Guest Post – Author Andrew Joyce

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My name is Andrew Joyce and I write books for a living. J.D. has been kind enough to allow me a little space on her blog to promote my new novel RESOLUTION: Huck Finn’s Greatest Adventure. I think it’s a good book, but what do I know? Anyway, I’m kinda shy about tooting my own horn. So I think I’ll turn things over to my dog, Danny. He always has an attitude and usually does not speak highly of me. But please understand that we co-exist as the old Soviet Union and the United States once co-existed. We tolerate each other. So without further ado, here’s Danny the Dog.

Andrew took me away from one of my favorite pastimes—barking at dogs that have the temerity to walk down my street—to help him out here. For a person that works with words for a living, he has very little to say in real life. He wants me to tout his book for him, but I don’t think I will. Instead, I think I’ll tell you about my latest adventure. I’m always having adventures, and I like to write about them. And what I write about is usually 100% true. For those of you who are for the first time being graced by my literary genius, I am Danny, dog extraordinaire. My fans know me as Danny the Dog and I live on a boat with my human, Andrew. Now it’s time for another one of my fur-raising adventures and in this one I shine. I am the hero.

It was a dark and stormy night (not really). Andrew was fast asleep in our boat. I was on the dock patrolling the perimeter. When I’m on guard duty, I am always vigilant and on my toes.

They came out of the darkness. There were at least thirty of ’em, and they were all armed to the teeth. But they didn’t scare me, no sir! I stood up to them, and for every blow I took, I bit three. And when the fur stopped flying, there were bodies strewn everywhere. And those not lying on the dock were in full retreat.

Okay . . . okay already! Andrew is giving me the evil eye. He’s always telling me that I can’t tell lies when relating one of my adventures. Well, he said barefaced lies. Whatever!

I reckon I’ll listen to him this one time and tell you what really happened. But I’m still the hero.

It was around midnight, I was asleep and dreaming of hotdogs. (It was a good dream. In it, I was running through a field of hotdogs and eating every one of them.) Then I heard a noise and sat up. There was some guy walking right up to our boat just as fancy as you please. Well, I wasn’t going to take that, so I barked at him. He did a U-turn and made a hasty departure. And that was the end of it.

You know . . . I wish Andrew would stick to his own story-telling and let me do mine. It sounded a whole lot better when I defeated thirty killers.

That’s about it for now. If I hurry home, I might just be able to make it in time to catch the neighborhood dogs taking their humans for their evening walk. That’s always good for some first-rate barking.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot—go out and buy Andrew’s new book. It’ll make the old guy happy.

This is Andrew again. On behalf of Danny and myself, I would like to thank J.D. for having us over. It’s been a real pleasure.

Andrew

Andrew Joyce left high school at seventeen to hitchhike throughout the US, Canada, and Mexico. He wouldn’t return from his journey until decades later when he decided to become a writer. Joyce has written four books, including a two-volume collection of one hundred and forty short stories comprised of his hitching adventures called BEDTIME STORIES FOR GROWN-UPS (as yet unpublished), and his latest novel, RESOLUTION. He now lives aboard a boat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with his dog, Danny, where he is busy working on his next book, YELLOW HAIR.

 

Book Review: Salsa With the Pope by Samantha Wren Anderson

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Salsa With the Pope by Samantha Wren Anderson is a quirky, women’s fiction novel about a struggling actress going through the ups and downs of finding love – and in the end, herself.

I’ll say this; Salsa With the Pope is funny. The situations that Samantha finds herself in and her inner thought process throughout it all are downright hilarious at times. And although it isn’t necessarily the deepest novel that I’ve ever read, you know what? It doesn’t have to be. A fluff read is fun once in a while.

My only issue here is that I wonder how closely this novel walks the line between fiction and creative non-fiction. I couldn’t help but notice that the author and main character share many similarities and I have a sneaking suspicion that we have a “Mary-Sue” situation going on here (if you aren’t familiar with the term, click here).

Overall, I liked Salsa With the Pope and would recommend it for fans of the pop fiction / women’s lit genre.

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Author Interview with Shannon Condon

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Author Shannon Condon is joining us today to discuss  her experiences as an author and her debut novel, Finding Magdalena.

Q. When did you realise you wanted to become an author?

A. I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school and went to college with that goal in mind. Of course, life happens and it wasn’t until recently that I have had the opportunity to realize my dream.

Q. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A. The message I want readers to take away from this book is abuse in teenage relationships and at the teenage level, whether in a relationship or not, is a very real thing. I think girls are particularly susceptible at college when they are away from home and looking for security which is often equated with a boyfriend. Abuse can come in many forms and I knew many girls who experienced it, myself included.

Q. What genre do you consider your book(s)?

A. My book has been labeled by the publisher as coming of age/ young adult. Due to the nature of the content, I would recommend it for 15+.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

A. I think the hardest part of writing this book was keeping the length to a reasonable length. I had a lot more I wanted to add to the book but had been advised not to go over a certain word count. Fortunately, that is what sequels are for.

Q. Do you have any advice for other writers?

A. My advice to other writers is not to get discouraged. I received lots of rejection letters before I decided to self publish. I am still sending query letters to publishers. Just because what you write doesn’t strike a chord with one agent doesn’t mean another won’t love it. The most important thing is to believe in yourself and make sure you EDIT your manuscript before you send any part of it to an agent.

Q. How long does it take you to write a book?

A. It’s hard to put a timeline on how long it takes me to write a book. I can spend a couple of months developing a book and the characters before I actually put a single word on my computer.  Once I begin writing, however, I would say it takes about six to eight months.  I am constantly rewriting in my head even as I am writing on my computer and this leads to deleted chapters and backtracking. It’s important to me that when I am done, the characters are strong and the story fluid.

Q. What books have most influenced your life most?

A. I think the books that have had the greatest influence on me are the ones that I don’t want to end. They draw me in so much that I am immersed in another world. Some examples would be my all time favorite, ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding and the Hunger Games series.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

A. Right now I am working on the sequel to Finding Magdalena. I am very excited about it because I feel that Maggie is growing as a woman and in strength. There will be a lot of surprises and I hope everyone who has been asking for a sequel will be asking for more!

Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead characters from your book?

A. To be honest, I cannot think of any current actress who could play Maggie. She is such a unique character. I would envision a new face playing her if a movie was made of Finding Magdalena.

Q. What’s is your book about?

A. My book is about a girl named who suffers a terrible tragedy at fifteen. As she begins to recover with the help of her best friend, Graham, she meet’s her roommate’s older brother, Eric. He becomes obsessed with Maggie. His obsession becomes violent and he abuses and sexually tortures her. She flees to Spain to attend college and try to find her mother’s estranged family. Just as she settles into what she believes is a safe life, Eric finds her and she begins a journey across Europe to escape him that draws upon all her strength and shows her the woman she is meant to be.

Author Interview with Stephen Leather

Stephen Leather was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as The Times, the Daily Mail and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. His bestsellers have been translated into more than ten languages. He has also written for television shows such as London’s Burning, The Knock and the BBC’s Murder in Mind series. For much of 2011 his self-published eBooks – including The Bestseller, The Basement, Once Bitten and Dreamer’s Cat – dominated the UK eBook bestseller lists and sold more than half a million copies. The Basement topped the Kindle charts in the UK and the US, and in total he has sold more than two million eBooks.
Stephen joins us today to discuss his new novel, New York Night.

Q. What inspired you to write the Jack Nightingale series?

A. I always loved the Black Magic books of Dennis Wheatley when I was a kid and I’m a huge fan of the Constantine character in the Hellblazer comics (graphic novels as they prefer to be called these days). And I just love supernatural films, especially haunted houses and things that go bump in the night. With the Nightingale series I wanted to explore the supernatural world but with a hero who is very much grounded in reality. The first three books – Nightfall, Midnight and Nightmare – really explain his backstory, how he became the man he is. The next two – Nightshade and Lastnight – explain why he had to leave the UK and the subsequent books will be set mainly in the United States, hence San Francisco Night and New York Night.

Q. Do you have a specific writing style?

A. I try not to have a style. Like most journalists-turned-writers I try to tell my stories simply with uncluttered prose. If I find myself over-writing I tend to hit the delete key and start again. I try to write my books as if I was writing for a newspaper, where it’s the information that is being conveyed that’s important, not the style in which it’s written. I do like to write fast-paced books, with lots of dialogue and not too much descriptions. For me, the story is everything.

Q. How did you come up with the title?

A. As Jack Nightingale is the hero, I decided it would be neat to have the word ‘Night’ in all the titles, though after Nightfall, Midnight, Nightmare, Nightshade and Lastnight I have to confess I was running out of options. I don’t think Nightdress was going to cut it as a title!  The rest of the titles will be the name of a city, plus Night. So I have already published San Francisco Night and New York Night, and later this year I hope to publish Miami Night.

Q. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A. The knee-jerk answer is that my books are to entertain and that I’m not trying to teach my readers anything, I just want to tell them a good story. But on reflection I do think most writers want their readers to put down a book having at least learned something. With my Spider Shepherd thrillers I do try to point out the way the world is changing, how it is becoming a more uncertain and dangerous place and how the authorities are trying to deal with that. With the Jack Nightingale books that mission to explain is less pronounced and really I am trying to tell a good story, though there is of course an underlying moral that good always triumphs over evil. The problem with that moral, of course, is that it isn’t true – evil often wins, which is sad.

Q. What books have most influenced your life most?

A. The book I have read the most in my life is One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I love the way it’s such a small story but with such depth. It’s a book about character but through that character you understand an entire political system. I read Harry’s Game by Gerald Seymour several times before I wrote my IRA thriller The Chinaman. Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre was an inspiring book but it is so good that after I read it I gave up thinking I could be writer for several years.

Q. Do you have any advice for other writers?

A. Read. Read a lot. Read good books and bad books and learn from them both. Write every day if you can. I think though that real writers don’t need advice, not about writing. Real writers will be constantly reading because they love books. And they will be constantly writing because they love to write. You need to find your own voice, you need to write the books that you want to write, or that you feel you have to write, and I don’t believe anyone else should be telling you what sort of books to write or how to write them. I don’t think real writers need advice because real writers are self-motivated to improve their craft. They know what needs to be done! Self-publishing is a different matter, there you do need advice because you have to take care of covers, blurbs, marketing and so on. Google self-publishing guru Joe Konrath and read everything he has to say about self-public

Q. What genre do you consider your book(s)?

A. The books published by Hodder and Stoughton are thrillers, pure and simple. The Jack Nightingale series – which Hodder and Stoughton originally published but which I now publish myself – are supernatural thrillers, though they sometimes get labelled as occult thrillers, which is fine.

Q. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

A. You know, I don’t think there is such a thing, not if you mean a writer who simply cannot write. Like all writers I sometimes have trouble with a storyline or a section I’m writing, but if that happens I simply switch to writing something else, either a different part of the same work or even a separate piece. I always have half a dozen or so short stories in mind so if a book starts to give me problems I might take a few days off and write one of those instead. But as I’m writing a book I usually have several sections already planned out so blocking doesn’t become an issue. My advice to anyone who does feel that they are blocked is to start trying to write something else, anything, just to start the words flowing again!

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

A. Actually New York Night was an easy book to write, partly because Nightingale is such a great character to work with and partly because I had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen. It took about two months, from start to finish, and at no point did I hit any real problems. The ending didn’t come to me until the last week or so and I think that was probably the hardest part, coming up with a satisfying ending.

Q. What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

A. I just love the Jack Nightingale character. When Hodder and Stoughton decided they didn’t want to continue to publish the series, there was no question that the books would stop. Jack just wouldn’t allow it. I love his sarcasm, his slight air of pessimism, and the fact that he just takes whatever life throws at him. He’s smart and thinks on his feet, yet because the supernatural world is so alien to him it’s constantly catching him off-balance. Having the books set in the United States is fun, because he’s always a fish out of water. It gives me the chance to explore different cities, too, which I enjoy enormously. This one was good fun because I know New York well, it’s one of my favourite cities. The next one will be set in Miami which is also a fun city.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

A. I’m writing the 13th Dan “Spider” Shepherd novel for Hodder and Stoughton. It’s called Dark Forces and is about an Islamic State sniper who is sent to London to carry out a terrorist atrocity. It’s hard work (40,000 words done with 80,000 still to go) but I’m enjoying it.  Once that’s done I’ll be writing a stand-alone novel about an arson investigator and then I’ll start Miami Night.

Q. What’s is your latest book about?  

A. The latest book I’ve self-published is New York Night, where teenagers are being possessed and turning into sadistic murderers. Priests can’t help, nor can psychiatrists. So who is behind the demonic possessions? Jack Nightingale is called in to investigate, and finds his own soul is on the line.

Hodder and Stoughton are publishing my thriller First Response on February 25, though I will be self-publishing it in the United States. In First Response, London is under siege. Nine men in suicide vests primed to explode hold hostages in nine different locations around the city, and are ready to die for their cause. Their mission: to force the government to release jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh Prison. Their deadline: 6 p.m. Today. But the bombers are cleanskins, terrorists with no obvious link to any group, and who do not appear on any anti-terror watch list. What has brought them together on this one day to act in this way? Mo Kamran is the Superintendent in charge of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met. As the disaster unfolds and the SAS, armed police, and other emergency services rush to the scenes, he is tasked with preventing the biggest terrorist outrage the capital has ever known. But nothing is what it seems. And only Kamran has the big picture. Will anyone believe him?

 

NY night

 

Guest Post by Author Faisal Ansari

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Author Faisal Ansari, took a drastic career change when he went from investment banker to author, and he’s here today, recalling one of his first tentative steps into the publishing world – meeting a literary agent!

It didn’t quite go as planned…

How I fucked up my first meeting with a literary agent

The demigod Zuul, worshipped by the Mesopotamians, Sumerians and Hittites was a minion of Gozer the Destructor; she was also known as the Gatekeeper.  

In the publishing world, the Gatekeepers are the literary agents. Very few traditional publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts. For a hopeful debut author the literary agents are the bridge to the promised land. You want someone to publish your wonderfully crafted prose? Get an agent. This is how not to do it.

As a new author seeking to go down the traditional publishing route I had two choices to hook an agent: Write hundreds of submission letters and wait and wait and wait and then watch as the rejections slowly dripped into my inbox; or try agent speed dating. Writers’ festivals across the country offer the opportunity to pitch your work directly to a real life literary agent. Prior to the festival you submit the usual cover letter, synopsis and the required chapters of your manuscript and on the day you have a 15 minute slot to discuss your work with an agent. So I paid my money, sent my submissions and rocked up to the Winchester Writers’ Festival.

In a room full of agents and nervous authors my first interview was horrific and went something like this:

Agent question: What genre is your work?

Answer given: Errr… it’s a page-turning thriller set in Jerusalem about a healer. It has strong spiritual, religious and supernatural undertows, but not vampires or werewolves or anything shit like that. [I actually liked the Twilight series, so no idea why I said the last bit].

Answer I should have given: A commercial thriller set in Jerusalem.

Agent question: Who would read it?

Answer given: Errr…Men and Women.

[Long pause].

[Trying again]. Errr…actually, everyone really. Most probably anyone who likes reading? [Yes, I managed to turn a stupid answer into a stupid question].

Answer I should have given: As a commercial thriller I believe the book will have wide popular appeal.

Agent question: Which book will it sit next to on the shelf?

Answer given: Errr…The Hand I Fan With by Tina McElroy Ansa [desperately trying to think of alphabetical shelf listings].

Answer I should have given: Any of the successful commercial thriller writers such as Dan Brown or John Grisham.

Agent question: Are you writing the next book in the series?

Answer given: Errr…no way. I have just emerged from my underground bunker after spending nine months of my short life writing this book. I am enjoying the sunlight and fresh air. I will start the next book soon, but right now I would rather eat my own feet than climb back in my bunker again.

Answer I should have given: Of course, I have so many exciting ideas for the next seven books in the series. I love writing, it is my life, my passion. I burst from the womb holding a pen.

Agent question: Who is your favourite author?

Answer given: Murakami.

Agent follow up question: What I have seen of your work it possess nothing like the flair of Murakami.

Answer given: Err…you asked me who my favourite author was.

Answer I should have given: Go fuck yourself you fluffed up arrogant arse.

You live and learn.

About the book:

Despite my pitiful interviewing skills, The Pestilence was published as an e-book and audiobook on 31 October 2015 by the indie publishing house Matador.

The book begins with a mysterious electrical phenomenon rolling above the cities of the world. The lightning which comes from the east, shines as far as the west, turning night into day.

Two brothers of the lightning, Samuel Srour and Victor Pierre Chaput, are gifted powers by the storm. Their paths intertwined, with enemies on all sides.

Samuel Srour has unwittingly started a revolution. His Healed walk the Earth, but powerful forces stand in his way and the Pestilence is drawing ever closer.

 

About the author:

Faisal Ansari has spent the majority of his adult life strapped into a suit writing marketing and stuffy legal documentation for M&A transactions in the City.

Despite growing up in London, Faisal’s overwhelming preference is to be outdoors. When trapped indoors he reads until his eyes bleed.

Faisal wrote full time to complete his first novel, The Pestilence.

 

Guest Post by Author Stephen Leather

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HOW MANY WORDS ARE ENOUGH?

Over the last few years my productivity has increased several fold. Ten years ago I published one book a year – usually about 120,000 words.

These days, in the wake of the eBook boom, I publish at least  three, sometimes four each year, plus several short stories. My published output is closer to 400,000 words. Before eBooks and self-publishing came along, publishers generally wanted one book a year. When it came out in hardback the book from the previous year would be reissued as a paperback. Most writers earned their living from one book year. And that’s how traditional publishing worked – they simply didn’t want more than one book a year.

EBooks changed all that, of course. Some of the most successful self-publishers now produce a new book every couple of months, and make a lot of money doing it. With eBooks there are no supermarkets to negotiate with, no bookshop shelf space to be bargained for. You just upload your book and it’s available for sale. The more books you write, the more you sell. In theory, at least!

The most published novelist in history – Agatha Christie – is estimated to have sold more than four billion books to date. But as productive as she was, she wrote fewer then 70 novels in her lifetime. And taken over the period of her writing career she averaged about a book and a half each year. Probably not more than 120,000 words, because her books don’t tend to be long reads. Barbara Cartland spent 80 years writing and produced 722 books, releasing one every 40 days, pretty much, though her books tended to be on the short side.

So how many words a day should a writer be aiming at? Horror writer Stephen King hits 2,000 words a day. Hemingway used to write fewer than a thousand. Right up there at the top is probably Belgian novelist Georges Simenon who published almost 500 novels and many short stories during his lifetime. He is credited with writing between 60 to 80 pages a day, sometimes more than 20,000 words.

Wow. That takes my breath away.

My most recently-published book is New York Night, the seventh in the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series. It’s just over 73,000 words – which is quite short for a thriller – but it only took two months to write. I’m midway through my 13th Spider Shepherd novel –  Black Ops. At the moment I’m writing about 2,000 words a day, on average. With my deadline some forty days away, that’s a comfortable rate to finish on time.

My most prolific period was a few years ago when I travelled from Malaysia to the UK on a cargo ship, It meant being at sea for 16 days with no phone and no internet access. Each day was pretty much the same, because when you’re at sea there isn’t much to see, except sea. So I’d get up and have breakfast with the crew, then write, then lunch, then write, then dinner, a game of table tennis with the first officer, then more writing.  Even with a schedule like that I rarely managed more than three thousand words a day. That seems to be my maximum.

Mind you, three thousand words a day is pretty good going. Even with weekends off, that’s close to three quarters of a million words a year – eight or nine novels. But I seriously doubt that I could write nine novels a year – not good ones, anyway.

The thing is, at the end of the day it’s quality that matters, not quantity. There’s no point in bashing out 10,000 words if most of them are no good. All that matters is how many of those words feel right, which is why chasing a word count can sometimes be counter-productive.

But I can give you one writing tip that should help increase your word count, and keep the quality up.

When you are writing, and you’re getting close to finishing for the day, try not to finish on a scene. Leave It unfinished. Definitely don’t end at a chapter, and ideally stop writing mid-paragraph or even mid-sentence.

That way when you go to sleep, your subconscious will be working out what it has to do next. When you wake up, because you stopped mid-flow, you’ll find that when you sit down next day, you’ll be all fired up to start writing! It’s the best way of doing away with writer’s block that I know!

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Book Review: Contamination (Feast of Weeds #2) by Jamie Thornton

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Sequels can be hit or miss, however Jamie Thornton nailed it with her second book in the Feast of Weeds series, Contamination.

Although the story picks up roughly where the first left off when it comes to timeline, Contamination follows a brand new set of characters in their journey to survive the outbreak that is quickly turning the population into rabid zombie-like beings.

I really enjoy how Thornton ties in the past characters to the new ones, and I appreciate that the author gives some explanations as to how the virus began and the scope of the spread.

Another aspect of the novel that I like is Corinna’s backstory. The glimpses into her past make it easier to understand her decision making throughout her stuggles. As for Dylan and her “friend” Jane, well… I didn’t like them much however I don’t suspect that the reader is supposed to.

Honestly, I preferred Contamination over the first book of the series. It’s just as action packed as Germination however since Contamination is a full-length novel instead of a novella, I feel that Thornton was able to offer so much more to her readers.

All in all, Contamination is a can’t-put-down zombie thriller that will have you reading into the wee hours of the night.

NOTE: I received a free copy from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Author Interview With Jamie Thornton

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Jamie Thornton, author of the Feast of Weeds series, joins us to discuss her experiences in writing, publishing as well as her upcoming projects.

Q. What was the first book you released? Tell us about some of the challenges you faced in regards to publishing.

A. My first published novel is Rhinoceros Summer. It’s a coming-of-age dark adventure from the point of view of a 17-year-old girl whose greatest ambition is to travel the world to take amazing pictures…but that ambition ends up getting her in a lot of trouble.

It wasn’t the first novel I ever wrote (that one is under the bed and shall never see the light of day!). I took about 3 years to write the book and during that time did a ton of research. I love, love, love research. I was also still learning how to write a good story, so that book also got a lot of revisions. Even after I finished writing the book, the challenge to get it published was still to come! That took another three years.

Q. How do you feel about ebooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

A. I love books! Ebooks! Print books!

You’ll never catch me reading a really good non-fiction ebook. I mark up my non-fiction a ton. It’s sort of like having a conversation with the author while I’m learning something new.

I’ve almost completely switched to ebooks for fiction reading. I was one of those people who packed a second suitcase for my books – just in case, for emergencies, you know. Now with my Kindle, traveling is so much easier. Plus, I’m a total sucker for how easy my Kindle makes it to get the next book in the series. Don’t need to leave my couch? Sign me up!

I think the last few years in publishing have been really great for both writers and readers. Conventional publishing puts out great, award-winning books that I love, but they’ve also passed over books that I never would have found without alternative publishing. WOOL by Hugh Howey, for example. I can’t imagine a world where I never got to read his stories. Alternative publishing made that possible.

Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

A. Keep writing, but don’t keep revising. Don’t get me wrong – I go through several drafts for each of my books, so don’t skip revising either! But sometimes I see aspiring writers who have been working on the same story for ten years, endlessly revising. At a certain point, you’ve got to move onto something else that can teach you something new about craft, plot, character, story.

I’m also a big researcher and outliner. I absolutely hate the saying that a lot of writers hear to just “write about what you know.” What a terrible way to approach art.

 Instead, I approach it more like “write about what you want to know.” That could mean trying to write a series for the first time (FEAST OF WEEDS), or writing about the underground world of showdown hunting (RHINOCEROS SUMMER). Learn everything you can about what you want to write to make the story feel authentic, but don’t limit yourself!

Q. Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work?  What impact have they had on your writing?

A. I devoured the Anne of Green Gables series and I read White Fang a million times. When I was growing up I loved to read books about a girl surviving on her own in spite of incredible danger and hardship. I was like, “Wow, girls in books can do that?” Any one who’s read my books can tell I have a thing for throwing my main heroine into tons of danger and adventure.

Lately I’m in love with science fiction authors like Patricia Briggs, C.J. Cherryh, Kate Elliott, Octavia Butler and Hugh Howey. I want to read anything with awesome world-building, characters, plot, and social conflict. I’ve learned so much from reading their books about how to write more powerful stories that will keep a reader up all night turning those pages. I literally will diagram out chapters sometimes to analyze how a writer made me forget about everything except their story. Throw in the end of the world? Sign me up!

Q. Where did the idea behind Feast of Weeds come from?

A. I’ve always loved apocalypse fiction– seeing what a person, a whole society, will do when the world falls apart. To me, great apocalypse fiction usually has elements of a dystopian too. A lot of great apocalypse fiction was (and still is) zombie apocalypse stuff, but one of the things that kept bothering me was this sort of blasé approach to mass murder—they’re zombies so of course it’s okay to kill them all. The good guys were good and the bad guys were bad and that was it. Sort of the book version of splatter films—gore for no particular reason. Don’t get me wrong, it can be done well. I love The Walking Dead and all of its gore, though it also spends a lot of time on character and that’s what really makes the show for me. 

I wanted to read something different, but I wasn’t finding it, so I thought, okay I’ll write it. I was doing a lot of non-fiction reading on memory and pandemics like the Black Plague and Ebola because that’s the kind of reading I do for fun. I picked up something random on PTSD, read a news article about a runaway, picked up a couple of books on runaways, and it all came together to form Feast of Weeds.

Q. How did you come up with the title of the series?

A. My very first glimmer of an idea for Feast of Weeds was actually as a romance. I even called it My Zombie Romance. But when I started writing it, hardly any romance came out! The idea became much bigger and darker over time so that title didn’t work anymore.

As the story morphed I also brainstormed new names. I finally settled on Feast of Weeds because I knew I wanted to create a cast of characters that would all be throwaways in some form or another – teenagers that family or society didn’t want. I thought Feast of Weeds evoked that sense of scope and darkness.

The runaways are those weeds that survive ANYWAY, whether you think they should or not.

Q. What was the hardest part about writing the Feast of Weeds series?

A. It kept getting bigger on me! I first imagined it as a stand alone novel, then two books. Now we’re at four books. The series is done at four, but there are a lot of side stories within the world that I might decide to write down the road.

Q. On your webpage, you describe you stories as dark adventures. What draws you to the young adult/fantasy genre?

A. I read to escape the real world and I want to write stories that I would love to read, so I think that’s a big part of it. There is so much going on in Young Adult these days and there’s so much crossover to older readers. Even though my books are categorized as Young Adult, I get a ton of emails from readers in their 30’s, 40’s, and beyond, who tell me about how they stayed up all night reading and can’t wait for the next release. I LOVE those emails. I love that I get to deliver that kind of experience to other people. It feels like I’m giving back because I’ve been thankful so many times for the awesome stories that made my life just a little (sometimes a lot) better.

Q. When can we expect the next book, Eradication to be released?

A. Friday January 22nd 2016!

Q. Do you have any other books you’re working on? What can we look forward to in the future from you as an author?

A. There’s this Young Adult fantasy series I’m probably going to work on next. It’s called Doormaker and it’s about this 13-year-old girl who is part of a family with a very special disability. Every time they open a door—cupboard, drawer, front door—something really terrible happens and it opens up a portal to somewhere else. She’s been trained her whole life to never, ever open a door. But then one day, her and her best friend are in a bad situation and she MUST open a door…and that’s chapter 1.

For more about Jamie, visit her website. Also, she is also giving away free copies of the first two installments of the Feast of Weeds series of her page, so don’t miss out!

 

Author Interview with Nicholas Conley

Nicholas-Conley

New Hampshire author Nicholas Conley joins us today to discuss what inspired his novel Pale Highway.

 Q. What was your biggest source of inspiration while writing Pale Highway?

A. The setting of Pale Highway emerged from my real life experience working with Alzheimer’s patients in a nursing home setting. As I wrote about on Alzheimer’s.net, this gave me a strong desire to speak out about my experience, to do what I could to raise awareness about the disease, and the lives of those who live with it.

Q. The story centers mostly on Gabriel, a brilliant man who is now living with Alzheimer’s disease. Why did you feel it was important to shed light this affliction?

A. Once I knew that I was going to be writing about Alzheimer’s disease, I knew that I wanted to write a protagonist with Alzheimer’s. People with Alzheimer’s are so often forgotten, and by casting an Alzheimer’s patient as the hero of my story, I hope to demonstrate that people with this terrible cognitive disease are still people, first and foremost, and thus deserve equal respect and love.

Q. I loved that, although deeply affected by the disease, Gabriel is given purpose in the novel – he is more than simply a diagnosis. Was this deliberate on your part?

A. You said it perfectly – he is more than a diagnosis. That’s exactly what I wanted to get at here, by showing Gabriel as a real human being; flawed but brilliant, stubborn and strongminded, but also sometimes short sighted.

Q. Aside from Alzheimer’s, the novel had a lot of scientific and medical information especially when it came to Gabriel’s theories on the immune system. Did this require a lot of research?

A. The research that went into writing this book took a long time, but was worth every hour. In order to write about Gabriel I had to first understand how such a person thinks, and this meant understanding his scientific passion.

Q. How did you come up with the title Pale Highway?

A. As you know from reading it, the title is pretty tightly connected to the central themes of the book. I struggled with finding a title for a long time before starting to write the book, but then one night it came to me in a lightning bolt, and it was right then—through finding that title—when Pale Highway was really born.

Q. As a writer, do you tend to plan each chapter ahead of time or do you just “let it happen” so to speak?

A. I’m a meticulous outliner, and I work pretty hard to deliver payoffs for all of my buildups. That said, the process is organic rather than forced, so there are times during the writing process where characters go off, make decisions and redirect the storyline.

Q. I found it interesting that, while the present was seen through Grabriel’s eyes, the past flashbacks were shown from other people’s point of view. What was the reason behind this?

A. In order to get a fully rounded view of who Gabriel is as a person, I felt it was important to show him from other people’s points of view. Gabriel is a highly introverted individual, and in his younger years is shown to be socially awkward and tense, so by writing the flashbacks through the POV of others—while simultaneously reading the future scenes through the eyes of an older Gabriel, who has already learned a lot of the harsh lessons that his younger self has yet to experience—it allowed the full spectrum of the character to become fully fleshed out.

Q. What did you find most challenging about writing Pale Highway?

A. When one writes about a character long enough, that character can start to feel like a friend. And Gabriel goes through many painful, humiliating moments in this book, so going through those moments with him felt like being pushed through a meat grinder.

Q. What process did you go through to get your book published?

A. I submitted the novel to Red Adept Publishing. When the acceptance call came in, I can’t even describe the sense of elation I experienced; after all those years of working on this project, dreaming about it, imagining it happening…the reality of the publication contract was a senses-shattering experience.

Q. Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?

A. Definitely a combination. I’d say the initial brainstorming process is mostly all intuition, and then logic comes in as a guiding force that takes in all of the disparate ideas, visualizations and character concepts, then ties them together into a cohesive whole.

Q. What are your future writing plans? Can your readers look forward to more books?

A. My creative mind feels like a train station, where there are hundreds of trains, and each individual train is going somewhere amazing. The only shame is that I have to pick and choose one at a time!

Q. What advice would you give a new author?

A. Never give up, and never lose sight of the passion that compelled you in the first place.

Q. Where can readers find your work?

A. At www.NicholasConley.com, of course! Readers can also follow me on my blog, where I regularly post about books, media, traveling, and coffee.

 

Book Review: A Dog and His Boy by T.F. Pruden

 

a dog and his boy

Set in northwest Canada during the nineteen seventies, A Dog and His Boy by first time author T.F. Pruden follows one unconventional family and their lives in an isolated ranch as they learn to survive lost childhoods and broken homes.

Let me start by stating that A Dog and His Boy was a decent novel. While exploring themes of isolation, loss and family relationships, Pruden does a good job at giving the readers a sense of what life in northern Manitoba must have been like. I especially liked the strained dynamic between Tommy and his father and imagining how desolate it must be being a child growing up the way they did.

This being said, I found the novel to be very slow paced and I have to admit that I struggled to complete it. This could be blamed simply on personal taste; these types of novels/movies rarely appeal to me. Still, it didn’t keep me as engaged as I had hoped.

NOTE: This novel was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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