Interview with E.A. Minin, author of “Monoland: Into The Gray Horizon”

Leigh Holland’s Interview with E. A. Minin

Today, I’m delighted to have E. A. Minin, author of “Monoland: Into the Gray Horizon”, here on my blog. Thanks for joining me!

Good day Leigh. Happy to be here.

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Eugene: As it’s the informative part of my bio, I’ll talk numbers. Eighty four – the year I was born. One – number of children my parents had (one little egoistic child I am). Five – my age, when got into a first love triangle, back in kindergarten. Four – number of schools I changed during, before got into the university. Six – months I studied in university. Eight – jobs I had and I still work in the IT sector. Thirteen – age, when I decided I want to work with storytelling. Forty – approximate amount of failed and dropped series treatments, episodes and few feature film scripts in last six years. Twelve – months ago I decided to focus on book writing and produce stories I have in my head in book narration.

Leigh: What inspired you to write a book that takes place in Purgatory, or ‘the Gray Horizon”?

Actually I find afterlife a same pop-genre as writing about vampires or elves or passionate billionaires (probably last ones beats them all nowadays). Everyone has a fantasies or his vision on how it would be on the other side. I just wanted to share one of those I had in my head. Can’t say it’s the only one. First try was actually a movie script about human souls that work on assignments in our world, being our guardian angels, following their code and while not on assignment have their routine in Empyrean world as they call it. Maybe one day I’ll rewrite it as a short story or a novel.

Back to Monoland. I had a kind of a panic attack or an urgent need to drop words on paper. It ended up with first draft of three chapters. I came back to it in a year or so, and decided to go on with this story.

Leigh: Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

It’s a craft. It can make you feel calm or mad at times, but it’s still craft. You work on it, you become better. Part when you find an idea, a lump of threads, then start slowly untangle it into something that becomes character’s arc or a plot or a twist – that can be called a spiritual practice. Moments when you stop being you.

Leigh: What book are you reading currently?

Machiavelli – The Prince, Terry Pratchett – Soul Music and Hegel – Science of Logic

Leigh: What are you currently working on? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Currently I work in co-authorship with Dim Zimin on a fantasy book for children. It initially was planned as a animated series (and work on it still progresses). After that one I plan to get back to second book of Monoland and in parallel finish satiric-fantasy book (also first in a series) with working title Too old for this. Third part of the Monoland is to follow and I aim to close the trilogy in the beginning of 2018. There are lots of projects to follow.

Leigh: What one thing would you give up in order to become a better writer?

Probably pride. It’s important for me to get critics in order to grow. Yet as for any human being critics and truth it holds, sometimes awakes excuses powered by pride, that holds me from changing, adapting, looking for a better turns in plot or character development.

Leigh: Do you write full time or part time? How is your writing day structured?

Part time. I write about 4 hours a day and 6-10 on weekends. Sometimes I need music to keep thoughts going and each story has its playlist to keep mind focused. Other than that, I just sit in my crafting corner. Typewriter on my left, plant, wooden skull on my right and a magic chair, that switches me to writing mood the moment I sit in it.

Leigh: Who designed your book cover?

Dim Zimin. Friend of mine and a great artist. I hope he will design covers for all the books I plan to write and publish. He has an instagram account, where he shares his works – Dim Zimin on Instagram

Leigh: How do you relax?

Reading, bathtub and reading in bathtub.

Leigh: How can readers find out more about you and your work?

 

Lnkedin: LnkedN EA Minin

Amazon Author Page: E.A. Minin Amazon Author Page

Book Links: Monoland: Into the Gray Horizon

Goodreads: E.A. Minin on Goodreads

Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Thank you for the invitation. I was flattered to have this opportunity.

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Interview with H.A. Callum (Author of “Whispers In The Alders”)

Leigh Holland’s Interview with H. A. Callum

Today I’m delighted to interview the author of “Whispers In The Alders”, H.A. Callum. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for my author spotlight!

Hi Leigh! It’s great to be here, and thanks for the invite!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Let’s just talk about the book. Just kidding! All joking aside, I like to think that I’m a pretty down to earth guy, but intense at times. I have an amazing family who are all very supportive of me as a writer – especially my wife. Spouses of writers certainly understand what it’s like to live with us, and the crazy hours we keep. But outside of writing, I love to read, and most importantly spend time with my wife and daughters.

Leigh: What was the hardest thing about writing this book?

Letting go. I don’t want to say the writing was easy, but accepting that it was done – final – no more edits – and sending it out into the world was the hardest part. I could have spent months editing and revising, but after five major revisions I had to put it out there. So yeah, knowing when to say when was the most difficult part of getting Whispers in the Alders on the path to publication.

Leigh: What was an early experience where you learned that words have power?

Not to get too personal, but books became an escape for me at a young age. I was always reading. In books I could find answers, or a correlation to what was going on in my life. The ability for a writer to connect on a personal level with the reader was very apparent to me early on, and I think this has shaped who I am as a writer and how I choose to reveal a story to my readers.

Leigh: Do you read much? If so, who are your favorite authors?

I love to read! I hate limiting myself though, and I have so many authors that should be on this list. My favorites are Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, John Updike, Harper Lee, Philip Roth, and Maile Meloy. British Literature has always been a favorite of mine, and I couldn’t imagine a library without Virginia Woolf and Thomas Hardy. There are so many greats though – far too many to mention. Who did I miss? I know I’m going to catch flack for this!

Leigh: What famous person, living or not, would you like to meet and why?

That’s hard to pin down – there are so many people I could name. I tend to gravitate towards those who choose to remain outspoken rather than seek the safety of silence. Our nation’s short history has a long list of names – from the Revolution through the Civil Rights Movement. Their work is still ongoing, and without their sacrifices, where would we be today?

I was very fortunate as an undergrad at Penn State to have had an English professor who was a founding member of the Toni Morrison Society. Her class was amazing, and of course we covered several of Toni Morrison’s works. I’ve always admired Morrison’s work, especially her style of story-telling. Few authors can weave tragedy and beauty so closely. The darkest depths of humanity are felt in some of her works, yet as a reader, I always felt the pull toward the positive side of the human experience after reading her novels. If I ever have the opportunity, I would be honored to meet Toni Morrison to talk just a little about writing, but more so to be in the presence of a person whose humanity I’ve come to adore.

Leigh: Was it difficult writing from the perspective of someone of the opposite sex?

Of course it was! And it was something from the beginning that I took very seriously, and took great care to do my part to get it right. I knew Whispers in the Alders had to be told from the female perspective early on. My biggest fear was not coming across as appropriating the female perspective from a male point of view. I think (hope) I succeeded there with Aubrey. I spent many hours reading works written from the female teenage perspective, just to try and get Aubrey’s voice down. So far, readers seem to be connecting with her, and that’s a positive sign.

Leigh: Do you write full-time or part-time? How is your writing schedule structured?

Part-time, but of course some days I put in eight or more hours writing, editing, and submitting. My writing schedule is structured between the hours of 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., give or take an hour on either side of that range. I think my Twitter feed is a testament to that! Family is always first, so once the kids are asleep off I go. And I know I’m not the only one doing this. Writing is a passion, and well worth the sacrifices made in its pursuit.

Leigh: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Just write. I see people throwing word counts out on Twitter and Facebook all the time. But is that quality? So, for aspiring authors, just be consistent in writing every day. Every single day. Word count doesn’t mean much if you’re not writing, right? Go at your own pace and see that project through, whether it’s a piece of short fiction, a poem, or a novel.

It is important to network though. I have an awesome base of supporters on social media, they are my online writers group. We motivate each other. Likewise, I also belong to a local writers group where I can workshop with other writers. If you’re an aspiring author you must be around other writers and you must workshop. It’s the best way to get critical feedback and learn to accept criticism. That criticism will also thicken your skin and serve you well when it comes time to query. For me, querying wasn’t a negative process because I had learned to accept real criticism long before I started the process. Agents and publishers sometimes offer that same level of criticism when you query. Workshopping gets writers to the point of welcoming criticism of their work.

Leigh: What hobbies do you have? What do you do to relax?

When I’m not reading, I love watching movies. I’m also a runner, although not as fast as I once was! Running always recharges the battery and improves mood, helping to keep me centered. Oh, and it’s summer time – so I know I’ll be out tending the grill!

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website: www.hacallum.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theauthorcallum/#

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HA_Callum

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/author/hacallum

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/HACallum

Once again, Thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Leigh, I can’t thank you enough for having me here today! It’s been a real pleasure, and I look forward to catching up with you and your readers more on social media!

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Natalia Vereshchagina

Quirky, Innovative

Leigh Holland’s Interview with Natalia Vereshchagina

Thanks for taking the time to be interviewed for my blog, Natalia!

 

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Natalia: I was born in the former Soviet Union, in Moldova, although ethnically I am Russian. I studied biology at Saint Petersburg University where received a Master’s degree in genetics and much later a PhD in the same field. At the end of the 90s I moved abroad to continue doing research studies. And had a chance to work in different labs and different countries: the UK (University of Oxford), France, Singapore and Germany.

Leigh: When did you decide to become a writer? Why do you write?

Natalia: Science to me has always been the world where creativeness of life nurtures human creativity so that to bring life in turn to a whole new level. And I was lucky enough to see the bright sparks of brilliant science throughout my career. Unfortunately, however, I also worked in the environment that would be defined by me as a poor substitute for research, ugly commercialized and fouled with mediocrity and cunning race for privileges. It was then that I felt the urge to write a book, not with a view to composing an accusatory manifesto, but simply wishing to take a chance to speak in favour of true science, the one that influences our destiny and destination.

Another thing that prompted me to turn to writing was the lack of intellectual satisfaction I always felt after reading conventional detective/crime stories. No matter how captivating they are, once finished reading them, I always put them aside like a squeezed orange or the inner wrapping of chocolate bar, having no desire to return to those pages again (“The name of the rose” by Umberto Eco remains a stunning exception of it). It started a train of thought to attempt to compose such a novel whose content would be found by avid readers simply irresistible to stop feeding spiritually on it. Well, it was and still is just a dream of mine.

 

Leigh: What inspired you to write a scientific mystery centered around physicists?

Natalia: As I’ve already mentioned I have a PhD in science and also many years of research experience in Academia, but I am not a physicist, only a geneticist; and that fact of my education obliged me to be (in my novel) as accurate as possible in stating the scientific facts that are far beyond my expertise. Nor did it give me any right to be critical about the famous Nuclear Research Centre (CERN, as you correctly noticed), where I have never been and never worked, and whose research does not deserve to be doubted.

I have chosen this particular setting for my narrative because the exciting research at the Collider is one of the most functional elements in the development of my mysterious and tragic story. And secondly, in the background predetermined to reveal to the utmost the beauty, mystery and greatness of the Universe, the perception of greedy and cunning nature of human minds becomes especially strong.

 

Leigh: Which writers have influenced you the most over the years and what about their work inspires you?

 

Natalia: I would say that both “The name of the rose” by Umberto Eco and “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov had a profound impact on my writing. The former inspired me with the concept of a cross-genre fiction, so ingeniously developed by Eco to show how little, if any, human nature has changed over time. While the “love affair with the English language” in Nabokov’s Lolita turned out to be too contagious with all its tenderness and “aesthetic bliss” to resist the intolerable temptation to dream of going through the same.

 

 

Leigh: How has publishing your first book changed your writing process?

 

Natalia: Had I written my novel “Dating a chance” in my native language, which is Russian, I believe, I would have felt pretty confident about the book. But after publishing my English version of the novel, I’ve realized that I am standing at the very bottom of a literary Everest; and if I really want to reach its peak or, at least, get closer ever, I’ll have to make tremendous efforts.

 

Leigh: What’s your favourite under-appreciated novel?

Natalia: I would name “The Gift” by Vladimir Nabokov.

Leigh: How many hours per day do you write? Do you have a set time to write, a set number of words?

Natalia: As long as I am not busy with doing something else, like eating, working, sleeping or taking a shower, I am writing.

 

Leigh: What were you like in school?

Natalia: A ballerina who worshipped Sherlock Holmes, felt in love with Captain Blood (a main character from Rafael Sabatini’s adventure novel), and was entranced by sci-fi books.

 

Leigh: What are your ambitions for your writing career? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Natalia: I would like to create a masterpiece, including one that might come through scientific writing, for, if to cite the thoughts of Richard Dawkins, the author of “The selfish gene”, “If you push novelty of language and metaphor far enough, you can end up with a new way of seeing. And a new way of seeing can in its own right make an original contribution to science.”

 

Leigh: What do you do to relax?

Natalia: I enjoy walking and prefer to do it far away from cars, pollution and city noise; just trying to be close to nature.

 

Leigh: How can readers find out more about you and your work?

Natalia: I believe my answer to this question will make the readers’ eyebrows travel dashingly “all the way to the back of their heads”, for I do not have any accounts on any of them. Actually, a year ago I had an account on Goodreads, but not sure if it is still functional.

Interview with Ann Heinz, author of “A Light Within”

ann

Thank you so much, Ann, for being interviewed on my blog today!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, where life flowed as deep and tranquil as the Cedar River that divided east from west and the neighborhoods were safe for children to play outside until after dark. I was fortunate enough to be born into a family where books were collected and revered. My earliest memories are of the sublime pleasure to be had from reading, first cuddled next to my grandmother in her big stuffed rocking chair as she read the children’s classics aloud, then curled up on my own as I graduated from story collections and Little Golden Books to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and finally to the contemporary and classic novels in my mother’s library. I was already a lifelong book junkie, the first step on the road to becoming a writer.

 

Which writers inspire you?

My favorite authors are those whose command of the English language allows them to draw compelling word pictures, create convincing characters, and pull me into a mesmerizing plot. In short, those from whom I can learn.

I have read two books recently that fulfill these qualifications. The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristi Cambron is a lyrical look at one of America’s oldest entertainment icons, the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. It deftly weaves historical fact with the story of several fictional characters, bringing them and their circumstances alive in a way that is magical. The second is Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris, a psychological thriller that is truly impossible to put down. Again, the author has drawn such persuasive characters and placed them in such realistic settings that one can overlook certain implausible characteristics of the plot.

 

“A Light Within” is set in 1859 in Pennsylvania. Could you tell us how much research was involved in bringing that time and place to life?

This was my third novel set during the decade before the Civil War, and I had already done extensive research about that era in terms of general background. For this book, I researched medical education and knowledge of that time as well as the main locations where the story takes place: the cities of Sacramento, San Francisco and Philadelphia and the Isthmus of Panama. I obtained period street maps and photos and used them to visualize my characters as they moved about in the story. Doing this research was like completing an intricate puzzle, and I found it highly entertaining and stimulating.

 

Where did your idea for “A Light Within” come from?

My second and third historical novels each took a minor character from the prior novel and developed a story unique to that person. I was intrigued by Cora, who was a girl of sixteen in Refiner’s Fire, because she was a fiery rebel even at that young age: a feminist, abolitionist, and believer in the right of each individual to determine his or her future regardless of class or station in life. Since she expressed an interest in medicine in Refiner’s Fire, I decided to develop that theme. Needing an extra boost of tension and conflict, I decided to place her in juxtaposition to her twin brother, who was following a traditional path even though his “inner light” nudged him toward the arts.

 

Give us an insight into Cora Fielding. What drives her passion for medicine?

Cora has been assisting her physician father at his clinic in Sacramento, California for several years. She finds the human body and its ailments fascinating and has studied every textbook she could get her hands on. The fact that women are not readily accepted in the medical profession only sharpens her resolve that she will allow nothing to stand in her way from choosing her own path through life.

Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on presently?

I am currently rewriting a book first published many years ago. This is something of a stopgap activity until my personal “light within” sends me in a new direction.

 

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

For me, the hardest part of writing is sustaining the flow once the initial excitement of beginning a new project fades. There comes a time in every manuscript when my momentum slows and I must grind out the progression of the plot, always relying on my characters to give me the necessary direction.

By contrast, the conception, planning, and writing of the initial chapters as well as the completion of the final pages provide an emotional high that is impossible to describe. The entire process is very much like riding a virtual roller coaster. At the end of the ride, I never fail to find joy and immense satisfaction.

 

What actors could you see playing Cora, Carl, and Peter?

My mental image of these people is so strong and unique that I cannot imagine them being played by anyone else. Were I ever so fortunate as to have this book made into a movie, someone else would have to make that decision.

 

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: http://www.fictionbookmates.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writingismyjoy/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/writeranh

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ann-heinz-42332740/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B005ROLKVM

Once again, thank you very much for appearing on my author spotlight today, Ann!

Interview with Jo Sparkes, author of “The Birr Elixir”

jo sparkes

Today, I’m interviewing Jo Sparkes, author of “The Birr Elixir”. Thanks so much for your time today, Jo!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Born in Maryland, I’ve lived in various parts of the U.S. Delaware, Houston, Dallas, Connecticut, Phoenix. I’m in the great Northwest at the moment. Married a Brit, got a dog. Still root for the Arizona Cardinals.

Leigh: How would you define success as a writer?

A good day of writing.

No matter what else happens after that, I still can find my smile.

Leigh: Which writers inspire you the most?

One of my teachers was a man named Robert Day, author of ‘The Last Cattle Drive”. He had such a deep appreciation of people, of characters.

An example is in an article that appeared in the Washington Post, a humorous story about himself. The opening paragraph was along this line (and I’m butchering it horribly):

“My father died when I was 17. Mother kept his ashes on a shelf above the dryer.”

What a wonderful opening.

Leigh: For your own reading, do you prefer e-book or paperback?

Early on I only read paperbacks. My life had enough electronics. But when we traveled to Europe, I realized I could carry all my books in that one slim device. And, when the eyes got a little tired from plane travel, I could magically transform it to bigger print.

And the purse was lighter sans magnifying glass.

Leigh: What advice would you give to your young author self if you could go back in time?

Listen to others, take in all the wisdom and advice to help see the pitfalls and bright spots. But you – and only you – can forge your particular path.

No one may walk another’s journey. And, when it’s all said and done, only our own true path takes us where we truly wish to go.

Leigh: I absolutely love the sport “Comet” in your book. What inspired your design of the game?

There was a time I wrote about NFL Football (the Arizona Cardinals). Competition is inspiring – all the highs and lows, the joy of pushing your limits, and the lessons you discover if you only accept defeat as temporary.

I hoped to find a way to share a little – just a little – of that feeling.

Leigh: What do you think of book trailers? I loved the one for The Birr Elixir. Do you have any other favorites?

For some reason, I’m all about the music. The words are important, of course, but the mood the music stirs makes or breaks it for me.

I had the good fortune of the talented Abhiraj Rajadhyaksha, of Experimental Films, do mine. I’ll confess, I watched it preparing for the books to follow.

Leigh: What are some of your hobbies?

At the moment, yoga and decorating my home. Both leave me twisted into knots.

In the past I’ve skied, scuba dived (dove?), played blackjack and backpacked around Europe.

That last was pure joy to the soul – and fodder to the writing brain.

Leigh: How can readers find out more about you and your work?

Website: http://josparkes.com/

Blog: http://josparkes.com/slider-front-page/quill-hound-blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sparkesbooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sparkes777

Lnkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jo-sparkes-79b1887/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Jo-Sparkes/e/B008E02SJO

Book Links:

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00D4R7PZ4

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D4R7PZ4

Australia: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00D4R7PZ4

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00D4R7PZ4

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6430371.Jo_Sparkes

 

Thank you, Jo, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Interview with Jamie Le Fay, author of “Ahe’ey”

ahe'ey

Today I’m delighted to interview the author of “Ahe’ey”, Jamie Le Fay. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for my author spotlight!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

By night, I write epic fantasy fiction seasoned with a pinch of romance and a handful of feminism. Maybe more than a handful . . . It’s probably more like two trucks and several IKEA bags of feminism. There, that’s better.

By day, I turn into a high-flying executive and I spend the day helping large organisations respond to digital disruption. Sometimes in the morning I find it quite difficult to shake off the dragons and the warriors from my mind. I walk to work listening to podcasts about technology and innovation; it’s my passage in-between realms. Slowly the winged lizards fly away and are replaced with less exciting C-suite types that live with their nose glued to excel spreadsheets. They believe that they’ll grow their businesses faster if they stare at the numbers for the rest of the day. I do my best to explain that business is about human interaction and impact. Sometimes they listen, other times I just go back home and am delighted to return to the company of the dragons.

I am Portuguese by birth, but I have lived in sunny Sydney for the past ten years. I hold dual citizenship—Australian and Portuguese—but I’m really a citizen of planet Earth.

Leigh: The main character, Morgan, is a feisty but compassionate fighter for human rights. Do you identify with Morgan? If so, in what ways?

I remember the day I discovered feminism. I was reading a book called The Curse of the Good Girl by Rachel Simmons. I had the same adrenaline rush I got when I first discovered brain plasticity, or the first time I read Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

It was like that moment when you learn something so important that you want to share it with the entire universe; that time when you just can’t help yourself, you go around spreading your new-found wisdom using the largest possible megaphone, because you want others to benefit from it. You completely ignore that some people may not be ready to discover the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Worse, some know about the gold and only want to hide it.

Still, you persevere; you open the book and quote from the passages underlined in fluorescent yellow. The books and the studies are your shield against limiting beliefs, they protect you from the ghost that lurks in some dark corners of your mind—the impostor syndrome. You can’t stop researching, and reading, and watching YouTube videos about the topic. Soon you forget about the girl that wanted to fit in amongst the boys, just another software engineer. The more you learn, the more resolute you become—the media, the marketing, the biases, the privilege, it’s so unfair, all of it.

You talk to others about it at work, you organize groups, and you speak at conferences. You lead, you mentor, you connect, and you learn from others more experienced than you, others kind enough to take you under their wings. And then suddenly you understand your own privilege, and it’s devastating—the white corporate feminism, self-centered, navel gazing, and exclusive.

And eventually you look around, really look, and you see it—the systems of privilege; the structures of power. For the first time you see the girl in Congo, the mother in South Sudan, and the boy from Syria.

You see it, you are open and you are raw, and you must do something about it. You lean in for them in a way you’d never be able to lean in for yourself. You must, there is no alternative, they live under the same sky, the only border you recognize, at least until someone finds life in other planets, and then, even that last border will be dismissed.

This is me, and some part of me is Morgan, but like all of my other main characters, she has become her own distinct entity, she has taught me more than I ever imagined.  Her journey is impacting my life as much as my journey defined hers. We are both passionate, idealistic, slightly preachy, and very flawed. She’s much braver and open than I’ll ever be.  We’ll keep learning from each other, we’ll keep growing and hopefully we’ll keep spreading what we learn with the rest of the world, whether they like it or not. Now, where did I leave my megaphone? It was just here a moment ago . . .

Leigh: What were you like in school? Were you always good at writing?

I was very lucky. My working-class parents spent all that they had to send me to a private school in my country of birth, Portugal. I learned English, music, dancing, and piano from the age of three.  I used to write stories and poems, and I even won a literary award at school. I was already nerdy, and completely naive regarding the social tribes that form at school. I often wonder at what age I started rejecting biases, it looks like I’ve been doing it all my life. I was bullied a lot in primary school; the rich kids could spot a misfit a mile away. I used to read a lot, my dad brought science magazines home every week and both my parents loved art. We didn’t have a lot of money, but I was surrounded by books, science, music, crafts, and creativity.

Leigh: What are you working on currently, both as far as initiatives for female rights and your writing?

 Over the last few years I have founded several social impact initiatives focused on the empowerment of girls. Under my real name, I speak about topics related to girlhood, feminism, gender equality, and the misrepresentation of minorities in media and marketing. A few years back we raised enough funding to rent the biggest digital billboard in Times Square for an entire week. We displayed thousands of messages from girls all over the world. They asked for better representation of girls in the media and marketing. That week we were invited to Comic Con and to the UN’s Girls Speak out event. It was a lot of fun.

These days I am focusing most of my attention on book 2 of the series.  The stakes are going to be raised a thousand times, and Morgan’s feminist values are going to be tested in ways she has never imagined.

Both Angha and Zanus continue to unleash chaos into the world of humans and Ahe’ey, but Angha’s two-hundred Dragons are the least of our concerns. A destructive darkness emerges from the purest of beings. The ties and the love between the four Royal descendants are tested to their limit. Death lurks around the corner waiting to harvest its prize. The heroes will rise, but some will fall. It’s inevitable and definitive. Rage can and will kill. The Ahe’ey will come across an unlikely ally, one they’d prefer to destroy, but things are . . . complicated.

Leigh: American females today look in the mirror and think they’re not beautiful. They buy make-up and clothing to try to meet an impossible standard. Many were also despondent after the loss of the presidency by our first viable female presidential candidate. What message do you have for these young women?

I rather let Morgan take this question. She’s the expert on this subject. Here’s an excerpt from Ahe’ey where she’s speaking to a group of girls and women about this topic.

“For many years, I’ve been reminding the women in the community that they are role models. That they should model self-esteem; that they should stop commenting on other women’s appearances and throw the beauty mags in the trash. As I do, I must admit that I sometimes feel like a fraud, because on occasions I’m paralysed by a tremendous lack of physical self-worth. So today, I want to acknowledge that we are all works in progress. I want you to know that sometimes it’s important to share, to look the monster in the face, to acknowledge its existence. Hiding what we are and projecting what we should be doesn’t always keep the monster at bay.

“Together, we are stronger. We work to overcome our upbringings; to outgrow the damaging fairy tales of our youth; to ignore the pressure from entire industries whose profits rely on our self-hate.

“And when you see the monster, remember to look it in the eyes and tell it that every second you lose worrying about your looks is a second you are not learning; it is a second you are not experiencing the world; it is a second you are not contributing to your communities in a positive way.

“When you don’t go to the park or to the beach because you are ashamed of how you look, remember the girls and boys that live in war-torn countries that are not allowed the joys of outdoors fun.

“In moments where you focus on your appearance, remember the girls that are kidnapped from their schools in countries where women are denied an education.

“Every moment you are unhappy with your shape or size, remember those who are paralysed, unable to walk, jump, or dance.

“When you starve yourself to reach unattainable standards of beauty artificially constructed by businesses, you are weakening your body and your mind. You are wasting away the precious moments you have and you are giving up your power.

“The obsession with beauty is death by a thousand cuts. Every micro decision is guided by meaningless worry that limits your future, your opportunities and your ability to experience the joys of pleasure.

“Because when you kiss your first boy or girl, you don’t want to be so caught up in your lack of self-worth that you forget to enjoy the kiss, that you forget that you deserve the pleasure of that moment. You don’t want to be so caught up in your lack of self-worth that you become an object of his or her desire, a grateful unworthy slave to his or her attention.

“Who you are has little to do with how you look. You are what you know, what you can do, the impact you have delivered, and the collection of experiences in your meaningful life.

“More than ever, this world needs your intellect, your cleverness, your resourcefulness, and your passion for making the world a better place for those who are less privileged than you.

“More than ever, this planet needs your kindness and your generosity. It needs those who reject the ‘I’ and celebrate the ‘we’. Those who reject hate, violence, and destruction for the sake of power and financial gain.

“You are the most powerful army in the world; you are the future of this planet. You cannot, you will not spend one more minute of your time looking in a mirror wishing you looked different. And if and when you do, you will have compassion and love for the monster; the victim in the mirror, the helpless slave to upbringing, culture and media. You will be kind to her, and then you will be brave, you will reject the victim, and become the fearless hero this world deserves. And you will reject it again and again and again until the voice inside your head that stands between you and your bright future can no longer be heard.

“Sometimes I need to remind myself that I’m not my reflection in someone’s eyes. That what is important; what is truly essential; what really matters about me is invisible to the eye.

“In those days I have to remind myself to live, to love, to laugh, to learn, and to lead.

“In those days remind yourself to live, to love, to laugh, to learn, and to lead.”

Leigh: Which authors had the most effect on your writing growing up?

When I was young, I was empowered and inspired by the stories and characters of a much-beloved author. Recently, I have discovered that although her books brought light to many, her life was filled with terrible hate and unbearable darkness. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces, and this book is my attempt to mend my wounds.

I honour Zimmer Bradley’s words as much as I firmly reject and object to her actions. The world is not black and white, and we rely on stories to try to make sense of the messiness. Stories matter but, in the end, history will judge us based on how we treat the most vulnerable people in the world, the ones who have nothing to give us in return. It’s my hope that my words find a way to contribute to my readers’ actions; Ahe’ey has certainly helped guide mine.

Leigh: What is your favorite motivational saying?

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – The Little Prince

Leigh: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

Website:  http://www.angeelseries.com

Blog: Blog for Angeel Series

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamieLeFay/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/angeelseries

Pinterest: Jamie Le Fay on Pinterest

Amazon Author Page: Author Profile at Amazon

Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.)  https://www.books2read.com/aheey/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34459933-ahe-ey

 

Thank you very much, Jamie, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Interview with Matthew Luddon, author of “The Revolutions of Caitlin Kelman”

Caitlin Kelman
Intrigue-Oriented

Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, Matthew!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a writer from New Zealand, currently juggling — like so many of us — writing with work and a young family. I am a stranger to sleep 🙂

Leigh: Which writers inspire you?

So many! In the past, I found myself inspired by great literary writers — Lydia Davis, Michael Ondaatje, Thomas Pynchon, Joan Didion, to name a few. These days, I’ve found myself much more inspired by those indie writers who have been doing the hard work of writing independently, year after year, without the prestige or support of a big-five publishing house. That sort of persistence is pretty remarkable.

In terms of YA writers, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about the Australian writer John Marsden’s series Tomorrow, When the War Began. That was a seminal series for me when I was a kid. It kind of has that perfect YA mix of excitement, depth and teen-drama. So the fact that someone could pull that off was inspiring, for sure.

Leigh: What’s your writing “Kryptonite”?

My life is full of distractions, from self-inflicted distractions (namely, the internet), to the more rewarding distraction of my fifteen-month-old daughter.

Leigh: What inspired you to write The Revolutions of Caitlin Kelman?

Since my mid-twenties, I’d been banging my head against the wall of literary-fiction-writing. Two years I ago, I suddenly felt this desperate need to write something fun, people would actually want to read (radical idea, huh?)

At the same time, as both a reader and a writer, I’ve always thought books should have a purpose — some deeper reason for existing in the world. So the story of The Revolutions of Caitlin Kelman, where a teenage girl finds herself drawn into quite radical political movements, really appealed to me.

Leigh: Give us some insight into Caitlin. What do you think is special about her? What matters most to her?

The most interesting thing about Caitlin to me is her uncertainty. She has these profound motivations, but every option available to her seems imperfect.  Unlike so many people in our culture, she’s not an ideologue. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t even really know what she believes.

At the same time, life happens, and Caitlin actually make decisions — and then live with those decisions. She’s never really sure if she’s making the world a better or worse place. I find this ordinary everyday uncertainty very compelling, as it’s the opposite in many ways of what we see in our political cultures (as true in New Zealand as it is the US).

Fiction-wise, I’m always drawn to books and writers that try to capture that uncertainty. It’s harder than the old ‘good versus evil’ formula, but I think it’s ultimately more rewarding.

Leigh: What drew you to the Dystopian genre?

Well, we live in interesting times! I think the best dystopian writing can cut through a lot of our preconceptions, and help us look at our societies with fresh eyes. While, of course, being entertaining to read! I also wanted to take the chance to write a dystopian novel that wasn’t really sure itself what ‘utopia’ looked like.

Leigh: Do you have a special time to write? How is your day structured?

After much experimentation, I’ve started getting up at 5.30am, which gives me a full hour before the little one wakes up. This is the crucial ‘pre-distraction’ time, which is generally when my best work happens. After making everyone breakfast, I’m then off to work at 8am. I sometimes find time in the evening for those tasks I can dip in and out off — like editing — but family comes first then, so that hour in the morning is key.

Leigh: If there’s one message you’d like readers to take away from your book, what would it be?

I want them to enjoy themselves! Anyway, a reader’s view of the message of the story will be far more interesting than anything I have to say.

Leigh: Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Who knows! To be honest, I’m still in toddler-land, so my biggest dreams revolve around eight hours of sleep and not having to change another nappy.

Leigh: How can readers find out more about you and your work?

Website: Zoe Rose Books (ZRB)

Amazon Author Page: Amazon Author Page of Matthew Luddon

Book Links: https://www.books2read.com/kelman1 (this has links about a dozen retailers)

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34820385-the-revolutions-of-caitlin-kelman

Thank you very much, Matthew, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Interview with Kayl Karadjian, Author of “Dragonsoul”

Kayl Karadjian 2

Today I’m interviewing the author of “Dragonsoul”, Kayl Karadjian. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for my author spotlight, Kayl.

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

First and foremost I am a philosopher, an aspect of myself that is deeply ingrained in anything I write. Ever since a young age I deigned to think of questions to reality and challenge our perception. I would consider myself a natural skeptic, a characteristic that spills into any endeavor. I am a very competitive person, but also a calm soul. A little bit of fire and ice packed into one form.

I’m a fitness enthusiast, but also a huge nerd, which throws many people off. I enjoy the outdoors and nature, yet I also love to stay home. I guess one could say that I am a well-balanced person, but I’m trying not to toot my own horn.

Leigh: What influences shaped your attraction to the Fantasy genre?

Ever since I was young I got into videogames and reading, particularly RPGs and anything sci-fi/fantasy. I started with things like Harry Potter, but also grew into a lot of sword and sorcery. As a teen I also got into a lot of anime/manga. All my tastes culminated into the fantasy writer I am today.

Leigh: What was your favorite book growing up and why?

Although my tastes have changed since, the War of the Ancients trilogy by Richard Knaak was my favorite. The trilogy overall was solid, with a compelling storyline, characters, and setting. For a younger reader, it was an immersive incursion into fantasy. On top of that, I was a big fan of Warcraft, which of course was a driving force into reading the novels. Having an intimate connection with the characters through the games made reading about them that much more enjoyable.

Leigh: Were there any authors whose work you disliked at first but grew into liking?

I have yet to change my mind from disliking to liking on any author so far, though I have more than a handful that I did the opposite with. Works that I initially dislike tend to stay that way with me.

Leigh: What are you currently writing and can you tell us anything about it?

I just finished the third entry in my Tales of Ashkar series, though we won’t see it out until later this year because I like to take my time editing this particular series. Now, I am starting on a sci-fi romance that has a bit of erotica in it. A strange deviation from my normal stuff, but as a fan of Nic Pizzolatto (the guy behind True Detective), I wanted to jump into a more noir-themed novel.

To summarize it without giving it away, imagine a dark romance centered around a giant monster attacking San Francisco.

Leigh: Zero is a villain who thinks himself a hero, making his earlier actions seem more tragic to me.  Can you give us more insight into Zero’s character?

When I started Dragonsoul, I approached Zero as a villain who had more to him, but at the same time I never intended for him to be such a tragic character nor have his arc end the way that it did. In the prologue, my intent was to establish Zero as an antagonist not bent on evil, but rather capture the root of the meaning antagonist.

The dictionary definition of antagonist is a character or force opposing the protagonist. Now, in most stories that comes down to the protagonist being the good guy and the antagonist being the bad or evil guy. With Zero, the intent was to have him be an obstacle to Denyth and Littlehorn, but not because he is evil.

Zero is both a product of his upbringing and the world around him. With the four main characters: Denyth, Littlehorn, Zero, and Nelai, I drew parallels between them all. The most prominent parallel is that between Denyth and Zero, and Littlehorn and Nelai.

In Zero’s case, he was a farmer just like Denyth. However, their upbringing was completely different. As a result, Zero grew to become the man that readers see in the first half of the novel. To be a part of The Deprived means shedding away everything that makes someone human. Zero is the incarnation of deprivation, which mirrors that of the Gloom and the region of Orin.

As the story unravels, Zero is forced to confront both his past and the part of himself that he locked away as a child. And in the end, the person who Zero hid the most from happened to be himself. By the time I was finished writing Dragonsoul, Zero, and just about every other character, became so much more than I could have foreseen.

Leigh: What other books have you written?

So far I’ve written five books. The first one is called Broken Blades Don’t Sing, the first entry in my Tales of Ashkar series, which is epic fantasy. Then came Halcyon’s Dream, the second installment. Following that I wrote Dragonsoul. After Dragonsoul, I set out to write the third book in the Tales of Ashkar series, while also writing a nonfiction memoir about my great grandfather titled Remembering Avedik: The True Story of a Genocide Survivor.

Leigh: Who designed the book cover for “Dragonsoul”?

The wonderful artist behind the cover is Radovan Zivkovic. I gave him a rough sketch of what I wanted, and he made the magic happen. You can see his stuff here: Radovan Zivkovic.

Leigh: If you could spend the day with a character from a fantasy novel, who would it be?

That’s a hard question to answer, but I would say Professor Snape. Setting aside my thoughts of Harry Potter, a Pandora’s Box best left unopened, Snape is one of my alltime favorite characters. On a superficial level I find his personality and character hilarious, and to go deeper, his character is one of the most tragic ones I’ve ever read. Spending a day with him, whether being scolded or not, would be a blast.

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website: Tales of Ashkar

Blog: Tales of Ashkar Blog

Facebook: Facebook Tales of Ashkar

Twitter: https://twitter.com/talesofashkar

Amazon Author Page: Amazon Page for Kayl Karadjian

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Kiglacius

Book Links: Dragonsoul on Amazon

Goodreads: Kayl Karadjian at Goodreads

Thank you, Kayl, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Interview with Victoria Hanlen

Victoria Hanlen

Today I’m delighted to interview the author of “The Trouble with Seduction”, Victoria Hanlen. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for my author spotlight!

It’s great to be here, Leigh! And I really appreciate the opportunity to discuss my books!

Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.

Okay. Where to start? There’s a lot of territory to cover here. 🙂

I grew up in a small town near San Francisco. We had Shetland ponies, Quarter horses, ducks, chickens, rabbits, miniature goats, sheep, cats and dogs. We also had scary King snakes, Tarantulas, lots of deer, bullfrogs, nasty yellow jackets, tics, and…the occasional well-fed flea.

When I was twelve I spent six weeks during the summer living with a family in Mexico. At fifteen I returned to attend the summer session at The University of Guadalajara. I was young enough that the other children in the family corrected my Spanish, and helped me pronounce the words with the right inflection and accent. They were very sweet and patient. I remember them demonstrating how to roll the ‘R’ in the word perro (dog), and then I’d try. We laughed a lot.

As an adult I’ve moved around a bit.  I love to travel and enjoy road trips. My mom told me some of my first words were, “Go by by.” I was itching to hit the road even then.

Besides writing, I’ve painted, decorated cakes, love making pies, was a national finalist in the Singer Sewing Contest, acted in Regional Theater and Shakespeare, played instruments, danced, and sang. I sang with the Houston Grand Opera and San Francisco Opera where, at last count, I’ve sung in seven languages.

Leigh: What attracted you to the historical romance genre?

Probably what attracts me most to the genre is its poetic language and the historical worlds of the stories. It’s a treat to sit down and read plain old history books. They’re like a tray of tasty little morsels that I can mentally chew on. Put a romance in one, and I’m a very happy camper.  I also like going to museums and visiting historical sites. Humans have been smart for a very long time. I enjoy discovering what people figured out hundreds, even thousands of years ago…like lead pipes in Pompeii—that a volcano buried in 79 A.D. Or a rifled canon that could be aimed and shot five miles…with accuracy…in 1864!

Leigh: Do you want each of your books to stand on their own or are you trying to build books with connections to each other?

Currently, my books have a similar title, and they’re set in the Victorian, mid—eighteen hundreds. They’re also loosely connected to one another in that the secondary characters in one book become the primary characters in the next. The reader will recognize the characters from one book to the other. But each book has its own story and can stand on its own.

Leigh: How did publishing your first book, “The Trouble with Misbehaving”, change your writing process?

Oh, my goodness, I could go on for days. Before I wrote Misbehaving I considered myself a pantser. When I  realized the story is basically a journey, I discovered The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. In his book he lays out the journey plot structure, the kinds of characters needed to make it work and their jobs. It made writing the story so much easier. I think it came out well. The Trouble With Misbehaving was a finalist in eight RWA chapter contests.

The Trouble With Seduction is basically a mystery. I struggled for a while trying to make the story work with the journey plot structure, but some things about the story just didn’t a fit.

Mysteries (or at least the mystery I wrote) have somewhat different requirements. I took several plotting classes, read up on all sorts of plotting techniques, tried this and that, until I finally found How To Write A Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey. His book was very helpful in finally making sense of my story and how to put it together. I especially like how he explained getting at the plot behind the plot and using a step sheet.

Seduction has a lot going on. Writing it was like fitting together a big puzzle with all sorts of pieces and parts to the story. The different clues and story lines had to be introduced at the correct time so as not to give away too much too soon, and build tension and romance. Frey’s step sheet really helped me line it all up and keep track of things.

So, long-story-short. I guess I’m now straddling the plotter-pantser line. I like the security of knowing where the story is going. But to capture all of the story, I still have to venture out into the great unknown to discover the gems and lessons my characters must learn.

Leigh: How do you select the names of your characters?

Since I write historical, I work to choose names that were used in the time period of my story. I find names for my characters in history books. Then I mix and match their first and last names. I research names on the internet. I read the obituaries for unusual names, and if I find one I like, I look it up to see if it was used in my novel’s time period. I have a great book called Names through the Ages by Teresa Norman. It gives male, female and surnames for different eras in Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, France and the US.

Some writers can’t begin their story until they’ve settled on names for their characters. I just begin, sometimes with the first name that I find in the era I’m writing. My characters’ names frequently change as I get to know them. I try to keep names from sounding too similar: ones that have the same number of syllables, same double letters or start with the same letter. I write the alphabet down the side column of a piece of binder paper and fill in the character names next to them to keep track of them.

Leigh: If a movie were being made of “The Trouble with Seduction”, which actors would you want to play Damen and Sarah?

Damen and Sarah had certain physical characteristics. As I wrote Seduction, I pictured characters who looked a lot like these two actors’ photographs, but dressed in Victorian period clothes. 🙂

DAMEN:  Victor Webster

SARAH:  Dianna Agron

Leigh: What are you currently working on?

I’m really excited about the three projects I have in the works. Two of them are set in the eighteen hundreds like Misbehaving and Seduction. Another is a time travel to the thirteen hundreds.

Leigh: How much research is involved in writing from a historical perspective?

Tons. But that’s me. I have to understand everything I can about the world where the story takes place. That being said, there are a number of things that I now know need to be investigated to fill out the world and characters.

Leigh: What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of being published traditionally against self-publishing?

I have enjoyed the fact that my publisher does all the up front work for cover art, editing, advising, placing the books on all the sales sites and much more. However, the author doesn’t have as much control over their book as in self-publishing. I was fortunate in that my publisher’s authors had already formed a Facebook group and were wonderful in helping and giving advice to a debut author.

I have not self-published, yet it seems more and more that writers who’ve been with traditional publishers are dipping their toe into that pool. Those who’ve already published traditionally usually have a name and a following. When they self-pub, usually their readers follow. They’ll have much more control over all the ingredients of making and marketing their book, and with higher royalties. But they also have to do everything themselves or pay others to do it for them.

Leigh: Do you have any advice for new romance writers just starting out?

If a writer wants to publish in the Romance genre, probably the quickest way to come up to speed is to join Romance Writers of America in the US and/or Romantic Novelists’ Association in the UK. They have the latest information on the industry and offer a wide variety of help to their members, from those just starting out to multi-published best selling authors.

Besides writing well enough to put together a good book, it helps if the writer can write fast. Additionally, these days an author needs to know how to market themselves and their books.

The above organizations have lots of classes, conferences and local chapters where you can learn the craft and get to know other writers. It may take a while to find critique partners, but they can be very helpful in developing and polishing your story. Plus, writing is a very solitary endeavor. It’s nice to have friends who are as dedicated and excited about writing as you are.

Leigh: How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website: Victoria Hanlen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaHanlen

Twitter: @victoriahanlen

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Hanlen/e/B01B22HUSO

Book Links:

UK

amazon.co.uk/Victoria-Hanlen/e/B01B22HUSO

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/author/victoria-hanlen/id1062624694?mt=11

USA

http://www.amazon.com/Victoria-Hanlen/e/B01B22HUSO

https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/victoria-hanlen/id1062624694?mt=11

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/victoria+hanlen?

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?Query=victoria+hanlen

Google Books: The Trouble with Seduction

Goodreads: Victoria Hanlen at Goodreads

 

Thank you very much, Victoria, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

And thank you, Leigh, for having me on your blog! It’s been fun!! 🙂