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  • Author Interview: Alma Alexander

    I am really excited to announce that Alma Alexander, the Duchess of Fantasy, was kind enough to stop by the blog and answer some questions from me.  Including the first one, which I snuck in there just because I love to hear her answer it.  
    Anyway, enjoy!
     
    1. What got you into writing?
    This either calls for a one-word answer or a screed. The one-word answer is “Nothing”. The screed begins with the explanation that nothing “got me into” writing. I was hip deep in it and wading ever deeper from the very beginning.
    At a writer’s workshop once the Grand Master and my personal literary god Roger Zelazny asked me when I had started to write – and I told him that I was writing things down from as soon as I knew how to hold a crayon and form a letter. And before that, I made things up anyway. I guess you could say that I began with the simple syndrome of being too big to be contained in my tiny child’s body and a mind not yet filled with the experiences necessary for me to believe in a magical reality that HAD to underlie this wonderful world I was learning about every day – and so I simply imagined it. I told stories. It *took*. I simply never stopped.
    The first piece of my actual writing which was collected by my pack-rat father (who collected EVERYTHING I wrote) was a poem on the subject of a broken alarm clock (don’t ask. I have NO idea.) I was five years old. The faucet opened, and words haven’t stopped falling out ever since – oh, there have been gaps and lacunae every so often but the well fills again and there they are once more lapping at my feet waiting to be picked up with both hands and poured out onto the page. I didn’t “get into” writing. Writing was in me. I think there must be an appreciable percentage of ink in my blood.
     
    2. Your style of prose has a very classical feel from the very first page. Which authors do you think have had the most influence on your writing style and why?
    In my house, there was no reading bar. There were books. If I could pick them up, if I was interested enough to pick them up, I was free to read them, no questions asked. Yes, I read a lot of stuff that you might consider “classical”. I honestly truly do not remember EVER reading “picture books” – no “see Spot run” for me – I went straight into the real stuff. No candy. I was a meat and potatoes kind of girl from the get-go. I was reading Nobel Literature Prize winners like Pearl Buck and Henryk Sienkiewicz by age eight, unabridged John Galsworthy (in English, which was my SECOND language and which I only learned to be fluent in when I was ten or so) by thirteen.
    I read the whole long original nineteenth century monsters like War and Peace and Les Miserables *in their original form*. I read the original fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (and I will never accept Disney’s Ariel as MY “Little Mermaid”. EVER.) I read novels, and I read history, and I read biographies, and I read… I read… I read. Where many teenage girls collected shoes or boyfriends, I collected books. My rooms were always wallpapered with words.
    I guess if you grow up in this literary miasma it becomes something that you begin to instinctively both crave and practice. I don’t know that I could produce a distinctive list of people who have influenced me, and not only because people STILL influence me TO THIS DAY and it isn’t a list which can be closed and put away to gather dust, it’s a living thing. But on such a list, if I had to make a start on one, would be writers like Howard Spring, Ursula Le Guin, Roger Zelazny, Tolkien, Guy Gavriel Kay, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, Mervyn Peake, Matt Ruff, and many many others, and the list goes on.
    I don’t have a single common criterion by which people land on this list, either. Some of these writers are masters at using exquisite language, of the kind that makes me gasp and tear up; some create characters whom I end up believing I have known all of my life; others create worlds which are more real – at least at the time that I am immersed in them – than the one I am sitting in physically while holding their book in my hands. They ALL shaped me. They all made me. They all make me giddy with a sense of wonder. And I love every golden word of theirs.
     
    3. When did you first get the idea for 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens?
    Spanish Gardens, the place, is real. WAS real. The little bolthole at the end of the alleyway in its little blind courtyard, unheralded and unsignposted, was the worst kept secret of my University – passed on from one generation of undergrads to the next, and we all went there. Those words that Olivia writes about the place in the book, they are real, they are MINE. This is a place that lives on in my heart and mind thirty years after I last saw it, and long after its physical avatar has been replaced by something else, something new.
    The “real” Spanish Gardens is just a memory now – but it is odd that if you talk to myself, or to someone else of my generation who maybe doesn’t even know me at all or else hasn’t seen me for decades (in other words we haven’t “got our stories straight”) these people would describe Spanish Gardens to you in almost the exact terms that I did, in that novel. It was the kind of special place that stuck in your memory like an ancient insect gets preserved in amber, perfect, unchanging. Yes, dammit all, there was magic living there – some sort of magic – and if I myself never ended up speaking to an Ariel there that’s not important. Because I sensed his presence. Sooner or later there would have been a story about this place, which I have carried around with me for so long. This book happens to be it. I carried the idea around for years before it really crystallised – and I guess what I really hung it on is the Mayan apocalypse thing – once those two concepts married in my head I had the story all laid out like a glittering mosaic. But it was there, waiting to happen. Waiting to be told. It just needed a gentle poke to wake it up and let it become.
     
    4. This novel and many of your past works, such as The Secrets of the Jin-Shei and WorldWeavers series, have strong themes of personal empowerment and finding one’s own place in the world. How much of that is intentional, and how much just creeps in on its own?
    It may be something that I myself have always been subconsciously aware of – this “finding one’s own place in the world”. I am not sure I ever quite achieved it, really – I am not sure that any creative type ever really does, because we live in so MANY worlds, by definition, that the actual “place” that we seek keeps shifting underfoot. Or maybe we’re just standing firmly on that bedrock, and letting the world, the many worlds, swirl around us like currents in the ocean while we are the one solid stable fixed point in the universe. No, it wasn’t intentional because I don’t write “teaching” books – I can’t show someone how to reach for that empowerment, how to go about finding that place. I can just tell stories about it, and hope that the someone who is seeking answers finds enough clues in those stories to piece them together with.
    There is a dichotomy in two characters from “Jin Shei” which I have always felt to be important and may shed a light on the subject – I have talked before of Nhia and Khailin, and of how they were in one sense two faces of the same coin. One (Nhia) was Wisdom; the other (Khailin) was Knowedge. And in that particular novel what emerged as a truth, for me, was that both of those things had a price, and that the price could be high – but that Wisdom runs deeper than mere Knowledge, because you can run out of things to absolutely and empirically KNOW without ever running out of things that you can UNDERSTAND. For all of their different and disparate statuses in their lives, with Nhia being so much “lower” than Khailin on the social scale of things, I think I ended up making the case that it was Nhia who came away with the greater treasure. So you might say that I am the acolyte in search of understanding, of empowerment through empathy and an ability to look at a world through a different pair of eyes, step into it with a different pair of blistered and broken feet, and find things to learn from this. I have a background in science – my own education contains an advanced postgraduate degree in science – and yet I am still more awed by the simple vision of a flower opening up into a morning full of sunlight than by knowing exactly how this was accomplished… but more about this, perhaps, in your Question 6…
     
    5. The characters’ pasts in this book tangle and overlap in many places. Did you plan out most of that history before you started writing, or is it just something you allowed to grow up during the writing process?
    I don’t outline. Seriously, I don’t. I write an outline with sufficient detail to be called that, and my back brain assumes I’ve already written that story, and simply gives up on it. I tend to find out “what happens next” in my stories the same way my readers do – by going “You did WHAT?” as my character performs some unspeakable thing on the screen. I’ve just typed it all up and I end up staring at a paragraph like I have never seen it before and wondering, “just where in HEAVEN’S NAME did this all come from?!?” These lives, the Spanish Gardens lives, they were a twisted ball of yarn from the very beginning. It was more a question of teasing them apart to find out where individual skeins led, after being presented by my subconscious with the tangled Gordian Knot of it all, than actually inventing the yarn that went into the mess in the first place. I have never yet written about a character whom I have planned or created with a self-conscious “profile” – they all come out of the woodwork, give me a distracted handshake by way of introduction if I am lucky, and then demand I take dictation. There are those to whom I have told this thing who have described it as a form of possession. This may be true.
     
    6. Given that she opens and ends the story arc, it could be argued that Olivia is actually the main protagonist in the novel. Would you agree with that assessment? Why or why not?
    Uh, inevitably, probably, yes. I gave Olivia some of my own life’s crossroads. That business with the bunny in the lab? That happened to me. Exactly that. In almost the exact format that I presented in the book. So yes, there is a great deal of me in Olivia – and she is the common denominator, the one who keeps on recurring in everyone else’s realities, no matter which reality it happens to be at the time. She is, if you like, a Doctor Who – a fixed point in time around whom everything else eventually falls into orbit. She is perhaps not the most vivid character in that novel – I would think that THAT particular epithet far better fits John or Quincey – but she is the tie that binds, the thing that holds it all together. THEM all together. Sometimes even by her absence.
     
    7. You create some intensely personal portraits of the characters in 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens that really tap into each of the individual characters’ subconscious needs and desires. How do you know when you’ve reached the “guts” of a character, and what advice would you give to new writers seeking to create the same sense of depth in their own work?
    If I can borrow a quote from a very unlikely source, may I toss in a line from Rocky Horror? “Don’t Dream It. Be it.” A good character is intensely self-aware; the character may be placed in a specific time and place by you, the author, but you should have a sense (even though it might NEVER be required to be shown) of how that character might react if you pulled it out of your story and placed it into the middle of a Kafka novel, or a Tolkien novel, or an Austen novel. It’s a sort of “character instinct”.
    Some people have this insight, have always had it, have never questioned its existence. Some can maybe learn it from repeated practice (write enough characters and they will start cutting their marionette strings and doing things that a Real Live Boy (peace, Pinocchio) would do – and you know precisely the moment when they come to that life in your story. Some – sadly – do not learn the trick. There are published novels out there which are perfectly adequate in terms of plot and purpose but which are peopled by characters straight out of Hollywood Central Stereotype Casting (if you’re lucky) or who have just been cut out of the nearest magazine to fill an empty character slot (if you are not). You don’t have to be bosom buddies with your characters in order to tell their story – in fact, sometimes it is imperative that you are not – but you have to learn to know when to let them take their story and run with it because they know better than you.
    And for some writers this is a near impossible thing to do because it is such a loss of control. Strict outliners may have particular trouble with this aspect because they have to make their characters jump through very specific hoops in order to achieve Story in the way that the author initially imagined it, and I am certain they have their own methods of dealing with this, But from this chair, from this desk, from this keyboard, from THIS mind and this imagination, I can give you a monumentally unhelpful, “I have no idea”. My characters are born real. All I do in this scenario is act as middleman between THEM and their readership. They need an amanuensis to set their story down, and that’s my task. There are times this frustrates me deeply. And there are times that the rewards are greater than I can begin to tell you.
     
    8. I’d love to see more of Ariel and this world you’ve created. Are there plans for a book 2?
    Well, there might be NOW, now that you’ve put the idea in my head! Actually, the question that I might like to see answered myself is what happens at the moment that Spanish Gardens itself is due to be shuttered – and if Ariel HIMSELF is given the choice that he gives the five in the original novel. Would he choose wisely? Could he choose at all?

    9. What is the one most important thing you hoped to convey in writing 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens?
    As always, I tell a story. The messages that the story carries can be very different for different people. If anything, that “choose wisely” motif can be taken to be something that frames this particular story – and in many of the reviews the reviewers could not help going there, thinking about the crossroads in their own lives, where they went, where they could have gone. I think this is a human thing, a universal thing, something that we all understand instinctively because we’ve all been there at some point in our lives. I myself can look back at the times when I zigged instead of zagged and wonder where I might be today if I had made that other choice. Would it have been better? Worse? In so many fundamental ways, would it have made no real difference at all – is reality self-correcting and is predestination real and do we all end up where we are supposed to whether we want to go there or not? What of that story of the man from Aleppo who was told that Death was looking for him, so he fled to Damascus – only to meet Death in the street there – “But that is impossible!” the man said. “I ran away from Aleppo!” – “Well, that is strange,” Death said, “because I was told to seek you out on this day on the street in Damascus…” Life – and death – are where you find them. You are free to choose the road by which you travel, perhaps, but are you free to also choose your destination…? YOU decide. Choose wisely.



  • Author Interview Kirsten Weiss

    This week, from our Goodreads Paranormal group, author Kirsten Weiss has dropped by to answer some interview questions:

    1.  So, let’s start with the basics; what got you into writing?
    Reading! I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a kid. In the end, I started writing more of what I wanted to read.

    2.  I’m judging only by your posted sample chapter, so I could be way off the mark here, but it looks like the Riga Hayworth books are a fusion of romance, mystery, and modern fantasy.  Do you consider yourself primarily a fantasy writer who does romantic mysteries, or a mystery writer who does romantic fantasy
    Funny you should ask, as I’ve been doing a bit of a reassessment of how to classify my books. I’ve always considered myself a mystery writer first, but the fantasy and romance are certainly big components.

    Kirsten

    3.  How autobiographical or aspirational is Riga as a character?
    While we share some life experiences (we both worked in Afghanistan), she’s definitely more aspirational. Riga is very self-confident, focused, and doesn’t care what others think of her. I’d like a bit more of all those qualities in my personality.
    4.  I haven’t read the book yet, but the title “The Infernal Detective” makes me think there’s going to be demonic elements to the book.  Is your mythos based around a (possibly quasi-) Judeo-Christian ethic, or is there some other cosmology to your world?
    The books do contain some mysticism and philosophy based in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and Riga is a Christian. But for obvious reasons, I really try to stay clear of religion in the books. The Infernal Detective has to do with necromancy, but it also has to do with Riga’s own internal struggle with good and evil – hence the “infernal” in the title.
    Infernal Detective
    5.  When writing a mystery, how do you construct the murder?  Do you think of the crime first, or do you write the story and watch the crime evolve?
    After watching my editor swap my scenes around in my two previous books, I learned to become a plotter. I know whodunnit, how, and why before I start writing. It’s not a super-detailed outline – I leave myself some wiggle room for inspiration to strike. But especially with mysteries, when you’re scattering clues and red herrings, plotting in advance is useful.
     
    6.  Let’s talk about influences.  I’m seeing a lot of Laurell K. Hamilton in your style of writing; I’m guessing you’re a fan?  If not, what authors do you think influenced your writing?
    I’ve actually never read any of her books, BUT I have taken online classes from Margie Lawson, who uses Laurell K. Hamilton as an example in her lessons, so maybe some LKH has crept in? My biggest influence is Ian Rankin. I love his sparse, powerful writing style. And… Nancy Drew. Those books were a childhood inspiration, and every darn chapter ends with a cliffhanger. My goal is to keep readers turning the page.
    7.  You’re the first author I’ve seen to launch an alternate-reality game (ARG) as a promotion with their book.  Talk to me a little bit about how your ARG is structured, and what sort of feedback you’ve seen on how effective it’s been.
    I thought it would be a fun way for fans to get into the Riga Hayworth world, and pick up some back story that doesn’t make it into the books. So I created blogs and social media accounts for several of the minor characters. Careful readers will find links from one account/blog to the other. And then there’s a sort of puzzle throughout – if players can identify the five items in the junk oracle Livinia is creating, they can get a free copy of the book by going to my website and letting me know. How effective has it been? Well, it caught your eye!  - That’s fair enough.  It certainly did.

    8.  How many books are planned for the Riga Hayworth series?  Is this going to be an evolving world, or more a more episodic series of books?
    Definitely evolving! I’m currently working on Book 5 and have an idea for Book 6. One of the things that bugs me about series is that often the lead characters don’t develop – they just make the same stupid mistakes over and over. They can be very formulaic. I’m trying to avoid that, by creating character arcs that play out over several books and are then resolved. BUT, let’s face it – a lot of these more formulaic series are huge successes. So maybe I’m the one making a stupid mistake. I just don’t want to get bored with my own characters. I want to see them grow!

    9.  When can we expect the next release?
    Book 5, The Elemental Detective, is scheduled for release in December, 2013. It takes place in Kauai. Making a tropical paradise spooky is not easy, but I think I’m finally cracking the code…



  • Author Interview Holly Dae

    This week’s author-of-the-week from my paranormal group over on Goodreads is Holly Dae. Holly’s got the first book of her Oblivion Cycle out already, and she’s working on an unrelated work, Going Lucid. She was nice enough to stop by and answer some questions; I’m betting we’re going to see a review copy from her in the near future as well.

     

     

     

    1. So, what got you in to writing?

     

     

    I can’t really pinpoint what made me start writing. Writing was just something I did as a child and got enjoyment out of. It wasn’t until my mother one day told me that actual people write books and movies and TV shows that I got very serious about perfecting the craft.

     

     

    2. Talk to me about The Oblivion Cycle. Is this a preplanned trilogy, or are you going for more of an open-ended series?

     

     

    It is preplanned as in I have a general sense of where it’s going to end, and I know it will definitely be more than three books. It may be open-ended in the sense that future novels and series may take place in or be part of the world that remains after the series is over, but the story in The White Rose will have a definite ending.

     

     

    3. Your characters seem to draw a little on Hindu mythology; was that an influence on your writing, or am I totally misreading that?

     

     

    I’m an English major, and in class we sometimes discuss whether the ideas and meanings in some of the classical works authors were intended by the author or were they unintentional. We’ll never know because they’re dead, but in this case, I can definitely say that similarity may have been one of those unintentional things. I will say that as I write though, I do try to appeal to a universal audience so I think that readers would find similarities, some intentional and some not intentional, to certain specific myths just because certain myths, particularly certain character traits, are so universal.

     

     

    4. I also notice a remarkable similarity in structure to The Black Company by Glen Cook, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blac…) in which The White Rose once sealed away a tyrannical lord and now seeks to protect that seal, and now the White Rose has reincarnated to a young girl. You also have a powerful Lady who seeks to thwart the White Rose. Obviously, there are some pretty significant differences as well; you don’t seem to be going nearly as grimdark as Cook, but was he a significant influence on your work? Or are you drawing directly from the anti-Nazi resistance group?

     

     

    I’ve actually never read that book. I’ve never even heard of it to be honest. As for drawing from anti-Nazi resistance, it might be one of the influences. I think rising up in rebellion to resist tyranny is a universal theme in real life (American Slavery with the abolitionist movement for example) as well as fiction (Hunger Games and Harry Potter come to mind instantly). I think I drew from many histories and experiences, real and not real, to help shape the struggle in The White Rose. But I will definitely have to look into The Black Company.

     

     

    5. Shifting topics, it looks like your current project is a book separate and apart from The Oblivion Cycle; why the shift away from an ongoing series?

     

     

    I’ve found as a reader and an author, there is the tendency for the author to lose their way or start to meander in a series, particularly when the series is longer than three or four books. The books start losing focus or having a point and I’ll find myself saying the author should have stopped at a particular book, before the series got off rail. So in order to avoid that, after writing a book in a series, I take a step back and try to assess where the series is going and if my plans for the next book will take it in the direction I intend for the series to go or if I need to rethink some ideas. But while doing that, I can’t stop myself from writing. So while I’m assessing the series to get ready to write Revenge of the Illusionist, I decided to work on another project that’s been in the back of my head for a year or so. Once I’m done with that, I’ll be positive the direction I want to take my first series in Revenge of the Illusionist.

     

     

    6. Other than the two novels, is there anywhere that readers can find a sample of some of your work? Perhaps an anthology, or other sample chapters?

     

     

    I periodically put excerpts from my works on my blog, thesealofoblivion.wordpress.com. They are usually scenes that are part of a larger work to give people a sense of my style and voice. I may even sometimes post short stories, but nine times out of ten, my short stories become part of a large work. Going Lucid started out as a short story.

     

     

    7. So, I’ve grilled you on where I see some possible influences, but I figure I should simply ask you: who is your favorite author, and why?

     

     

    I adore J.K Rowling, and it’s not because I loved Harry Potter so much. I really like J.K. Rowling as an author because a lot of other people like her. What I mean when I say that is that her appeal was so universal. I’ve met people I probably never would have talked to in my life because we both read Harry Potter. In a sense, J.K. Rowling’s books transcended things that separate people like religion, politics, class etc. and connected people who otherwise might not have connected. Her books did what a good book should do and I aspire to emulate that.

     

     

    8. Who do you imagine is the best audience for your work?

     

     

    The best audience for my works are young girls and age is probably from about 11-13+. I say that because I always try to write the book I would have enjoyed reading when I was a teenager which is why most of my main characters are usually young teen girls trying to find their way in the world while dealing with fantasy elements.

     

     

    9. Will you be submitting any of your novels to The Friday Indie Review?

     

     

    Yes. Definitely for the first book in The White Rose and as part of the pre-launch for Going Lucid once it’s polished.

     

     



  • Author Interview Luna Lindsey

    When I was back at Radcon, I kept ending up on panels with Luna Lindsey.  We are almost total opposites in terms of personality, but I can tell you that she is as devoted to the art of writing as I am.  Really, that’s what matters.  She’s a very engaging author, and we played off each other really well.  It made for some great panels.

     

    I’m excited to review her “Emerald City Dreamer,” though I’ve got to work my way through the queue at the moment.

     

     

    Regardless, Luna was nice enough to give an interview. Here it is:

     

     

     

    1. So, what got you into writing?

     

     

    I have always been writing, since I first told my mother a story and had her write it down. When I haven’t been writing fiction, I write non-fiction. Other forms of expression just don’t compare.

     

     

    2. Let’s talk about your most recent novel, Emerald City Dreamer. You seem to have a very dark take on the Fae –where does that come from?

     

     

    It comes from the folklore itself. People once actually believed in fairies. Instead of “Once upon a time”, they spoke of them in the present tense. And the stories they told depicted fae that were unpredictable. Even the very best faeries (the “seelie”) might kill you for failing to leave out the milk.

     

     

    3. On that note, you’ve got a book that seems to embrace the concept of Seattle. I’m guessing you really love your home town—true?

     

     

    Technically, I’m not from Seattle. I moved here ten years ago, and yes, I really love it here. I really enjoying showing off some of my favorite places by where I set scenes. In a way, Seattle is a character herself, ever-present, in the background.

     

     

    4. You’ve got two novels (that I know of) out right now; Emerald City Dreamer, Make willing the Prey, and your comedic novella Guardian at the Gate. Of those, which one was the most fun to write, and why?

     

     

    They were all pretty fun. I’m going to go with Guardian at the Gate. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Years ago, my writing critique group decided we should all write a story with the same title. This was the product of that, and I learned how fun it is to write a story inspired by a common theme. These days, I can replicate that challenge by writing to a themed anthology. It’s really fun when other people in my group do the same, so we can see the many different takes on the same idea.

     

     

    5. You seem to be entirely self-published. Do you have an editor, or is this a one-woman show?

     

     

    All my longer works are self-published. I am a firm believer in the critique process, and lean on my writer’s group for first-round. I have a beta reading group for the final edits.

     

     

    I regularly submit stories to magazines and anthologies, and of course work with editors then.

     

     

    6. Other than the three novels/novellas linked [note: they’ll link to Amazon once I’m in wordpress] above, are there any anthologies out there where readers can get a taste of your work?

     

     

    No anthologies yet. Last year, I published two pieces in online magazines: One in the Journal of Unlikely Entomology, Let the Bugs Work Themselves Out about cyberpunk ants; the other in Penumbra, Beyond Earth’s Summer, a post-apocalyptic tale about Ray Bradbury.

     

     

    7. When not writing, what do you do with what little time is left?

     

     

    I enjoy video games, a lot, specifically PC and iPad games. I also like to watch the latest shows, preferably a season at a time. Then there’s catching up on reading (fiction and non-fiction), Twitter, and movies. I also recycle my own candles.

     

     

    8. Which authors would you say have been your greatest inspiration?

     

     

    Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov. Anne Rice and Madeline L’Engle. Robert Heinlein and David Brin.

     

     

    9. What’s next on the horizon for Luna Lindsey?

     

     

    The next Emerald City book, Emerald City Iron, is going through my critique group right now. So expect that sometime early next year. I’m currently drafting a non-fiction book about mind control.

     

     

    10. See you at Radcon next year?

     

     

    Radcon is my home con, so I wouldn’t miss it!

     



  • Author Interview: Keith Yatsuhashi

    June 8, 2013

     

    Author Interview: Keith Yatsuhashi

    Yesterday on the Friday Indie Review, I reviewed Kojiki by Keith Yatsuhashi. Keith was kind enough to answer a few follow up questions from me, so as an added bonus we have another author interview! Keith’s reply to #6 really solved a mystery for me; I think we all know I would have come down in the “more books!” camp. Enjoy!

     

     

     

     

     

    1. What got you into writing?

     

     

    Probably the best answer to give is that while in college I found I had a knack for it. A knack is nothing compared to what it takes to hone a craft like this, but it was where I started. I majored in political science with a minor in history. Those two disciplines required a good deal of writing–analytical, not creative. Even so, I found I liked stringing words together to make a point. I even started researching great speeches in history. Words have power, and great speakers really show that impact. Bear in mind this was during the Reagan years. I was young, and Reagan’s speeches mesmerized me. From there, I looked at Churchill, some Lincoln, and then MacArthur. As for the actual idea of writing a novel, I toyed with it about the same time, and even began writing what will become Kojiki’s follow-up. So, I guess you can say I always had the bug, at least since my late teens. After graduating college, when I was trying to find my professional footing, I dabbled some more. It never went beyond the daydreaming stages, but I think it was what started the pot simmering, so to speak.

     

     

     

     

     

    2. For folks who might want to get a taste of your writing before digging into Kojiki, do you have any other publications or short stories out? If so, where can readers find them?

     

     

    Kojiki is all there is at the moment. It’s my first foray into storytelling. I have a blog up at kmyatsuhashi.wordpress.com where I babble about stuff that interests me. It’s a new blog, though, with only a few entries–more to come. That said, the blog won’t give you a feel for my fiction writing. The two styles are just so different.

     

     

     

     

     

    3. When did you first get the idea for Kojiki?

     

     

    The real inspiration came with the death of an eccentric aunt. At her funeral, my father’s sister-in-law started to relate some of our family history—things I never knew. She said our family was once part of the Imperial Court, back before the capital moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. That family history was enough to fire my imagination. My grandfather worked as an antiques dealer in Boston and came to the US as part of the Yamanaka Trading Company. My aunt became the inspiration for Keiko, who in the early drafts was actually 75-years-old but with a whimsical child-like innocence. She really did have the camera and took it with her wherever she went.

     

     

     

     

     

    4. Kojiki captures a lot of very Japanese themes: family, honor, loyalty– but it has a bit of a spin in that most of the characters being tested by these themes are female– Keiko, Yui, Seirin, for example. Did you set out to intentionally spin the tale away from the traditional “Lone Samurai” scenario?

     

     

    I really didn’t. Truth be told, Keiko was only supposed to be in the prologue. She would see some horror involving dragons and that would be that. A lot of horror novels start that way, as do TV shows and movies. A teaser of what’s to come. Like the opening murder sequence in CSI or some other procedural. In that draft, Aeryk was main character and Vissyus was your standard unstoppable God. That all went out the window as soon as I teamed Yui with Keiko. Their scenes came together so effortlessly, and I knew I had to keep them as much front and center as I could. Originally, Seirin was overly puritanical and judgmental. Self-righteous was the best way to describe her. I think that came about because I started with her battle scenes, which were brutal. I wanted her to take the readers’ breath away. Beautiful, but untouchable, and dangerous as Hell. As the story evolved, though, she became the catalyst for everything. Remember the perfect cheerleader in high school? That’s Seirin, only in Kojiki, we see what getting one’s way leaves behind. And it’s not pretty. I think Seirin evolves the most throughout the story, but she does have the farthest to go. Yui’s a close second. I suppose that’s really the answer to your question. These three characters, Keiko, Seirin, and Yui, are the ones with the real journey, so I focus more on them.

     

     

     

     

     

    5. Speaking of “Lone Samurai,” you’ve said other places that Kojiki was an homage to all the anime you watched as a kid. What is your favorite Japanese film or anime series, and in what ways did it influence how you wrote this book?

     

     

    Star Blazers! I can say that without hesitation. I’ll never forget the day I came home from high school, flipped on the TV, and came across it. I was spellbound. A hard SF story told in animation with a gorgeous, fully orchestrated score. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I became obsessed and tried to learn all I could about it. Back then–early 1980′s–without the internet it wasn’t easy. I finally found an article about the show and learned it was originally broadcast in Japan as ‘Space Battleship Yamato’. Star Blazers was a big enough hit to coax more anime out of Japan. Truthfully, no other title equalled Star Blazers for me, and in 1983, when getting ready for the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Sapporo, Japan, I selected a suite from Yamato Final, the last full-length Yamato movie for some time, as my music for the competition.

     

    So what was it about Star Blazers? It’s epic in scope and more heroic than just about anything I’ve ever seen. It’s about the greatness in people, how adversity brings out the absolute best in everyone. I know it’s in vogue for stories to have flawed, complex characters who’s morals are questionable, but I can’t tell you how many times Star Blazers hit me over the head with the notion that a few dedicated individuals can face death without fear and achieve the impossible for the betterment of those who don’t even understand their sacrifice. The story is inspirational in any format, and I wanted to write a story along those lines.

     

     

     

     

     

    6. If you read the review, you’ll find I wasn’t a big fan of the flashbacks between Aeryk and Seirin. To summarize, I thought they slowed down the pacing in the front of the book without adding much empathy for the pivotal players. Here’s your spot to give a rebuttal.

     

     

    In answering, I kind of feel like the magician who’s having a real problem with a trick. When it comes time to perform, he’s done the best he can to prepare and pulls it off fairly well, only to find another magician in the audience staring at him with a knowing look. In other words, Kojiki’s back story gave me fits. I can’t tell you how many times I moved it around, tinkered with it, tried to find the best place for it. For a while, every conference call with my editor–the fabulous Lorin Oberweger of Free-Expressions.com (She’s Veronica Rossi’s editor too, BTW)–centered on what to do with it. I couldn’t omit it without watering down the emotional impact I was going for at the climax, and I couldn’t find the right way to fit it in. I opted for what you see on the page, showing-not-telling how Seirin and Aeryk’s selfishness destroyed their world. Lorin offered the best advice–she told me not to get too cute, just present it and let the reader decide. She did say it made her really curious about the whole Kojiki history, and maybe I could have done a book with Seirin and Aeryk’s arc before the cataclysmic events in Kojiki. It’s a great idea, but I was so invested in what I had already–not to mention impatient to start querying agents–that I decided against it. I will say, though, I’m really proud of Vissyus’s backstory chapter. I think it’s heart-breaking, and the story would suffer without it. He’s my Billy Budd, and the reader needs to know he’s more tragic hero than villain.

     

     

     

     

     

    7. On a positive note, I loved how many historical and cultural references you managed to fit into one book. Did you start out pretty much knowing which references you wanted to use, or is that something that developed over the course of writing the book? How much research did you have to do?

     

     

    I knew I wanted to start in Tokyo, and I knew I wanted the climactic sequences to take place over Mount Fuji (I can say that without spoilers, right?). The rest fell in line as the story progressed. Miami was a natural place to begin Aeryk’s journey, with it’s propensity for hurricanes. I thought the same for Roarke, the Earth Spirit, in the Himalayas, and Lon-Shan, the Shadow Lord, in what is essentially Transylvania (you caught that right?) Once I decided on a location, I researched the geography, city layouts, climate, etc. I’ve been to Miami, Eastern Europe, and Tokyo, so I blended what I know with that research. I’d use Google maps and street view to get a feel for things. Other than that, I spent a good deal of time researching both world myths and Japanese myths to make sure I set the right tones and could make the characters and Guardians familiar without becoming cliche. That was the key. The reader should recognize these Spirits, but they should feel new.

     

     

     

     

     

    8. Do you have plans for a book 2?

     

     

    I’ve finished the first draft of book two and am working my way through the edits. It’s a follow-up of sorts, but with different characters and settings. If I may, sort of like the difference between The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. I wanted to stay away from a pure sequel because I completed the story lines of Kojiki’s major characters. To throw them into something else would cheapen what they went through and would do my readers an injustice. You can’t follow one apocalypse with another and make it feel honest. It’s like: “you only thought you dealt with the biggest threat ever. BZZZT. Wrong. There’s a worse one out there.” Uh-uh. Not going to do that. How many times have you seen a movie sequel where the villain is ten times worse than the last one. Eventually, it becomes ridiculous. These characters are essentially gods. They know the score. After spending the book building up the conflict, finding a worse one would feel false.

     

     

     

     

     

    9. What is the one most important thing you hope readers take away from Kojiki?

     

     

    Obviously, I hope they enjoy the read. I wanted to create something different, and I would love it if the story sweeps the reader away. I’d give anything for a reader to come to some big scene and just go, “wow!” I did that the first time I saw The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway and I’ll never forget it. The world disappeared, and for over two hours I lost myself in its beauty and majesty. Careful readers will find a good deal of Phantom in Kojiki–as crazy as that sounds. The idea of a mad genius, his unrequited love, the way he stalks that love. I left a tribute to that masterpiece in Kojiki’s final chapters. I’d be interested to hear from readers to see if they find it :) I’d wager I’ll get a slew of different answers. Everyone sees a book differently. And that’s really all I could ask for. Other than that, at its core, Kojiki is the story of personal responsibility. Takeshi says it: “We have laws for a reason. Breaking them has consequences.” Kojiki is about what happens when we do what we want instead of what we should, what it means, and how we live with what we’ve done.

     



  • Author Interview: Jessica Keefe

    Well, I linked to her Facebook earlier, and now here she is: Jessica Keefe is indulging me in my fantasies of a revived cyberpunk genre, and she was kind enough to answer some fanboyish questions from me:

     

     

     

     

     

    1. So, what got you into writing?

     

     

    Harry Potter fanfiction. The summer between 6th and 7th grade I spent the entire time writing a huge epic piece of fanfiction about Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley. I have been hooked on writing ever since, but with less HP and more of my own creations.

     

     

    2. The brief blurb on Goodreads about The Deceiver suggests a Brave New World-style book. Are you, perchance, a fan of Huxley?

     

     

    Not really. I might get backlash for that, especially since this does sort of follow his Brave New World concept, but I haven’t been too interested in his work.

     

     

    3. Ok, having answered that pointed question, here’s a more general one: tell me a little bit about the kind of book we can expect with The Deceiver.

     

     

    There’s a lot going on within the book, but it mainly focuses on the Triad Of Colors, a trio of medical pills created and perfected over the decades. They are used in every day life to maintain a positive attitude. There’s the red pill that regulates heart rate and blood pressure, making the taker more calm and level-headed. There’s the yellow pill that dulls the extreme of any emotion and brings you back to a level of normalcy. And then there’s the blue pill that damages short term memories, essentially erasing them, so that neither the person who took the pill or the LI Coalition can bring them back to the surface and review them at leisure. The government believes that these pills will help control the masses. If negative thoughts aren’t allowed, if they are punished by an inquisition and jail time, then the people won’t itch to kill one another or go to war or even rebel against the government.

     

     

    There’s the Triad Of Existence, three planets that separate each and every person based on a level they were given at birth. There’s a tattoo engraved on everyone’s wrist, tapping into their limbic system and reporting back to a database of computers the thoughts, emotions, and memories of each person. And then there’s two people who met through a series of rebel incidents, trying to figure out what the murder of one general means and how it will effect the world as they know it.

     

     

    The novel itself has become a rebellion of men and women who are tired of being spied on, who just want their freedom back. But they are far from the first people to attempt such a thing. Earth is a prison state now and if they aren’t careful they’re going to wind up on its toxic, radiation-filled surfaces with every other person caught by the government’s web of knowledge.

     

     

    4. Judging by your Facebook posts, we’re dealing with something pretty dark. Do you consider The Deceiver to be dystopian cyberpunk? If so, do you think that cyberpunk is going to make a comeback?

     

     

    Possibly! It might be a little too far out in the future to be a true cyberpunk novel, but it has the oppressive societal qualities and the dystopian feel. I think only a true cyberpunk fan will be able to tell you that.

     

     

    5. Is The Deceiver your first novel?

     

     

    It’ll be my first published novel. In 2009 I participated in National Novel Writing Month and wrote a cute little Christian romance fic-let, but I’ve been too terrified to open the document since I finished. I’ve grown as a writer since then and I can’t even imagine how it would match up to The Deceiver.

     

     

    6. Are you self-publishing? If so, who are you using as an editor?

     

     

    I plan to go the self-publishing route, yes. I have a friend who was doing editing for her prior boss who has been reviewing my chapters for me as I go. She is amazing and has always given me great feedback along with editorial changes and recommendations. I couldn’t ask for a better friend or editor.

     

     

    7. I see that you have predicted December 2013 as your release date; how firm is that?

     

     

    Extremely firm. The only thing that will change that date is if I get antsy and decide to publish earlier. But I want to do this right and make sure that my novel is both finished and polished before I put it out into the world, so the later the “possible” publication date, the more wiggle room I have just in case.

     

     

    8. Will you be submitting a copy to us for a review once its done?

     

     

    Absolutely! My plan is to hand out copies a month in advance to reviewers so they will be able to put up their comments within a week of its digital publishing.

     

     



  • Author Interview: Brooke Morris

    This week, the Friday Indie Review took a look at The Pull by Brooke Morris.
    Well, we have something of a bonus feature for you, folks.  Ms Morris was kind enough to answer some interview questions from us.

    1. So, what got you into writing?

    An overactive imagination :-)!  I constantly tend to be creating stories about the world around me.  My go-to thought on just about anything is, “what if…”, especially when I was a kid.  Eventually I just started writing them down.

     

    2. I noticed Maggie is from a broken home in more ways than one. Is that autobiographical?

     

    I have never been a big fan of the term broken home.  It is seems so negative, as if a rainstorm should be darkening the skies above it.  Yes, my parents are divorced, but my childhood was filled with a mom who encouraged my out-of-the-box thinking and provided never ending support.  So I guess you could say the positive relationships Maggie has with her parents is autobiographical.

    3. You’ve built a pretty complex cosmology in the Nademi series; did you do that as you were writing, or did the cosmology come before the writing?

    The story started out much simpler and I just began flushing it out as I went along.  It has gone through one major revision and it was during that time that a lot of that mythology came into the picture.

     

    4. On the subject of your cosmoslogy…Umbrokor? Faeries, Daemons, Dwarves, Witches, Men…these I’m familiar with. Where did Umbrokor come from?

     

    Umbrokor is a term I completely made up.  I wanted something better than “magician” because that didn’t properly convey the race I was trying to describe.  As I searched for a term that would, I realized nothing did, so I made up my own.  That is what I love about story telling. You are building this world and, as long as you abide by the rules you’ve established for it, you can do whatever your heart desires. I mean, where did the terms faeries, daemons, and witches come from?  Where does any word come from?  It all stems from a need to convey an idea, and if a word doesn’t exist to suit that need, then it must be created.

     

    5. So, is the Nademi series a trilogy, or are you shooting for something more epic?

     

    I am shooting for a trilogy, that is the story arch I have planned.  But you never know, I might do something more with it.  It all depends on how the story develops.  My writing method is very unstructured and organic.  I am basically discovering the characters right along with the reader.

     

    6. Do you have any published short stories? In what anthologies could the readers find those?

     

     

    This is the first work I have ever created and made available to the public.  However, it is ironic that you would mention this because I just started what I call Wednesday Writings on my website, in which I release a new chapter of a short story I am working on and post it on my bloghttp://authorgirlie.blogspot.com/

     

    7. If you’ve read the review, you know I wasn’t a fan of your prologue. To summarize, I found it to be muddy, and it didn’t really add to the story. I figured I’d give you a chance to shoot back here.

     

    Thank you for the honest review.  I actually prefer hearing what didn’t work for readers along with what did so I can take it under consideration for my subsequent books. I also appreciate having a chance to respond to your review :-). I am sure the prologue is not to everyone’s taste (or the whole story for that matter); for every person, there is a unique taste and preference.  As you pointed out, the prologue was intentionally abstract and that doesn’t sit well with some readers. I didn’t want a concrete idea that leads the reader by the nose.  I wanted something that they had to make sense of for themselves, something that would make them have an ah-ha moment later as they read the rest of the book.  I wanted it to mimic that moment that borders between being awake and falling asleep, when you aren’t sure what is real, what’s a dream, or even where you are.
    I actually really love the prologue. It gives us a glimpse into the history of Maggie, where she came from, and the strength within her heritage.

     

    8. On a more positive note, your chapter headings I refer to as Irulanesque. Were you inspired by Herbert on those, or did you come to them some other way?

     

    I actually had to look up Herbert to understand the reference, so I can safely say I wasn’t influenced by him.  I began reading DUNE many years ago but wasn’t able to finish (perhaps I should try again now that I am older and my attention span is longer than 5 minutes :-).  The quotes materialized during the revision.  As the history and mythology of the world became more developed and detailed in my mind, I realized I had way more I wanted to include in the story.  But, being conscious of keeping the book at a length shorter than the unabridged Oxford Dictionary, I began using the quotes at the beginning of the chapters to allow readers a glimpse of the world’s history on a human level.

     

    9. What’s the title of book 2 of the Nademi series, and when are we going to see it?

     

    Gosh I wish I knew!  I am writing it, and I expect to have it out and ready by August (darn day job keeps getting in the way ;-), but I only have a working title for now.  I rarely name a work before it is finished because my writing method often allows for twists in the plot that even I didn’t predict, so I like to make sure I get to know the book before I give it a title. :-)

     

    10. If you could emulate one and only one author out there, who would it be, and why?

     

    Oh wow, that is hard.  My favorite author is Steinbeck, the way he exposes the human experience in all its flawed, but beautiful glory.  But our genres are so vastly different that I am not sure I would say I want to emulate him… I guess I would say, as far as fantasy authors go, I really like Melanie Rawn.  When I discovered her Dragon Prince series I devoured them like there was no tomorrow.  Sleeping, eating, everything was put on the back burner until I was done with those 6 books.  I would hope one day to have that effect on readers.  Although I guess that would leave me with emaciated, cranky-from-lack-of-sleep readers, so…. maybe that isn’t such a good thing:-)