Posts Tagged ‘author interview’

I had the very great fortune of interviewing Patty G Henderson, author of beautifully – dramatic lesbian historical fiction novels. Her characters are elegant and sophisticated,  draped in velvet and lace but with an iron will and determination. It is so easy to fall into places that Patty has created, whether it is a grand ball or an estate which has fallen into disrepair.

Patty is a master at spinning a Gothic Historical Romantic tale, and I am so happy to have discovered her works. I first interviewed her on bookkaholic.com back in December of 2014, and she graciously accepted my request for a second interview for my very own blog!

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RS: You’ve been writing since the late 60s, and in that time you have authored numerous novels in various genres; from paranormal mysteries to lesbian Gothic Historical Fiction. Have real-life events influenced these transitions in you work?

PGH: I just want to say that Rachel truly plans her interviews for the individual author and her questions are thought provoking and unique. As for your question, I wouldn’t say that any of my real life events play any part in my fiction. I am strictly a pure fantasist…by that, I mean that I like to create complete worlds, tales and characters that have as little to do with me and my mundane world as I can possible make them. I write and I read for entertainment. I’m not looking for deep meaning or brutal reality and current day problems and angst in my books and stories. I think a little bit of me sneaks in there, but no author can deny that a little spark of them plays a part in the writing process. But mostly, my life has little to do with anything I write. It’s all just pictures and tales that collect in my fertile imagination and then explode into a book. I want to take readers to a different, bygone era or take trip into the world of the paranormal and solve a mystery along the way. Escapism. That means anything but true life scenarios and current affairs. But even our fantasies are what make each of us unique.

RS: The gift of writing demands something from the author; it draws on one’s emotions, and even takes a physical toll. Throughout history there are examples of authors succumbing to these demands. Have you ever found the need to write to be overwhelming and consuming?

PGH: Never overwhelming and most definitely not consuming. I’ve never felt the absolute need to write, and certainly not to where it consumed me. My writing has always been a very measured, joy-filled experience. If the tale in my head is pressing to be written down and told, then I’ve done so. To be honest, if I didn’t feel that the current market almost demands that an author publish at the very least, a book a year just to remain visible and viable, I would probably write at a much more leisurely pace. If I feel pressured to write, I end up…not writing. As an indie author, I can choose whether or not to impose a deadline. I find that if I set a deadline for myself, I will definitely not keep it. A wall of creative rebellion immediately goes up. Being a bit rebellious in nature, I am mostly bohemian in my approach to writing and the writing life.

RS: Like any other task, good writing requires work and dedication which are fueled by a passion to create. As with any intimate relationship, this passion can fade over time. Have you ever reached a point in your writing career where you have lost the passion? How do you navigate stagnate waters?

PGH: What a timely question, Rachel. I’m at that point right now, I’m afraid. I’ve been buffeted around hard in the last several years. After my mama passed away in 2010, it really has been a struggle to find passion again….for anything. Struggling financially and with my health, my writing took a hit. Writing became more of a “must do…should do” kind of thing, and if you see from one of my responses above to another question, I don’t function well or feel I can create in that kind of mind frame. I’ve always wanted to write. I’ve been writing since the 1960s, on and off. There was always an eagerness….stories wanting to be told. I had the confidence to tell them and publish. You have to have confidence in yourself and your skill as a writer to publish, especially in today’s cutthroat publishing market. It’s a struggle for me today to put any thought or find motivation to writing. I’ve hit an all time low. I do feel my passion for writing has waned. It’s a bit frightening, especially when in my head, there are at least two projects I truly want to finish, yet I fight off that desire each time I think I want to write something. I’ve never really had much of what some authors consider writer’s block, at least until now. Is this what it feels like? I always thought writer’s block was where the author just ran out of things to write or say. I still have stories, I just fight writing them down. Kind of like fighting with two versions of myself. Writing…creating…takes much from the inner self and if you aren’t centered, I believe creation suffers. I haven’t figured out how to navigate through this tough lull in my writing, but I wake up each day hopeful I can ignite that spark again.

RS: Writing is an incredibly personal act. You are creating something you wholly believe in, something that is a part of you. And then you have to put it on display to be judged. When you first began writing, was it difficult to share your work with others? Has this changed over time?

PGH: I started my writing career by creating my own comic book hero and the story behind his life and super power. I had no shame or thought of rejection. I did a crude a drawing and sent on to DC Comics. I was all of maybe 15 years old or so. I was filled with youthful exuberance and naivety. I waited for DC Comics to call me or write and offer me a comic book with my own character! Needless to say, I never got a phone call or a letter. I got wrapped up in other things and then began writing dark and fantastical poems, which lead to short stories. I met with great success and was published in various semi-pro fanzines like Paragon and Moonbroth. In the late 70s, I put away the typewriter and lived my life without writing. I did a little watercolor painting, but didn’t find the passion for writing again until the mid 90s. I wrote a vampire tale inspired by many visual images in my head and a desire to tell a tale of a female lesbian vampire that was a bit different from the norm. At that time, so many vampire tales were male-centered. SO DEAD MY LOVE was my first novel and first published novel as well. That led to the Brenda Strange Paranormal Series and most currently, my Gothic Historical Romances. I’ve always enjoyed sharing my work with readers. But anytime you put your creation out there for mass consumption, you should have a ready coat of armor to take all the incoming blows of negativity. There will be reviews which attack your writing talent. Others will attack you personally. In today’s publishing world, you aren’t just marketing your books, you’re putting your own self on the block. Your face becomes a brand that you must peddle in order to be successful. Sometimes, the arrows pierce the armor you fought so hard to forge. For me, as I age, as I find finishing a book more and more tedious, the negativity is striking too close to the heart. I find I am no longer as sure or confident as when I was 15 years old, and I begin to wonder if it’s all worthwhile anymore. Ah, to have some of that exuberance and naivety just about now.

RS: You have authored several lesbian novels; not exactly main stream, and won’t be for many years to come. But even in the main stream literary world there are banned books. Many great works challenge readers to open their minds to the world around them, and it scares people. What kind of emotion does banning books spark within you?

PGH: The word “banned” has no place in a modern democracy. As for books, personally, I wouldn’t be caught reading anything like “50 Shades of Gray” or erotica. That’s just not who I am. However, what gives anyone the right to impose their personal beliefs, likes and dislikes on anyone else and take away the freedom from other people enjoying it? Banning books has unfortunately been with us for a long time. We can only fight it by continuing to break open all channels of available places to find books and for writers not to be intimidated from writing the books they want to write.  Books that are banned will be sought out and read by those wanting to read them. There will always be those that seek to create a world they can control. They will try to put fences around freedom of reading choice. We can only hope that it will only create more of  a demand and hunger for the very literature they seek to ban. But the wonderful thing is that we, as a society, have evolved. There is no iron fist preventing us from sharing all kinds of literature. My books are lesbian, but any reader can enjoy them. I think lesbian literature has put itself in a tiny box. There is no reason why lesbian books cannot and should not be marketed in the mainstream. Readers have choices. We have the freedom to choose. I would love to see more lesbian authors market to both mainstream and lesbian markets. Jump out of that box!

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For years, author Steve Berry has produced exciting thrillers filled with international espionage,  high – stakes intrigue, fast-paced action sequences, and deadly political maneuverings centered around poignant moments throughout history. Berry’s reoccurring hero, Cotton Malone, is a retired Justice Department agent who finds himself drawn back into the intelligence game as a freelancer. His newest novel, The Patriot Threat, is the next great installment in this series.

I would be hard pressed to name another author who can turn a debate over the legitimacy of the United States Constitution’s 16th Amendment, which pertains to income taxes, into a deadly race to uncover damning documentation that could bring both the U.S. and Chinese governments to ruins. Cotton Malone and his team must retrieve stolen documents and unravel a century old mystery while dodging bullets.

I had the great opportunity to ask Steve Berry a few questions.

RS: You published your debut novel, The Amber Room, in 2003 after 12 years of rejections. It would have been so easy to just let the story go and focus solely on your highly successful legal career. But instead you pushed through the disappointments until Ballantine Books finally said yes. Where did you find the strength to overcome any self-doubt that must have crept over you?

Steve Berry: It was the little voice that all writers have in their head, the one that nags at us everyday and only quiets when we write.  That voice kept me going.  It still keeps me going to this day.  I used to think I was a little crazy.  But I’ve learned that every single writer in the world has that same little voice, and its command is short and sweet.  Just sit down and write.

RS: Your first few novels were standalone stories, then in 2006 the first Cotton Malone novel, The Templar Legacy, was released. How long had the character of Harold Earl “Cotton” Malone been developing in the back of your mind before you found a place for him?

Steve Berry: Once the publisher and I decided that a series character was the way we wanted to head, I began to conceive just such a character.  But he changed.  I actually wrote 30,000 words of The Templar Legacy, the novel where Cotton is born, before a new version of him came to me.  I was in Copenhagen, in Hojbro Plads, a busy square, having dinner when he appeared in my brain.  I realized that Cotton had to be retired from the Justice Department, now living in Copenhagen, running on old bookshop —- right where I was sitting.  So I went back home, tossed out the 30,000 words, and started over, creating the Cotton Malone that now exists.

RS: The Patriot Threat, your 10th full length Cotton Malone novel, has just been released; congratulations on a great series! Each installment is a standalone thriller, but every successive book reveals more of Malone’s character and history. Have you had this guy all figured out from the beginning?  Or does he develop with each new adventure?

Steve Berry: He’s definitely a work in progress.  Each book explores some new facet of Cotton, and that’s intentional on my part.  I want him to grow, develop, and change.  And he has.  The Cotton Malone from The Templar Legacy is a different person from the Malone in The Patriot Threat.  I think that’s a good thing.  Characters should evolve, otherwise a series could rapidly become stale.

RS: Your personal interest in historic events is directly reflected in your work — this is what drew me to your books to begin with. Do you feel that capturing the spirit and legend of these events presents an added level of literary responsibility, over and above creating a great thriller? Because, in essence, you are writing both a historical fiction and a thriller all in one book. How much time do you schedule for research when you sign on for a new novel?

Steve Berry: I learned early on that a lot of people are learning their history from novels like mine.  That’s not necessarily a good thing since a novel, by definition, is not real.  That’s why I try and keep my stories about 90% accurate to reality, tripping up only that 10% for entertainment value since, after all, that’s my main goal — to entertain the reader.  I also place a writers note in the back of each book that I spend a lot of time developing.  There I explain what’s real and what’s not, so there’ll be no misunderstandings.  That note reflects the research that goes into each story.  For me that’s an 18 month process with each novel.  Research consumes the lion’s share of my time.  But it’s important, and it’s even more important to get it right.

You can find all of Steve Berry’s novels on Amazon.

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I read Cassandra Duffy’s novel The Gunfighter & The Gear-Head back in 2013 and found it to be a refreshingly unique and fun science fiction story, with a great cast of characters. I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies like Mad Max, The Postman, and Waterworld. I find the genre fascinating and exciting; survival tactics, ingenuity, and determination. In these settings, there is no place for the weak or timid, but being strong doesn’t have to mean total domination; enter the “reluctant hero”.

In The Gunfighter & The Gear-Head, Cassandra Duffy has skillfully blended lizard aliens, wild-west gun fights, steam-punk blimps, cults, and lesbian romance drama into an exciting adventure using wit and well developed persons and places. Provided glimpses into their lives pre-invasion, the reader is able to connect with the characters as real people and become invested in their survival post-invasion.

Cassandra has a sarcastic sense of humor that translates well to her characters. “If I get lynched for being a scientist, Buddhist, lesbian, witch, don’t blame me.” Being able to successfully capture so many aspects of humanity is a rare talent, especially in the lesbian genre.

I asked Cassandra a few questions about her writing career.

RS: Your early work came out–on Amazon–in 2011, but you must have been writing before then. How did you first get into writing? Did your stories center around lesbian characters from the get-go?

CD: All through high school I wanted to be a game designer or do something in the video game industry. I loved games with strong plots like Knights of the Old Republic and thought it was a really cool medium for telling a story. In college it became clear I didn’t have the computer aptitude or attention span for the tech side of game design. I still wanted to tell stories, so I tried creative writing classes and it stuck. Starting out I still mostly wrote fan fiction about video games until several of my professors told me to knock it off and come up with something of my own.

My stories have always focused on lesbian characters. I’m a gold star lesbian so my knowledge of boy/girl romance and sex is entirely theoretical. I was so unsure of my skill, especially early on, that I had to stick to things I thought I knew or could at least learn quickly and that meant writing lesbians and in my very first book, the Gunfighter and the Gear-head, lesbians from California.

RS: I read…a lot. But I admittedly don’t read a lot of lesfic because the genre is so saturated with plotless smut. When I discovered your series “The Raven Ladies,” however, I couldn’t resist giving it a try. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a great story, with strong female characters. What would you say to other readers that tend to avoid lesfic?

CD: I’d say the landscape of fiction as a whole is changing, and lesfic is one of the primary genres benefiting from the changes. It used to be that any fiction for the LGBT community had to fit a very small, very narrow scope to remain profitable enough for large publishers to even consider. For lesfic, that meant smut that would also appeal to straight male readers, and mysteries, lots and lots of mysteries for some reason. Don’t get me wrong, I like smut as much as the next girl, but I like smut for women by women, which is kinda rare. When the ereader market pretty much blew open the flood gates to allow a much wider range of options through to readers, a lot of really good fiction for traditionally under-served, under-represented groups hit the market. Before, you had to hope someone at Penguin or Harper thought it was a good idea to have a tiny run of books with a lesbian protagonist of color, and it was probably going to be a very safe offering. Now, if you want a lesbian protagonist, you can find them in almost any flavor you like doing things in stories that were formally deemed too risky for the big publishing houses to touch.

For readers, especially lesfic readers, this is a golden age of options that has never existed before. If you want lesbian pirates, knights, astronauts, cowgirls, space explorers, lawyers, doctors, artists, whatever, there is a book available somewhere. And, if you like some smut, but want it to be for lesbians by lesbians, there’s plenty of that now too.

RS: Most authors tend to stick to a certain sub-genre, typically what they themselves would want to read. But while your novels all contain lesbian themes, they vary greatly in genre: from wild west – steampunk – alien apocalypse,  to paranormal, to knights of old. When beginning a new story, do you already have a character fleshed out that determines the setting you place her in? Or does a setting develop first and the characters later?

CD: I was practically a kid in a candy store when I started getting my stories and books picked up. I felt the options in lesfic were so restricted and so narrow that I immediately wanted to expand the genre with every kind of book I enjoyed reading because I felt that a lot of people were like me–one genre might be a favorite, but it’s more fun to read all sorts of books. I kind of get narrowed down to steampunk, I think mostly because it’s popular now and there aren’t many authors in that genre yet, even fewer who are lesbians, but it’s just one of the many story types I enjoy writing. Aside from a few short stories, all my writing is character driven. Even if I start with a concept like I did with Divine Touched, I ultimately approach the story via the characters I want to tell the story through. Often the setting evolves to match what I want the character to be challenged by.

RS: When stepping into a new genre, the must be alot to understand before making a story work, like developing a sense of mechanics to speak intelligently about steampunk gadgets. What kind of research do you do before diving into a new story?

CD: I come from a scientifically minded family. My dad is an aerospace engineer and my sister is a chemist. For the most part, they tolerate a lot of my silly questions when I’m trying to get a better concept of what would and wouldn’t work for airships and fuels and what not. I’m pretty sure my dad has only a rudimentary concept of what I do for a living since it’s not a traditional job and it involves really strange research. My sister actually came up with the idea for the origin of Slark fuel for the Raven Ladies series, so she’s a far more willing participant in the process.

Aside from consulting with experts, inside and outside my family, I read up a lot on the areas I need to read up on and go out and try new things as needed. I’m not a huge fan of guns, but a lot of my characters are, so I’ve had to go to shooting ranges and gun stores and talk to military folks to make sure I was at least in the ballpark when it comes to weapons.

RS: Who are your favorite authors right now?

CD: I’m not sure if I can call Frank McCourt a favorite author right now, although that’s who I’m reading. I thought it was high time I read Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis even though bleak isn’t really my thing. Angela’s Ashes especially was a remarkable, powerful book that I felt I suffered through rather than enjoyed. It’s one of those books that I don’t think you’re supposed to enjoy it so much as you are supposed to be impacted by it. Impacted like a punch to the stomach in many instances. I love Frank McCourt’s writing but I’m pretty sure I won’t be re-reading either of his books.

To refresh and cleanse myself after the crushing emotional impact of McCourt’s autobiographies, I’ll be reading so many Batwoman comics this summer.

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Last year I stumbled across author Matthew Mather’s exciting, and terrifyingly realistic, novel, CyberStorm. It offers a graphic look at the undoing of society when people are faced with pure need to survive. Matthew has captured the fear and panic that a man feels when trying to keep his family alive when the world goes to hell.

Mike Mitchell is one of the oblivious millions living in New York City, even mocking his best friend Chuck for his “prepping” lifestyle. When the power first goes out across the city, it’s quite inconvenient. Then a winter storm drops feet of snow and the temperatures drop below freezing. Within days, Manhattan becomes a war zone. Lucky for Mike and his family, Chuck is ready with a locker full of supplies.

I had a chance to talk to Matthew about his book last year.

RS: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, Matthew. Congratulations on the success of your apocalyptic thriller CyberStorm. Not just in readership, but with 20th Century Fox’s interest in the movie rights. How did that come about? And how exciting was that discussion?

MM: I started out as an indie writer, but I purposely sought an agent once my first book took off, and when my second book was even more successful, my agent decided to shop it around for film rights. I wasn’t expecting anything, but out of the blue an offer came in within a few weeks. It was amazing! A dream come true for an aspiring writer.

RS: You have had quite a techy career. How did you navigate to writing?

MM: I’d always been interested in writing. Even when I was young, I’d always be sketching ideas for book, writing short stories…but nothing came of it. When I went to college, I decided on engineering as a “sensible” choice to make a living. But, when I reached my 40th birthday, I decided to take a year off and take a try at writing a novel. By my 44th birthday, I was earning enough to quit my regular job and write full time. Living the dream!

RS: The SciFi world has really exploded lately with “survival after civilization collapse” stories. How long had yours been a “some day” idea before finding its way to paper?

MM: I had the idea of CyberStorm kicking around in my head for maybe three years before finally putting pen to paper, but once I started, I wrote the whole thing in under three months. It was an idea just waiting to get out!

RS: You mentioned in your blog that you passed on the opportunity to publish CyberStorm with a major publishing house in favor of self-publishing in the domestic market. What was behind that decision?

MM: Yes, last year I had several six-figure offers from some of the big-five publishers. It was tempting, but at the time I was making more money from self-publishing…so I decided to keep doing what I was doing. On the other hand, I’ve signed deals with several of the big publishers in foreign markets, so in effect I am doing both things at the same time – self-publishing and working with traditional publishers. I think this is the way of the future.

RS: You chose to write CyberStorm as a first-person narrative. I often wonder how much of him- or herself an author puts onto such characters. How much of yourself can be seen in Mike Mitchell?

MM: Haha, good question. There is some of me in him, of course. There’s some of me in every character. But the reason I chose to go first person on that book was really to place the reader inside of his head, to soak up the paranoia and fear that comes with a siege mentality. I even fasted for almost three days when I was writing the book to give myself the sensation of what it might feel like to starve—the inability to sleep, the constant circling of thoughts about food, how it degrades your ability to think clearly and so on.

RS: Good thing for Mike, his best friend Chuck was prepared for everything you put them through. What about you, Matthew? Where do you fall on the preparedness scale?

MM: Since I wrote that book, I have actually started to think about being prepared more. I keep a few dozen gallons of distilled water stored in the garage, keep a well-stocked medical kit with antibiotics, masks and so on…and lately have attached a full generator to my cottage in the mountains up north. I’m not paranoid, but it doesn’t cost a lot for a few small things. You never know! Even with this Ebola thing or a new flu virus, who knows if it might be wise to suddenly have to stay indoors for a few days.

In March Matthew published a new thriller, Darknet. Available on Amazon for only .99, it is also included in Kindle Unlimited. I am definitely going to check it out and report back–maybe I can get a few more questions in with him.

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I conducted this interview with Drew Karpyshyn over on Bookkaholic.com but that site has gone on hiatus so I wanted to bring the chat over here for you all to see.

Drew Karpyshyn

Author Drew Karpyshyn has had an incredible career in the sci-fi/fantasy world. Working for the video game company BioWare as a writer on Star Wars: The Old Republic and Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect, as well as several others, gave him experience to write novels set in the Star Wars and Mass Effect universes. Not being into video games myself, his Star Wars: Darth Bane books were my first exposure to his writing. After multiple Star Wars and Mass Effect novels, he has published Children Of Fire, the first in the Chaos Born Trilogy, set in a world of his very own making. The Scorched Earth, the second in the trilogy, released this month. I had the great fortune to ask Drew a few questions.

 

RS: Drew, thank you for taking the time to talk with me. I know you are very busy with the second book in your Chaos Born trilogy releasing this month. This must be quite an exciting time. You have definitely put in a lot of effort to get to this place. Congratulations on your hard-earned success.

DK: Thanks, Rachel. As much as I’ve loved working on great franchises like Mass Effect and Star Wars, there’s something extra gratifying about being able to share something with the fans that I created completely on my own. The Chaos Born trilogy is my take on the fantasy I read growing up: The Sword of ShanarraThe BelgariadDragonlance and of course Lord of the RingsThe Scorched Earth continues the story that began in Children of Fire, and I’m very excited for readers to see what happens next!

 

RS: With all you have going on, you are still quite active on your blog. In one series of entries you discuss your process for writing a novel. From idea conception and detailed outlines through release date, you know where your story is going. How does this process stretch to covering a whole series like the Chaos Born trilogy or the Star Wars: Darth Bane series? Do you already know the entire story arc of the series, or does one novel impact the story for the next?

DK: It’s confession time: the Darth Bane books weren’t originally planned as a trilogy! When I wrote Path of Destruction, I was focused only on the first book; it was my debut Star Wars novel, and I honestly didn’t know if it would be popular enough for them to want me to come back again. Obviously, I left some open-ended threads in the book in case I wanted to continue the story, but I hadn’t given any thought to what would happen in Book 2 or 3. With the Chaos Born trilogy it was different: I planned this to be an epic story spanning three books right from the very beginning. The ending of Book 1 has a bit of a cliffhanger, and Book 2 continues right where it left off. It’s one single story that I’ve planned out start to finish, whereas the Bane novels were individual stories that were linked through the main character.

 

RS: Do you have any “I’m going to sit down and write today” rituals? (Favorite sweat pants, cuppa joe, isolation…what-have-you.)

DK: For me, it’s really just about finding time to sit down in front of my keyboard and not get distracted with Facebook, Twitter or general Internet time-sinks. I often write late at night, in a room with a single light, because I like the feel of a dark, empty world all around me: it’s like it inspires me to fill in the void with my ideas. But I sometimes write in the morning or in the middle of the day, too, and to be honest I think the quality is just as good.

 

RS: At this point in your career you are quite established in the sci-fi/fantasy publishing world, but do you ever go back and check out open call sites where you got your foot in the door, just for fun?

DK: That’s something I haven’t done. I actually got my start with an open call from Wizards of the Coast looking for new authors in their Forgotten Realms series, so I think there is value in them. But at this stage of my career I’m lucky enough that I don’t need to look for an “in” with the industry. I can focus my time and energy on whatever project I’m working on.

 

RS: Do you feel more pressure writing for established universes like Star Wars and Mass Effect or for works of your very own?

DREW: It’s a different kind of pressure for each one. With an existing franchise like Star Wars, the pressure is to make sure you stay true to the existing universe and deliver something fans of that franchise will want. I spend more time researching existing stories and canon, because I don’t want to be the guy who undercuts something that’s already beloved. With my Chaos Born trilogy, I have free reign to do whatever I want, but there’s the uncertainty of wondering if fans will actually like what I’m doing; you don’t have a built-in audience like with Star Wars, so you need to draw readers in and keep them hooked. And you don’t know exactly what the fans are looking for, because there aren’t previous examples of stories people connected with. As for Mass Effect, it falls somewhere in the middle: it is an existing franchise, but it’s one I had a hand in helping to create from scratch, so I kind of feel both kinds of pressure at the same time.

 

RS: George R.R. Martin is the king of killing off characters. Do you feel any kind of loss when it comes time to kill off a character that you have spent months, even years, with?

DREW: I do feel a bit of loss when a character who has become important to the story goes down. Some readers may disagree, but I generally try to make sure these deaths have meaning and purpose; I don’t want them to be pointless or simply done for shock value. I plan out my stories in detailed outlines, so I know who is going to die before I start writing, and I know why and what purpose I want that death to serve. So the whole time I’m writing that character, I’m aware of their impending doom. The trick is not to accidentally telegraph it too early, but still give enough hints that readers don’t feel like you’re cheating when it happens.

You can find Drew’s many great novels on Amazon.

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Shawn Speakman

Shawn –
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. I have a great passion for books, and have found that I very much enjoy talking to the amazing people that can create these books.

RS: I want to congratulate you on beating cancer. That must have taken great will and determination, which speaks to your strength of character. Did your decision to write and publish The Dark Thorn, the first installment in the Annwn Cycle series, come out of this trying period in your life?

Shawn Speakman:  In a way.  This requires a much longer explanation. I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2001, a much tougher fight than my 2011 diagnosis for Hodgkins. When I finished chemotherapy in 2001, I decided then that I wanted to do what made me happy.  And writing has always made me happy.  I asked Terry Brooks –whose website I have managed since 1996 — if he would look over some of my work. He saw enough in it to mentor me through THE DARK THORN. I still believe if I had not been diagnosed with cancer in 2001 that I would not be writing today. Not as a professional, at any rate.

RS: You currently have more novels in the Annwn Cycle series scheduled, as well as several short stories. This seems incredibly organized and thought out. Did you already have all of the story arc planned out before you began The Dark Thorn?

Shawn Speakman:  Questions lead to answers which lead to larger questions.  That’s how the craft of writing and world building works for me. The first book introduces Richard McAllister, a spiritually and emotionally broken knight who guards a portal that leads from Seattle to Annwn, a world like Avalon from Arthurian legend. I knew I wanted to tell his life story over the course of my Annwn Cycle. Therefore, there is about five or six years between each novel. If I have the chance to write seven novels, I’ll be sincerely happy.

Before I finished THE DARK THORN, I knew where I would go in is sequels. Five years into the future for each one. The first book establishes Richard, his origin story. The next two books, THE EVERWINTER WRAITH and THE SPLINTERED KING, will take him from 35 to almost 50 years old. I want to look at how we age and how our major life situations change us over the decades. Kind of like how we saw the Harry Potter kids grow up but instead we will see Richard and other characters over decades. Those two sequels are fully outlined and I am currently writing THE EVERWINTER WRAITH as well as writing an Annwn Cycle short story for the forthcoming anthology, UNFETTERED II.

The world itself is rich with history. Celtic mythology, the history of Britain, and the history of the Catholic Church lend themselves well for idea mining. I have way more stories — especially short stories — that I can probably tell. It’s not a bad problem to have!

RS: Often times, making a dream come true requires action. You launched grimoakpress.com, a small publishing company, to publish The Dark Thorn and its sequels as well as the fantasy short story anthology Unfettered. Was it always your intention to launch a publishing company?

Shawn Speakman:  It was not. Not even close my intention. As I mentioned before, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins in 2011. At the time, THE DARK THORN was making its rounds in New York City with various agents and editors. It was an exciting time. People were genuingly interested in the book, a kind of hybrid between the works of Terry Brooks and Jim Butcher. Then the diagnosis happened. I was angry and heartbroken and angry and angry some more.

I was angry for reasons that might not make sense. I had beaten cancer before. I knew I would do it again. I had little fear that I would lose my life to cancer. But I lacked health insurance.  I had repeatedly been denied coverage from insurance companies due to my pre-existing cancer diagnosis and treating the second cancer was going to financially ruin me. Right when I was thinking about buying a home, settling down, having children, etc. My future had turned upside down in a single afternoon.

That’s when Terry Brooks offered to write me a short story, something I could sell online to keep the bill collectors at bay. He didn’t stop there. He told me to contact my other writer friends. So I did. That’s how the short story anthology UNFETTERED came to be.

Due to the quality of talent in UNFETTERED, I knew there would be a lot of publicity featuring my name. So I pulled THE DARK THORN out of NYC and decided to package it at the same time as UNFETTERED.  It has turned out to be a smart move.

And in a twist of fate, to publish those books and end my medical debt, I had to launch a small press.  Grim Oak Press is that business. More will be coming from Grim Oak Press in the future, especially UNFETTERED II in October 2015! All proceeds from that anthology will go toward alleviating medical debt for other writers and artists, my way of giving back for the generosity shown me.

RS: I have to say, I very much admire where you are in life; webmaster for the amazing fantasy authors Terry Brooks, Naomi Novik, and David Anthony Durham as well as authoring your own fantasy series and freelancing for suvudu.com. I will geek out for a moment and say that web development is a career goal of mine, and writing a growing passion. I have been in IT for 14 years and have finally realized what I want to be when I grow up — I want to be you! Okay, I want to be me, but you have shown a light on the path I want to take. How did you get to where you are now? Was all of this a goal or did it just develop over time?

Shawn Speakman:  It definitely developed over time. A lot of tenacity.  A lot of not having shame.  A lot of luck in that I never could have forseen getting cancer — twice even — and how that would shape my future.

For people who wish to write or make a dream a reality, I have a philosophy.  Never give up.  I have been told ‘no’ far more times than I’ve had people say ‘yes.’ That’s where the no shame comes in. I have no shame when it comes to asking people questions — complete strangers even.  I approached Terry about being his webmaster.  I approached the writers in UNFETTERED to submit stories.  I approach writers every week about stopping by my book business, The Signed Page (www.signedpage.com), and signing books while touring through Seattle.  I let people decide if they want to work with me.  And in doing so, I’ve been told ‘no’ alot.  But the yeses have given me a career.  The trick is learning to treat rejection as a step toward the dream, not a step back from the dream.

RS: You have a LOT on your plate! How do you maintain your passion for writing under all the time constraints?

Shawn Speakman:  It’s difficult. I learned time management very early on.  I force myself to write at least 500 words a day, no matter the other things I have going on.  I write those words in the morning before other things can infringe on my time. There are days when I can write 2000 words if I have nothing else going on and I work hard at making that happen.  Thankfully, I burn out around noon or one in the afternoon, so that leaves the rest of the day doing other things — either other work or opening a book or playing a game with my fiance. I believe in balance. It’s the only true way to be happy!

Ebooks copies of Shawn books can be found here. Follow him on Facebook and @shawnspeakman!

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Dark Thorn Cover

As you probably already know, I love to read. I read all kinds of stuff and have many favorite authors…is it possible to have multiple favorites? I mean favorite means the bestest one, but this is my blog and I can have multiple favorites. Anyway, I am always on the lookout for authors capable of developing a great novel with lesbian characters. Author Sarah Waters has set the bar high in this very small sub-genre. I stumbled across a new author (well, new to me) that really captured my attention. Patty G. Henderson. Her novels are filled with the dark beauty and imagery of the Gothic era.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Patty about her obvious love of this period.

I love the language of the past. I love the elegance, pomp and circumstance, the flicker and shadows of candlelight, the fabrics and dress, the love and reverence of complex architecture, the façade of morality. That being said, there were also very distasteful things of that era that no modern woman would abide or survive. Personally, I’m drawn to that past because I like running away from technology, the cold look and feel of steel and plastic, the incessant noise of our 21st century. I often muse how the world would sound without airplanes flooding our ears and skies, cars, televisions blaring, cell phones ringing. Writing is my time machine, it takes me to the precise time and place I belong.

Like most genre fiction such as science fiction, fantasy, supernatural, etc., the Gothic historical seeks to take the reader to a different place. No, not to the furthest reaches of outer space, or a fantasy land made up within an author’s mind. The Gothic romance seeks to take you back, back to a time you must equally imagine, for we cannot time travel. The author must populate the Gothic romance with mystery, intrigue, old and menacing castles or estates, characters who are as real as any modern day story. The author must draw the reader to that time and place. I love creating that.

Also, all my Gothic romances are homages to the old Gothic romances from the 1960s and 70s.

You can read the entire interview here.