Author Interview: Mickey Brent

Welcome to the 2018 Author Interview Series at The Writing Life, one of my favorite features on the blog. Instead of hosting one author per week as we’ve done for the past two years, I will share one interview per month to allow me to focus on finishing my second book, The Laments. The distraction quotient is real over here!

I hope you enjoy the new author interviews. Thank you for your visit!

Eleanor

This month, I’m happy to welcome my friend, Mickey Brent. We met in Brussels, Belgium through a shared love of and a deep appreciation for The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, when we both lived in the fascinating city.

Mickey Brent is a multicultural author and creative writing teacher who lives in Southern California with her partner and two kitties. She is also an active member of the LGBTQ community. Mickey spent nearly two decades living in Europe and loves writing quirky stories about Europeans, their diverse cultures, languages, and lifestyles. Mickey has written numerous travel articles, book chapters, poems, and screenplays, publishing various genres of fiction and non-fiction under other noms de plume. Mickey’s aim is to offer readers a more fun, light-hearted, and romantic view of life. She has created this vivid reality with Underwater Vibes, a well-crafted, contemporary novel showcasing a unique cast of characters thriving in the multicultural city of Brussels, Belgium, the capital of Europe. Its sequel, Broad Awakening, will be published by Bold Strokes Books in October 2018.

Underwater Vibes cover

Please describe what Underwater Vibes is about.

Hélène Dupont, a French-speaking scientific translator in Brussels, Belgium, cherishes two things: flowers and Chaussette, her cat. Hélène writes bad poetry to help her survive her painful existence with Marc, her husband, until she collapses at work and her doctor proposes a radical lifestyle change. She diets drastically and attempts sports for the first time, while Marc laughs at her efforts. Then Hélène meets Sylvie Routard, a carefree, young, amateur photographer from Greece. By chance, Sylvie becomes Hélène’s private swim coach. During their daily lessons, Hélène’s admiration towards Sylvie turns to attraction. As unsettling feelings hijack her mind and body, daydreams featuring Sylvie enter her life—even her poems. Hélène starts to question her relationship with Marc, and everything else in life.

How did you come up with the title?

Because Hélène and Sylvie spend so much time in the water, the attraction they feel can best be described as vibrations, hence the title, Underwater Vibes. I worked on my title for several weeks before I came up with one that was short, descriptive, and perfectly captured the essence of the story. These vibrations are underwater, just as underlying vibrations can translate to underlying meaning in our lives. As humans, we constantly feel things, whether we realize it or not. Believe me, Hélène and Sylvie are feeling things throughout the book. The fact that they are swimming underwater together adds to the intrigue, in my opinion.

What inspired you to write this book?

The idea for Underwater Vibes came as an assignment for an English composition course I took in college. The story was about a plump, shy girl—a loner—who learned to swim in a lake one summer. My writing teacher loved the story and urged me to keep writing. Twenty years later, while taking a creative writing course in Brussels, Belgium, I remembered that original essay. Each day, as I biked through Brussels, I jotted down new ideas for the story. Despite minor accidents with light poles and a parked car, I kept up my pace until I had birthed a unique, humorous tale. After thirteen years of tweaking, Underwater Vibes is, at last, ripe and ready to be devoured by readers who like quirky, character-driven stories.

Knowing you, humor will be evident in this book. Congratulations! What is your favorite part of writing?

Sitting with my cat early in the morning with a pot of steaming tea. Every day, my cat meows at the bedroom door until I get up—at an insane hour—as soon as the birds start chirping. I roll out of bed, splash cold water on my face, put on the tea kettle, and proceed to brush the cat. Then I settle on the sofa with my mug of tea, my cat, my pen, and my notebook, contemplating each empty page, wondering what’s going to fill it each day. Every story starts this way: in silence, with bird chirps, meows, a hissing kettle, then furious scribbling noises as I pen my incessant, rapid-fire thoughts. That’s my routine and my favorite part of writing. I also love teaching creative writing. Working with my students motivates me and fills me with deep joy.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Hélène resembles me a little bit. I was a translator for many years in Brussels, and she’s a translator. Yet she’s much shyer than I am, and not very athletic, although she gains confidence and becomes an athlete as the story evolves. The other main character, Sylvie, is an amateur photographer, and so am I. She also loves food, and so do I. We’re total foodies. They both adore cats and flowers, and so do I. They also appreciate poetry, although Hélène isn’t very talented in that department. I like to think that I’m a better poet than her. But Sylvie is a much stronger swimmer than me.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

The most challenging aspect of writing is keeping myself, and my voice, out of my characters’ heads. As a writer, it’s difficult to keep their viewpoints authentic, and it’s hard to not be influenced by their words and actions. I constantly have to ask myself, “What would she do in this situation?” or “What would he say if that happened to him?” It’s important to keep myself separate from their lives, yet it’s challenging because I’m attached to each of my characters. They are all living in my head. To make sure I’m writing from their unique points of view, I fill out at least four pages of a character sketch worksheet for each individual. I keep the worksheets next to my desk, so when I’m writing dialogue or action or plotting out a scene, I can refer to each character sketch, which includes the character’s history, voice, habits, attitudes, preferences, etc. Sometimes, I even stand up and act out a scene, to make sure I’m writing it from their perspective instead of my own.

I love character sketches and use them, as well. What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

I just finished reading “The Paris Wife” by Paula McLain. It’s a New York Times Bestseller and I thought it was amazing. It’s a story about a couple living in Paris in the 1920s and it particularly caught my eye because I used to live in Paris myself. It’s about Ernest Hemingway and his first wife during the period when Hemingway finds his voice as a writer, which particularly intrigued me. It’s very well written, with powerful dialogue and colorful, dramatic scenes. As a reader, I was drawn into the story on each and every page.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Isabel Allende, Julia Cameron, Mark Nepo, Paolo Coelho, Eckhart Tolle, Sarah Waters, Radclyffe… These are a few of my favorites.

Great list. What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Julia Cameron opens her readers’ eyes to all expressions of creativity and beauty in the most intriguing way. For example, through her own experiences, she introduced me to screenwriting and songwriting. And I learned to love Taos, New Mexico—without ever visiting the place—because of the way she describes its scenery. In her books, she helps readers find their special place in life. She teaches them to learn to trust their intuition, the Universe, and all the pleasures and pains that come with being fully human. Her words are truly a gift to this planet. I am surely not the only reader who feels lucky to have picked up “The Artist’s Way” so long ago. I truly cherish this book and am thankful that Julia has been guided all these years to put her talents and insight to paper.

Along similar lines, Mark Nepo is a philosopher, poet, teacher and well-published author whose words and inspiration have made a positive difference in my life. In fact, I often begin teaching my creative writing classes by reciting one of Mark’s daily entries in “The Book of Awakening.” His exquisitely penned words set a calm, reflective atmosphere in the classroom. As his sentences unfold, my students and I contemplate his literary mastery—the delicate way he illustrates the simplest acts of life. Not unlike famous Japanese haiku poets, Mark offers his readers an opportunity to pause and reflect. By exposing the raw beauty of everyday happenings, he incites readers to appreciate the most insignificant details of life surrounding us: leaves falling in a mossy forest, a lone daisy, thoughtful glances, random acts of kindness by strangers. These are the kinds of insignificant details—that aren’t so insignificant, actually—that make stories real.

Mark writes non-fiction and poetry, while I mainly write fiction. But my hope is to transform my characters, and readers, through carefully selected words, plot, and mindful presence—like Mark—to bring everyone to a better place in life.

I will check out The Book of Awakening. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

As I mentioned earlier, I love to sit on my living room sofa with a big mug of tea, my cat, my pen, and my notebook. Surrounded by soft pillows, I contemplate the scenery outside—palm trees, a lush potato tree with its purple flowers, my statue of Buddha—wondering what’s going to fill my notebook each day. I use an aromatherapy diffuser, so there’s lemongrass, lavender, or some other calming, purifying scent in the room. I keep the large windows open to let in fresh air; their frames are lined with shells and stones from the local beach, colorful candles, postcards, and photos of loved ones. This is also my favorite place to read. I must admit, however, in the evenings I read lying down because I’m exhausted after getting up at dawn to write.

When it’s time to work on my stories with a computer, I move upstairs into the bedroom. My desk there overlooks more palm trees—and a parking lot. One day, I’d like to look out at the ocean instead of the parking lot. But for now, I’m content with where I am.

Mickey, tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know.

When I was young, I used to be a competitive athlete. I competed in several sports simultaneously and took winning very seriously. I was raised this way—my father was my coach. I was hard on myself, determined, a real overachiever, and perhaps not the kindest kid to others. Luckily, I grew out of this tough, self-focused phase and learned to be kind to others. I realized that winning is not everything in life. People and relationships are much more important. Looking back, I’m much happier as an adult to be in a more positive, open-minded, and caring place.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

Yes, it did. The more I write, the more I learn about myself and my life. I have always had a passion for writing, even as a child. And when I started writing novels in addition to short stories, I realized that writing is a spectacular way to discover who I am and where I’m headed as a person. It unearths hidden passions, secrets, and, in my case, an imagination that seems to know no limits. I often get asked if I’ve experienced the things my characters go through in my stories. It’s a valid question. Some authors experience nearly everything they write about, even in fiction. But most of what I write comes from some other place—some hidden source from within. It just bubbles up and I put it down on paper.

As you might have guessed, I’m a pantser (I write from the seat of my pants, rather than planning and plotting my stories). So I don’t even know what’s coming until it literally shows up on the page. For example, in Underwater Vibes, Sylvie’s obnoxious ex, Lydia, showed up in my novel while I was rewriting my seventh version of the manuscript. A true perfectionist, I completely rewrote the manuscript thirteen times over a thirteen-year period. The fact that Lydia simply popped up on the page after seven years surprised me. I had never met anyone like Lydia before and I had no clue how she got there. Somehow, she hijacked my fertile imagination with her despicable charm. Surprises like these represent tremendous gifts to authors like me, who strive to tell meaningful stories with unexpected twists.

The publishing process is a whole different story. If you don’t mind, I’ll wait to answer that question in my next interview with you, after my sequel, Broad Awakening, is released in October.

Underwater Vibes cover

What do you hope readers will gain from Underwater Vibes?

Hopefully, my book will offer readers a pleasant literary experience that will also transmit a strong message of human acceptance, so that LGBTQ issues will no longer be topics of overt—or hushed—conversations in boardrooms, school cafeterias, at dinner tables, etc. Because my novel explores a budding, yet awkward, lesbian romance, I hope it will open up the minds of readers in a positive way, especially those who have never bought a book or opted to watch a film featuring LGBTQ characters. Personally, I wish one’s sexual orientation could be as insignificant to others as one’s hair color or freckles. It shouldn’t matter. Love is love.

Underwater Vibes is a contribution to the struggle for equality for all. Perhaps this might seem like a lofty aim, but I wrote my novel to help reduce the discrimination that still exists globally among humans on many levels: racial, ethnic, religious, socio-economic, etc. This discrimination also includes biases against peoples’ sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, linguistic, regional and cultural differences, etc.

Without knowing these intentions, certain people have advised me to end the novel by having Hélène and Marc, her verbally abusive husband, get back together; but if that were the case, the essential meaning of this story would be lost. These two characters are obviously not meant for each other. Somehow, they ended up together, but once Hélène discovers that someone special exists out there, she needs to trust her heart and face the truth. I hope my book will help readers learn to trust their true feelings. Sometimes, this trust involves taking risks to get what they deserve in life.

I wholeheartedly agree with you. My editor and several advance readers encouraged me to change the original ending of A Decent Woman. I’m glad I listened. Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I had a dream that I truly believed in. I wanted to be a writer so I wrote every day for many years. I didn’t give up on my book, even when I felt like it. I worked weekends and evenings, early in the morning, and late at night. I followed my intuition every step of the way. I didn’t listen to naysayers who told me two decades ago, “You’re only a beginner. You’ll never get published.” Likewise, I ignored those who said, “You’re not making any money on this. Why don’t you just give it up and get a real career?” They didn’t seem to notice that I was juggling several jobs while writing all these years.

I was stubborn and optimistic; I bought every worthy book on writing that I could get my hands on and devoured it with passion. Next, I joined a book club, then I joined a writing group, then a critique group. I kept taking classes on how to write short stories and screenplays. I wrote several of each, edited the stories until I was satisfied, then I sent them to publishers of anthologies, writing contests, magazines, etc. After quite a few rejections, several stories got published. That motivated me a lot. Next, I started teaching creative writing classes, which motivated me even more, especially when my students started publishing their work. I learned the craft of writing even better by researching it, then instructing others on what I had learned.  

To conclude, what I did right was believing in my dream of becoming a published author and sustaining my intense determination to realize this dream. Working hard created a positive momentum that made it easier for me to write, edit, and submit my book several times until I found the right publisher. It has also helped me market Underwater Vibes now that my story is out in the world.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

Waiting so long to submit my first book to agents and publishers slowed the process down. Like so many writers, I was afraid of rejection, and I was a perfectionist. Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to overcome these two issues. In hindsight, I wish I had taken more initiative to get my first book published. As a published author now, I’ve learned my lesson and I’m much more confident. That is why I’ve promised my publisher that I will be devoting two years to write my third novel, instead of thirteen!

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

If you have a dream to become a published writer, you must believe in yourself. Write something every day, even if it’s just in your journal. That’s still writing. Don’t give up on your projects or ideas, even when things look bleak. If you can, work a little on weekends, evenings, early in the morning, and holidays. Every little bit counts and it fuels you with positive momentum. Follow your intuition—trust your gut—every step of the way. That person you feel compelled to contact on a hunch just might open the right door for you. Don’t listen to naysayers, especially those who say they mean well or “it’s for your own good.” Know that writing is extremely hard work. It’s pure dedication. But it’s worth it to feel the satisfaction of finally having your name in print, or seeing your friends waiting in line for your autograph. Royalty checks are great too but don’t count on receiving those right away.

In my opinion, your primary aspiration as a writer shouldn’t be to rake in tons of money and become famous overnight. It should be to share your story with the world, and hopefully, transform people in a positive way. You’ll only get discouraged if you strive for instant success and fame. That’s extremely rare. Join a book club, a writing group, a critique group, take writing classes, find a skilled and experienced mentor or editor—and beta readers—who know how to critique your work in a gentle yet constructive manner. Write lots of different pieces, go outside your comfort zone, edit your stories multiple times until you’re satisfied, let them rest, then edit them one final time. Read them aloud standing up, then send them out to potential agents, publishers, magazine contests, blogs, etc. When you finally get your publishing contract, read the fine lines carefully. Then hire a professional who is highly experienced with author contracts to help you negotiate your book/film deal. Good luck!

Great advice! Website and social media links?

I’m not yet on Facebook but I’ve promised my publisher that I will set up a Facebook page within the next few weeks. Until then, please visit me at www.mickeybrent.com

Let me know when your Facebook page goes live, so I can tag you. You might look into setting up accounts with Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest, as well. Where can we find Underwater Vibes?

There’s a link to my publisher, Bold Strokes Books, listed on my website. https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/authors/mickey-brent-275  That’s the best place to purchase Underwater Vibes, and pre-order my sequel, Broad Awakening. They are available in print and as ebooks. They can also be ordered at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and at your local bookstore. As a public speaker on the craft of writing, multiculturalism, diversity and LGBTQ inclusion issues, I’m often invited to give author presentations at bookstores, libraries, book festivals, and book clubs. My book is available for purchase at these events, which are listed at www.mickeybrent.com.

Awesome. What’s next for you, Mickey?

The sequel to Underwater Vibes, Broad Awakening, will be released by Bold Strokes Books in October 2018. It takes place in Brussels, Belgium, and in Santorini, Greece. Now, I’m working on my third novel, which will be set in San Francisco. It’s also a multicultural, multilingual contemporary lesbian romance. I’m very excited about this new story. I lived in San Francisco for three years and I’m looking forward to heading back to this exciting, cosmopolitan city to do more research for my upcoming book.

Thanks for a great interview, Mickey. I wish you the very best with your books. We should plan a reunion with our fellow The Artist’s Way group members soon!

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments, set in 1927 Puerto Rico.

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Author Interview: Daniel Cubias

Welcome to our Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life, where I have the pleasure of chatting with authors across genres. Today I am pleased to welcome Daniel Cubias, and zombies.

Daniel Cubias is a writer whose award-winning fiction has been published in numerous literary journals. He is also the author of the novel “Barrio Imbroglio,” and he contributes frequently to the Huffington Post.

Daniel’s latest novel, “Zombie President,” is a black comedy about the twisted conflux of politics, journalism, and American culture.

Cubias author pic

Welcome, Daniel.

What is your book’s genre?

Horror-comedy

Please describe what your black comedy Zombie President is about.

A defeated presidential candidate comes back from the dead to take the White House by force — and to win the country’s heart in the process.

Samuel Tilden never won the presidency when he was alive, but now that he’s a rampaging ghoul, the American people are enthralled with the power and tenacity of his undead army. Fawning media coverage ensures that the zombies’ bloody march to Washington D.C. goes unchecked. Meanwhile, an ambitious television reporter, a small-town sheriff, and a scientist with a dark secret join forces with a trio of backbiting teenagers to fight for their country.

zombie_president_full_web

Sounds like a intriguing, wild ride. How did you come up with the title?

Let’s just say that the title lent itself.

What inspired you to write this book?

My co-author, Kristan Ginther, asked me, “Has there every been a story about a zombie running for president?” I had to admit that, no, there had never been a story quite like that.

Does your main character resemble you?

I am not a zombie, so I’m going to say no.

Good point. What do you hope readers will gain from Zombie President?

First, my hope is that readers find it funny. But there are more than a few references to our political process, which will provoke, enlighten or infuriate the reader, depending on his/her viewpoint.

It sounds intriguing and timely.

What is your favorite part of writing?

The second draft. The tyranny of the blank page (i.e., the first draft) is behind you, and now you can concentrate on what the story is really about. Successive drafts aren’t as enjoyable because you begin seeing the flaws that eat away at your very soul.

Great description of successive drafts. I’m at that point with my second book–the eating away at my soul part–where I have to battle doubt.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

If you don’t rewrite a passage, it most likely is not as good as it could be. If you rewrite it too much, you most likely sap all its energy and kill whatever made it interesting in the first place. Finding that balance is crucial.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

“The Langoliers” by Stephen King. I’m a big King fan, but I had missed that one. I’m very happy that I dug it out, because it has all the elements of what he does best.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Leyner, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Leyner, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King. Each possesses a unique voice, which I find inspiring.

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write in one place (at my computer) and read everywhere. So favoritism doesn’t come into it.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I stopped listening to the radio years ago. That’s because my phone’s music library contains almost 8,000 songs, so I just listen to that.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

The writing process is a constant surprise, and not always in a good way, because every story is different. As for the publishing process, this is only my second novel, so I’m still learning, and as such, everything about it surprises me.

Daniel, looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

My best choice was working with my co-author. She’s brilliant.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

I gave myself an overly aggressive deadline. This didn’t inspire me to write faster. All it did was stress me out. So I’m going to lighten up on the self-imposed timelines in the future.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

At some point in your writing career, you need third-party validation. If you’re convinced that you’re a genius, but the only people who agree with you are your spouse and your mom, you might be overestimating yourself. Get feedback from impartial readers, fellow writers, and editors. It’s the best way to learn what’s working and what’s not.

Good advice. Website and social media links?

I’m at:

http://www.danielcubias.com

http://hispanicfanatic.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-cubias/

https://www.facebook.com/daniel.cubias

Twitter: @DanCubias

Email: hispanicf@gmail.com

Where can we find your book?

“Zombie President” is now available: http://amzn.to/2nzJJFG

Daniel, what’s next for you?

I’m working on the sequel to my first novel “Barrio Imbroglio.” So far I have a title, a basic plot, and the first sentence. That’s a good place to start.

Indeed it is. I wish you the best with your books and work in progress. Thanks for chatting with me today, David.

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book, A Decent Woman:  http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

Author Interview: William Galaini

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog. I am very pleased to welcome William Galaini, author of Trampling in the Land of Woe. It turns out we share the same editor and publisher, Ally Bishop at Scarlet River Press. I am happy to finally chat with William about writing, publishing, and his book.

Bio:

Everything is now Twitter. My bio will be 140. Vet, married, bonkers son, four cats, crushing insecurity. Out of room to explain myself. Sad.

Welcome, William!

galaini

What is your book’s genre?

Hmmm… historical neoclassical fantasy literature? With romance. And even a bromance.

galaini-book-cover

Please describe what Trampling in the Land of Woe is about.

Book blurb – As World War I rages on Earth, Hephaestion, lauded general and soul mate of Alexander the Great—and now a citizen of Purgatory—embarks on the darkest, most challenging journey of his existence: descending into The Pit of Hell to rescue his king. Chased by Hellbeasts, hunted by Jesuits, and aided by unexpected allies, Hephaestion tests the bounds of loyalty, dedication, and even death as he faces the greatest demon of all: himself. A blend of steampunk and Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, Trampling in the Land of Woe drives through the cobblestoned streets of New Dis, soars above The Pit in airships, and then stumbles down into the terror-ridden rings themselves. Steam-powered trains, zeppelins, and ornithopters zoom by in a mash-up of literary proportions, all to answer one question: What will one man do to understand the meaning of love and truth?

Envision a steam-punk Dante’s Inferno for the setting. In that setting, Hephaestion breaks into Hell in an effort to rescue his lover and king, Alexander the Great. Throughout his journey he encounters various historical figures and personalities that either aid or hinder his efforts. This all occurs while the first World War occurs on the surface of Earth, so we have dirigibles, paddleboats, cannons, and locomotives.

Sounds like an intriguing read. How did you come up with the title?

Milton’s Paradise Lost has several passages that refer to Hell as a land of woe. The thought of an ancient Greek cavalry general like Hephaestion kicking in Hell’s door to descend its rings of torment brought the verb ‘trampling’ to mind.

What inspired you to write this book?

….. okay this might be embarrassing. A DND session. Well, technically the gaming system we used is called Savage Worlds. This system lets you establish the setting in any way you like, so I build the setting of Dante’s Hell in 1910 so that my players had trains to ride and zeppelins to fly. So my gaming group and I used my setting as a narrative playground for about a year. From that, I plucked story elements, conflicts, and plots that captivated everyone the most. Trampling is the first novel from this.

While the specific characters we played don’t make a showing in the novels, many of their challenges do.

I had to look up ‘DND session’–Dungeons & Dragons. I can see real merit (and fun) in the creative sessions you and your gaming buddies enjoy; especially for writers of fantasy, dystopian, and steam punk stories.

What is your favorite part of writing?

Being done. At least, being done before the next round of edits and revisions. At that moment you feel the marvelous sensation of growing power and overcoming adversity.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Not really. Hephaestion is a handsome, capable man driven by principals. He is patient, temperate, and focused. I am NONE of those things.

I will confess that Hephaestion’s caretaker, a German from Purgatory with bad gambling habits named Yitzhak, is exactly like me. His sarcasm, observations, and reckless idealism causes all kinds of trouble but also often saves the day.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

I likely have a different answer for this question each time I’m asked, so here is my current one: patience. I can pound out a novel once a year and that includes six to seven months of research. Granted, I’ve got eleven novels planned out and I spend years outlining them, but once I’ve finished my first draft my patience VANISHES. I become impatient with my cover artists, my editors, my layout artist, and my publisher. I do my best to contain this tiny, embarrassing monster of mine, but sometimes my editors or artists will get a rambling voicemail message that entails a combination of my raging impatience and my apologies regarding such.

I’m impatient with the team that makes a book happen because I’m ignorant of what they have to do to make my book a reality. This childishness embarrasses me.

I appreciate the candid answer, William. I remember growing impatient with my first book until I discovered what each of the team member’s important projects entailed on the road to publication. Thank God I listened to my gut, my editor, and that we didn’t rush to publish; it would have been a disaster.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Enemy at the Gates. It was about the siege of Stalingrad. I was engrossed in it for both its detail and humanity. I had chosen the book to read for research for an upcoming novel that involves a city under siege. Just before Enemy at the Gates, I had read The 900 Days, which was equally haunting.

My next book will be fun. I’ve got my eye on Ready Player One. I hear it is a good read.

My writing mentor recommended the film version of Enemy of the Gates for dealing three alternating POVs; it’s a super film. I just ordered the book.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’m a fan of books, but some of my favorites are written by Ken Follett, M.M. Kaye, Isaac Asimov, and I love Milton and Pope’s prose.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Mom. Yeah, it is cliché but completely true. Mom had me reading science fiction like I, Robot and Rama as a kid and I gobbled it up wholesale. My stepmother, Mutti was also a huge reader and she got me into contemporary works like Terminal Man and some John Grisham.

My wife also. She is always there next to me in the car or the kitchen when I’ve got an idea. She is the first barrier all ideas and character elements have to pass through in order to make it to the page. Ginger actually doesn’t read my books because, frankly, she just doesn’t have to. She watched me mix the thing and bake it in the oven. No need to taste it to know it is good.

How nice to have that instant feedback. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

We have a couch that is actually long enough for me to splay myself out on. I look like I’m ready for Jack to paint me like one of his French girls. That is the BEST place to get my read on. 

As for writing, I just need a proper keyboard, a chair, and either headphones or silence.

Okay, now I won’t be able to get through that scene in Titanic without thinking of you sprawled out on the couch, waiting for Jack. Too funny. Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I’m not as insecure as I profess to be.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I learned a lot of self-acceptance in writing. There are no mistakes to be made in writing. You literally will not do anything wrong when you write…

…until you publish. Publishing is where mistakes are made, not the writing. Publishing too early or without revising properly are both brutal mistakes that I have paid for.

Do not be impatient when publishing. Allow the various stages of double-checks to occur. The hindrances you face in publishing your book will make it more refined.

Couldn’t agree more. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

Meaning and fun. I explore heart-break and deeper themes via the proxy of adventure. I hope that, on the surface, the reader is satisfied with a good time but upon reflection, they ask themselves the questions that motivated the story.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

I didn’t stop.

What didn’t work?

Awesome question. Well, a number of things. First off, I had a preconception of the book being a lone journey and I kept trying to force it into that mold. My dev editor, Ally Bishop, wisely aimed me toward focusing not on character in the narrative, but on relationships. This brought a close friendship between Yitzhak and Hephaestion and through that relationship a lot of the story’s themes and conflicts became far more vivid and engaging.

Secondly, I had a hard time finding the rhythm of my syntax. I still struggle with it now, but it took a lot of proof editors to help me polish it.

Ally is the real deal. She encouraged me to change the original ending of my book, smart lady. Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

There are no mistakes in writing, only in publishing. That is my axiom.

galaini-book-cover

Website and social media links?

Williamgalaini.com

@wgalaini on Twitter

https://www.facebook.com/WilliamLjGalaini/

Where can we find your book?

My, so glad you asked! Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and ask for it at your local library.

https://www.amazon.com/Trampling-Land-Patron-Saints-Hell/dp/0996926208/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1485893782&sr=8-1&keywords=trampling+in+the+land+of+woe

What’s next for you, William?

Part two for Trampling is already done and it is awesome. Boudica is the main character in the sequel. I’ve just started part three!

Great interview, William. Thanks for chatting with me. Best of luck with your books!

About Eleanor:

ellie

Puerto Rican-born Eleanor Parker Sapia is the author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. A writer, artist, and photographer, Eleanor is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Forgotten Souls, set in 1920 Puerto Rico.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK
Please visit Eleanor at her website:
www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

The Writing Life Interviews: Donelle Knudsen

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. This morning I have the great pleasure of chatting with Donelle Knudsen. 

A native of the Pacific Northwest, Donelle Knudsen was born in Portland, Oregon, and has lived in Washington State since 1988. She has written short stories, poetry, and memoirs. In addition to being a wife, mother, and grandmother of five, Donelle earned a B.S. in Arts & Letters from Portland State University. She is a six-time finalist and two-time winner of writing contests through Pacific Northwest Writers Association and Oregon Writers Colony. She is the author of Through the Tunnel of Love, A Mother’s and Daughter’s Journey with Anorexia and the young adult/women’s contemporary novel, Between Heartbeats, which is book one of the Heartbeat series.

donelle-knudsen

Welcome to The Writing Life, Donelle.

donelle-knudsen-cover

I love your book cover. What is the genre/category of Between Heartbeats?

My novel, Between Heartbeats, was originally written for the Young Adult audience, but reader feedback has shown women of all ages enjoy it. I have re-categorized it YA/Women’s Contemporary. 

Donelle, please describe what the story is about.

My goal was to write about a young female protagonist who experiences a life-changing trauma. When Diana Baker awakens on her seventeenth birthday, she is told at breakfast, during a heated argument with her mother, that the man she has loved as her father is not her father at all. Diana decides to unravel the mystery of her childhood and the reason for family secrets and travels across the country to visit her step-father. And so she begins a journey where she discovers shocking truths hidden just beneath the surface. That summer she meets Kevin Wright, a college junior and when he disappears without a trace, Diana learns family is more than shared DNA and discovers who will help her when it appears all hope is gone. Between Heartbeats is about a young girl’s quest to find her roots and discovers love and the power of forgiveness. 

How did you come up with the title?

I titled my novel Between Heartbeats because I believe life can change in a heartbeat, hence, between heartbeats. I like the image of a heart on its literal and figurative levels. 

What inspired you to write this book?

Kernels of ideas for Between Heartbeats grew from personal life experiences, our daughter’s adoption, and from the fruit of my imagination. I believe young people are capable of making important decisions and can determine who is trustworthy and who is not when it really matters. When I turned thirteen, I had to make several important life-changing decisions, so I know it can be done despite the inexperience of youth. Also, I find assistance can come from the most unexpected sources, so it is wise to imagine what’s possible, seek solutions, and accept answers and sincere help unconditionally.

What is your favorite part of writing?

For novel writing, I call myself a discovery writer, in that I have the novel’s premise in my head and know the ending before I begin. Then, I sit anywhere that’s convenient with my laptop and write fluidly, freely, just letting it happen. This is my favorite part, to write without an internal editor. I allow one year to eighteen months to complete my first draft. This timeline includes submitting most of the book to my critique group so I can consider their input and begin rewrites.

My first book was a memoir so the process was entirely different from writing my first novel. I outlined meticulously, relied on my diary, my memory, and private interviews with parties involved. Through the Tunnel of Love, A Mother and Daughter’s Journey with Anorexia took five years to write primarily because our daughter’s battle with her eating disorder was erratic and unpredictable. It was a tough project to complete, but I believe I accomplished my goal to create an honest, deeply personal, and readable memoir.

I’m a discovery writer with my historical novels, which includes sending out questionnaires and communicating with people who have a good knowledge about my subject matter. Does your main character resemble you, Donelle? If so, in what ways? 

My heroine, Diana Baker, is a contemporary seventeen-year-old living in Boise, Idaho. She lives with her mother and visits her father, who resides in the mid-west, twice a year. I can relate to Diana because my parents were divorced when I was nine. It was difficult when my father had to move out, as my mother was never interested in who I was or what I wanted to become. Consequently, it was easy to create a fictional character that learns to cope with the upheaval of a divorce and leap from childhood to adulthood practically overnight. Like my teenage self, Diana has dreams of going to college, teaching, becoming a writer, and finding the forever love that brings a husband, children, and the promise of a fulfilling life.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing? 

I’m terrible at outlining and realized early on that I am a pantser or a discovery writer, in that I fly by the seat of my pants and let the characters show me the way. I have the story’s premise and plotline mentally outlined, know the ending, and let the journey begin. As the author, I have control until my characters take over and show me where they want to go. It can be challenging, but it is an exciting way to write and is never dull. 

I totally agree with you! I love when the characters take over; that’s when the fun (and rewriting) begins. What was the last book you read? What did you think of it? 

The last book I read was, “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Pulitzer Prize winner, Anthony Doerr. It is a literary masterpiece that tells the beautifully sad story of two young people caught up in the horrors of WW II. Doerr describes the world caught up in war scientifically and analytically at times, yet with the sensitivity of a poet. He walks the delicate balance of portraying his characters in their harsh settings and reveals their world of beauty, heartache, cruelty, and pathos. It is a must read.

Thanks, that book is on my reading list. Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’ve read and admired so many writers, my list of influential writers is rather long, so here goes: Maud Hart Lovelace, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury, J. R. R. Tolkien, Stephen King, and Jane Kirkpatrick. 

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Ms. Lovelace and Laura Ingalls Wilder spurred my desire to write for young people; Jane Austen’s witty social commentary and endearing characters showed me good writing is timeless. I believe Charles Dickens is the best novelist of all time. His description of life in England through his characters’ eyes and their varied experiences cannot be surpassed. Ray Bradbury and Stephen King introduced me to Science Fiction and Horror and taught me anything is possible; J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings inspired me to write about how Good can conquer Evil on any level. I have attended Jane Kirkpatrick’s workshops and book readings, and receive her newsletter, Story Sparks. Jane writes primarily historical fiction and focuses on strong women protagonists. My goal is to create strong characters that can capture a reader’s imagination and in turn give her or him confidence to face life’s challenges.

Wonderful. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read? 

My creativity flows better when I listen to music at home or sit amidst the background noise of a café. But not a word will be written without a cup of hot or iced tea, depending on the time of year. However, when I edit or do re-writes, I need complete silence and work in my office on my desktop.

I prefer reading at home, propped up in bed, again with a cup of tea and classical music playing.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I am a distant cousin of James A. Garfield, the 20th U.S. president, who was assassinated just a few months after his inauguration on March 4, 1881. 

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I think most published authors would agree that marketing is the most challenging part. Being creative is one thing, however, getting out and pushing our books in person and online can be a real chore. For me, marketing my work does not come naturally; however, I’ve learned a lot since 2011 and when my third book comes out in a few weeks, I will be even more prepared.

Good surprises have come my way in myriad ways. People I know well or not at all have attended my book signings and/or purchased both books online. Reviews are critical and some have been gracious and posted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Hooray for reviews!

I have received lots of encouragement and praise for publishing not only two books, but having crossed over from nonfiction to fiction writing. For that I am grateful. Each project has been different and I take nothing for granted. I still fear the blank Word document on my laptop and feel a degree of trepidation as I begin each new chapter. But so far I haven’t experienced serious writer’s block. Somehow, the creative juices keep flowing.

I have published two different ways: through small presses, first in 2011 and upcoming in 2017, and with a publishing house in 2015 that I found at a writers conference. I discuss this later in this interview with my advice/tips for writers looking to get published.

donelle-knudsen-cover

Donelle, what do you hope readers will gain from your book?

Without giving away too much, in Between Heartbeats, my goal is to take the reader along a young woman’s journey on which she must unravel the mystery of her childhood and the reason for so many secrets. As Diana searches for her family heritage, handles stresses in friendships, family, and her first romance, she grows emotionally and learns to accept help from unexpected sources in multiple generations. I write about people and everyday events I believe most readers can identify with and care about. I like to create a difficult situation and then let the characters find resolution with issues that matter most to them. However, I’m a sucker for happy endings.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book?

What I did right was to pick genres and write stories about people or topics that piqued my interest. Also, by deciding to write a three-part series helped me to plan long term and stay focused. If the reader enjoys the first book in a series, it is likely he/she will stay with me. As far as marketing, I have found that face-to-face interaction works the best. I’ve established relationships with bookstore managers and business owners, held book signings at writers’ conferences, bookstores, and venues of my choice. I have found simple word-of-mouth is effective, too. Establishing a personal relationship with potential readers is key. This can also be done online through a blog or to some extent Twitter and Facebook.

I had my cover artist design custom bookmarks and with permission I have left them in various businesses. I make sure to have bookmarks, business cards, and copies of my books with me, always. It’s best to be prepared when a potential reader comes along. I thought swag for my first novel would help with book sales, so I invested in customized mini-journals, notebooks, keyrings, ribbon bookmarks, wine glass rings, etc. They are handy for giveaways and are eye-catching, but they don’t sell books. At book signings I’ve offered gift card giveaways with a book purchase or for filling out a short questionnaire.

There are many people out there who are well versed in marketing, so it’s a good idea to network and learn as much as possible.

Great advice. What didn’t work?

Through my previous publisher, I became involved with on-line author/reader events. These are sometimes called “take overs” where half hour to hour time slots are allotted by the host author to her guest author to pitch, advertise, and promote her book(s). Swag giveaways, free eBooks, and Amazon gift cards are offered in hopes of acquiring new readers. I found that authors are good at supporting fellow authors; however, on-line events don’t really help sell more books or garner new readers.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

My advice to writers is to attend writers’ conferences, join writer support groups, enter writing contests, and network in person and online. I am a six-time finalist and two-time winner of writing contests through Pacific Northwest Writers Association and Oregon Writers Colony. In May of 2014 I met a representative of a publishing house at a writers’ conference and pitched my novel. One year later Between Heartbeats was on its way to publication. Then I chose my editor and proofreader, and my creative team who designed my book cover and helped with the marketing phase. The process went smoothly and by Mid-August of 2015, Between Heartbeats was live.

This publisher used the team approach and seemed to have a promising future, but when they closed their doors in May of 2016, I had to decide what to do with my orphaned book. With the help of a friend, I was able to re-format the book and cover and then I re-published on Create Space and Kindle. This process took less than a month and my book was never off line or out of print.

Self-Publishing:

I published my first book, Through the Tunnel of Love, A Mother’s and Daughter’s Journey with Anorexia, with a small press. The president acted as my editor and book manager. She assigned the formatter and design artist; however, I had full control in deciding the cover and final layout. I helped proofread and approved the final copy for production. I was happy with the finished product which included many family photos. They gave life to our personal story and helped the reader relate to our journey from darkness to light, from illness to a healthy life.

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing:

The Pro is that after multiple rejections with my memoir, Through the Tunnel of Love, I was able to get our story out to inform others who either faced the horrors of eating disorders or self-destructive behavior, or knew of ones who did. I was able to get my book into Barnes & Noble where I had multiple book signings. I entered into a consignment agreement with three Indie bookstores, sold my books at writers’ conferences, and hosted personal book signings. It has been a positive experience.

The Con is facing the hurdles of marketing and advertising. The first time around it was learn as I went, and I was not online savvy until Between Heartbeats was published. One year before it came out, I opened a Twitter account, an Author Facebook page, LinkedIn, and became more active with my blog. I discovered it’s not Publish or Perish, but Market or Perish.

Very informative, thank you. Please share your website and social media links.

https://www.facebook.com/DonelleMKnudsen/

Twitter @donelleknudsen

Website: http://donellemknudsen.weebly.com/

Blog  Http://dknudsen-writersblog.blogspot.com/

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5754704.Donelle_Knudsen

Where can we find your book(s)?

Book(s) link:

https://www.amazon.com/Donelle-Knudsen/e/B004X31KDQ/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

What’s next for you, Donelle?

I recently completed Heartbeat Interrupted, the sequel to Between Heartbeats and Book II of the Heartbeat Series. It is in the hands of my editor. If the schedule goes as planned Heartbeat Interrupted will be available on Amazon and in local bookstores through Seiders House Publishing shortly after the first of the year. I am about halfway through the first draft of Book III in the Heartbeat Series. It is a departure from the first two in that my heroine, Diana, who is twenty years older, finds herself enmeshed in a baffling mystery surrounding an estate built during the Civil War era. There are many supernatural qualities to it, so it is a Gothic/Urban Fantasy.

My next book, scheduled for 2018, is a sweet ghost story that would appeal to the Middle Grade reader. I plan on writing until I run out of ideas, or am too old to use a computer.

When I’m too old to use a computer, I’ll somehow dictate my stories! Thanks for an insightful and informative interview, Donelle. It was a real pleasure getting to know more about you and your books. I wish you all the best.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA: 

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia, Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A Decent Woman, is published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives in Berkeley County, West Virginia, where she is working on her second novel, The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

PLEASE VISIT ELEANOR AT HER WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.ELEANORPARKERSAPIA.COM

 

 

 

Author Interview: Dane Cobain

Welcome to the Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog. Each Tuesday, it’s a pleasure to share my talented writer friends with readers. We have a a great line up of fabulous authors scheduled until June 2017. Please do check back in and meet a new author next week.

Today, I’m pleased to chat with multigenre writer, Dane Cobain. Dane, who hails from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, UK, is an independent poet, musician and storyteller with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not in front of a screen writing stories and poetry, he can be found working on his book review blog or developing his website, www.danecobain.com. His debut novella, No Rest for the Wicked, was released in the summer of 2015.

He started writing at fourteen, and progressed from lyrics and music to journals, short stories and poetry before writing the first draft of an early novel whilst in lectures. He studied creative writing at London’s Roehampton University, earning a 2:1 bachelor’s degree before starting a career as a social media marketing.

dane-cobain

Welcome, Dane.

What is your book’s genre/category?

I have a number of them on the market:

  • No Rest for the Wicked (supernatural thriller)
  • Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home (poetry)
  • Former.ly: The Rise and Fall of a Social Network (literary fiction)
  • Social Paranoia: How Consumers and Brands Can Stay Safe in a Connected World (non-fiction)

dane-cobain-former-ly

Dane, please describe what Former.ly  is about. 

I’ll use Former.ly, my most recent fiction release, to answer these ones. The novel follows a fledgling social networking site as the team tries to scale upwards and to take over the world. But it’s not a smooth journey – the site’s two founders share a dark secret, a secret that someone is willing to kill for. 

How did you come up with the title?

Former.ly is the name of the fictitious social network in the book, and it takes its name because it’s a social networking site for the dead – you sign up, post updates that are hidden from view, and then after you die, the updates go live for the rest of the world. They call themselves Former.ly because that’s their domain name, and it refers to the fact that their users were formerly alive. That’s not actually explained anywhere in the book, and you’re the first person to ask about it!

What inspired you to write this book?

They say that you should write what you know, and I work in social media marketing. It seemed like a good idea to write about my very own fictitious social network. I think it helps to capture the zeitgeist of the times we live in.

What is your favorite part of writing? 

I just find it therapeutic. I’m compelled to write, and I start to get uncomfortable if I’m not able to write much. It’s a bit like scratching an itch.

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

He does resemble me to some extent; he’s sort of a mixture of myself and some other people that I know. We have a similar outlook on the world, and as the book is written in first person, it was only natural that certain elements of my personality would filter through to Dan. 

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Finding the time! It takes a lot of time to write a book, and you need to force yourself to stick at it until you’re finished. Plus, there are plenty of potential distractions!

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it? 

I’ve just finished reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and the last book that I read was The Wind Through the Keyhole, which was written and released after the rest of the books in the series but which is set somewhere in the middle. It was alright, but not as good as the rest of them, mainly because it didn’t really focus on the same characters. Still good, though. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

There are too many to name individually, but the list includes Graham Greene, Philip Pullman, Charles Bukowski, Ernest Hemingway and Terry Pratchett.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why? 

I think that we’re all influenced by each other, so again – the list is too long for me to mention them all. But it’s the contemporary writers that I’ve met and befriended along the way who really have the biggest influence of all. I think we’re all learning from each other, and that’s a good thing – one of the main advantages of the internet. 

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read? 

I’ll write pretty much anywhere – I carry a notebook around and jot stuff down on my phone. But my favourite place to write is in my living room, because I can sit back and relax while doing it. As for reading, I mostly read on the bus to and from work, chilling on the sofa in the office on my lunch break, or when nipping out for cigarettes at home. 

Could you tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know? 

I have anxiety disorder. My closer friends tend to know about it, but a lot of people don’t, and it often surprises them when they find out.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

I think you’re always learning from everything that you do, even if you’re just reading someone else’s work. The main thing that I’ve learned along the way has been the importance of having a good editor and a decent cover designer. People always seem to think that they’ve done an amazing job by editing themselves, but that’s usually not the case.

dane-cobain-former-ly

What do you hope readers will gain from Former.ly?

I just hope that they enjoy it. I think that it’s important to have fun when you’re reading; if they want to draw their own conclusions and find a lesson in there then that’s their call. 

Looking back, Dane, what did you do right that helped you write and market this book? 

I think that hitting the zeitgeist – by which, I mean writing about social networking when social networking is all over the news and a new and exciting part of our day-to-day lives – has helped to get readers interested in the first place. Hopefully the writing does the rest.

What didn’t work as well as you’d hoped?

Nothing in particular – I suppose the main challenge was to make sure that the book wasn’t outdated before it was released. That’s the problem with writing about social networking sites – they move quickly!

So true! Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Just stick at it and keep on trying. It’s also important to work on building up a social media following – potential publishers will want to know that you have a potential readership before they invest time and resources to release your work. Starting a blog site can be a good way to do that.

Please share your website and social media links.

You can find me at www.danecobain.com or follow me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/danecobainmusic) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/danecobain). 

Where can we find your book?

It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats from most major online retailers, including Amazon. Here are the links to Former.ly:

UK: www.danecobain.com/formerly

USA: www.danecobain.com/formerlyusa 

What’s next for you, Dane?

I’m keeping busy at the moment! Next up, I’m planning to release a horror novella and screenplay called Come On Up to the House, followed by an anthology I’m working on with 21 authors, called Subject Verb Object’. I’m also currently 25,000 words into the first draft of a detective novel, called ‘Driven’.

You certainly are keeping busy! Thanks for a super interview, Dane. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you and your books. I wish you all the best in your writing life.

ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA:

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, and her passport and camera are always ready. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

 

Author Interview: Jennifer J. Chow

 

Welcome to the Author Interview series at The Writing Life blog.

Each Tuesday, I am excited to share my talented author friends with readers. We have a a great line up of fabulous authors scheduled until June 2017. Please do check back in and meet a new author next week.

Today, I am very pleased to welcome Jennifer J. Chow, a multi award winning author, who writes multicultural fiction with intergenerational drama.

Jennifer’s short fiction has most recently appeared in Hyphen Magazine and Yay! LA Magazine. Her Asian-American novels include Dragonfly Dreams, The 228 Legacy, and Seniors Sleuth. Jennifer lives in Los Angeles, California. Visit her author website: www.jenniferjchow.com

 The 228 Legacy
-Honorable Mention, 2015 San Francisco Book Festival
-Finalist, 2013 Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award
Seniors Sleuth
-Finalist, 2015 CLUE Award
            -Runner-Up, 2015 Beach Book Festival

 

Welcome to The Writing Life, Jennifer.

jenniferjchow

What is your book’s genre/category?

Young adult paranormal

jennifer-chow-dd-front-cover-png

Please describe what Dragonfly Dreams is about.

It’s 1880 in Fresno, California when 17-year-old Topaz Woo dies after giving birth. She can get an extension in a non-physical body—if she uses The Ten Commandments to influence her newborn. Over the course of ten years, she finds herself stymied in parenting by intergenerational drama and spiritual battle. Will she adjust to an otherworldly existence and give her daughter a solid foundation? Or will she become mired in family disputes and forfeit her soul to evil?

Very interesting and unique synopsis. How did you come up with the title?

There’s a myth that dragonflies live only 24 hours. Dragonfly Dreams signifies pursuing your dreams to the utmost in a short amount of time—as Topaz does.

What inspired you to write Dragonfly Dreams?

I wanted to couple a love letter to my hometown with a classic good-versus-evil spiritual battle.

 

Does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

I’m also a mom like Topaz, so I have a deep maternal love. Unlike her, though, I’m not so uncertain about my identity.

Jennifer, what is your favorite part of writing?

Creating new worlds, having stories arise from the blank page.

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Making my vision shine on the page. A billion thoughts float around in my head, but pinning them down and conveying them clearly to the reader is still difficult.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

The Rose Society by Marie Lu. I really like the concept behind the making of a villain, the bond of sisterhood, and the imaginative setting. At the same time, though, the book is a bit unsettling and gets quite dark. 

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Jean Kwok: for down-to-earth Asian American characters you can root for, whether in the confines of a sweatshop or the expanse of a ballroom.

Markus Zusak: I think he’s got a great way of spinning words together and helping young people find meaning in their lives. Plus, he’s a genuinely nice guy.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

Mrs. Okada, my sixth-grade teacher, really nourished my love of writing by first exposing me to different types of poetry (haiku, tanka, diamante, etc.). She also poured out encouragement to me. 

Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

As a mom, I love writing in those squeezed-in times while waiting for a class to end, so that I have a hard deadline to motivate me.

For reading, I have this couch placed in a sunny spot in my home. It gets a lot of light (and bird songs in the morning), and it makes me happy to relax there.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I used to be part of the drama club in high school. Even though I’m an introvert by nature (as many writers are), I actually liked the excitement of acting.

Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?


Authors form an amazing tribe. Even though we write in solitude, the network of writers is strong, and people in the field are very supportive of one another.

The publishing process requires a lot of patience. When you think you’ve waited long enough, wait some more.

What do you hope readers will gain from Dragonfly Dreams?

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Deeper insight into a spiritual realm that exists beyond the surface, and the idea that one person in a family can really influence the bond between relatives.

Those ideas appeal to me as a writer and as a reader. Looking back, Jennifer, what did you do right that helped you write and market Dragonfly Dreams?

It was great having a solid team behind me (editor, cover designer, book manager, etc.).

What didn’t work as well with this book?

Being able to locate my niche audience, to connect with them so they know about the book.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?


First, write. Then research ways to get your work published. There are so many options to getting your foot in the door nowadays: literary magazines, e-zines, self-pubbing, independent presses, literary agents, and The Big Five. Choose the path that fits your personality—or pursue a blend.

Great advice. Website and social media links?
www.jenniferjchow.com

https://www.facebook.com/JenJChow

https://www.instagram.com/jenjchow/

https://twitter.com/JenJChow

 

Where can we find Dragonfly Dreams?


https://www.amazon.com/Dragonfly-Dreams-Jennifer-Chow-ebook/dp/B01GFJ89BQ

What’s next for you, Jennifer?


I’m submitting another YA novel (but it’s set in the future instead of the past) while editing a multicultural, intergenerational contemporary mystery set near Los Angeles.

Thank you for a wonderful interview, Jennifer. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better. I wish you the best with your books and your writing life!

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention in Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the award-winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is a writer, artist, and photographer, who is never without a pen and a notebook, her passport and a camera. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book, A DECENT WOMAN: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

new-book-cover-a-decent-woman-june-2016

Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com

 

 

 

Author Interview: C. P. Lesley

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview series at The Writing Life. We have a wonderful line up of talented authors into May 2017, so please check back in next week.

Today I’m very pleased to welcome C. P. Lesley, a historian who has published six novels. Her Legends of the Five Directions series, set in Russia during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible, so far includes The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, and The Swan Princess.

C. P. also hosts New Books in Historical Fiction, a channel in the New Books Network.  http://newbooksnetwork.com

Welcome to The Writing Life.

carolyn-pouncy

 

What is your book’s genre/category?

Historical fiction, with elements of romance and adventure.

Please describe for our readers what The Swan Princess is about.

The Swan Princess is no. 3 (North) in Legends of the Five Directions, a series set in the 1530s featuring a Tatar princess, Nasan, who marries a Russian nobleman. In this book Nasan, whose ambition in life is to imitate the warrior heroines of old, feels abandoned by her husband, who has gone off to war and never writes, as well as suffocated in the rigid household run by her mother-in-law, Natalya. When Natalya decides to undertake a long pilgrimage for her health, Nasan sees a path to regaining the life she loves, but she soon runs afoul of an old enemy determined to avenge what he perceives as unjust treatment from her and her husband. Fortunately for all concerned, she has more skills to draw on than the domestic knowledge her mother-in-law considers the only acceptable pursuit for women.

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I’m currently reading and very much enjoying The Swan Princess.  How did you come up with the title?

Well, as has happened throughout this series, the title came to me before I knew what the image meant for my story. I had to hunt down legends about swan maidens and swan wives before I could figure out what my subconscious was trying to tell me. I discovered that such legends are widespread throughout the world, including in the Tatar lands. One version, familiar in the West, appears in the ballet Swan Lake, but most often the story involves a young woman who has been captured and forced into domesticity until she can reclaim her wings, which her captor has hidden from her, and fly away. That urge for freedom drives Nasan’s character development here. But swans also symbolize marital fidelity, and the loss and recovery of her relationship with her husband are also an important theme in the novel.

What inspired you to write the Legends of the Five Directions series?

The series came about because I have spent four decades studying this fascinating place and time: Russia between the Mongol invasion (1237-40) and the reign of Peter the Great (1689-1725). I wanted to share it with people in an accessible way, and fiction seemed like the ideal means to do that. In particular, I love to explore the many different ways that women adapt and grow in societies that restrict their choices and have low expectations of their abilities—historically, most societies. Every one of the women featured in this series, from Nasan, the descendant of Genghis Khan, to Grusha the slave girl, has to address and solve the question of where she fits in the larger world; each one responds in her own unique way.

What is your favorite part of writing?

I love every part of writing except the final proofreading. Because I tend to start with sketches and fill them in as I go, I’d say that my absolute favorite part is the second stage, when I can see the broad lines of the story but still have lots of room for creativity and invention. But I find even the revision and pruning stages satisfying in their own way. 

C. P., does your main character resemble you? If so, in what ways?

Well, psychologically, all my characters—even the antagonists—must represent some part of me, right? I just don’t always want to admit it! Nasan is braver than I am and does things I’d never think of, like impulsively going after men-at-arms with her sword. Her emotions lie on the surface, whereas mine tend, in good Scots style, to remain hidden. She is like me in terms of having a practical approach to life, and she loves to read, which I do, too. But I have worked to make her different from me, unlike some of my earlier heroines (Nina in The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel; Sasha in Desert Flower and Kingdom of the Shades). By the way, it’s easier, in my view, to write a character less like the author; it gives me some much-needed distance to appreciate both her virtues and her flaws.

clp-multibook-image

 

What do you find is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Character development always gives me fits. My brain goes to plot first, and so left to my own devices I would shove my poor characters into situations without considering how they feel or even why they would act that way. Fortunately, my critique group (Ariadne Apostolou and Courtney J. Hall) exerts steady pressure until I stop contorting the characters and focus on who they are and what they need to learn.

What was the last book you read? What did you think of it?

Martha Conway’s Sugarland, a mystery set in semi-segregated Jazz Age Chicago. I read it for New Books in Historical Fiction, http://newbooksnetwork.com/category/historical-fiction/ a podcast channel that I host for the New Books Network, and I really enjoyed it. It has a nice twisty plot and believable, not always admirable characters, as well as a fast pace, good writing, and great historical detail.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That would be a long list, but the ones I always come back to include Agatha Christie, Laurie R. King, Elizabeth Peters, Dorothy L. Sayers, and for real literary comfort food, Georgette Heyer. No one since Jane Austen has managed to nail a character in a line and a half the way Heyer could.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you as a writer and why?

I enjoy reading books on the craft of writing. Particular favorites include John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story, Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story, Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, and Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make a Scene. So those authors have all influenced me. But my critique group, which has now expanded to include the writers of Five Directions Press, http://www.fivedirectionspress.com are the ones who help me figure out how to apply the advice to my own work.

That’s a great list, thanks. Do you have a favorite place to write? To read?

I write at my computer, which is in my office. Reading, though, is an activity for the couch and evenings, unless it’s research—then that, too, takes place in my office and during the day.

Tell us something personal about you people may be surprised to know?

I took twenty-five years of classical ballet class—with teenagers, no less—starting at thirty-six, when most ballet dancers start thinking about retirement. That’s where my two nonhistorical novels, Desert Flower and Kingdom of the Shades, come from. They star a ballerina and were great fun to write.

Good for you for following your passion! Did the writing process uncover surprises or learning experiences for you? What about the publishing process?

My characters surprise me constantly. No matter how much plotting and outlining I do, they get on the page and act like they have minds of their own. I’d heard other people say that, but experiencing it amazes me, even now. And the research, which I love, produces wonderful story twists and possibilities that I might never have considered on my own. As for publishing, the climate has changed so fast in so short a time, I don’t think I—or anyone—could have predicted what it would like today or will look like five years from now. 

True words about characters and the publishing business. What do you hope readers will gain from your book?

To appreciate the resilience of the human spirit. It’s easy to think of women, especially, in the past as being downtrodden victims or ignorant housewives, but that ignores the influence of social standing and wealth as well as individual creativity. Some of my characters—Natalya, Nasan’s mother, Nasan’s sister-in-law Firuza—thrive in their traditional world. Others—like Nasan and, in a different way, Grusha—fight to align society’s expectations with their need to stay true to themselves. Maria, my current heroine, conforms outwardly but suffers inside and takes out her unhappiness on those around her. She would excel in the modern world but needs a huge push to get herself moving where she is. This complexity seems more real to me than sticking everyone into a single box.

I’d also love to push people’s understanding and knowledge about Russia beyond Vladimir Putin’s latest stunt or even the Cold War. It’s a thousand-year-old country with a rich and varied history that is tailormade for fiction and film; it deserves to be seen as more than an enemy state or a foe of democracy and capitalism.

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Looking back, what did you do right that helped you write and market The Swan Princess?

I wrote what I love, without worrying about whether it would sell, and took good advice everywhere I could find it. I agreed with my writers’ group to set up our own publishing cooperative. That was an even bigger learning experience than the writing, and we’re only now starting to figure out what works and what doesn’t, but it’s been an amazing journey over the last four years. I started a blog, which I update every Friday, and dipped my toe into social media. And I accepted the position as host of New Books in Historical Fiction, which has given me a platform, as well as introducing me to writers both famous and not so famous.

What didn’t work?

I don’t think anything has really failed, but marketing is still a work in progress for both me and the coop. I probably need to do a lot more with social media than I do, for example, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Any advice or tips for writers looking to get published?

Revise, revise, revise. Find people you can trust, whose writing you respect, and work with them. Don’t assume that your first draft will be your last, because first drafts are hardly ever publishable, even when experienced writers produce them (experienced writers know this, unlike beginners). And if you decide to self-publish, which is very easy nowadays, do yourself a favor and hire a copy editor who understands the requirements of fiction, a typesetter who knows what goes into producing a physical book, and a professional cover designer. Nothing will sink your book faster than an amateurish cover and a book riddled with typographical and grammatical errors. The only exception to that last is where a character uses nonstandard speech as evidence of his or her background and educational level, and even then, you need to be careful not to slip into dialect. 

Great advice. Website and social media links?

http://www.cplesley.com

http://blog.cplesley.com

https://www.facebook.com/cplesley.authorpage

https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/103313436359988009047/+CPLesleyAuthor/posts

https://www.twitter.com/cplesley

https://www.pinterest.com/cplesley/  (where I have boards for each of my books)

Where can we find your books?

All my books are on Amazon.com. The Golden Lynx and The Not Exactly Scarlet Pimpernel are also available as e-books at Barnes and Noble and to libraries via Biblioboard http://self-e.libraryjournal.com. The best way to find any of my books is to go to http://www.fivedirectionspress.com/books and click on a cover picture. A page will open with purchase links, a description, endorsements, and excerpts for that book. The page for The Swan Princess is http://www.fivedirectionspress.com/the-swan-princess

What’s next for you?

The Vermilion Bird (Legends 4: South). I have four chapters and a prologue in reasonable shape, plus goal/motivation/conflict charts and a vaguely defined plot. Now I need to figure out how to put the two halves—plot and character—together into a functioning story.

Thanks very much for your visit, C. P.  It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I wish you the best with the publishing coop, the podcast, and on your writing journey.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia

ellie

Eleanor Parker Sapia is the Puerto Rican-born author of the award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Scarlet River Press. Her debut novel, which garnered an Honorable Mention in Historical Fiction, English at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, was Book of the Month with Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015. Eleanor is proud to be featured in the award-winning anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani. Well-traveled Eleanor is a writer, artist, photographer, and blogger who is never without a pen and a notebook, her passport, and a camera. Her awesome adult children are out in the world doing amazing things. Eleanor currently lives and writes in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Eleanor’s book: http://amzn.to/1X0qFvK

Please visit Eleanor at her website: http://www.eleanorparkersapia.com