Book Reviews & Giveaways

Book reviews, opinions, author interviews, book promos, giveaways

Author Interviews 2013

Before you enjoy the interviews might I temp you to take a look at a very good and clean fantasy writer…

From one of my favorites;  a guaranteed fantastic series:


Pick up a copy of the released books from your favorite retailer then pre-order the new releases. Pre-orders are vital so don’t delay!
The Riyria Revelations: Theft of Swords | Rise of Empire | Heir of Novron (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
The Riyria Chronicles: The Crown Tower (Aug 6: Amazon | B&N) | The Rose and the Thorn (Sep 17: Amazon | B&N)

Hollow World (April 2014) |Order @ Amazon
From Michael:
A few things to keep in mind for those considering pre-ordering:
~All paperback and audio orders will receive DRM free copies of ebook (in as many formats as you desire)
~Those that pre-order will receive the ebook in mid March – a full month before the official release
~I’ll provide signed bookmarks and book plates for those that pre-order (more about this soon)
~Current pre-order discount is 24% off. That’s just $12.12.
~If the price goes down before the release, you’ll get the lower price
~Links to pre-order from a number of sites can be found here.
~I offer pre-orders from my own website (both print and ebook). I’ll even sign and dedicate them if you wish. Even with the 15% discount I give, I still receive more money per book as buying direct cuts out the distributor’s share. Tachyon still gets their full payment (as I buy the books wholesale from them). Here is a link.

Watch the trailer here.
Check out the book blog for Hollow World.
Read my review.

Also planned releases from this author:
The First Empire: Rhune (Release TBD) |
Dherg (Release TBD) |
Fhrey (Release TBD)
Antithesis (Release TBD),
A Burden to the Earth (TBD)

Still not sure? Try a free audible short story from the series here.

These are the Author Interviews from 2013. They include Jill Schultz, A. American, D. Antoinette, Jem Vaston, and K. B. Hoyle. New interviews will be on their own page until the end of the year. Thank you for reading!

Angel-front-coverI had the opportunity to interview author Jill Shultz recently. Below are her replies and at the very bottom are links to where you can purchase her book, Angel on the Ropes. Visit her website:



Before we get to the questions, would you please tell us about your book.

Angel on the Ropes is sci-fi with a Cirque du Soleil vibe—imagine cirque colliding with a Quaker Underground Railroad. There’s a love story, plenty of action, and a protagonist who is kick ass in an unexpected way.

Amandine Sand is a dazzling trapeze artist who leads a perilous double life. When her two worlds collide, her secret—and her choices—might save her planet. Or ruin it.

1. What are some of the story concepts that interest you?

transformation, the forbidden, weirdness, and passion. I love full-throttle characters.

2. Where did the inspiration come from for the characters in your book?

Angel began with an emotion. For a day or so, I walked around feeling Amandine’s longing. I had to figure out what she wanted so badly—she was driving me nuts! Once I realized she was an artist and a performer, I decided to focus on the circus. Amandine’s personality was inspired by things I learned from professional circus performers. Once I had her, I began thinking about the people who would have influenced her (such as her mother and her coach) and the kinds of friends she’d have.

3. Do you have a favorite author or genre?

No, I have a pantheon, and I read voraciously across many genres. Whenever I hear this question, I’m always hoping to discover some great new books. So here are some SF/F authors who have left me with raccoon eyes: • Tanya Huff (the Blood series and The Enchantment Emporium) • Parke Godwin (Firelord, a great version of the Arthurian legend) • Morgan Llywelyn (Grania [a female pirate], and Druids) • Joan Vinge (Catspaw, my favorite telepath story) • Jasper Fforde (both the Thursday Next and nursery crimes series) • Catherynne Valente (Palimpsest) • Lois McMaster Bujold (the Vorkosigan saga)

4. Do you have a favorite place or time to write?

My office, with my cat perched on the hutch as my guardian gargoyle. I can work anywhere and have written several chapters in my mechanic’s waiting room at the kiddie table. I prefer to work when I’m alone, so I end up writing during the day despite being a night owl. 5. Do you listen to music when you write or brainstorm, and if so, what sort? Yes. When I was writing the circus scenes in Angel, I listened to a lot of flamenco because it had the energy and passion I wanted to convey. In general, I listen to instrumental music while I write.

6. What do you feel is the hardest part of writing? The easiest?

Hardest: first draft. I write into the unknown, so I spend a lot of time hitting my head on beams or tripping over boxes in the dark. Easiest is research. I love discovering new ideas, especially if they transform my understanding or make me interested in something I’d overlooked.

7. What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Find the courage to follow your passions. Anything can be fascinating if it’s portrayed well, so if you secretly adore lace-making, write about an international lace dealer. Writing, especially in its long forms, takes a lot of fuel; there’s no better source than passion.

There are many terrific resources about the craft available in different formats, so find something that suits your taste. Explore different ideas and approaches, but be wary of people who are authoritarian about their ideas. There is no single correct process, and there’s no such thing as a “bad” way to write.

Exercise, get enough sleep, eat well, and play. Those habits are good for creativity.

8. What future projects do you have planned?

My next novel is set mostly in Yellowstone National Park. It follows a wolf biologist who’s turned into a werewolf. She’ll have to confront her greatest fear to protect what she most loves.

9. When you begin to write how do you begin? With an outline, character idea, name, title, theme, plot…?

It depends on the project and genre. For nonfiction, especially science writing, I usually outline in great detail, first identifying the main points. Fiction is another story. Sometimes I’m inspired by other arts, or a phrase, or a quirky idea. Okay, often a quirky idea. : ) Characters tend to emerge before plot. I’ve never begun with a title or theme. For my next book, because everything about it is so big, I’m experimenting with my process, doing more outlining and research upfront than usual.

10. Describe the process for your writing.

Research, critique, tenacity, and emotional support. I usually dive right in. The good stuff begins to emerge after several drafts. I strive to become more fearless and truthful.

The links to purchase her book:

Barnes and Noble
All Romance eBooks
You can also get your very own autographed copies from RiverRead Books (specify paperback or ebook gift card). Just send an email to

Going Home

Tell me about your new book.

Going Home is the story of Morgan Carter, an every man, he could be anyone. He’s a family man who travels for work and finds himself 250 miles from home when the world falls apart. But Morgan is a prepper and has a pack in his car. Finally making the decision that the only way he was going to get home was to walk, he starts on an odyssey across the state of Florida. On the way he faces numerous challenges ranging from bandits and thieves to simply keeping himself warm and dry.
He meets some good people on the way and they work together to help one another make it back to their families.

How long did it take to complete your book, from idea to printed completion?

The original manuscript took only ninety days to write. It was wrote on line on an open forum simply for fun, there was never any intention to publish. The readers however thought otherwise, they pushed me into publishing so I went the self publish route initially. The sales were very good, bringing me to where I am today, almost two years from the day the first words hit the page.

What is your favorite character that you’ve written?

I’m kind of torn over this question. There are two characters that I really like, Morgan of course and Thad. With these two characters I show two sides of what could almost be one personality. They are both really unique and a lot of fun to write.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Since this is my first venture into the publishing world, I’m still learning as well. The one thing I would recommend to aspiring writers is to try and develop their audience first. Write on line, on forums, blogs or wherever they can find an audience that wants to read what they are writing. Let the audience push the publishing, if they start demanding printed books you have a market, it’s a lot easier to sell books to people that are asking for them than to try and find a market for something you think they want to read.

What books would your recommend?

I’m a big fan of PAW fiction, so of course that’s what my reading list looks like. Lucifer’s Hammer, Alas Babylon, One Second After, Atlas Shrugged, Lights Out and of course the Patriots series.

Who are you reading now?

Sadly, I’m not. The flip side to being published is contracts! And currently I am under contract to deliver a manuscript in about a week, there is not time for reading right now.

What books to you like to read over and over again?

When I was a kid I read My Side of the Mountain, I was enthralled with the thought of living in the woods inside a hollow tree. It certainly had a very formative impact on my life. I’ve read the book many times, even though as I got older it seemed simplistic, but I still love the story. Another that I read often is Alas Babylon, being a Florida native and having grown up around the area the story is set in it has a special appeal.

What future projects do you have planned?

There are at least two more books in the Going Home series, maybe three. Once they are done I have a couple of storylines I want to explore, one dealing with our current surveillance state and one on the possible worst case situation for our current economic condition.

When you begin to write, how do you begin? With a character idea, just a name, a title, a theme, a plot…?

For Going Home it was idea I had one night while reading other stories on line. I had written in the past but not for a long time and thought I’d give it a shot. So at11:30 one night I started with the idea of an EMP style event and how that would affect people, normal people. Not everyone has a mountain of supplies, but I wanted to show what a little preparation can do. The story literally went from there, every turn and trail was unknown until I crossed them as I wrote.

Describe the process for your writing.

I thought of this the other day. For me I liken it to a well, the ideas build up for a scene or a section of the book. I sit down and play those out, work through what could happen, can and will happen. As a writer you have the opportunity to create a world that readers can enter, it’s totally up to you and it’s a lot of fun to keep them guessing. Just like a well though you have to give it time to fill back up, so once I play through a scene or section I take a break and let the ideas trickle back in.

Which book do you wish you had written?

That’s tough, I wouldn’t choose anyone else’s book because it wasn’t my ideas, my words. What I can say is I wish I had wrote Going Home ten years ago, or earlier. Much like today, the 90’s were prime for this kind of story, if I’d only chose to do it then who knows where I’d be now.

A. American has also written Surviving Home. Get your copy today!
Surviving Home

D. Antoinette is the author of The First Book of Carrie. I had the pleasure of an interview after reading her first book.

Tell me about your new book.
The First Book of Carrie is a paranormal fantasy/ horror novel about a young girl who has some curious circumstances surrounding her family. In search of the truth, she discovers the true nature of her linage. She also learns a great deal about herself and human nature (and it isn’t always pretty).

What are some of the story concepts that interest you?
I’m always interested in a good vs. evil storyline and that’s what’s at the core of The Book of Carrie, defining what makes a person a “good” person. And even though, The First Book of Carrie isn’t a love story, it has love in it. And who doesn’t love, love? In the beginning of the novel, one theme that is expressed is sanity vs. insanity. And towards the end of the novel, the question is asked, is there ever a good reason to kill someone? These are the main topics that keep me up at night when I am reading my own book but there are many more in the story.

Where did the inspiration come from for the characters in your book?
The idea of the aunts (The Carter Clan) came from my family and no they (my mother and aunts) are not demons, at least I don’t think they are. In my family, my cousins and my brother and I have this joke about how our aunts and mothers are crazy. I thought the idea alone made for an interesting story. Carrie, if she is based off of anyone would be me, and Noah, well, I did receive inspiration from him from someone (I will not name him). Other minor characters, my imagination.

Do you have a favorite place or time to write?
No. I just write when I am inspired. That can happen at any time and any place.

What do you feel is the hardest part of writing? The easiest?
Editing. I hate it. I hate having to go through my work and correct errors or maybe take something out. As a writer, I am very vain and I would like to believe all my work is perfect from first draft but of course that is not true. The easiest is the dialogue. I love dialogue. I try to create one-liners. To me, the best movies and books are the one with one-liners that stay with you.

How long did it take to complete your book, from idea to printed completion?
This project took about two and half years from start to finish. I would start and stop, run out of money… but I never gave up

What is your favorite character that you’ve written?
I don’t have one, I love them all for different reasons. If I had to chose one, normally I would say Carrie because she is the main character but I’m going with Carly. this time My readers have a real negative reaction to her and if a writer can get people to have any emotionally response to a character, you have written that character well. So people may hate Carly (which was my intention), but they feel something towards her and that makes me proud.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Yes, just like the Nike commercials says, Just Do It! What’s stopping you? People will doubt, you will doubt yourself but if you truly want to be a published author, go for it! And the feeling afterwards of completing a book is so fullfiling

What books would you recommend?
Well if you are interested in writing, read Self-Publishing for Dummies. It gives you the responisiblites of a publisher and an author. Then read books that are in the genre you wish to write for. Learn about what’s out there, how are these books the same, how are they different?

Who are you reading now?
I am a fan of George R.R. Martin’s series, A Song of Fire and Ice or to my HBO heads, The Game of Thrones author.

What books to you like to read over and over again?
Twilight by Stephanie Meyers, I love Edward’s presence in that book.
Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray, that is a horror book and a morality book before there was a horror genre.

What future projects do you have planned?
I’m currently working on The Second Book of Carrie (yes, that is what it is called).

When you begin to write, how do you begin? With a character idea, just a name, a title, a theme, a plot…?
I have to be inspired. It’s like planting a tree. There is a seed, (maybe an idea, a picture, a name) and half the time I have it in my memory bank and leave it there. Then something else my happens, a day later, maybe a month and I go back to that seed. And it just continues to grow and thrive until I can’t take it anymore and I have to get it out of my head. (on paper)

Describe the process for your writing.
Very chaotic. but it works for me.

Which book do you wish you had written?
Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight and any Stephen King novel.

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A Cat Called DogA Cat Called Dog by Jem Vanston

Get a copy of his book here.

How long did it take to complete your book, from idea to printed completion?

I had been thinking of writing a cat book for around 4 years, and before I started writing on July 5th 2012, I had already more or less written this book in my head – I knew the characters very well, and all the story’s plot points. I finished the first 50,000 draft in just 27 days, then spent 6 months revising and rewriting. I held my author’s copy in my hand on June 26th 2013 – so less than a year from starting writing to published copy!

There was a reason for this speed – my 88 year old cat-loving mother lost the sight in one eye after a cataract operation, and the sight in her remaining eye is failing. So I knew I had to write and publish quickly, if she was to see – literally – this book, and read it. Happily, she has, and she adores it – and also recognises in the characters elements of the cats we have owned over the years.

Usually my novels take 6-9 months for the first draft, and the same for revisions and rewriting.

What is your favorite character that you’ve written?

My mum loves Eric, the scruffy stray cockney cat, and also George, whose character is very much like a cat we had called Frodo who died last year and who became, in the final years, a bit like an old colonel! I am very fond of old George!

But I suppose I like all the characters in different ways. They’re like my babies – it’s hard to choose a favourite!

The cats in A Cat Called Dog are all based in part on cats we have owned, but they have human characteristics too, and there are lots of jokes about the teacher/student relationship, as well as more profound points being made about the nature of identity, for those who want to pick up on that.

I am a great believer that all fiction should have humour within in, and so should all main characters if they are to really live and breathe on the page as three dimensional beings.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Be persistent, stubborn and don’t give up! Writing has to be something you do for love, and even though the actual process can be painful, frustrating and very hard work indeed, holding your finished and published novel in your hands is an amazing feeling, especially if you know people have read and enjoyed it.

I would advise all aspiring authors to be very careful about paying out thousands in cash to attend creative writing classes. I have never attended one, but I do use professional reading services online to give me a second opinion on early drafts of my novels). But many creative writing courses do nothing more than a free writing group can provide – and also, they do tend to get everyone to write the same way, in that plotless, prose-focused self-consciously literary style one can see in vast numbers of short stories these days (creative writing courses always focus on short stories, not novels). They can also intimidate aspiring authors, making them feel not good enough, and spend years rewriting work (me- I just did it!)

Personally, I am more solitary and don’t feel I need a writing group, and haven’t got the time anyway to commit to one! But many aspiring and actual authors like them – and they’re FREE! Why not start one in your area? Better than spending thousands on some mediocre course.

I can’t give any advice about approaching agents and publishers because actually I never have – my two novels have been published independently through choice, not because I got rejections from publishers. I shall be sending manuscripts to agents next year, however, so will see how I get on then!

What books would you recommend?

So many, and also books I don’t like – because reading books you consider mediocre or worse, and which have been published by major publishers, can be a great motivation for all aspiring authors! I mention no names, of course, but some of these novels have won awards!

I read fiction, mostly, and like comic novels especially – PG Wodehouse is always great and so well written (you can see the elegant Latin sentence structures in his prose!), and other comic novelists I like are Tom Sharpe, David Nobbs (most famous for Reggie Perrin, the character of the TV comedy), Tom O-Farrell, and sometimes Ben Elton (though he does go on!) I also recommend the classics – Dickens, especially, but also Swift, Orwell and many others. You can always learn from the best!

I admire good thrillers too – Lionel Davidson was a great thriller writer; his novel ‘Smith’s Gazelle’ is also the best dissection of the Arab-Israeli conflict I have ever read, and he does that all through the story of farmers and gazelles!

Roald Dahl is the master of children’s literature, and someone I have learnt a lot from (I also met him when aged 9 at a children’s holiday! Don’t remember what he said – he looked so scary, with skeletal face, sunken cheeks, hollow staring eyes!). He also wrote perfect short stories which I enjoy far more than those plotless wonders that seem to win most national short story competitions – I must have read The Landlady 25 times! Jeffrey Archer is also a superb short story writer.

Who are you reading now?

I recently bought a job lot of cat books from a car boot sale (like a yard sale) for about £3 only, so I am reading my way through them, though I don’t usually read non-fiction: The British Museum Book of Cats is informative about cats in history, and If Your Cat Could Talk by Bruce Fogle, is a good book on cat behaviour, as is Cat Sense by John Bradshaw. There is also a beautiful anthology: A Collection of Cat Tales, which lovely paintings by Ditz, which has some lovely writing on cats from the last 500 years, in both poetry and prose.

I’m also reading a book on pantomime jokes. I like old, classic jokes – there are plenty in A Cat Called Dog, and I intend to use more in a sequel (if there is one) – and so I’m also watching 1970s TV comedies, like Morecambe and Wise, for inspiration – I love those old music hall routines!

I’m rereading Winnie the Pooh, The Just So stories and some Roald Dahl – I am looking out for tips about how to adapt A Cat Called Dog into a children’s book!

I have just started the novel Speak for England by James Hawes, and also Other People’s Money by Justin Cartright – both satires, like my first novel Crump and the novel I am editing right now – Rasmus.

I am rereading my cousin Rhidian Brook’s latest novel ‘The Aftermath’ which will be made into a film by Ridley Scott’s production company and the BBC next year. Our grandmothers’ grandmothers were sisters 200 years ago in Wales!

The story is based on the experiences of Rhidian’s grandfather in Hamburg in the aftermath of the Second World War, who was also a cousin of mine of course – it’s a bit weird reading a novel based on a family member’s life and that’ll be even more strange when the movie comes out in 2014.

What books to you like to read over and over again?

Roald Dahl – my favourite children’s book is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; I’ve read Animal Farm a few times, though it’s not without its faults – it’s a very humourless book, and does not really deal with animal behaviour – plus, if reading it politically, you need to read notes about it before starting! I also like really great thrillers like Fatherland by Robert Harris or Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson. I may have a go at writing a thriller one day if I think I can pull it off and get a good enough plot.

I am also revisiting the classics, such as the Just So stories by Kipling and I have reread some Dickens novels several times too – the first chapters of Oliver Twist are sublime, and I love Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. The classics novels of the 19th century should be a must-read for all writers, however verbose they sometimes seem. Dickens really ‘got’ it though – maybe because he wrote in instalments for magazines. His plots have suspense and work.

I have a great dislike for Jane Austen, however, as I am like Mark Twain in that (I also admire some of his comic writing!) A lot of modernist literature and contemporary literary novels leave me cold. I like a story – a good yarn! Pretty prose is never enough all by itself.

What future projects do you have planned?

I am doing a heavy edit of my 3rd draft of Rasmus, a dark satire about the TV industry and reality TV – I hope to attract publisher interest for that novel, when I sent off the first 30 pages to agents next year.

After that, it’s on to the children’s version of A Cat Called Dog for the 7-12 age range; then maybe I shall write a sequel. Ideally, I’d like to write a whole series of books with the same characters, and am looking for publisher backing for that.

I am engaged in a permanent battle with the clock, however, as I never seem to have enough hours in the day. I run a small business from home, and am also a part-time carer for my mother (so unlike many men, I do all domestic duties!), and writing has to get squeezed in around that!

By the way, I write my dark satires and short stories under the author name PJ Vanston, but will use Jem Vanston for my cat books and children’s books, because they are so different.

When you begin to write, how do you begin? With a character idea, just a name, a title, a theme, a plot…?

It varies. I like to start with a title, though, like The Beatles! Sometimes, when writing short stories, I just have a title and an idea that can be summed up in one sentence.

With novels, I know the ending before I start – I learnt to do that because, before I had a serious go at writing novels, I wrote screenplays and radio plays too (which almost got produced). There is a great book by Syd Field called Screenplay, and that and other screenplay books are the best guides for writers to read in order to understand how to get a solid structure in their plots. All screenplays work towards the final denouement in the final 10 minutes of a film, so that’s what I do really in all my stories. Apparently some writers start writing without knowing how their book is going to end (or so they say…). I can’t imagine working that way really.

I certainly ‘write’ a lot in my head before starting any novel proper. With A Cat Called Dog I finished the book in my head and knew the characters well before starting writing.

With the novel I am editing at the moment, things have been far more messy – despite me saying after my first novel Crump that I would plan more to avoid lots of rewriting (the best laid plans…). I intend to make more notes of characters and structure for any future novels, but who knows if I’ll stick to that? Novels evolve as you’re writing them, so rewriting is inevitable, perhaps.

Describe the process for your writing.

I tend to make rough notes which I keep in A4 card folders. These are all my ideas and most get nowhere. However, if an idea grows and develops to a certain extent, I may write a one page synopsis on the laptop and print it off. I have never ever had any problem being creative and coming up with ideas. Writing them up into finished novels is the hard part for me! And sadly, time is always an issue there.

When I eventually decide to actually write one of the ideas – into a short story or a novel – I write it on my laptop, with my rough notes to hand, though these are never extensive.

I read that PG Wodehouse did 400 pages of notes before starting each novel; I have never done that, though I think I will be doing more character outlines before my future novels.

Because I run a small business from home, I am usually busy with that in the mornings and late afternoons, so have to squeeze in my writing for an hour or two in the early afternoons, and then during the summer when the business is quiet. Not ideal, but the business pays the bills; the writing doesn’t – yet!

Anyway, when the novel – or maybe some of it – or the short story is finished in first draft, I print it off. I will then pencil edit this copy, and make notes on it. I then correct on the computer, print off and do the same.

I dislike rewriting intensely but know it’s very necessary – writing is rewriting, as they say! I think the 7th draft of A Cat Called Dog was the one published.

Which book do you wish you had written?

Gosh, that’s a tough question! Too many to mention, though I am aware that each writer is unique – so I can only ever write my books!

I have a soft spot for good comic writing, so would love to have written some Tom Sharpe novels, for example. Good children’s writing is great too, with Roald Dahl the master. I hate the social issues sort of writing for children though – as Dahl showed, you could make the same points using a great escapist fantasy story such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory without wallowing in some sort of self-pitying documentary realism misery and victimhood.

I admire writing I dislike too – I am not into a lot of modernist novels and the sort of literary academic exercises that tend to win major book prizes – but I can appreciate the quality the prose in some of them.

I do so like a good story – a good yarn! – and the literary world seems to actually look down on novels with a great plot (or any plot!), because their focus is entirely on the lyricism of the prose. Me, I do not really recognise the huge gulf between literary and popular writing – I just like good writing, and you can find that (and also bad writing, lazy ideas, and uninspired novels), in all genres.

I like original novels and stories – and dislike things like historical fiction, in which writers make notes on historical events on characters for a few months, then write them up. Not for me, and not really that creative, when one thinks about it. It’s a bit like the difference between the Oscar for original screenplay and adapted screenplay: historical fiction falls into the latter category.

I love Animal Farm, though I do think it has weaknesses – Orwell never really understands the character of the pigs as animals, or other creatures (the cat is very poorly drawn), and if one has to buy notes and know Russian history to fully understand a book, that’s surely a weakness too.

Dickens is a huge influence. His books have larger than life characters, and his plots – despite the Victorian melodrama – really work, and are very cinematic too, which is perhaps why his work survives. Sometimes reviews of my books complain that the characters and events are larger than life, over the top and not ‘realistic’ – I remember at such times that Dickens face exactly the same complaints and criticisms!

Like most authors, I am often on the point of giving up! Writing can be very frustrating, as can publishing and marketing. But as I didn’t start writing seriously until my late 30s (after being asleep for around 15 years in jobs I often hated), I feel motivated to catch up now. That sort of keeps me going! As does the great feedback I get for my writing from some readers, who, even as I write, are encouraging me to write a sequel to A Cat Called Dog!


K. B. Hoyle is the author of the series The Gateway Chronicles which includes The Six, The Enchanted, The White Thread, The Oracle and The Scroll.  My review of The Six is here. Connect with the author on her website, or Twitter.

Tell me about your new book.

The Scroll is book 5 in The Gateway Chronicles, and there will only be six books total in the series, so obviously this is a story that begins to wrap up some of the subplots I’ve woven throughout since the beginning. That being said, it is also certainly enough of its own story to intrigue and capture the reader’s attention. In book 4, The Enchanted, I had introduced a romantic element to the story, and that plays heavily into book 5 as well, but with a twist. The Scroll is kind of a Fantasy/Adventure/Gothic/Romance/Mystery. It has all the magic and fantastic settings necessary for a fantasy novel, with lots of action and bloodshed, but there are also many gothic elements for the main character, Darcy, to endure as she tries to unravel the mystery of what has happened to Tellius, the man she loves. This series as a whole has lots of oracles and prophecies for the characters to figure out, and in The Scroll, I challenge Darcy’s, and the reader’s, understanding of everything I’ve presented so far. The real question of this story is, exactly how much can Darcy take before she finally breaks, and WILL she break, or will she rise and overcome?

What are some of the story concepts that interest you?

It has been said that authors like to torture their characters, and I guess I’d have to say that’s somewhat true! I’ve always wondered how I would respond under extreme duress – if I was attacked, or if I lost someone very dear to me, or if the zombie apocalypse happened! There aren’t any zombies in my books, but I do put Darcy through a lot of grief, and one reason for that is because I wanted to explore responses to grief and catastrophe. Joking about zombies aside, I think it’s fascinating how different people respond to bad things happening to them. There is a special memorandum to a little boy named Bryan Carr on the dedication page of this book, and that is because I know Bryan’s family and I was following Bryan’s journey, and his family’s journey, via blog posts as he struggled with terminal illness. I would often be up late at night writing and take Facebook breaks to read updates on his miraculous fight and on the faith of his parents and his siblings. In the midst of the greatest horror a parent can endure, their steadfastness was incredible. I’m not saying I drew directly from this experience in writing book 5, as the struggles Darcy endures are very dissimilar to what the Carr family endured last year, but it often made me contemplate grief and people’s responses to it. Bryan did eventually pass away last year, just days before his fifth birthday, and while it is tragic and heart wrenching for his family and all of us who were hoping and praying for him, his parents stand firm in the belief that their little boy is at home in Heaven. When I write Darcy’s reactions to bad things happening, I’m more often thinking of myself and how I think I would respond, and I don’t think I am as strong a person as Bryan’s mother. But watching someone like her gave me an ideal to uphold when I considered Darcy’s reactions. I know I’m probably making it seem as though this book is all doom and gloom, which it’s not! But conceptually, I guess this is what captured me the most when I was writing it. (As an interesting aside, Bryan’s birthday was March 2nd, which is Darcy’s birthday in the books. He died on February 19th, which is my birthday, and his mother told me just last week that October 17th, release day for The Scroll, is the day her brother Bryan died, whom her son Bryan was named after. I’m not a superstitious person, but there seems to be something providential in all that, even if I never know what it is.)

Where did the inspiration come from for the characters in your book?

The characters in The Gateway Chronicles were inspired by real-life friends of mine from the camp the setting is based off of. No one character perfectly lines up with a real person – I think writers of fiction should avoid doing that at all costs – but I drew many of the interactions and mannerisms from some of them. I have very vivid memories of my teenage years, and especially of the time I spent with them at camp, so it’s easy for me to draw on those memories when I write.

Do you have a favorite place or time to write?

I love to write late at night, and I have to be completely alone whenever possible! I now have an “author cave” that is separate from the house – it’s a converted storage closet off our carport – so I really can get away without being too far away, lol. That’s important when you have small children, as I do.

What do you feel is the hardest part of writing? The easiest?

The hardest part of writing is often the planning, I think. I’m very disciplined about planning my stories before I write, but only because I’ve learned from years of doing the “just start writing!” method, which doesn’t work very well for most people. Because I’m a creative type who really doesn’t like all that left-brain work as much as the right-brain work, though, getting through the planning and figuring out the ins and outs of the plot before I write is often very difficult. Once I actually put the proverbial pen to paper, however, everything becomes much easier (presuming I planned well enough!). I really only hit writer’s block when I get to a portion of my notes that was never quite clear in my mind. But yeah, the actual writing is easy peasy most days, and dialogue especially. I lOVE to write dialogue, and for whatever reason, teenage vernacular flows naturally for me, lol.

How long did it take to complete your book, from idea to printed completion?

Oh dear, this is kind of a difficult question for me to answer because the idea for this story happened long ago when I was first planning the series itself. As to the actual planning and writing, though, I was nursing an infant and teaching full time when I wrote this book last year, so I was in a real time crunch. Squeezing in as much writing and as little sleep as I could into it, I basically wrote this book in eight weeks from November to December of last year. I had started it in August, but like I said, I had a lot of distractions and had to stop for a bit when school started. I was only able to pick it up in November after the first quarter was over – that, and I really didn’t have a choice with my deadline looming!
What is your favorite character that you’ve written?

My favorite character that I’ve written is my male lead, Tellius. I love Tellius because he’s someone with a lot of depth and issues stemming from tragedy in his youth and living under the shadow of danger his entire life. I loved exploring his emotions and putting him through a transformation from a scared and angry little boy into a strong, stubborn man. He’s far from perfect, which also makes him interesting and fun to write, but he tries so hard to be a good man, and that makes him someone you love. There is so much to his personality to explore.

What advice would you give aspiring authors?

Learn the craft before you publish a book! It is really so easy to self-publish these days, and I’m all for that! (It’s actually how I got my start.) But you must resist the urge to run out and publish your very first manuscript, unless your very first manuscript is truly a work you crafted through careful study and practice. After many failed manuscripts, I finally realized that while I had the talent and the drive to write, I didn’t have the skills to tell a good story. Stringing words together always came easily, but how do you string a story together? So I began to study, and I discovered two storytelling techniques I love and have used ever since – literary alchemy and ring composition. I can’t get into explaining them here (nor would you probably want me to!), but suffice it to say that these are the two main devices J. K. Rowling used to subconsciously hook you into Harry Potter, and I just knew that if she’d done it, I wanted to do it to! How you put a story together matters, not just grammar and mechanics, which are also important. A writer must practice, practice, practice before publishing, because once you put a book out there with your name on it, it is out there FOR.E.VER (a la The Sandlot). Make sure it’s something you really want representing you!

What books would your recommend?

If you want to study how Harry Potter became the mega success it is today, I recommend anything by John Granger, but especially his work, How Harry Cast His Spell.

Who are you reading now?

I am currently reading a children’s fantasy novel called The Puzzle Ring by Australian author Kate Forsyth. I met her while I was sharing a panel with her at the Sydney Writer’s Festival this past May, and she was kind enough to exchange books with me. I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m finding it delightful.

What books to you like to read over and over again?

The Lord of the Rings; The Chronicles of Narnia; Harry Potter; The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander; Arena by Karen Hancock; Pride and Predjudice; The Hunger Games; The Hobbit…

What future projects do you have planned?

Almost as soon as The Gateway Chronicles is wrapped next year, I will be debuting my New Adult Dystopian Romance trilogy, beginning with the first book, Breeder. I love speculative fiction of all sorts, not just fantasy, so I’m super excited to chart the dystopian waters. We’ll see what my publisher wants me to do beyond that series, but I’ve taken notes on enough story ideas to last me a lifetime! After the Breeder Cycle, I hope to turn to Middle Grade Steampunk Science Fiction, then perhaps to Young Adult Urban Fantasy. The stories exist in my head and in copious notes, they’re just waiting for me to have time to write them!

2 thoughts on “Author Interviews 2013

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