Podcast Interview on The Kota, Writing, and More

What do you get when you put 2 musicians, a writer, a recording device, and a few beers together?
The best bar conversation you’re ever going to eavesdrop.

Many thanks to Justin Stover of Blue Collar Songwriting for the rare opportunity to be interviewed alongside my brother, Christian Somerville, who co-created The Kota Series worlds with me.  This was tons of fun.

May or may not contain:
Stories of how The Kota originated
The influences of family on creativity
My writing history
Why I love indie publishing
Connections between indie writing and indie music
Taylor Swift shout-outs

Enjoy!

https://bluecollarsongwriting.com/2016/05/24/bcs-podcast-sunshine-christian-somerville/

TPH Promo

#AuThorsday with Anita Kovacevic

61iIdnEKx0L._UX250_Today I’d like to welcome Anita Kovacevic, author of both an adult book, The Threshold, and children’s books, including Winky’s Colours: A Penguin’s Story.

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

My adult books are almost always a mix of reality and fantasy, with elements of fantasy, paranormal, even horror. (This is not done intentionally, but makes editing a real challenge.)

My children’s books stem from storytelling while teaching English (my full-time job/vocation), so they always have a semi-hidden educational element in them, empowering children (and adults) to stay positive, inspire and strive for improvement.

Still haven’t published a poetry book, but it follows the same pattern.

Do you find that your children’s books are easier to write or come more naturally, since you’re a teacher, than your adult fiction?

Well, I wouldn’t say they are easier to write at all.  They are shorter, that’s for sure.  They are much easier to tell, because storytelling is driven by the children’s energy and my teaching experience and it is direct communication.  When I write children’s books, it is much more difficult to find the right level of phrasing things, to keep it challenging enough, yet not too complicated for children, and to keep the rhythm of telling more flowing.  When it is storytelling, I adapt my voice, phrasing, even noise level to suit the kids, and their interruptions do not bother me – I welcome them, because they are a sign of active listening.  When you write it, there is nobody to bounce it back from in a way.

What is definitely easier with children’s books is that they are so positive, magic comes easy, and writing and telling them is pure joy.  With adult books, as with the adult world, there is so much ugliness, negativity, stress, that it inevitably sneaks into your writing.  I cannot help but infiltrate some magic or paranormal into that, too, for balance, which makes editing awfully hard because I keep hearing ‘mixed genres don’t sell’ and ‘keep it simple for your target audience’!  But I write what I feel and because I need to.  I have never been a business person.

I completely sympathize with what you’re saying about adult fiction.  So what are you working on currently?

Teaching mostly, and trying to preserve the quality of my family life and friendships. 🙂

As for writing, I have three WIPs going on – a finished adult novel (waiting to be edited) about a family which goes through fundamental changes, moving to a small place to find peace when – lo and behold…  The second one is a chick lit book about a daydreamer looking for love in all the wrong places.  The third one is a children’s book about a little squirrel who discovers the beauty of being able to do things herself.  Editing for another author, helping some author groups and book clubs with promotion services (hi, wonderful people, thanks for having me – you all know who you are) interviewing and reviewing – these are all just ‘side gigs.’

Busy, busy.  🙂  Are you an author who makes time every day for writing?  Or do you just get to it whenever you have time around everything else?

It would be such a pleasure to be able to set a time for it every day.  I try to, definitely.  But family life comes first.  My husband is really supportive, but our kids have their needs and they come first.  Day job, too.  Then you squeeze in whatever time is left.  I suppose we all do, unless we live only off our writing, but I don’t.

What is your favorite scene you’ve written?  Can you give us a peek?

There are quite a few, even the ones that gave me nightmares.  But I will share a sweet one from a children’s book, Winky’s Colours, when a boy penguin, who (spoiler alert) almost drowns in an oil spill while searching the world for colours, wakes up and sees – her.  This scene is simply wonderful when I do storytelling – the children’s reactions are precious…

Winky wakes up.  Someone is moving in the igloo and it isn’t Sarah.  The walk is funny and kind of familiar.  He opens his eyes.  Everything is still fuzzy, but he manages to see something.
‘Colours?’ he whispers.
‘No, I’m Betty.’ The voice is snappy and it speaks fast.
‘Colours?’ he says a bit louder.
‘No, no, no, no, no. Be-tty! I’m Betty!’ She sounds a bit angry now.
‘Co-lours!’ Winky said, thinking he is still dreaming.
A fin grabs his lock of hair, pulls it upward and raises his head.
‘Oh, come on, snap out of it! I’m Betty. B-E-T-T-Y. And your name is?’
Two curious green eyes are flashing at his face like road signs.
(From Winky’s Colours)

That sounds quite cute.  Do you read to your students and try out stories on them before you publish?

This scene comes right after a cliffhanger, so I love it.

In all honesty, every story or rhyme I write for children was originally written for my lessons or my children.  I never write to publish.  Some of my teaching colleagues are actually the ones who have encouraged me to even think of myself as an author.  When I read or tell stories to my students, I never tell them they are mine, because I want honest feedback.  They don’t even know I publish.  Kids love stories; they don’t care who wrote them.  They train my ego well.

Haha.  What is one question about your books that you wish more people would ask?

‘Where can I get it?’

Hahaha… No, seriously.  That is the question.

Yep, that’s the one we all want to hear!  Haha.  Where CAN we get it?  Do you have a preferred retailer?

Not really.  My books are available on Lulu, Amazon, Kobo, iBookstore, Barnes&Noble, Nook…  Readers choose what suits them.

Who inspires you to write?

Everything and everyone, words, scents, my family, my students, my friends, images, nature, music…  The Threshold was inspired by that same word – threshold, mentioned casually in a landscape description in another book I was reading.  I had to put that book aside and wrote every night till The Threshold was finished.

There is a story in everyone and everything around us.  I teach creative writing and have a method which gets students to write a three-word sentence into a 40-word sentence in 3 minutes – it just takes focus, imagination and some empathy.  We all have that!  I never lack inspiration, only time and peace.  If inspiration comes in abundance, even insomnia kicks in, just to make time for writing.  But creating something out of nothing like that really fills me with positive energy.  I think writing makes me a better person – it makes me happy, clears my head and heart, and that makes me a better wife, mother, friend, teacher… I hope.

What a great way to look at it – creating helping us to be better people!  And it’s amazing what little things can often trigger inspiration.  Can you tell us a little more about The Threshold?  

It’s the first thing I wrote as an author – it actually kept me up till it was finished.  It’s a slightly creepy urban fantasy about a man who builds himself a house to be proud of, only to show well-hidden vanity.  In the process, he violates several laws of nature (trying to avoid spoilers), for which he pays dearly after crossing the threshold of his finished house.  The threshold hides a curse – makes you face…. No, not telling you! 🙂 The house remains untouched, infamous and owned by the city.  Many years later, another media tycoon of the modern times tries to acquire ownership rights to that same house, by striking a deal with the city leaders to organise a ghost-hunting reality show, which would draw attention and tourists to the city.  As is often the case, a completely average person, a curious student finally…
Well, read the book!  It’s really short!  And, in the words of Evie from The Mummy movie – ‘No harm ever came from reading a book!’

Thank you, Anita, for sharing! 

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WHERE TO FIND Anita Kovacevic:
Website:  Anita’s Haven
Goodreads:  Anita Kovacevic
Amazon Page:  Anita Kovacevic
Facebook:  Anita’s Haven
Twitter: @Anitas_haven

#TheFourFriday – Phantasya

Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂

⊕⊕⊕⊕

This week, Phantasya.
I’ve been reading my books out loud to my boyfriend as part of a deal I made (he “reads” my books; I take up running).  If you’ve read Pharmakon, the book centered around the world of Phantasya, then you might understand why I think it’s funny he risked making any kind of “deal” with me.

…But anyway…

I like rereading my books every so often, and doing so aloud (to a somewhat captive audience) especially makes it interesting.  These books are based on childhood stories, and I keep coming across things that I forget have real-life origins.

This time around, I realized that Phantasya in particular is a planet where the world-building came pretty naturally from our childhood play.  Where we lived as kids had a giant sand pit dug out from when they did construction on our house.  This sand pit was surrounded by the forest that we played in 10+ hours a day.  The contrast was really cool – you could play on fresh sand one second and jump off into maple leaves and ferns in a single bound.  I’m QUITE sure this is what inspired my brother’s basic idea for Phantasya – a desert planet but with a rich forest running around it.

I’m also quite sure Tatooine was an inspiration.  😉

Aside from our kick-ass fort (our Kota Warrior base), the sand pit was the one constant “setting” we used when we played.  I think that might be why Phantasya/Pharmakon always holds a special place in my heart.

Alas, I have no pictures of the sand pit, but here you can see the woods that definitely inspired Phantasya’s forest.

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I was pretty darn cute. My brother was a butterball. Yes, I know I look like my mother. 🙂

#TheFourFriday – Abduction

Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂

This week, Abduction.
Kaly is responsible for the original creation of this character.  I think he was part genie, part demon, or something…hence the costume.   When we played, I remember he was always the ultimate creepy Bad Buy.  He was the evil Dominion minion who could possess any one of us at any given time (assuming it was convenient to our storylines), and it was handy that anyone could play him because he could take on anyone’s body.

Over the years and as The Kota evolved, Abduction became more and more important in my head.  I think the fact that he always creeped me out gave me an excuse to make him a worse and worse person in the books.  And, how I eventually use him (avoiding spoilers) is one of my darker plotlines, I think.

But this is what he looked like in the beginning.

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#TheFourFriday – Beathabane

Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂

This week, Beathabane.
I remember being really interested in twins when I was little. (Confession: I might not have grown out of this.)  The idea of “good twin” and “bad twin” obviously stuck as far as Cruelthor and Beathabane are concerned.  I’m pretty sure my brother helped me develop Beathabane’s character, although I’m totally to blame for this character drawing:

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Yeah… He’s undergone a bit of modification over the years.  Name changed.  Shrunk him.  Changed nationality.  And good lord, why did we think 24 was old?

Sometimes I’m asked who my favorite character is.  Everyone naturally assumes Bullseye – and that’s partly true – but I’ve always really liked Beathabane.  And, since not a lot of his story gets told in the main series (he has an appearance in The Kota and then [spoilers] 😉 ) I decided early on that he would be the main character in one of the Kota Shorts.

So, now that’s happening.  It’s still a work in progress, but I like it already.  The Poet Heroic will be released on Christmas and is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Poet Heroic Cover Front

#TheFourFriday – Me as Bullseye

Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂

This week, Me as Bullseye.
I’ve been putting this one off – not because there aren’t similarities, not because I don’t have anything to say, but mostly because this character is so, so personal to me.  In a lot of ways, writing/developing/evolving Bullseye was my life-saving form of catharsis through my late teens and into my early 20s.  I took what I was feeling and dumped it all into her (poor, fictitious soul).  Bullseye’s pain and depression and struggle for something “better” was very much my own struggle, and getting it all onto paper via my alter-ego not only made the character richer but also really helped me personally.

Here’s a sum-up.

Books 1-4 very much reflect the 4 stages of life I was in while I wrote them.  There’s something almost autobiographical about how things line up.

  • Book 1 = High school, plain and simple.  The Dominion (…no way of sugar-coating this…) was my fictionalized version of my own personal hell.  Taking this out on Bullseye meant the Dominion nearly broke her.  It haunted her.  The people there left emotional wounds.  Etc. Etc.  This was all obviously amplified (ACS wasn’t so bad that it was a murderous tyranny), but my emotional upheaval during that time was very, very much fodder for Bullseye’s journey.
  • Book 2 = College.  As Bullseye allows herself to start a new life on Ebon (more literally, of course), so I tried to move forward when going to college.  It was a new environment for both of us.  New people.  New ways to learn to care about the world and people around us.  New challenges that had nothing to do with the crap of the past.
    Cliqani was largely based on my freshman year roommate, who was kind and generous and for some reason put up with my withdrawn, moody, wounded-puppy self.  She helped me heal more than I think I ever told her, but I put a lot of her into Cliqani.
  • Book 3 = Adventure period after college.  Once I/Bullseye stopped being such a mess, the big challenge came in restoring relationships and figuring out who to be.  It’s rough to change people’s perceptions of you once you HAVE changed.  But it leaves you with a great feeling of personal peace once you know you’ve got your shit at least semi-together.  I used this time to branch out and have fun, and I tried to let Bullseye have that breather too…for a while.
  • Book 4 = Adulthood/now.  So, once all of the above was sorted for myself and my alter-ego… What did I want?  You get to a point in your late 20s/early 30s when you’re kind of supposed to have a plan.  Bullseye – it felt very naturally as I was writing – had never dared to make plans for a life of “happily ever after.”  She and I are just not wired optimistically.  But, at some point (as Rave points out to her and as my brother pointed out to me), you have to let go and find SOMETHING you want.  So, once we both figured out what we wanted… I guess we’re both in that place now.  No spoilers. 😉

BullsandMe

#TheFourFriday – The Picture

Every Friday, I’m posting something about how the real life “The Four” overlap with the fictional four Kota Warriors.
As some of you know, The Kota Series is based on what “The Four” (myself, my brother, and our childhood best friends Kaly and Luke) played as kids.  Each of us is represented by one of the four Kota Warriors (Bullseye, Rave, Tigris, Whitewolf).  So, I’ll be sharing personal quirks that carried over into fiction, fun/weird stories we played as kids, our childhood drawings, pictures related to The Four and The Kota, etc.
Should be fun, and it’ll give you an idea of how weird or little minds were as we created this story that, years later, turned into my book series.  🙂


This week, The Picture.
When my mom first started babysitting Kaly and Luke, of course she took pictures of us sweet little cherubs.  Little did we know, however, that one picture in particular would lead to years of repeating the pose.  Pretty much every time we’ve gotten together over the years (…er, 2 decades?), we take a picture of our aging selves in the same order.

So you’d think I could remember the order, right?  But no.  Pretty much every single time, I confuse our arranged order with how I arrange things in my head for The Kota Warriors – Me/Bullseye, Christian/Rave, Kaly/Tigris, and Luke/Whitewolf.  OR, you’d think mom would have arranged us at least by age.  But again no.  The order actually goes Christian, Luke, Kaly, Me.

We were pretty stinkin’ cute (ignore the kid on my lap…he was a one-time thing).  Sometimes, we take the pose less seriously.  And recently, Kaly has added the next generation into the picture.

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The Four

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