much easier to come home from work, have a few drinks, go to the bar, and sit and stare at the stories in your head and say “I’m a writer.” You’re only a writer if you’re writing. As for bad advice, I am totally self taught in this craft—the only bad advice I have received is regarding publishing. A lot of people told me even a year ago not to self-publish. However, I have one thing now I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t decided to self-publish, and that is a book.
6. What is your favorite writing ritual?
My favorite writing ritual is to go to my desk at night after my son goes to bed, have my wife put on her headset if she wants to watch TV or listen to music or whatever, just make it very quiet, and sit there until I really need to go to bed.
7. What do you like about writing?
My favorite part of the writing process is the feeling I get each step of the way, which comes from deciding what I can do that day is good enough. Lately I’ve been writing essays. I start with jotting down notes—I write a lot by hand, I think better that way. I’ll write down in my sloppy scratch all the ideas that come to mind on a subject. Then the next session, I’ll organize all those notes, expand a bit, put them all in order. Again, all on paper. Next time I’ll write a draft, and even as I’m writing I know there will be a lot I want to change. Then I’ll print it, make changes, and write again. But I decide each step, and each draft, is good enough for what it is. My least favorite part of writing is that it’s always late and I’m always tired and have to get through it, which I do by setting short-term goals. The greatest of which is brushing my teeth and going to sleep.
8. Why did you decide to self-publish Doxology?
The traditional, old-school publishing world is in total disarray, which is why writers like me have to take things into their own hands. For a lot of us, especially first time or unpublished writers, our hope to be published is simply that, hope. We look at getting a publishing contract as our best chance of being somebody. Now that I’m out here, I have a better sense of how books are sold, and I am here to tell you it is not easy. Possible, yes, but not easy. There are a zillion other forms of entertainment that require much less effort. A publisher really has to sell several thousand copies of your book before beginning to break even. And if you’re just a regular Joe like I am, and nobody’s heard of you, that’s a tall order. Then the other piece is, even if you do get published, you have to do all the work to sell the book anyway. There’s just not enough money in this equation for a publisher to do any real work for you, not until you’ve begun to prove yourself. Personally, as one with good business sense, I like this new model—there is no one between me and all my potential customers—no one saying it’s not good enough, no one saying we can release your book in 18 months.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Advice to aspiring authors—writing may well be the hardest thing you will ever do. At one time I had tons and tons of business debt, customers calling me daily, six highly-paid guys showing up at work every day looking at me for their instructions. I paid through the nose for liability insurance, workers’ comp, and every tool imaginable. Then I waited for the guys to start calling me to say why the jobs couldn’t be done, while I drove around scrambling for more work. All of that was downright easy compared to writing books. But there’s no joy like it. And while I am normal person who has made a lot of mistakes in life, I have found that the more my life is straight, the better my art. The old concept of the tortured writer or tortured artist with various addictions only goes so far. If you want to write clear, clean prose, make yourself as good a person as you can be, and the words will flow. Keep your head up. Be entertained by your writing. Rejoice in the little things. Ultimately writing should be something you enjoy, that gives you passion. I have read that 10,000 hours pursuant to any activity is required to make one an expert, and writing is no exception.
10. What can you say about this book that we wouldn’t learn from the synopsis?
I am grateful to say, Doxology is a beautifully written book, filled with symbols and layers of meaning. It is so much more than I set out to write, and I am proud to say it is so much better than even I thought it would be. It’s not Dostoevsky or the Holy Bible, no, but it is a sweet, moving, inspiring little story of love, loss, and redemption. All told in a Southern accent so thick it just oozes out of the pages.
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