#AuThorsday with Amie Irene Winters

AmieIreneWintersHeadshot.jpgToday I’d like to welcome Amie Irene Winters, bestselling author of the Strange Luck series.   

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

Dark.  Strange.  Adventurous. P erfect for fans of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Neil Gaiman, and all things supernatural.  If you love magic, wizards, oddities, teen fantasy, mythology, supernatural creatures, young adult dark fantasy, and other realms, then the world of THE STRANGE LUCK SERIES awaits you!

I love when the “fans of” list clearly sets the tone and feel of the story.  Are these elements things that you look for as a reader as well?  What are some favorite books in your genre?

Thanks.  I tend to look at the description first, but if I’m still not sure about the book I’ll check out the “fans of” component.  I included titles/authors in my description because people have told me that my books are similar to those.

I love anything by H.P Lovecraft and Neil Gaiman.  I’m really into gothic horror literature right now and have been reading authors who influenced Lovecraft.

I’m a Lovecraft fan too.  What are you working on currently?

I’m finishing up the final edits for the third (and last book) in the Strange Luck Series—A Darling Secret.  All the books in this YA Fantasy series center around a specific theme. Strange Luck (Book I) focused on the value of memories and identity.  The Nightmare Birds (Book II) focused on fear.  And, A Darling Secret (Book III) will focuses on inner strength.  A Darling Secret will be released fall 2017.  I can’t wait for the series to finally be complete!

Congratulations on nearly being finished!  Did you always plan to focus each book on a specific theme, or was that something that developed as you went along? Are those particular themes important to you?

I didn’t plan it.  The themes developed as I wrote.  When I write I don’t plot everything out.  I have a very general idea of what I’m going to do and the rest I come up with as I go.  For example, I wanted to write a book about a world built using stolen memories.  That was the general idea I had for Strange Luck.  The rest took form as I wrote.  A lot of the time I don’t even know what is going to happen in the story or to my characters, but that’s part of the fun.

All the themes I discuss in my books are important to me and are largely based on my own experiences/thoughts, like how we are our memories.

I’m a plotter myself, but your approach sounds like a fun way to create.  When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

It sounds counter-intuitive, but I take a break from writing.  I’ll go for a walk, hit an aerobics class, paint.  Whatever it takes so that I feel recharged and can look at my work with a fresh eye.  Sometimes it might take a few hours.  Other times it might be a few weeks.

Do you find that your method brings a flood of ideas back to you so you start writing again, or do you eventually just decide to start writing again and hope ideas come?

More often than not, I’ll get a flood of ideas.  This is why I always have a notebook with me or my cell phone, where I can take verbal notes.  I also get inspired by reading.  I’ll be sitting there half paying attention to the story I’m reading and then suddenly, an idea will come.  All my paper bookmarks are covered in notes.  Lol.

Ha!  That’s a great idea for bookmarks.  Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

Definitely!  Since I’ve always been an outdoorsy girl, I found it easy for my protagonist to be one too.  Daisy’s a bit of a tomboy who loves hiking and camping.  The trails she hikes and places she goes are based on some of my favorite real-life places in California (where I grew up).  Almost all my characters are inspired by people I know.  Even some of my old pets I had growing up!  There’s a lot of other secret things I throw in too, like how my experience as an aerial acrobat influenced writing The Nightmare Birds, which is centered around a dark circus.

If you are curious about more secrets behind my books, check these out:

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Strange Luck

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Nightmare Birds

Aerial Acrobat?!  That’s definitely a unique experience to draw ideas from!  When real-life people inspire you to create characters, do you ever tell the real people?  And do you ever encounter random people with quirks you use in your characters? 

Yes, I do tell certain people that a character was inspired by them.  They always get a kick out of it.  And yes, I do encounter random people with funny quirks that I’ll implement into my stories.  An example of both is Christine (the German aerial acrobat) from The Nightmare Birds.  In real-life Christine was a German foreign exchange who stayed with me and my family in high school for a semester.  She was obsessed with the color orange. Everything she owned was orange and she only ate orange food.  She also had really long brown hair, which she always chewed on like a beaver.  You’d be standing there talking to her and she would start chewing on her hair like it was a meal.  I always thought both of those quirks about her were funny, so I used them in the story.

That is funny.  Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

Probably Harry Potter.  It’s one of my favorite series of all time, but I think J.K. Rowling is more than deserving, especially after all that she has been through.  She’s truly an inspiration and a remarkable person.

Many authors seem to feel that way about Harry Potter and Rowling.  Why do you think her stories make SUCH an impact on not only readers, but authors in particular?

J.K. Rowling effortlessly invites you into her magical world, which leaves a delightfully whimsical lasting impression on any child or adult.  I think it’s impactful on authors because the story resonates across multiple genres.

Thanks, Amie, for sharing!

WHERE TO FIND Amie Irene Winters: 
Website:  www.amieirenewinters.com
Goodreads: Amie Irene Winters
Amazon Page: Amie Irene Winters
Facebook:  Amie Irene Winters
Twitter: @AmieIWinters

#AuThorsday with Calvin Demmer

calvindemmer-1Today I’d like to welcome Calvin Demmer, one of my favorite short story writers and author of the Dark Celebrations series.   

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

I currently spend the majority of my time writing short fiction.  As a relatively new writer, this gives me the opportunity to experiment a bit more with different genres and styles.  But I’d say most of my work falls under the speculative fiction umbrella, leaning towards the darker side of things.

Having read some of your shorts, I definitely agree about your work leaning towards the darker side, and I love that you play around with genres.   In my experience, writing shorts is a very different process from writing longer works.   If you start writing longer works (a novel, let’s say), what have you learned by writing shorts that will carry over to longer work? 

I’ve learned so much… But some of the major areas are pacing, not overloading with exposition at the beginning, and keeping the story tight.  With short fiction you’re always focused on making every word count and have a purpose.  I think that is a great skill to carry forward to any other works.

Agreed.  What are you working on currently?

My main focus is writing short stories and flash fiction then sending them to various markets.  I was fortunate to get published in a few places in 2016 and hope to continue that in 2017.  I also have a side-project, which are stories I write in my Dark Celebrations series.  These are short stories that I write for pure enjoyment with no restrictions. They’re really about having fun with the story and are usually written when I need a break from the main focus.  I’m also looking into some of my older stories with the idea of maybe putting some together for a possible future collection.  This is a slow process as many of them do require some work.  And then I’m also playing around with ideas for possible longer works.

Have you ever started a story or even finished a story and just not liked it, so you toss it?  Or do you always find a way to use a story? 

I’ve tossed a few away.  I’ve also made stories work in the past, but I don’t like doing that and don’t anymore.  There is always a fresh idea.  When I started writing, I probably wrote just over 200,000 words that I never used.  But I knew beforehand I likely wouldn’t use any of it as it was more for practice than anything else.

That’s a lot of practice!  What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

One of the things I’ve learned is that the editing process is as important as the initial first draft.  In the beginning, I neglected the editing side a bit.  I now separate the two processes and give them equal attention.  It’s a lot of fun during the first draft.  Everything flows, usually, and it’s exciting to get to the next scene.  Editing was a bit more labor intensive for me.  However, it is where I can shape my story, give it direction, and make the story shine.  As I get better at editing, I am starting to enjoy it more and more.  I’ve also found that it helps to give myself a break from a story after the first draft and then tackle the work from a more critical standpoint when it isn’t so fresh.

Great advice.  I’ve read a lot of books that could be great if the editing was better, and it’s an extremely important step that authors need to pay attention to.  I’m glad you’ve found a way to enjoy editing (and it shows in your work that you take your time), but did you have to work at being critical of your own work, or does that come naturally to you?  I know some authors struggle with that.

It comes easy to me.  I battle myself quite a bit on some stories.  There is a good and bad side to that.  Sometimes, the stories never see the light of day because of it.  Other times, the stories really come out great and shine.

When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

I find that having more than one project on the go works for me.  I guess that’s easier when you’re focusing on a lot of shorter works, but even if I throw some longer projects into the mix it would still be a formula I use.  I like to be able to switch to something different if I get frustrated or hit a brick wall with one thing.  This way the writing never stops.

That’s a good system.  When you’re working on more than one story at a time, do you find that thinking about one leads you to ideas for the others?  I imagine that would help keep the creative juices flowing, rather than being stuck in one story.

It does, mostly because your mind is always active and gets used to thinking like that.  I’ve been working on a story before when an idea for something else pops into my mind.  Depending on how interesting and complex the idea is, I might make a note of it.  But usually, the good ideas never really disappear.

Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?

When I started just about everything I read and enjoyed made me jealous.  I was amazed by some of the epic works like Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series.  Books like Richard Matheson’s I am Legend and Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle also left me in awe.  But as I started to write more and more, I realized that it wasn’t so much jealousy but rather an inner desire to create my own world and characters that was growing within.  These types of works then became inspiration that fuelled me to keep on improving, so that I may also one day create my own colorful worlds and characters.

(That’s always where I hope authors will take this question – turning it to inspiration.) 🙂  Even though your work is mostly on the dark side, do you get inspiration from all over the place, or just stick to certain genres?   How important is being well-rounded as a reader, to you?   

That’s a tough one.  Some people say you should stick to your genre and focus, while others say reading more diverse will make you a better writer.  I don’t know the answer to that, but as for myself, I read almost everything.  I do spend majority of the time in the genres I enjoy, but I also like the challenge of reading things I normally wouldn’t.  As for the inspiration, I get it from everything.  Sometimes works that are not in my genre will trigger an idea.  I would hate to be closed to any avenue that could provide fresh inspiration.

Thanks, Calvin, for sharing!

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WHERE TO FIND Calvin Demmer: 
Website:  www.calvindemmer.com
Goodreads: Calvin Demmer
Amazon Page: Calvin Demmer
Facebook:  Calvin Demmer
Twitter: @CalvinDemmer

#AuThorsday with Danielle E. Shipley

7021985Today I’d like to welcome Danielle E. Shipley, fantasy author of the Wilderhark Tales novellas, the novel Inspired, and the book we’re here to talk about – The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale, book #1 from the Outlaws of Avalon trilogy.  

Can you give us your quickest description of your books?

My Outlaws of Avalon trilogy in brief: Camelot’s heroes and Sherwood’s most wanted are magically alive, conditionally immortal, and ingeniously incognito in a modern day Renaissance Faire.  Enter Allyn-a-Dale, a minstrel dropped in (yes, literally) from a far-off fantasy world.  Cue adventures (and misadventures) galore!

I’m looking forward to reading this!  What gave you this idea?

It came from one of my family’s visits to the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha, Wisconsin.  We’d made a point for years of going once every summer – and I would go on to work on cast as a Town Crier from 2012 through 2014 – but 2010 was the first time I encountered their player portraying Robin Hood.  I was thrilled to fangirling pieces, and couldn’t help but half-wonder, half-hope:  What if there were some way that was really him?

That’s great fuel for the imagination!  What are you working on currently?

I’m juggling a few things at the publishing stage.  My next Outlaws of Avalon project falls in between novels; look for my e-novella tribute to Dickens, “An Avalon Christmas Carol”, to go live on Amazon in December!  Also coming soon, my best friend/writer buddy Tirzah Duncan and I have a co-authored short story coming out in an “Arcane Arts” anthology; expect necromancy with attitude.  And of course I’ll be fiddling with Outlaws of Avalon 2 right up until its release in March 2017.  Whether I’ll ever pencil in a space on the schedule for breathing is yet to be determined.

Busy, busy.  Do you like collaborating in the writing process?

With the people in my head, yes.  With people outside of me?  I’m much more selective about that.  Too many awful group project experiences in college.  *glowers into the past*

I hear ya.  What is your favorite scene you’ve written?   Can you give us a peek?

My favorite scene from The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale… That’s gotta be when the Merry Men’s road trip really starts rolling.  My poor characters and I were still exhausted from the chapter before (car shopping is stressful!) and in a kind of grumpy place all ‘round, until Allyn— Well, you asked for a peek, did you not?

“I’m just saying,” Will continued, “that it would make it easier for me to stay alert if the rest of you could make some sort of effort to keep the atmosphere a little more lively.”
Little John answered with a yawn.
Sighing with frustration, Will gripped the steering wheel harder and glared past the windshield. From the back of the van came a soft, musical chuckle, followed by the sound of a gently plucked guitar. And over the strings, a voice that sang:
Little John yawns,
His eyes drooping half-closed.
But small wonder he’s thinking
Of having a doze:
For we’ve ridden this road
Half as long as it feels —
(Time both quartered and doubled,
When traveling on wheels) —
And it’s been a most tiresome,
Dull sort of ride.
So have your yawn, Little John.
Will — eyes wide.”

The song goes on, and it’s just so perfectly Allyn at his cheekiest that it never fails to brighten my mood.

Very clever!  Do you enjoy writing a lot of humor into your stories?

Oh, absolutely.  My sense of drama has darkened with age, but my sense of comedy is still showing its roots.  When you’ve been raised on Bugs Bunny and slapstick chapter books, playing for laughs comes naturally.

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

I’m all about my characters, so I’m always hungry for readers to want to know more about them. “What does Allyn think of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?” (Answer: Innovative; strange; admittedly fun to wail along to.) “Would Will Scarlet rather go hungry for a day or do his grocery shopping naked?” (Answer: Food and nudity are two of his favorite things, so…) Things like that. The deep stuff.

Haha.  Since you use some previously fictionalized characters, do you try to stay consistent with those known personalities, or do you more make them your own, or a mix?

That’s the blessing and curse of taking on such longstanding legends: There’s a good thousand years of material to draw from!  Fortunately, with so much variation already out there, I was free from thinking that my retelling had to be any one particular way to be valid.  So I reached into the canonical heap, selected the bits I felt like working with, then let the characters in question show me how they wanted to manifest this time around.

In a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?

In a perfect world, my Merry Men would be here and (in between hanging out with me) could play themselves.  They are professional actors, after all.

Good point and not an answer many authors can give!  Who do you think would do best onscreen?

Will Scarlet, hands down.  The man knows his angles, and would bring the energy nonstop.  Seriously.  Good luck turning the energy off.

Thank you, Danielle, for sharing!

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WHERE TO FIND Danielle E. Shipley: 
Website:  www.deshipley.com
Goodreads: Danielle E. Shipley
Amazon Page:  Danielle E. Shipley
Facebook:  Danielle E. Shipley, Author
Twitter: @DEShipley

#AuThorsday with Pam Elise Harris

B1DoQJEPHnS._UX250_Today I’d like to welcome Pam Elise Harris,  editor extraordinaire and author of Oblivion.

Can you give us your quickest description of your book?

Oblivion is the story of six acting students trying to achieve greatness despite the obstacles in their paths.

What genre would you say Oblivion fits into?

Contemporary fiction.

What are you working on currently?

Mostly, I’m working on my freelance editing projects.  I edit for Booktrope among other clients.  One of my clients is actually a real estate attorney.  He’s doing continuing education courses that I am editing.

On the writing side, I just won my fourth National Novel Writing Month this past November.  I am a hardcore NaNoer, having completed every NaNo and Camp NaNo since Oblivion in 2012.  I am currently developing my second novel The Truth Will Set Me Free, which I normally describe as “Woman running for her life meets man who wants to save the world.”  I am also working on a guide for newbie authors on working with an editor and finding time to write the last book of my trilogy.

Busy.  🙂 The guide for newbies is an interesting idea.  Are you doing that because you see so many mistakes being made by others, so you want to offer specific, other direction?

It’s not so much that I’m seeing mistakes as much as I’m encountering authors who don’t know how the process works.  The guide is meant to offer them direction.  It will take them through the process from beginning to end, giving them helpful tips.  For example, one of the main problems I encounter is authors who don’t read their work through before sending it to an editor.  Authors can catch so many errors just by doing that and it saves the editor time from figuring out what the author means.  This may be something that never occurs to the author, but it’s actually really important.  Another issue is that newbie authors often aren’t aware of the type of edit they want, and often times it could be a deeper edit than they expected.

What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?

Don’t rush the editing process.  Really take the time to perfect your story.  Your editor is there to help you.  Don’t be afraid to let him or her help you.

I have to ask – as an editor, are you really tough on your own work right away, or do you let yourself write loosely and then go clean it up when you’re done?

Yes, I am tough on my own work right from the start.  I am my own worst critic.  I try not to clean it up as I go because you’re not supposed to do that for NaNo, but typos are evil and must be destroyed.  I’m always cleaning it up where I can.

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

A lot of the places in Oblivion are actually real.  I wish more people would ask about the stories behind them.

Cool – Can you give one such story behind a location?

Oblivion is set in 2012.  I have a timeline with the actual dates that each scene occurs on.  So, it turned out that during the dates in Oblivion there was an actual convention called I-CON on a local college campus.  I-CON spans many fandoms, but my husband and I did actually attend for the Doctor Who programming.  Well, one of my characters is a massive Whovian, so I figured he would actually go to this.  Any programming referenced in the book is the actual programming from the convention that year.  Even the food choices mentioned were what they actually had available.

That is a really cool way to add detail.  Who inspires you to write?

Usually, it’s more of a what than a who.  I get a lot of my ideas from movies or songs.  Sometimes I’ll IMDB an actor and suddenly get an idea.  (That’s actually what happened for my Awethology piece which became this past November’s NaNo.)  I also take a lot of inspiration from Jonathan Larson.  He had an amazing way with words.

Interesting.  So would you say you’re visually stimulated? (Also, who was the actor?)

I don’t know if I’d say I’m visually stimulated because it’s more the story in a movie or song that inspires me or some aspect of it.  Something just sparks.  And the actor in question was Ansel Elgort.  I had just seen Paper Towns where (spoiler) he has a cameo.  So, I went home and IMDBed him, and I found out that he was originally from New York where I’m from and he’s a trained ballet dancer.  My Awethology/NaNo piece just took off from there.

When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?

I don’t think about it.  I just keep writing.  Just getting ideas down is the important thing, not how good they are.  If you just keep writing, something good will come out if it eventually.

Do you use your personal experiences in your writing?

To some extent I think that everyone does.  But I don’t use the events of my life, so much as character traits.  All six POV characters in Oblivion have an aspect of my personality.  A lot of the places I use in my books are real places that are or have been part of my daily life.

Thanks, Pam, for sharing!

25637391WHERE TO FIND Pam Elise Harris:
Goodreads:  Pam Elise Harris
Amazon Page:  Pam Elise Harris
Facebook:  Pam Elise Harris
Twitter: @Pams_Prose

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/

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