Author Interview: Azalea Forrest

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Check out Azalea Forrest’s books on Goodreads!

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

I love the feel of a hardback or paperback, but I love the convenience of eBooks. Sometimes I want to highlight text, but I feel like it’s a disservice to the physical book if I mark it in any way. This is a silly opinion, as it’s my own book, but it just never left me. With eBooks, I can add as many comments or highlights as I want. As for audiobooks, I love that they exist, but I have a hard time focusing on audio, so I don’t tend to seek them out over text. There’s nothing quite like holding a book in your hands, though, and turning the pages. 

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

Pastoral fantasy. Now I’ll be honest, I haven’t really read many pastoral novels (unless you would somehow count Wizard of Earthsea), however, I have read the manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou by Hitoshi Ashinano. It’s a slice-of-life science fiction manga, and while it isn’t labeled as pastoral, I would consider it to be such in the sense that it focuses on rural living in a post-apocalyptic world, and the peace the main character, Alpha, and her ‘neighbors’ experience. I also find myself viewing the Studio Ghibli films in a pastoral light as well, as these films tend to focus on the little details of ‘mundane life’ and make them extremely beautiful and meaningful. I love to see hope and light, and a harmony with nature, brought to the forefront in media, and that’s what I try to do with my own stories.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

Three Little Pigs, only because I remember telling my mother I was going to “write a book”, and then typed up the entire thing on the family computer. As for a novel, I’m not sure, probably The Face by Dean Koontz? Or a Goosebumps, maybe.

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

Not gonna lie, probably the Harry Potter books. I read the first two when they came out, but didn’t get to read the rest of the series until high school. By then, I had already started roleplaying online in forums, and joining a Harry Potter writing group was not only a ton of fun, but improved my writing, too.

5.      When did you first start writing?

I believe around 2001, but it could have been earlier. It was in the time of AOL chatrooms … Haha. I met someone who taught me how to RP, and I joined a Final Fantasy VIII chatroom with my very first original character. I don’t remember his name (my OC), but I do remember he was based off the character Dart from Legend of Dragoon. At least in appearance! After that, I joined RP forums on Gaia Online.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I’ve always journaled, and I spent most of my childhood RPing. It’s just so much easier to write than it is to speak, for me, and I always found writing to be the easiest way to express myself. I loved making characters and seeing how they reacted with others in collaborative settings. I loved entering people’s worlds, whether from popular games or shows, or something original. It wasn’t until 2017 that I was convinced by a friend that my writing could actually be more than just roleplays. They introduced me to KDP/self-publishing, and I decided I would finally try to finish a story for once, because I could never finish a story until I learned about bullet outlining. I don’t RP much anymore: collaborating is much harder these days than before, but I still love all the things that held me in writing in the first place, and now that I’m making my own worlds, I feel even more empowered to write, even if it can be a lot of hard work!

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

I’m incredibly proud of A Bitter Drink. It is my longest work with my most complicated characters. Rowan is an absolute pain in the ass, but I love him because of his flaws. And Clover is probably my most loudly loved character of late, and that feels really good. She’s also from ABD, and she’s the complete opposite of a pain in the ass, haha, but both these characters are gems and I love them dearly.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I published my first complete story, yes: Witch in the Lighthouse. I tried many times before to finish stories, whether original work or fanfiction, but I could never seem to get past the first few chapters. I remember the first time I participated in NaNoWriMo, I was very passionate about the story, but I still had no idea how to finish it, and it floundered despite being 50k words deep. Looking back, though, that story had too many faults to count, and while there are characters who I still hold on to from it, the story I plan to use them for won’t be anything like what I had originally thought up. And that’s fine! 

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

I’ve published three books so far! Witch in the Lighthouse, The Underground, and A Bitter Drink.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

I write in the fantasy genre for my books. WIL has been described as pastoral fantasy (yay!), UG is dark/urban fantasy, and ABD is high fantasy. I’ve tried writing in contemporary settings but it’s just not as fun. I do enjoy and hope to write a story in a post-apocalyptic, sort of sci-fi genre as well, and have written snippets in those settings before, but we’ll see if I ever get that out in book form. 

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

A bit of both. My earliest books don’t have much research in them, but I’ve been doing more and more of late, especially for my current WIP: ‘Apothecary’ (placeholder name).

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

Oh, absolutely plan. I mean, I don’t plan every single detail: that’s too much planning, personally, but I’ve been trying to make my outlines more and more detailed. Still, no matter how much I plan, I still have plenty of revisions to make after the first draft. You can’t plan for everything! And when it comes to worldbuilding, sometimes I just don’t realize everything I’ll need until much later. And that’s very important for your plot!

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I self-publish through KDP. I’ve been happy with it, and I have no plans to deviate from it.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

I mean, I’m already basically a hobbit, so it’d be nice to live in the Shire, haha!

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

I have two! ‘Apothecary’ WIP and The Witch in Isenshire, which is the sequel to Witch in the Lighthouse. ‘Apothecary’ is about a doctor with anxiety in a world full of beasts, monsters, and godlike beings called Elsings. The Elsings once almost destroyed humankind 400 years ago due to human’s greed and destruction of the planet, but I’m hoping the main focus will be around Vivi (the MC) and dealing with her anxiety in a fantasy setting. There’s LGBT themes, chronic pain, trauma, etc. It’s going through extensive revisions right now, so it’s already changed quite a lot from how I’d originally envisioned it, but I hope to turn it into something powerful.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

It’s really hard to choose, but one of my oldest characters that doesn’t have a book yet, and someone who I feel like I still don’t know enough: Tak Bernadette. She’s a tamurin (monkey person), and the captain of the Sun Pirates. She’s got a whole crew she’s essentially rescued from shitty situations: slavery, indentured servitude, loneliness, grief, and for some: people who just don’t have anything better to do. I love her with all my heart, and one day I’d really love to make a series with her and her found family.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

Aha, well for what I’ve published: A Bitter Drink. But I feel like my story with Tak will one day be my true “magnum opus”. Maybe that’s why I still haven’t come up with a true story for her yet. I won’t rush it, though.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

Patrick and Marnie are side characters in The Underground, but their marriage is really strong and I love their werewolf family.

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Absolutely, it’s basically the only way I can write. Most of the music I listen to while writing is instrumental, as vocals can be distracting sometimes, but I’ve really been loving this song in particular while working on ‘Apothecary’. It’s called: ‘The Bug Collector’ by Haley Heyndrickx.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

Yes! I have character art for the main cast of A Bitter Drink, all done by Cheyanne Murray. You can find some character sheets I made with them in this Twitter thread.

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Write now, edit later. If you stop to edit/revise, you’ll never stop, and will likely get too frustrated to continue. And it’s okay to take breaks! But you can always, always go back and edit after the first draft is done. (Leave notes if you must!)

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I did, but my piece wasn’t considered for a winning entry. There were a lot of entries!

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

My list is more storytellers in general than novelists, but:

Hayao Miyazaki: I love how he focuses on the little details. The art is gorgeous, of course, but he excels in storytelling as well, as seen by his manga series: Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind. His focus on strong female leads, caring for nature, compassion in general, are all endearing qualities I aspire to instill in my own work.

Eiichiro Oda (pre time-skip of One Piece, lol): I absolutely adore Oda’s backstory work of the Strawhat crew before the time skip. Very powerful, loving stuff.

Ursula K Le Guin: I just really love her Earthsea series.  

Boots: Boots has a really lovely way of writing their characters and world. Every word feels so perfectly placed, nothing feels extraneous. From their short stories to their novella, I’ve only read their five stories, but I’m always ready to read more.

Wes Anderson: Maybe my love for his films are more aesthetic than anything, but Anderson’s quirky characters and offbeat stories always draw me in.

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Thank you! You can find me on my website: A Forrest Writes.

My Twitter: @AForrestWrites.

My books: Witch in the LighthouseThe UndergroundA Bitter Drink.

And all other links over on my Bio Link!

Author Interview: Alan Scott

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Check out my reviews of Alan Scott’s books Tales of Solomon Pace and Tea!

1.  Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

I love audiobooks when out walking or doing the ironing (yes, I do the ironing lol). I very rarely read paperbacks or hardback now. However, I use Kindle a lot, and yes I know that is heresy. However, as authors if we do not embrace change then readers will look elsewhere.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

Easy – fantasy.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

The first book I remember reading as a choice was Sven Hassel’s Monte Cassino. To be fair I was about 12-13 years old and the thrill of reading an adult’s book was huge. I read all his books and to be honest it got me into books longer than 200 pages. Which then led me onto other fantastic books.

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. I was captivated by it.

5.      When did you first start writing?

It’s been long and winding path. As a dyslexic, I was constantly told that I was thick and stupid, and that I should leave anything to do with being creative with the written word well alone. (Which is quite funny as I later learned that Agatha Christie, Jules Verne and F. Scott Fitzgerald were all dyslexic). Hence, although I read a lot in my youth, I never did any writing nor was encouraged to. Throughout my twenties and thirties, I continued to read a lot, mainly fantasy or science fiction. It was not until I was in my early forties that I decided to sit down and write.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I had a story running around my head and it had to get out. Also, I wanted to write fantasy stories for adults. It seemed that fantasy had been taken over by books aimed at teenagers and were becoming overly political. What happened to a simple good story? I wanted to write books that reflected the stories I loved. Stories by Fritz Leiber like Swords and Deviltry, and his characters Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Or Robert E Howards’ Conan the Barbarian.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

Oh, that is a hard question. It is one of two (yes, I know I am cheating) it’s either:

  1. The Rain Dancer: My life the Dyslexic because it’s such a personal book.
  2. Tea. I am extremely proud of this short story. I think it showcases what my writing is about.

Is that a tapping of a cane I can hear? If so, I had better mention my book, Tales of Solomon Pace, the antihero of my trilogy. He is not a creature to cross!

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I self-published Echoes of a Storm over 10 years ago and don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of that book and it holds a very special place in my heart. However, I made a lot of mistakes, which most likely cost me over the years. Since Echoes I got myself a really good proof-reader, my writing style has improved a 100-fold, and the pacing of my stories is a lot better.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

So far, I have published: The Storm Series (Fantasy), Echoes of a Storm, Scions of a Storm, A Dark and Hungry Storm, Stories for a Storm Filled Night (a book of short stories), Tales of Solomon Pace (a book of short stories), Tales of Salvation and Damnation (a book of short stories), The Mancer Series (Fantasy), A Kingdom Falls, The Midnight Man, I Am Mancer (WIP), The Y Front Series (Sci Fi), The Y Front Chronicles, The Y Front Stand off and Dyslexic, The Rain Dancer: My life the Dyslexic (semi-autobiographical).

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

I write in the sci-fi and fantasy genres.

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

I don’t do a lot of research as such. However, I served 12 years in the Royal Air Force, so I have all that experience to draw upon when writing military characters. I’ve been that guard, standing in a guard box at 02:00hrs with the raining pouring down on a cold November’s night.

I have been dyslexic all my life and drew upon my experiences of that for The Rain Dancer.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

When I write, it’s like I am a director making a film and the characters are my actors. I have a general idea of what I want to happen, but there is always a great deal of improvisation by the characters. Which has led to a few intriguing and thought-provoking outcomes.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I self-publish and I am going to stick to that route.  My stories are not mainstream enough for publishers, although I would love to do through the learning experience of at least once having a story published.

Saying that, my short story, “The Deadly Tap of a Cane“ (Solomon Pace again) was chosen by WorldReader for use by them (8 years ago). This charitable organisation aims to help spread ebooks and literacy in developing countries. They’re a really great organisation and are backed by all the big publishing houses.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

That is an excellent question. I would choose Harry Harrison’s world of The Stainless Steel Rat. I loved those books and it’s a bit different.

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

The last book in the Mancer trilogy, I Am Mancer. The sad news is I have been trying to finish this book for over four years.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

I think I may have mentioned him before. Solomon Pace is the character who I just love the write.  He is wonderfully wicked, broken, and very occasionally a hero. I did not want him to be black and white, I wanted there to be reason which the reader could connect with for why he did what he does. I am very proud of the well rounded character I created.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

That must be The Rain Dancer: My Life the Dyslexic.  I have spoken to library group about it. It has been read by senior management within the company I work for, so that they could better understand what it is like to be dyslexic. It is an important book in my life.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

I am going to choose the male friendship between Nathanial West and Twever the Magnificent in the Storm Series. I choose these two because I find that most male friendships in books are rubbish. Especially the older men. These are two very dangerous men, who have lived violent and hard lives. They cannot form friendships with normal people, as normal people would be unable to understand what they had gone through. So, they have formed a friendship out of need, to talk to someone who understands them.

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Oh yes. I love using music when I write and for each book, I produced a soundtrack. Some examples of the music I use are: For my main character Nathaniel West: ‘Got you (Where I want you)’ by The Flys (from the Album Rock Band classics); ‘The Seer’ by Big Country; ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ by The Who. For one of my characters called Jane: ‘Weak’ by Skunk Anansie. The last stand of the old guard: ‘Deadlock’ by Tristania (from the album World of Glass). For my character Mancer: ‘Open Book’ by Gnarls Barkley (from the album The Odd Couple).

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

There is a wonder lady called Saskia Schnell that does my covers for my books. You can see them here on Amazon. Or you see her other work at SASKIA SCHNELL / ILLUSTRATION & GRAPHIC DESIGNSASKIA SCHNELL.

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Remember these simple thoughts:

  1. 20% of people will love what you do. 20% will hate it, and the rest will be indifferent.
  2. Even famous writers get 1-star reviews.
  3. Write the story you want to tell.
  4. Get the best proof-reader you can afford.
  5. Get Beta readers.
  6. The odds of making a million is very small.
  7. Enjoy the experience.

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I have entered a few and have a 100% success rate of failure 😊.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

My recommended writers would be:

  1. Terry Pratchett.
  2. Richard Matheson – I Am Legend.
  3. Harry Harrison.
  4. Fritz Leiber.
  5. Aaron Dembski-Bowden – The Night Lords Trilogy.
  6. Alan Moore – One of the best British writers there is.
  7. Andrzej Sapkowski – You need to read foreign writers.
  8. Sergei Lukyanenko – The Watch series is brilliant.
  9. David Gemmell – Waylander is a must-read book.
  10. P.G. Wodehouse – as a writer you must read outside your genre.

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Author Interview: Jude S. Walko

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Check out this review of The Unhallowed Horseman by Grimoire of Horror!

front cover of the unhallowed horseman. small text says 'a novel by jude s. walko' 'foreword by jonathan kruk'

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

For reading, I’m a paperback guy. I love the feel of the paper in my hand. The smell of older books. The crease every new set of fingerprints leaves on the pages, and any notes or inscriptions that show the history of who may have read it. 

As far as publishing my book, ebook for convenience, paperback for the same reasons above, and hard cover for the collector. I’m also working on the audible version for those on-the-go.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!  

Horror! No matter how much I stray from it, I always seem to keep coming back. If I am to define it even further, psychological thrillers with a twist get me every time.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

If we are not counting Dr. Seuss and children’s books, the first book that I really processed intellectually was Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  This was followed by seeing the 1974 film version with my school, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house including teachers and children alike.

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

Definitely Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. It was the first time it felt like it was completely acceptable to follow your imagination down any rabbit hole, and that this was not only normal, but encouraged. Also all of Judy Blume’s coming-of-age books, like the Fudge series, definitely were captivating and inspiring. 

5.      When did you first start writing?

I remember trying to create my first stories somewhere probably around the age of 10. My first “Yuppie Puppy” was a colossal failure.

I had always written poetry and prose for as long as I could remember. In high school seminary, quickly followed by college, I had some great mentors that encouraged my abilities. I soon found that writing was one of the things that came most naturally to me, and that it was a great way for me to express my ebullient imagination on paper, even more so than the spoken word. It wasn’t until my mid 20s that I attempted to write screenplays which eventually led to my debut novel nearly two decades later.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I guess there were two things.

The first being that eternal flame that burns inside all creative personalities. The need to create something out of thin air, to tell a story over a metaphorical “campfire” and get an entertaining reaction out of it. The need to be able to share an experience or a shred of morality through storytelling and without beating someone over the head with it. The more imaginative and beguiling, the more receptive the audience would be.

The second being that I have so many stories in my head. I don’t know where they come from, but I definitely need an outlet for them.

Both of these reasons still hold as true today as they ever did.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

My novel, The Unhallowed Horseman, is what I am most proud of. It’s the culmination of everything I learned as a storyteller. It includes all the life experience, education, and wonderful examples of fiction that came before mine, to help guide the way. What’s more, it’s a homage to some of the things that have influenced me over the years like Washington Irving, Classic Literature, Tim Burton, Halloween and my older brother, among many, many others.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I did publish it. I needed to get the story out into the world come Hell or high water. 

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

So far I have published just the one, but more and more of my prose pieces are creeping up online and through various outlets. I do want to publish a collection of my short stories at some point, and I have been mulling over my next novel ideas since the very moment I completed the first one.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Mainly horror or psychological thriller, and although it’s good to brand oneself, I don’t like to pigeon-hole myself into a single genre. I have written love stories, children’s fairy tales, coming of age and a tinge of Sci-Fi, but definitely if I want to be well known for a single genre, it will be horror. 

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

The story is all in my head, but research is absolutely necessary. I often say that the internet is an author’s biggest distraction and simultaneously their greatest tool. Nowadays, so many people have access to information. You would be a fool not to use all the materials at your fingertips to embellish the validity of your fiction. And that’s just historical and factual things. That doesn’t even include the wonderful world of expanding one’s vocabulary. Every author does it and for very good reason.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

To each their own. But for me I can’t plot ahead of time. I build my world around characters with rich histories and deep backgrounds.  The protagonists are often flawed and the antagonists can sometimes have redeeming qualities, just like most real humans. I cannot fit a square peg into a round hole, meaning I often don’t know how my characters will react until they are thrown into a situation. If I try and plan that ahead of time it takes away the spontaneity of their actions, or more importantly reactions.  Also the story is King! Sometimes it dictates that a character reacts a certain way, or even dies. Something I wasn’t originally or consciously plotting. In the end, you can always clean up your structure, but to me planning everything kills my personal creative energy. Also if I’m getting “Divine Inspiration” it will come in the moment, not off a cue card or outline structure.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I self-published and I don’t mind. I have a lot of parallel experience with this in the film world. It’s studio versus indie. Traditional publishing obviously allows more people to have access to your work, as well as the all important PR and advertising, but there is something to be said about controlling all the creative materials as is the case in the Indie or self-published world.

Of course, we would all love to be the next Stephen King, but barring that, I will not let my stories be held back simply because I cannot get timely responses to my query letters.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

As much as I would probably regret it in real life, I always wanted to live in Charles Dickens’ Victorian England. Maybe I’m reincarnated from that time, because I feel a strong connection to it.

As far as fictional world’s, Roald Dahl’s chocolate factory, or J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World would be pretty damn cool. 

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

I have many, including several scripts. My next task, however, is to choose which WIP I am going to spend the time on as my next novel. I think I have narrowed it down to three so far. Stay tuned.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

Oh, so many. I guess, “One Exalted MonSieur SavoirFaire” was one. He was a wealthy aristocrat who bullied everyone while living only to find himself wandering around as a tormented spirit in death with nothing, despite all his riches in his former life. The character and his world is very Dickensian.

Another is the Vicar of Borley which I played as an actor in the film I wrote and directed called, The Incantation. He is an amalgamation of many of the ghost stories, and Hammer film and Christopher Lee inspired characters I love so much.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

Definitely The Unhallowed Horseman. Not only because it at one point was 100k+ word novel (now edited down to about 96K), but because, as mentioned, it’s the culmination of my life experiences, intellect, storytelling and influence from nearly five decades of life, great literature and mind-blowing cinema.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

In my current novel the budding romance appears between Vincent, an on the edge dysfunctional teen with some mental health issues, and Lorraine, the epitome of the well-behaved and obedient daughter. They’re complete opposites. The great thing is that their relationship works as a literary vehicle. It waivers between true emotions of love, fear and codependency. Throw into that her overprotective father, Vince’s troubled homelife, and some extraordinary circumstances, and it really becomes a relationship tested by fire.  It may not turn out the way you expect.

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

YES! I love epic songs and moody songs. Usually instrumentals, so that singing along doesn’t distract me from the writing. Some of my favorite go-tos are “Alice’s Theme” from “Alice in Wonderland” by Danny Elfman, “He’s A Pirate” from “Pirates of the Caribbean” by Hans Zimmer, “Blood Red Roses” by C21FX, and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

Absolutely. My novel first started as a screenplay. As such I hired a fantastic artist, Jake Bowen, to create character art including one inspired by the real life Stan Lee.

You can see most of it on this video of the book’s original fundraising campaign.

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Write because you have to. Everything I have done and achieved in life, has not been for fame and fortune and more times than not, did not yield those things.  Write because you have a story to tell, only the way you can tell it. And please remember this: every great literary work came from an author who was most likely sequestered alone with their thoughts, sometimes working by candlelight, and oftentimes not even being recognized for it until posthumously. But yet decades, or even hundreds of years later, we are all still here discussing their works.

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I was writing weekly short stories on Reedsy for quite a few months. But to be honest it quickly became discouraging. Although writing each week was a healthy habit at the time, I felt it was forcing me to output stories when I wasn’t necessarily in the creative mood. That ultimately became counter-productive for me personally. It did help me produce some stories I’m proud of, however, and they are still there if anyone cares to read them.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Roadl Dahl, Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury and strictly from a creative, not political standpoint, J.K. Rowling and H.P. Lovecraft.

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

JUDE S. WALKO

Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | IMDb | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | LinkedIn

THE UNHALLOWED HORSEMAN

Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Author Interview: Halli Starling

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Be sure to check out Halli’s website!

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

All of them! I’m only picky when it comes to audiobook narrators.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

Psychological horror! I can’t watch a lot of super scary stuff (I’m a jumper) but reading it is an entirely different experience.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

Redwall by Brian Jacques.

5.      When did you first start writing?

I used to make “books” out of construction paper stapled together, so probably around 7 or 8 years old.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

Storytelling is something I’ve always enjoyed. There is nothing quite like the rapture of being fully absorbed in a story. I chased that feeling as a child, since it was a way to escape a tumultuous household. And as I grew up, I still chased that feeling. But I decided I wanted to try to supply that feeling to others, too. It definitely still holds true.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

My current WIP.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

My first manuscript is definitely my eyes only. I might revisit it later. But it was unfinished. So I guess I did technically publish my first book!

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

I’ve published one novel and one set of short stories.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

I want to write psychological horror and lesbian romance. I’ve found a way to combine both but the story is fighting me currently.

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

It depends! I researched for my third book, ASK ME FOR FIRE, because I wanted to understand more about fire towers/fire watch towers. 

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

Ooof, can I say both? Most of my stories start with a character or a scenario, and if it really takes me, I’ll ramble around until the story finds its way (thank goodness for editing!). But eventually I’ll find myself in a corner and need to plot something out. Mostly my planning is a set of notes at the bottom of my WIP.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I self-published my two books. I’ve queried my third with a few agents, but it’s mostly because that book is extra special to me and I want to give it a chance “out there”. But I don’t expect it to get picked up, so I plan to self-publish that one as well.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Definitely Becky Chambers and A LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET.

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

I do! It’s a contemporary m/m romance set in the woods, featuring two neighbors who slowly become friends and fall in love. The title is ASK ME FOR FIRE.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

I’m torn between Octavia Wilder and Raphael Lutz. I think they’re two sides of the same coin – will protect their families and friends at any cost. Raphael (Raf) is very much an extroverted introvert, while Octavia’s an introvert.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

Outside of a lore-heavy fan fic I wrote, I’d say my set of queer short stories, TWELFTH MOON. When I was planning the second book, one character spun off into his own book (ASK ME FOR FIRE) and another pair are getting their own novella.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

Octavia Wilder and Bellemy (Bel) Eislen’s epic romance! They were separated for two years and fell back together again, then brought in Roderick for a healthy polyam relationship. They’re so dynamic together.

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Oh gosh, I actually can’t! Anything with words or a tune throws me off, so I listen to rain soundtracks when I write.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

Oh yes I do! @veranox on Twitter did art for WILDERWOOD, and @dazedinked on Twitter has done art for TWELFTH MOON, and what will be the cover for ASK ME FOR FIRE if I self-publish it.

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Be open to other ways to get your work out there! I know traditional publishing is a dream for many, and it can be disheartening, even soul-crushing. But if you can even be a little bit open to other ways to publish, it might be worth it.

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I entered the BookLife contest. It gave me my first critic review, which has been super helpful in marketing. It does cost, which I know a lot of people aren’t fans of. But it’s run by Publisher’s Weekly, which is one of, if not the biggest, names in publishing and reviewing.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Robert Jackson Bennet, Becky Chambers, KJ Charles, Cat Sebastian, Jon Ronson, Victor Lavelle.

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Website | Archive of Our Own

Indie Author Interviews Roundup

Author Interview: Rachel Bowdler
Author Interview: Vicky Ball
Author Interview: Poppy Dale
Author Interview: G.M. Nair
Author Interview: Boots
Author Interview: John St. Clair
Author Interview: N S Ford
Author Interview: Eva Seyler
Author Interview: Amy Campbell
Author Interview: L.A. Wasielewski
Author Interview: Pedro Gabriel
Author Interview: L.L. Stephens
Author Interview: A. K. Ritchie
Author Interview: Amy Maltman
Author Interview: Luther Kross
Author Interview: Sinnamon Carnelian
Author Interview: Ciarán West
Author Interview: Mansur Hasib
Author Interview: Val Neil
Author Interview: Alan Denham
Author Interview: Barbara Avon
Author Interview: Rita A. Rubin
Author Interview: Maxime Jaz
Author Interview: Chris Clancy
Author Interview: Elford Alley
Author Interview: Dan McKeon
Author Interview: Elena Nix
Author Interview: Charlotte Sullivan Wild
Author Interview: M. W. McLeod
Author Interview: L. Krauch
Author Interview: Sarah Bell
Author Interview: D.N. Schmidt
Author Interview: Casie Aufenthie
Author Interview: Courtney Maguire
Author Interview: Diana L. Smith
Author Interview: Jamie Jackson
Author Interview with Vaela Denarr & Micah Iannandrea
Author Interview: Joel Flanagan-Grannemann
Author Interview: Tinker McAdams
Author Interview: Chris McDonald
Author Interview: Brandon Applegate
Author Interview: P.L. Stuart
Author Interview: Tom Mock
Author Interview: Catherine Labadie
Author Interview: Lily Lawson

Author Interview with Vaela Denarr & Micah Iannandrea

text says author interview; picture shows candles, flowers, a jar with leaves, a dish with plants, and letters and books.

Follow Micah (They/Them) & Vaela (She/They) on Twitter!
Add The Gift of Blood on Goodreads!

  1. Ebook, paperback, hardback, audiobook?

To read:

M: I read the ebooks, but I like having physical copies. I think paperbacks are nicer to have, because you can’t really destroy the spine as much.

V: Ebooks are cheap. I’d love to have physical copies, but … yeah, expensive. Someday, though! As for audiobooks, not really my thing either. When I listen to stuff, I sometimes tune out, and then I miss half the book.

To publish:

V: Currently just ebooks, because, again, cover artists are expensive, and we want to pay them properly for their work. But we do wanna make our current book into paperbacks. It’ll probably have to be cut into three books, but that just means we get more pretty covers!!

  1. Pick a genre, any genre!

To read:

M: I like a little bit of a fantastical element to it, so mainly fantasy stuff. 

To write:

V: Generally, fantasy, science-fiction fantasy, urban fantasy; it all blends on some level.

  1. What is the first book you remember reading?

M: The Percy Jackson series. It was the first one that was actually interesting to me, so that’s how I started to read.

V: I believe it was a book by Kay Mayer, in the original German, about a fantasy Venice with magic mirrors, mermaids, and living stone lions.

  1. When did you first start writing?

M: Probably when I was around eighteen. It wasn’t really writing, just writing down thoughts about some queer beans. I did write about some poly beans. If I was any better, I would have kept going.

V: Instead, you got yourself a girlfriend who can do it!

M: Yeah!

V: For me, well, I tried when I was, like, fourteen. I wouldn’t even really count it as writing. It was — objectively — awful. Only once I met Micah did I actually start to write again. So I technically really started at 21, writing little things for our DnD characters, and then some fanfiction. Six months ago was the first time I went to writing with the full desire to publish.

  1. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

M: I … I dunno, Vaela is more the writer. What made you wanna write?

V: You did.

M: Yeah, cutie?

V: Yeah. I wanted to have an actual story of the beautiful characters you made on paper. I didn’t want it to just … keep slipping from my memory. I wanted those moments with you preserved on paper. And this was the best way I could do it.

All of our stories are dear to my heart. Every single one of our characters has a piece of me or you in them. I needed to somehow preserve that.

Aaand then it turned out to be really fun. Much more fun than anything else I’d ever gotten to do. I was finally doing something I liked. Building something I could be proud of with the person I love the most.

There is another reason why I’m now sticking with it, and that’s the money. Like, yes, everywhere you look, you’ll find people saying, “Oh, writing won’t make you rich.” Okay. But what if you wanna try, though? You just need the right audience, and we’ve got a good one. Before I was seriously writing, I was stuck in a job where my day looked like this: 8am, get up. 9am to 11pm, work, with breaks interspersed just enough to make it legal and not go over the maximum daily hours in Germany. Maybe not be too tired to eat something in the evening. Then sleep eight hours. Repeat ad nauseum.

Minimum wage, of course, so barely enough to cover rent while starving yourself. And work so demanding that after 3 weeks I could barely move either of my legs. Now, Germany is supposed to be great for sick days, right? Paid sick leave? Well, you need a letter from a doctor. For joint pain, it’s a specific one, and all the ones in my area had openings in eight months. When we got to the four month mark, I was told it was gonna be another three on top. And I just had to work through the pain in the meantime.

Fuck no to that.

So instead I started writing full-time. Rather than working for a place that I was, at that point, single-handedly keeping above water, where employees were yelled at for the slightest mistake, any raise was out of the question, and nothing was ever good enough, I poured my heart into something I actually enjoyed.

And I’m going to keep doing that, over and over and over. It wasn’t always easy. But damn was it fulfilling.

  1. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

Our recent book, The Gift of Blood! It’s 346k words of lesbian vampire action. It has found family. A slow burn. Cute queer beans. Queerplatonic friendships. A whole cast of queer characters, including an ace triad relationship (and we love us some poly beans, especially when one is a big buff cuddly woman). Also, big buff women. Lots of them. 

  1. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

V: We self-published our book. I’m not sure we’ll ever write one for our eyes only … Maybe. I guess we’ll see!

  1. How many books/collections have you published so far?

Just the one, but the next one is already in the works!

  1. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Fantasy, urban fantasy, science-fiction fantasy, horror (apparently?).

  1. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

M: Definitely research. I think it’s a multitude of both. There’s a lot that you make up for books. And then there’s stuff where you go, “Hm, I should check what happened in this time, like, what does this mean?”

V: Yeah, or, “Is what I’m writing offensive to anyone? Am I being an utter asshole by not putting in the five seconds of research? Am I being ableist or racist or homophobic, which we’d never want to do?”

M: And even the smallest of things could be interpreted as such, so it’s good to research, be clear, and see what you’re writing. What’s okay to say, what’s a way of describing something that has bad connotations.

V: It might come as a surprise, but a lot of authors don’t do that. And it makes us sick that those books end up critically acclaimed and called “masterpieces,” like … blatant racism on the page and nobody bats an eye, what the FUCK is that??

M: Yeah, Jesus …

V: I’m not even gonna go into all the other stuff. Point is, if you’re a new writer — please, please, PLEASE do your research. You can make someone’s day infinitely better by caring just the slightest bit.

  1. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

V: Define “plan.”

M: At first, plan. But then it kinda goes off the rails, and then we add more stuff, and then we gotta go back and change things … Mm-hm. Totally planned.

V: The extent of our planning are two documents in my google drive titled “Outline,” containing some ideas for scenes from The Gift of Blood, and “Outline 2,” containing ideas and notes and dialogue for scenes from the sequel to The Gift of Blood, a WIP poly romance book, a far in the future poly book with a bunch of pan- and bisexual people, notes for the ace werewolf series, a spin-off series about a band, and lots of notes about a planned series about queer dragons having fun growing up and also sorta conning people into giving them treasure. On top of them growing up, helping their siblings out, and gay panicking over every other girl, guy or nonbinary person that comes along.

  1. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

M: Self-publishing. Definitely sticking to that for a while. We aren’t necessarily rolling in the kind of money you need to just be patient as you query.

V: Honestly, even if we were, I don’t think I’d want to query. I don’t want to take the chance to maybe wait five or ten or twenty or thirty years for an agent to look at our manuscript and think, “Hey, I can probably make the people above me believe that this is worth selling.” Which it kinda boils down to. We don’t need to traditionally publish to know our books have worth.

M: People like what we have in store. And self-publishing feels more like our thing. It just feels right.

  1. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

M: Honestly, before all the bullshit, I would have said the ‘overrated wizard book’ universe. But no fucking thanks.

V: Yeah. Maybe to burn it down.

M: The Locked Tomb universe comes to mind. But it’s kinda too depressing.

V: What, you don’t like everyone you love and cherish dying in the cold, unfeeling void of necromantic space?

M: Yeah, I’m good, thanks.

V: Damn, I’m gonna have to give back those space shuttle tickets.

M: The Percy Jackson universe would be pretty cool. Magic and gods and shit? Hell yeah.

V: … Honestly, I’m gonna have to choose my own books. I know it’s against the rules, but yeah … I don’t know any setting that is like it. Our settings are all interconnected. Limitless possibilities. Everyone is queer. Buff women everywhere. That’s the only world I wanna live in.

  1. Do you currently have a WIP?

M: Yes! We have a few, technically. We have some stuff for some necromancy books, involving eldritch horror and space dragons. But that’ll take a bit. And then we have the one that we’re doing now, which is a short romance about three poly beans from The Gift of Blood! And then, obviously, the dragon books …

V: Yeah, the dragon books are gonna be a huge project. But the current romance one is just gentle, soft, and sweet. Lots of cuddles. Two girlfriends getting together with a cute girl who wants to date them both. Low stakes slice-of-life.

  1. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

M: Oh, god … Dearest to your heart? That’s hard, to just pick one. I don’t even know … I could say Nomi. She just started out as a DnD character I was excited to play, and so much happened to her in the span of barely a month. And she became so important to both of us. I don’t wanna spoil anything, because she’ll be shared with the world when we get to our dragon books. She’s a gentle, soft bean, and totally different to who I am as a person, so it’s interesting playing her and seeing her grow.

V: It’s probably Calia. Unlike Nomi with Micah, Calia is a lot like me. I’ve had her for quite a long time. And together with Nomi, she also grew a lot. And I grew as well, becoming a better person. Learning to trust myself. Learning to like myself as who I am. I also don’t wanna spoil anything, but Calia embodies strength, kindness, and love. Some parts of her I identify with very strongly. Some serve as a goal for how I want to be.

  1. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

V: I mean … We only wrote one book, but it’s our first one, it’s the size of three books, and it’s fucking good.

M: Not to brag or anything, but it is pretty fucking great.

V: First try. I mean, yeah, maybe I should have looked at how long novels are supposed to be (80k-120k are you serious??).

M: Honestly, we just figured that out when we were getting there. And then we added more. I don’t think it would have even mattered.

V: I’m just now realizing that I wrote three goddamn books. In like six months. I can apparently be productive when I want to be. That’s a new feeling.

  1. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

Yes, we do! Well, actually, maybe not a favourite, but we have a lot! We’ll start with Meg, who is not actually romantic with anyone (yet). In The Gift of Blood, she and the main character, Ryann, share some pretty emotional moments, after which they become much closer as friends. It turns from casual friendship where you hang out together and hunt monsters into a queerplatonic relationship. Basically, more than a friendship, but not on the level of dating.

V: This relationship is very important to me personally. (I think all of them might be, but let’s agree that they’re all special.) This wasn’t planned. It developed naturally over the course of the book. And in the rewrites, it got a lot more explicit about the nature of it. Ryann and Meg spend a good chunk of a chapter just openly talking about their feelings. It’s not a big scene, or one that stands out, but I love it and it’s very dear to me. It’s a special kind of friendship, and seeing it communicated well is important to me.

Another relationship we love dearly is Kay, Logan and Nemo, who are in a triad together. (For the uninitiated, a triad is a form of polyamory where three people are dating each other. Easily our personal favourite.) Kay is ace and sapphic, Logan uses She/They pronouns and is nonbinary, but still goes by girlfriend, and Nemo is bisexual. They all live together, go on dates together, and support each other with love and cuddles.

M: We really love them. It shows two very stoic characters being very gentle and soft with their girlfriend and each other. And hopefully it shows a good polyamorous relationship, because they all communicate with each other and love each other (all of our poly relationships are gonna be like this). They’re good representation of a healthy polyamorous relationship. It’s nice to see soft beans being happy and not seeing a weird love triangle.

V: Yeah, I really love them for that too. Polyamory is pretty dear to me, I guess? It’s a kind of relationship that doesn’t work without communicating well and actually loving each other. The whole basis, core and point of a polyamory is understanding and love. And that’s why I absolutely loathe love triangles. First off, it’s not a love triangle unless there’s at least one queer person in there.

Second, when I see a love triangle with polyamory shoe-horned into the end as a convenient solution, it just … it feels dirty. It feels pointless and stupid. Like, we understand why people do that, and that’s because THEY don’t understand.

M: Yeah, people go, “Oh, I’ll make them poly now”. You could just have had them poly from the start.

V: And you’d think that wouldn’t be obvious. But it really, really is. It’s not that far removed from being queer, at least in my experience. You FEEL it. Deep in your bones.

The only thing worse than a love triangle is people representing polyamory as cheating. That’s not polyamory. That’s being a shitty person. You can’t have a relationship of kindness, respect and love by removing the kindness, respect and love. Stop it. Same with polyamory as a result of cheating. Cheap drama isn’t worth this. Maybe if you make the forgiveness and the incredibly arduous journey to becoming trustworthy again the focus of the book. Otherwise … nah.

Ryann and Rachel, our slow burn main couple for this book (and future books in this series.) The two of them start hanging out sort of by accident. But they very quickly feel comfortable around each other. Still, neither of them is really in a position to want a relationship, logically. Doesn’t stop them from falling for each other, though. It just … It takes some time until it clicks. Slow burn.

M: We wanted it to be a slow burn because Ryann was already dealing with a lot of stuff. And Rachel was a baby. A baby gay, as you will. And I think slow burns are fun. You get to see them fall in love. And then they spend time together. And then … maybe something happens and maybe they get together.

The found family aspect also developed as we were writing. There’s just a bunch of characters who wouldn’t let someone struggling just be left to their own devices. And, well, if you’re queer, found family is not exactly that new. For Ryann, who is queer and an orphan, finding people who wanted to and could give her the support she never had was pretty important. She had some, but nothing compared to what she’s getting now. 

And having a gay big sister who will just drag you along to the gym to help you achieve your goals? Hell yeah. Especially if you already admire her because she’s just a queer icon.

  1. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

V: We listen to all kinds of music. Usually it’s the playlists for the characters we’re writing about. That usually gets me in the right mood pretty quickly. If I only listened to a single song, I’d get bored. But I need something to keep me in the right headspace. It’s gonna either be music, or Micah cuddling me. One of those.

M: Honestly, ‘Upside Down’ by Elliot Lee is pretty great for anything we’re doing.

V: A definite favourite.

  1. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

We do! Some of it is from even before we started seriously considering the current release (The Gift of Blood). Here’s some pictures of Ryann, lesbian kickboxer vampire and MMA athlete. Then there’s Rachel, Ryann’s slow burn love interest, Carver, who helps Ryann handle the transition from human to vampire, Kathleen, Kay, Vivian, Kris and Fang, all members of a werewolf pack called the Warm Embrace (with Kathleen being the leader). Then there’s Meg, who is a friend of Ryann’s that helps her out, and Nemo and Logan (she/they) who are Kay’s girlfriends. These were all done by Micah.

  1. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

V: Just write. You’re never gonna get better if you don’t write. A book with flaws is still better than one that was never written. As long as you’re not setting out to hurt someone with it.

M: Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not gonna happen, or that you’re not gonna get anything from writing a book, or that it’s not a good job. Just do what you want.

V: Yeah, in general, don’t trust anyone who goes “Oh, there’s no value in writing books,” whether it’s in general or towards a specific genre. Clearly they don’t know what they’re fucking talking about. Follow your dreams.

  1. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

    The Gift of Blood | Vaela’s Goodreads | Micah’s Goodreads

Author Interview: Joel Flanagan-Grannemann

a book and glasses beside a mug on a chair with a blanket; text says 'author interview'

Follow Joel on Twitter!

1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Paperback.

2. Pick a genre, any genre!

 Fantasy, til I die!

3. What is the first book you remember reading? 

 Goodnight Moon, or another kids book that was around in the late seventies. (I am old.)

4. What book shaped your childhood most? 

That would be Lord of the Rings. My mother read it to me, and then I think I read it maybe four or five times more before I graduated high school. I had a wooden sword that I carved elvish runes into. I would run through the fields behind my house with my sword and a metal trash can lid for a shield. Tolkien’s words (and fantasy in general!) are one of the few reasons I made it through high school.

5. When did you first start writing?

In junior high, I handwrote a horribly derivative fantasy story about someone (me, surprise!) who was transported into a fantasy realm. I’m afraid to look back at it (if I can even read it, as I have horrible handwriting). But there might be something I could use.

6. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

Thinking about it, I could say something like wanting to create stories and characters that would entertain others, but I truly think all I’ve ever wanted to be is a writer, to shape the scenes and people I see in my mind, and show them to others. Maybe that’s why, when I stopped writing after college, I was so depressed. I wasn’t being my true self. Yes, it still holds true: I am a writer, and if I am not writing, or thinking about characters or situations, I am not truly happy.

7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

The chapters “Realm’s End” and “Repercussions” in Talia: On the Shore of the Sea. They work together to tell a complete story of one day from multiple points of view.

8. Did you publish your first book or is it for you?

I published my first book in 2020, and the second in 2021.

9. How many books/collections have you published so far? 

 Just two so far, with more to come.

10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Fantasy. I may do a little dabbling in soft science fiction. I don’t have the math background for the hard stuff, though. I would like to revisit some of the poems I wrote in college and see if they are any good.

11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head? 

I research items, places, things that I put into my work. Mostly it’s a quick Google search to get the basic idea, or to see how something works.

12. To plan, or not to plan your plot? 

Most of the time I have a beginning and an ending, but am not sure about the middle. I let the characters decide.

13. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I have been self-publishing, and plan to stick with it. I doubt my bi/pan Fairies would find a place with a major label.

14. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Iain Banks’ Culture series. The citizens of the Culture have it so easy. And who doesn’t want to spend the day with a sentient AI warship named Sorry About the Mess?

15. Do you currently have a WIP?

Mother of Exiles, Queen of Thorns follows my characters after the events of book two. It’s really three separate stories, and I’m not sure yet how they will fit together.

16. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

Canin. In his first form, he was someone I created in high school: a wandering hero with a tragic past and a secret. He was everything I — a lonely, skinny, clumsy teenager — wanted to be: someone who comes into town, does cool things with a bow and arrow, and leaves. In the books, he starts out as a broken half-Fairy looking for his father, lonely, and desperate to find a place to belong. Haunted by his dual nature and the hatred on both sides, he stumbles onto Talia and her band. I am very proud of his arc in the two books, and how it continues in the next ones. There’s a lot of me in him.

17. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus? 

I will tell you when I write it! But I am really attached to the Exile Forest and all the people there.

18. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

Talia and Elanor, Min and Canin, Talia and Bastile: all of them are my favorite! I love them all. They each have wonderful moments, and sad moments. I think the ones coming in the next books will be very important. I’ve poured a lot of myself into them.

19. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song. 

Sometimes. Music seems to unlock my creativity. I’ve gotten so much inspiration from the songs of Gordan Lightfoot, as done by Tony Rice. His voice, paired with Lightfoot’s words, is a shining beacon to my muse. Earlier in 2021, I rediscovered an album I had loved as a teenager. It’s an obscure band that only hardcore newgrass fans know, but it lit a fire in my creativity. It was nothing directly related to the songs or the themes; I just felt energized by the music and lyrics.

No one is ever going to know (well, now they are, because I’ve told them!) that Canin’s scroll to Min was inspired by the song “Don’t Cry Blue” and the lines, “I’ll read you all my cards and tell you what I really meant to say,” but it makes me so happy. I smile every time I remember that flash of inspiration. Of course, that’s what he was doing all this time, late at night, hiding from Fairies and Humans, writing to his missing love.

Place names, character names, plot points, and little moments with characters have all been inspired by musicians and songs. One chapter in book two was originally titled “Fairies Get Ready,” after the song “People Get Ready,” but my wife and editor objected. It became “Fairies Prepare.” My short story “After Four Days of Rain” was inspired by the New Grass Revival song “Four Days of Rain.” I was looking for inspiration for a submission and the lines: “Four days of rain and I’m feeling okay. The sun’s back again, and it’s a beautiful day,” hit me, and I was off, writing about Talia and her first heartbreak.

20. Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

No, but I would love to. I have a Frozen II calendar poster by my desk. It’s a hand-drawn version of Anna and Elsa. The way the white-haired Elsa is looking at the red-haired Anna might have inspired something in my work in progress. Just maybe.

21. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be? 

Pay attention to the little things. My wife got a new ring a few weeks ago. It’s a thick, clunky thing that expands out into a globe. Hard to wear, but cool. I held it in my hand and knew it was a magic item. So I wrote three hundred words on how a Fairy uses it to unlock a gate. That small flash of inspiration is what writing is all about: taking those little moments in your life and turning them into stories. A snippet of overheard conversation. Why is that guy wearing a blue shirt with grey pants? Anything can lead to a story, or add flavor to your characters.

22. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

Entered one for a local Con last spring. Won. I will admit, the competition was not that stiff, but winning was a huge boost to my confidence. People, other than my friends and family, actually like my writing! The story let me explore a small part of Talia’s early life that I had only alluded to in the books. And let Peregrine, the purple-haired flyer, tell her story, and demand a place in future books.

23. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers? 

Janny Wurst, Katherine Kurtz, and Julian May inspired me tremendously. Kurtz’s use of ceremonial magic in the Deryni books directly influenced how my Fairies use their Power. Also, the mind powers in May’s books and the very musical way Wurst described her magic formed how I think about the Fairies and their magic. Then there’s Tolkien, Tad Williams, Weis and Hickman, and R.A. Salvatore. All of them showed what fantasy can do: how it can tell important stories, and address current issues, but with Elves, swords, and crazy names. Then, there’s Aaron Sorkin, and all the writers on “Sports Night.” That show is a master class on how to write dialogue!

24. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Twitter is @ServantAnd. My website is here. At the website, you can sign up for my mailing list and receive the short story I was talking about earlier. You can find my books, Talia: Heir to the Fairy Realm and Talia: On the Shore of the Sea, on Amazon. They are also available at all major booksellers. My Goodreads author page is here.

Author Interview: Tinker McAdams

a book, a camera, a mug on a beg with lights in the background and a cartoon stick added over the photograph; text says 'author interview'

Be sure to followed Tinker McAdams on Twitter!

1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook? 

Paperback.

2. Pick a genre, any genre! 

Non fiction, spiritual, self help.

3. What is the first book you remember reading?

All Dr. Suess books.

5. When did you first start writing?

My own book, recently. But, I have worked all my life in business composing letters, contracts, etc.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I had a little coercion from those in the non physical world and that’s what my book is about. They convinced me I had the talent. As for still holding true? Yes, they have me writing another book!

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

The one that I have just recently released as of September 1st 2021. Livin’ on the Edge – A Guide to Your Abundance Seeds.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

Yes, I published it.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

Just the one but working on another.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Non Fiction, spiritual, self help.

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

LOL! It’s all in my head through meditation and automatic writing!

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

There was some planning with years of practising and then applying everything into the book.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I went through a hybrid publishing company. They are really great to work with and will be using them again.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Oh my! You’re asking someone that lives with the world of the non physical?! I’ll keep what I got. Love my guys!!

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

Yes.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

I didn’t create them. They have been with me as long as I can remember. They have always been there for me and it is through my book that they want others to have the knowledge and capability to do the same.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

The writing of this book! It is giving anyone who wishes the ability to be happy, stress free and enjoy life right now! It’s my purpose in this lifetime.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

Well you can definitely call them characters! But, they are more of a family to me. Anytime I need help or things get a little crazy, all I have to do is confide what may come next and they are there for me. They help me through everything. My life is now stress free and everyday is a new beginning. I’m always happy and enjoy each and everything around me. That was the purpose of the book that they pushed me to write. Everyone should have happiness and joy in their life!

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Sometimes, I do. As a matter of fact the name of my book came from a song by Aerosmith. I had asked my guys what the title should be and that was the answer they gave me! The main thing was the lyrics of the song ‘Livin’ on the Edge’.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

No character art.

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Never give up. If you are compelled to write, do it! It is probably what you are meant to do! I wished I had listened earlier than when I did!!

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

No, I haven’t entered anything yet.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Dr. Wayne Dyer, Temple Grandin, William P. Young, J.R.R. Tolkein, J.K. Rowling (who doesn’t like Harry Potter!)

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Twitter | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Goodreads

Author Interview: Chris McDonald

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Be sure to follow Chris on Twitter!

1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

To read, I like a paperback. Hardbacks are often too cumbersome to take around with you, and I can only listen to non-fiction as my mind tends to wander if I’m listening to a story!

2. Pick a genre, any genre!

It’s got to be crime. I write it, and it’s the genre I read the most.

3. What is the first book you remember reading?

The Hardy Boys

4. What book shaped your childhood most? 

… which I will detail here. The Hardy Boys were the books I kept coming back to. I loved the sense of adventure, the fact they were two normal boys going around solving these huge crimes. After that, Harry Potter took over and completely blew me away, but I occasionally venture back to read a Hardy Boys!

5. When did you first start writing?

2018? I think!

6. What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I had an idea for an opening about a decade ago, and finally got round to exploring it. I never thought someone like me could write a book, so the thought of doing it was ludicrous!

7. What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

Probably A Wash Of Black, as it was my debut, and I proved to myself that I could actually do it! It also meant I met Sean at Red Dog Press, who has become a firm friend. 

8. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

A Wash Of Black was the first thing I ever tried to write, and I remain very proud of it. I’d say my writing has got better, so hopefully the books gets stronger as the series progresses!

9. How many books/collections have you published so far? 

Three in the DI Erika Piper series – A Wash Of Black, Whispers In The Dark and Roses For The Dead. Five (so far) in the Stonebridge MysteriesThe Curious Dispatch of Daniel Costello, Dead In The Water, Meat Is Murder, The Case Of The Missing Firefly and Mistletoe And Crime.

10. What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

The Erika books are police procedurals and the Stonebridge Mysteries are cosy crime. It’s nice to write something a bit different from time to time. 

11. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head? 

For the Erika books, I wanted to get as much of the policing right as I could. So there was a bit of research there, and some of the stuff would make you shudder!!

12. To plan, or not to plan your plot?

I’m a big fan of not planning. In my head, I have a start, a middle and an end. It’s all about joining the dots from there. If I had the whole story in my head before writing, I think I’d get bored!

13. What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I’m published by Red Dog Press, who are an indie. They are doing great things, and the covers they are putting out are incredible. I will stay with them for as long as they’ll have me!

14. If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Harry Potter, easily! I’d love to visit Hogwarts etc. It’s a world I spent so long reading about, that actually going would be a dream come true!

15. Do you currently have a WIP?

Yes! I’m 20k words into a new detective story, 7k words into the 6th Stonebridge book and I’ve got a finished PI story that needs a good edit!

16. Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

I love Adam in the Stonebridge Mysteries. He is slightly based on me, so I feel like I know him well! He likes metal music, is a bit of a scaredy cat and is a bit of a nosey Parker!

17. What do you consider your *current* magnum opus? 

I think the second Erika book – Whispers In The Dark. It’s a more sophisticated book, better story telling and has a bit in it that was put there very deliberately to shock readers. Some still haven’t forgiven me!

18. Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

There’s not a lot of romance, but Colin and Adam’s friendship in the Stonebridge books are a lot of fun to write. They’ve been best friends for 20 or so years, so they’re super comfortable with each other, and there’s almost no filter with them!

19. Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I have a writing playlist, and it starts with The Move On Tracks of Never Ending Light by This Will Destroy You. It’s Pavlovian in the fact that when I hear it, I know it’s time to get to work. I can’t listen to anything with words, so it’s all instrumental – Explosions In The Sky and film soundtracks are favourites. 

20. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Move the story on a little each day, even if it’s just a sentence. On my first book, I aimed for 500 words a day, and that seemed to be a good target. 

21. Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

Not contests, but I’ve submitted a few short stories. I was lucky enough to be included in the wonderful Noir At The Bar anthology, raising money for the NHS and, more recently, the Everyday Kindness Anthology which raised money for Shelter. 

22. Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Through doing the Blood Brothers Podcast, I’ve met a lot of brilliant authors who are also excellent people. This list is by no means definitive, but here goes.

Dom Nolan
Rob Parker
DL Marshall
Will Carver
Olivia Kiernan
Matt Wesolowski
Chris Whitaker
Stephen J. Golds
Janice Hallett
Jonathan Ames
MW Craven

There are literally HUNDREDS more!!

23. Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Find me on Twitter | Amazon | My Author Page.

Author Interview: Brandon Applegate

a bookshelf with different sized boxes; text says 'author interview: indie book spotlight'

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Mostly paperback. I like the flexibility of being able to bend it, shove it into spaces, etc. Most of my paperbacks look like they’ve been through a war, haha. These days, though, ebooks are more convenient because I can read in bed while my wife sleeps without turning on the lights. 

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

Horror! I have to make myself read outside of the horror genre. It’s always been that way for me. 

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

I mean, I remember my parents reading Little Golden Books to me when I was five or so. The Monster At The End Of This Book, the one with Grover and he’s terrified of getting to the end of the book because there’s supposed to be a monster there, and every time you turn the page he tries harder and harder to stop you from doing it again, was a big hit for me. Turns out Grover himself was the monster at the end of the book. This turned out to be my favorite horror trope, too.

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

Probably Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz, although only a few of the stories still stick with me. It was mainly the drawings by Stephen Gammell that hit me. I’m very visual like that. I love an illustrated horror book. And those drawings are INTENSE for a kid’s book. It was like a little piece of contraband that got passed around when I was in school—like if the grownups knew what was inside it and not just the age range on the cover, it would get taken away. I used the rent it from the school library until my aunt (who had a massive hardback horror collection herself) bought me the whole set for, I think, a birthday.

5.      When did you first start writing?

I tried to start a whole bunch of times but never stuck with it long enough to find a voice until my late twenties. I think it was being a first-time dad that did it. There’s so much fear that comes with that situation, and because I write horror stories mostly, I finally had something to say.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

Reading makes me want to write. Almost nothing forces me to get in front of a keyboard like being genuinely moved by a piece of fiction. And yes, most of the time if I can’t write, it means I’m in a reading slump.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

I’m incredibly proud of my debut collection, Those We Left Behind and Other Sacrifices. It’s made up of stories I wrote before and during quarantine and contains stories in a number of genres from dark fantasy, to body horror, to magical realism. 

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

Yup, my debut collection, Those We Left Behind and Other Sacrifices, came out on November 23, 2021 and is available on Amazon and you can get signed copies on my website, bapplegate.com.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

Just the one collection. More to come soon, hopefully.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

I mostly write horror, but I also dabble in fantasy, magical realism, and adventure. 

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Almost entirely in my head unless there’s something that’ll make me sound dumb if I write it wrong. I focus on character more heavy than any kind of technical detail, usually, because I find that, on most occasions when I explain how a technical system works in a story, I end up cutting it anyway. Research really only serves the purpose of making sure your characters sound competent, so I only usually do enough for that.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

For a first draft, I’m not a planner. I throw in every detail I can as I run with the plot. That gives me a lot of things that can be important later, lots of Chekhov’s guns, and later I go back and take out the ones I didn’t fire and emphasize the ones I did. 

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

For my first collection, I chose to self-publish. I had a whole bunch of stories I’d written that I believed in (still do) but that had seen little success in traditional publishing, and I wanted to put them out there and let people see them alongside each other. Context is everything. When you submit a story to an anthology, they’re not just looking at some objective quality standard and everything above a certain line gets in. They’re looking at fit with the other stories they’ve selected, tone, a ton of different factors, most of which you as the author can’t control. This is a fine thing! That’s how you put out a good anthology or magazine! But I wanted to bypass that gate and get my work out where people could see it. In the future, that’ll probably be my methodology. I’d love to be successful in traditional publishing, so I’ll continue to submit stories and keep my fingers crossed. And if I have something I believe in that isn’t getting traction, I’ll find a way to get it out there.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

Definitely nothing in horror! No thank you, please! Honestly, I’d probably go for something with plenty of silliness or good food, like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (I’d love to try a Pan-Galactic Gargleblaster and tool around in a ship with an improbability drive), or Brian Jacques’ Redwall series (magical swords, comfortable living, and REALLY good-sounding food—when you’re not dealing with the odd warlord attack). 

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

I have several. This is my downfall. I always start a bunch and then it takes me forever to finish them. I have two novel/novella projects and something like four short stories I’ve started. Somebody, stop me.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

The character of Merle from my story “The Last Days of the Old Man” is a character I love to pieces. He’s an old cowboy type with a weird, magical, dangerous past who is just trying to retire in peace, running his bookstore. I identify with that pretty strongly. 

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

Whatever I’ve finished most recently. I try to get better with everything I do. And by “better” I mean more to my own liking. The most recent thing I finished and submitted was a short called “Ants Go Marching,” and I think it may be the pinnacle of my family horror stories. You won’t find it in this collection, though. Maybe the next one.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

I’ve only written one love story, about a man who’s a shift foreman in a coal mine who is in a secretive relationship with a member of his crew. It’s a love story in that the romance exists, but you don’t get to see much of it because the mining crew disappears at the very beginning of the story, and it’s really about the lengths that the foreman will go to to find his lover. 

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Sometimes, but there absolutely cannot be lyrics. My favorite writing soundtrack this year has been “Breathing” by Electric Youth, which is actually the soundtrack to a movie that never got made. It reminds me of some great old 80s/90s horror soundtracks like Poltergeist.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

The cover of my book is actually an original oil on canvas I commissioned from artist Christopher Castillo Díaz that illustrates a scene from one of my stories. The guy in the spacesuit is named Marcus. I’ll let you read the story to find out about the kid.

HORROR.jpg

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

I can’t give just one piece of advice. So here’s a few, rapid-fire: Keep going. Seek community. Read. 

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I entered a microfiction contest once, and placed high up in the first round and got to move on to the second round! I was pretty happy about that. Then I got to round two and froze up and couldn’t write the piece. I ended up dropping out. I am awful with pressure. There’s only so much I can stand before my brain just freezes and I toss whatever it is I’m working on. I don’t really do contests much anymore, and I try to stay away from tight deadlines. If I’ve got a month to crank out a story, I’ll probably say no. If I’ve got a few months, well, I might be able to work with that. And I’ll probably get it to you early.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Okay, I’m gonna do ten and divide it up between established and indie. Also, this list changes week to week so if you hold me to it, I’ll deny it. Also, no Stephen King because 1) Duh, and 2) everyone in horror says that. Okay, here we go:

Established:

– Paul Tremblay (“A Head Full Of Ghosts” is a visceral gut-punch).

– Stephen Graham Jones (“After The People Lights Have Gone Off” and “Mapping The Interior” are some of my favorite stories ever written).

– Cormac McCarthy (“The Road” made me cry and absolutely nothing does that).

– Toni Morrison (“Beloved” is a beautiful, horrible, haunting novel).

– Shirley Jackson (Many don’t know her beyond Hill House, We Have Always Lived In The Castle, and The Lottery which are brilliant landmarks, but Jackson is a master of questioning social norms and living with the horror of others’ expectations).

Indie:

– Elford Alley (Writes short stories and novels that are as funny as they are heartbreaking. “The Last Night In The Damned House” is my favorite so far.)

– Joshua Marsella (A self-published author who has written some incredibly moving stories in “Scratches” and “Severed”).

– Eric Raglin (“Nightmare Yearnings” is essential reading, and the story “When Mothman Came To Queer Lake” is the best kind of touching).

– Laurel Hightower (Struggled with whether to call Laurel indie or established, but Crossroads is phenomenal and terrifying and heartbreaking).

– Matthew M. Bartlett (A self-published author with a shared universe bent. “Gateways to Abomination” is brilliant as is “Rangel” and most anything else set in Leeds).

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Amazon | Signed copiesGoodreads | Twitter