Posts Tagged ‘Fiction’

An interview with Australian author Carol Hone

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Today, I’m interviewing Carol Hone about her debut book, Edge of Humanity

1) Can you give us a brief bio?

I’m a veterinarian who has an absorbing passion for writing. My family get my attention in between the manic phases of writing that I go through. I even pat them sometimes. Luckily they don’t seem to mind eating takeaway food and dodging the rolling balls of hair and feathers that accumulate in our house due to the sixteen or so pets we own.

2) Briefly, tell us about your books.

My first book, a novella called Edge of Humanity, came out on October 18th from Lyrical Press. It’s a fantasyEdge_of_Humanity300dpiwith elements of steam punk but also with a nod towards some science fictional ideas. My main aim in creating the milieu for this book was to use some of the almost-sciences that abound in our world and insert them into a magical world.

So herbology, acupuncture and the manipulation of the body’s aura all get a look-in. As does a made-up profession that you might call bio-mechanical magic.

Kara is the female protagonist of Edge of Humanity. She narrates the story through the filter of her own perceptions and memories and proves to be an unreliable narrator. After escaping from an airship she goes on a journey to find her parents, having been separated from them while a child. From the start, she has suspicions that her masters on the airship have done something dreadful to her and she is never quite sure that anything she remembers is true.

The story unfolds as a mystery and writing it taught me a lot about how to seed clues and hints throughout a story so that by the end, the reader should have an, ‘ah-hah!’ moment. If you don’t have one of those, I’m hoping for at least an, ‘Oh-h-h, I see,’ moment. Though it is listed as a fantasy romance, don’t expect the usual HEA or happily ever after ending.

3 ) How do you develop characters?  Settings? Plots?

I tend to grow such things organically. If I feel the need to write a story, I pay closer attention to everything around me. Radio, TV, books, what people talk about. Everything. Eventually something will grab me, and then one or two other aspects of life will sit up and beg for attention also. I subscribe to the idea that to make a good story you need to combine things in a way no one else has yet done. So it’s as if there is a critical mass of ideas.

4) Do you have specific technique to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Before I start a story I like to have clear in my head some of the pivotal plot points, who the main characters are, what the setting is, and a visual idea of the ending or a major scene near it. If I can see the action playing itself out in my head and get excited about it I know I’m heading the right way.

Whenever I get bogged down while writing I ruminate about the plot and I often set down on paper almost a synopsis of what should be happening. Though I don’t call it a synopsis because those things give me the heebie jeebies – which is a technical term for going insane.

5) What are your current projects?

At the moment I’m planning my steam punk-ish novel as well as thinking about rewriting a novel called Magience, which is set in the world of Edge of Humanity. Another novel, Needle Rain, that’s also set in this milieu, is going through the beta reading stages. In that story I used the Needle Masters who are acupuncture mages, as the pivotal profession. My three main characters commit terrible wrongs and then spend the rest of the story repairing the damage they’ve done.

6) Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

My website: http://carolhone.com/

And also my site at my publisher, Lyrical Press: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=authors&authors_id=150

14)What type of writing do you do?

I write dark fantasy mostly though I am trying to expand my genres. Steam punk with a dash of the excitement of urban fantasy is one of my near-future goals.

Photo on 2010-10-17 at 15.08 #27) What is the best thing about writing?

That you can do anything. Want to fly? In a novel you can. You can give your characters any ability you want to and then send them across continents and universes to retrieve the Sword of the Abyss that can command demons from the fiery depths of hell, or you can send them on a journey to the corner store for a cup of sugar. No one will want to read the latter, but you can write it.

8) Is there a specific time of day that you write?

Any time I get a chance to sit down without being interrupted. I do find I work best when the house is empty of other sentient beings, and that includes children.

9) Any parting words of advice for writers?

Doing some writing always helps. Thinking about it is only good if you’re sitting down and applying fingers to keyboards more than you’re thinking. Though I don’t believe in the write at all costs method, because that often produces drivel if you’ve not considered where you’re going with a story.

Don’t give in if you love what you’re doing.

Listen to those who criticise if they balance the good comments with the bad.

Always leave yourself open to learning but remember that some of those who comment on your writing may have no real knowledge of what they’re talking about. How to tell the useful comments from the ones that should be trashed? Ah, that is something you have to learn through experience, meditation, and repeatedly banging your head on your desk.

Khepera Rising by Nerine Dorman

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Just when the wickedest man in Africa thought the nightmare was over…

Still recovering from the trauma of his encounter with the Christo-militants who tried to kill him, Jamie only wants to get his life back on track. This is easier said than done when he’s essentially blackmailed into helping solve a case involving alleged cult activity.kheperarising333x500

To complicate matters further, the media gets involved and Jamie has to tread carefully.

However, soon the hunter becomes the hunted and Jamie faces some difficult choices. Will his uneasy symbiosis with The Burning One save him or will he be tempted to grasp for more power than he can possibly hold?

Content warning: Occult, demonic entities and some graphic sex with descriptions of gore

and violence.

Bitten By Books reviewed it and said in part:

Jamie is the anti-hero: he’s rude, crude, obnoxious and yet the whole time I was reading this story I was cheering for this guy because for every nasty act he committed, he would demonstrate some kindly deed, sometimes for people he knew well but more often for others he either hardly knew or despised. The story doesn’t end the way you expect, but there is a lot to be learned here from Jamie’s tale: do not conduct 19757_281013592026_623122026_3844910_3070104_nceremonies you don’t understand or make-up, shadows sneaking up on you may not be shadows, and other equally horrific nifty lessons.

Overall, this novel is a superb light horror.

In what country does the action take place?  If you know the answer, send Nerine an email at nerinedorman@gmail.com. She’ll give a free ebook version to the first person with the correct answer.

Learn more and buy the book at this site.

The Hittite by Ben Bova

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

A different take on the Trojan War and a quite unique one at that.  Bova has retold one of the most retold stories in literature and managed to give it fresh view.  The main character, Lukka, is a Hittite officer who leads his squad of soldiers in a search for kidnapped and presumably enslaved wife and children.  His search takes him to Troy where he plans to ask Priam from help in his search.  Instead, he is cut off from the city by the Greek army. He enlists with Odysseus’s troops and fights (and survives) against the Trojan hero, Hector.  Odysseus uses Lukka as an ambassador to the Trojans twice.  In the city, he meets the beautiful Helen and can’t get her out his mind afterward.

Bova takes the historical figures and give us great character sketches: Achilles, Agamemnon and Menalaos are all portrayed vividly.

There several twists on the usual events that are reputed to take have taken place once the walls were breached, but I’m not going to give them away.  I’ve read a number of Trojan War stories and this has to rank up there with the best of them.

Four out of five stars

New Interview

Friday, April 16th, 2010
Today, I’m interviewed by Sheila Crosby on her blog.  We talk about my novel Fool’s
Fool's Gold Cover
Fool’s Gold Cover
Gold. Sheila is an author and a photographer.  She’s also a Brit ex-pat living in the Canary Islands.

Interview with Nerine Dorman

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
1) Can you give us a brief bio?
Born and bred in Cape Town, South Africa, I’m currently employed as a sub-editor at a large newspaper publisher and have been working on a travel supplement for one of the weeklies for the past few years. I regularly write travel and lifestyle-orientated editorial, which is published nationally. It keeps me sane when the day-to-day grind of deadlines wears me down. For the past three years I’ve been running a writers’ group in my home town specifically geared toward F/SF/H writers, and 19757_281013592026_623122026_3844910_3070104_n I’m proud to say a number of members have gone on to making their first pro sales. My true love lies with editing and writing genre fiction. When I’m not busy polishing other authors’ manuscripts I find time to work on my own fiction. I do, however, find my fiction editing to be immensely rewarding, especially when my authors get rave reviews, which I’m proud to say they do.
2) When did the writing bug bite and in what genre(s)?
School was horrendously boring when I was in my early teens. I filled many exercise books with stories that petered off into nothing after the first ten or so pages. I don’t think I finished anything but back then it was mostly science fiction and some fantasy settings.
3) When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish?  Is there a message you wanted readers to grasp?
When I started writing I had absolutely no idea where I could take these stories. Back then we didn’t have the internet (yes, I’m that old) so I had no contact with any writers’ resources or critique groups. And people kept saying it was a waste of my time and talents to write genre fiction. After all, none of the South African publishers would (and still don’t) touch genre fiction from locals with the soggy end of a barge pole. I stopped writing for about five or so years from age nineteen until about 2003, when I could no longer deny the need to tell the stories spinning about in my head.
4) Briefly, tell us about your books
My first novel, Khepera Rising, was published by Lyrical Press late 2009. It’s horror, but has a twist of mystery, murder and dark fantasy, and is set in Capekheperarising333x500Town, South Africa. I’m also happy to announce it will be released in print in June. The sequel, Khepera Redeemed, is releasing (also through Lyrical Press) the same month. Yes, I know the name is a mouthful and even now I’m not sure what possessed me to expect English speakers wrap their tongues around Middle Egyptian but hey… It sort of stuck as a title.
5) What’s the hook for these books?
Both novels focus on the exploits of a black magician who runs into all manner of misadventure. Gritty and dark, it’s not going to appeal to everyone, but if you’re into Neil Gaiman and Storm Constantine, I’m confident you’ll enjoy these tales.
6) How do you develop characters?  Settings?
The ideas for my characters usually occur when I enter into dialogue with my subconscious. Sometimes these will be vivid images I retrieve from dreams. Other times I daydream, and my characters jump out at me, usually the product of several trains of thought I’d have been mulling over a number of days. I can never force concepts and am blessed (or cursed) with an overactive imagination constantly spewing out “what ifs”.
The settings follow once I know what sort of character I’ve brought into being. Mostly, I try to write what I know, so many of my stories are set in my stomping ground, Cape Town, or other parts of South Africa. Being a travel writer definitely helps when communicating my settings. Sometimes, however, I do wander off the beaten track into the realms of pure fantasy, allowing the milieu to grow naturally. I do find it helps deciding what level of technology I’m dealing with before I put pen to paper, and I spend considerable time on my world-building.
7) What’s the most unusual/most likable character?
kheperaredeemed333x500One character who is very powerful for me at the moment is my black magician, James Edward Guillaume. He is deliciously flawed, and from his skewed point of view, has a lot to say about contemporary South Africa, especially with regard to alternative spiritualities and subcultures. Highly irreverent, he purposefully sets out to shock people, landing himself in a lot of trouble. Added to this is his narcissism, although he does redeem himself somewhat in the second novel.
I’ve a strong character waiting in the wings who is another dark hero. But I’m not going to say much about him except that I woke a few weeks ago after a dream that had me feeling emotionally charged the entire day, so I absolutely had to sketch an outline. All I’ll say is it’s a post-apocalyptic setting, again in South Africa.
8 ) Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
Recently I’ve started using a partial snowflake method to plot, so I can record the major twists and conclusion. I find it helps to know where I’m going with a story. Also, when elaborating on essential themes, I sometimes find surprising elements I’d not previously considered. I used to outline a story in bullet points but found I’d get patches where not much happens, so by looking for the three big disasters and their resolution, I can maintain an even pace. I do not use this method slavishly, however, because I still feel the process of writing must be organic, so if a great idea occurs while I’m writing, I’ll make amendments to the chapter breakdown.
9) Do you have a specific writing style?  Preferred POV?
I’m one of those annoying authors who write first person, present tense effectively. I love the sense of immediacy and offering readers an unreliable narrator. That being said, I also don’t want to limit my writing by sticking to what I know. Although I do prefer first-person narrative, I’ve recently written a young adult urban fantasy in third person, past tense, which I’m glad to say, has made the top thousand entries in the Amazon Abna Breakthrough Novel Awards for the young adult fiction category. I’ll find out on March 23 whether I’ve made the next round.
10) Share the best review or a portion that you’ve ever had
Best-selling South African fantasy author Greg Hamerton had this to say about Khepera Rising: “The author displays an accomplished style that gives me confidence to follow her into the dark. The protagonist, Jamie, offers a distinctive shock-rocker view of the world with a unique perspective on our so-ordinary lives. The story is an introduction to a ragged slice of Goth culture in Cape Town. The detailing is convincing―references to esoteric texts, drug culture and rituals that speak of experience or such good research that it is indistinguishable from it. But the book comes with a warning: M/M and M/F sexual content, occult, violence, gore. You’d best avoid it if you find smears of prejudice, graphic violence and conversations peppered with vile expletives offensive. I’d never have expected a woman to have written this…but I suspect that she is more fire and demon, with an undeniable knack for finding soft places with her claws.”
11) What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
The most unexpected occurrence I’ve had, relating directly to my writing was the day a complete stranger walked up to me and asked me if I was into Aleister Crowley. Dumbstruck I replied in the affirmative, whereupon he gave me a whole pile of Crowley’s works, many of which I did not have in my collection, as well as the tarot deck I still use during my meditations. It was truly one of those WTF moments. His reason for giving me the books was that he was no longer following this path and that he’d received a message to give them me. I felt a bit “erm, okay…” after this experience and it’s possibly one of the most peculiar I’ve ever had. I grabbed the books and ran, hardly daring to believe someone had given me almost $200 worth of literature.
12) What are your current projects?
My current projects include a novella, which I’ve just submitted to my publisher for consideration. Sick and tired of this whole Twilight melodrama, I’ve gone about writing a story that says it like it is: vampires are bad for your health. I’m also tentatively taking stabs at my post-apocalyptic setting, but until I can sit back and say, “the end” I’m not going to discuss it in depth. Also on the boil is an epic fantasy with a conscious nod toward Jacqueline Carey’s ability to tell a great tale with considerable erotic content, based on an old Scandinavian fairy tale. And…a steampunk fantasy is also mouldering on my hard drive. I’m busy with first-round edits, so it will be a long while before it sees the subbing mill.
13) Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
You’ll find a Facebook group that I run by following this link:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=49386633567&ref=ts
I send out a monthly update and post links of my little successes there, as well as notifications of any events.
I blog. A lot. My Livejournal page is one I update most regularly about my day-to-day tribulations of living in South Africa and assorted writing endeavours. See: http://nerinedorman.livejournal.com
And, for my available projects, drop by Lyrical Press at:
http://www.lyricalpress.com/nerine_dorman
http://www.lyricalpress.com/khepera_rising
http://www.lyricalpress.com/khepera_redeemed
14) What type of writing do you do?
To describe my writing, I’d say I skate on the literary edge of genre fiction. I don’t tie myself to any specific genre, although my love for the occult and supernatural does tend toward guiding me to add fantasy elements to my tales.
15) What is the best thing about writing?
What I love the most about my writing is it allows me to escape from the hum-drum of mundania, where I’m the one who decides what happens to characters and how they are transformed by their experiences. It’s an outlet and a way for me to explore issues that bother me, or just embark on a rollicking good adventure, writing the kinds of stories I love to read.
16) Is there a specific time of day that you write?
I write. All the time. Every free minute I have I write. Now that I have my own mini laptop, it’s even easier to indulge in my addiction. Mornings are best but I get my second wind late at night. I’m trying to find out how to get by on about five hours or less sleep a day.
Coffee is my friend.
17) What is the most interesting book you ever read?
The most fascinating story I’ve ever read is Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman graphic novels. That series changed my life, and if I can bring just a small portion of magic, mystery and wonder into people’s lives, I consider my work a success.
18) Favorite authors?
My favourite authors include Neil Gaiman, Storm Constantine, Jacqueline Carey and Poppy Z Brite. They all write rich, evocative prose, sometimes with a very dark spin.
19) Any parting words of advice for writers?
My advice to writers, get your bum on a chair and write. Don’t listen to anyone who says “Ah, you’ll never get published” or “Who’s going to read that story?” Chances are good, if you’re writing the kind of story you like to read, someone out there will share your view. Also, if you do manage to find fellow writers as critique buddies, don’t take criticism of your writing personally. You’re going to get far worse from your editor or agent, so start developing that thick skin early in your career. I totally recommend checking out www.critique.org, a site that has helped me form a network of writing buddies, as well as provide me with a good start.
Lastly, I am actively on the look-out for genre fiction manuscripts to recommend to my publisher, Lyrical Press, as I am under contract there as a content editor. If you write dark fantasy, horror or just plain “out there and strange” stories, drop me an email at nerinedorman@gmail.com and chat to me about your project. See: http://www.lyricalpress.com/submissions

Interview with Manda Benson

Friday, March 5th, 2010
1) Can you give us a brief bio?
I’m an ex-research scientist living in the Midlands of England. I’ve worked in areas of chemical research as diverse as drugs design, genetic engineering, biofuels, organic synthesis, and polymers. I’ve dabbled with teaching science, mainly at secondary and undergraduate level.
2) When did the writing bug bite and in what genre(s)?Manda
I’ve always written, for as long as I can remember. I even remember writing when I hadn’t been taught to write. Of course, no-one else could read it back then. When I started school I used to have an old black diary given to me by my grandfather, which I carried everywhere and wrote stories in. I also remember doing an illustrated series of stories about a werewolf and his friends living in a castle, using felt pens and A4 paper folded in half, and making audio stories with a cassette player. And I used to brew revolting potions in the garage and test them on my toys. So I guess I’ve always been a writer and a chemist.
3) When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish?  Is there a message you wanted readers to grasp?
I think initially I just wanted to make something coherent and permanent out of the ideas I had. Later on, I wanted to show science from an honest and balanced perspective. Some science is controversial, and with disciplines like genetic engineering there are unfortunately a lot of extreme opinions being expressed very vociferously by people who don’t understand the facts, and extreme organisations often target propaganda at teenagers. I want to write fiction that shows controversial science used for both good and bad. I want readers to make their own opinion on how far is too far, but I want it to be a balanced opinion they can understand other points of view from.
4) Briefly, tell us about your books.
TempestLyricalCover
Dark Tempest is a science-fiction romance recently published in electronic formatby Lyrical Press. I have a YA novel and some kids’ books  I’m currently trying to sell and some other works in  progress. I also have a serial satire with illustrations, HyperGolf, that is published on my website.
5) What’s the hook for Dark Tempest?
It’s set about 4,000 years in the future when the human race has become separated into a genetic elite and a genetic underclass. It’s the story of a taboo relationship that develops between a high-caste woman and a low-caste man who are both in peril for reasons they don’t at first understand.
6) How do you develop characters?  Settings?
With characters, the point they start from seems to be quite variable and hard to pin down. Sometimes I invent them entirely consciously for a particular purpose that a plot requires. Sometimes they come into my mind, made from bits and ends of real people, of their own volition. I rely on psychology theories a lot and use a Myers-Briggs personality type test to define the sorts of people my characters are, and when I’m writing a novel I write a biography a few pages long for each character’s history, and I draw a ‘personality tree’ that shows how different character attributes (such as ‘determined’ and ‘inquisitive’) interact in the person’s psyche. With settings, I am most often inspired by real places, or sometimes places in dreams.
7) What’s the most unusual/most likable character?
The kind of characters I usually like best are, well, shall we say, rough diamonds. I like antiheroes with more flaws than qualities!
8 ) Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?
I need to let ideas stew, for anything from a month to over a year. I try to plan out the plot as much as I can before I start writing. The way I see it, a novel has three stages: mystery, revelation, action. I need to set up the mystery and how it’s resolved before I set fingers to keys, and I need to know where the book is going to end, but it’s unusual for me to know exactly how the action that gets the book from the revelation to the end is going to pan out before I write the first parts. I think this comes from the characters as they grow and change under the influence of the plot, and these ideas all come to me as I write the first part.
9) Do you have a specific writing style?  Preferred POV?
I think third person limited should be the default PoV to use, and usually it’s the best choice. However, I’ve written a few things that just needed to be in either third person omniscient or first person narrative. It really depends on the story the writer is trying to tell and the writer’s motive in telling it as to what’s the ideal PoV.
10) Have you used your drawing skills in your writing before?
Yes, I’ve done a few illustrated things. I have a children’s book that I’ve not yet sold with black-and-white drawings, and I also publish episodes of HyperGolf on my website with colour cartoons.
11) What’s HyperGolf about?
Label5 It’s a series of satirical  science-fiction episodes about  some people playing a game of  high-tech golf on a course that  runs the length and breadth of  the galaxy. Each episode stands alone and more are uploaded as and when I get round to them. It’s free to read! I decided to do it because I didn’t want to run a blog, but I wanted something fun and entertaining that people could come to the site to read.
12) What are your current projects?
I’m working on the first volume of a new SF trilogy I call Beasts. I’m also writing a novella in the same setting as Dark Tempest, and a crime/romance novel, which is a slight departure from my usual SF purism, although only a hair’s breadth away from a technothriller.
13) Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
At my website, http://tangentrine.com
14) What type of writing do you do?
Science fiction and science fiction and science fiction – mainly technothrillers and hard SF. I’m a genre bender so I often combine it with humour, romance, or horror.
15) What is the best thing about writing?
When I get really bogged down in Chapter X and the ideas start flowing, I forget the practicalities and annoying realities of my real life, and live for a bit as a character solving a mystery or going on an adventure in an engrossing world that’s less constrained and more exciting!
16) Is there a specific time of day that you write?
Unfortunately, usually after midnight. That’s just the way the muse seems to go.
17) What is the most interesting book you ever read?
To be honest, it was probably a science textbook. There are endless mines of plot ideas you can get from reality.
18) Favorite authors?
My absolute favourite writer is HG Wells. I also love Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca. Books that influenced me as a child were Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce, Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr, and The Demon Headmaster by Gillian Cross. More modern SF writers I’ve enjoyed are Wil McCarthy and Peter F Hamilton. Hank Quense is pretty cool too – check out his new novel and his anthology!
19) Any parting words of advice for writers?
Write. Keep writing. Submit. Keep submitting. Avoid redundancy.

MB-bash

Stingray Shuffle by Tim Dorsey

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Stingray shuffle

Like all Tim Dorsey novels, the main character is Serge Storms, a serial killer who roams around Florida.  In Serge’s defense, he only kills people who deserve to die (according to Serge).  Serge’s travels with his doped-up sidekick Lenny get tedious, but the main attraction in a Tim Dorsey novel is the subplots and the minor characters.  They are the heart and soul of his books and this one is no different.  These characters include: the only drug lord in history who can’t make money selling cocaine; a bunch of ex-KGB agents scratching for odd jobs (preferably ones that entail violence); a book club consisting of five middle-aged divorcees, a gang of fourth-rate night club performers.  They (or most of them) and Serge take a mystery train ride from Manhattan to Florida.

The ride is the best part of the book and is hysterically funny.

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Interview with Author/Photographer Sheila Crosby

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Can you give us a brief bio?

I was born in Leeds, in the north of the England in the early middle ages.  I was a bit of a geek at school, which made me stick out like a huge zit on the end of a nose.  I was actually told, “You can’t do physics.  You’re a girl.”  Surprise, surprise, this made me keener,and I eventually got a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and then worked as a software engineer for fifteen years.  I got bitten by the

photography bug in college, and I’ve never recovered. Half way through that I moved to La Palma in the Canary Islands (part of Spain, but off the coast of Morocco) to write software for the Royal Greenwich Observatory.  I’d planned to stay for three years, but I fell in love with the island between getting off the plane and the airport arrivals hall (for one thing, it’s extremely photogenic).  Then I fell in love with a local, and got married.  Then we had a son, and bought a house. So now I expect to stay here for the rest of my life.  I got downsized from the observatory job after eleven years.  Since then, I’ve taught English, translated, done a bit of tour guiding and earned money from writing.  Itsheila3 keeps me so busy that I rarely get time for myhobby of cleaning the house.

When did the writing bug bite and in what genre(s)?

It bit seriously at high school.  I wrote a bit of almost everything, but my favorites are speculative fiction and thrillers.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish.  Is there a message you wanted readers to grasp?

Mostly I just want the fun of writing, but I do love it when I can persuade people to be a little nicer to each other.  For years I’ve had the gut feeling that kindness and wisdom come down to the same thing really.

Briefly, tell us about your books?

Unpublished!  I’ve sold over 30 short stories, but no books yet.  The stories tend to be quirky, and often very short.  In fact the shortest one I’ve sold so far was just 19 words. I’m currently writing a non-fiction e-book; a guide to the observatory on La Palma. It was such a fascinating place to work, first as a software engineer, and then as a tour guide.  And of course I know all sorts of surprising details about the place.

How do you develop characters?  Settings?

Characters’ main traits are usually inspired by someone I know – frequently someone who’s annoyed me.  Then I exaggerate that trait, add bits and pieces of other people and a dash of imagination and stir.    I try to include something a bit surprising, since real people are a bunch of contradictions.

Settings are mostly taken from real life, or places I’ve read about.  For example, I’ve used the observatory twice, and I really fancy setting a story on a comet core.

What’s the most unusual/most likable character?

Secret Agent Hammer is a genetically modified hamster, who does all the James Bond action stuff, like jumping out of a burning building, using knickers as a parachute.  He’ll happily take on cats, human terrorists and snakes, but he’s terrified of his lady-hamster boss.

Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Read it over, find it doesn’t work, swear, rewrite, repeat.

Do you have a specific writing style?  Preferred POV?

I try to use whatever style and PoV best fits the story.

Share the best review or a portion that you’ve ever had

My story “Scream Quietly” was in the first issue of Farthing, and Ursula Le Guin said the magazine was “Cooler than Azimov’s.”

What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

My unfinished thriller, Mirrormaze, takes place in an observatory very like the one I used to work at.  So a colleague found me poking around the big tank which they use to re-coat the main telescope mirror with aluminum.  Seeing as the tank was expensive, delicate, and nothing whatsoever to do with my work, he asked me I was doing there.

I said, “Oh I’m just looking for a murder weapon.”

And he helped me to find one.

SC-Cover_smallWhat are your current projects?

Too many, as usual.  I’ve got about five short stories on the go, plus the thriller set in the observatory here, plus a nonfiction guide to the observatory which I’ll release as an e-book.  Plus my website is overdue for a major overhaul, and I’m the webmistress for Heroic Stories.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

At my website, http://sheilacrosby.com

What type of writing do you do?

Sitting at a keyboard.

What is the best thing about writing?

Getting paid for daydreaming.

Is there a specific time of day that you write?

Whenever my family leaves me alone.

What is the most interesting book you ever read?

Probably “The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents” by Terry Pratchett.  On one level it´s an adventure story but there’s a bunch of very thoughtful stuff about good and evil and leadership and what fiction means to people.


Favorite authors?

Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin, Ian Rankin, Neal Stevenson, Neil Gaimen, Peadar Ó Guilín, Theodore Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegurt, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen.  Oh yeah, and Hank Quense is pretty cool, too.

Any parting words of advice for writers?

Read a lot and write a lot.  There’s no substitute for actually writing.  So on the days when you’re in the mood, you write 500-2,000 words, and on the days when you really can’t face it, you write 100 words anyway.  Even if they’re crap.  Especially if they’re crap, because it stops the story going off the boil.

What type of pictures do you prefer to take?

Anything with a simple composition and unusual colors.  The colors can be either really bright, or really muted, or almost all shades of one color.

What type of equipment do you use to take pictures?

People always ask that, but I’ve seen fantastic photos taken with a cookie tin.  Literally a cookie tin, with photographic paper inside and a pinhole in the front.  An expensive camera doesn’t make you into an artist, but it gives you wider options and less chance to make a mistake.  At the moment I carrry a point-and-click digital compact pretty much everywhere.  If I’m hoping for a serious photography fix then I take my Pentax K10D digital camera and three lenses. When I

bought my main camera, it was worth more than my car.  Mind you, the car was old enough to vote at the time, and I’ve replaced it since.

To print or edit the pictures?

These days I usually edit the photos before I put them on the web.  I find 10 mpix prints up to letter size just fine.   Of course the older photos which I took on slides will print up to 24”x16”.

You can see some of my pictures at http://sheilacrosby.com/photos.php.  They make great Christmas presents.

If anyone has comments or questions for Sheila, leave them here and she’ll respond.


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Interview with Peadar Ó Guilín

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

Today, it is my pleasure to interview my friend and fellow author Peadar Ó Guilín.

Hank: Can you give us a brief bio?

Peadar: I’m Irish and I don’t drink. This is probably briefer than you were after, but you should be able to extrapolate quite a lot from there!                                                          GuilinPeadarO

Hank: When the writing bug bite and in what genre(s)?

Peadar: The bug bit me very young — around the age of five. I wrote several Tolkien rip-offs in school and a small number of Narnia-a-likes too. Good times! Strangely, none of those attempted novels became famous works of art.

Hank: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish.  Is there a message you wanted readers to grasp?

Peadar: There are a lot of recurring themes in my writing, but none of them are deliberate on my part. They just come out of who I am and the experiences life has thrown at me. For example, I’m fascinated by bullies and you’ll always find one or two inhabiting my stories and feeding (often literally) on the weak.


Hank: Briefly, tell us about your books?

Peadar: My first novel was The Inferior. It’s set on a world populated by savage tribes, both human and alien, who have nothing to eat but each other. The Deserter is a direct sequel that I am coming to the end of about now. I am also nearing the end of a second draft of a near future dystopian novel called Eat the Drink.


inferior cvr_Hank: What’s the hook for these books?

Peadar: I guess, the Unique Selling Point of something like The Inferior, is that it attempts to make a brutal cannibal sympathetic, even lovable. I was really curious when writing the book what I would have become had I been born into his environment and I hope the readers are asking themselves the same questions.


Hank: How do you develop characters?  Settings?

Peadar: I develop characters and settings in tandem with each other. The world will only feel real if those who live in it respond to it in a logical manner. The environment, together with interactions with other characters, are what define my protagonists.


Hank: What’s the most unusual/most likable character?

Peadar: Most people seem to consider Rockface to be my most likable character. At least he’s the one readers keep asking me not to kill off in the sequel ;) He’s a large man, relentlessly optimistic, violent and caring. And not always too bright either.


Hank: Do you have specific techniques to help you maintain the course of the plot?

Peadar: Yes. My special technique is called “rewrite until it works, no matter how many rewrites that takes”. I’m thinking of taking out a patent on it.


Hank: Do you have a specific writing style?  Preferred POV?

Peadar: At the moment, my preferred POV seems to be a very restricted third person. I like it that the reader can’t know anything the character herself doesn’t experience personally. It leads me into all kinds of difficult situations, but the payoff in terms of verisimilitude can be well worth it.


Hank: Share the best review or a portion that you’ve ever had

Peadar: For The Inferior, I love this one best:

“Read this, and remember why Science Fiction lit your fire in the first place.”

It came from a British magazine called “DeathRay”. There were lots of other good ones, of course ;)

Hank: What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you as a writer?

Peadar: Having publishing houses bidding against each other for the right to publish my work. That was pretty intense. I kept getting updates from my agent over the phone when I was at the day job.


Hank: What are your current projects?

Peadar: As mentioned above, I’m just finishing off The Deserter and working through a new, unrelated work called Eat the Drink, which is set only about forty years from now.


Hank: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Peadar: My blog is at www.frozenstories.com.


Hank: What type of writing do you do?

Peadar: All kinds of speculative fiction — SF, Fantasy, Horror and so on.


Hank: What is the best thing about writing?

Peadar: The initial burst of inspiration you get, is wonderful. I love it when I have to get out of bed to write something down for fear it will be gone by sunrise.


Hank: Is there a specific time of day that you write?

Peadar: I usually do a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon. I can’t really write at night any more for some reason.


Hank: What is the most interesting book you ever read?

Peadar, my wife Pat and me having lunch in Dublin

Peadar, my wife Pat and me having lunch in Dublin

Peadar: Possibly, it was Jarrod Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. An absolutely, mind-blowing exploration of the development of civilization.


Hank: Favorite authors?

Peadar: George R. R. Martin and Neal Stephenson always come to mind when I answer this question, although I don’t write anything like either of them.


Hank: Any parting words of advice for writers?

Peadar: Dump the rules. Write a good story. If you don’t love it with all your heart, nobody else will.


Okay, that’s it for the interview. If anyone has a question to ask Peadar, write a comment and he’ll get back to you.

One last remark.  I’ve read The Inferior and the creative in it is stunning as is the story itself.  I highly recommend it.

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Susan Whitfield Interview

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Today, we’ll hear from Susan Whitfield, an author who specializes in writing mysteries.  Here’s a brief bio about her.

Susan Whitfield taught English for thirteen years and then moved into public high schoolSusan Whitfieldadministration after completing her doctorate. Even though she has written since childhood, she became serious about publishing a novel once she retired in 2005. She wrote the bones of Genesis Beach, her first mystery novel, in thirty frenzied days. The book was published in 2007. When writer’s block struck, she started a sequel, Just North of Luck, and The Logan Hunter Mystery Series was on its way. She has also written and published Hell Swamp. Whitfield is currently putting finishing touches on Sin Creek, the fourth book in the series. She also interviews other writers on her blog, and recently opened Studebaker Editing Service to help writers get their work market-ready.

Let’s get started:

When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?

I have loved books since I was a child, but the writing bug bit me in high school.  Since I married young, life took over, and after two sons were born, I wrote them stories, but none were ever published. They have been kept for my sons who are now father to their own sons. I read all genres, but mostly romance until I picked up a James Patterson book, Pop Goes The Weasel. I am forevermore hooked on the mystery genre. That’s what I love to read and, therefore, that’s what I write.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

I hope my writing will bring out the readers emotions, make them shutter, make them cry, make them laugh, and perhaps teach them a snippet about something—a custom, a tradition, a place, an illness. There is a message in each book. Genesis Beach has a trust message. Just North of Luck carries a message about how a person’s background affects his life and the lives of others around him. Hell Swamp’s message is about knowing where your kids are and what they’re doing.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone?

Hell Swamp is set along Black River in eastern North Carolina where I grew up. It afforded meHell Swamp smthe opportunity to have a crime scene in Black River Plantation, a mansion on the river that I’ve adored since I was a child. The owner gave me a key and told me to make myself at home. I have been there to write, and I had a huge book signing/picnic on the grounds with a busload of readers who came from the state capitol to spend the day with me. That was fantastic! Hell Swamp is the third installment of The Logan Hunter Series.

What’s the hook for the book?

“In the backwoods of North Carolina, sinister secrets abound.” Within the first few pages of Hell Swamp, readers are confronted with a heinous murder in the mansion, the gutting of an animal rights’ activist, and the prime suspects are deer hunters.

How do you develop characters? Setting?

My titles are all places, Genesis Beach being the only fictitious one. I make setting a character in my books, often using a North Carolina map to inspire me. One of the first things I do whenbeginning a new book, is character sketches of each character, updating my protagonist’s age and any other changes, and developing all the supporting characters for that particular book. I go back to those sketches hundreds of times while writing to make sure I flesh them out well.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I’ve lived in North Carolina my whole life and have had the blessing of living near the ocean and in the foothills of the Smokies. Over the years, I’ve met many folks with varied dialects, customs, and they have, no doubt, colored my world for the better. I try to use those influences to make my books come alive for readers, whether from North Carolina or some other part of the world. There is a part of me in every book.

What are your current projects?

I am currently editing Sin Creek, the fourth Logan Hunter book, and perhaps, the last one at least for a while. It’s set in Wilmington. I have plans to write a humorous stand- alone book and follow that with an historical fiction about an ancestor who was a Knight of the Bath. That will be my biggest challenge yet!

Where can folks learn more about your books and editing service?

My website is www.susanwhitfieldonline.com and readers can now order books directly from me. I’m very happy about this because I can personally autograph each one. There is also a link for information about editing. I’m on numerous writers’ sites, Twitter, and Facebook. My blog is www.susanwhitfield.blogspot.com, where I enjoy interviewing other writers.

Well, that’s it for the interview portion of the program.  If you have any questions, you’d like to ask Susan, fire away.  Add it as a comment.