Wow, it’s a whole new year! Thank you for checking out these Author Interviews!
Thank you for being here.
You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure.
Start off by telling us a little bit about your latest book, Resolution.
It is 1896 in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The largest gold strike in the annals of human history has just been made; however, word of the discovery will not reach the outside world for another year.
By happenstance, a fifty-nine-year-old Huck Finn and his lady friend, Molly Lee, are on hand, but they are not interested in gold. They have come to that neck of the woods seeking adventure.
Someone should have warned them, “Be careful what you wish for.”
When disaster strikes, they volunteer to save the day by making an arduous six hundred mile journey by dog sled in the depths of a Yukon winter. They race against time, nature, and man. With the temperature hovering around seventy degrees below zero, they must fight every day if they are to live to see the next.
On the frozen trail, they are put upon by murderers, hungry wolves, and hostile Indians, but those adversaries have nothing over the weather. At seventy below, your spit freezes a foot from your face. Your cheeks burn—your skin turns purple and black as it dies from the cold. You are in constant danger of losing fingers and toes to frostbite.
It is into this world that Huck and Molly race.
They cannot stop. They cannot turn back. They can only go on. Lives hang in the balance—including theirs.
What inspired you to write Resolution?
I was not inspired to write Resolution . . . I was cajoled into writing it.
This is the backstory to Resolution:
My first book was a 164,000-word historical novel. And in the publishing world, anything over 80,000 words for a first-time author is heresy. Or so I was told time and time again when I approached an agent for representation. After two years of research and writing, and a year of trying to secure the services of an agent, I got angry. To be told that my efforts were meaningless was somewhat demoralizing to say the least. I mean, those rejections were coming from people who had never even read my book.
“So you want an 80,000-word novel?” I said to no one in particular, unless you count my dog, because he was the only one around at the time. Consequently, I decided to show them City Slickers that I could write an 80,000-word novel!
I had just finished reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn for the third time, and I started thinking about what ever happened to those boys, Tom and Huck. They must have grown up, but then what? So I sat down at my computer and banged out REDEMPTION: The Further Adventures of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer in two months; then sent out query letters to agents.
Less than a month later, the chairman of one of the biggest agencies in New York City emailed me that he loved the story. We signed a contract and it was off to the races, or so I thought. But then the real fun began: the serious editing. Seven months later, I gave birth to Huck and Tom as adults. And just for the record, the final word count is 79,914. The book went on to reach #1 status in its category on Amazon—twice. The rest, as they say, is history.
But not quite.
My agent then wanted me to write a sequel, but I had other plans. I was in the middle of editing down my first novel (that had been rejected by 1,876,324 agents . . . or so it seemed) from 164,000 words to the present 142,000. However, he was insistent about a sequel, so I started to think about it. Now, one thing you have to understand is that I tied up all the loose ends at the end of REDEMPTION, so there was no way that I could write a sequel. And that is when Molly asked me to tell her story. Molly was a minor character that we met briefly in the first chapter of REDEMPTION, and then she is not heard from again.
So I started to think about what ever happened to her. After a bit of time—and 100,000 words—we find out what did happen to Molly. It is an adventure tale where Huck Finn weaves through the periphery of a story driven by a feisty female lead. Molly Lee was my second book, which achieved #2 status on Amazon.
Now I was finished with Huck Finn for good. Now I could go back to my first novel and resume the editing process.
But not quite.
It was then that Huck and Molly ganged up on me and demanded that I resolve their lives once and for all. It seems that I had left them hanging, so to speak. Hence, RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure.
The three books are standalones and are not part of a series. They can be read in any order. RESOLUTION is available as an eBook and in print. Both versions are available on Amazon.
There you have it. Now, if the nice people who are reading this will just go out and buy RESOLUTION, perhaps Huck and Molly will leave me alone long enough so that I can get some editing done on my first novel.
Going back to the beginning, what is it that got you into writing?
One morning, about five years ago, I went crazy. I got out of bed, went downstairs, and threw my TV out the window. Then I sat down at the computer and wrote my first short story. It was soon published in a print magazine (remember them?). I’ve been writing ever since.
Do you always have a full story mapped out from beginning to end before you start writing?
I usually sit down to write a book with no idea where my characters will lead me. I start out with (I hope) a killer first sentence and the last paragraph of the book. Then I set out to fill the in-between space with 100,000 words. I find that the easy part. Sometimes I will bring my characters to a certain place, only to have them rebel when we get there. They tell me they want to go somewhere else and take off on their own. I have no choice but to follow.
Tell us a little bit about your writing process.
I prefer to write in the early morning hours when things are quiet. I usually get up around 2:00 a.m. and go to work. The commute is not long . . . only a few steps to my computer.
Do you ever base your characters in your books on real people? If so, when/how have you done this?
In some respects, all my characters are based on real people. I read a lot of non-fiction (history) and biographies and I’ll incorporate aspects of the people I read about into my characters.
What type of books do you like to read yourself?
My favorite authors are John Steinbeck and Jack London. I also love to read Lee Child and David Baldacci. Actually, the list is too long for this venue.
If you had to pick three books that were the only ones you could ever read again, what would you pick?
The Grapes of Wrath, The Collected Plays of William Shakespeare, and The Jacket (Star Rover) by Jack London.
Have you got any advice for those budding writers out there?
Read, read . . . and then read some more. Read everything you can get your hands on! Reading to a writer is as medical school is to a doctor, as physical training is to an athlete, as breathing is to life.
Thank you very much for coming onto my blog! Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for having me. I can only append that I have very much enjoyed your mild inquisition.
The Lingering Grace (The Looking Glass #2) by Jessica Arnold
- Please tell us about your book and how you came up with the idea.
In The Lingering Grace, Alice finds herself immersed in a world of magic once again when a new friend asks for her help doing a potentially dangerous spell. It is a sequel to The Looking Glass—in which Alice had to break a century-old curse. The Looking Glass was inspired by the amazing short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” and, to a lesser degree, Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. The Lingering Grace was more inspired by the concept of magic as a game of exchanges. One question drove the story more than any other: How much are these characters willing to sacrifice to get what they want?
- Where do you draw inspirations in creating your characters and their flaws?
Well, often I draw from real people … not to name any names 😉 I’m fascinated by the different ways my friends and acquaintances react to difficult situations in their lives, and although I wouldn’t say that I ever create a character strictly based on one person, I do get ideas for how characters behave and how they speak from my real live friends.
- Who is your favorite author or what is your favorite genre?
One of my favourite authors is Robin McKinley. I have loved reading her books since I was a teenager. It’s hard for me to pick a favourite genre, but fantasy has always had a special place in my heart—particular fairy tales.
- When do you prefer to write and where?
Usually I’m so busy that I end up writing whenever and wherever I can get the chance. I live in New York City, so I spend a fair amount of time writing on my cell phone on the subway. I’m most productive at home, though—as long as I can keep the cats off my keyboard!
- Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what do you listen to?
I find music with words too distracting, but I do love to put on something soundscape-ish when I’m writing. I went through a period when I wrote best in total silence, but lately I find some instrumental noise helps me to focus.
- What is the most difficult part of writing for you? The easiest?
The most difficult part of writing for me is always the first fifteen minutes. Every time I sit down to write, I have to get myself over that hump. The other hard part for me is outlining—it requires a level of discipline and creativity that sometimes I just can’t muster. But once that outlining is done, and once I’m past the fifteen-minute mark, I get into a mental flow. That’s when things become fun instead of gruelling!
- What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
First of all, don’t expect things to happen quickly. Books take time to write, time to edit, and even more time to publish. Second, write for yourself. The publishing process can be intense and often discouraging, so remember to do it because you love it—do it because it brings you happiness. And finally, be willing to let a project go if it isn’t working. Some story ideas don’t pan out and that is totally fine. Just because a manuscript is started doesn’t mean it has to be completed, and just because a manuscript is completed doesn’t mean it has to be published. Don’t give up the first time you hit a bump in the road, but don’t cling to a project that’s clearly going nowhere either!
- What future projects do you have planned or ideas for?
I have wanted to write a fairy tale retelling for a long time now, and I’ve finally decided to go for it. We’ll see if I can pull it off!
- When you begin to work on a story where do you start? With an outline, a character idea, a name or title, theme, plot…?
I usually begin with the inciting incident. In The Lingering Grace, I started with Alice meeting a new girl in school who forces her to re-evaluate her stance on magic. I don’t always know how a story will end when I begin writing, but I do like to know how it starts!
- Who was the most influential person in your life when it comes to your writing?
When I started college, I was convinced that I was a terrible writer. The first writing professor I ever had is the person who changed my mind. I don’t think I would have had the confidence to try writing a book if it hadn’t been for her.
- Please tell us a little about yourself. I’m kinda of boring. I live on the edge of the Kantar Nebula with my husband and three little Krevlar children. It’s okay, they look more like me than their dad. (Don’t tell him I said that)
- What was your inspiration to write this book? Well, things get tiring out here in this part of space, and I wanted something exciting to read to my kids. They do love to read, but so much of what’s available on the intergalactic web is sort of dull. They love chase novels, so I figured this would be right up their alley.
- What projects are you working on now? Oh! I’m glad you asked. Right now I am working on the final edits for Book Two of Fire in the Woods. I’m super excited about it. I am also 80% complete on a contemporary science fiction novel about a girl who builds a robot in her barn.
- Are you interested in writing another genre? Not so much, no. Unless you mean switching from YA to adult or new adult. I write for all ages at different times, but I do always seem to come back to speculative fiction.
- Did you always want to be a writer? I’ve been writing since I was 16, so yeah, probably. But I took about 20 years off to work myself up to this corporate leadership position in the Kantar Nebula, and to have three kids. I always missed writing though, so I’m glad I came back to it.
- Are you a day or night writer? Daytime mostly. I’m not much of a morning person, but that is when I have to chart gaseous anomalies in the nebula, anyway. At night I work on marketing and interviews that I send back to Earth. My most creative time is during the afternoon, usually after lunch.
- Do you listen to music as you write, and if so what type or what songs? You know what? Music bothers some of the Jeothian miners who work in the same facility that I do. They have these tiny, sensitive ears, so I try to keep as quiet as possible. Sometimes I do wear headphones, though. When I do (which is rarely) I listen to soundtrack music. Stuff with words is too distracting while I write.
- Are you a coffee or tea person? TEA! Coffee is yucky. And the Krevlar are highly allergic to it. I’m serious. You should have seen what happened to my husband when he tried it. It WAS NOT pretty.
- Are you a lefty or righty? I’m a rightly. Hubbs is a lefty. One of my sons is a lefty, too. Most Krevlars are lefty though, so it is really hard for me to find scissors out here.
- What advice would you give aspiring authors? Keep writing! You will get better and better with each story you write, and if you get a chance to move to outer space, do it! There is plenty of fodder for novels out here. And if you end up near the Kantar Nebula, please come and say hi! I don’t get to see humans all that often. Oh! And please bring me a pair of scissors if you can smuggle them past inter-galactic security!
First Author Interview of 2016: Lifer by Beck Nicholas
Before we get to the questions, would you please tell us about your book?
Thank you so much for having me here today to talk about Temper.Temper is the sequel to Lifer. It’s a story of Earth after an alien driven Upheaval which destroyed cities and killed billions. Asher who grew up as a slave has freed herself from the underground ‘ship’ but the Company which imprisoned them haven’t been vanquished. To complicate matters, the camp of those who’ve escaped is beset by rising tensions as more and more fights break out. Is it their confined spaces and the pressure of an imminent Company attack or has something happened to modify their tempers? Asher leads a mission to take action and attack the Company and get the cure before all the refugees kill each other.
- What are some of the story concepts that interest you?
In Temper I was interested, firstly to continue the story of the characters who I’d grown so invested in while writing Lifer. I wanted to explore how getting what you think you want – a victory – might not make up for everything you lose along the way. What happens after? I also wanted to look at the idea of controlling your temper, or not. How that might affect a character. Then put them all in a place and time which makes all their choices and the consequences magnified.
- Where did the inspiration come from for the characters in your book?
Asher is a servant on a spaceship and her story was inspired by Australia’s convict past. I wondered how such a system might work to help provide the people to do the crappy work on a generation ship. Thus Asher’s ancestors were born. I thought the period where landing and freedom be full of tension and a fertile place to breed rebellion from those servants. Samuai and Davyd are the flip side. The privileged boys who can’t imagine Asher’s existence. One has sympathy and wants equality and the other wants to preserve that privilege.
- Do you have a favorite author or genre?
I read across genres depending on my mood. It means my favorite author can change on a day to day basis. I love the possibilities of science fiction. I enjoy the very human questions which can be examined in these foreign landscapes. If it can have a swoony romance too, then even better.
- Do you have a favorite place or time to write?
I need to write early or I don’t write much at all. We recently renovated and I was able to include a study nook. This is my place to write but often I need to take my laptop out and about to shake the words loose.
- Do you listen to music when you write or brainstorm, and if so, what sort?
I prefer silence when I write. I use a playlist to get in the mood of the story but turn it off for the actually writing.
- What do you feel is the hardest part of writing? The easiest?
The hardest part is digging inside myself for the characters’ emotions and the simple effort of typing one word after another. The easiest is hanging out with the characters in the world I’ve created. I love it.
- What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Don’t give up. Surround yourself with supportive people – and that includes telling you (with care and respect) when something isn’t working.
- What future projects do you have planned?
I’m working on a sequel for Temper (Fighter) as well as a few contemporary Young Adult stories. One has a body on the stage on opening night at a musical theatre camp which has been fun.
- When you begin to write how do you begin? With an outline, character idea, name, title, theme, plot…?
For me it’s always about the characters and what if. They need to make a choice, take action and see what happens from there.
- Describe the process for your writing.
I love a new shiny story idea with characters I can’t wait to get to know. I usually let an idea simmer for a while so I know a bit about it. My preparation might include some research into a particular technology or place. But my main work is on the characters working out what they most want and why they can’t achieve it. I like to ‘cast’ my characters to help me work out what they look like. I need a title I like and an opening line I’m happy with but then sometimes write out of order as the scenes come to me like movies in my head.
There’s coffee and water and chocolate rewards and I do my best thinking about what might happen next on my early morning runs.