Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Interview with MCA Hogarth

The Worth of a ShellMy novel, The Five Elements, is part of StoryBundle’s current Fantasy Bundle. Much like the fantasy genre itself, the bundle features a wonderfully diverse group of authors and books. One of those authors is M.C.A. Hogarth, author of The Worth of a Shell. The bundle’s curator, Blair MacGregor, had this to say about M.C.A and her novel:

I became acquainted with Maggie through her strong and well-thought-out advocacy of indie writers and diverse publishing options, and soon discovered her fabulous talent as a writer and an artist. The first novel of hers I read pulled me into a non-human world alive with distinct cultures, sensory depth, and the harsh consequences of daring to want life outside society's limitations. That novel, The Worth of A Shell, is in this bundle so you can make that the same discovery I did. – Blair MacGregor

I had the opportunity to interview M.C.A. Here are her thoughts.

1. Tell us a little about The Worth of a Shell. What was the motivation behind the story and characters?

I've always liked stories about aliens, and am forever making them; they're an eternal lens into questions about the human condition, and give people a way to look at those questions without bringing along the baggage of society and culture that we all drag around everywhere. If I try to write about gender with human characters, I engage all the reader's history with gender in their own life. If I give them a horse-tailed, dinosaur-browed, jack-legged neuter creature, they can leave all that at home. Or at least, that's the hope. When I'm writing about things that are especially fraught for us, I often turn to aliens to explore repercussions that would hit too close to home if written about humans.

The Jokka of the Shell universe are a lens to examine multiple issues--not just gender, which is the obvious one, but also questions about dementia and loss.

Also, I write aliens because it's fun.

2. Your body of work has a definite anthropomorphic quality. Where does that come from?

I think the anthropomorphic quality is literal. I find human qualities in things that are not human, so that we can look at what being human means. My interest is catholic: I like robots, talking spaceships, sentient tree people, were-creatures, aliens, the whole kit and caboodle. If you put it forth believably, I will be entertained! I am fascinated by diversity in experience and outlook. Science fiction/fantasy is a fantastic place to roll around in all that. As a genre, we have a long history of loving our anthropomorphic characters, from Anne McCaffrey's dragons to Asimov's robots to the million talking cat stories (from Niven's Kzinti to Diane Duane's feline wizards to Cherryh's kif from the Chanur novels). We love our non-humanoids!

3. It looks like you waited almost a decade to write Book 2 and 3 of this trilogy. What happened there?

Wow, well, all right--so I set up this big problem in Shell, knowing that I would have to resolve it somehow. And according to the rules of epic fantasy, huge societal problems can't be resolved quietly or slowly. It's gotta be nuclear, usually in the form of enormous wars. You have an unjust society, it needs to be overthrown and replaced with something more fair, right? That's how it works, how I grew up thinking it should work, and how, once I started writing, I thought I would have to make it work if I didn't want my readers to feel cheated. There should be banners and cavalry and carpets of armies facing off beneath a cloudy sky, with cold winds blowing everyone's mane heroically from their brows! There should be bloodshed and sacrifice and monuments at the end!
And... I couldn't do that with this universe. My first problem being that I'm writing a marginal society: it has so few people surviving in it that a war on the scale of something out of epic fantasy would wipe away the unjust society by rendering the species extinct. Talk about babies thrown out with bathwater! You begin to think of war as a luxury of societies with a lot of either manpower or technology, neither situation of which obtains to the Jokka.

My second problem was that I got fixated on having to follow the Chosen One through the entire narrative. It took me a long time to figure out that there was no chosen one, not really... and that the story had to be carried through other people's voices in the subsequent books, because that's where the action was. I'd been wanting to cling to Thenet all the way to the end of the trilogy, but it's not Thenet who gets us through the next important events.

Once I let go of those two things, I was shocked how quickly Books 2 and 3 came together. But I'm also glad I waited, because I think the resulting story is a lot stronger--and more unexpected--than the one I would have written had I been bludgeoning myself into writing to the imaginary rules of epic fantasy.

4. What's next? Any current projects or upcoming releases you'd like to share?

I just released a high fantasy romance novel, Thief of Songs, which is getting enough good feedback that I think I'll write a second book in that universe. It shares some commonalities with Shell, in that there are multiple genders (in this case, human ones: hermaphrodite and neuter as well as male and female), but it's a much more pastoral setting. In addition, I'm finishing up an epic fantasy trilogy wherein I once again fail to follow the epic fantasy rules--unavoidably, maybe, since I've made a cluster of philosophy students the main characters, and now they want to talk, research, and discuss their way into solutions of problems rather than do the epic stirring battle thing.

I hope I eventually do get to write an epic stirring battle! But that year is apparently not this year!

Make sure to check out the full selection of StoryBundle Fantasy Author Interviews!

Author Interview: Stacey Marie Brown

This week's interview is with Stacey Marie Brown, author of Darkness of Light . Check out the synopsis for the book and the interview with Stacey right after.


Freak. Witch. Crazy. Schizo.

Ember Brycin has been called them all. She’s always known she’s different. No one has ever called her normal, even under the best circumstances. Bizarre and inexplicable things continually happen to her, and having two different colored eyes, strange hair, and an unusual tattoo only contributes to the gossip about her.

When the latest school explosion lands her in a facility for trouble teens, she meets Eli Dragen, who’s hot as hell and darkly mysterious. Their connection is full of passion, danger, and secrets. Secrets that will not only change her life, but what and who she is—leading her down a path she never imagined possible.

Between Light and Dark, Ember finds a world where truth and knowledge are power and no one can be trusted. But her survival depends on finding out the truth about herself. In her pursuit, she is forced between love and destiny and good and evil, even when the differences between them aren’t always clear. At worst, she will incite a war that could destroy both worlds. At best, she will not only lose her heart but her life and everyone she loves. Once the truth is out, however, there will be no going back. And she’ll definitely wish she could.

1. Please tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Northern California. I did some acting in Los Angeles for a time. After that I lived and traveled abroad for over 6 years. During my time abroad I fell in love with Design and Architecture. That brought me back to San Francisco where I got my degree in Interior Design. Now, I work by day as an Interior/Set Designer and by night a writer. During those years I never stopped writing. It took me until recently to really realize that is was what I want to do with my life. It’s my true passion. When I’m not writing I’m with friends, hiking, going to concerts, and just enjoying San Francisco.

2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?

My book is called Darkness of Light. It is a paranormal romance/ contemporary fantasy. It is about 18-year-old Ember Brycin, who has always had strange things happen to her. After the latest school explosion lands her in a facility for trouble teens, she discovers a secret that changes not only her life, but what and who she is. Love, lies, deceit, and betrayal lead her down a path to the Otherworld, into another realm where she will probably not survive.

3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?

Although you can read Darkness of Light as a standalone, it is meant to be Book One in the Darkness Series. As of right now, there are 3, possibly 4, books in this series. I am hoping to get Book 2 out by August 2013. It is a continuation of Ember’s journey. It is much more raw and grown up. She has a lot of things to deal with:  her own powers, the betrayals, sex, love, death. There are many secrets and twists ahead for her.

4. How long have you been writing?

I have been writing and creating stories from a very early age. It was the way I expressed myself and escaped into a world of make-believe. It was always something I did. It makes me happy and I would do it no matter if one person read my stuff or thousands.

5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?

Reading, reading . . . and reading more. I also get inspiration from watching people, nature, art, and movies.

6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?

Seek therapy it’s quicker and cheaper…

Kidding! My advice is, if you enjoy doing it for fun or want to do it as your job, don’t give up. It is a LONG, grueling process. There is a lot of rejection and times you want to give up, but push through and keep writing. You also have to learn that not every word you write is worth keeping. You have to get thick skin and know people’s critiques are to better your book and you as a writer.

7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?

My books are more in the “New Adult” genre (17+). The first one could be in the YA, but just like in life my main character grows and matures as do the books. My characters are also real. There is sex, swearing, alcohol, and not always does the main character make the right choice. I am older and write for women who still love to read YA type books but want them a little more relatable and real life.

8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?

I’m trying to become more structured with my process, but it doesn’t always end up going that way. I like having a general outline on where I’m going; but when I write, my characters take over and sometimes a scene will come out completely different from what I thought. Keeping it loose seems to work for me and gives me the freedom and creativity to follow my characters when they take over my head!

9. Are you a "write every day of the week" sort of writer or do you take days off?

I wish I was disciplined enough to write every day. Life gets in the way and sometimes there are days that not one creative thought enters my brain! But, I do something involving my writing every day, even if it’s editing or focusing on my marketing. I try not to go more than two days without writing a scene.

10. Some book reviewers won't accept independently authored books for review. What are your thoughts on that? Are they missing out?

I understand why some do it; but, yes, I think they are missing out on some incredible writers. Agents aren’t taking on new clients most of the time, so it’s really hard for us “up and coming” to break out. Many choose to go the self-publishing route; but we have to fight the stigma of being “not as good” as published authors, and that is not true at all. I’ve read some horrendous books that were published by a big name and some incredible books that were self-published.

11. Some people feel indie authored books are of lesser quality than those that go through the traditional publishers. Do you agree with them? If so, how can independent authors raise the bar and remove this stigmatism?

Because the publishing world is changing and there are a lot more people self-publishing instead of going through an agent or publisher, I am hoping this stigma will fade some over time. The trouble is there are a lot of people out there that self-publish who don’t get professional help with editing and formatting. Their product is less than par. Unfortunately with no regulations on self-publishing, some really poor quality work is being put out there. Because of this I feel it will be impossible to lose this stigma completely.

12. Any pets? If so, tell us what role they play in your writing, if any.

Living in the city I’m not able to have any pets, but I grew up on a farm—rabbits, ponies, puppies, kitties and even bottle feeding lambs. All my life I’ve been surrounded by animals. I’d say they definitely influence me in some way. I actually want to write a kid’s book called “The Adventures of Pete” based on a true story about my dad’s old dog that got in a stranger’s truck and disappeared for two years before coming back. I want to write about what he saw and did in those two years.

13. Which retailers or others sites can readers find your work at?

My book is on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. All links can be found on my website.

14. Where can readers find out more about you?

My website www.staceymariebrown.com . Don’t ask any of my friends about me . . . they lie!


imageStacey Marie Brown by day is an Interior/Set Designer, by night a writer of Paranormal Fantasy, Adventure, and Literary Fiction. She grew up in Northern California, where she ran around on her family’s farm, raising animals, riding horses, playing flashlight tag, and turning hay bales into cool forts. Even before she could write, she was creating stories and making up intricate fantasies. Writing came as easy as breathing.  She later turned that passion into acting, living and traveling abroad, and designing. Though she had never stopped writing, moving back to San Francisco seemed to have brought it back to the forefront and this time it would not be ignored.

When she’s not writing she’s out hiking, spending time with friends, traveling, listening to music, or designing.


Author Interview: Angella Graff

It's that time again. Time to sit down for another author interview. This time Angella Graff, author of The Judas Curse, answers a few questions. Let's see what she has to say.


1. Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Angella Graff, I’m 31, a Theology grad from the University of Arizona. I live in Tucson with my husband Joshua and three kids, Christian (12) Isabella (10) and Adia (5). Aside from writing, I also do editing for other authors, and when I’m not doing that, I’m either doing yoga, hiking, or geeking out on the BBC, or playing Mario on our Nintendo system. That’s pretty much all there is to my life, as mundane as it sounds haha.

2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?

My latest book is called The Judas Kiss. It’s book two in an urban fantasy series called The Judas Curse. It directly follows the events of The Awakening, where a hard-headed homicide detective, Ben Stanford, has to face the supernatural and come to grips with ancient mythos as a reality.

In this sequel, Mark and Judas are kidnapped by Nike, the angry goddess trying to wield their power, and Ben teams up with some unlikely forces from the Norse pantheon to try and rescue them before she can accomplish her mission.

You get a really decent look at the inner workings of Ben’s mind now that he’s starting to accept a little more of the paranormal side of things, and you get to delve into the history of Mark and Judas, how they came into their immortality and powers two-thousand years ago.

3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?

This is book two of an anticipated twelve book series.

4. How long have you been writing?

Cliché, but I’ve been writing since I could write. I penned my first novel, this 700 page Dragon-y Fantasy epic when I was about sixteen years old. Fortunately for the masses, I never attempted to have that published, but it was then I realized that I could and would be a writer some day.

5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?

That’s a tough one, because it depends on what I’m working on. For the series, I’m inspired by my theology studies—not just religion or the bible, or even mythos, but the psychology behind it, and the old legends surrounding the more popular stories. I spend a lot of time reading different books about religious history.

Other times I’m inspired by life’s events, in my own life or the lives of others. I feel like everyone has a story that should be, in some capacity, told.

6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?

Make sure it’s what you really want to do. You have to be willing to accept the entire thing that goes with the world of being a published author. If you want to write, but you don’t want to hear the bad things about what you’ve done, this job is not for you. I remember when I got my first bad review, and I was broken hearted. I thought, how could someone be so mean and so awful. Do they not realize how hard I worked on this?

I came to realize that part of this world of being a published writer is having your work out there for critique. By anyone. They can be someone who has a Ph.D. in classical literature, or they could be the person who never finished 8th grade, but everyone will have their say if they want to, and you have to learn to take something away from every critique, whether it hurts or not.

If you can’t stand to have people say negative things about your work, this is not the career for you.

7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?

Someone who is able to take entertainment out of different ideas on religion. People who are sensitive about their beliefs are not going to like what I write. You need to be fairly open-minded to enjoy it. I’m not saying that you can’t be a Christian, because I’ve had plenty of Christians who are able to see the book for what it is—fiction—but if you’re overly sensitive about the beliefs, I’d say this book is not for you.

8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?

Um, I’m a vague planner. I have a constant flow of ideas going through my mind, and sometimes someone will say something and it’ll spark an entirely new plot-point or scene in my book that I never thought about before. I know my characters intimately, which means I know how they’ll react to any given situation, but I like my writing to flow organically.

9. What are your thoughts on writers paying for reviews as John Locke is reported to have done?

I hadn’t heard about that before and I just looked it up. I guess I’m still fairly uninformed, but I find that a little depressing considering the rest of us self-pub'ed authors who try and stick to the official rules when having our books reviewed. I would never do that myself, but in all honesty, it’s his shame to carry, not mine. I plan to stick it out, and even if I’m never well known, at least I’ll always be able to hold my head high and say that I never bought my own popularity.

10. Some book reviewers won't accept independently authored books for review. What are your thoughts on that? Are they missing out?

I think from time to time, yes, they are. I’m of mixed views on this because while I find it frustrating when my book is refused due to it being self-pub'ed, by the same token I also run a book review blog and understand the frustration that some of these bloggers must feel.

The tough part of self-publishing is, even though amazon tries to adhere to strict rules and even offers readers the option of reporting errors in kindle books, prior to having the errors reported, anyone can have their book published. There is a significant portion of books that are simply terrible. Poor grammar, poor spelling, poor formatting and structure. Undeveloped characters, weak plots, etc. You name it, it’s out there. Asking someone to spend the amount of time it takes to read a book, only to have the book poorly put together can leave a lot of readers jaded against the industry.

However are they missing out? Yes, they can be, very much. I’ve read some real and true literary gems that are not only self-published, but far surpass the quality of some of the most popular traditionally published authors. That’s why, no matter how often I have to turn a book away, I won’t stop accepting indie authors, because more often than not, my time is rewarded.

11. Some people feel indie authored books are of lesser quality than those that go through the traditional publishers. Do you agree with them? If so, how do we collectively raise the bar and remove this stigmatism?

Indie authored books can be of lesser quality because indie authors often don’t have the resources available to them to pay professionals for quality work. Often times indie authors rely on their MS word program and a quick read-through as their editors. I’ve seen authors use MS paint and Photoshop with a copy pasted SIMS character for a book cover. Believe me, I’ve seen the “lesser quality” work out there.

Honestly, if there were editors and book cover artists more willing to offer services that were affordable to indie authors, I think we’d see an influx of better quality writing and covers hitting the indie market.

Not to market myself because that’s not the point of this, but I actually do that. The affordable editing bit, anyway. When I started researching editors for my first book, I was repeatedly quoted prices of hundreds or even thousands of dollars for an editing job. I thought to myself, yes it’s work, but should it really cost so much? Most indie authors couldn’t hope to cover that cost alone in books sales, so to ask someone to come up with that kind of money up front just seems unreasonable.

I’m lucky to live with someone with a heavy creative writing and English background who, despite my horrible nagging attitude during “editing time” is happy to edit for me. I also found an amazing cover artist who does hand-drawn cover art for my books for an amazing price. I thought, the least I could do for the community of indie writers is give back—and so I went back to my old editing for thesis papers state of mind from University and have been able to help quite a few authors out. And that feels really good!

I realize I’ve just been long-winded, but I wanted to make a point that if indie authors had affordable services, I think it would make a huge difference in the quality we see coming into the market.

12. R.S. Guthrie wrote a hard-hitting post (http://robonwriting.com/2013/02/05/i-...) on reviewers and the veil of anonymity some of them hide behind. Your thoughts on this subject?

I hadn’t read this article before this interview and it actually caused me to stop filling out the answers and take some time to process what he said. Truthfully, I think every single author can relate to this. Every single one. Sure there are authors out there who surround themselves with a network of people who will only leave positive reviews, but for those who throw themselves to the reading wolves, we’ve all experienced that. I’ve had reviews insulting me as a person because I didn’t write what the reviewer wanted to read. I’ve had people take swings at me and my family because they didn’t share my same points of view. There have been reviewers who simply wanted to be mean, and Guthrie is right. Those reviewers are simply stupid.

The moment we get an honest review, it cuts. It bleeds. It burns. It’s like having someone point out every single thing you’re insecure about in your own life and writing, and having it on display for the rest of the world to see. It isn’t fun. However, it means the world to me because someone took time out of their lives to tell me where I could improve.

I remember one reviewer in particular took some heavy swings at me, but there was meat to the review. There was honest criticism. I took the comments privately, and I responded with a simple thank you, and a request that, if he would like to, to give the rest of my series a try. The response I got? He said based on my response to him, he was already a fan of mine, even if he didn’t like my writing.

I think writers need to take more time drawing as much from the negative reviews as we can. It’s the only way to grow and improve. Even if the reviewer is trying to be mean, no other reasons but to be deliberately cruel, I try and take something away from it that I can use. And yes, I think it will always hurt like a son-of-a-bitch, but that’s the good kind of pain in my opinion. The kind that I can grow and learn from.

13. Where can readers find your work?

They can find my book purchase links on my Facebook page on the Read My Book App

And of course there’s my Amazon author page which has all of my publish works listed there.

14. Where can readers find out more about you?

All of my info is available at my website .


image

Angella Graff was born and raised in the desert city of Tucson, Arizona. She married and became a mother very young, and after getting started with her family, began her University studies where she found her passion for creative writing, history and theology.

She now resides in Tucson with her husband Joshua, three children, Christian, Isabella and Adia, and their three cats, Archive (Ivy), Lasciel and Fix. She prefers to spend her days writing, gardening, and reading non-fiction theology theory books. Angella is also an avid, if not fanatic fan of Doctor Who and BBC Sherlock, which tend to dominate her dry, sarcastic humor, a lot of which is apparent in her writing.


Author Interview: Tanya J. Peterson

This time around I've got Tanya J. Peterson, author of Leave of Absence, in the interview chair. Let's take a look at what she has to say.


1. Please tell us about yourself.

Hmmm… Where to start? This is perhaps the most difficult question of this interview! I don’t feel overly comfortable talking about myself, and in verbal conversations, while I don’t blatantly ignore people when they ask personal questions (that would be quite rude!) I usually catch myself steering the conversation away from myself. Given that you and your readers are actually interested in knowing something about the authors you’re interviewing, though, I probably shouldn’t avoid this question! (For the record, I am very happy to answer these questions. I’m excited to connect with readers, so thank you so much for doing this, Scott!)

It’s probably obvious by now that I’m a bit of an introvert. I’m an active one, though. I love the outdoors, especially hiking, camping (tent, of course), kayaking, biking (mountain and street), and snowshoeing. I love these for the peaceful feeling they bring. I enjoy them in solitude and with my family – my husband and two kids, age 16 and 11. I also love quiet family evenings at home, playing board games, reading, and watching movies.

Beyond that, I’ve been a high school teacher and a counselor. Most recently, I worked at a school for homeless and runaway adolescents. What a fantastic bunch of students! I was amazed by them every day: the challenges they faced and the steps they had to take to get an education to make a better life for themselves was very inspirational. I’ve also volunteered in various settings as a counselor to help people help themselves.

I have a passion for helping people find emotional well-being and for helping people thrive while struggling with mental illness. Perhaps I feel so strongly about it because I have a somewhat unique (but I seriously doubt that I’m the only person on the planet with this particular combination of experiences) background that I bring to my writing. I’ve experienced mental illness from both sides of the proverbial couch. After sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a car accident in 2004 plus two subsequent concussions, I was in and out of a behavioral health hospital across a period of five years. I dealt with multiple mental health diagnoses. While I’m better today (proof that things, no matter how bad they are at the time, do improve), I do still have lingering effects. No one is “cured” of mental illness, but people can get better.

So therein lies the focus of my writing. One of the most difficult things that I faced was the stigma associated with mental illness. I feel strongly that if people understand what various mental illnesses really are (and they’re all different), then people can empathize. Stereotypes need to be eradicated. Understanding and empathy breed compassion and connection. For me, the best way to do this is through novels. There are many wonderful non-fiction books on mental illness and mental health that do a fabulous job of explaining such things. I want to show the human side (as opposed to the clinical aspect) of mental health issues, though, so I write novels.

2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?

My newest book is entitled Leave of Absence. It’s about an utterly bereft man, Oliver Graham, who absolutely cannot cope with the traumatic loss of his wife and young son. He is lonely for them, and he blames himself for their deaths. (He kind of has a reason to blame himself, but not entirely so. I wonder if readers will blame him!) After a failed suicide attempt, he ends up at Airhaven Behavioral Health Center where he meets Penelope Baker, a fellow patient wrestling with schizophrenia and the devastating impact it’s had on her life. Penelope is engaged, but she doesn’t think it’s fair to her fiancé William to continue the engagement because certainly she’s no longer loveable. Both Oliver and Penelope struggle to discover a reason to live while William strives to convince her that they can make a life together despite her illness. As Oliver and Penelope try to achieve emotional stability, face others who have been part of their lives, and function in the “real world,” they discover that human connection may be reason enough to go on.

3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?

This book stands alone. I do intend to write may more novels that address mental health issues, but they’ll all be independent of each other.

4. How long have you been writing?

Officially, I’m just beginning my career as a novelist. Last year, I published a young adult novel (entitled Losing Elizabeth). I actually wrote it years ago, however. I published it because I wanted to bring awareness to the impacts of abusive relationships and because I needed a tool to figure out this wild world of professional writing and publishing. I’ve learned much, including the fact that I absolutely love writing novels and that I want to continue to do so for a long time.

Unofficially, I’ve been writing for most of my life. My parents have a picture of me at age three putting magnetic letters on a metal writing board. I remember writing a story in second grade about animals in nature. I worked on it every spare minute I had. No one ever knew about it, though, because I was too afraid of ridicule to share it with anyone. I tried writing a play for a contest in eighth grade, and my language arts teacher actually selected it for submission. However, I’m not a playwright at all and don’t ever intend to be (kudos to those who can do it!). I doubt it even made it past the first round of whatever contest it was. For a long time, I was content to write papers for school, both creative works and formal research-type papers. In high school, college, and, later, graduate school, I was one of those weird people who loved papers and essay tests. Now, I’d much rather write novels!

5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?

I draw inspiration from life and my various experiences. Leave of Absence is completely fiction, as is Losing Elizabeth. However, in both my professional and personal life, I’ve seen pain and triumph. I feel connected to people and the experiences they have, and I want to write in a way that (hopefully) causes others to feel that, too.

6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?

Definitely, write what you’re passionate about. Find what inspires you, and use your spark to ignite a fire. Don’t try to be the “next” anybody. Be the first you. No matter your genre of choice, your enthusiasm for your area will add depth to your stories.

Also, believe in yourself. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but from age seven (or whatever age I was in second grade) through adulthood, I was too afraid of failure to really follow my dreams. Who knows where I’d be today if I’d taken the risk long ago? That said, I have no regrets, for my life experience has brought a richness to my writing that otherwise wouldn’t be there. I’m only in my forties. It’s never too late to begin anything!

7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?

I’m hoping that people struggling with mental illness will find out about my book and read it. I’d like them to feel that they’re not alone. I also hope that caregivers, friends, and family members of those suffering from mental illness will enjoy Leave of Absence. I think they’ll be able to relate to William.

This may be a lofty goal, but I can see this being read and discussed in psychology classes and counselor-education programs. In such classes, my teachers/professors often had us read things other than textbooks to increase our understanding. I wrote Leave of Absence to help eradicate stereotypes and to really show what schizophrenia, complicated mourning, depression, and loss are like – not the clinical definitions, but what they feel like. This could help psychology students understand mental illness on a personal level and allow counseling students to discuss treatment approaches.

Of course, Leave of Absence is general contemporary fiction. I’m hoping that anyone looking for an emotional, character-driven story will give it a try!

8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?

For me, novel writing is most definitely a process! I need to have a general feel for the story: first and foremost, who is it about and what are his/her struggles? Next, I think, “Okay. So what?” I need to be able to answer that question so my story has a purpose rather than just stumbling on from one scene to the next. Before I begin writing, I need to know, generally, where the story is going to end up. That’s not to say that I have the exact ending and every single scene planned before I begin. No way! Writing is too complex for that. The story evolves continually as I write it, so I don’t know exactly how it will end up, but I do know the general direction in which it is going.

I have a confession: I absolutely love binders. I use them for everything, including writing novels. Those colorful divider tabs are really fun, and I have sections for all sorts of notes and thoughts: the general outline, specific chapter outlines, characterization, research notes, general ideas – things like that. I’m constantly adding to it and referring to it as I write. And throughout the writing process, I’m always assessing where I’ve been and where I want to go. Good novels are “tight,” intentional. There should be a logical connection between events, and every conversation, every detail should have a greater purpose. For me, there’s no way to achieve that other than through planning with lots of room for creative flow and adjustment. (Maybe that’s partially my love of writing papers and essays in school coming out!)

9. Are you a "write every day of the week" sort of writer or do you take days off?

I love to write, and ideally while writing a novel write every single day. Sometimes that’s not realistic given all the other demands of life, but I write almost every day. I do my best work in the morning. When I was writing Leave of Absence, I’d get up at least by 5:00 and get a few uninterrupted hours of writing in before the hectic activities of the day began. I get into a flow when I write; it’s good for my well-being, so I try to do it daily.

10. What are your thoughts on writers paying for reviews as John Locke is reported to have done?

It depends. There are some professional review services that do charge a fee. The fee is for a guaranteed honest review, though, not for a guaranteed glowing review. Money spent on these does not mean that a writer is buying a good review. Sometimes writers end up paying for a review that ends up being horrible.

Paying for a professional service without guaranteed results is okay. However, paying readers to give good reviews is, in my opinion, a really bad thing to do. It’s dishonest, for one thing. When someone reads reviews to decide if he/she wants to purchase a book, it’s unethical if those reviews are skewed. And, equally poor is the fact that I think it discredits the writer. When people read my reviews, I want them to know that all of the reviews are authentic. If someone happens to give Leave of Absence a good review, it’s because they genuinely liked the book, not because I paid them to give praise. Additionally, bad reviews, while I don’t love them of course, are helpful. They provide feedback that I can use to improve my next novels.

Bottom line: I would no more buy a good review than I would have bought an “A” on a paper in school.

11. Any pets? If so, tell us what role they play in your writing, if any.

My daughter has a chinchilla, and my son has a Russian tortoise. I love these little creatures, but they don’t have a role in my writing.

There is a stray cat that hangs out occasionally under our porch. My son named him Johixilan (I don’t know why). He has a cameo appearance in Leave of Absence!

12. Assuming you have an active blog, point readers to a post of which you're especially proud or think will be of particular interest to them.

I do have an active blog; however, it is just getting off the ground and only has a few posts. I’d love visitors and comments. It’s on my website: www.tanyajpeterson.com/blog. It’s a mental-health-related blog that incorporates discussions of Leave of Absence as well as other thoughts and musings. It’s a work in progress, and I only hope that it evolves into a place that people enjoy.

13. I made some predictions for the ePublishing industry for 2013 (http://www.scottmarlowe.com/post/ePub...). Do you think any of them will come true?

I think you have good insight into publishing trends. I can see amazon continuing to attempt to crush all competition and to hurt many authors in the process. I also believe that the Big 6 of the traditional publishing industry is scrambling to keep up with the changing times. They are rather reactionary, and I can see them lowering their prices to stay relevant. Interesting that here they’re watching the indie “industry” and following its trends. Regarding the end to the indie boom that you predict, I agree that this will begin to occur for the very reasons you articulate: after trying it, many writers may realize that it’s not for them because ROI (return on investment) is minimal if it even exists at all. While the “boom” may come to an end, though, I don’t think that indie publishing in general is at an end. On the contrary, I think it’s going to increase and that the quality is only going to increase with it. For people who truly want to continue to write professionally, the independent path can be a great way to go. I agonized for quite some time about whether I wanted to pursue the traditional publishing route or the independent route. There are pros and cons to each, but after talking to many different people (traditionally published authors, indie authors, and even agents) and doing a lot of reading about both paths, I purposely chose to go the indie route. I think others have done the same and will continue to do so. So perhaps while the days of anyone throwing any type of book, no matter the quality, will come to an end, the rise of the serious, established indie author is beginning to take place.

14. Which retailers or others sites can readers find your work at?

Thanks for asking! Right now Leave of Absence is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com., and powells.com. It’s also available in small bookstores in Oregon. Of course it’s available in electronic form, too, and is available for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iReader. Readers with these devices can buy it the way they buy other books for their e-readers.

15. Where can readers find out more about you?

I have a website and a blog: www.tanyajpeterson.com. I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tanyajpeterson and Twitter at www.twitter.com/tanyajpeterson1 (or @tanyajpeterson1). Technically, I do have a Pinterest account (www.pinterest.com/tanyajpeterson), but shamefully, that one’s pretty empty right now because I’m still figuring out what to do on it. I have little talent when it comes to anything visual, so a site that is entirely visual scares me a bit.

I love it when people visit any of my sites, and I especially love it when people leave comments or questions. I like it when conversations happen, so I’m really hoping that my sites will grow into communities where people visit and talk about things.


TanyaPetersonTanya J. Peterson holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, Master of Science in counseling, and is a Nationally Certified Counselor.  She has been a teacher and a counselor in various settings, including a traditional high school and an alternative school for homeless and runaway adolescents, and she has volunteered her services in both schools and communities.  She draws on her life experience as well as her education to write stories about the emotional aspect of the human condition.  She has published Losing Elizabeth, a young adult novel about an abusive relationship, Challenge!, a short story about a person who finds the confidence to overcome criticism and achieve a goal, and a book review of Linley and Joseph’s Positive Therapy: A Meta-Theory for Positive Psychological Practice that appeared in Counseling Today, the national publication of the American Counseling Association.

Author Interview: TL Rese

This week I visit with TL Rese, author of Spirit of a Kyrie to be released later this year. Let's see what she has to say.


1. Please tell us about yourself.

I was born in Texas, but soon after, we moved to Iowa then Maryland. My family moved around a lot when I was a kid. We finally settled in Upstate NY when I was seven. Afterwards, I went to college in California, and I did my graduate studies in England, because I absolutely love British literature. UK authors – from J.R.R. Tolkien to C.S. Lewis to J.K. Rowling – have had a tremendous impact on me and my writing. I stayed in England for about seven years and only recently returned to California. So yes, I've been to a lot of places. I love to travel, and I think that's reflected in my writing; my characters are always travelling somewhere, discovering new things, meeting new people, and having their own personal adventures along the way.

2. What's the name of your newest or latest book and what's it about?

My most recent novel is Spirit of a Kyrie. It can be classified as epic fantasy or science fantasy. It's set on a grand scale with magnificent landscapes and detailed worldbuilding. However, at the heart of it, it's a pretty simple story. It's just about a young girl's quest to become a kyrie knight. In order to achieve this, she leaves behind everything she's ever known and journeys across her world, meeting new friends and making new discoveries about herself. It has those elements of travel and adventure that I mentioned earlier, but it's also a celebration of courage, perseverance, determination, talent, skill – all those things that one needs in order to fulfill a dream.

Spirit of a Kyrie will be published later this year, so feel free to check my blog or sign up to the mailing list to be notified when it's released.

3. Is this book part of a series or standalone?

This novel is both. I plan for it to be part of a 7-book series, but each book in the series is a standalone. The books can be read in any order, but your experience of the books will be different depending on the order you read them.

4. How long have you been writing?

Since I could hold a crayon.

5. From where or whom do you draw inspiration?

I've probably been influenced by every writer that I've ever read. I've always been especially drawn to fantasy literature, even as a child – I couldn't get enough – so there's something innate to it, I guess. Later on, the Lord of the Rings films had a powerful effect on me. It was the movies that brought the books to my attention, and to be honest, it was Peter Jackson's interpretation of Middle Earth on the big screen that really inspired me to do my own epic worldbuilding. I definitely get a lot of ideas from movies and television, and I think you can see that in my writing; there's a very cinematic feel to my works.

I'm also inspired by many elements of reality – such as history or real-world landscapes, as well as just normal day-to-day living, something that I might see while walking down the street or running an errand. Anything can be potentially inspiring, so I try to keep my mind open and my eyes peeled.

6. What advice would you give new or aspiring writers?

Don't give up. As hard as it is to keep going, if you give up, you will never make it. If you're serious about being a career writer, then you must keep writing. If your work gets rejected or gets bad reviews, then move on and write the next one. Writing is like any other skill: innate talent is useless without practice. Keep writing, keep practicing, and you will get better.

I would also say: do not publish your first novel. I'm sure there are great first novels floating around out there, but it's more likely that your first novel is not your best because it is your first and you haven't had much of a chance to practice your craft yet. As tempting as it is nowadays to push that “self-publish” button and see your first novel launched into cyberspace, once it is in the hands of others, you cannot snatch it back. Do not do it!! Write two or three more novels, plus some short stories or novellas if you like, get feedback (friends and family do not count), develop a skin as thick as armor to protect you from the criticisms and rejections (remember that praise is nice, but criticism is like bitter medicine), consider the points your critics have made and edit accordingly, then edit some more, then edit it again... Once you have done all this, go back to your first novel. Chances are, only then will you see how awful your first novel truly was and be thankful you never published it.

“Making it” as a writer is a lifelong journey and a big commitment. You only have one life: what do you want to do with it? If you're certain your answer is “to be a writer”, then do it. Go all in and don't look back. The journey will not be a bed of roses, but then the greatest adventures never are.

7. Who do you see as your ideal reader?

Someone who's a fan of epic fantasy, who especially enjoys the worldbuilding aspects, and who likes action sequences and strong female protagonists; also, someone who's looking for more than just the typical good vs. evil narrative, who appreciates more complex, ambivalent stories, and who enjoys descriptive passages.

8. Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner or outliner?

I'm an obsessive outliner. I have reams of notes stacked on my bookshelf and sitting on my hard drive. I jot down these notes whenever I get an idea, so they accumulate over time. Before I write the story, I sit down and organize all these notes into an extensive multi-page outline. One of my mottos is “Write the story before writing the story” – i.e. I write the entire story in outline form, and then I write the story in its intended form. Then I edit, edit, edit, edit…

9. What are your thoughts on writers paying for reviews as John Locke is reported to have done?

I don't think writers should ever pay for reviews. If you pay money for a review, you become a customer, and those who're selling their reviews will not write a poor review, as it's bad for business. The whole review system then becomes damaged and pointless.

There's been so much recent scandal involving the review system that no one trusts good reviews anymore. I understand the temptation to just buy some good reviews or to get a few friends and family members to post up glowing remarks – it's a quick and easy solution. Moreover, it's not just indie authors like John Locke who're rigging the review system; I know traditionally published authors who've herded friends and family onto their Amazon review page, as well. However, when everyone starts tampering with reviews and it becomes a trend, then there will inevitably be blowback like Amazon's recent purge of reviews.

Reviews should come from honest, reliable, unbiased sources. These are harder to get. Professional reviewers are swamped with requests; most may never reply because they don't have the time. I sent out 70 (not an exaggeration) review requests and only two reviewers reviewed my novelette, Ingress. It's like the agent-querying process all over again, sending out request after request with only a few who reply with interest. But writing is a long-term game. Trying to fix the system in your favor may help in the short-term, but in the long run, it'll only damage your credibility and readers won't come back. Don't think no one will find out, because they will! Amazon will wind up purging your reviews, or readers will become suspicious of a bad book with numerous 5-star reviews. Even in the fast-paced new world of push-button publishing, there are still no short cuts to establishing yourself as a writer. Go slow, hone your writing, get honest reviews, build credibility, and over time, you will establish a good reputation and readers will know they can trust you.

10. Where can readers find your work?

My work is available from most major e-retailers, such as Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble. I'm giving away my novelette, Ingress, as a free sample; you can find it on your preferred e-reading device, or go to Smashwords and select the format that you want to download.

11. Where can readers find out more about you?

I have a blog that I will update more frequently once my novel revisions are completed. I'm also very active on Twitter.


Image of T.L. Rese

T.L. Rese is the pen name for Theresa Lee. She was born in Houston, TX (1982 - ). When she was seven, her family moved to Upstate NY, where she grew up before moving to California when she was eighteen. Specializing in epic fantasy, she now has a PhD in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London, and a BA in English from UC Berkeley. Her hobbies include travel, photography, piano, and horseback riding.

 


Find out when the next Alchemancer book and other stories come out by joining my mailing list!