The Fountain

The Fountain

We’ve all heard the joke about the guy who wished for “a million bucks” and awakened the next morning to the sight of a squillion deer grazing on his front lawn. As someone who happily wished her own husband into existence at the magic pool in Bath in 1994, I’m a firm believer in the idea the granters of wishes are a pretty literal bunch; if you don’t frame your desire accurately and precisely, any smidge of ambiguity will be seized upon with gusto. It also goes without saying that teenagers—such as those who populate Suzy Vadori’s debut YA novel, The Fountain—aren’t likely to think through all the ramifications of a wish made hastily in the heat of anger, frustration or disappointment.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Once upon a long ago time, young adults (previously known as teenagers) could be found with their noses stuck in Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries, The Hobbit, Phyllis A. Whitney and Mary Stewart. Today they’re more likely to be immersed in the darker fare of vampires, zombies and dystopian societies. What’s your personal take on this shift in themes and will the pendulum ever swing back?

A: Well, there’s a huge gap in reading level between books like Nancy Drew and The Hobbit – and I read both as a youth. This gap leaves young readers in the lurch that are looking for reading that challenges their intellect, yet has age-appropriate content.

I think what the Young Adult (YA) books of the past ten years have done is introduced a whole new set of adult-sized challenges to teens in a way that they can relate to more easily than stories of the past. Today’s YA is written from a teen’s point of view, and allows readers to experience a broad range of emotions that they may or may not have already experienced in their short lives.

The YA genre is definitely here to stay, though I don’t think the theme of the novels is important and will change with the tides of teen whims. Vampires, zombies, dystopian, mermaids and trolls… the characters and settings will change to keep it fresh.

Today’s teens expect more sophistication than the formulaic stories that Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys afford, but they might not be ready for the beauty of The Hobbit’s prose.

Whatever the subject of today’s YA books, there are certain things present that appeal to teens. And what’s really cool is that a YA novel done well appeals to all ages. These are elements that we all find intriguing.

  • Pace: The pace of today’s YA never lets up. While this may say something about today’s teens and their attention spans, I think it’s exciting that the written word has found a way to compete with, and even mimic the other media that teens have available to them now.
  • Challenge: This is something that both Nancy Drew and The Hobbit got right. Teens need to face adult challenges to capture the imagination of youths, and help them explore challenges beyond their years in a safe setting.
  • Emotion: Books are a safe place to explore new emotions and consequences. This is what drives much of my writing. If you come away feeling something, I’ve succeeded.

Q: What attracted you to writing for the YA market and how does it differ from writing for adults?

A: I’ve been starting novels since I was around 10, and I always wanted to finish one. But writing isn’t just about the process for me. I wanted to write something that would get read – something that would affect people.

I wrote many outlines over the years. But everything I came up with that I thought people would want to read was either drawing on something way too personal, or was a little too racy to fit with my persona as an executive (my day job) and more importantly, my role as a mom.

It wasn’t until YA emerged as a genre on its own that I became inspired to finally pursue writing in a serious way. Young Adult books explore raw emotion at the root of how it’s experienced – in ‘firsts’. First love, first loss, first time for taking major risks. These themes will never go out of fashion, regardless of the setting.

Q: When you were the age of your target readership, what did you want to pursue as a career?

A: My dad offered to buy me the car of my choice if I became a doctor. I found out that orthodontists didn’t need to do residency, so I negotiated the same deal for that, to which he agreed. I’ve always needed a lot of sleep – I knew that I wouldn’t survive working night shifts in a hospital residency.

Later, I found out I could enter the business world with only a 4 year university degree, and that’s what I did, hitting the ground running when I graduated at 21. Even when I could afford the fancy car, I never bought it.

I never looked back, but I continued to write as a hobby. When I took maternity leave with my third child, I finally realized I had the time to make my dream a reality. The Fountain Series was born.

Q: Who or what had the most influence on the choices you made as you segued into adulthood?

A: Am I an adult yet? I suppose I am. There have been many influences in my life, so it’s hard to pick just one. I think the fact that I moved a lot as a kid was the biggest influence. I was often the new kid, and had to make my way in new situations. I know that it shaped me into who I am, and made me ready to face any challenge. It was fun to channel some of that experience into Ava in The Fountain. Ava is the new kid at St. Augustus and has to make new friends and new ways… which makes her vulnerable in ways I think all teens can relate to.

Q: Tell us the inspiration behind The Fountain.

A: The setting for The Fountain was defined when I was a tween. I’d always wanted to write a boarding school novel. I just love the parent-less setting, with dorms and kids being able to sneak around at night unsupervised (disclaimer: I never went to boarding school, but this is the magical setting I’ve always imagined)

The story for The Fountain invaded my imagination when I became a mom. I love my children more than I ever thought was possible, but parenting today is interesting, to say the least. We are raising a generation that has been given every privilege that we parents can afford.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d give anything I could to my kids, but I started to wonder whether that was smart. We think we’re doing the right thing, but are we? What kind of lesson is it to get what we want without having to work for it? And The Fountain was born. A well-intentioned school founder leaves behind a legacy of a fountain that grants students the desire that they wish the most. The Fountain has unlimited power, and has the power to alter anything. What would a world that is designed to help the students actually look like, and what are the consequences?

Q: Do you ever make wishes yourself by tossing a coin into a well or a pool? If so, what’s your best tip for “smart” wishing?

A: Of course. General ones, anyway – ones for well-being of those I love. I’d rather work for the harder things in life than have them happen overnight.

Q: What governed your choice to develop this book as a series versus a stand-alone title?

A: The series format is very popular in Young Adult. No sooner had I released The Fountain than readers were asking for the next installment. I can’t wait to give them more in this world with The West Woods.

Q: Congratulations on The Fountain being nominated for an Aurora Award in 2016. How did this come about and what was your reaction when you received the news?

A: I was actually travelling in China on business when it was announced that The Fountain had been short listed for Best Young Adult Novel with the Prix Auroras. I found out in the wee hours of the morning, and raced outside to the foggy streets to take a selfie with a copy of The Fountain to share with the world. I was amazed that The Fountain got such terrific support from the amazing readers and writers who form the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association – most of whom aren’t in my demographic, but loved it nonetheless. It was an honor to be shortlisted by such a prestigious group. I hope they love The West Woods just as much.

Q: You teach at schools about themes of friendship, rivalry and love. What is the intersection of these timeless topics with the plot of The Fountain?

A:  Oooo, it’s my favorite to talk about these things. Teens can sometimes experience all three in a short period of time with the same person, and that can be… well, confusing.  Part of what I love most about writing is making readers feel something. And I know I’ve done it right when I get feedback from readers.

I love going to classrooms and teaching kids how to apply the feelings that they experience every day to their stories. Teachers are always amazed at what the kids are able to share through their writing during a session.

Rivalry is the most misunderstood of the three themes, and I think the ones that youth struggle with the most. Some in the book industry will dismiss this as “mean girl” stories, but it’s so much more than that. The story is never about what happens to the characters – it’s about how the characters react to their situation and grow as a result. Resilience is an important theme in many young adult books, and mine are no exception. I love teaching about it because every single class I teach is completely different.

Q: Book 2—The West Woods—will be coming out in September (2017). How and where does it take the students of St. Augustus?

A: The number one question I got from readers of The Fountain was, what is with Courtney? (She’s the girl who makes life impossible for Ava and gets wished away.) And she’s truly awful. But… there’s a really good reason that she was the way she appeared – a magical reason – shaped by her own encounter with the fountain at St. Augustus.

So, I was compelled to write The West Woods – which takes place the year before The Fountain, and is Courtney’s story about how she went from being a regular girl to being, well… the terrible friend readers meet in The Fountain.

It was really fun to vindicate Courtney in The West Woods, presenting a side that readers didn’t get to see of her. With Courtney as the protagonist, it’s easy to see how she made the choices she made when she met Ava.

Of course, it’s also full of the mystery and romance that are the hallmarks of The Fountain Series.

Q: Is it imperative that readers read your books chronologically or is there enough in Book 2 for them to understand the characters and dynamics from Book 1?

A: Both books were written so that they could be read as stand-alone books, and because Book 2 is a prequel, they really could be read in either order. However, Book 3 will pick up where Ava and Ethan left off in Book 1, and bring the whole series together, so it will make more sense if it’s read last.

Q: There’s no question that the publishing industry—like any other industry—has changed to accommodate a fluctuating economy. What has it been like for you to work with a small press?

A: Working with Evil Alter Ego Press has been the best decision I’ve made. Because they are small, they’ve treated The Fountain Series as if it were their own. My editor (based in New York), has challenged me and made the series better than I could have ever done on my own. Because the press is small and growing, I get to be involved in adapting and shaping the press to the changing publishing environment. I also get the chance to use my business and marketing knowledge to full advantage. In a world where self-publish and traditional publishing are changing daily, working with a small press has been a really great experience and I am grateful that they believed in my vision for the series.

Q: What are you doing to market/promote your work, and which strategies have been the most effective for you?

A: Being out in my community has gained so much traction for The Fountain Series. It’s fun, too. I’ve had an amazing 18 months meeting new readers at conferences, young writer’s events, schools and signings. I am so thankful for all the readers who love The Fountain and are waiting for The West Woods to come out.

As The Fountain Series grows, we’re focusing more on growing online reach, in addition to continuing to be active in my community. The response from book bloggers to the series has been really positive, and they are excited to help spread the word about the upcoming launch of The West Woods. I am truly grateful for the work that bloggers and reviewers do. Thank you all so much.

Q: There’s suddenly a knock on the door from Hollywood. Would The Fountain lend itself to a movie or a television series?

A: The Fountain Series would make a terrific movie or TV series and I’m actively looking for a home for it.

The layers of St. Augustus’ magic and the generations of students who have used it to change the world around them provides endless material for an ongoing series. I look forward to see where this leads.

Q: Authors often “cast” their characters in their heads while they’re writing so they can picture them moving through the various scenes. Was this the case with you?

A: Each of my characters is such a blend of complex layers, they’d be impossible to cast to just one person. It definitely keeps me on my toes to keep track of everything that makes them up, but that’s part of the fun.

Q: As an executive, mother of three and a writer, how do you make the time for your craft?

A: I couldn’t do it without the support of my incredible husband and wonderful kids who have all made sacrifices to help me find the time I need to make this dream a reality. I mostly write evenings and early weekend mornings. I carry the stories around in my head while I go about my day to day, so that when I do get those moments to write, everything is fully formed and the words come quickly.

Q: Planner or pantser?

A: Quilter! I start with an outline, but then write in sections as they come to me, and depending on my mood – not necessarily together. Then I take the sections and quilt them back together, creating a wonderful mess that eventually sorts itself into a complex mystery. The operations professional in me knows that this isn’t efficient, but I’m always happy with the result.

Q: You also travel a lot for business and for leisure. How does travel impact your writing and your perspective?

A:  Writing fantasy is centered on building believable worlds. Exploring different countries gives me lots of ideas and inspiration that I draw on. I try to take note whenever I visit somewhere new about the kinds of things I notice first. Are the traffic lights different? Are there people around, or are the streets empty? What sounds are different from North America. Those are things I add to a character’s first experiences somewhere new.

Q: Any new trips on the horizon?

A: We’ve been talking about taking our kids to Europe. They all speak French as well as English, so they’ve been bugging us to take them to France.

Q: Dream destination on your “wish list?”

A: Africa.

Q: You’re on the board for When Words Collide—a festival for readers and writers. What do you think the role of conventions and festivals have for authors and aspiring authors?

A: Writing is largely a solitary profession, but the writing community plays a vital role in supporting and growing writers careers. The publishing industry is changing daily, and collectively, writers who share information and work together to stay ahead of the curve are the ones who are going to make it.

I am so grateful to all the writers I’ve met and everything they’ve shared with me about their own experiences and careers have helped me immeasurably with building my readership. Giving back to the author community in any way I can is an absolute pleasure for me. I particularly love helping new writers get started.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: I think readers would be surprised to know that I love math. I’m an Operations professional in my day job, and while that is very different from writing, my love of math and puzzles helps build tricky, layered mystery within my books.

Q: Oldest, weirdest or most nostalgic thing in your closet?

A: Fuzzy onesie pajamas. Great for when it gets down to -40 degrees Celsius here in Canada, but otherwise way too hot.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: I’m the only Suzy Vadori on the interweb, so Google away to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know.

Website: https://suzyvadori.wordpress.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/suzyvadori/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/suzyvadoriauthor/

Twitter: @vadoris

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27426598-the-fountain?from_search=true

Book Links:

Amazon.com https://www.amazon.com/Fountain-Suzy-Vadori/dp/0994726643/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1497887586&sr=8-1&keywords=vadori

B&N https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-fountain-suzy-vadori/1123014750?ean=9780994726643

iBooks https://itun.es/ca/UWor_.l

kobo https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/the-fountain-13

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/594225

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I love hearing from readers, so feel free to drop me a line.

 

 

 

 

A Chat with Sandra Hurst

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One of the ironies of childhood is that our first introduction to reading often comes in the form of fairy tales and myths in which magic, mysticism, fantastical creatures and mysterious realms appear with such frequency as to seem entirely plausible to impressionable young minds. Once we cross the threshold of adolescence, though, there’s no shortage of messaging from parentals and teachers that these make-believe worlds need to be summarily shelved in order to make room for the pursuit of fact-based realities.

Unless, of course, you were born with the imagination of a writer like Sandra Hurst and embrace the elements of YA fantasy—and infinite possibility—with full-fledged gusto. We’re delighted to welcome her to share insights on her new release, Y’Keta.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: Given your childhood years in England and then Canada, would you say that you chose the genre of fantasy or that it, in fact, chose you?

A: What a good question, I’ve never really thought about it. I think I’d have to say that the fantasy genre is something I was drawn to, rather than something I chose because of my surroundings, since my brothers, who grew up in the same environment, have extremely logical minds and aren’t at all prone to what they call ‘fantastical fiction.’

Q: What are some of the favorite titles and authors we might have found on the nightstand of a very young Sandra Hurst?

A: Before Junior High, if you caught me reading at night, which my parents often did, I think that you would have found me huddled under the blankets with The Wind in the Willows, The House on Pooh Corner, or The Sword in the Stone.

Q: How about as a young adult (coincidentally, one of your chosen age groups for the Sky Road fantasy series)?

A: As a young adult, I read anything and everything, I still do. Some of the favourites that I remember from back then are The Mahogany Trinrose (Jacqueline Lichtenberg), Lord of the Rings, (J.R.R. Tolkein), and the Darkover series (Marion Zimmer Bradley).

Q: Like a lot of middle school students, you began your classroom writing career with poetry. How would you define that early style and what were some of the topics you liked to write about?

A: My first poems had lots of ‘Moon and June’ type rhyming patterns. The oldest one that I can remember was about snow coming down like a blanket on the town. Birthdays were always a big poem opportunity for me, I wrote poems in every birthday card!

Q: Is your passion for poetry still as vibrant as ever?

A: Poetry will always be important to me, it’s part of finding my creative space as a writer. There is a chapbook of my poetry in the works, although for right now, the prose has centre stage.

Q: What does writing verse teach you about writing books?

A: I think that poetry teaches prose writers to understand the rhythm and flow of language. One thing that I’ve learned from poetry and applied to my writing is to always read through my draft out loud. If I’m reading through a paragraph and consistently trip at the same place, I know that the rhythm there is off and I need to see if more explanation is needed for that thought, or if I’m overcomplicating the sentence.

Q: What was the inspiration behind Y’Keta?

A: The central question in Y’keta is about identity. Is Y’keta willing to give up his identity to please his father? Is he willing to risk being honest about himself, even though he may lose everything he has grown to love.

The inspiration for this came out of two unconnected events about four years ago, the first was a casual comment made by a relative on the reactions she dealt with when she came out as LGBTQ in the early 80s, the other was a long night sitting beside a campfire in Grande Cache, Alberta watching the Northern Lights dance over the horizon.

Q: One of the things that always fascinates me about fantasy novels and stories set in alternative realms/universes is how their authors come up with the unusual names for their characters, objects and settings. Can you let us in on your own approach to the name game?

A: The language I used for the People borrows liberally from several modern native languages which I have ‘aged’ in different directions to suit the Sky Road.  While I wanted to keep the feel of the original tongues, I tried to avoid having words that were too exact and would tie the story down to one tribe over another. So, for example, the Nehewak (Cree) word for Thunderbird (kitowak) becomes my race the Waki’tani and the Tlingit word for pig becomes a rude nickname that Siann calls her greedy little brother.

Q: What sort of myths are incorporated in the Y’Keta storyline?

A: Y’keta is based on several Indigenous myths from the Cree, Haida Gwaii, and Pacific Northwest areas. Each of these groups have legends about a people called by various names but all adding up to the Thunderbirds. It’s interesting to note that even now, the Nehewak don’t have a word for thunder. They say kâh-kitowak, “the Thunderbird’s call”. I’ve also incorporated parts of a several legends from the southern US to create my bad guys, the Utlaak, these legends feature scaly or serpentine bad guys who come from an underground world.

Q: Which scene was the easiest for you to write?

A: I think the easiest scene in Y’keta was the first one. The characters’ voices were so clear and I could visualize the ceremony where they all became a part of the village and started interacting with each other. The first draft, 15-20 pages, was written all in one shot in the course of an evening, while listening to Loon Echo Lake, on my headphones.

Q: And the hardest?

A: I hate killing people! The scene where one of my main characters is murdered in an Utlaak raid shattered me. I wrote it with tears pouring down my face, then re-wrote it, and re-wrote it, until I felt the hurt as much on the paper as it did inside me.

Q: On Amazon, the title is listed as Volume 1. How many volumes do you have in mind?

A: The Sky Road is planned as a trilogy.

In Book One, Y’keta, A young exile, searches for a place to belong, only to find his new home threatened by secrets from his past. If Y’keta reveals what he knows to the villagers, it will tear their history and traditions apart…but sharing his secrets may be their only hope for survival when the Village comes under attack.

Book two is at the necklace stage, that is the point in my writing process when I have ‘pearls’ written, but desperately need the thread of the story to tie them together. It will focus on the continuing war with the Utlaak and Y’keta’s unsettled relationship with his father.

In book three Siann struggles to accept the power that the Lightning Stones have given her. Power is not always a good thing, and she has some hard choices to make about using or abusing it.

Q: What governed your choice to develop a series versus a stand-alone title?

A: I don’t ever remember thinking ‘Hey! I’ll make a trilogy!’ The storyline just grew into one. I think it’s all D’vhan’s fault, he’s one of the lead male characters. He refused to stay in the background, and before I knew it I had an uprising of characters whose stories deserved to be told.

Q: More and more authors are seeking to control their intellectual property by going the self-publishing route. What have you learned about the challenges of this choice that you didn’t know before you started?

A: What didn’t I know? Is everything a fair answer? My decision to self publish was driven more by a need to put a physical copy of the book in my dad’s hands for his 90th birthday. I think that the learning curve for either type of publishing is terribly steep for someone like me, who knew nothing about the industry. Traditional publishing takes time, patience and a degree of luck to hit the right agent at the right time. Independent publishing takes all of that plus a substantial cash investment in editors, cover artists, printers etc. Social media is also crucial to an indie author, as word of mouth is often the only marketing tool we have access to.

Q: When and where do you feel you are at your most creative?

A: I’m most creative at night, when the whirlwind I call a mind has quieted down for the day. I put some music on and let my world go and step into Y’keta’s world. My family learned early that ‘I’ll be there soon’ really meant “I’ll see you in the morning.” At least 75 percent of the book was written between midnight and 5am. Other great creative places for me are restaurants like Denny’s, or Tim Horton’s. I often go to grab a coffee, plug in my tablet, hide behind my earphones and just blend into the crowds.

Q: Conversely, when does it feel the most challenging or frustrating to work at your craft?

A: Handling my own nature is the hardest part of writing for me. I tend to be very distractible and moderately obsessive. There is always that one more piece of research, a new book to read, and, Oh Look! I got a Facebook mention. My mind will bounce to anything new and shiny and sometimes when it lands on a topic I find it hard to let go and get back to the writing. There is a definite benefit to this type of mind though, once I start writing and the scenes are flying, I will keep going until someone pulls me out.

Q: Best personal cure for writer’s block?

A: I like to shake things up when I’m in a slump or struggling for ideas. I will sometimes take a side character and re-write a scene from their point of view. It helps me see with new eyes and often gives me the next question that I need to ask or the next move I need to make. Another good trick is to pick the one thing that my character would really hate to have happen, and make it so.  Are they afraid of water? Then maybe the boat sinks.

Q: Tell us a little about your family and whether they’re allowed sneak peeks at your work or have to wait like the rest of us until it’s all finished?

A: I live in Calgary, Alberta with my husband and son, both of whom I love dearly, and have put up for sale on e-bay when their behaviour demanded it.  My day to day life is a balance between my outside life as a paralegal counsellor and my inner life as an author/poet. I do try out scenarios and words on my family now and again, especially on my son, who is around the target audience for my books.

Q: What do you do when you’re not writing (i.e., day-job, hobbies, travel)?

A: When I’m not writing or doing double duty as a wife/mother, you can find me working as a paralegal in Calgary. On off days, or holidays we spend a lot of time out in the mountains camping, canoeing and just listening to the quiet. I also enjoy time with the other amazing writers in the Calgary and love going to the write-ins and open mic. events.

Q: What’s something quirky/unique/unusual about you that readers would be the most surprised to know?

A: Ooh, you really want to go there? I think that answer would depend on who you talk to. My son would cringe and point to ‘opera nights,’ evenings when I don’t speak and insist on singing my answers to any questions.  My husband might point to my fits of insomnia and my late-night Facebook addiction. But really! You meet the best people online at 3am.

If there is one thing I would say was unique or quirky about me it would be my breadth of interests, I’m a bit of a Hermione, a collector of odd facts and knowledge about anything from the Kaiju culture of manga Japan, to Shakespeare, to Opera, or the band Nightwish. There isnt much that I won’t listen to, read, learn about and find value in.

Q: Who is your hero and why?

A:I think the common thread in all my heroes, whether real or literary, is that they had the opportunity to quit, every reason to say I’m too old, too tired, it’s just easier to let it be someone else’s problem. This kind of hero, unwilling, often flawed, yet willing to step up, gets me every time. These heroes all have one thing in common. They are people very much like I am, broken and damaged people just trying to do their best with the time they are given.

As far as literary heroes, I love the authors who can make words dance and sentences mean things. This has led me to authors like Guy Gavriel Kay, and Don Dellilo. I would give my left ovary (not so dramatic a thing since at 54 those parts are hardly crucial) to sit down with either of these gentlemen, or even better their writing notes, for an afternoon.

Q: Who’s your favorite character in a book (other than your own)?

A: There is no fair way to give one answer to that question, but one of my favourites is Richard Lamb, from M.K. Wrenn’s sci-fi series The Phoenix Legacy. He is a young intellectual working to prevent the oncoming dark age.

Q: Have your own characters ever surprised you?

A: Constantly! No matter how well I think I know the characters, when I put two or three of them together the dynamics always amaze me.

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Next up for me is When Words Collide in Calgary in mid August, then finishing up a romance novella which will be coming out in 2018, then back to Book 2 of the Sky Road.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A:  You can find more about me, or follow me on social meda at all of the links here:

Website:         www.delusionsofliteracy.com

Facebook – @SandraHurst.Author

Twitter –  @_SandraHurst Website:

Amazon Link:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9V4M8C

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: Christina, Thank you so much for letting me talk to your readers and introducing them to the Sky Road. I’m really enjoying Y’keta’s journey through this ancient land and look forward to meeting your readers as they walk the Road with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chat With Adam Dreece

Adam steampunked - Forest

Best-selling, multi-published author of some very cutting edge YA, steampunk, and fantasy novels, Adam Dreece is out to do more than just entertain readers. His public speaking engagements span the gamut of everything from how to give a good book signing, to stepping outside your comfort zone, to how to deal with dyslexia—something Adam knows a thing or two about. Read on to learn more about this talented writer and his work.

Interviewer: Debbie A. McClure

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Q: What inspired you to hang up your software career and launch your indie author life, Adam?

A: My first two books were doing well and then my software contract ended as oil prices really started to take a dive. Living in Calgary, the heart of oil country in Canada, my phone didn’t ring with opportunities for the first time since the dot com bubble burst back in 1999. My wife, who was also a software architect but had been at home with our third kid, started looking for a job as well. As soon as she locked in a good contract, she turned to me and said she wanted me to focus on my books because they were achieving good momentum. We both knew that financially things could shift at any moment, requiring me to get a job as well. My author career was our start-up company and I wasn’t going to squander a second I had. Now I’ve got my 8th and 9th books coming out since I started in 2014.

Q: When you put out your first book, Along Came a Wolf, did you know this was going to be a series?

A: I wondered, I hoped, but I didn’t know. I’d never written a book before and I had no idea if anyone would like Along Came a Wolf, other than my daughter. I wondered if maybe the best thing to do would be to write something else completely. Then I started to get some ideas, and passionate feedback started to float in. Before I knew it, I was a third of the way through writing Breadcrumb Trail, the second book of The Yellow Hoods. That was when I knew this was going to be a series.

Q: How did you come up with the idea of fusing steampunk and fairy tales together?

A: When my first son (my middle child) was six months old, he was a really fussy sleeper. I’d walk around with him, as heavy as he was. One day, I started singing The Muffin Man to him. Because he would take a long time to fall asleep, I started adding to it. Every night since, and now with two sons, I sing The Muffin Man to them.

I started writing Along Came a Wolf when my daughter was nine and my elder son was two. I was inspired by the fairytale song Ring-Around-The-Rosie, and how that was a rhyme that spoke to the black plague (ignoring historical accuracy arguments for the keeners). Could I use the opposite idea for fairytales and nursery rhymes? Could I take the simple rhymes and stories we knew and create something substantial out of them, without making the books an official re-telling? Take Rub-a-dub-dub and deconstruct that to being about a secret society named the Tub, led of course by a butcher, baker, and a candlestick maker.

With the fairytale approach set, I really got into the story. Then I arrived at a fight scene where I had Tee, who was twelve, staring down the barrel of a full grown man. I needed her to win the fight, but I had a dilemma; how? Do I use magic? That felt like a cheat, and honestly I wanted to keep my distance from Harry Potter. Do I leave it as realistic? That would definitely be a hard sell. So then I mused about the idea of inventions, and thus steampunk became the vehicle of choice. I already had Nikolas Klaus, Tee’s grandfather, mentioned as a brilliant inventor in his twilight years, so I had an “in” I could use without reworking the story. It came out perfectly.

Q: Did you have the entire five book series planned out, or did that come about after the release of the first book?

A: As Book 2, Breadcrumb Trail, took shape, I saw how Book 3, 4 and possibly 5 would work. There was a story about change, power, and revolutionary times going on, and the main characters would be very much transformed by it. As I wrote book 4, I had an idea for books 6, 7, 8, and possibly up to 10, but it would be a different story arc and I wasn’t as convinced that those were needed. I’ll give a bit more detail on this a little later.

Q: When did you know where The Day the Sky Fell was going?

A: As soon as my editor sent it back to me. He he—no. When Book 2 ended, I knew the heart of what was going to happen at the end of the arc. It was during Book 4 that I saw I would definitely need one more book to finish the current story arc, but I wasn’t sure exactly where it was going to land.

I’d written the first four books of The Yellow Hoods in the span of two years, with a novelette in that world during that time as well (called Snappy and Dashing). I’d pushed myself so far, and carried the responsibility of being a stay-at-home dad for my three kids, resulting in a depression. I knew if I tried to tackle Book 5 (which didn’t have a confirmed title) I was just playing around with The Day the Sky Fell as a possible title. I knew at that point I’d never be happy with the way the story out if I stopped then. Over the next year everything came together and I found my excitement again. I went back through the other four books and found all the hints I’d left for myself as to how I’d thought Book 5 could come together, and wow, did it ever come together. I think it’s hands down, the best of the series.

Q: Last year you branched out and became a multi-genre author, stepping into sci-fi with The Man of Cloud 9 and into science fantasy with The Wizard Killer. Why take that step before finishing The Yellow Hoods, and what were the dangers and benefits of doing so?

A: Getting Book 4 of The Yellow Hoods, Beauties of the Beast, took everything out of me. In all honesty, I fumbled the launch, but it was there and my fans got something to enjoy that was well regarded as a solid addition to the series.

I knew I couldn’t just stop writing until I felt better, because I don’t work that way. I was on a roll, I needed to keep going, I just had to change things up to allow myself to breath. That was when a friend of mine asked if I was interested in writing a short story for her anthology. I walked around with the idea for a couple of days, and connected it with a piece of a story I’d had in mind for years. I sat down and wrote it. It was about two thousand words too long, which would have been okay, but it felt very much like the real story was only beginning. I decided to change things up, abandon the idea of a short story, and really allow this sci-fi story to blossom.

As The Man of Cloud 9 came together, I felt restricted. There were no battle scenes. Instead, there were corporate board rooms. I felt out of balance, and so I started writing The Wizard Killer – Season One. When I was done with both of them, I felt that I had shared with the world the other two key sides of me as an author, and I felt a lot better. I’d also proven to myself that I wasn’t a “steampunk/fairytale only” author, but an author who was able to bring new and exciting worlds to life that were vivid and immersive.

There were several dangers in doing this, however. The first is; what happens to your existing fan base? Having delivered four and a half books in two years, they were giving me some grace. Putting out The Wizard Killer, a high action story with a world that’s been compared to Stephen King’s Gunslinger, and then following it with The Man of Cloud 9, which is a more cerebral, character driven, techno-thriller, was tactically questionable though. Some of my fans loved one and when they read the other, felt their brain broke. I got a lot of complements about having range, but some folks were jumping from my adrenaline junkie post-apocalyptic fantasy world into a totally different side of me.

At first I wasn’t sure this wasn’t the wisest thing to have done, but I came to see that I’d really opened myself up to a wider range of readers, and more importantly, my younger readers who were maturing made it really clear that they loved the new stuff and my range. It was like I was offering them something new and older, with a hint of what they’d discovered in The Yellow Hoods. As for the adults, this allowed me to draw in different audiences who had no real interest in my other works.

Q: Is The Day the Sky Fell the end of your Yellow Hoods world, and if so, why end it now?

A: Book 5 – The Day the Sky Fell is indeed the end of The Yellow Hoods series, however, it isn’t the end of the Yellow Hoods. I realized as I wrote Book 5 that the original story arc had run its course. I had ideas for a story arc to cover Books 6-7, and a few other ideas to bring it up to 10, but it felt forced.

The main characters had been through a lot in a relatively short period of time (about 2 years) from Book 1 to the end of Book 5. In my mind, they deserved a rest. Adding more on top would forfeit some of the realism and intensity that was at the heart of the entire series. I thought pushing it would make it almost comical in a bad way. Another aspect that I considered was that my character gallery had grown significantly, with fans requesting spin-off stories about Bakon and Egelina-Marie, about Christina and Mounira, and others.

The plan I came up with when I was writing Book 2 wasn’t just for a series for 4-5 books, but rather it was to have a sequel series that takes place five to ten years later, allowing us to see where Tee, Elly, Richy, and the others ended up. Actually, I’d love to one day have a third series that would see Tee being a mother, and thus the series would come full circle. We’ll see if I ever get there.

I’ve now given a name to that next series, The Mark of the Yellow Hoods. My hope is to start writing that series in 2019. Between now and then I have a few spin-off novellas and a spin-off series that I’m hoping to bring out. This approach will allow me to shake things up, change the pattern and cast that’s involved, as well as visit other parts of their world.

Q: Why did you opt to go the self-publishing route?

A: About six months before I started writing my first book I turned the radio on and found myself in the middle of an interview with ‘marketing guru’ Seth Godin. He said (paraphrased) “If I had a book ready today, there’s no way I would go with a traditional publisher if I was an entrepreneur and willing to learn from a few mistakes” That thought stuck in my head.

When I started looking into publishing, I was finding people waiting years before getting any reader/fan feedback. That was a purgatory that I didn’t want. Every day I had stabbing pain from my chronic abdominal scar tissue issues, and felt like I was carrying a lead-vest because of my severe asthma. I wasn’t going to wait years. I was willing to work hard enough, run fast enough, to outpace my mistakes.

Coming from the software side, I really did think of myself as a start-up. I had an idea; I was going to take it directly to market. I wasn’t going to ask permission or try to fit within someone else’s portfolio and align to their timing. Instead, I would start things off. If one day I got ‘acquired’, i.e. a big publisher wanted to take over one of my series, or wanted to offer me a deal, I would have experience and a following to bring to the table. Actually, a few weeks ago I started talking with a publisher about bringing out a spin-off series of The Yellow Hoods.

I refer to myself as an indie author, rather than as a self-published author. The reason being that I do everything that a publisher does, from having my works professionally edited and covered, to handling the marketing and getting out there to push it, as well as handling distribution and direct bookstore relationships. I have both an online and in-print strategy that I continue to build in. In every way I can, I’m emulating classic indie bands who went from unknown to hitting it big. Will I hit it big? I have no idea. Will I be “pure” indie the entire time? I doubt it. There are strategic advantages for the additional reach of traditional publishers, and possibly divesting myself of some responsibilities that take away from my writing.

So in brief? I went indie because there is no greater motivator than a stabbing pain in your abdomen. If I was going to fail, then it was going to be entirely on me. But I didn’t.

Q: You’ve said that giving back is important to you. How and why is this a part of your author career?

A: I believe strongly in becoming the mentor you wished you’d found. In my software career I kept hoping to find someone who would see me and go, “Ah, you remind me of me. Come on, I’ll give you a boost.” As time went by, I decided I wouldn’t waste my time always looking for them and instead I would become that type of mentor for others.

I brought that same thinking to my life as an author, except even more so. As I started to have some success, I shared what I knew with others. I’d make time to give feedback on stories, and so on. I carved out a portion of every week to do that. I find doing this keeps me grounded and connected with people, as well as appreciating what I’ve done rather than only focusing on what I haven’t done yet.

This past week, for example, I had coffee with two other authors. In one case, he’d gone down the traditional road, had an agent, and after years, found himself with a lot of compliments about his work but no one willing to take the plunge. He felt like he’d wasted so much time and wanted to know about being an indie. After two hours, he had several pages of notes and a plan of action. The second person I met with was about the same age (late 50s, early 60s) and had a book ready to go. They already had an established audience because of other work that they’d been doing, and wanted to know things from another side. I was happy to share with them.

Some authors I’ve met are very secretive and competitive. They want to know everything about what you are doing, how much you’re paying for your books, etc., but won’t share a single thing of value back. That’s a shame. We’re a community that’s far stronger together, and our real competition are video games and non-books, not each other (not really).

I believe if I’m able to share something that helps someone become the next J.K. Rowling, then fantastic, but do I want to succeed at someone’s expense? No. There are some people who are leeches, and you’ve always got to be careful of them. Those are the ones who will actively try to push you out of whatever limelight you share. I’ve had this happen to me a few times, and though it makes me wary of who I share stuff with, it doesn’t stop me.

Q: What have you learned about yourself since beginning this journey into writing and publishing?

A: More than anything else, I’ve learned to have faith in the storyteller that I am. There are real people out there who love what I write and how I write. There’s something magical about being at my table at a convention and within 15 minutes of the door opening, someone who has driven several hours to get there, runs right up to my booth wanting whatever new book I have available. That excitement, that joy, I had a part in that. It’s unbelievable.

Q: What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about the business of writing and publishing?

A: On the publishing front, it’s about the amount of lead time you need to give yourself and the capital (money) involved, particularly if you’re carrying inventory. Being prolific comes with a cost.

On the writing front, it’s about how much words that come out of my head can mean to someone else. I’ve had a cancer survivor tell me how it helped get them through chemo, a man tell me how it helped him as his mother passed, and more. Those experiences also bring with them a sense of responsibility to keep going, to add more good into the world.

Q: One of your challenges that you talk about openly is being dyslexic. How has this affected you, because having written nine books in three years, it’s clearly not slowing you down?

A: On the plus side of being dyslexic, my imagination is very visual, 3D. It’s like I’m walking around in a movie scene, able to rewind, replay, alter, and replay. Often I feel like my writing is just the transcribing of the movie I’m privileged to have in my head.

The downside is obvious, in terms of words tripping me up. I accepted that my writing was going to be very far from perfect, but I adapted my process for getting it ready for release. That means when I’m done my draft, I go through it from start to finish at least three times in order to clean it up. Then it goes to my beta readers, some of whom can’t help themselves and do some grammar and word-substitution corrections. After going through those proposed changes and incorporating them, it goes to my editor for the first round. She goes through it, sends it back to me, I incorporate her changes, and then send it back to her for another round. After that’s done, then I have one to three  proofreaders go through it to catch as many of the tiny errors that managed to sneak through as possible. THEN I declare it done.

As a software architect, I learned that my dyslexia was a net-advantage for me. At first, I thought everyone could take a concept and create a machine in their head that mapped to it, and then walk around the machine, identifying problems or weak points, and bring it up.

I used to cringe when I’d hear “You have to read tons to be a writer.” I can’t read quickly at all, and while I read a lot of news, I don’t read many books. I’ve come to believe that this is really the heart of what it means to be a writer; we need to be absorbing new experiences, moments, and thoughts. I get that from conversations, movies, TV, and other sources. Maybe that’s why my characters feel so real, I don’t know.

Q: When talking about being a dyslexic author, what is the message you want to convey?

A: The advantage I, and perhaps other dyslexics have is that my highly visual imagination greatly outweighs tripping on words. Be willing to make a mess, because a mess that’s written is better than perfection locked in the prison of your mind. Also, with that mess, clean it up as best you can, and then have others clean it up more.

Q: What’s next for you, Adam?

A: Less than three weeks after The Day the Sky Fell releases, The Wizard Killer – Season Two releases. I’ve just sent the first draft of a non-fiction book to a friend of mine, which I hope to bring out by August. This will then be followed by my first installment in a new fantasy, space opera series called Tilruna.

As an ambitious madman who believes in making use of every moment that isn’t invested in my family, I’m hoping to bring a Yellow Hoods world story out in April 2018, along with The Wizard Killer – Season Three, and that fall, Tilruna – Season Two. InApril 2019? Well, keep your eyes peeled, because you might see the first book in that Yellow Hoods spin-off series published by someone else, bringing together Dreece versions of tales like The Pied Piper and Little Match Girl.

Ambitious? Absolutely. Crazy? Yeah, especially when you consider there are a few short stories in there and growing the distribution side of my publishing business. Still, at the end of the day, I love what I do, and I’m spending far more time with my family that I ever did when working in software.

The Day The Sky Fell

Mini-blurb: The Day the Sky Fell brings a dramatic conclusion to the steampunk meets fairytale saga, with airship battles and betrayals at every level.

You can find/connect with Adam here:

Blog – AdamDreece.com

Facebook http://facebook.com/AdamDreeceAuthor

Instagram – http://instagram.com/AdamDreece

 

 

Windstalker: Awareness

baginski

The soul that has conceived one wickedness can nurse no good thereafter. -SOPHOCLES, Philoctetes

Science fiction, fantasy, romance and inhuman creatures all blend together in author K.M. (Kisa) Baginski’s debut series Windstalker. In Awareness, the first book Baginski introduces, she spins a tale that introduces a force of evil that preys on a group of unsuspecting young adults sucked into a world of chaos. Note to avid fantasy fans: Be prepared for a lot of suspense, with a little nail-biting thrown in!

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Great title by the way! Tell us a bit about Kisa the author and your debut novel, Windstalker: Awareness.

I’m just getting started in the world of writing and look forward to producing much more. For me there was always drive to get particular stories out of my system. I haven’t been in training like many authors I know and respect. In terms of my educational profile, I was always science matriculated. I’ve just wanted to share stories as they come to me. Storytelling is such a beautiful art form. I hope to grow and continue learning as I tell more of them. Awareness is about the Windstalker creature, an evolved Nephilim- half angel and half human. It’s set in New York City and the creature has an impact on a group of unassuming, nonspiritual and emotionally dysfunctional friends. They try to cling to reality for much of the story, ignoring or avoiding the presence of something they can’t rationalize, until they are forced to accept events and circumstances that defy logic. They become aware of the presence of a supernatural force. A Windstalker.

What was your inspiration for writing a supernatural thriller?

I have these amazing vivid dreams from time to time that are a lot like watching a film. They are usually open around the rising action of the story to its climax. The calm just before the storm and, of course, the storm. Windstalker began as one of these dreams.

It came about because as a teen I dreamt from the perspective of a pair of creatures that hovered in an abandoned lot next to a building. The creatures were disguised as swirling wind but could also morph into men, so human beings did not notice them at all. The building was isolated on a dark corner of the street and only significant because of a woman who lived there. She was a sweet, gentle single mother of an infant. Though she was not a particularly noteworthy citizen, one of the two creatures stalked her. And you have to remember the dream was seen from the perspective of the creature. The woman reminded him of a life he had known previously, when human, a life to which he desperately wanted to return. He didn’t say as much to his formless partner as he knew the partner didn’t want to be alone. The longing creature led a sort of tug-of-war among the three as he searched for and tested ways to permanently revert back to human form. Almost ten years later, I hadn’t forgotten the intensity of that dream. So I thought it would be a great start for a novel-writing future. I have many stories that began that way, waiting to surface.

Introduce us to your main characters. What are some of their struggles throughout the story?

Mitchell Geathers is an ambitious young man. He is a leader in his family and maintains a certain level of control. He’s really driven by fear that he will lose control and endanger his loved ones. Chelsea Easton is lost in the real world. She often feels out of place and thinks she has to divert attention away from herself. But being the product of a broken, dysfunctional family, she actually craves love, affection and validation from others.

What makes your novel unique from other paranormal novels out there?

I would say the creature itself. A windstalker isn’t just a shapeshifter. It is a very difficult creature to destroy and can also be reverted into a human being, given a special set of circumstances the reader will have to discover throughout the series.

Were there any authors you read for inspiration while preparing for your first book?

I read a few Victorian Gothic horror novels such as Dracula (Bram Stoker) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde). I also read Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov); for a while I toyed with making the character Chelsea younger. I read Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy) for Tolstoy’s panoramic scenes allowing the reader to understand the same incident from another character’s perspective. I thought if I was going to try writing my own novel, I needed to wrap my mind around some of the most celebrated masters of prose and the horror/fantasy genre.

Is this volume one of its kind or will it be part of a series you are developing?

Awareness is the first in the Windstalker series. There are at least two more parts I’m working on now.

In that case, what can your readers look forward to in the next book in your series?

The next book is geared toward discovering the levels of hierarchy within the Windstalker culture. There is a major division within their inner world. An alliance with the peace keepers among them and the stronger group for the time being and a rogue organization seeking to overthrow the peace keepers and establish themselves as supreme leaders of the species.

Fans of science fiction thrillers that touch on romance will easily devour a story like Windstalker. If you could choose a couple of famous folks to play your characters, who comes to mind?

It’s funny but the only character I could see having a famous actor doppelganger is Eli Roberts. I see Eli being played by Charlie Hunnam for some reason.

Give us a few of your favorite films or television shows that might compare to the theme of Windstalker.

I’d like to think Windstalker: Awareness could very well resonate with True Blood, Dexter, Dead Like Me or even Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV fans; or fans of the movie Fallen – for the Grigori Angel mythology. Most of these projects had a dark premise, complex characters and a good mix between horror, romance, thriller and comedy genres.

There are so many online resources today where readers can learn all about their favorite authors. How can readers stay connected to you and any future book projects?

Windstalker stories are available on Amazon and my Windstalker books website. I’ll be announcing any new Windstalker projects as they surface. There is currently a short story prequel (Windstaker: The Fall of Samyaza) and novella about a character named Drew Royce (from Awareness) in development. Both will be released before the second book in the series.

Can you provide your audience with any retail and/or review links as well?

The series website is www.windstalkerbooks.com.

Shadows of the Keeper

KBrown

Coffee’s her vice, historical romances her weakness, and marriage to her boss’s son is but a month away – normal, everyday stuff, for a normal, everyday Texan gal. Except there’s hardly anything ‘normal’ about Emily Garrison. Little does Emily know, she’s the long awaited High Queen of a kingdom in a parallel universe . . . and the soul mate to Hades’ son, Prince Dezenial of the Lumynari. To start the new year, we’re chatting with Karey Brown, author of Shadows of the Keeper.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Aside from general plot, our characters are at the head of the class, pulling the reader into the story. What was the biggest challenge of developing your main characters?

Writing two different books until it felt right—until the main characters were in their correct roles. For example, in the first telling, I have Emily and Broc getting married; having them basically picking up where they left off 3,600 years earlier. Prince Dezenial was going to be the ‘bad guy’.

This kept me up for too many nights. When I changed the entire story, THIS time, the too-many-nights-up was because I couldn’t stop writing! It was as if I couldn’t type fast enough, their story flashing in my mind like a movie. The biggest challenge was convincing myself that it was okay to let go of the first story version, and rewrite all of it, no matter how long the blasted thing took!

In deciding on your characters’ backgrounds, how did you come up with your characters’ names?

Emily has been with me for years and years. Her story has always just kind of been there—a woman who is reincarnated over the ages, having lived several lives. I also subscribe to the whole soul mate thing—when we come around a corner, see someone, and have that weird déjà vu moment, is it really that we’ve seen that person before, or is that our soul instantly recognizes their soul as having been meaningful to us in a previous life? What if the love was so profound, no matter how many lifetimes they’re born into, they keep finding each other? Now consider, what if one of them was immortal? How would he/she know that the other existed again? Broc has been with me about as long as Emily, and though I tried to have them be the two ‘connected’ souls, it never felt right. After writing the first version, I realized why: they were together in a previous life, but it was never meant to be, though it will scar Broc for a very long time, and leave Emily with an anger towards him that she doesn’t understand—not at first.

Dezenial’s name, however, was a bloody nightmare to come up with. Nothing fit his persona, so, for a long time, I used XXX as a placeholder. A name generator finally helped, and taking the part of one name and adding it to another, I came up with Dezenial. It was so perfect, and so weird how the two parts connected, I stared at the monitor for a long time, wondering if I was tapping into some otherworldly event, or was I really making this story up?

Reignsfeugh and Inzyr’s names took playing with sounds and spelling. For the rest of the cast—and there are many—I hunted through Celtic/Gaelic names and their meanings. Again, they had to fit the character.

Do you have a favorite character?

I like the complication of Inzyr. The assassin’s story begs to be told, but it isn’t quite the right time yet. I keep trying to set him up with a love interest, but have had to accept there existed only one true love for him—something never suffered by Shadow Masters. They’re not interested in the emotional commitment; never succumb to the weakness.

Amidst the huge birth of a young adult craze, the competition is tough. What made you choose this particular genre?

As much as I LOVED Judy Bloom’s storytelling when I was a kid, I don’t possess the knack for writing YA. Historical romances, mythology, and paranormal grabbed hold of me, and never let go. I create fairytales, mythologies, languages, realms, and beings. Tossed into this mix are everyday normal people finding themselves connected to these otherwise unknown realms/parallel universes, and how their lives change; how they cope with discovering mythology/fantasy is fact.

Was there a particular scene that was the most difficult for you to write?

When Peter assaults Emily. It forced me to relive a personal experience involving violence. There aren’t exactly shelters for battered women in the year 1214 A.D. Also, when we suffer something so overwhelming, some of us are lucky enough to have a ‘hero’ rescue us, put us back on our feet, and send us back into the world of the living. I wanted this for Emily, but I didn’t want the rescue to be her ‘happily-ever-after’. The scene and the outcome needed to be both realistic, and show relationship-complication, regardless how much one person loves another. The answer isn’t always obvious to the two people caught up in a blossoming fondness.

Sometimes, things are running along smoothly and suddenly we might step back and re-think an entire chapter, even an ending. What there an unexpected decision you made about the plot?

There’s a particular plot that left me crying and incredibly sad for so many days, I realized I had to do SOMETHING to free myself of this funk. That’s when I realized said plot needed to end differently—and, WOW, did it change the entire story!! It was also a way to avoid seeking professional help—which would have probably resulted in my having been committed, since this sorrow was for an imaginary character. I can just see it now, sobbing, ‘But, he died…as in, d-e-a-d!’ *sob, sob, sob* Oh yeah, straightjackets would have been my permanent attire. Not a good look.

What atmosphere do you find to be the most productive, yet relaxing to keep those pages going?

A small dining room converted into an office and closed off from the rest of the house with an odd entry off the kitchen creates my ‘secret’ room. In here, I’m surrounded by hundreds of books lining dark wood bookcases. Tapestries depicting medieval scenes hang above my L-shaped desk, and covering the floor are rugs I acquired in Turkey. Low-lit lamps complete the Old World ambiance, while, in the background, BrunuhVille plays on the Bose.

What surprised you the most about the novel writing process along with self-publishing?

How much ‘self-published’ is such a dirty word. It’s like we’re the pariahs of the publishing/writing world. If our work isn’t published by a ‘real’ publisher, somehow, we’re hacks. You won’t find silicone between my pages. No fake ta-tas here. I DID submit my manuscript to several agents. And, bless their hearts, even though they rejected Shadows of the Keeper, they still took the time to write a quick sentence or two, on their form letters, that my writing was very good, I excelled at storytelling, but the overall story just wasn’t for them, or didn’t quite fit what they were looking for—to keep writing/submitting. Some even offered a reference to another agent that they thought might be interested in my type of work. When an agent/editor takes time from their crazy schedule, and the thousands of manuscripts being submitted, to write a personal blurb of encouragement, that’s HUGE! I was not, however, willing for Shadows to sit somewhere and collect dust. I just had this feeling about this particular story—that it had to be told.

Is there an author, past or present, who served as your inspiration?

Laurie McBain, who wrote Moonstruck Madness (1977), was my first historical romance. I began reading historicals with the same appetite I now have for cheesecake—get your eyes off my hips. Just because I don’t LOOK like a starving artist doesn’t mean I’m not hungry. Last Christmas, I discovered a hardcover copy of Moonstruck Madness. It now rests on my ‘treasures’ shelf.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve taken to heart when it comes to being an author?

Study your craft. FINISH what you start. Enjoy the journey. Dedicate yourself to the journey. And then, study it more. Feeeel what you’re writing, don’t just type words.

Lastly, can you provide any links that feature Shadows of the Keeper?

Amazon: http://goo.gl/R9M70N

iTunes/iBook: http://goo.gl/2mDvgu

Barnes & Noble—Nook: http://goo.gl/9VPjS5

Kobo books: http://goo.gl/H1F1JM

Scribd.com: http://goo.gl/yiETG6

Inktera.com: http://goo.gl/OJsxCe

 

 

Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone

Lisa_and_the_Haylee_Books2

What a pleasure it has been to interview and get to know Lisa Marie Redfern, author of the Haylee etrilogy and Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone (print book soon to be released). Not only is she a wonderful writer, but her talent doesn’t stop there. As an accomplished artist, photographer, and business woman, Lisa stretches the boundaries of her art and her way with words/imagery, enticing followers to dip their toes into the rippling waters of imagination.

Interviewer: Debbie McClure

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Q: Books, movies and even television shows these days are delivering a steady stream of plots that involve the undead, the unreal, and the wickedly supernatural. In your opinion, what accounts for society’s longstanding fascination with characters that are not completely human?

A: A cultural theme occurs when lots of people have similar ideas and begin exploring it in depth. We take our collective temperature with questions such as; What are we afraid of? What defines us as human? How far can we stretch our imagination? What does it mean to be ‘different? How would it feel to be powerful and untouchable? I think the dark nefarious vampires, zombies, and wickedly supernatural characters that are popular today are reflections of our attitudes and worries about the cultural and economic conditions that we live in.

Q: Tell us how you came up with your title.

A: Hyale is a daughter of the Greek gods Oceanus and Tethys. The character Haylee, and the book title, is roughly based on this name…with a modern twist.

Q: Alfred Hitchcock was a master at making cameo appearances in all of his movies. Does Lisa Redfern employ any signature tricks or insider jokes that we should know about?

A: Absolutely! Although I won’t reveal them all—I will say that many of the animal names were family pets. The Rattler/Lovey storyline was based on a rescue dog named Bandit. He lived up to his name. Once it was changed to Happy, he was much easier to live with. Lovey was one of our pet cats.

Q: Tell us about your female protagonist, and the passions that drive her thoughts and actions.

A: Haylee has spent most of her childhood living with a wounded parent—she takes on responsibilities beyond most children her age. She attempts to stay out-of-sight and out-of-mind as much as possible, has an affinity for animals, and possesses a quick mind; she aspires to become a veterinarian. But things don’t go according to plan. When it becomes clear that her strange condition poses a threat to her loved ones, she drops everything to figure out how to stop it. Along her adventurous journey, we see a maturing inner resolve, self-direction, and a belief that something good can be born from facing a problem head-on.

Q: In Haylee and the Traveler’s Stone, Haylee is transported to the turbulent backdrop of the San Francisco Gold Rush in 1849. During this time in California history, the population was dominated by young male adventurers who came from all over the world. Why did this specific era personally resonate with you?

A: I feel connected to this time period because it is woven into the historical fabric of where I live—in the heart of Gold Country. I wanted to develop a deeper understanding about what life was really like by bringing alive the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of that time. In my research, I discovered fun and quirky facts that may not have made their way into commonly read history books.

Q: What do you hope this book will accomplish?

A: My goal is to suck the reader into a vortex of altered time where his/her own life fades out for a while as Haylee’s story takes center stage. Isn’t that the ultimate definition of a good book—to entertain? Along with entertainment, I included those quirky facts (mentioned in the question above), because I want the readers to have something memorable to keep. If Haylee readers (who visit San Francisco) are able to see the city in a new way, I will be thrilled!

Q: Have your characters ever done anything that surprised you?

A: I usually arrive at my keyboard with an outline and longish, handwritten essays that fill in sections of the outline. Days of thought and nights of dreams have gone by as I’ve worked out the complexities of what I plan to write. It is a surprise when I’m typing away and a character goes in another direction…or says something unexpected. They are usually right, but we have to argue about it for a little while before I relent. When I describe it that way, it sounds psychotic doesn’t it?

Q: The publishing industry continues to reinvent itself. The combined effects of downsizing at traditional publishers and the desire by authors to have more control over their intellectual property and pricing structure has led to an escalation in self-publishing endeavors. What are your thoughts on this issue, particularly the debate as to whether a self-published title is as “real” as one produced through traditional channels?

A: Every work published is real. It is meaningful to the person who wrote it, so it can’t be anything else. Prior to 2010, when iPads and e-readers hit the market en mass, publishing houses set the quality standards for reading material before it was released to the public. The flood of independent authors who are self-publishing has changed those standards.

As a consumer, I appreciate knowing that the book I am about to read has a reasonable chance of being good—in subject matter, clean page design, and very little grammatical or spelling errors. When you buy something that has been self-published, quality levels can be hit or miss.

As an artist and independent author, I love having the ability to self-publish. For the very first time in my work life I’m unencumbered and free to create my vision from start to finish. The creation process itself is highly satisfying. I place a great value on producing work that is ‘as good as’ anything that a publishing house would turn out. Fortunately, I have developed the skills to do most of it myself, but I also invest in areas where I need help—editing and some design assistance. There is something ironic about putting so much effort into a product that sells for .99¢, $3.00, or even $5.00. Like those adventuring pioneers who braved the treacherous seas and overland treks with the hope of finding gold, we authors are gambling that more than a few readers will push that shiny, rounded-rectangle button marked ‘buy.’

Q: In addition to being an author, you are also an artist and photographer with a busy home life. How do you find time to write?

A: Good organization is a must. I use a Google calendar synced with my smart phone. Sometimes other jobs have to go to the top of the ‘to do’ list. I get as much done as I can when my son is in school. I enter into my most efficient writing zone after everyone has gone to sleep and the phone isn’t ringing. I try very hard to remind myself to go to bed before it gets too late…

Q: Lisa, you are incredibly multi-talented, and your website, book trailer are amazing. What advice would you give to new writers/artists regarding building a social media or networking platform?

A: 1. Realize that platform building and gaining followers is something that takes time. It starts small and slowly increases over time.

  1. Once you start participating in social media, know that you’ve created a ‘living’ thing that needs to be fed on a regular basis.
  2. Start slow. Choose one or two sites that you think that you might enjoy. Stick with them until you are comfortable before moving on to more.

My social media ‘ah ha’ moment came with Pinterest. Because I am visual by nature and I enjoy organizing data, this was a perfect social site to start with.

Q: As an artist and writer, you are clearly an inspiration to others, but who inspires you? Have you benefited from the wisdom and/or counsel of a mentor? If so, who and why?

A: Inspiration comes from everywhere. To quote Christina Hamlett’s book Screenwriting for Teens, “Log into life. No password required.” Also, my artist friends inspire me when we spend time together setting up art shows, getting our hands dirty, or just sharing and talking about our work.

For authors, I follow the big guys—Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, Barbara Kingsolver, and Jean Auel for starters. I also follow some of the rising independent author stars—Hugh Howey, Guy Kawasaki, Rysa Walker, and Chuck Wendig. I like studying how they present themselves online, how they interact with their fans, what kinds of stories they are writing next, and what rights they are selling.

My son has a big imagination; he and I have many humorous, “What if …” conversations. Being out in nature, photographing interesting animals, random conversations, seeing something online that grabs my attention, or even just being alone and quiet, are all areas of inspiration.

Q: You’re obviously drawn to the metaphysical and otherworldly in many aspects of your creativity and writing, sometimes blurring the lines between the real and fantastical. What is it that draws you in, or inspires you?

A: Underlying everything is the hope and faith that we are much more than just our physical existence. I think all life is connected, and should be respected and honoured as the incredible gift it is. The real magic in this world is love and our relationships with the people, animals and living things around us. That is what I always attempt to express in both my art and in my words.

Q: A lot of new writers think all they have to do is write a good story and their job is done, but today’s writers are expected to do so much more, whether self or traditionally published. What advice would you give to new writers just starting out on this very long journey?

A: I think that is an urban myth. How did that one ever get started? When I worked as a book publicist, I dreaded the inevitable moment when the author bubble would burst. Once it popped, fairy dust and glitter never spewed out and sprinkled to the ground.

My advice to authors just starting out is similar to the advice you gave in your interview for In the Spirit of Love. Always conduct yourself professionally online. Stick to it – give writing a permanent place at your table – live your life – do what you need to do…and then go back and write some more. Once you have a few books out there for sale, add to your regular routine time to feed the marketing machine.

Q: Many writers and artists struggle with following their creative path vs making a (normal) living, and being accepted in a world that often can’t understand what drives the creative mind. Have you struggled with this, and if so, how do you attempt to overcome it?

A: Oh yes! More than a few times, I’ve wondered if I was adopted. Most everyone in my family is an engineer, accountant, scientist, lawyer, or a business person. Conventional social norms hold the greatest respect for professions with the highest pay scales. If pay scales were based on job satisfaction, artists and writers would be where the venture capitalists and technology moguls are now. I don’t worry about people accepting me. I am who I am, I do what I do, and I am very happy about that.

Q: Where can readers discover more about you and your books online?

Author reads sample chapter Audible.com Lisa’s art portfolio & online store Art and Words Blog Google+ Goodreads Twitter reddit Redfern Writing Facebook Page Join Lisa’s author e-mail list

Lisa: Thank you for the opportunity to participate in a You Read It Here First interview. I enjoyed responding to your thoughtful questions. Additionally, it was a pleasure to become acquainted with you and Christina and your work.

 

 

 

 

The White Horseman

Graydoncover

Ancient artifacts, mad sorcerers and the prophecy of a human child makes for an intriguing, compelling fantasy tale in J.S. Graydon’s first published novel The White Horseman. Saving the world is no easy feat for one human child amidst a war of destruction when one powerful messenger is summoned by the enemy: The Horseman, who will bring forth a message of apocalyptic warnings: the world of humanity will end. With the right combination of magic, wizardry and action packed adventure, Graydon’s debut will surely be a treat to readers of all ages.

Interviewer: Christy Campbell

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Tell us about J.S. Graydon, fantasy young adult author.

I am originally from England. I was raised in a very little village. The same one that is in the book! I had a wonderful childhood there. In the countryside people really do still believe in magical creatures. I truly believed that there were fairies that lived at the bottom of our garden. We had a true white witch that lived less than a mile from us! When you are brought up with such colorful people, it is hard to contain your imagination! I have since moved to southwest Florida which is a fantastic place to live. When I’m not writing, I love to travel.

Tell us about the premise behind your debut novel, The White Horseman.

Good question! The book is about a young boy that gets a chance of a lifetime to join in an adventure that will ultimately save the world. A sorcerer, determined to obtain his place within the immortal realm has begun a chain of events that if not stopped, will bring about the very End of Days itself! His spell would unleash the first of the horseman of the apocalypse: The White Horseman.

The young boy is drawn into situations of magical manipulations and of enchanted forests that are not rooted in place. He encounters wondrous creatures drawn from the myths and legends of ancient lore such as centaurs, hobgoblins, elves, and celestial beings that intervene to try to stop an ancient evil from rising again.

But while the good try to repair the damage before it’s too late, there are others that plot to sabotage. Not all those that appear to help the boy are truly what they seem. There are creatures that would love nothing but for the plan to fail. Suspicion runs rampant as it becomes clear that there is a traitor amongst them. They can only hope that they can stop the one person that stands between salvation and hell’s gates before it is too late.

How long have you been writing fiction?

I’ve been writing most of my life. I have tons of unfinished manuscripts and plays that got started but never finished! This story came to me in a dream and it was important to finish it.

What makes your book unique from other fantasy adventures on the bookshelves today?

It’s unique because there are many other programs and television shows that are on the same page (no pun intended) as this novel. For example, the television show Constantine portrays a battle with demons and angels. This is also true within my book. There are celestial forces at play in The White Horseman that will keep you guessing until the end of book! Another example would be Sleepy Hollow: This show follows more closely the ideas that The White Horseman creates. The young man, Ben, is thrust into a magical journey to stop the horseman of the apocalypse from returning to earth.

The plots and subplots also make it unique. I just love weaving ideas around each other. There is more than one story being told within the pages of The White Horseman. The characters are complex and each brings to the table a strong personality.

Tell us about the main characters in the book.

Absolutely! Ben is the main character – he is the one that crashes through the protective barrier that hides the guardian world. A prophecy picks Ben to lead a group of local characters in an effort to stop the evil wizard that plans on ruling both worlds. His mentor is Gerhardt – an ancient sorcerer whose knowledge will help guide him on his quest. He is accompanied by some very colorful characters: An elf, a Scotsman, a centaur and a hobgoblin. He also has the unpleasant task of working with a Contrary – a person cursed to live his life backwardly. Not all are as helpful as they could be. Some are not his friends at all but plan to sabotage Ben’s efforts at any cost!

Some of the conflicts in the storyline appear to be ripped from the headlines. Can you elaborate on why you chose to go that route?

Yes that is true. Though this is not a religious book by any stretch of the imagination, it does touch upon problems and issues that the world is having right now. Problems within economies and religion do play into this story as a back drop. The fictional events in the novel play into a version of what people consider being the End of Days. I just took the story a little further and asked myself “what if there was a realm aside from our own that guarded us from this misfortune?”

Did you simply wing it when it came to penning the story or did you work from an outline?

Great question! I had a general idea of what needed to be written but it was mostly written free style. I had started the story years ago, writing on ledger books – I had tons of them. Eventually I had the task of transferring the written word into a computer. That took some time! The second half of the book was written directly on the computer which definitely sped up the thinking process. Now that the characters are fully formed I plan on using an outline for the second book in the series called the Red Horseman.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your first book?

Probably it was finishing it! I started writing it many years ago but didn’t have the discipline to finish the novel. There was a two year gap between the first half of the book and the second portion. When I picked up the book the second time around I enjoyed the characters so much that I knew that I needed to knuckle down and finish it!

Also, originally I would go back and re-read the chapter in an effort to ‘fine tune’ it. This led to me slowing down and feeling that the chapter was stale. The second time around I just barreled forward and ironed out the small details much later. This allowed me to work quicker and keep the story fresh in my mind.

Which character did you find the most difficult to portray?

The most challenging character was writing in the Contrary. The Contrary is a person born of both the human world and the world of Wode Uplands. It is a highly unusual aberration. Because the Contrary is born of both worlds he is cursed to forever live his life backwards. I must say that trying to clearly write about a man that must live his life in reverse was difficult at best but he is a very important piece in the puzzle between the two worlds. The Contrary in essence becomes like a bridge that can see into both realms. His place in the book is a vital one.

Are you an avid reader of any particular genres/titles?

Yes, yes, yes! I love to read. I will read anything. Cereal boxes, ingredient lists, magazines, books, you name it! I caught the reading bug very early in life and I believe I’ve read hundreds of books. I love young adult and fantasy books, but I relish a good mystery or thriller too! Imagination is such a wonderful tool that the mind has. Mine works on overtime. In all the hundreds of stories I’ve read or written my mind conjures up new environments and colorful scenery each time.

Tell us what’s in store for fans of J.S. Graydon?

I plan to continue writing. The White Horseman is the first in a series of five books. I have already started work on the second book, The Red Horseman. I would love to get everyone’s thoughts and reviews on the book. I’m sure that it will help guide the next books on their way!

Where can readers learn more about you and purchase The White Horseman?

The book is available for purchase immediately. I am currently on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/White-Horseman-J-S-Graydon-ebook/dp/B00OD00U76/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1415595865

and Goodreads.com: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23324262-the-white-horseman

I also have a new website: http://www.jsgraydon.com/. It has just opened but I plan on using it as tool to connect with my readers. I am thrilled to start this new chapter (pun intended) of my life and to be able to share it with others.