Interview with author Natasha McLear

This month, I am lucky to have the lovely and talented Natasha McLear here with me. When she’s not cooking up stories, Tasha is cooking up delicious food. She was generous enough to share a recipe for Italian Tzatziki today! Recipe at the bottom. Without further ado, on to the interview.

characetrsWhen you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go? 

Oh, gosh, I can never write a word until I have a clear picture of my characters.

I start with one serious strength, and fill in smaller features around it.

In my last novel, my leading lady is a fast learner – and believe me, I’ve given her more than her fair share of pain and failure – she finds a way to learn from her mistakes and turns disaster to triumph.  She also has a gentle touch and a charming dimpled smile which wins over the grumpiest angriest people.  To go with the smile, I gave her sparkling eyes and golden highlights in her hair.  I gave her shoulder length hair so it bounces and dances when she tilts her head and grins.  When she’s thoughtful she looks down and her hair falls in a shiny curtain over one side of her face which she unconsciously tucks back behind her ear.

Bingo!

Now I can see how the leading man sees her and what attracts him. Which means the man had to be the opposite, he is visibly strong but when things don’t go his way he has no idea how to deal and only her gentle strength can take him out of his funk.

And that’s the basis of my story arc.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block, and do you have any tips for getting through it?

writers block

Oh yes. My Lord, yes.

The easiest is a burn-out block when I’ve been running the engine too long and too hard and I have nothing left in the tank.  I take a nice long break and wait until I want to write again.  I actually wait and wait until the desire to go back is irresistible and has me by the throat, then I go back to my waiting WiP.

Then there is the pushing a car up the hill block.  This is when I’ve done something wrong and the characters are confused and don’t know where to go or how. I have to get out of the car and push from one plot point to the next.  I hate that, of how I hate that because it feels like the novel just isn’t working anymore, I’m bored, my characters are bored and even my laptop keyboard is bored until everything grinds down to a standstill.  This block is caused by the writing, normally I’ve missed something, the conflict isn’t active or I’ve betrayed my characters, frog marched them somewhere they wouldn’t normally go.

Solution: Stop, breath, check what’s missing. Rewrite and the block dissolves.

The worst block of all is the emotional one. Something has gone wrong in my heart and I need to heal before I can write again. I call this The Terror.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

ethiopian foodIf I know and love the writer, then I barely look at the cover.  If I don’t know the writer, then it’s like ordering food in an Ethiopian restaurant where the menu is written in Ethiopian and the ingredients are injera, wat and tibs.  Then I need the pictures to tempt me.  I want the picture to inspire me and promise me a magical journey but also to show
me what the ingredients are so I know if I want to order the dish or not.

 

 Any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?

stick with winners
Surround yourself with the best writers you can find.  Yes it’s nice to have cheerleaders who say nice things, but are they helping me improve or are they more concerned about seeming nice? I say ‘seeming’ because there’s nothing nice about letting a fellow writer go out into the wolf-eat-wolf market place armed with a less than perfect novel.

Nothing wrong with putting out a 3-star novel if I happen to be a 3-star writer.  But there’s no excuse for a 5-star book when you’re capable of a 7-star novel.

In an ideal world you would find talented writers, intelligent critiquers who also happen to love your work.  But if I couldn’t, and I had to choose, I’d take a talented writer and a plain-speaking critic any day. I want my friends to push me when I’m being lazy, careless or wrong.

Does honest feedback hurt sometimes? Sure it does.  But if you want a gentle soft life, don’t be a novelist.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?

She’s a 29 year old artist who loves the colour green.  In all its hues and shades. She started out in fine art, painting lush spring landscapes. Then a traumatic experience ruined her confidence, and she never picked up a paintbrush again.

bespoke 4 (2)But the human spirit is not easily killed.  As she healed she started designing jewellery, mostly using green gems.  Very soon, she was asked to create individual engagement rings, bespoke piec
es and by the point the novel opens, she’s very successful and her creations are considered works of art.

Then she gets a strange invitation to paint again and the door to the past opens unto a guilty secret, a long buried pain and a forgotten love.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

Anywhere with plenty of this.coffee- (2)

About Natasha:

Natasha (Tasha to her friends) started making up stories when she was five because no one had the time to read them to her all day long.  In the end she had to learn reading so she could raid her mum’s bookshelves.  By the then, the trick of making stuff up had become deeply ingrained.  She spent her childhood and adolenscence always hiding behind the pages of some book.  By the time she was 16, she had to smuggle books into the bathroom and read there because her family had declared an imbargo on novels in an attempt to force her to study for her A’Levels.  “Do you want to go to university or end up working in kitchens?”

Although Tasha did go to a good university, she now spends far too much time in the kitchen inventing recipes.  Last month she discovered the wonderful world of Twitter and shared her favourite recipes with her followers.

Her latest novel is about heartbreak, so she tweets a lot about that, too.

Connect with Natasha on Twitter.

As promised, that heavenly recipe:

Italian Tzatziki

The heart and soul of this recipe is topquality, sun-ripened tomatoes,

the kind that smell divine.

You’ll need:Italian Tzatziki
10-12 cherry tomatoes cut in half or 3 large tomatoes cubed

500ml (2 cups) Greek yogurt

3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Slice the tomatoes. Put into a large bowl and season with salt. Leave for 10-15 minutes to let the tomato juices collect in the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the yogurt.

Meanwhile, slice the garlic very thin into a small non-stick frying pan.  Add cold olive oil. Place over the lowest heat setting to allow the garlic and oil to infuse gently.  When the garlic starts to turn dark gold, remove from heat and pour over the yogurt and tomato mixture.  Stir gently to allow the flavours to mix.

Serve with hot crusty bread.

Interview with author Fanni Suto

This month, I have Fanni Suto with me. In addition to writing, Fanni is a fan of owls, sloths, street art and a collector of earrings.
FannieSuto

On to our main topic. What do you most enjoy about reading and writing fiction?

The fact that we have the power to change reality. I can make up whole new worlds or I can take ours and bend the rules. I can also show a slice of my world to other people and make them understand me better than it would be possible in other ways.

When you get a writing idea, what is the first thing you do with it?

I make notes, either in Evernote on my phone or in one of my fancy notebooks, ( I keep buying them, I can’t help it!) then I create a Pinterest board, it helps me pin down the mood. (Pun intended… well, sort of.)

Does any part of the story have roots in your own personal life? Was anything in the book inspired by your own personal tales?

Stories of travel, self-discovery and finding our place in the world is very close to my heart.

Fitting in is sometimes very difficult and you have to have the strength not to give up. I’ve been living away from my home country for roughly 2 years now, I lived in the UK and now I live in France. It was my decision so I’m much luckier than the people who have to flee their homes but feeling home is sometimes still difficult. This feeling , I think, is recurrent in my writing. For example, in my urban fantasy novel, Londemonium, I have an immigrant angel who leaves the crumbling and corrupt heaven behind to find a new home in the efficient and liberal (but also cruel and somewhat capitalistic) Hell.

nolan-issac-38299Do you have any strange writing habits or rituals?

I like to have a cup of tea or coffee by my side. I usually forget about it though, so by the time I remember my coffee, it’s usually cold. My strangest and most annoying writing habit is that scenes come to me in a very random order so my stories usually look like strange Frankenstein experiments when I try to patch the parts together.

What cultural value do you place on storytelling?

I think storytelling has an utmost importance. I can’t wait to have children to tell them bedtime stories. In our world which is very product focused and efficiency driven stories might seem outdated or unnecessary. I think, however, that today’s world is a bit like a young child on a rampage. It demands everything it sees and breaks (almost) everything it lays its hand on, what it really needs is a warm hug and stories to teach it about the things that are really important.

More about Fanni:dakota-corbin-211690

Fanni Sütő is a writer, poet, dreamer who believes in fairy tales even if they are dark, disenchanted and deconstructed. She writes about everything which comes in her way or goes bump in the night. She has been published in Hungary, the US, the UK and Australia. She  is very happy to do collaborations, art exchanges, cross-art projects, so if you’re interested in such things, please get in touch on her website and travel blog.

Interview with author Becca Patterson

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Hi Becca, thanks for joining me this month. I heard a rumor that you do not just sit at a desk and type up fabulous stories, but that you also risk life and limb in the name of research. Is it true that you once narrowly escaped a bull moose by floating UNDER it in a canoe?

True. Also true: my cats protect me from the wild and woolly strings around the house.

Sounds like you always have plenty of material to work with. 
Getting down to brass tacks: any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?

Do what works for you.

Don’t do what doesn’t work for you.

Finish your draft.

Every writer is different, so what works for each writer is going to be different. The sooner you figure that out, the sooner you’ll start hearing writing advice for what it is: suggestions. Give everything a try, but feel free to reject the stuff that just doesn’t work. The only thing that I’ve found to be universal is that you can’t really know what your first chapter is supposed to be until you’ve written your last chapter. I know one writer who starts her draft with the last chapter and works backward. I tried that once. I know several who write out of order, and frequently they are halfway through the draft when they get to the final chapter. For me, I have to write in order, so I rush through the story to the end, then I can go back and fix things.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing?

Advantages: You have control over everything.

Disadvantages: You have to control everything.

Traditional publishing takes care of things like cover design, formatting and getting your book into catalogs and things like that. However that means you have almost no control over what your book is going to look like. It used to take care of the marketing, too. Not so much any more. Especially for new and midlist writers, about the only marketing you’ll get in your contract is inclusion in the company catalog and maybe your cover, along with a bunch of others, in a “new releases” blurb in a trade magazine. If you want to earn out your advance (the key to getting another contract) you’ll have to push your own book.

daughter-of-the-queen-coverIndie publishing means you get to take on the role of the publisher. It’s up to you to find or create an effective cover design. You’ll have to hire a copy editor (because after months of editing you aren’t going to notice your typos, homonym errors or all those commas). Formatting your book is tedious, but not as hard as people make it out to be. Then it’s up to you to do all of the marketing, but you were going to do most of it with trad publishing anyway. You won’t be included in any company’s catalog, That is proving to be less and less of an advantage anyway.

The really big difference is in the royalty rates. On the low end you’ll be getting 20% of a book’s sales price for each copy sold when you publish yourself. In a traditional contract you’re lucky to pull 5% royalty for each unit sold. Meaning you have to sell a lot fewer copies to still make a decent profit independently. Which is only fair because basically you took on a whole bunch of jobs that the traditional company paid for.

The biggest advantage to Indie Publishing is the back list. In digital and on-demand publishing, your book never has to go “out of print”. So you can earn on a single title for the rest of your life. Not much, but that’s why you keep writing. Get a large enough catalog of your backlist out there, and you’ll be pulling in a decent paycheck even if your titles never sell more than 5 copies a month.

Great advice. Back to those moose and ferocious attack cats: How much research do you do?daughter-of-the-revolution-cover

The easy answer is: “it depends”. It depends on the needs of the story. It depends on what I know about the tech or science needed to make the story real. It depends on how close to Earth real my story needs to be. It depends on whether you consider daydreaming about another world to get the rules all straightened out research.

For Daughter of the Revolution I spent a lot of time researching genetics. Specifically mutation rates on the Y chromosome. I also looked into what we knew about the gender based genetics of alligators. Did you know that gender in an alligator is determined by the temperature of the nest where the egg gestates? Also frogs because many species of frog can switch gender if the population becomes unbalanced. I needed all that information to explain how my twins could be identical genetically, but one female and one male – which is a key factor in the plot.

I spent almost as much time in my head imagining life on Jupiter. Or rather in Jupiter. There isn’t much to research for life in Jupiter. I mean I could look at the chemical composition of the gasses (which I did) and a whole bunch of scientists laughing at the very idea of life in Jupiter. While they are perfectly willing to look for life on chilly, nearly atmosphere-less Mars, the idea that the relatively warm and dense atmosphere of Jupiter could support life seems ridiculous.

Intriguing! What cultural value do you place on storytelling?

heros-call-coverStorytelling is the basis of culture. It doesn’t have to be formal, just the conversations around holiday meals or when we’re out with friends. Growing up, we listen to our parents when they are telling us stories, and learn what we are supposed to do. We also listen to our parents when they aren’t talking to us and learn the real rules. When we get older, it’s the same when we chat with friends. I know what’s important by what stories you tell.

Formal storytelling, in the forms of novels, movies and TV, are just as powerful as the old stories told around the winter fires. We know who’s important by who gets to be the lead characters. We know what’s important by what the lead characters do. This is a very powerful tool. One that we have the power and responsibility to wield

Any hobbies besides writing?

I crochet… sometimes… when I can convince the cats not to help.

Belly dance is my preferred form of exercise, but I also perform as an amature.

Then there are the role playing games that I love with my husband.

I wish there were more time in my day for doing hobbies, but between two jobs, plus writing and keeping up with the TV shows we watch together (I can’t bring myself to call watching TV a hobby), there just isn’t much left.

Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Becca. 

catfaceavatar32_400x400More about Becca:

Sci-Fi and Fantasy are just two of Becca Patterson’s preferred genres. An author hailing from Minnesota, she has been writing for as long as she can remember, and takes much of her inspiration from the teenagers she works with. In her spare time, Becca enjoys making her husband laugh, and playing string with her three cats. You can follow her on her website at http://becca.mreauowpublishing.com/ , on Twitter @mreauow or on Amazon.

 

Interview with author Krisna Starr

This month, I have the lovely and talented Krisna Starr joining me. Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Krisna. So, inquiring minds want to know, what writers inspire you?

author-pic-krisna-m-starrLots of them 🙂 As a child, I used to love stories by Enid Blyton. All of her books, especially the Five Findouters series, are still in my ‘Favorites’ shelf. She kindled in me the urge to write stories. Terry Goodkind and J.R.R. Tolkien hooked me into the fantasy and magic genre. I also love the way Terry Pratchett tells his stories, full of humor, yet conveying profound messages. Then there are the modern authors – Julia Quinn (hilarious historical romance), Judith McNaught, Chanda Hahn, Suzanne Enoch, Chloe Neill, Jeaniene Frost, Nalini Singh….

LOL! I better stop before I fill your entire page with my list 😀

I suffer from a similar malady. Do you have other hobbies?

Besides books? I love to sleep (because then I can dream and create more stories 🙂 ) listen to music and do some handicrafts with my children. I also meditate every day in the morning. It kind of sets the tone for the day, filling it with a calmness and balance which is so important in today’s world full of stress and tension.

I hear you have a particular verb tense you prefer to write in. Is there a reason behind your choice?

As a reader, I’m more comfortable reading stories written in the past tense. So I use it for all my works. I think 1st person present tense might work well with short stories, but the few novels I’ve read written this way, seemed somehow a little awkward after a few chapters.

What can you tell us about your main character’s greatest weakness?
The main character in my novel, Dragons of Atlantea (working title) is Kiyara Rozen. She’s a crippled nephilim slave who has been abused all her life by her master’s daughter and her friends. So she has a deep-rooted fear of all people having power. She distrusts them without knowing the truth and this pulls her down in the story because she’s unwilling to trust the Oracle who’s trying to help her and the hero, an Immortal Dragon Prince.

But as the story progresses, she gets over her prejudices and works with them as an Elite Warrior and helps them save their realm.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

I think the most important thing about marketing is to get your book out there. Join communities where your target readers abound and build relationships. Twitter, FB, Wattpad (for YA) and Goodreads are all great places to connect to readers.

Offer free giveaways, ARCs, teasers and excerpts. Once they get to know your writing and love it, they’ll come back for more.

Thanks for joining this month, Krisna. It was great to get to know more about you and your writing.

ompaz-dn-9i-greg-rakozyAuthor Bio:

Krisna is an avid reader and a lover of dragons, unicorns and all things magical. She divides her time between living in this world doing her day-to-day tasks, and the wonderful world of her dreams that is full of magic and fantastic creatures.  Her current WIP, Dragons of Atlantea, Book 1 (working title), is set in the magical world of Atlantea where magic rules, dragons roar and angels soar in the skies.

Besides books, she enjoys spending time with her children, mediation/ yoga, music and watching animes on the net.

Read Krisna’s blog

Connect with her on Facebook

Follow her on Twitter

Be friends with her in Goodreads

 

Interview with author Trin Carl

This month’s interview is with Trina Carl, YA and literary fiction author.

Hi Trin, thanks for joining me. a_k7r1kugue-andrew-neel

Do you write full-time or part-time?  

I like to believe I write full time.  My very purpose comes from writing and staying engaged in the process everyday. I plan my outside work around my writing agenda.

 Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I try to aim for 3,000 words per day but at the least 300.  I feel like I’ve met my goal if I’ve at least written 300.

What would be the highest achievement you could imagine accomplishing in your writing?  

I think that accomplishments and goals spin off one another like a Jenga game.  You stack up your goals only to find new ones.  I would love to achieve an award in writing like a Newberry Award or something similar.  I would love to have my work posted in newspaper or read aloud in a commencement speech.  All of these endeavors would make me proud.

That all sounds great. Change of topic. Where’s the most memorable place you ever been?  

The most memorable place I’ve been to was Britain, in 2011.  I will never forget the journey and the place.  It was the most independent traveling experience I’ve ever had.  But much of that independence had to do with the unique people I encountered and the polite ways the people had guided throughout my journey.

And finally, do you have a favorite quote?

My favorite quote is by Mark Twain. “A classic is something everybody talks about and nobody has read.” 

Love Mark Twain. He’s on my list of people I would invite to a dead-person dinner party. Thanks again for meeting up with me today.

9syokyrq-re-jeff-sheldonAbout Trin:

Trin Carl writes YA and Literary fiction.  She enjoys contemporary dance and writing her blog 50schoolsn90days on Blogger.  From Minnesota, Trin enjoys the outdoors and all the seasons, especially the fall as it reminds her of her days teaching and attending school at Metropolitan State University.  She can be contacted on twitter @theglobaldig

Interview with Author Melion Traverse

My author series continues this month with author Melion Traverse.

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Let’s start at the beginning. When did you decide to become a writer?

Looks as though we’ll be starting this week with a boring answer: when I was a kid. I didn’t think at the time I wanted to devote myself to a full-fledged career in writing (I still had some unrealistic idea that I would become a veterinarian despite my utter mathematical ineptitude), but writing brought me enjoyment, and I knew I wanted to write at least as a serious hobby.

Speaking of work, what are some of the day jobs you have held? Have any of these influenced your writing?

Let’s see, I’ve been a lifeguard, a student parking enforcement representative, a skip tracer, a background screener for truck drivers, a peon for a state agency, a housecleaner. The unifying thread is that in each of these jobs, people thought I was the person they could yell at because their day had gone to crap.

On a more positive note, each job has offered me the opportunity to meet and interact with a wide array of people. I have real life stories from these jobs that people wouldn’t believe if I wrote them in a novel. However, each of these jobs has helped me see people with a little more complexity, and I think the experiences have strengthened how I write my characters.

Agree 100%. So, what have you written? 

While I’ve written quite a bit, much of my writing has been more for developing my skills than for any real hope of publication. I have had a few pro and semi-pro magazines pick up some of my writing, which has been a gratifying experience and a boost to my confidence. Aside from my short stories, I invest a great deal of time on academic writing and it is . . . er, amusing . . . to see the two distinct writing styles bleed into each other.

At the moment, I’m focused on editing and rewriting a novel that I hope to self-publish in the near future, provided Real Life will stop sneaking up on me (I’m serious, Real Life, get over yourself! You’re not as awesome as you think you are with your bills and your stress and your arbitrary deadlines I keep missing. Sheesh.)

Speaking of editing, what is your favorite way to avoid writing?

Ah, the internet. I never knew that I needed to watch cat videos until I got into writing on the PC. If I were smart, I’d find a computer that cannot connect to the internet and use that for my writing. But I’m not that smart. Besides, I’m resourceful when it comes to the art of procrastination; if it weren’t the internet, I’d find something else.

What is your guilty pleasure?

Besides zany videos? Watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes on YouTube. Man, that was a cheesy show. Still, the episodes are a lot of fun. When I’m tired of being an adult, I make a bowl of ramen noodles, dump in enough hot sauce to turn my nose into a faucet, and watch an episode. Sometimes being an adult has its advantages.

Thanks for chatting with me today, Melion.

treesoverheadBio: Melion Traverse writes things. When not writing things, Melion still lives with one spouse, two dogs and an acceptable amount of chaos. She is occasionally found playing with swords, studying martial arts, and lifting weights. Other times, she hides with a book and an energy drink as she avoids the tumbleweeds of dog hair overwhelming her house. Melion’s short stories have appeared in, or are forthcoming in, Deep Magic, Fantasy Scroll Magazine, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, Cast of Wonders, Scarlet Leaf Review, Havok, and T. Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog. Check out her haphazard blog.

Interview with Author Abbie Silk

I’m very pleased to have YA author Abbie Silk with me this month.

What are you currently working on and what is it about?

I’m currently working on a YA fantasy novspaceel about a princess who gets stuck back in time with her sisters and courted by a demon prince. I’m also working on a short story about a snobby teen chef who goes on a mission trip and changes her whole outlook on life.

Interesting. How often do you write, and do you have a special time during the day to write?

I try to write every day except for Sunday. I usually write in the morning, right after breakfast. I usually sit on the couch sideways, or lay on my bed, or sit outside on my little picturesque bench.

 

Sounds downright dreamy. What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

Getting started each morning. I feel like I’ve forgotten to do something before I start. It’s been easier when I do writing prompts before I start writing. Writing prompts are gold!

Definitely. What are your views on social media for marketing, and which of them have worked best for you?

I believe that social media is a great marketing tool for authors. I’m only on Pinterest right now, but I’ve created visuals about my story.

One of my characters would love the braids on your Pinterest site! Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

princessbraidsYes! The cover is often the first part of the book that you see. If they haven’t taken the time to make the cover nice, you wonder what shortcuts they made inside the book.

 

 

 

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. Best of luck with all your endeavors.

Bio:

Abbie Silk lives in a world of books, both fantasy and YA. She writes short stories and is writing a YA fantasy novel, Dancing in the Past.

Connect with Abbie on her blog and Pinterest.

 

Interview with Author Bill Aitken

My blog runneth over this month. I’m so pleased to be able to add a bonus interview with historical novelist, Bill Aitken.

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Thanks for joining me, Bill. Tell us, what are you currently working on?

At the present moment, I am working on the sequel to my first novel – Blackest of Lies.  Again, it is set in the middle of the First World War and follows the progress of my two main characters – Hubert and Banfield – as they deal with German espionage, this time in the US.  The book is called Sweet Sorrow and explores an outrage largely unknown outside the US – the Black Tom explosion in New York harbour.  At that time, the German Embassy was supporting a large number of undercover agents intent on disrupting America’s support for the Allies, despite her neutrality.  Without the explosives and horses bought from the US, the Allies would have found it very difficult to prosecute an effective war.  The Germans, on the other hand, had no such help and it caused them a great deal of trouble.  They felt, therefore, that they more they could interfere in the “special relationship”, the better.  One of the results was the explosion at Black Tom in July 1916 which, thankfully, caused few deaths.

How interesting. How much research do you need to do for a project like that?

A frightening amount – too much, really – but not because the book demands it.  Simply because I am sucked in to the period and just have to know more about this person or that event.  If I can infect my readers with the same passion, I count myself successful.  These days, of course, it is relatively easy because of the internet but when I took the first steps in planning my first novel, it was back in the early 90’s and most things were paper-based.  Much tougher.

I can imagine. What drew you to this genre?

I’ve always been a fan of historical fiction, especially the slightly off-the-wall variety and I have tried to replicate this in the two books.  I’m not really looking for the sort of history you can find in any text book but rather the strange, out-of-the-way stories which involve real individuals doing their part to affect the broader, historical canvas.  You can empathise with that sort of storyline better, I feel.

When did you decide to become a writer?blackestoflies_cover

Since the early 80s, really.  I wrote military histories and then went on to produce a dozen, or so, textbooks on IT-related subjects.  Blackest was my first foray into fiction and it was traumatic, to say the least.  I discovered that it was a whole new craft, meaning that much of my experience writing straight history and IT stuff was of little use.  But it was such fun coming to grips with the genre that I don’t regret it in the least.

Do you write full- or part-time?

Part-time.  I live and work in the Middle East, designing competency systems for the oil and gas industry so I’m pretty busy most of the time.  Weekends and the odd evening are about it.

Where do your ideas come from?

They come from my historical research really.  I’ll see something interesting which may not be directly related to the plot in hand but I’ll note it down for a future storyline.

Do you work with an outline or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?

A bit of both, really.  I’ll start with the idea but then the rigour of developing an outline helps me explore it further.  I also use mind-mapping a good deal.

How long would you say it take you to write a book?

That depends on the type of book.  Straight history and historical fiction depend a great deal on the availability of source material.  On the other hand, IT books are already in my head and only require the occasional glance at reference manuals.

Any tips on what to do or not do for aspiring writers?

Keep going.  A little bit most days will see you complete a novel inside a year.  But then the real work begins – editing it.  Have a circle of trusted friends who will look at early versions of your manuscript.  Encourage them to be open and honest.  Take their feedback in the spirit it is intended – constructive criticism.  It worked for me – I re-wrote the early parts of Blackest several times as the result of that sort of help.

Do you have time for hobbies or other interests?

I paint in watercolours and write a large amount of code – some for fun and some to help me at work.
sweetsorrowcoverThanks again for taking the time to chat with me, Bill. Best of luck with your upcoming projects.

Blackest of Lies is available at Amazon.

Sweet Sorrow will be available December 2016.

 

Interview with author Milli Gilbert

30911-913052738Continuing with my author series, this month I have the amazing Milli Gilbert. Without further ado, here is our interview:

What is the hardest thing about writing?
Hmm… I don’t write chronologically, so I’d say, at least today, that it’s getting everything in order. In the right order. Sometimes, I luck out, and some of it is in order. But most of the time, not so much. I just look at it like a jigsaw puzzle, and eventually, all the pieces fall into place.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block, and do you have any tips for getting through it?
Writer’s block… that’s when we start asking ‘why’s the rum gone’, right? I usually bang my head against a wall, cry a little bit (internally), then have one of my fellow authors call out the characters. It usually gets them talking, and then I’ve at least got an idea of why they aren’t cooperating.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I see more independent and self-publishing. I hear a lot of the big names are pushing their authors to do more and more, though, I don’t see trad publishing going away completely. There will always be those who won’t feel validated as an author unless their book has that Random House (or whoever) on the book.

If you hired someone else to format your work, how did you select them and what was your experience?
Someone else? Only for anthologies that I don’t have a hand in helping with, in which case, I don’t have a hand in selecting the formatter. Otherwise, I do it myself. It’s a lot easier to do than you might think, it’s just I go nuclear on the file, which makes it a bit more time consuming. Though I’ve gotten a bit of a flow with it, so it goes a lot quicker now. Plus, for someone on a tight budget, doing it myself is a whole heck of a lot cheaper.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Um… probably Facebook groups that do nothing but advertise books. You can join them and post links to your sales platforms. Just last week, I did that for one of my short stories, and someone purchased all three of them. Also, and this one relies a lot more on luck, but being active on Twitter – not so much in regards to advertising, I only advertise a couple times a week on Twitter, but interacting with people you follow, replying to those who interact with you. It get’s your visibility up there. I just had 108 pages read by (only sorta) teasingly commenting to a new follower, “if you’re looking for something to review, wink-wink” and she asked for the links and reviewed 2 of the three. (Would likely have been all three if the one had been on KU like it was supposed to be.) So yeah. Interaction. Mingling. Being socially active.

Great advice. Thanks for joining me today, Milli. 

More about Milli: An eclectic writer, Milli Gilbert is a stay-at-home mom who loves to play with words almost as much as she loves to play with her kids. All of her stories involve romance, and maybe a little bit of mystery. Milli loves to write about cowboys and shifters. And smut. Don’t forget the smut. And can usually be found trying to find interesting ways to combine them. She has several short stories published, and hopes to have her first full length novel out in late Summer 2017. She just took off after one of her couples to follow them around for a few months – but don’t worry, she’ll be back. If not, you can find her on  FacebookGoogle+, and Pinterest, or follow her on Twitter.

Interview with author David Neilson

I’m so pleased to be able to continue with my author interview series. With school starting up again and my teaching middle school Latin (ack!), I really appreciate it when other people are willing to do the hard work of thinking.

David Cover-interior-small

So, David, what sort of thing do you write?

I write mystery thrillers featuring Sophie Rathenau. An investigator in Mozart’s Vienna, she’s tousle-headed, modest of bosom, large of hand, acid-tongued, and inclined to be self-righteous. Getting involved in the direst conspiracies of her day, she needs all her wits to come out in one piece.

A miscarriage and the loss of her husband take her from the acute loneliness of book 1, The Prussian Dispatch, to a real place in society by the end of the series. 

Which writers have inspired you?

Years ago I was addicted to Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels, which no doubt influenced my choice of genre. I didn’t guess at the time that a female main character, one from the past, was a means of keeping the Parker influence at gunpoint. But no one reading my books, if at all familiar with Parker’s style of noir, will be unaware of my debt.

An equally powerful influence is opera: The Marriage of Figaro, Così, and particularly Fidelio. The departure point for the stories is really the question of how Leonore continues when Florestan has died. Sophie’s attitude is probably inspired by Leonore’s romantic impulsiveness, as in the heart-rending moment when she swears to use her one chance to free Pizarro’s prisoner, still unsure whether it’s her husband.

Why do you write from a female point of view?

Apart from heroics, which I wouldn’t be good at, Sophie’s tone of voice and attitudes to the world – her aesthetics, even – are simply mine. She popped into my head at the moment it occurred to me to write about Vienna in 1770, and I’ve found her voice comfortable ever since. Pre-Sophie, I found fiction projects hard to complete, and my male characters thin and disengaged. Looking at men from Sophie’s angle has rounded mine out. My only problem is maintaining a respectful distance from Sophie’s gynaecology while seeding some clues to her premature ovarian failure. (But this diagnosis is less than foolproof even today, so she may be in for a shock yet.)

Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer just to see where an idea takes you?

I began by sniffing after a rough idea, like the Habsburg civil service tracking the correspondence of their Prussian arch-enemies. I still believe in flexibility, but nowadays I like to have a detailed sense of where I’m bound, to feel the wider story developing. It’s important that, in time, Sophie will take on an adopted child and a regular lover, and the cues have to be implanted earlier: so the child walks on the third chapter of the first book, but at that point no one knows it.

There’s no fixed formula, however. It’s good to follow your nose: improvise another plot, try a different point of view, let a supporting character have her head. Like Isabella, the archduchess in Serene, to whom I didn’t think Sophie would yield so much of the stage, though when she does it creates the story. In the fourth book there are chapters in which Sophie doesn’t appear, although the series is first-person.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Sophie just wants to talk: she could fill a book wandering around Vienna, so completing pages can be all too easy. I often have to remind her there’s a story to put over. And when I don’t want to work, her foot-tapping urges me to get on with it. I think the hardest thing about writing is the knowledge of choice, the feeling that it’s always possible to be doing something else. But when it’s going well there’s nothing better.

 How much research do you do?

Being at home in the settings – Vienna, Munich, Salzburg, Constantinople – was, I’m sure, an unconscious reason for veering towards them. I love smuggling in my enthusiasm for these cities under Sophie’s blasé attitude.

The minutiae of everyday life in her time are fascinating –  a lifetime could be devoted to dress alone. Still, too much detail can slow the pace, so I like throwing in weird things a reader wouldn’t expect: King Augustus the Strong’s sport of fox-hurling, or long-forgotten weapons like a hand cannon. 

I’ll visit any local history museum in central Europe. But I did have an odd experience in Salzburg’s exhibition of traditional farmhouses. After an hour of taking photos for my book site on Pinterest in a creaking homestead from Sophie’s childhood, I was overcome by crippling emotion and had to get out. I still don’t know what caused that.

How true do you feel you have to be to the historical setting?

Apart from flourishes of eighteenth-century talk – extracts from letters, stuffy officials, aristocratic pomposity – the tone in the books tends to the modern. I don’t worry if Sophie uses a word that’s up to date, because I see the text as a translation from her era.

But I hope she doesn’t come across a conscious feminist in today’s sense, even though she’s riled by gender injustice, like many female characters in the stories and plays of her time: women who can’t control their fertility, don’t expect to, and are quite aware that things are stacked against them. Nonetheless, Sophie’s operating a mere fifteen years before the existing order was upturned in France, with wild new ideas about roles and social attitudes.

Readers enjoy catching you out on historical detail, such as Sophie’s marital aunt wearing knickers, which women didn’t in the 1770s. Yet a few women of damaged reputation did, which was the character point I wanted to prepare.

Where is the series headed?

With luck, I’ll produce seven novels altogether, with a few vignettes to cover later phases in Sophie’s life. I’ve witnessed her passing in considerable detail, though I’m not sure how I’d ever write that. But there are tiny clues in odd corners of the books…

What are you working on now?

Book 2, Lay Brothers, (Sophie’s tangle with the Jesuits) will appear this Autumn. The third, Serene, is set in Venice, where Sophie guards wayward Habsburg Isabella. It should be available in 2017.

THEPRUSSIANDESPATCH

The Prussian Dispatch is available on Amazon.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, David. I’m a big fan of Sophie and am very much looking forward to reading her next adventure!

For more information, please visit David’s blog about Sophie Rathenau’s Vienna.