Category Archives: author interviews

Debut Authors of ’18: Rachel Dacus

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

This one struck my interest immediately, just from content and themes. I cannot wait to dive into it!

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Rachel Dacus

– Book Title: The Renaissance Club

– Book Genre: Time Travel with Romantic Elements

– Release Date: January 16, 2018

– Publisher: Fiery Seas Publishing

THE BOOK

The Renaissance Club is the story of May Gold, a young art historian who falls through a fold in time during a tour of Italy. May’s luck accident brings her face to face with the artist hero she’s specialized in, and dreamed about, 17th century genius sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini. The meeting turns her life in the present upside down and forces her to decide if her adventure in time will ruin her life, or lead to a magical new one.

TEASER TIME:

“Sorry!” she said, backing up.

Signorina, watch where you’re going!”

The young man in black frowned and didn’t apologize. With his long, dark hair and white sleeves rolled up on muscular forearms, he looked like an art restorer. A black jacket was draped over his shoulders. He held a long wooden measuring rod, the kind used by architects centuries ago. Maybe he was rehearsing for some sort of pageant.

“Ladies are not allowed here while I’m working,” he said stiffly. He aimed the rod at the nearest column and sighted up along it.

“I know you!” she exclaimed. She knew him well.

He straightened his jacket and bowed. “Everyone in Rome knows Cavaliere Bernini. But you may not be here. I need silence. I have a very big work to complete.”

His finger pointed up at the four twisted bronze columns, where May was astonished to see no bronze canopy on top. Tons of bronze had simply vanished. She looked back at him. Bernini lifted the instrument and peered up at the nearest column. Her living, breathing idol moved to one side to get a better angle. Lean and strong, he was even more handsome than in his self-portrait.

Now he was so intent on his investigation that he seemed unaware of her and the fact that her pulse was pounding. How had she come here, and where exactly was she?

He lowered the measuring rod, framed the air with his hands, and used his fingers to make rapid computations. He stared at her so intensely that she shivered. She remembered that searing gaze in his self-portrait.

“You’re disturbing me, signorina.” He turned away, clearly expecting her to leave.

How could she possibly move? Here was her genius, his hair curled with wiry energy, materializing the restless mind under it. His prominent cheekbones gave him the Neapolitan look that had embarrassed him and made him fabricate a Florentine heritage. He made a few quick calculations and looked at her again, eyes narrowed.

“I won’t say a word,” she promised.

He was obviously contemplating how to throw her out. Bernini wasn’t much taller than she was, but he made every inch of the difference count. May stared back, as defiantly as she could, while stunned and unable to forget the many times she had imagined his powerful arms pulling her close. She stared back, asserting herself silently as his historian. Historians didn’t blink. Though most never met their subjects face-to-face.
– Where did you get the idea?

An art history tour of northern Italy, much like the one depicted in my story, kindled a wish to meet some of the great artistic geniuses behind the Renaissance. Though I know in real life, time-travel isn’t possible, I found a way to meet one of the most spectacular artistic geniuses who ever lived—by recreating him as my hero!
– What’s the story behind the title? 

No one has ever suggested I change the title since the first query I sent out or the last editor at my publishing house. The title comes from the touring group, who named themselves The Renaissance Club.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

An older woman, a member of The Renaissance Club, also has an adventure in time on the tour. It changes her life and her view lof her employee, our main character.
– Tell us about your favorite character.

Though May and Bernini are my main characters, the story couldn’t exist without time travel guide George St. James. Based—amazingly—on a real person (and I won’t say whether he could go time traveling or not), George has his own complicated backstory and reason for helping others to realize their full potentials. The time traveling quirk he developed as a child was something he had to learn to tame, and like the person he’s based on, George became a master at turning unusual ways of looking at life into a way to serve others.
– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? 

I’d certainly spend a day with Bernini. Like May, I’d just watch him work. They said Bernini could chisel marble for eight hours straight without stopping. He himself reported that while working on a sculpture, he was in a state of bliss. I’d like to observe that, though I would need a lunch break! But who knows what would get started by simply observing a charismatic genius. As May discovered, all kinds of delicious complications might arise.
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

Bernini and George St. James are based on real people. Bernini, of course, on himself, the real 17th century artist who evolved the Baroque style to its height of expressiveness. George is a composite of teachers and tour guides I’ve known.

 

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

I began with the concept seven years before I sold it to a publisher. That’s a long, long journey, and a nearly gave up toward the end, but because I had such fantastic help from top editors and beta readers, I just couldn’t. I’m really hoping my next book will be a shorter journey!

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

I read everything that can be found on Bernini, attended a year-long art history course on The Italian Renaissance, and completed that course with a three-week tour of the art in Italy made by Renaissance geniuses.

– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

I removed one character arcs and demoted a point-of-view character to a much smaller role.

– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I’m a definite pantser, though I try to hide the fact by constructing careful outlines, spreadsheets, plot graphs, and timelines after the novel is finished.

– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

My favorite part is drafting. The thrill of delving into my subterranean imagination, moving into that not-quite-conscious realm intrigues and amazes me, every time I do iot.

– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Revising is definitely the challenging part, because it engages both the analytical and creative sides of the mind, a balancing act that reminds me of juggling on a bongo board—which I once was taught by circus performers in exchange for giving them a few ballet lessons.

– Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

I write for one to two hours every morning, first thing if possible. Longer if possible. My longest writing stint is probably about six hours.

– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

The way I overcome it is by juggling multiple projects. If I can’t write on one, I switch to another and find my flow.

– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t give up!

– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Too many to count.

– Do you have any writing quirks?

Probably the overuse of the word “awhile” which spell-check keeps telling me should be two words.

 

THE WRITER

I’m a grant writer and fundraising consultant for my day job, the proud pal of a Silky Terrier, who bosses me and my husband around, and a volunteer for several local nonprofit organizations. They work on a local level to move impoverished people back into the mainstream, and provide day excursions to delight children who are living in poverty. Doing all these things keeps me far too active. I’d like to retire and write all day, but I’d never trade away seeing the perfect smile on a child’s face!
– How did you get into writing?

I blame my mother and a wonderful bookstore in Long Beach, California called Acre of Books, which introduced me to the idea that I could own such books as the Oz books, Nancy Drew, and the rainbow fairytale books. I took the owning one step further and started writing books for myself to read.
– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I like to feed and watch animals and birds, grow orchids, sew, shop, and hang out in cafes, preferably writing.
– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I write grants and mailings for my nonprofit clients, and have authored four poetry collections, one of which is forthcoming in 2018. I also write plays and have the fun of seeing them occasionally produced.
– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

Because my father was a rocket scientist, my name is on a floating piece of space junk.
– Which book influenced you the most?

Probably Emma by Jane Austen for its witty treatment of an entire village and the best unreliable narrator ever.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

I’m working on The Romantics, the story of two half-sisters who clash over their inheritance, a cottage in northern Italy, with its resident ghost, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

Never give up!

– The book you’re currently reading

Currently I’m reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.

OTHERS

Q: Why do you think fiction can change the world?

A: Because stories touch the heart deeply and become part of the reality of our lives, when we move fully into them. Every story has a purpose, and is about human growth, and that’s the force that can change everything.

THE PITCH

When young art historian May Gold slips through a fold in time while touring northern Italy, and comes face to face with her artist hero, 17th century sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, it ignites a powerful attraction that takes her on a romantic and creative journey. This adventure will challenge her to decide what she would give up to be with her soul mate and live a creative life—perhaps even the time in which she lives.

BLURBS

Enchanting, rich and romantic…a poetic journey through the folds of time. In THE RENAISSANCE CLUB, passion, art, and history come together in this captivating tale of one woman’s quest to discover her true self and the life she’s meant to lead. Rachel Dacus deftly crafts a unique and spellbinding twist to the time-traveling adventure that’s perfect for fans of Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon. — Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author

 

The Renaissance Club is a beautifully written story about a woman torn between two worlds—the present and the distant past. This time-travel adventure kept me guessing until the end about which world May would choose, and if that choice would be the right one. Highly recommended for lovers of time travel fiction or anyone looking for a compelling story about a woman trying to find happiness. — Annabelle Costa, Author of The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend.
BUY LINK

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Renaissance-Club-Rachel-Dacus-ebook/dp/B07832TVWN/ref

 

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BIO

Rachel Dacus is the author of Gods of Water and Air, a collection of poetry, prose, and drama, and the poetry collections Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, The Pedestal, and Valparaiso Poetry ReviewThe Renaissance Club, her time travel novel involving the great Italian sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, is forthcoming in January 2018 from Fiery Seas Publishing. Her fourth poetry collection, Arabesqueis forthcoming in August 2018 from FutureCycle Press.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: racheldacus.net
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Rachel-Dacus-Poet-Writer-514837478526919/
Twitter: @Rachel_Dacus
Instagram:
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/rdacus/pins/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/987726.Rachel_Dacus

 

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

Clarissa Goenawan — RAINBIRDS

Cass Morris — FROM UNSEEN FIRE

YZ Chin — THOUGH I GET HOME

Jennifer Haupt — IN THE SHADOW OF 10,000 HILLS

Carolyn M. Walker — IMMORTAL DESCENT

Samantha Heuwagen — DAWN AMONG THE STARS

Rachel Pudelek — FREYJA’S DAUGHTER

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Debut Authors of ’18: Rachel Pudelek

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Oh. My. God. have I been waiting excitedly for this book. Now only is it Urban Fantasy (one of my favs) and has an incredible premise, but it’s rooted in fantastic, women-power mythology that gives us all a wonderful twist to old tales. I am so excited to dive in!!!

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Rachel Pudelek

– Book Title: Freyja’s Daughter

– Book Genre:Urban Fantasy

– Release Date: May 22, 2018

– Publisher: City Owl Press

THE BOOK

FREYJA’S DAUGHTER is the first in a feminist fantasy series and introduces Faline Frey, a bounty hunter and member of the Washington huldra coterie, who must unite the succubi, harpies, mermaids, and rusalki to rescue her sister and escape the clutches of the Hunters, the mysterious men who have been controlling the Wild Women for centuries.
Teaser time!

Well behaved women seldom make history, but they still end up as the monsters in folklore.
– Where did you get the idea?

While researching ancient goddess-worshipping cultures I noticed how mythology about goddesses and folkloric females shifted as women became more oppressed due to political and/or religious changes. I wanted to tell a similar story, about folkloric women who used to be wild and free and powerful, who were told lies about their very existence, that their wildness must be contained due to its uncontrollable nature. Until one huldra stumbles upon the truth when her own containment cracks open and her wildness flows freely.
– What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.) 

Each book in the Wild Women series is based on a goddess of each Wild Women group. The first book concentrates on the huldra, and their goddess/creatrix is Freyja, so that’s why I call it Freyja’s Daughter. I came up with it and both my agent and my publisher loved the title so it stayed.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

Each of the different Wild Woman types were created by a different goddess who breathed her life and abilities into her highest temple priestesses before her temple fell to patriarchal invaders. This backstory is touched on throughout the book (more will unfold as the series progresses) and is the basis for the Wild Women’s belief systems and moral codes as well as differing values.
– Tell us about your favourite character.

I love the main character Faline, but the funnest character to write was Marie, the succubi leader. She’s morally ambiguous, says what she thinks, and just sees life itself as a play thing. I love that about her.
– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? 

I’d pick the brains of the rusalki, ask them about everything spiritual. The rusalki in Freyja’s Daughter are a group of Wild Women whose power has a lot to do with divination. They’re odd (think adult, recluse Luna Lovegood’s from Harry Potter) and speak mostly in riddles, but spending a day learning their secrets sounds like fun to me.
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

My characters are based on real folklore, except for the Hunters, I made them up by tying bits and pieces of groups who oppressed others throughout history and mythology. Each group of Wild Women is from legend. Each goddess they worship is from ancient mythology/belief systems. Their personalities, though, I absolutely fabricated.

 

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

It took me about a month or two to draft this book, but it took many more months of editing and revisions as my agent and I passed it back and forth, before it was ready to go on submission.

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

I actually have a list of non-fiction books I read as research for my Wild Women series on my website. I read books, visited museums, listened to podcasts, and watched documentaries on ancient goddess cultures, mythology, and matrilineal and matriarchal cultures.
– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

After the first pass by my agent I had to totally rewrite the first five or so chapters. My agent is incredibly editorial. But once the book sold to a publishing house, I removed nothing.

– Are you a plotter or a pantser? Both and neither. I write a one-page outline and then pants it from that outline.
– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

The drafting phase is my favorite.I love getting the chance to create worlds and beings in those worlds, to allow my imagination to unfurl.
– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

I don’t enjoy the early editing phase, the part when I have to figure out how to fix major plot issues or rearrange difficult scenes.
– Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

I don’t have much of a routine. I do what I call “book work” every week day. I mostly work from my couch, or on particularly distracting days I’ll work in a cubby desk at my local library.

– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

At this moment I have five full-length unpublished novels and one novella. And three half-finished novels.

– Do you have any writing quirks?

I’m not sure if this is a quirk, but I have a Costco-sized box of caramel-covered apple suckers that I’m only allowed to enjoy while editing. They help alleviate some of the sting.

 

THE WRITER

– How did you get into writing?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I still have a writing reward from elementary school. 🙂

– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love wine tasting and hiking and kayaking–just getting out in nature and enjoying its offerings.

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I’ve lived in four states and two countries

– Which book influenced you the most?

This may sound cliche, but the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer was huge for me. I gave up my passtime of reading and writing when I had my kids. The Twilight series sucked me in in such an emotional way, (even the setting of my home state of Washington acted as balm to my homesick heart) that it reignited my creative side and made me want to write again.

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on Lilith’s Children, the second book in the Wild Women series, and putting the polishing touches on a paranormal YA.
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

Perseverance is key.

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

Right now I’m reading Viking Warrior Rising by Asa Maria Bradley, and loving it.

THE PITCH

Well behaved women seldom make history, but they still end up as the monsters in folklore.

Faline Frey is a bounty-hunter, more comfortable relying on perp files and handcuffs than using her huldra powers to take down a suspect. No sense in catching the unwanted attention of her local Hunter authority, a group of holy soldiers born to police the supernatural and keep Wild Women—huldras, mermaids, succubi, rusalki and harpies—in check.

All that changes the night she heads out for a date, hoping to get lucky. Instead, she gets screwed.

Now her sister is missing, along with Wild Women from all over the country. The Hunters are on her tail and the one person offering to help is her ex-lover, Officer David Garcia, who has just enough ties to the supernatural world to hang her with. To unite her enemies against their common foe, Faline will need to convince the Wild Women to do the one thing she fears most—exhume their power buried deep beneath centuries of oppression. That is, if she can keep them from killing each other.

BUY LINKS

http://smarturl.it/FreyjaAmz

 

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BIO

Rachel Pudelek is a dog-hugger and tree-lover. Growing up with three sisters sparked her passion for both women’s history and women’s advocacy, which led to her career as a birth doula and childbirth educator. These days she channels those passions into writing fiction. When she’s not writing, Rachel enjoys hiking, attempting to grow her own food, or reading.

Rachel lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, a cat named Lucifer, and two well-fed guinea pigs. Freyja’s Daughter is her debut novel.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: http://rachelpudelek.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorRachelP/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/rachelpud
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/rachel_pud/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/dog0hugger/freyjas-daughter-by-rachel-pudelek/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17238794.Rachel_Pudelek

 

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

Clarissa Goenawan — RAINBIRDS

Cass Morris — FROM UNSEEN FIRE

YZ Chin — THOUGH I GET HOME

Jennifer Haupt — IN THE SHADOW OF 10,000 HILLS

Carolyn M. Walker — IMMORTAL DESCENT

Samantha Heuwagen — DAWN AMONG THE STARS


Debut Authors of ’18: Samantha Heuwagen

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Guys, I’ve known Samantha for a while now, and she’s pretty spectacular. Add the fact that she’s going to be taking the Sci-Fi world by storm with all of the beautiful ways she weaves in humanitarian themes in her writing, and you’ve GOT to read this book. I was lucky enough to get an ARC, and it’s pretty dang impressive so far…

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Samantha Heuwagen

– Book Title: Dawn Among the Stars

– Book Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy

– Release Date: May 21st, 2018 (that’s today!!!)

– Publisher: Trifecta Publishing House

THE BOOK

Set against the backdrop of intergalactic politics and war, Dawn Among the Stars follows the stories of three Humans as they struggle to understand the universe on a cosmic scale.

Kayin has a rough start when the Shielders, a potential alien ally for Earth, come out of hiding and into the public consciousness. Not only does their very existence cause her trouble, her panic attacks threaten to derail her everyday life. Can she overcome her mental health issues or will she be swallowed up in a political mess?

As for Henry Rickner, he wishes he could take back all of his mistakes in life, starting with his choice to leave Kayin.  Yet he finds himself within the chaos of war as he tries to reunite with those he holds dear.

Melissa Pebbles only has one goal: to keep her family safe during the attack. She will do anything to make sure she and her family make it through whatever challenges are thrown their way. While Melissa fights to keep her family alive, she learns that family is more than just blood.

Can these three work with the Shielders to save Earth or will they lose the only home they’ve ever known?

Teaser time

Aliens are real and living on Earth will never be the same.

– Where did you get the idea?

(I’ve answered this a millions times before, but in a dream…. Long story.)

– What was the hardest part about writing it?

For me it was finding time. From graduating from Mercer University School of Medicine life has been pretty jam-packed–– not that I would have it another way, but it definitely leaves little room for creative writing. If I wanted to write, I had to make the time. Luckily, the Universe was kind and I made it work.
– What’s the story behind the title? (e.g. who came up with it, did your publisher change it, etc.)

Dawn Among the Stars was originally the series title, but we worked together to switch it around. I’m very happy with it and I think it portrays a hope for the future in the book.

– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

Alien sex… Hold on, it’s about to get steamy in here.

– Tell us about your favourite character.

My favorite character has to be the sassy and smart, Kayin Aves. She’s a feisty Latina that isn’t sure she should trust these aliens that pretty much showed up out of nowhere, but she isn’t given a choice when she’s taken off planet to fight for Earth. I love that she’s true to herself and even though she struggles through panic attacks and PTSD, she’s willing to do what it takes to reclaim her home.

– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

Unlike Kayin, I would want to get to know the La’Mursians. I think I’d want to see what their world was like and get to know them on a deeper level. I’m a therapist, so I always have questions up my sleeve and getting to know Space in such a unique way would be so interesting!

– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

I think all the characters have a little bit of me in them sprinkled with personality quirks from the people around me. Gotta keep it interesting!

– Being a sci-fi/fantasy writer, tell us about the world! How did you come up with it? How did it grow?

I’ve mentioned briefly before everything came to me in a dream and once I started writing Dawn Among the Stars seriously, everything flowed together. I can’t really recall being deliberate with it, except a random thought floating on by.

It did grow as I’ve spent more time there, if that makes sense. The more my characters play around on Selucia, the Shielder’s home planet, I understand the culture, the language, and their ideals more clearly.

– How do your characters handle being in such a world? What did you learn about your world that you didn’t expect as you walked through it with your characters?

In the beginning we’re dropped onto Earth in the middle of a potential crisis. We get information as it comes, but it’s a pretty big news story so everyone knows something whether it’s correct or not. Kayin, one of the main characters, already deals with mental health issues, so her PTSD from the discovery of aliens doesn’t help much. The rest are a mixed bag. Some thing this is the coolest thing that could have ever happened to them, while others are scared shitless and don’t know if the Shielder’s can be trusted.

I didn’t expect to actually want to visit Selucia myself. Just because it might look and feel like Earth, doesn’t mean it is and the culture is traditional but still open about certain aspects that we aren’t so found of here in the US. I love the idea of visiting a whole new world that feels similar but isn’t at the same time. I think that would be a crazy culture shock to deal with. Might be fun if one of the characters has to deal with that, don’t you think?

 

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

Several years, but I did take a few years off while I was in graduate school. I only started taking it seriously a couple of years ago.

– But really… how long as this story been in your head? (And how long did it take before you started actually writing it down?)

It’s been in my head almost 10 years? I started getting serious about the story only 2 years ago when some lovely ladies happened to push me forward and take my story seriously.

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

I had to look up a few locations and destinations in the US as well as some logistics in space.

– In this vein, what issues or idea (because you write SFF after all) did you struggle with most of all? Did an idea/concept/theme really stump you along the way?

I’m a romantic at heart, I am a couples therapist after all, but I really struggled with the concept of whether or not a Human could or would biologically fall in love with another species. And if that did happen, how would people/alien around them feel about that?

– How about – what did you learn while writing this book? About yourself, about the world, all of the above.

I learned that if I’m serious about writing for the rest of my life as part of my career then I have to put in the time to become a writer. That means my butt is in a seat, sitting in front of my desk. It also means I’m improving with every word, every sentence, every idea. To write is to grow and I don’t think many of us aren’t born writers, we come to it for many reasons and we grow into our voice and talent as we grow as human beings. I thought, originally, that people just fell into the writing process, but I don’t believe that anymore. The writers of the world write because they have to and because they respect the craft.

– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

I removed the word “had” so many times I never want to see it again!

– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser for sure! I can’t plot everything out or I’d get bored.

– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

I make myself laugh a lot, so when I’m writing and I bust out laughing it just feels good. It might never be funny to anyone else, but at the end of the day I’m not writing for everyone else. Sometimes writing takes a toll and is very serious, but if I can laugh through it, it makes the process that much more enjoyable.

– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Finding time. I have to schedule my day in such a way that I can meet with all my clients (I’m a sex therapist), be present for them, teach (I teach at Kennesaw State University), and sit down to write or edit something. Luckily, there are 24hrs in a day or I’d be sunk!

– Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

I write in my home office mostly, though I’ve been known to venture out to my local teashop. I light candles, turn on my salt lamp, blast some music usually by Sleeping at Last, and get to work–– oh and can’t forget the tea!

– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

No. If I don’t feel like writing, I don’t. Why push myself until it hurts? That’s no fun.

– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Oh yes, girl, you’re going to be an author! How insane is that?

– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Does my second book count? It’s on the way to publication, I just have to finish it!

– Do you have any writing quirks?

I need tea or it isn’t happening!

 

THE WRITER

I’m a bilingual sex therapist in Atlanta, GA. When I’m not doing therapy I teach the class, Love and Sex at Kennesaw State University.

– How did you get into writing?

While in graduate school I needed more self-care options. I started rewriting Dawn Among the Stars because it felt good and slowly I realized I had something special I wanted to share with the world.

– What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Tell us about your passions. What gives you an absolutely thrill (besides writing of course).

I love doing yoga, hiking, and hanging with friends. My biggest passion is changing the narrative around sex, mental health, and relationships. The best decision I’ve ever made was to become a therapist. I love being a therapist. I love helping people and I love changing the world around me. I can’t describe what it feels like to know that I’m witnessing someone’s life change. And even though my clients like to believe I’m making them change, they are ones doing the work. I simply get to be around for their journey during the time they need to heal.

– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I’m a blogger. You can visit SamanthaHeuwagen.com and read my thoughts on mental health and how to live your best life!

– How about other artsy stuff?

I think writing is as arty as I get…. Nope, I lied. I can do make up pretty well and have been known to do a bride or two. That’s about it!

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I hated words when I was younger. Being diagnosed with two learning disabilities I thought writing and reading were for other people. I’m so shocked this is where I am today, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

– Which book influenced you the most?

Though it’s problematic, Gone With the Wind had an ending that still haunts me to this day! Come on Scarlett get it together, girl!

– How do you think being a sex therapist has influenced your writing? With all of that knowledge and expertise, what do you see as really wince-worthy in common tropes of writing about sex?

Can we for the love of god use the worlds PENIS, VULVA, and VAGINA when describing the act of sex? How hard is it to call it what it is? I think as a sex educator and therapist the way I see the world and how people interact in it is all over my writing whether it’s in Dawn Among the Stars or on my blog.

I want people to be free to express themselves and their feelings without fear of ridicule. I really wanted to create an anti-masculine male character and I did that with Henry Rickner. Some people will not get it because it goes against everything we’ve seen in Sci-fi/fantasy over the last decade or so. It’s time to allow people to be full humans without limiting themselves by stereotypes or gender identities. It’s 2018, we need to move beyond that and show the world for how complex it is. I think readers are ready.

– Furthermore, what do you want to see more of (or more accurately portrayed)?

I want to see CONSENT. In the follow up to Dawn, Fading Starlight, I make sure there is consent in every single love scene. I want it to be so clear what is and isn’t consent that it begins to change the way we understand it because, frankly, no one understands and that’s a major problem. I teach sex ed and it’s amazing how so many students don’t get it and they’re already having sex. I want that to change and I want to make sure we are learning to be healthy and safe sexual beings.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

The follow up to Dawn Among the Stars, Fading Starlight.

– Does your debut have a sequel planned?

Oh yes and I’ve already started writing it! I can’t wait to share it, hopefully sometime next year!

– What’s your favourite writing advice?

Practice, practice, and then practice some more.

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

ROOK by JC Andrijeski

– What book has really stuck in your head lately – do you have a story you can’t stop thinking about?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say my own–– I’m obsessed. But recently, ROOK has captured my imagination and I love figuring out what’s going on. I love a good story that can keep me on my toes. I never know what’s going to happen next!

– What’s your favorite part about having your debut forthcoming?

I’m excited to have other people to talk to about my work. My dream would be to create a community of awesome people thrilled about the book and aliens as much as I am. I can’t wait for others to get to know Kayin, Henry, Melissa and all the Shielders!

THE PITCH

They say ignorance is bliss, but at what cost? Aliens have made contact with Earth and Humans are having a hard time digesting the new reality. Weak and unprepared, Earth is immediately plunged into intergalactic chaos. As the governments of the world scramble to incorporate aliens into political and religious texts, the everyday citizen struggles to live day by day.

Dawn Among the Stars, set in a time of war and upheaval, follows three humans as they deal with their inner demons, while adjusting to the suddenly changing world. With Earth in the middle of an intergalactic war, Kayin, Henry, and Melissa must follow separate paths to reclaim their planet.

TAGLINE

We reached for the stars, the stars reached back.

BUY LINKS

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CSDC77N/ref
Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and more: https://bit.ly/2rTu2cI

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BIO

Samantha Heuwagen is a sex therapist, author, and activist in Atlanta, Georgia. When she’s not doing therapy, she teaches the class, Love and Sex, at Kennesaw State University. Her debut novel, Dawn Among the Stars, will be released in May 2018.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: SamanthaHeuwagen.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/609493369396318/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sheuwagen
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/samantha_heuwagen/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/heuwagens/pins/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/75884217-samantha-heuwagen

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

Clarissa Goenawan — RAINBIRDS

Cass Morris — FROM UNSEEN FIRE

YZ Chin — THOUGH I GET HOME

Jennifer Haupt — IN THE SHADOW OF 10,000 HILLS

Carolyn M. Walker — IMMORTAL DESCENT


Debut Authors of ’18 Interviews: Carolyn M. Walker

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

I AM SO EXCITED AN URBAN FANTASY (which is probably my most favorite genre ever). I’m a bad, bad reader and author and have not made the time to read this yet (bad, bad Rebekkah), but I am SO excited to partake on the journey Ms. Walker has crafted.

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Carolyn M. Walker

– Book Title: Immortal Descent

– Book Genre: Urban Fantasy

– Release Date: 4/3/18

– Publisher: Clean Reads/Astrea Press

THE BOOK

Immortal Descent is about the mystery of immortality coming to the forefront in the modern world. A young man gets thrown into the underground world surrounding an age-old secret and he discovers he plays an integral part in a dangerous plot that has potentially epic consequences.

Teaser time!

He couldn’t explain it; he couldn’t justify it. All he could think of in that moment was it was all real. What he’d just seen in those memories had been real.

“The woman—what was she?” Ethan asked, still speaking just above a whisper.

“It was a Lorn.”

 

– Where did you get the idea?

The idea originally came from studying world religion. The notion of immortality and how it was portrayed across world cultures was fascinating to me. The more I thought about it, the more I thought “what if” and before I knew it I said, “why don’t I write a novel about it.”
– What’s the story behind the title?

I came up with the title myself. I love to play on words and the title has a dual meaning. Immortal represents immortality of course but descent represents the mysterious lineage of the Lorn creatures in my story, as well as the downward spiral into the unknown—a descent which the main character makes.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

There is an entire backstory to Ethan that plays an important role in the story. It will also come up again in future installments since this book is the first in a series.
– Tell us about your favourite character.

My favorite character is Rue. She is the main female character, opposite Ethan. Her sense of duty, strength, and ethics are deeply rooted qualities that make her memorable.


– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do? (P.S. Please keep it to PG-13)

I would spend the day with Oryx, one of the oldest Lorns in the book. He is one of the most interesting characters with an interesting past, and the ability to see the future. He is very knowledgeable about the world of Immortal Descent and I know he’d be a most gracious host as is his personality!
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

I would say certain elements might have been plucked from a person or two but really just certain attributes from here and there. I didn’t base any character on any one person. The majority of their makeup was from my crazy imagination!

 

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

The mere notion for the story came as a partial short story idea way back in 2002. Shortly after, I shelved the idea for years before picking it back up in 2015. I finished writing it that year, began querying it out in early 2016 and a few months later I landed my publishing contract with Clean Reads.

 

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

I did TONS of research for Immortal Descent. I did a lot of reading of historical books, mythological texts, and scholarly journals. I also had to brush up on international travel because half the book takes place in Western Europe.
– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

I had a scene that was heavy foreshadowing of the conflict that comes to the forefront in Book 2. I found it to be ill-placed so early on in Book 1, so I omitted it and saved it for the early part of the next installment.
– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Definitely a plotter.
– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

My favorite part is the research in the beginning because I love to learn and educate myself on new things. I also enjoy the editing process where I’m polishing it up for the final run. I love seeing the finished product, so I can sit back and just be proud.
– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

The most challenging part for me is laying the groundwork in writing. There are times when the story comes to me like a flowing faucet and I can’t type fast enough to keep up. Other times (when the faucet seems clogged) it can be frustrating and challenging to keep plodding along.
– Can you share your writing routine? (e.g. How do you carve out your writing time? Where do you normally write?)

Normally I plan ahead in my mind with a goal, such as “I am going to write for two hours today.” Then I devote time to that writing without distractions in my home office. I tend to be a night owl, so a lot of the magic happens at night.
– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

If it means sitting and staring at a blank screen because I literally have no idea on how to start (or continue), then yes! I combat it by either skipping the troublesome area or throwing myself into research. Research gets me thinking about stuff and before I know it, an idea pops into my head and bam, I’m writing again!
– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Do NOT doubt yourself! Thinking you cannot do something is as good as not doing it. Oh, and stop editing stuff to death—learn to let go!
– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Oh boy. I’d say about a couple dozen!
– Do you have any writing quirks?

I talk to myself. I always read blocks of passages out loud before moving on. It helps me understand the writing beyond just what’s on paper.

 

THE WRITER

– Tell us about yourself. (e.g. day job, family, pet, etc)

In addition to being a creative writer, I write professionally as a copywriter. I’m also a mom to a fast-growing teen girl and a loving wife to my hubby of 13 years! We have a long-haired chihuahua named Dixie. 😉
– How did you get into writing?

Writing has been a part of my life since childhood and will be for the rest of my life. I wrote my first short story at 6, won my first state-wide writing award at 12, and published my first short story at 19 in a small literary journal. My mom fostered my love for words with an endless number of books and writing tools at home.
– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to read (surprise!) but I’m also a serious foodie and I like to recipe scrapbook! Making and cataloguing Halloween treats and holiday sweets are especially fun for me!
– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I sure do! I’ve worked many years as a professional copywriter, technical writer, and ad copy writer for several firms, nationwide. I also dabbled in ghostwriting for a brief time.
– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I’m 20% fluent in Japanese, ha ha! I took it as my foreign language of choice in college, and I’ve always admired the culture, food, music and fashion, alongside the language. Some day I want to become fully fluent; it’s a work in progress. 😊
– Which book influenced you the most?

Many books have influenced me, but I would say that C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe really got me fascinated with fantasy as a child. To this day, I still adore that story!

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

I am working on a couple of different projects right now. One is a heartfelt romance, another is a young adult thriller, and the third is a sci-fi story. I’ve always wanted to write a really good sci-fi story!
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

Always keep writing. It’s simple but really means the most to me. As a writer, I must keep doing what brings me the greatest joy—write (even if it’s for 10 minutes in a day, never stop).

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

The Condition (book 1) by Alec Birri.

– What is one of your favorite quotes?

Smile. “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” – Dale Carnegie

 

PITCH

Ethan West knows what it means to be different, with a haunted past and a strange sixth sense he sometimes can’t control. When he’s brutally attacked and narrowly saved by a beautiful and mysterious woman, things quickly become strange.

Ethan learns an ancient race of immortal beings known as Lorns exist and he is to be reborn as one. Suddenly thrust into a dark and bizarre world of underground societies, ancient secrets, and an age-old war, Ethan becomes a target to some and a savior to others. With a dark faction after him, Ethan struggles to understand his own purpose and power—an ordeal that tests his loyalties, beliefs, and sanity in ways unimaginable.
– Give one or two of your favourite blurbs.

“Deep in the caves of rural Western Germany, the truth about immortality has remained a secret for centuries, but now that secret is about to break free…”

“Ethan West knows what it means to be different. With a haunted past and a strange sixth sense he sometimes can’t control, Ethan’s in search of a better future. Instead, he’s brutally attacked. Narrowly saved by the beautiful and mysterious Rue, Ethan quickly learns the world is darker and more bizarre than he had ever imagined. And sparing his life comes with a price: being reborn immortal. Now, a dark faction of ancient, cursed immortal beings known as Lorns are after him. And they want his rare, newly awakened soul.”

“Descended from the mythological Nephilim, Lorns are bound by either the divine force of order or the mortal force of chaos. Ethan is a rarity, bound by neither, yet he is ruled by both. Now, wielding an ancient and volatile power, Rue and her Alliance work to keep Ethan from spiraling out of control. At the heart of a terrifying underground war between Lorns, Ethan becomes the target of one side and a savior to the other. Amid everything, Ethan struggles to understand his own purpose and power—an ordeal that tests his loyalties, beliefs, and sanity in ways unimaginable. And the greatest danger is yet to come.”

 

BUY LINKS

AMAZON: https://amzn.to/2jEGjxZ

 

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BIO

Carolyn M. Walker is a California native and lover of all things literary. As an avid reader, she’s always enjoying new and exciting reads. Now as an avid storyteller, it is her mission to bring that same joy to her beloved readers. After earning her Bachelors in English Literature and Psychology, Carolyn went on to pen the draft for her first fiction novel and hasn’t looked back since. Aside from writing, she is also passionate about art, food, travel, history, and music. Carolyn now lives in sunny Florida with her husband and daughter. Carolyn’s debut novel Immortal Descent, comes out in April 2018.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: https://carolynmwalker.wordpress.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carolynmwalkerwrites
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MissWriteWise
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/misswritewise/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/misswri/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17271041.Carolyn_M_Walker

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

 


Authors of ’18 Interviews: Jennifer Haupt

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Here’s another literary fiction for you — and another one I can’t wait to read. This looks heartwrenching and fascinating!

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A Conversation with Jennifer Haupt, Author of In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills

Jennifer Haupt’s moving debut novel, In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills, is a multi-cultural story deftly weaves together the journeys of three women from vastly diverse backgrounds searching for personal peace in post-genocide Rwanda. At the heart of this novel that Bustle.com named as one of 19 debut novels to watch for in 2018 is the search for family, and the discovery of grace when there can be no forgiveness.

 

Q: Why did you go to Rwanda in 2007?

A: The short answer is that I was a reporter exploring the connection between grief and forgiveness. I went there to interview genocide survivors. I also went to interview humanitarian aid workers about why they were drawn to this tiny country still grieving a decade after the 1994 genocide.

I had an handful of assignments for magazines, writing about humanitarian efforts and they all fell through for one reason or another. That’s when I decided to hire a driver and go into the 10,000 hills to visit the small churches and schools with bloodstains on the walls and skulls of anonymous victims stacked on shelves. I wanted to trace the steps of the genocide and talk with the genocide survivors, mostly women, who were guides at these rarely visited memorials.

 

Q: What did you find in Rwanda that was surprising?

A: I didn’t even realize until I was in Rwanda that I needed to address my own grief for my sister who died when I was age two. It was forbidden to speak of Susie in our household; that’s how my parents dealt with their grief and I respect that. In Rwanda, it felt safe to grieve for the first time. My grief was miniscule compared with the genocide survivors. And yet, we shared a powerful mixture of emotions — compassion, sorrow, longing — that crossed the boundaries of race and culture.

What struck me was that many of the aid workers I interviewed were also grieving over the loss of loved ones. They came to Rwanda as a way of reaching out to help others, and also to heal their own souls. Most of the people I spoke with, no matter if they were Rwandan, American, European, were, in some way, grieving. I had always thought the universal commonality that connected all of us was love, but I learned in Rwanda that grief is an equally strong bond. Grief and love form the bridge that connects us all.

 

Q: How did your Jewish background effect you?

A: Fifteen years before I went to Rwanda, I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site in Germany. The site is an impressive museum with photo exhibits and artifacts. The former prison barracks and crematorium where some of my relatives may have been imprisoned and murdered were now scrubbed clean. I went to Dachau expecting to feel sorrow, maybe anger, but instead I felt a disturbing emptiness. Nothing.

During the two weeks I spent traveling in the ten thousand hills of Rwanda, I couldn’t help but think of my visit to Dachau. Thousands of people visit Dachau each year; we Jew vow to remember the atrocities that happened there. Never again. It struck me that I was nearly always the only visitor at the dozens of tiny bloodstained memorials I visited. There was always a guide, usually a woman, a lone Tutsi survivor whose family members were murdered at the church or school.

I remember at one church, I was met by a woman named Julia, in her mid-forties, around my age at the time. She had survived by laying on the floor among the dead bodies. Now, she gave tours so that no one would forget. I talked with Julia about her family members and friends who had been murdered here. We cried together; my tears were, in part, for my relatives and members of my tribe who had been murdered during the holocaust. I experienced a powerful connection with this stranger who lived halfway around the world from me, in a culture so different than mine, through both love and grief. I wanted to share that experience with others through the characters in my novel.

 

Q: Why did you write this novel, instead of a memoir about your time in Rwanda?

A: Amahoro is a Kinyarwanda greeting that translates literally to peace, but means so much more when exchanged between Hutus and Tutsis since the genocide. It’s a shared desire for grace when there can be no forgiveness. It’s an acknowledgement of shared pain, an apology, a quest for reconciliation. I wanted to be the conduit for telling the stories of amahoro that I had heard in Rwanda, from Tutsis and Hutus. I wanted to explore more deeply the meaning of amahoro, from many different world views. I wanted to excavate my own grief more fully and, perhaps, find my own vision of amahoro. I could only do all of that, I felt, as a novelist.

 

Q: Why did you choose to tell this story through the eyes of three women of different ages and cultural backgrounds?

A: I wanted to offer Westerners a window into a very different world, and to do that I started with an American protagonist leaving everything she knows to try and find amahoro. Rachel Shepherd is searching for her father, Henry, in Rwanda. She is also searching for the piece of her heart that he took when he left her twenty years earlier. The piece that knows how to love: like a child, like a wife, like a mother.

I also wanted to connect the African-American civil rights struggle with the struggle for civil rights of the Tutsis in Rwanda. That’s where Lillian comes from. Once I decided that she and Henry Shepherd had an ill-fated interracial love affair during the late 1960s in Atlanta, their story took on a life of it’s own. Lillian is on equal footing with Rachel as a central character in this novel.

Originally, this was just Rachel and Lillian’s journey: The intertwining stories of two women searching for the man they both love. Two women trying to piece together a family. I didn’t add Nadine’s story until eight years after I started writing this novel. She’s based on a 19-year-old woman I met in Rwanda who had left after the genocide and was returning for the trial of a Hutu man, a former neighbor, who she had seen shoot her mother and sister.

Nadine is a fusion of this woman’s story as well as other stories I heard in Rwanda — and then, of course, my imagination. She’s the lynch-pin that hold together the stories of Lillian, Henry, Rachel, and Rachel’s love interest in Rwanda, an American doctor running from his past who has become like an older brother to Nadine.

 

Q: Is this a political story about the genocide?

A: No, this is a story that is set against the backdrop of pre-genocide, the genocide, and then after the genocide. I conducted a lot of research about Rwandan history but I don’t claim to be an expert on the country’s politics or tumultuous past. I do present some background about the genocide, which is factual, but this is historical fiction. The story is about the experiences of the characters during this time in history.

 

About the Author

Jennifer Haupt has been a journalist for more than 25 years. Her essays and articles have been published in O, The Oprah Magazine, The Rumpus, Psychology Today, Travel & Leisure, The Seattle Times, Spirituality & Health, and many other publications. Her well-read Psychology Today blog, One True Thing, is a collection of essays and interviews with bestselling authors. In the Shadow of Ten Thousand Hills is her first novel. She lives in Seattle with her husband, two sons and Duck Toller.

 

For more information about Jennifer Haupt and In the Shadow of 10,000 Hills please visit www.jenniferhaupt.com.

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Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH


Debut Authors of ’18 Interviews: YZ Chin

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

Alright, so reading through the inspiration and motivation behind this book gave me shivers. It looks incredibly poignant and thoughtful, and I’m seriously looking forward to sitting down and reading it.

ThoughIGetHome.png

GENERAL

– Author Name: YZ Chin

– Book Title: Though I Get Home

– Book Genre: Literary Fiction

– Release Date: April 10, 2018

– Publisher: Feminist Press

THE BOOK

Though I Get Home is a collection of interconnected stories that spiral inward to paint a picture of current-day Malaysia. The book is tied together by Isabella Sin, a young woman thrown in jail without trial for writing “controversial” political poems. Other characters include Isa’s grandfather, an immigrant to Malaya who becomes a butler of sorts under colonial masters.

Share a teaser:

            Hunger pinned her to the bunk. Starvation impaled her through the stomach, keeping her down on the thin mattress, resisting the momentum of her feebly raised head. Her neck strained to bring her vision to the requisite level such that she could observe the movement of sun against her prison walls. The sun was her way of telling time and estimating the next delivery of food.
– Where did you get the idea?

  • My great fear as a writer is self-imposed censorship. When I first started writing fiction seriously, it was pointed out to me that I was really holding back from writing about “taboo” topics like sex. I spent a lot of time exploring the roots of this self-repression, and I realized that I had been conditioned by a lifelong atmosphere of state censorship. That realization formed the seeds for Though I Get Home.

– What’s the story behind the title? 

  • The title is from an Emily Dickinson poem (#199 Franklin; #207 Johnson). The poem is complex and full of turns, succeeding in being both emotionally heightened and ambiguous at the same time – which mirrors how I feel about the idea of “home.”

– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

  • There is a surprising development in the main character Isa’s story arc (Kirkus called it an “unexpected twist” in a starred review). There are also explorations of Isa’s relationships with her grandfather, her mother, her father and her best friend.

– Tell us about your favourite character.

  • Isabella Sin, the young woman who is thrown in jail without trial for writing “controversial” poems. Her grandfather immigrated to Malaya and served under colonial masters, and her relationship with her parents are strained because of their separation and her preference for dating women. She is dealt a poor hand by fate, but she does her best to add a personal touch to the roles she is given to play.

– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

  • Government censorship of the arts is a very real threat. In recent years, dancer Bilqis Hijjas was arrested and charged for releasing yellow balloons bearing the words “Free media,” “Democracy,” and “Justice” during an arts festival opening. Cartoonist Zunar has previously been arrested, and is still under travel ban for his political drawings.

 

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book? (You can share about the timeline from drafting to publication)

  • The book took about five years and at least four drafts. I worked full-time as a software engineer (partly to maintain legal status to remain in America), so I could write only on the weekends and in the seams of workdays. Drafts took so long to write that by the time I reached the end of the book, I was already a subtly different writer than the one who wrote the beginning of the draft, and I would have to throw out the beginning to start all over.

 

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

  • Two books by unjustly imprisoned men especially informed my work: Universiti Kedua (“The Second University”) by Kassim Ahmad and Sengsara Kem Kamunting: Kisah Hidup dalam Penjara ISA (“The Tortures of Camp Kamunting: Life Behind Bars in the ISA Prison”) by Saari Sungib. And of course, the daily news coming out of not just Malaysia, but also the U.S. and beyond.

– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

  • I sometimes pretend to be a plotter, but the stories and characters inevitably bring me down endless unexpected paths. I follow them willingly.

– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

  • Oddly enough, my favourite part of writing does not always take place when my fingers are on a keyboard or holding a pen. It can be in the shower, or while I am taking a long walk to clear my head – the magical moments when a beautiful sentence assembles on my tongue, or when an unassailable truth about a character makes itself known in my head, and my heart knows it to be real.

– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

  • Honestly, the most challenging part is finding enough uninterrupted time to write while working full-time in an office.

– Can you share your writing routine?

  • I write in dribbles before work and on the weekends. If I am feeling particularly inspired, I squeeze in bits of writing time during lunch breaks and after work, even though I am usually drained by then.

– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

  • Explore another (short) project. Expand a dream into a scene. Flesh out a “what if” idea into a plot or a flash fiction piece. Flip through a notebook I keep of scattered thoughts, half-formed musings, and sentence fragments.

 

THE WRITER

– Tell us about yourself. 

  • I work as a software engineer coding in C, which is a programming language invented in the early seventies. My husband and I have the world’s most beautiful and softest cat named Meursault (after Camus’ The Stranger). I was born and raised in small-town Malaysia, and I left at 19 for an engineering education in the U.S.

– How did you get into writing?

  • I was a fat kid with a skin condition who was bullied at school (and Buddhist camp). For a while I had no friends. Books were my connection to the world. I want to extend that connection. Books also saved my life, and my hope is that someday my words can do the same for another lonely person.

– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

  • Reading, of course. Exercise-wise I used to do a lot of weightlifting, and then I started doing more rock climbing. But I dislocated my elbow last year when I fell 15 feet during rock climbing, so I suppose I shouldn’t say it’s something I like to do anymore?

– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

  • I am also a poet. I have two poetry chapbooks published or forthcoming: In Passing (Anomalous Press, 2019) and deter (dancing girl press, 2013). And my very first longform personal essay will be appearing soon in a magazine!

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

  • I used to do weightlifting as a form of exercise. I once deadlifted 245 pounds, which was 2.5 times my body weight. Ah, the glory days.

– Which book influenced you the most?

  • Toni Morrison’s Beloved changed what I thought was possible in writing. It is a masterpiece that depicts extreme brutality with intelligence and utmost tenderness.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

  • I’m working (for some reason) on two very different novels. One is about intimacy and the tough choices so-called “skilled worker” immigrants have to make, especially when facing health issues. The other I’m not quite ready to talk about yet.

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

  • Jeremy Tiang’s State of Emergency. It’s a tightly woven story about the leftist movement in the immediate aftermath of colonialism in Malaysia and Singapore, told from multiple angles.

    PITCH

Though I Get Home is an intimate exploration of what it means to be an individual and a citizen within a state that wishes to control the narrative, which is a description that fits more countries than we would like to admit in today’s world.

FAVORITE BLURBS

“YZ Chin’s tender and furious debut, Though I Get Home, is a long gaze into a black sky; her characters are defiant enough to find light.” —Catherine Lacey, author of The Answers

“Sharp as an old wound that never heals, these linked stories remind us afresh of what it takes to survive in a brutal, racially fraught society.” —Shirley Geok-lin Lim, author of Among the White Moon Faces

BUY LINKS

 

BIO

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YZ Chin’s debut book of fiction Though I Get Home (Feminist Press, 2018) is the premier winner of the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize. She is also the author of poetry chapbooks In Passing (Anomalous Press, 2019) and deter (dancing girl press, 2013).

Born and raised in Taiping, Malaysia, she now lives in New York. She works by day as a software engineer, and writes by night.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: https://www.yzchin.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yzxyz/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/yz_chin
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36393578-though-i-get-home

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH


Debut Authors of ’18 Interviews: Cass Morris

Hello and welcome to my blog series dedicated to author interviews for 2018 debut authors! This has been started as a way to support some of my fellow ‘debutantes’ of 2018. Some of the genres may be a little outside while I usually write/talk about here, but each of these I share struck my interest in one way or another.

(See past author interviews at the end of this post!)

WOW, am I freaking excited for this book. My interest was piqued just by the concept, but as I’ve read more of the content and the inspiration behind it, I cannot freaking wait!

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GENERAL

– Author Name: Cass Morris

– Book Title: FROM UNSEEN FIRE: Book One of the Aven Cycle

– Book Genre: historical fantasy

– Release Date: April 17th, 2018

– Publisher: DAW Books

THE BOOK

From Unseen Fire takes place in Aven, an alternate version of ancient Rome where elemental magic has shaped society as much as law and war. In the wake of a brutal dictatorship, two factions compete to rebuild the Republic in the shape they desire. One side is protectionist and isolationist, seeking to preserve conventional morals and keep their nation small enough to easily control; the other side is expansionist and more permissive, looking to embrace the opportunities that allies and immigrants can provide. By law, the use of magic to influence politics is forbidden, but both sides skirt the rules where they can — and some are willing to step dangerously far over the line.
– Share a teaser.

Shadow and Water both moved in him, a blend that lent itself to a strange intuition, an ability to hear words unsaid and see things not-yet-done. Drawing energy from the dark corners of the garden, from the dimming sky above, from the water that flowed into the peristyle, Sempronius concentrated on what it was he needed to know, willing the answers to come to him, etched on the surface of the obsidian mirror. His heartbeat slowed; his muscles relaxed as he eased into that place where body and mind flowed synchronously with his Elements. Thus settled, Sempronius passed a hand over the dark glass and waited, all patience, for something to surface.
– Where did you get the idea?

I knew I wanted to write a historical fantasy with a different setting than the somewhat typical pseudo-medieval-western-Europe. I’ve had one foot in the classical world since starting Latin at the age of twelve, and so working with Rome seemed a natural fit. The Roman pantheon blended nicely with some ideas about elemental magic I’d been developing for ages, and from that, the world of Aven was born.
– What’s the story behind the title? 

I am the worst at titles. If I can’t steal it from Shakespeare or a song lyric, I’m totally useless. This was just called “Aven” for the longest time. Eventually my first editor had me try to come up with something more compelling. I liked the idea of something like Scintilla, which means “spark” in Latin, with subsequent books using words for increasingly large fires, but my publisher was worried the Latin might scare people off. So I started plundering Roman poetry for elegant phrases. From Unseen Fire was among those, but my then-editor didn’t go for it, and for a while the book was titled A Flame Arises instead. When I got switched to a different editor, however, she much preferred From Unseen Fire, so we went back to that.
– No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.

There are nine magical Elements, and the power to use them is seen as a blessing from the gods. About one in every thousand Aventans manifests some magical talent, but far fewer have strong powers.
– Tell us about your favourite character.

Vitellia Latona is the character closest to my heart. She’s a powerful mage of Spirit and Fire, but she’s never made the most of it, partly for lack of training and partly due to discouragement from various sources out of spite, jealousy, or just plain misogyny. In From Unseen Fire, she’s in the process of breaking free of all those restrictions and repressions, learning to own herself and take up the space in the world that she deserves.
– If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

I would love to let Aula Vitellia, Latona’s cheerful and irreverent older sister, take me shopping and then to a lovely dinner party.
– Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?

They’re mostly from my imagination, though they have some historical inspiration. Julius Caesar, Tiberius Gracchus, Germanicus and his wife Agrippina, Mark Antony, Fulvia, and many other Romans have not direct analogs, but correlations in my characters.

WRITING PROCESS

– How long did you take to write this book?

From Unseen Fire began life as a 2011 NaNoWriMo project. I was trying to kick myself back into fiction writing after having done little of it during graduate school and my first years working for a non-profit organization. By early 2013, I was ready to query agents, and I signed with Connor Goldsmith in October of that year. We spent about a year polishing the manuscript through several revisions and went out on sub in late 2014, then signed with DAW Books in October 2015. The book was initially supposed to debut in September 2017, but delays related to my editor switch-up pushed it into 2018. I am the poster child for the publishing world’s occasionally glacial pace.

 

– What kind of research did you do for this book?

A lot of my research was reviving things I had studied in high school and college and then delving deeper. I had to get a lot more into the social history of ancient Rome than just the political overview and the “great men” narrative. Alberto Angela’s Day in the Life of Ancient Rome was supremely helpful, as were the works of Philip Matyczak. I’ve a full list of recommended resources on my website (cassmorriswrites.com/aven-cycle/the-world-of-aven/resources-and-history/). The most fun research, though, was taking a trip to Rome and spending a few days wandering around the Seven Hills!
– What did you remove from this book during the editing process?

This book has been reworked and restructured so much that I suspect I’ve forgotten most of the changes. The one that stands out is an enormous set piece that, during my revisions with Connor, I removed in a single 20,000 word slaughter. It’s a sequence I love, set during games at a festival, but it just no longer had a place in this book. I’m intending to rework it for Book 2, though!
– Are you a plotter or a pantser?

By nature, a pantser. When I start a story, I tend to have a strong idea of who the characters are, and finding the plot is a matter of letting them collide into each other until something happens. As I work on Books 2 and 3 of the Aven Cycle, however, I’m having to work more to an outline, since it’s what my publisher has approved. It’s an interesting challenge — I have to remind myself that I’m not irrevocably wedded to that skeleton.
– What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?

The moment where pieces suddenly fall into place. It might be finding the plot element to connect two scenes, or figuring out the reasoning behind a character’s actions, or seeing a connection between two characters that I hadn’t seen before. When one of those hits, I’m prone to flailing my arms about like Kermit the Frog before returning my fingers to the keyboard.
– What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?

Pacing. As a child who happily read the encyclopedia for fun, I don’t always have the best natural sense of how a story should move along. My inclination is to let characters wander into each other and have long conversations. My agent and editor did a lot to make sure that exciting incidents happen at regular intervals!
– Can you share your writing routine? 

I typically work at my standing desk in my apartment. I’m not well-heeled enough to afford a place where I can devote space just for writing, so it’s in my living room (which, in my current apartment, is also my kitchen). I tend to do my best work from about 7pm-Midnight, and I often enjoy a glass of wine to help lubricate the creative process.
– Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?

No. The ideas are always there. If I’m not being productive as a writer, it’s because I’m having trouble making the time or summoning the energy.
– If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Perseverance matters a lot more than almost anything else. Learn how to take a punch and stay on your feet.
– How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Dozens.
– Do you have any writing quirks?

I have to hunt down the words “somewhat” and “rather” and slaughter them. My copy editor also pointed out that I’m over-fond of ellipses and that I often use two prepositions where one would suffice.

 

THE WRITER

– Tell us about yourself.

I’ve lived in Virginia my whole life, and most of my work has been as an educator. I spent seven years at the American Shakespeare Center, where I wrote 22 guides to help teachers make plays exciting for their students. My parents and sister live in our hometown, so I revisit my old stomping grounds fairly regularly. I live in the mountains with two cats, a nineteen-year-old calico and a seven-year-old Abyssinian.
– How did you get into writing?

I literally can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a storyteller. I got interested in writing as a career after seeing Star Wars at the age of 11, and I’ve talked about that on my personal blog (https://cassmorriswrites.com/2013/12/22/how-star-wars-changed-my-life/).
– What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Read, visit wineries, attend conventions, play MarioKart and Civilization.

 

– Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?

I’ve done quite a bit of academic writing, including those Shakespeare teaching guides and a number of papers and presentations for conferences. I’ve also been a blogger and fanfic writer basically as long as I’ve been on the internet.

 

– Share something about you most people probably don’t know.

I am an utterly indifferent cook. I can make basic things like pasta, tacos, pancakes, but I just don’t have the interest in learning to make anything more complex. I can bake, though, and I make exceptionally good cookies.

 

– Which book influenced you the most?

Oh, gods. In my whole life? Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, probably. Or the Witches books from Discworld. Or The Last Unicorn. Or Harry Potter. Or Dinotopia.

 

WHAT’S NEXT

– What are you working on right now?

Book Two of the Aven Cycle, as well as drafting a space opera with a rakish heroine loosely based on Julie d’Aubigny.
– What’s your favourite writing advice?

“Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.” – E L Doctorow

TELL US…

– The book you’re currently reading

At the time of writing this, I’m in the middle of Glass Town Game by Catherynne Valente, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, and 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed by Eric Cline.

PITCH

Super-short version: I gave the ancient Romans magic to see what they’d do with it.

Slightly longer version:

In the nation of Aven, Elemental magic has shaped the way of life as much as politics and war. Latona of the Vitelliae, a mage of Spirit and Fire, has suppressed her phenomenal talents for fear they would draw unwanted attention from unscrupulous men. When the Dictator who threatened her family dies, she may have an opportunity to seize a greater destiny as a protector of the people — if only she can find the courage to try.

Latona’s path intersects with that of Sempronius Tarren, an ambitious senator harboring a dangerous secret. Sacred law dictates that no mage may hold high office, but Sempronius, a Shadow mage who has kept his abilities a life-long secret, intends to do just that. As rebellion brews in the provinces, Sempronius must outwit the ruthless leader of the opposing Senate faction to claim the political and military power he needs to secure a glorious future for Aven and his own place in history.

As politics draw them together and romance blossoms between them, Latona and Sempronius use wit, charm, and magic to shape Aven’s fate — but will that be enough, when their foes resort to brutal violence and foul sorcery?

BUY LINKS

Amazon — https://www.amazon.com/Unseen-Fire-Aven-Cycle/dp/0756412242

B&N — https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/from-unseen-fire-cass-morris/1125456861

IndieBound — http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780756412241

Kobo — https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/from-unseen-fire

GooglePlay — https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Cass_Morris_From_Unseen_Fire?id=hyq2DQAAQBAJ

 

BIO

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Cass Morris lives and works in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with the companionship of two royal felines, Princess and Ptolemy. She completed her Master of Letters at Mary Baldwin University in 2010, and she earned her undergraduate degree, a BA in English with a minor in history, from the College of William and Mary in 2007. She reads voraciously, wears corsets voluntarily, and will beat you at MarioKart.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Website: cassmorriswrites.com
Patreon: patreon.com/CassRMorris
Twitter: @CassRMorris twitter.com/CassRMorris
Facebook: facebook.com/cassmorriswrites
Instagram: instagram.com/cassrmorris/
Goodreads: goodreads.com/CassRMorris
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cass-morris-4509907a/

Previous author interviews:

Pamela Kopfler – BETTER DEAD

Anna Quinn – THE NIGHT CHILD

Clarissa Harwood — IMPOSSIBLE SAINTS

Negeen Papehn — FORBIDDEN BY FAITH

Clarissa Goenawan — RAINBIRDS