Interview with Cheryl Campbell

An Interview with Cheryl Campbell, author of the Echoes Trilogy

Cheryl Campbell is the award-winning author of the Burnt Mountain fantasy series, consisting of five novels published between 2013 to 2016, and the Echoes Trilogy, which concludes in November 2021 with Echoes of Fate. Her varied background includes art, herpetology (the zoological study of amphibians and reptiles), emergency department and critical care nursing, and computer systems. She is a New England resident that lives a wandering lifestyle with her laptop and dog.

What inspired you to write the Echoes Trilogy?

Cheryl Campbell: When I was wrapping up my Burnt Mountain fantasy series, I had a wee hours of the morning dream about a young woman that had died and was told she could go back to Earth and live again to fix her mistakes—with a catch. She couldn’t take her memories with her and she’d already been through this process several times without success. Her other choice was to move on to the afterlife. I woke before I learned her decision, but I was so captivated by the idea that I wrote down the basics of the dream and it turned into a trilogy.

Echoes of Fate invites discussion of what makes someone “human”. How do the elements of science fiction serve that larger narrative?

People, myself included, tend to put labels on things and keep them organized within those categorizations, but there are a lot of gray areas that are hard, if not impossible, to reconcile. Dani is an alien Echo but she shows more kindness and humanity than some of the humans around her. Leveraging a science fiction story with aliens against the definition (whatever it is) of human made it easy to push and blur those gray areas even more. It was a way to challenge myself and my ways of thinking about things. It also changed how I view the world now.

What do you hope readers will take away from the final book in your Echoes trilogy?

One of the topics that all three books touch on is mental health including suicide. Dani has moments of darkness that make her consider taking her life. We need to talk more with each other about these things. Speaking about mental health should not be a hush-hush topic. I’ve lost friends to suicide. I don’t want to lose any more.

Echoes of Fate takes place in the New England region. Why did you choose this setting for a sci-fi story?

I grew up in the Deep South, but I found home in northern New England. Residents here are hardy folk that I’ve seen come together in beautiful ways to help out neighbors and even strangers. I wanted to capture that in my stories.

How did you develop your characters? And which of them do you have the strongest connection to?

I usually start with a general idea for main characters and supporting characters then they grow from there. At times it feels like they become their own individuals and change in ways I did not predict or even intend. Sometimes the supporting characters become much more and bubble up to become main characters. I love Dani and who she is, but I think I identify most with Mary. Mary was supposed to just be a supporting character, but she had a chemistry with Dani and this fun personality that I couldn’t ignore. My nature is to support and protect others, and that’s exactly what Mary does for Dani. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that Mary turned out that way too.

Find Cheryl on Instagram and Facebook and her website  www.CherylsCreativeSoup.com

Interview with Lillian Brummet

An Interview with Lillian and Dave Brummet, authors of One Small Garden

Lillian and her husband Dave are the team behind Brummet Media Group, high-fiving cheerfully as they pass each other on the way from checking off one item or other from their long to-do list. After moving to their dream location (in the Kootenay Region of BC, Canada), they have been methodically converting the abused lot over to the little park it has become – and in doing so have gained certification with bee, pollinator and wildlife organizations. Their home, too, has become energy efficient via the many upgrades they have done. Their business includes Dave’s music studio and percussion accessory products and graphic design work as well as numerous award-winning non-fiction books and popular blogs. Today we help them celebrate their latest book release – From One Small Garden, with over 300 delicious, nutritious recipes!

How many books or short stories have you written?

L: I’ve only written a couple non-fiction short stories, numerous non-fiction articles, bn oth product and book reviews, and a total of 7 published books, if you count an e-book (Jump Start For Writers) that no longer exists. Currently we have a 2-book series on green living (Trash Talk), 2 books of poetry (Towards Understanding; Rhythm & Rhyme) and there’s marketing advice for writers (Purple Snowflake Marketing). Our most recent release is a cookbook: From One Small Garden that, as you might derive from the name, focuses on recipes that help people take advantage of garden harvests and reduce food waste.

Where did you find all the sources for your research?

D: I do most of my learning online, for instance when it comes to understanding a new program for vector graphics I will comb YouTube for tutorial videos. Somewhere online there is a video explaining everything you need – and more usually. I would never have attempted repairs to household appliances or automobiles if I didn’t have access to tutorial videos. Learning how to do things yourself can save you a bunch of money as an entrepreneur too. However it also means that you have to be able to learn, have the patience and then actually apply that new skill. Not as easy as it sounds, believe me.

What do you do when you are not writing?

D: I play drums in a rock band when ever possible. I also teach both drum kit and hand drum lessons. I have an active repair shop in which I build, fix and tune djembe drums (among others) and manufacture a few percussion accessories as well. I enjoy doing the graphic design work for all our marketing and that is a never-ending learning journey in itself, but certainly an enjoyable one.

Who, or what, inspired you to pursue a career in writing?

L: The first writer I ever knew was my mother, who dabbled at the craft for a short time. Later, teachers would comment about my writing, truly moved by what I wrote. These were the earliest influences, slowly pointing me in this direction. Some of my poetry was published, then I won some writing awards… later I took some career evaluation tests and writing kept coming up as a career option. Dave’s emotional support and strategic skills have been of great value; having that strength, someone to mull over challenges with, split the work with, and just share the experience in general.

What have you learned about while working with your spouse?

We do some of our best creative work when we are just discussing stuff together over a cup of coffee during a break. And, we always have a note pad to jot down the ideas that come bursting out because, sure enough, the best ideas are the ones that slip your memory if you don’t.

Describe a typical writing day.

L: There is no real typical day for us; 2-3 days per month are dedicated to managing the blogs, about 16 hours are spent networking, advertising, sending out queries to media and following up on marketing opportunities every week, a few hours per week are spent managing social media. Any one day can also involve cleaning the office, workshop, studio… assisting Dave where I can. However, I’ll share an example of a ‘behind the scenes’ look at one day: upon waking, we have breakfast and coffee and deal with the fur kids, get some house duties done, check emails/messenger/text messages for any important communications, and after a brief discussion about what each other’s goals are for that day, split off in our different directions. I’m in the office responding to interview questions while Dave is in his office working on images and ad creations for our cookbook (From One Small Garden). After this interview, I plan to complete a few touchups to some articles we wrote last week. We always take a break to make lunch and clean up after. Depending on what Dave might need from me, I may take on the task of going through the emails etc. one more time, responding and dealing with what I can… or I might start some seeds for the garden and do some laundry. Perhaps I’ll be dealing with garden harvests or taking an online course during the afternoon hours.

How do you manage social media, what social media have you used, which do you like to use the most and why?

D: I personally use Facebook for networking with specific groups and for general announcements, YouTube for posting video content and blogging for building a presence and sharing information with followers. Lillian is the one that handles the blogs and a majority of the social media and I am happy for that as she is very good at it and knows the ins and outs. She has a lot of relevant connections already from over 20 years experience of promoting our business and books.

How do you go about choosing a book title?

D: For me the title almost always comes near or at the end of the writing process. If ever I have had an idea of the title first it was usually changed by the time the book was done. A title for me has to explain the book’s purpose or intent in some way. I like it to be catchy and not too wordy. Like a good melody that you can easily whistle, a good title should be memorable, appropriate and roll off the tongue easily.

What is your contribution to society?

D: As a drum teacher I hope to help the next generation of drummers by passing on the knowledge of drums and percussion I have accumulated in my career. I run a program called Drum it Forward that I was inspired to create years ago. I go to the schools and offer my services as a drum doctor armed with all the spare parts I have amassed along the way and fix their gear. The schools don’t have the budget to pay for this and the poor teachers don’t necessarily have the time or knowledge, so I do it as a donation. All I ask is that if they have any spare parts or pieces laying around that they consider donating it to the cause to perpetuate the program.

Tell us the process of creating the cover for your book.

D: From One Small Garden’s cover was a process that evolved over the years. By the time the final title was decided on the concept of what we wanted to portray was clear – How to cook with fresh produce. If you look at the front cover closely, in the background is an image of our actual garden ghosted out with dishes of prepared food in the foreground – from the garden to plate in a sense. The back cover concept is similar but with images of our freshly harvested produce in place of the food dishes. All from one small garden – is what we have lived for the past 30+ years as a life style and a health choice and we know it saves a bunch of money while having you eat like royalty.

Are you looking about more information about these authors? Here’s some social links for you to check out!

Interview with Brett Salter

An Interview with Brett Salter – author of “The Search For Synergy”

Before we just jump into the interview, let’s hear a little about Brett himself…

My background in writing stems mostly from the inspiration I found as a kid when I read Fantasy and Sci-Fi books. These include The Chronicles of Narnia, The Xanth Novels, The Time Quintet, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and everything from Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss. In my formative years, I joined several punk rock bands and wrote songs, poetry, and short stories aplenty. As an adult (?) I took on a dare and wrote the first book in my Talisman Series. I loved the feeling it gave me and the idea of inspiring others so much that I kept writing until I had an entire series.  I am currently working to finish The Talisman Series. I have self-published 4 of the books which can be found on Amazon. At this very moment, I am on book 11 of the 12 I have planned. I also have plans for a series which will take influence from the portal fiction genre about a girl and 6 others that travel to another dimension to fulfill a destiny by saving a planet from cruel overseers. Keep a wary eye out for portals. Stay cool!

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

Great question!  So many to choose from.  I would have to go with either The Gap Dragon (Stanley Steamer) from the Xanth Series or Falkor from “The Never-ending Story”

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

I would say that my favcorite of the published books is the newest one, unfortunately.  By this time in the series, we’ve met pretty much the entire character roster and learned all their abilities.  Also, most of the Talismans are known and the plans for the big bad are very well documented.  However, the fifth installment (coming out this winter) will be my personal favourite because of all the cliffhangers and character growth of our favorite Master Dragons and Synergist Knights.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Actually, I do have one.  It’s a short story about Death in a physical form coming to visit those before they die and WHO plays the part of the harbinger itself.  I wrote it about a year before I started “The Search For Synergy”.  I had planned to return and extend it to novel length because I really like the idea, but I think now it’s a little dark for me.  I prefer inspiring and giving kids adventure rather than scaring them and giving them nightmares.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I feel like my character development has gotten better.  That’s a pretty lame answer (I know), but I really think it’s true.  Most feedback I get from my readers is that they LOVE the main two protagonists, but that the secondary characters are even better.  That goes to show that as I’ve added characters to the series, I’ve gotten better at making them more believable, relatable, or even just plain bonkers enough to stand out as a fan favourite!  I find this to be quite a compliment to the way my writing has changed.  It’s fun to go back and see it progress too!

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

Well, I wrote the first 3 books in my series in the first year (2017-2018).  Then, I waited to write 4-6 which took about another year.  Then, I took a break.  Once 2020 hit, I had a little more free time so I started books 7-11 which I finished by the beginning of this year.  I’ve spent the majority of this year promoting and editing book 5 which I want to release in Winter of 2021/2022.  All that to say that I can average 1-2 books per year when you finally do all the math, but I technically write spurts directly reflected by the amount of free time I have available.  LOL.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

Oh!  It’s ALWAYS digital.  My penmanship is equal to that of blindfolded chicken scratch.  It always has been.  I felt bad for my teachers growing up.  As far as WHERE I write, it is mostly at my house surrounded by my barking dog, and ringing phones, and neighborhood kids running through the house like herds of gazelles, and televisions blaring cacophonies of cartoons, and abrasive, punk-rock music, and all the things that make my house the zoo we’ve grown to love.  That’s probably why editing is, for me,  a total nightmare!

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

Ah!  Interesting seque.   So, my Beta-reader is my son.  Almost everything goes by him to see if it is cool or not for the middle-grade crowd.  He’s read through book 10, but don’t ask him for spoilers.  He is tight lipped about it.  And, I use family to edit as well.  My aunt does it for every book I self-publish, and I am very appreciative of her expertise.  Everything I do is DIY.  My cousin even designs my covers!

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I flat out refuse to read unless I can physically hold the book and turn the pages.  I am in agreement with you that there is something about the smell or touch of a book that makes it more intimate.   There is something to be said for the old adage “The book was better”.  I feel like if I watch something, I am basically TOLD what and how the work plays out.  The setting, the characters, the sounds.  Everything is dictated to me by the director’s vision.  When I read,  it can be MY vision which is way more personal….And self-absorbed.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I would say my favorite genre to read is probably Fantasy.  I grew up on it. (Xanth, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, etc) As I attended high school, the curriculum dictated different genres and classics which I certainly appreciated. And in college, where my major was English, I really got my eyes on some different stuff including poetry (my soft spot) and all that comes with a liberal education.  So although I own and have a fondness for the classics and almost every sub-genres of fiction, my mainstay is definitely Fantasy.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust (agreed)! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Lightning round.  Here we go!

I manage my own social media.  I’d love to hire someone, but it just comes down to my non-negotiable hiring rate of $0 per hour.

I do not enjoy being my own social media social mediator.  That is probably why I have such a tiny social media footprint.  All jokes aside, I hope to grow if I can though.  For now, check out @talismanbrett on “The Gram” and The Talisman Series on FB.

In lieu of a large social media presence, I prefer to bother people like Rose at The Cosy Dragon to do all my promoting for me!  Smiley face.  Seriously though, I am very appreciative of the work and assistance that The Cosy Dragon provides.  It really helps a ton for people like me that are not the most active on social media.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next? 

Great question!  So many to choose from.  I would have to go with either The Gap Dragon (Stanley Steamer) from the Xanth Series or Falkor from “The Never-ending Story”

Haha.  I’m kidding, of course.  The temptation is there, but I treat each interview like meeting a new, potential fan for the first time.  It’s got to be original if you want to make a lasting impression on them.  I think it’s all about making your audience feel like they are part of something bigger.  Part of my stories!

And to wrap up, a bit of a left-field question: which superpower is the most over-powered/broken and why? My personal answer to this one might be the ability to transform – if you can become anything, you can theoretically become another super hero and get their powers!

I would say in the realm of fiction, I would say that invulnerability is the most broken power.  Especially if you have an evil despot in a position of authority that is invulnerable, that makes defeating them nigh impossible.  I would say in MY series, The Talisman Series, one of the most broken powers is Mr. Jones’s spell Transportation incantation that basically allows him to teleport groups of people anywhere he wants.  I even had to set some limitations on it because I was like, “That’s not really fair! What’s to stop him from using this for nefarious purposes.”  I guess we should be happy Mr. Jones is on OUR side!

Thanks Brett for your time today and your energetic answers! If you’d like to hear more from Brett, please do visit his FB pages or the Wiki about his books! You can also find his books on a range of platforms:

Interview with Larry Goldsmith

An interview with Larry Goldsmith, author of Marc Marci

Larry G. Goldsmith is a financial forensic sleuth. He is a career licensed Illinois attorney, certified public accountant and financial forensic accountant. Being a financial detective led him to pursue writing fiction in his off-hour. Historical fiction is his passion as he revisits times forgotten while telling a romantic tale.

What is your favourite dragon in literature?

Norberta is my favorite from Harry Potter otherwise it is Puff the Magic Dragon from Peter, Paul and Mary.

Do you have a favourite part of the novels you have written?

I have another novel being published in August: ‘Bashert’. There is something special writing your first novel. One must overcome the inadequacies of actually writing that many words and pages. There is a unique sense of accomplishment once that first draft has been completed.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good? Has your writing improved significantly?

I have five novels that need to be rewritten and hopefully that they will be worthy of being published.

Over the years my writing has improved because I’ve learned from my editors. I’ve made my own corrections of their handwritten changes. Every time I edit a manuscript it gets better and I learn from the experience.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

In my writing, details matters, I spend a month or so researching a topic. For instance I knew very little of transgender before I spent countless hours and time performing research. To authenticate the time and place of the novel requires an additional research. I need to rewrite and edit my works between 6-to ten times until it is worthy. So the answer to your question is, it took me at least two years to produce a novel.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I sit in front of my computer to write my text but it is those sleepless nights is where my ideas come to life. Then I have a mad dash at 3 a.m. to write down the notes of my inspiration.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I have two standby editors. A retired professor and my wife. Both are thankfully very critical. I edit my own book several times and then I ask my wife to edit again. The publish then finds things that we all missed. For instance I had the character drink a Diet Coke, however a Diet Coke wasn’t a product for three years after the fact.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I’m old school like you. I can read some things online (News, short articles, and correspondences) but to enjoy the flavor of what I read I enjoy the feel of paper between my fingers.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

My favorite genres are history and spiritual awareness. Learning from the past enlightens me as to the future. Mystery was previously my favorite.

Is it acceptable for a straight person to write about a character that is transgender?

Great question: Writers have since the beginning of time written about time periods before they were born and have written about characters from different lands or genders.

A woman author can write a novel with male characters the same way an American can write about a European character. However, it takes research. Many hours of research is required if you incorporate different cultures and lifestyles.

What did you want to say to the reader when writing Marc Marci?

The takeaways that I’d like the reader to come away with are:

  1. We all have hardships in life and we can overcome them
  2. People are people. Sexual orientation has no bearing of what’s in one’s heart.
  3. We were placed on this earth to perform good deeds to make the world a better place.

About the novel

Devastated by the sudden death of his parents, eighteen-year-old Marc is suddenly alone in the world. To cope with his grief, he travels to Europe where he hopes to find himself. His road to self-discovery, however, is not how he envisaged it. Twists and turns throughout the next decade add dimension and character to a passage he never imagined.

Initially, new friends, the nightlife of London and sudden trauma lead him to his biggest discovery; that he is happier as a she. As Marc becomes Marci, she adjusts to living as a woman while embracing all the highs and lows that life flings at her.

Marc Marci is an inspirational story of a young person’s journey, achieving happiness against the odds.

Interview with Diego Ornelas-Tapia

An interview with Diego Ornelas-Tapia, author of Tame a Dame

Diego Ornelas Tapia was born in 1994 in Los Angeles. He wrote Tame a Dame, his first book, and he’s currently working on Void. A lover of adventurous and unique stories, he loves to read and write stories that blend multiple genres.

Take it away, Diego!

Where did you get the idea to write To Tame a Dame?

To Tame a Dame stemmed from a subplot part of my other book, Void. In particular, the relationship between two characters. I wanted to explore the beginning of that relationship, so I went from there. The writing process for Tame a Dame was definitely letting it all unfold. I had no plan, unlike Void.

Why did you choose to self-publish?

I didn’t want to deal with the hassle and drama of pitching my story idea to a select few in a traditional publishing house. I prefer and love how much freedom self-publishing gives the author. Is there more to learn? Yes. More responsibility? You bet. But is it worth it? Without a doubt.

Who are your favorite writers?

George R. R Martin. I love how A Song of Ice and Fire is one big ensemble. Each chapter belongs to a character: Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, Eddard Stark. And each character’s chapter has their own story in which nothing is black and white. There are no traditional heroes and villains and the world is brutal and merciless; love does not prevail in Westeros.

What is your writing process like?

I come up with a rough outline of the main plot and have an idea of where the story will go. However, this isn’t set in stone and I prefer letting the story unfold and giving the characters the reigns. At the end of the day, it’s their story, not mine.

An example of this would be a fight scene in my story, Void. For no spoilers and simplicity’s sake, let’s name the characters, the good guy and the bad guy. The bad guy is a natural born killer who’s never lost a fight in his life. The good guy is a bodyguard.

The bad guy was supposed to easily kill the good guy and move on with the story, but as the fight progressed, something surprised me. The good guy was able to hold his own. And the bad guy was getting the challenging fight he’s been waiting for his entire life. So, it’s like the bad guy told me, “this is it, Diego, this is my end. Don’t take that away from me.”

So, I didn’t.

How do you deal with writer’s block?

I have a routine set up. I write weekdays and dedicate five to six hours on these days. I split it into two rounds. One in the morning, followed by a break, and one later in the evening. I strive to hit a goal, not a deadline, of five thousand words in a week.

Usually, this routine keeps me focused and there aren’t any issues.
But that only lasts so long.

So, when I do hit writer’s block and I don’t have the discipline or mindset to move forward, because the attempt is literally draining my health, I take a deep breath, close my laptop, and give myself the day off.

I’ve discovered that I hit writer’s block within four to five months of working on a project. Aware of this, I make sure to give myself a week off and go on a road trip. I have fun and don’t think about my book at all. And when I come back to the fray, I feel refreshed and kick butt.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

The freedom it grants me. And solidarity.

Unlike a scriptwriter, the life of an author means there are no limitations to your creativity. No sacrifices. You don’t have to worry about time limits or budget cuts, you don’t have to ask for permission to shoot at a certain location, you don’t have to worry about anything. You just let your mind roam free and see where it leads you.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

It’s a cliche answer but keep writing. If you have an idea for a story that you feel great about, follow through with it, and finish the project. Don’t worry about how the final product will look.

Your first draft will not be great. I wish I saved my first draft of Void so I could show the world how horrible it was, but I deleted it out of shame. It had issues with tense: I would switch between present and past; it had issues with POV: I would switch between third person limited and omniscient; and it had issues with dialog: I would rely too much on it to carry the plot forward and delve into a character’s psyche.
The point being, it had issues.

But, with each revision, it got better and better and better. So, never surrender, my dear lads. Be it in writing, editing, or publishing. You’ll get there.

Wait, you want to hear more from this author? You’re keen to learn more about the book? Diego has set up a fabulous one-stop-shop for all the details you could possible want. You can find it here.

Interview with David White

An interview with David White, author of YA series ‘The River Exiles’.

David has kindly offered to interview with me to promote the first book in this series – Columbia. You can find its 5 star reviews (and purchase it) on Amazon.com.au Take it away David!

What books did you enjoy reading as a teenager?

I used to love the Willard Price series of books about brothers Hal and Roger, who travel the world trying to capture animals for the world’s zoos. It sounds slightly exploitative when it’s written down like that, but actually the books have a very strong environmental conservation message, especially for a series published mostly in the 60s and 70s. They were ahead of their time, in many ways; but of course a teenager wouldn’t necessarily have cared about that, only whether the brothers would be successful in their latest adventure.

What made you write this particular book?

First and foremost, I wanted to write an adventure book for young adults that could also be enjoyed by adult readers. I think that’s something that is true of the best YA books – the Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent (linked to Rose’s reviews) and so on – but obviously it’s quite a difficult feat to pull off. I made sure that at the heart of my story was a basic tale about a sister and brother who are forced to leave their parents and taken to a new land, because I hope that’s something that readers will want to find out more about. But in imagining the dystopian world in which they live, there are big questions in the book about reproduction, about class, and also about the environment – which I appreciate can be a somewhat dry (no pun intended) subject, but which I think can come to life when an author imagines the reality of how we might live in the future. Hopefully readers of varying ages will take and enjoy different elements from the book.

How do you plan writing a series of books such as this?

I already know what is going to happen in Books Two and Three. I think you have to know this, in order to have a proper narrative structure that works throughout the whole series. I realise that some authors say they just start writing and everything falls into place as they go along, but I couldn’t work like that. And frankly I’m a little sceptical that many authors actually do. For a series to work, there have to be proper hints and clues in the early books; and proper solutions and resolutions in the later ones.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external hard drive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I’ve abandoned it for good. The back of the drawer is the best place for it. That doesn’t mean it was a waste of time, far from it; it taught me what not to do, apart from anything else. But I don’t think it can be revived, nor should it be!

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

I resisted ebooks for quite a long time. I felt that reading a proper book was a more immersive experience, and also I think some of the early e-readers weren’t that user-friendly. But I came round in the end (in much the same way that I did when I eventually gave up on LPs in favour of CDs, a while after friends had made the switch). I still buy physical books, but I’m probably about 50-50 now between physical and ebooks. My bookshelves are full, for one thing. But also ebooks are just a bit more usable in certain situations – notably on holiday, and in bed with a partner who is trying to get to sleep!

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

My tastes are quite broad, and I think they have broadened over time. I used to stick mainly to classics and to what people call, for want of a better term, ‘literary fiction’. I think that covers a huge range of books, really, but people generally understand what it means. Everything from Isabel Allende to Ian McEwan and from Milan Kundera to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with most things in between. I always end up going back to Hardy and Austen, too. But in recent years I’ve certainly found myself reading a lot more thrillers; Linwood Barclay, Lee Child, Sophie Hannah. There’s as much craft that goes into those books as into any more ‘literary’ works. The only genres I really steer clear of are romance and historical fiction. I tried Wolf Hall and found it pretty much unreadable.

Do you worry about the future of books and reading, given how much screen time the average teenager has every day?

I think it takes more effort to get into reading than it does into other forms of entertainment like music and films, and I do think there’s an issue with young people not making that effort in the way they did previously. Of course, they don’t have to, because so much else is at their fingertips and easily accessible. But I do think that, ultimately, reading is still the most satisfying form of entertainment. So it’s up to authors to write lively, engaging, intelligent books for teenagers to make sure they’re not missing out.

Thanks David for this interview. Folks, I think you’ll enjoy his novel, so go pick up a copy!

Interview with Leslie I. Landis

An Interview with Leslie I. Landis

Leslie Landis has been a teacher, a financial planner, a bank trust officer, worked for a U.S. Senator, an associate director in television and a licensed therapist. Her first book, is a humorous take on our food and diet obsessed culture titled The Art of Overeating: A Bellyful of Laughs About Our Food-phobic Culture. CHENDELL: A Natural Warrior is her first novel. Leslie lives with her husband in Los Angeles.

Why did you write a YA novel?

My book, Chendell: A Natural Warrior, has an environmental theme. People of all ages care about the environment but young people are especially tuned into the environmental degradation caused by global warming. They know it is their future that is most at risk.

How did you come up with the idea of CHENDELL?

Through media exposure, I certainly noticed how popular the superhero genre is.

When I thought about why I was not interested in this category, I realized that the typical superhero characters were not “real” to me and they usually battled against “unreal” struggles such as someone trying to blow up the world. So I thought why not a superhero who was fighting a real world problem – ecocide and biocide – the willful destruction of the environment and the annihilation of living organisms.

Why is one of your protagonists Chinese?

There are three reason I made one of my protagonists Chinese:

  1. I’ve been to China and I found the Chinese people to be gracious, warm and kind.
  2. I know what it feels like to experience anger and hostility just because I was American. I’ve traveled to other countries during a time when we had an unpopular U.S. president. I feel the people of a country should be treated as individuals, not as representatives of a government.
  3. I’m personally very interested in other cultures and ethnicities. Having a Chinese character was just more interesting to me.

Why don’t you kill bugs?

I do kill bugs – if I have to. For example, if a mosquito is going to bite me or a bee is going to sting me. But fortunately for me, those have been rare occurrences. Other than those situations, I don’t kill bugs because they are alive. Because they are just living their little bug lives. Because they serve a function in the scheme of life. I just don’t go out of my way to kill anything.

Have you written any other books?

The Art of Overeating: A Bellyful of Laughs About Our Food-phobic Culture – A humorous view on our food obsessed culture.

Why do environmental problems worry you the most?

The future of every living creature depends on the health of our planet.

Why do you think your book is unique?

In my book, the superhero is fighting a real world problem. And my protagonists are a woman and a man who are truly equal. They can’t be more equal than when they are Chendell.

What can people do to help our environment?

Buy less, use less, waste less and recycle. Also, people can vote for representatives who take the environment and global warming seriously.

Where/when do you best like to write?

I write best at my office desk in a loft in my home. There is nothing to distract me there. I accomplish the most when I write in the evening.

Do you have any interesting writing habits or superstitions?

I am a terrible typist. I just hope my fingers will go where I want them to go and not where they want to go.

When you are struggling to write/have writer’s block, what are some ways that help you find your creative muse again?

I just leave my computer and think about my story a lot. A whole lot. And sooner or later, ideas come to me and I am ready to resume writing.

What do you think makes a good story?

Character development and a sense of humor.

What inspired your story?

The popularity of what I consider boring and redundant (almost all men) superheroes and their fights. I felt there should be a superhero who fights for the environment – for our planet.

How does a new story idea come to you?

I read a lot of current publications – newspapers and magazines – so trends eventually coalesce in my brain and ideas pop out from there.

Is there a message/theme you want readers to grasp?

If we get in touch with the natural world, we will all hear its message, “Save me before it is too late and I am gone!”

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

Don’t give up.

Interview with JW Golan

An Interview with JW Golan, author of the Stormfall Chronicles

What is your favourite Dragon in literature?

I will name two favourites: very different dragons, with very different reasons for appreciating each of them.

On the one extreme was the dragon Glaurung from J.R.R. Tolkien’s the Silmarillion. Glaurung was everything that you should expect from an evil, malicious dragon of legend. He was not just a great, fire-breathing monster, but a crafty, greedy, manipulator who took delight in how much misery he could inflict on others. Glaurung was the perfect embodiment of what an malicious dragon antagonist should be.

At the opposite extreme, were Anne McCaffrey’s dragons of Pern, who were depicted as partners with humanity with individual personalities of their own. Among the dragons of Pern, Ruth stands out by virtue of his intelligence and practical sense.

Why did you choose to become an author? What drove you to devote the hours needed to produce and polish a book?

As someone who has published both non-fiction, through a traditional publishing house, and fantasy as an indie author, I can say that in both instances I wrote because I had something that needed to be said. In both examples, there was a story that needed to be told, a story which fate had chosen myself to relay. In a very real sense, I was merely the conduit for its retelling. The story was already there, struggling to get outside. My only responsibility was to relay the tale to the best of my ability.

From among your published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

I have released or will soon have released the first two installments in the Stormfall Chronicles. Comparing between the first two books, my beta-readers have concurred that the second novel is the better of the two. The first novel in the series really lays the foundation for everything that follows, and is a relatively short read – 300 pages in paperback versus 497 for the second book. The second book in the series, on the other hand, is where the tale rises to become an Epic Fantasy and not merely a High Fantasy.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

My first attempt at crafting a fantasy novel came when I was in high school, decades ago. There are certainly elements and characters from that era which have remained with me and which found their way into my current series of fantasy novels, the Stormfall Chronicles. Many of those characters and elements, however, have evolved and changed over the years.

One of the reappearing characters of the Stormfall Chronicles, for example, is Eirlon. In his original incarnation, Eirlon was depicted as a powerful human mage. In his current incarnation, however, I have retained the character as a sage, whose knowledge and wisdom prove invaluable, but I have downplayed his own magical capabilities and have cast him as a gnome to further de-emphasize his role. On many levels, he has been overshadowed by other characters in the story. The result, I believe, is a more nuanced portrayal and overall story development.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

The most important changes in my writing abilities and style over the years have come from changes in perspective. When you’re experimenting with writing fantasy fiction as a high school student, your writing style and area of focus will naturally be heavily influenced by the novels and sources which you have most recently read.

With time, however, comes distance. And with distance comes perspective: the ability to see the larger picture of the story and how different story-telling techniques and elements can affect the reader’s experience. You become more self-aware as a writer, which places you in a better position to combine story-telling techniques and plot elements from a wider variety of influences.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

The Stormfall Chronicles was, for me, percolating for some time. The story combines some elements that I had experimented with decades ago, and others of more recent pedigree. So while it still takes me many months to compose and polish each novel, the story-arc which connects them was really developing across a decade or more.

The second novel in the series will be released in December of 2019, for example, eleven months after the first. And I’ve already begun the first draft for the third book. I’m expecting the original characters and story-arc to span a total of four novels, with material still remaining for both a prequel, and a stand-alone sequel set decades into the future.

So I suppose that for me, the ideas need to develop for some number of months or years, before the elements are mature enough to set the stories down.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

As a parent with a full-time job, I find myself writing whenever and wherever I can. Over lunch, at the table at home, while waiting for my daughters to untack their horses at the barn, wherever I happen to be.

I usually try to get my first draft down in digital form so I can begin to edit it, but it sometimes doesn’t work that way. If I have a particular scene that’s been brewing in my mind and nagging me to write it down, I’ll sometimes just write it out with pen and paper if I don’t the laptop at the time.

For editing, however, I always prefer paper medium. I need a quiet place where I can review and mark-up the printed copy, a process which will be repeated countless times before any scene is ready for my beta-reviewers to read.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

My teenage daughters, and in particular my two older daughters, have been my beta-readers for the Stormfall Chronicles since the beginning. They were really the audience whom I was aiming at when I wrote, and there are elements in the books that grew out of their personal experiences or the experiences of their close friends. Their added perspective has been invaluable, pointing out areas where I needed to add explanations, or scenes, or where additional atmosphere or character development was needed.

As for editing, my first published book was non-fiction, published in hardcover through a traditional publisher. It was an historical recounting dealing with a particular chapter of the Cold War era, and was ultimately published by a university press. Producing and editing a book for that audience was an exacting process. I went through countless revisions to get the manuscript ready for submission to the copy editor – who is expected to be the final step in the editing process. The copy editor is the one who formats the manuscript for the printer. If they find the manuscript to insufficiently polished as of that stage, they are expected to reject the text – not edit it for the author.

From that experience, I came away with an appreciation for how much editing and review was needed to prepare a manuscript for publication. I knew that if I could polish a scholarly manuscript until it was up to a university’s publishing standards, then doing the same for a fantasy novel should prove easily within my reach.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

As someone who grew up with book shops and printed books, from before the digital age, there is a certain nostalgia for the printed medium. There are a number of book shops that I have fond memories of, most of which are long gone. I’ve had to learn to adapt to the e-reader medium, and have read a number of novels in that fashion now. But for certain books there will never be a substitute for having a hardbound or paperback copy on my shelf.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

If I’m reading purely for entertainment, then I have an appreciation for both fantasy and science fiction – depending on what mood I am in.

I appreciate fantasy for its ability to transport us away from the everyday cares of the world we live in. That escape is a large part of I want out of fiction. I have to deal with enough real world consequences in my day job – and expect the fiction that I read to be worlds apart.

Conversely, I appreciate certain science fiction works, for their ability to comment on the world in which we live – and how technology has created new challenges and questions which humanity is still struggling to face. Which is why I am less drawn to the “space opera” genre, and more drawn to stories with a message about the world in which we live or may soon be facing.

For me, both fantasy and science fiction have a place – but with very different expectations and roles.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Most of my social media energy is focused on either my blog page, or my Facebook page – the latter of which often mirrors whatever I have most recently posted to my blog. I do have an author’s Twitter account, but I make minimal use of it in comparison. I prefer both Facebook and the blog page, because they allow me to write at more length and in greater depth on the topics at hand.

I try to post an update at least once per week. If I’m in the midst of writing the next novel, I will usually post short articles describing my progress, or my observations about the writing process or perhaps about publishing in general. I did try to take a couple of months off between when I finished the first novel and when I started on the second, to catch up on other things which I wanted to do. Things like reviewing a novel or two, reviewing whatever anime I had been watching with my daughters, or writing short stories.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

Although there is probably a certain amount of overlap in some of the general questions, I have been gratified to see many new or unique questions being raised. Coming at topics from different angles helps us to keep the subject fresh and allows for perspectives which might not otherwise have been added.

About the Author

A writer, father, and aeronautical engineer, J.W. Golan lives in New England together with his wife and three daughters.

The opportunity to write fantasy stories was once a youthful dream of his – something that he first experimented with in high school. In the intervening years, however, life happened: university, jobs, marriage, and children. Although he never completely ceased writing, he also had neither the time nor excess energy to complete a full-length novel.

It was his three daughters who reintroduced him to the world of fantasy fiction. Literature was something that all of them could share, discuss and compare – together with other fantasy and literary influences. He was able to introduce some of his favorites to his daughters, and they in turn, introduced him to some of theirs.

It was this latter experience, sharing and discussing stories and literature, that convinced him to try his hand at composing fantasy novels once again: weaving together tales and ideas that had been circulating in his mind for decades. It is his hope hope that the resulting stories and characters are as fun for others to read as they were for him to write.

Interview with Y M Masson

An Interview with YM Masson, author of When Paris Went Dark

Although written as a work of historical fiction, When Paris Was Dark is, at its core, a memoir of author Y.M. Masson’s early life. Born in Paris in the mid-1930s, he lived through the events of WWII and writes from Alain’s perspective with the authenticity and emotion that can only come from someone who experienced it firsthand. He knows what war does to people, especially to children, and draws his audience into their struggles for survival.

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

When Paris Was Dark, A Sliver of WWII History was started eight years ago. It was rewritten/ revised several times until it earned a literary award in the Florida Writers Association RPLA (Royal Palm Literary Award) last October.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

With the help of my fourteen-time-published mentor Joyce Sweeney, my writing teacher Marjetta Geerling, and my critic group I met with every Thursday for eight years, my writing improved in all aspects of the art, from structure, to plot, to grammar, to voice, to style, etc. I continue to attend seminars and workshops. I learn all the time in whatever I do.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

In addition to When Paris Was Dark, I have written two other books that need to be more polished before they are published. It takes me more than a year to complete a book; I have other ideas in mind, but I need to finish what I started.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I mostly write on a desk-top computer and occasionally long-hand on paper. That happens mostly in revision mode.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

My beta-readers are mostly friends I met on writing conferences or workshops. I also have an editor friend who helps me. When I think my book is clean, I hire a professional editor. Actually I find that two are better than one.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

My favorite bookshop is Barnes and Noble in FT Lauderdale where I live. It is the last of the breed; I go there often to touch and feel the books, see what is new and always end up with a bagful of tantalizing reads. I don’t read e-books; I spend enough time in front of my screen when I write. My stories are based on events I lived through. I use the internet to verify details of specific moments in time.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I used to read history books; I evolved to add historical fiction. I have added stories of survival (Mountain climbs, sailing trips, desert, long trails, and nature-based odysseys). I am now reading a lot about the lives and challenges of children around the world.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do?

Social media is a big thing, and that is my Achilles heel. The world is telling me I should be on face book. I know they are right, but I have not done it yet. So nobody is helping me with my profile or my platforms. I talk to groups of readers, send books to my friends to talk to their friends, try to get on radio/TV interviews, I must confess not very successfully yet. I hope you will post a positive review, I know you’ll love my book.

Interview with Alexis Marie Chute

An Interview with Alexis Marie Chute, author of The 8th Island Trilogy Book 2: Below the Moon

What is your education/career background?

My undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Art and Design. I have my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Or what first inspired you to write?

I have been writing since as far back as I can remember—and even before I could hold a pen. As a child, I was very creative and cerebral. I was always coming up with stories and adventures. Fortunately, I didn’t lose that trait as I grew up. I find writing inspiration everywhere, at all times. My brain is a sponge for my environment and stimuli. Sometimes this is overwhelming, but most often I use this hyper-awareness to my advantage.

Where/When do you best like to write?

I like to write surrounded by candles and incense. I cannot have distractions or a busy desk. My music choice is typically classical, like Vivaldi or Mozart, and nothing with words as I find I begin typing what I am listening to. I like to write at my vintage style black wood desk by the window in my room. My actual work-desk in the office is too distracting for me. I don’t have a “best time” to write except when I am crunching a deadline. I love deadlines as external motivators.

Do you have any interesting writing habits or superstitions?

I am far too busy and productive to have useless superstitions about my writing. It has been valuable for me to be disciplined and approach my writing with bootcamp focus. I sit down and work. I love it, but if I only write when I feel like it, I will procrastinate till I’m dead.

When you are struggling to write, what are some ways that help you find your creative muse again?

Free writing is the best tool I have found to break out of writer’s block. I sit down and simply start typing, no matter what it is. Getting my fingers moving and the mental juices flowing always opens the floodgate eventually.

What do you think makes a good story?

A good story has characters that are simultaneously loveable and deplorable. The plot is unexpected and varied. There is a lot at stake, and the risks and rewards are always in flux. I can always tell a story is good when it keeps me up at night, lingers long after the last page, and I wish I had thought it up!

How does a new story idea come to you? Is it an event that sparks the plot or a character speaking to you?

I get new ideas all the time. From everywhere. From everyone. A new lightbulb is constantly illuminated above my head. My struggle is not in finding ideas, but choosing which ideas are worth my attention and which ideas should be the focus for right now.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I learned that books are so hard to make and yet so rewarding and fulfilling. Creating books, for me, is akin to getting tattoos. I am terrified of needles, and thus do not have a tattoo of my own (One day!!), but my friends who get tattoos always tell me it’s addictive. You can never only get one!

What is your greatest challenge in writing?

My greatest challenge in writing any book is getting my bum in the chair, overcoming that procrastination. Once I’ve gotten over the initial hump, and am in the flow, I’m good to go in that department. Then the next struggle is when to stop editing. I am a relentless, picky, and perfectionist kind of editor. There comes a point, however, when I need to hold back and declare a book, “FINISHED!!”

How do your spouse/significant other/friends/family feel about your writing career?

All the close family and friends in my life have realized I am quite eccentric and am going to do what I want no matter how they object, so they have defaulted to being amazing cheerleaders instead—which I am beyond grateful for!!