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Author Interview – Sabrina Chase July 27, 2012

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I’m lucky to have Sabrina Chase visit with me for an interview on Akamai Reader! Among her books are Firehearted, The Last Mage Guardian, and the Sequoyah Trilogy.

1. Was there a catalyst of single even that led you to your writing career?

I love books–I read very quickly, and my favorite writers were not writing fast enough to keep me entertained. I had written stories since grade school, but I didn’t get serious about writing until I was in my twenties.

2. If you could sit down with your favorite author, who would it be? What would you say?

I’d love to have tea with Jane Austen, but I’d probably need someone to introduce me to her first, to be proper.  Say, Georgette Heyer. I’d probably have more to say to H. Beam Piper. Much fangirl gushing about his ability to write timelessly (he died in 1964, and if you read his books you can’t tell when they were written), some interesting science news he might find intriguing, and if he seemed in a good mood, a delicate request for him to read my writing…

3. Do you prefer writing sci-fi or fantasy? 

I like both. Science fiction is more restrictive in terms of what the genre will allow the writer to get away with without explanation–it has to be somewhat plausible *in this world*. Fantasy is less structured, which means the writer has to both create their own structure and be consistent with it. Also with science fiction (given my physics degree) I have to remember to tone down the science to save the reader from dozing off.

4. What is your writing process?

I am what is known in the “biz” as a pantser. This means I don’t outline. I usually start off with an initial premise, main characters, and a few very vivid scenes.  Idea-noodling like that I can do either on paper or on the computer. Then I just have to figure out a way to get the characters to those vivid scenes, and that’s when the supporting characters and setting come to life. I am part of a long-standing critique group, and they go through the first draft. Usually after they are done I have to let the book sit for a few months before I go back and rewrite, so the book is fresh to me. When I’m happy with it, it goes off to my editor–who has the thankless task of trying to cure my comma addiction and other atrocities that shall remain nameless.

5. Which do you like to write more, stand-alone books or trilogies?

I have only committed one trilogy so far, and I didn’t plan it that way (see “pantser”, above). The story just kept going and I could tell it would take three books to finish. I do like each book to be complete in the sense it has its own narrative arc, even in a trilogy.

6. What do you perceive to be the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

The main advantage of self-publishing is it is mindlessly easy, which is also the main disadvantage. I can remember the publishing industry moaning about the advent of cheap word processors and how they created mountains of manuscripts–where before the effort of typing kept the deluge of crap minimal. The recent complaints that self-published=poor quality are just another variation on the theme. I love being able to select and direct my own cover art, for example (although my artist whimpers occasionally) and to write just the story in my head–not the one the corporate market director thinks will sell. I’m responsible for everything about the book–if I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done–but it feels wonderful when I do my job and I get emails from readers complaining of how I made them stay up late to finish my book!

7. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Read good (that is, well-written) books. Then read a bad one and see if you can point out *why* it is bad, and how you would fix it. Writing is a creative process so there are no hard-and-fast rules, and that is frustrating to beginners who just want to know HOW and why won’t you tell me? It’s more of a path than a recipe. Write as much as you can. Get feedback from people who a) respect the genre you are writing, b) are not susceptible to emotional blackmail and c) will tell you the truth, even if it hurts. Then put the work away until your emotions calm down before you make any changes.

I am admittedly biased in favor of self-publishing since it has worked so well for me. I have been on both sides, however. I have an agent and he even got me a traditional publishing contract for the Sequoyah series–which was so bad I turned it down and he *agreed* with me! Currently the traditional publishers show no sign of respecting authors, and until that changes I can’t recommend pursuing a traditional publishing contract. That said, convincing someone who must make money off the deal that your writing is good enough to pay for is an excellent cure for inflated ego problems.  If short stories work for you, try some of the online e-zines or similar publications. But only if you get paid!

8. Can you talk about any works in progress you have going on or future releases?

My current project is a science-fiction standalone, The Scent of Metal. It reveals the *true* nature of Pluto, what really happened to the Neandertals, and computer geeks in space! I am hoping to get that finished and available early 2013. I’m also planning to write a sequel to The Last Mage Guardian, and thinking about some short stories set in the world of Firehearted.

Thanks to Sabrina Chase for stopping by the blog!

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Short Stories Blog Tour June 29, 2012

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I’m pleased to have Michael K. Rose on the Akamai Reader today. He agreed to do an interview for his Short Stories Blog Tour, which is available now.

1. Was there a catalyst or single event that led you to your writing career?

I can’t say that there was. I’ve always enjoyed writing and it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. But about two and a half years ago, I decided to get serious about it, began working on some novels and submitting short stories to the science fiction magazines.

2. If you had a chance to sit down with your favorite author, who would it be? What would you say?

If a poet counts, I would choose Walt Whitman. He’s the historical person I would most like to meet. His overall outlook on life is something I have tried to model. I have no idea what I’d say. I’d rather just sit and listen to him talk.

3. Did you always know you would write Sci-Fi?

Yes and no. It’s always been something I’ve liked writing but I never made a consciousdecision that I was going to be a science fiction writer. And I have an interest in writing in other genres as well. I suppose, however, that because it is what I have written and released first, I will be considered primarily a science fiction author, which I do not mind at all.

4. What are the challenges of writing short stories versus full-length novels?

Short stories are actually easier for me. I write with a great deal of brevity and 3,000 to 5,000 words feels like a natural length for me in which to tell a story. My new release, Short Stories, is a testament to this. But writing longer works is forcing me to learn new skills as a writer to keep the reader’s interest while also expanding my story-telling to cover much more than I would in a short story.

5. Who would you say majorly influenced your work?

In science fiction, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, without a doubt. Overall, I would also include Henry James, Arthur Conan Doyle, HP Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard and Stephen King. However, I don’t think all of those influences haven’t been revealed in my writing just yet.

6. What would you say are the major advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

Advantage: complete artistic control. Disadvantage: complete artistic control. What I mean by this is that there is no one to decide for you that the decision you’ve made is right or wrong. Friends and readers can give you advice, but it is ultimately up to you. There is no editor or publisher to see when you’ve become enamored with an idea that may not necessarily be a good idea. On the flip side, you have the ability to bring your vision to fruition in exactly the way you want. This is highly fulfilling from a creative standpoint.

7. What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Before you even think about publishing, get established on Facebook, Twitter, start writing a blog. If you interact with other authors and readers in your genre for a few months first, they will be much more receptive to you if they already have an idea of who you are. Get them reading your blog, write interesting articles and occasionally mention the book you’re working on. Read and review the work of writers in your genre. Interview them on your blog. Make the connections, and by the time you’re ready to release, you will have a built-in audience and group of people willing to help you out.

Thanks for the interview, Michael!

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Author Interview – Peter Birk June 22, 2012

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For my next author interview, I have as my guest Peter Birk. He wrote the novel, To Trust The Wolf, and the short story, The Violin.

1. Was there a catalyst or a single event that led you to your writing career?

I wrote and drew a little comic book in one of my notebooks in high school.  I was going through my first major depression, sparked by my first adult crush going badly. I became obsessed with drawing and writing this comic, panel by panel. I was working through some really complex emotions for the first time, but what was captivating me about the process was that I was fictionalizing it. I wasn’t just writing about how depressed and sad I felt– I was telling a story about a little penguin trapped at the bottom of a hole. I didn’t know what was going to happen to him, which is why I was so focused on working on it all through school. When I did reach the end, it was very cathartic for me

Up to that point, I’d always been more interested in comics, cartoons, and animation. But when I started working on things, I found my artistic skills lagged behind my verbal skills. I was fortunate to have a really good English teacher in junior high. She was a real taskmaster– we all hated her, but for two years, the actual craft of writing was drilled into me. When I got to high school, writing was something I could do well, so it became how I expressed myself.

2. Do you have any writing rituals?

I used to be very fetishistic when it came to writing. I had to write longhand in a bound artist’s sketchbook with a Scheaffer fountain pen with purple ink. I had to go to this specific coffeehouse, had to drink black coffee, had to smoke Marlboro reds.

There’s a difference, though, between saying, “I like to write with fountain pens,” and, “I have to write with a fountain pen.” When your tools become the excuse for why you’re not writing, they’re no longer your tools. The important thing is to keep writing, no matter what.

I still have strong preferences regarding my tools. At some point I graduated to black ink, and now writing in anything else drives me crazy. But I’ll write in blue or purple or whatever color ink is in the pen I happened to grab when I sit down to write, because the important part is just to write. I have a goal of writing at least 750 words a day. They can be words about anything, but I try to write at least that much everyday. Writing everyday, and writing a good bit every day, at least in my experience, makes it easier to just sit down at the keys and bang something out when you’ve got the time.

3. If you had a chance to sit down with your favorite author, who would it be? What would you say?

If I got a chance to sit down with James Joyce over a cup of tea, I’d be too scared of sounding like an idiot to really ask anything profound. I’d ask him who the man in the macintosh is in Ulysses. I really do want to know that.

4. Did you always know you were going to write fantasy?

No. I probably should have, given how much of it I read through the years. When I was a kid, I devoured any fantasy novel I got my hands on. When I started studying writing, though, I wrote serious fiction, modern, literary fiction. Not to put down sci-fi or fantasy, but there’s something to literary fiction that you don’t often find in most commercial fiction, genre fiction included; a fundamental function of the art form that works like the trigger of a gun, and figuring out that function, and how to make it work, that’s the difference between writing well and writing beautifully. It’s that moment when the narrative reaches out, grabs your heart and gives it a little squeeze, that point where all the little symbols and relations the author has stitched through the text suddenly line up and etch themselves like lightning across your brain.

I’m not dismissing sci-fi or fantasy that doesn’t do this. Another fundamental function of the art form is the power of narrative to supersede the reader’s thoughts, to allow the reader to become lost in the fictional world, and good genre fiction excels at this. Like I said before, I’ve been a long time fan of both genres, but in college I always pictured myself writing literary fiction. The fact is, though, that a few years out of school, I had really given up on the idea of being a writer. I felt as if I was out of practice after not being in school for so long. It was almost unpleasant for me to try to write, because I would compare it to things that I had written years before and feel that it wasn’t as good. This novel started out as a script for a comic book, which was how I talked myself into working on it, because no one was going to see my awful prose, just my awful dialog. But then the plot and the characters just kept growing and growing, and soon I found myself writing actual narrative. Once I was rolling, I couldn’t stop.

I’m not saying writing sci-fi or fantasy is easier, either. In so many ways, it is a lot harder. Not only do you have to create a new world and make it real, but you have to figure out how to introduce it to the reader without bogging down your narrative. And sci-fi/fantasy readers know the genre, and know it well. They know what’s been done before. They know how it’s done, and what they like to see.

But for me, writing a fantasy novel became very liberating, because it freed me from the shackle of trying to write serious fiction, of trying to create art. I had a story I wanted to tell, a story that was captivating me so completely that all I wanted to do was work on it, just so I could be in that world. But there are a lot of bits in the text that the serious writer in me is pretty proud of, nice turns of phrase and such, and there are moments in the text that still generate an emotional response in me, even when I was revising and revising and revising. When you’ve read the same passage nearly a hundred times and it still chokes you up, that’s something.

5. How did you become interested in the idea of Red Riding Hood as a concept for a series?

I’d been invited to play D&D with some friends. One night when I was driving home from the game, I started thinking about a new campaign, one that would mix swords and sorcery with a western theme. I came up with this image of a witch on horseback who was a solitary law enforcer, like the Texas Rangers of the Old West. She was riding through mountains, hunting a renegade werewolf.

I never got started on the campaign, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the scene and started just scribbling about it. The Little Red Riding Hood story started to become the perfect frame for the ideas and scenes I was envisioning. I’ve had a long-standing interest in stories involving wolves, but Little Red Riding Hood isn’t so much about the wolf as it is about the girl, so it wasn’t until Perdita came along in my notes that things really snapped into focus. Originally, the story was all about Lupus Rex, about how he was this misunderstood anti-hero, but creating Perdita changed all that quickly, and it became her story instantly.

6. The world of Raioume is very elaborate, do you keep notes when you write?

I started with several draft documents that were just raw ideas. Anything and everything that popped into my head, I jotted down. As I got into writing the text, I kept a stack of 3 x 5 notecards handy, and would write ideas down on them as I went. I would go through them later and work the ideas into the text or toss them out.

At one point, I got concerned that I had too many characters to keep track of, so I started making a timeline. I ended up drawing it on graph paper, and then ended up taping extra sheets to it to keep track of every character. The final time line ended up being seven sheets of graph paper taped together, two high by three wide with a tail. It was a good thing I did it, too, because I discovered that some of the timing was not going to work out. Anna DuBois ended up being older than I was writing her. Estelle Mathieu started out as Sylvia’s mother, but became her grandmother as I saw how things were falling out.

used Scrivener for a lot of the composition and editing, and it was really easy to add notes to sections and ask questions. Also, my editor and I made a ton of notes about things as we revised the book. As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of time daydreaming about the book and its world, a lot of time thinking about its history, so there was a lot I could reference obliquely in the text. My editor was really good about asking about obscure references, and helping me elaborate where she felt I needed to.

7. Who was your inspiration for Perdita? 

I would love to claim that Perdita sprang from my forehead fully formed, but that’s not very realistic. I did get a very clear sense of her early on. I can see a Kitty Pryde influence. She was my favorite X-Man when I was reading comics back in the 80s. I think Chris Claremont did a wonderful job of  keeping her wide-eyed and innocent, intelligent, constantly overwhelmed by the challenge of being a super-hero yet continually rising to meet that challenge. But Perdita has this stubborn sense of fair-play that I find really remarkable, that from an early age she has seen that there is injustice and evil in the world, but that’s not what upsets her. It’s the lack of balance between the bad things and the good things in life. Perdita knows first-hand that bad things happen to good people. What outrages her is that the good things don’t happen to them as well.

8. Can you talk about when the next Raioume novel is expected to come out and any other works in progress that you have going on?

Well, my goal when I published the first book was to have the second book out by the end of 2012. And now it’s June. Yikes. I have been working on the book, but I’ve also been working at my day job, going back to school, and taking care of my son in the mornings. Marketing the first book has also taken more time than I thought. So, the end of this year is looking a little unrealistic.

I don’t see it taking six years, like the first book. The plot, characters, and settings are pretty well established. To Trust the Wolf was the longest piece I’ve written to date, and my first attempt to write a novel as opposed to a short story. I learned a lot about the process, and have a better idea of what’s needed to complete a book. So, probably not by the end of the year, but hopefully about a year from now.

I do post little snippets and scenes on my personal blog– not from Little Red, but different realistic scenes based on things that happen around me. And I am planning a web-based serial for Little Red, a side-story that takes place well before the novels, something where I could put a scene or a chapter out every week or so.

We’re working on audiobook version, and looking to release a chapter at a time as a podcast. And finally, I’m in talks to have the setting used as the background for a new free form role-playing system that is in the process of being published. I’ve read recaps from their role-playing sessions before, and it really is more like collaborative story-telling than game playing, so I’m excited to see what happens with that.

Thanks goes to Peter for the interview!

Visit Peter Birk at:



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Author Interview – Chris Strange May 25, 2012

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For my very first author interview, I’d like to introduce Chris Strange, the author of The Man Who Crossed Worlds. I first reviewed his book in the beginning of this month. I was so impressed with it, I thought it would be great to get to know the mind behind the work better.

 1. Was there a catalyst or a single event that you can point to that led you to your writing career?

First of all, thanks for having me on! It’s great to be here. I’ve dabbled in writing ever since I was young. Creative writing assignments were always my favorite things in school. But it wasn’t until the last few years that I started to take my writing seriously. After a couple of abortive attempts at writing novels, I finally managed to complete my first full-length work during NaNoWriMo (2010,
I think). For those who aren’t familiar with it, NaNo is a very popular event held every November where people all around the world
try to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. It’s a crazy, awesome adventure with an amazing online community. The humorous sci-fi novel I wrote during that month was pretty terrible and it will never see the light of day, but the event showed me that I could actually sit down and write a novel from start to finish, and have a blast doing it. I’ve been trying to write seriously and improve ever since.

2. Do you have any writing rituals?

I have to have music while I write, preferably something with lots of  guitars. I’ve tried writing on a laptop in various trendy locales like coffee shops and libraries, but it never worked for me. My best writing comes when I’m sitting in a comfortable chair at home in front of a nice big screen while I mainline caffeine in some form or other.

3. If you had a chance to sit down with you favorite author who would it be? what would you say?

To be perfectly honest, when I’d almost certainly turn into an awkward, stammering fool, so I wouldn’t have a clue what I would say. But one day I’d love to meet Haruki Murakami, the bestselling Japanese writer. Especially if it gave me an excuse to visit Japan. I’d love to see the mind of such a genius in action. Plus he just seems like a really cool dude.

4. How did you decide to write Urban Fantasy?

I love exploring what happens when the strange intersects with the familiar. I read pretty eclectically, but the stories that stay with me are the ones that can bring those two clashing worlds together and present something fascinating and new. Urban and contemporary fantasy is also an exciting genre to be writing in at the moment. A huge range of different worlds and stories and characters and voices have been emerging in the genre for the last few years, from Justin Gustainis’ Occult Crimes books to Joe Hill’s delightfully dark comic book series Locke and Key. It’s incredibly thrilling to be a part of.

5. Your style is very similar to Jim Buther’s, was he a heavy influence in your work?

Absolutely. It’s almost impossible to write in the male-protagonist-noir-urban-fantasy style without being inspired by incredible writers like Jim Butcher, Mike Carey, Richard Kadrey, and Simon R. Green. I’m also a huge fan of the hardboiled, metaphor-laced works from the times of the pulp magazines by writers like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, so that’s been a heavy influence as well.

6. The cover for “The Man Who Crossed Worlds” is very striking. How was it conceived?

The cover art is all down to my fantastic artist, Hiep Ha Dzung. I found Hiep through deviantART and gave him a few ideas for the tone I wanted to convey, and he did the rest. I was aiming for something exciting, over-the-top, pulpy, and with a bit of magic, and I think he really delivered.

7. Can you talk about any future works?

Sure. I’ve got two projects in the works at the moment. I’m in the middle of edits on a superhero adventure novel called “Don’t Be a Hero.” It’s a mashup of comic books, rocketpunk, and New Zealand culture, and I think it’s a fun book. I’m also nearly done with the first draft of the sequel to “The Man Who Crossed Worlds,” so I’ll be finishing that off and getting started with edits soon. It’s been great to get back into Miles’ head and get him into a whole lot more mischief. After that, I’ve got a few story ideas sketched out and the general arcs for the next couple of Miles books. So much to write, so little time!

Get your copy of The Man Who Crossed Worlds here.

Find Chris over at the following places: