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bo balder pic 2016 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Bo Balder. Bo lives and works close to Amsterdam. Bo is the first Dutch author to have been published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Clarkesworld. Her fiction has also appeared in Escape Pod, Nature and other places. Her science fiction novel, The Wan, was published by Pink Narcissus Press. She is a member of SFWA, Codex Writers and a graduate of Viable Paradise.

Bo Balder’s latest book, The Wan, is a novel science fiction fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—In a far future, on a faraway planet, humans have become infected by The Wan. The alien Wan are creatures that communicate by feeding each other poems composed of their own flesh. Obsessed alien and former human biologist Ing infects Frog, a barren slave girl and Firdaus, deposed ruler of the human settlement, with the alien fungus. When a once-in-a-millenium reproductive event threatens to destroy all human life on the planet, Frog and Firdaus must choose between transforming their loved ones into cadaverous toadstools, and surviving—or watching them all die in a planetary holocaust. Unless Frog can come up with a third solution…with the help of her greatest enemy.
wan front cover bo Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Wan?

The same place all my ideas come from, a strange place between waking and sleeping, between trance and relaxation. At first the book was set in darkness, catacombs beneath a city, and it was only when I decided to go above ground in the bright sunlight that the whole plot took its (mostly) final shape.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

I think it’s Ing–she is kind of the villain, but she’s also a mover and a shaker and a wounded human being who only ever tries to do good. Her story is a tragic loss of memory and identity, of everyone she’s ever known. I’m happy that some of her lives on.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

It was published by a small independent press, Pink Narcissus. The advantage to having an indie publisher is that the communication is very direct and personal, the disadvantage is of course the lack of money for PR and distribution channels.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m a bit of both! I outline in advance, but only in a very global way, so that within the limits of a scene the pantser part of my writer persona still gets to play.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was blown away by The Tripods by John Christopher. It was the first science fiction book I got my hands on and I absolutely loved it. I had seen science fiction TV (The Thunderbirds) without realizing what it was, but The Tripods was a much more creative and personal story. The protagonist in The Tripods was a child, like me, caught up in circumstances not of his own making. The idea of aliens just fascinated me. Once I realized there was a whole genre devoted to this stuff I was off. A fan for life.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m editing a couple of short stories, and will soon be writing more, but I’m also preparing/ brainstorming/ outlining a new space opera novel.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Let your subconscious do the writing for you and only put on your editor hat when it’s finished. Don’t read back, don’t spellcheck, don’t second guess yourself.

Want to learn more about Bo Balder and The Wan? Check out her:  WebsiteFacebook page Twitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Wan.

Thanks to author Bo Balder for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Loren Rhoads on March 12, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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MLC_meriah Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Meriah L. Crawford. Meriah Lysistrata Crawford is an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a writer, editor, and private investigator. Among her publications are short stories in several genres, essays, poems, a variety of scholarly work, and the co-written novel The Persistence of Dreams, which was released in 2018. Meriah has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast MFA program, and a PhD in literature and criticism from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Her work as a PI, over fifteen years, has included investigations of shootings, murders, burglaries, insurance fraud, auto accidents, backgrounds, counterfeit merchandise, patent infringement, and missing persons.

Meriah L. Crawford’s latest book, The Persistence of Dreams, is a novel fantasy and alternate history fans are sure to enjoy. A quick summary for my readers—It is 1636: five years after a West Virginia town from the year 2000 arrived in Germany in a flash of light and altered the course of history. Now, down-time master artist Daniel Block is troubled. No mention or proof of his name or life work, of which he has long been proud, made it through the Ring of Fire; it’s as if he never existed. What can a talented and proud artist like him do, to make sure this new world remembers him long after he’s gone?

Daniel develops a plan to make himself one of the greatest artists the world has ever known, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to see his dreams fulfilled. Even if it means risking himself, his wife, and his children.

Intent on changing his own history, Daniel journeys to Grantville to learn about these Americans and their wild and outrageous art forms. But while there, he runs afoul of the up-timers’ strange attitudes—and the law. What follows upends seventeenth century art, threatens the emperor, and changes Daniel and his family forever.

persistence cover_meriah Where did the idea come from for your latest book, The Persistence of Dreams?

My co-author, Robert E. Waters, and I have been writing in the 1632 universe for a while. This is a series of novels and stories begun by Eric Flint, about a town in West Virginia transported from the year 2000 to Germany in 1631, into the middle of war and other upheaval. Most of my collaboration with Robert has focused on an artist named Daniel Block, who is a real person born in 1580. Robert and I thought it would be interesting to delve a bit into the art world of the early seventeenth century with the assistance of a man who was a well-known and highly regarded court painter, as well as a bit of a drunk and a troublemaker. We also complicated his family life quite a bit, and involved him in some major political drama.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?

That’s a tough question. I really like so many of the characters. For the novel, though, I wrote an appendix from the perspective of an art history teacher named Elaine O’Meara, who also appears in the beginning of the novel. She’s shown herself to be smart, independent, committed, thoughtful, and funny. She also really knows a ton about art. She was inspired by a really wonderful history teacher I had in high school named Alice Fearen, who instilled a love and a solid grounding of knowledge about art that I have valued deeply ever since. For all of these reasons, I think I’d rather have a cup of tea with Elaine more than anyone else in the book.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?

It’s published by a small publisher: the Ring of Fire Press. The only real disadvantage is a small marketing budget, but that’s something most authors deal with, even with larger presses. The people have been great to work with, and have moved faster and been more responsive than many larger companies are able to be, so that’s been great, too.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m actually very into lists and planning, and if I’m working on a nonfiction project, it will absolutely have a structure early on. But my fiction is often a lot more organic. That’s why, for example, I have a story that started out as a piece of flash fiction, but is now over 63,000 words. (Oops!) It’s also why I stopped working on it: I realized that the novel really needs to be in the third person, but I wrote it in the first. This is exactly the benefit of planning, though of course planners also find that they make mistakes along the way. Going forward, I’m planning to try to plan more. We’ll see how that goes. 

What was your favorite book as a child?

I have so many answers to this question, but I particularly remember a book named Pidgy’s Surprise, by Jeanne Mellin. It was the first “real” book I read all of by myself. Like many people, the main character spends a lot of time wishing her life were different. In her case, she wishes she had a horse instead of a pony. As the novel progresses, she comes to appreciate what she has when she nearly loses her pony Pidgy. It’s a great lesson, and one that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about as the years have passed: it’s so easy to focus on wanting what we don’t have, but most of us have SO MUCH already. And feeling and expressing gratitude for that makes us a lot happier.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I always have a lot of projects in the works. Over winter break, I aim to finish and submit some articles (about teaching assistants, James Joyce, and dialogue tags), put the finishing touches on a short video of a huge dust devil I filmed in Jordan this past summer, and spend some hours on a book I’m writing about the second person.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Writer’s write. I’ve learned over the years that a huge amount of writing advice should really start with “Here’s what works for me.” Much of it—maybe most—is not one-size-fits-all. Find your own path!

Want to learn more about Meriah L. Crawford and The Persistence of Dreams? Check out her:  WebsiteBlogFacebook pageTwitter,  and Amazon Authors Page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Persistence of Dreams.

Thanks to author Meriah L. Crawford for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Juliana Spink Mills on February 19, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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suz-headshot-18 Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert. Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert writes horror, dark fantasy, science fiction, and the occasional poem. Her short fiction has been published in the anthologies Killing It Softly, The Deep Dark Woods, and The Final Summons. Her poetry has appeared in places such as the anthology Wicked Witches, Tales of the Zombie War, “The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature,” and “Eternal Haunted Summer.” Suzanne is a freelance editor and content creation expert. She’s currently writing several more works of short fiction in between meeting the incessant demands of her feline overlords.

Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert’s latest published story, “In Darkness, She Sheds,” appears in The Final Summons (New England Speculative Writers, 2019). A quick summary for my readers: In a land where the human Master controls both humans and fae, a chance accident enables Savron d’Fae—Master’s Elixir-Mistress and former concubine—to glimpse the true nature of Master’s rule.

Where did the idea come from for your latest published story, “In Darkness, She Sheds”?

I wrote the first version almost two years ago, as a reaction to the fury I felt watching Kellyanne Conway stand up and lie and defend Trump’s actions on whatever that day’s disaster was. I kept thinking, “Why do women not support each other and make alliances with men who are innately against their best interests?” I kept turning that thought around in my head and I wrote the story to get out some of that anger.

Who is your favorite character in the story—and why?

That’s a tough question. Probably Darron, even though she gets introduced halfway through the story. Savron, who begins the story, is also a compelling character. What I like about both of these fae women is that they are very brave and decisive despite being literal slaves and discovering that their realities were not what they thought.

final sum Where and when will this story be published?

This story appears in the just-released anthology The Final Summons, which is the premier anthology from the New England Speculative Writers. They formed about two years ago and have amazing and dedicated leadership. They quickly came up with the idea for this anthology and put out the call for submissions to writers in New England. They had a good number of submissions, so I was really happy to make the cut.

The anthology was crowd-funded in order to pay fair compensation to the contributors, editors, and artist. They were also able to hire a blurb writer. I think it was a successful model, and the anthology will be available in both print and electronic versions.

I encourage any aspiring writers who feel daunted by writing a novel to try writing short stories first, and getting them placed in anthologies with more established writers, if possible. It’s great exposure for you, and you’ll learn a lot from your fellow contributors.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?

I’m a short story writer, not a novelist (yet!) and I’m a total pantser! I get into my writing mindset, and the characters “tell” me what’s going to happen next. Having said that, I do make notes and do some character studies. But I’ve found that when I put too much on paper, it inhibits my creative flow. I do a lot of work “in my head.” I do hope to get better at outlining. I attribute my inability to successfully write a novel (yet!) to getting too bogged down in the outline process. But I believe I’ll figure it out eventually!

What was your favorite book as a child?

As a child, I adored the Little House books and read them over and over. I liked a female protagonist, reading about perilous situations, and I liked that Laura was a person not afraid to stand up for what she believed.

When I got a bit older, I fell in love with dystopias. I believe I was about ten when I first stumbled upon Animal Farm at my grandmother’s house. Then, I read 1984 and Brave New World in quick succession. My mind was literally blown by the concept that people could manipulate each other so capriciously, and that others could so easily fall prey to misinformation.

What writing project are you currently working on?

I’m currently finishing up another short story, “Unafraid,” which is horror. On the back burner are two novellas (one scifi/fantasy; the other scifi/horror) that need more editing, and I have an idea for a horror novel that I haven’t been able to successfully write out. It’s based on what was initially a short story and it’s about 35% done.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Do what works for you! That is honestly the best advice. I was bogged down for years thinking I’d never be successful because I didn’t write every day (and still don’t.) Find your own rhythm. Make your own path. Although it doesn’t hurt to try others’ “sage advice” to see if it resonates.

Want to learn more about Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert and her short fiction, including “In Darkness, She Sheds”? Check out her: Website–Voices in my Head, Twitter, Facebook page, Bookbub, Goodreads, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of The Final Summons.

Thanks to author Suzanne Reynolds-Alpert for stopping by. Watch for an interview with author Catherine Lundoff on February 12, 2019. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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AL Kaplan Whimsical Words welcomes guest author, A. L. Kaplan. A. L. Kaplan’s love of books started as a child and sparked a creative imagination. Born on a cold winter morning in scenic northern New Jersey, her stories and poems have been included in several anthologies and magazines. Her novel, Star Touched, released October 2017. She is the Maryland Writers’ Association’s Vice President and served on the Howard County Chapter board for several years. A. L. is a member of Broad Universe and holds an MFA in sculpture from the Maryland Institute College of Art. When not writing or indulging in her fascination with wolves, A. L. is the props manager for a local theatre. This proud mother of two lives in Maryland with her husband and dog.

Startouched AL Kaplan A. L. Kaplan’s latest book, Star Touched, is a fast-paced read for those who love science fiction. A quick summary for my readers: Eighteen-year-old Tatiana is running from her past and her star-touched powers eight years after a meteor devastates earth’s population. Her power to heal may be overshadowed by more destructive abilities. Fleeing the persecution of those like her, Tatiana seeks refuge in a small town she once visited. But this civil haven, in a world where society has broken down, is beginning to crumble. Will Tatiana flee or stay and fight for the new life she has built? Only by harnessing the very forces that haunt her can Tatiana save her friends…and herself.

Where did the idea come from for your latest book, Star Touched?
Star Touched was born from a series of nightmares: Huge waves of water, giant fireballs, etc. There are several scenes that are straight from those dreams. There are real world inspirations as well. Tatiana’s favorite book, Island of the Blue Dolphin, is also one of mine. The bit about the octopus came from a trip to the aquarium. Some things I didn’t plan on that just sort of happened, were the huge meteor that passed nearby earlier in 2018 or the multitude of natural disasters. Really, I didn’t plan that.

Who is your favorite character in the book—and why?
Bobby Sue started as a minor character, then morphed into a whole lot more. She’s just a sweet southern girl who was a lot of fun to write. I had to do some research to get her accent right and wasn’t sure I had it right until I saw Jason Smith on Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship. Yup. Nailed that one.

Is your book traditionally published, indie published, or self published?
Star Touched was published by a small press. One of the advantages was I got to have a lot of input on the book cover without having to hunt down a cover artist. They handled all the non-creative parts of getting a book out. Getting books on shelves is another story. Most stores will order print copies if requested, but unless I’m going there for a reading or signing, they don’t stock them.

What is your writing process like—are you an architect (planner) or gardener (pantser)?
I tend to be somewhere between a plotter and a pantser. The beginning and end are usually set, but what happens between them evolves as I write. I’m also flexible to what my characters tell me.

What was your favorite book as a child?
I had three favorite books growing up, Julie of the Wolves, My Side of the Mountain, and Island of the Blue Dolphins. All of them have similar themes, kids surviving on their own in the wild. Something about that always touched me. By the way, I also love the musicals Annie and Oliver. Go figure.

What writing project are you currently working on?
I’m working on several projects right now, which is very unusually for me. There is a sequel to Star Touched, a YA fantasy, a Sci-fi fantasy series, an a few short stories. There’s even a story about Fifi – Well, sort of.

What’s the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?
This wasn’t exactly advice as much as inspiration. My college English 101 teacher told the class she wanted everyone to write creatively and wasn’t taking points off for spelling errors. It was the first time I didn’t stress out with words. I got an A on my first assignment. She also made a general request for those of us with “artistic handwriting” to please write every other line.

Want to learn more about A. L. Kaplan and Star Touched? Check out her :
Website & Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon page.

Or better yet, purchase a copy of Star Touched.

Thanks to author A. L. Kaplan for stopping by. Watch for a post from me on Christmas and an interview with author Dianna Sanchez on December 27. Happy reading! – Vonnie

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JenniferReed Thanks to children’s book author, Jennifer Reed, for stopping by and answering a few questions.

VWC: How did you find a publisher for your first book?
JR: My very first book was for Chelsea House Publishers, an educational publisher. I queried them about doing work for hire books and they accepted, offering me a chance to write/publish a book on the Love Canal in upstate New York.

VWC: How did you find a publisher for “The Falling Flowers”?
JR: I submitted many query letters and proposals to various publishers for several years. Because The Falling Flowers takes place in Japan, where I lived for three years, my focus was on multicultural publishers or publishers that produced multicultural books. Shen’s Books, now part of Lee and Low accepted my story.

Flowers-cover VWC: What book that you’ve written is your favorite, and why?
JR: The Falling Flowers because it was based on an experience I witnessed while in Japan. It’s about the love between a grandmother and her granddaughter and I had such a close bond with both my grandmothers. Also, it’s my first published picture book.

VWC: You’ve written many non-fiction books, do you enjoy research?
JR: I love research. It’s not only fun but I learn so much about my topic and other topics as well. My passion is American history.

VWC: Are any of the magazines you mention in your website bio still being published (Wee Ones and Crinkle)?
JR: Crinkles is still in publications, and so is Highlights, Boys’ Life, Hopscotch – all the magazines with the exception of Wee Ones, which was my own publication for 8 years, are in publication today.

VWC: What advice do you have for writers trying to get a children’s book published?
JR: Read tons of children’s books, know the markets, write from your heart and not what is trendy and seek out as much information as you can on the children’s publishing industry. I got my Master’s in children’s writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts and realized the caliber of people I was working with and competing with in the industry. There are many talented people writing for children and young adults, but only a few ever get published. It is not easy writing for children!

leonardocover VWC: Any advice for non-fiction book writers?
JR: Start with magazines first and try to get your nonfiction published there. Many book publishers want to see that you’ve written and published nonfiction in magazines before hiring you to write a book. Know how to cite your research properly and don’t think that a subject written about before is outdated. My book on Leonardo DaVinci published by Enslow is popular and well-read book.

VWC: What projects are you working on now?
JR: I am working on two middle grade historical fiction novels, and several picture books.

VWC: Who was your favorite author as a child?
JR: Laura Ingalls of course. I grew up in very old homes in Massachusetts and loved history, so I loved her books about her life as a pioneer girl.

VWC: Who is your favorite author now?
JR: I don’t really have a favorite author. I’ve worked with many well-known authors through my Master’s program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and I love different authors for different reasons. But I can’t say I really have a favorite.

VWC: When is your favorite time of day to write?
JR: Morning usually because that’s the only time I have to write. I work part time as a teacher and nights are usually dedicated to family. I am awake, refreshed and ready to write in the mornings!

VWC: What was the most valuable piece of advice given to you?
JR: Never give up on your dream to write and publish! It’s easy to quit and most people do, especially when they see rejection letter after rejection letter. I’ve wanted to quit a lot too and at times, really doubted my ability to write. But nearly thirty books later, well, I just know perseverance is key to success in this business.

VWC: And now, the final and most important question – What’s your favorite kind of cookie?
JR: Chocolate Chip with Walnuts.

For more information on Jennifer Reed and her books: www.jennifer-reed.com
And you can find her books on Amazon.

Thanks, Jennifer, for stopping by. Watch Whimsical Words for more Monday Guests, Quotable Wednesdays, blogs from me, and occasional weekend, Readers & Writers Recipes. Have a marvelous Monday – Vonnie

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