Author Interview

Author Interview with Mike Baldwin

Dream Killer

Good Morning! Today's author interview is Mike Baldwin, an author who is a former sportswriter who now writes mysteries

Why do you feature female lead characters?

Mike: I enjoy writing dynamic women. Plus, it’s a literary no-brainer to sprinkle in a little romance to encourage romance novel readers to try a mystery. In "Dream Killer", the star is Veronica Townsend, a highly successful sports agent in a male dominated profession.

What is the intended audience for your book?

Mike: Anyone age 15 to 90 who enjoys a fast-paced mystery packed with fun characters, a story full of twists and turns. Like any good whodunit, can you figure out who did it?

Why do you specialize in mysteries?

Mike: I’ve always loved a well-written mystery that takes readers on a spellbinding journey. As a kid, I was an Agatha Christie addict. . . Many popular TV shows actually are mysteries, shows like “Major Crimes,” “Law & Order” and “Cold Case.” I contend many mystery fans enjoy a captivating plot to discover the why (motive) as much as the (who).

What makes "Dream Killer" stand out from the crowd?

Mike: The final 50 pages is a shocking conclusion that compels the reader to examine a “social” issue far too often swept under the carpet.

What is a fun fact about your books?

Mike: Readers experience diverse settings. "Dream Killer" is set in Burlington, a farm community in southeastern Kansas. My next novel is set on a college campus in Wichita Falls, Texas. My fall/winter is a classic whodunit. An NFL owner is murdered a few weeks after his team wins the Super Bowl, a story that’s set in Hollywood and Watts.

What are your all-time favorite books?

Mike: Four of my favorites:

  1. "To Kill a Mockingbird"
  2. "The Green Mile"
  3. "The Help",
  4. And the book that got me hooked on mysteries, Agatha Christie’s classic “Then There Were None.”

I admire John Grisham’s storytelling talent. Because I favor female lead characters my favorite Grisham novel is "The Pelican Brief".

If inspiration strikes you in an inconvenient place like driving a car or eating with friends at a restaurant, what do you do?

Mike: Write it down! ASAP! A note is invaluable to “jog your memory.” I’ve been known to pull off the road and spend thirty minutes scribbling down notes in an empty parking lot.

What are your current/future projects?

Mike: I’m marketing "Dream Killer" and I’m also writing a thriller, "Slam Dunk". (Spoiler alert) If you go read my blog at (mikebaldwinbooks.com), the novel I plan to self-publish in April is a twenty-year-old manuscript I recently found in the back of my closet.

The manuscript you found was 20 years old?

Mike: It was the equivalent of the best Christmas gift an author can ever receive! That manuscript in my closet represented a dream I’ve had for twenty years, a dream finally fulfilled when I self-published two novels in 2015.

Did you have any regrets after you discovered that manuscript buried in your closet?

Mike: No! I recently told a New York literary agent that I wouldn’t trade my sportswriting career to have written thirty novels the past twenty years. My first career was truly amazing. I interacted with sports legends and witnessed memorable games that became instant classics...But now I begin my second journey. It’s difficult to describe the joy to finally have time to do something I’ve always dreamed about — write mysteries that feature female lead characters.

If you could give readers all over the world one message, what would it be?

Mike: If your dreams don’t scare you...they’re not big enough!

What is the methodology for your initial “rough draft outline?

Mike: I view a novel as a movie script. Each chapter represents a scene. Write 30 to 40 scenes — thirty to forty chapters — and you’ve written a novel. As any author will tell you, that’s much more difficult than it sounds. The challenge is to make your next novel even better, but the actual fun is in the journey before you type those magical two words: THE END.

What is your writing process?

Mike: Symbolically, I “skip to the end” to find out “what happens.” After I’ve written a “rough draft” outline, I write the first five or six chapters, then I write the final three or four chapters before I write one word of the “middle” chapters. Some authors say they can’t write the ending until they build to a dramatic climax. Maybe I’m different but I don’t feel good about the plot until I’ve written a knock-your-socks-off ending.

What is the most gratifying aspect of being an author?

Mike: It’s an adrenaline rush when a character literally “comes to life.” Sometimes the character takes the story in a different direction than you envisioned in your original outline.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard for self-published authors?

Mike:

  1. Make sure it’s publishing house quality edited
  2. It’s mandatory to market on social media. How much time do you devote to marketing? That’s the million dollar question.
  3. The BEST ADVICE is: Start writing your next novel!

About the Author

Mike Baldwin

A former sportswriter, Mike Baldwin has transitioned to becoming a full-time novelist who specializes in mysteries that feature female lead characters. Mike writes classic whodunits that appeal to mystery fans of all ages.

Whether it’s a suspense-filled novel that keeps him up all night, or TV shows like “Major Crimes,” “Law & Order,” and “Cold Case,” Mike loves fast-paced stories packed with twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the surprise ending.

Mike’s unique writing style is he uses multiple points-of-view to provide depth that allows the reader to see the plot form different perspectives. His goal is take readers to new places, whether it’s a rural setting in his current novel "Dream Killer" or Hollywood and Watts in his upcoming fall/winter project.

Regardless of the setting, Mike believes it’s essential that readers become emotionally invested in the characters, although the primary goal is to simply write a fun, thought-provoking mystery sprinkled with occasional humor and a dash of romance.

During his newspaper career, Mike covered Super Bowls and Final Fours, and interviewed countless Hall of Fame athletes and coaches. He was blessed to attend games in 80 of the 90 NFL stadiums, NBA arenas and Major League Baseball stadiums, plus visit more than fifty college campuses.

The highlight was when he was a beat writer who covered the Dallas Cowboys for The Oklahoman, the Oklahoma City newspaper. For seven years, Mike wrote daily stories during the Barry Switzer era when the Cowboys were led by future NFL Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders.

Mike was humbled and honored last year when he was voted into the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Hall of Fame.

Author Interview with Jaci Wheeler

United

Hello Everyone!  Today I have something fun in the form of an interview with Jaci Wheeler.

MTG: Tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

Jaci: Wes was my favorite Character to write. I have two kids who have autism and are non-verbal. I wrote Wes as an older version of my son, and it was my way of giving him a voice.

MTG: How did you come up with “United”?

Jaci: It was so random. One day my husband and I were having a conversation based on politics and I went off on a little rant about “if I was president this is how the country would be run…” That sparked the idea and I just went with it.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Jaci: I find it all around me. Obviously through my kids, they inspire most of what I do. I also take in new experiences when I’m writing. I like to expand my senses so I go to new places and try new foods. I like to be open to inspiration whenever it may strike.

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Jaci: I always want to write in the middle of the night right when I get comfy in bed and am ready to fall asleep. Something always comes to me and I usually get up, sneak in the kitchen and just start writing. The house is still and quiet and nothing is going to distract me and I can go for hours.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

Jaci: The friendships that I’ve made. I try to do a few book signings every couple of months and I’ve made some amazing friends with both readers and other authors alike. I met an author at my first book signing who introduced me to my now publisher and she is now one of my closest and cherished friends.

MTG: What do you think is the most important aspect of making a dystopian novel believable?

Jaci: I really feel like you need a believable base to start. If your world is too farfetched it’s just too hard to believe. You need some new twists obviously, but I think a believable starting point is always best.

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

Jaci: The first book that ever really spoke to me was "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. I was in 8th grade and didn’t like reading at all. "The Giver" was the first book I could connect to and that could engage me. I read it every few years and it still is just as strong now. My favorite somewhat current book is "The Brightside" by Kim Holden. That lady is a rockstar and I’m a huge geeked out fan of hers.

MTG: What books are you reading now?

Jaci: I’m a reader first. I love to read and do so every night before bed. I just finished "Honor" by J.L. Drake this weekend, and "Never Never 3" by Colleen Hover and Tarynn Fisher last night.

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

Jaci:

  1. I abhor leaf blowers. They seriously piss me off. What is the point, it’s not like they do anything but blow stuff around and make a ton of noise, not to mention take forever!
  2. I’m a horrible candy addict. I have at least 3 candy drawers in my house chalk full, always a stash in my purse and I take a different type with me for every book signing.
  3. I’m not quite 5 feet tall and usually the smallest person in the room, yet I hate to wear heels because they make me feel like I’m much too tall. It’s such an awkward feeling for me so I just rock the shortness.

MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Jaci: Yes! Too many! ;) At the moment I’m working on a spinoff of United that is 3 maybe 4 books long. The 2nd book in that series is very close to my heart and is going to be a bit different than anything else I’ve seen.

About the Author

Jaci Wheeler lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband and two precious kids. Her love of literature began in Jr. High when she was introduced to Lowis Lowry’s books. Since then she has had a passion for writing Young Adult books, and creating strong female leads. When she’s not writing she is advocating for Autism Awareness and involved in the deaf community. Her favorite things to do are play with her children, craft with her friends, sleep while her husband watches movies and indulge in her favorite addictions: Coffee, candy and shoes.  Her first book "United" was just released with at least two more planned in the series.

Website: www.jaciwheeler.com

Email: jaciwheeler1@yahoo.com

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Author Interview with Nic Weissman

The Orb of Wrath

Hello Everyone!

MTG: Tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

Nic: I really like all the five main characters. They all have their story, their background. I couldn’t easily pick up one among them. Maybe Thost, the former Count of Borydos, is a bit more close to my heart these days. Writing about Kurbus the gnome and about Maroq the salesman was a lot of fun. They will comeback in the second book.

MTG: How did you come up with “The Orb of Wrath”?

Nic:  It all started with the world. Many years back I spent a lot of time creating a very detailed fantasy world. I included details for more than 700 different cities. Different countries, culture, history, etc. Over the years I thought many times that I should build a story in that setting. And finally I decided to do it.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing? 

Nic:  I got this question before and I don’t have a good answer. I have no idea. I try to start with the world, as said and then characters and situations just come to my mind after I try to place myself in that fantasy landscape.

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Nic: Mostly home. However, the daydreaming process that takes you to imagine the next scene or a new character can happen anywhere. The shower in the morning is a good example. According to new neuroscience the best moment to come out with a solution is when you are distracted and not actively thinking about the issue. The challenge is to capture those ideas and not let them fade.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

Nic:  When I got the first print version of my first novel right after publishing in my hand… that was an incredible feeling.

MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Nic:  Self-publishing is a new paradigm; a miracle, even. Any aspiring writer today can (for sure) become a published writer. It was not like that in the past. If you are passionate about writing, just go for it. But you need to know that writing a great book is only half of the work; marketing it is a full time job by itself. So, spend some time beforehand on how you will tackle that piece of the challenge.

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

Nic:  If we talk about this genre (fantasy) it is very easy to pick up just one: "The Lord of the Rings". Not very original, eh? By many metrics one of the very best books of the whole XX century and I could almost say the founder of the genre. A gigantic piece of work for many many reasons. The amazing world building skills are still unparalleled; that combined with the genius of one of the best narrators ever. 

MTG: What books are you reading now?

Nic: "Escape from Witchwood Hollow" by Jordan Elizabeth

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

Nic:

  1. My first job was in a shipbuilding company. What I designed then is still operational today somewhere in the Mexican Gulf.
  2. I hate cheese in my food (I know I am a weirdo in the States for this). I love pasta and I hate pasta with cheese. I do like cheese alone or with bread. My favorite cheese: camembert.
  3. I am surprised how bad is the performance of highway construction in the States (how long it takes, how expensive it is and how inefficient and old the building techniques are). I am astonished about how efficient, convenient and cheap are all the Oil change shops in the States. Fantastic in every possible way.

 MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Nic: I am just finishing the sequel of The Orb. Title will likely be "The White Lady". It will be out before xmas.

About the Author:

Nic Weissman is an Amazon Bestseller and a fast growing name in Fantasy fiction landscape. His debut novel "The Orb of Wrath" is collecting great reviews and is available through multiple channels both in ebook and paperback, both in English and Spanish. The novel has been already referred by multiple bloggers like Jack Moreno. Nic is the creator of the saga The Merchant's Destiny and The World of Oris.

Nic was born in 1974 in mystical place where the sea ends. Over the past 16 years, he has lived in 14 different addresses across 3 different continents. He has travelled to 30 countries and speaks 4 languages. As you can imagine, Nic loves travelling. 

You can follow Nic through several Social Media channels like Facebook, Slideshare.net, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin among others. Nic writes under a pen name for professional reasons.

Website: www.nicweissman.com

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

Twitter: @NicWeissman

Email: contact@nicweissman.com

 

Author Spotlight: David Allen

David Allen.jpg

Hello Everyone!

Today, I posted a review for "Pool of Echoes" by David Allen.  As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author I wanted to share!

MTG: I posted a review for your book today; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.) How did you come up with the “pool of echoes”?

David: Pool of Echoes is ultimately about your self-worth. Where does it come from?

At the end of the day, it’s a gift that is given to you. You cannot get rid of it, even if you tried.  

All you can do is deny its existence, to your own detriment.  You become much stronger when you stop doing that, but the only way to stop is to realize your self-worth doesn’t come from a job, a spouse, how much money you make, how you look, or who your parents were.

It was given to you by someone - and I think you know who. If you don’t know, enjoy reading about it. If you do, read it and enjoy relearning it at a deeper level.

MTG: How did you come up with Pool of Echoes?

David: The Pool of Echoes is a sped-up, hyper-sensory version of life. Our experiences change us. The pool allows Jordan Mitchfield to see how his past has changed him. It allows him to revisit key moments, and use his present-day experience to choose a better interpretation of what happened.

While positive choices can change us, they don’t always wash away the previous choices we’ve made. This causes us to relearn things over and over, at a deeper level.

We sometimes get frustrated at this process. I know I do. But we come out of it better each time - purer, stronger, refined.

As Jordan reinterprets an event that happened at, say, five years old, he emerges from the Pool in present-day with those new interpretations built up in his head - several decade’s worth of reinforcement. It’s like mental reconstruction at 10,000X speed.

We do this ourselves. It just takes us longer. The Pool is just a way we can look at the process and be intentional about it.

In the Bible there’s a story of a powerful man with an incurable disease. At the advice of his wife’s slave, he visits a prophet who gives him a strange task: Wash seven times in a shallow, dirty river. He may have resisted at first, but when he came out of the water the seventh time he was cured of an incurable, hideous deformity that would have killed him.

It took humility, and possibly desperation for the hero to go THAT far in search of answers.

You ever get desperate sometimes? It’s not always a bad thing if it puts you on a path for answers.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing? 

David: How do we make sure our lives matter? That’s the big question for me.

The answer I’ve found so far is living our lives with wisdom. But wisdom doesn’t have to be boring. Done right, knowledge and wisdom can be really fun.

Done best, it can be addicting.

Normally I’ll have an image of a character or environment that just comes to me. By itself, I could probably make an entertaining story about it. But I don’t stop there. Normally I let the idea wait while I read and research a lot. Then one day, a tool or idea really connects with me, and if the visual fits, I adapt it so that the characters and settings allow that tool or concept to emerge through the story. Then I’ll rewrite the plot over and over until it makes sense and really fires me up.

Lastly, as a Christian I pray a lot, and constantly return to the Bible - the source of wisdom for Christians. It helps me refine a theme for the story that I can play with.

For instance, the river in the Bible story I told you earlier? It’s called the Jordan River. And that’s the main character’s name in the book!

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

David: I still work a regular job, so I’ll normally edit on a macbook, perched on a notepad, on top of a queen-sized bed. It happens really late at night.

Some of my security work has a lot of hurry-up-and-wait to it. So during the down times I’ll write… wherever I can, really. I’m answering your questions right now from a shack, next to an electrified fence, protecting about a thousand cars that will go up for auction in 48 hours.

On days off, cafés outside downtown Austin are my ideal hangouts.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

David: It gives you an excuse to be anywhere and learn anything. And the better you get, the more you places you can go and the more you can learn.

Why are you learning about lockpicking? I’m a writer.

Why are you reading a book about corporate spying? I’m a writer.

Why are you visiting Macchu Picchu? Yo soy escritor.

 Other benefits include being able to read and watch movies and call it ‘working’, answering comments and emails from people who write to me, and sharing tools through my stories that can solve problems and help others articulate what’s going on in their lives.

MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

David: Hurry up slowly. There are many ways to interpret this:

  1. Give your ideas the time they need to develop into solid stories, but don’t just wait for it to happen - actively pursue those ideas and refine them.
  2. Make sure your outline has plans for character development, pacing, structure - and that the beginning, middle, and end are all there. But once you have an outline you’re proud of, start writing the story. Don’t waste a day.
  3. Edit, and have other people take a look at your writing if you plan to publish and/or sell it. Just don’t tinker with it forever, because there comes a point where more tinkering won’t make you a better writer, and doing so will only postpone your fear of criticism. You gotta send it out into the world to fight its own battles!
  4. Take time to tell people about what you’ve written and why people will like it. On the other hand, get started writing your next story! Not once do you want to be seen as looking backwards instead of forwards. There are plenty of great stories to tell, and they can’t tell themselves. With an extra story under your belt, you’ll be able to tell them even better!

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

David:  The first large books my parents read to me as bedtime stories were J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Those, and Jack Whyte’s “Skystone” series, helped me get through grade school.

“Skystone”, since I know it’s a new title to a lot of people, is the story of Merlin and Arthur’s grandparents building a town in England that will survive after the Roman legions withdraw from Britannia. The series continues - as if there were no magic nor mythical creatures - until Arthur Pendragon is crowned king of the Britons.

Lastly, I’ve been digging George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series, because of the strong female characters and geopolitics.

MTG: What books are you reading now?

David: I just started reading fiction as seriously as nonfiction. Mainly I’m focusing on the genres I want to write and the emotions I want to master.

Next to my desk is a David Morrell novel, “Extreme Denial”. He wrote “Rambo” back in the day, and he still throws down a mean spy novel. I also have “The Circle Maker”, a book about prayer by Mark Batterson. I haven’t finished it, so I won’t recommend it yet. There are books about writing and marketing, and about 3 different horror novels on my to-read list, because I want to give people tools for dealing with fear very soon.

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

David:

  1. My first job was grocery bagging at a supermarket in Wasilla, Alaska. My hometown, Sarah Palin country. I got paid $7.15 cents an hour, refused tips in accordance with company policy at least twice a day, and got written up twice: once for demonstrating a ‘lack of urgency about my work’, and the other for ‘sneering at a superior’. I was in eleventh grade, and very angry.
  2. I love flying in airplanes, but am afraid of heights. I didn’t have this fear until losing my father… to lung cancer. Figure that one out.
  3. Deep within is a secret desire to become a survival prepper. This isn’t because of any doomsday scenario, I just find it really cool. While I love the modern conveniences of life, I also like the idea of jumping into an armored Humvee and driving out of town to a remote off-grid compound (every interesting person dreams of one day having a compound), and outlasting the pre end-of-the-world jitters with my family and closest friends.

MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

David: I’m finishing the third draft of a new novel - the first part of a series.

It explores a certain type of hero, one that has become harder to find in today’s stories. The closest equivalent would be MacGuyver, or Michael Westin (from the TV show Burn Notice). It’s about a hero who puts himself in dangerous positions to help people who cannot help themselves. This involves the hero using skills and ingenuity to stop nefarious villains, all based upon a constantly refining, personal moral code.

It has a lot of challenges: what do knight-errants do when there are no dragons to slay? What would make someone want to do something like this? It’s been fun figuring all that stuff out.

I also have a horror/adventure hybrid in the works - but things aren’t set in stone enough to say more about that.

So far, I haven’t decided which book readers will see first.

P.S. If you have a question, just let me know! I’ll check back with this blog and respond to them when I have time.

Pool of Echoes

About the Author:

Leaving hometown and innocence behind, David traveled to distant lands by Ship, by Sky, and by Mind.

He returned from the journey with dangerous ideas, strange powder that explodes, and broken hearts (some parts of others’ got mixed in with his own). He keeps most of it locked in a wooden chest preserved with tar and reinforced with iron bands and padlocks.

The people in his village give him strange looks – travel has been both kind and cruel to the social outsider.

When he returned to fight in the Great War, he found that – up until then – he was a puppet in a diabolical plan to defeat true justice.

Now a double agent – he travels to multiple dimensions, foreign lands, and other worlds using wits, fists, and technological gadgets to collapse the Overlord’s organization from within. Oh, and lasers – don’t forget about the lasers.

Sometimes he’ll find treasure in the form of wisdom and share it. Sometimes he’ll find gold and various textiles that shimmer in the light – he keeps most of that for himself and his crew.

He’s been known for accidentally toppling despots and freeing the slaves of entire worlds – when all he was trying to do was obtain the golden statue.

Can do the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs – but very frustrated that Han broke his record.

Came across a shelf of Christian books once – loves God, and the beliefs, but hates the prairie nonsense. Started writing stories that crank the entertainment dial up to 11, with themes that strengthen the minds of his allies.

The breakthroughs:

  • Trust can be measured.
  • You don’t have to be ruled by your past.
  • If you’re evil and you win – you still lose.
  • If you’re good and you lose – you still win.
  • We were made to create, to love, to live long and prosper, to embrace the future and honor the past.

Dare to open the dark chest of wonders? Travel the Verse with the Independents? Go to Monaco in a Steampunk-style Zeppelin – dressed as a Victorian-era ambassador from Versailles?

So does he.

If anybody asks, here’s the cover story – David Allen is a business marketing management graduate in Austin, Texas who does absolutely NOTHING outlandish or risky whatsoever. Or does he?

Website: http://www.AuthorDavid.com

Facebook: David G. Allen

Twitter:@David_G_Allen

Email: authordavidallen@gmail.com

Author Spotlight: Kat Nichols

Family Secrets

Hello Everyone!

Today, I posted a review for "Family Secrets" by Kat Nichol!  As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author I wanted to share.

 MTG: I posted a review for your book today; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

Kat: I’ve often heard authors say that the characters speak to them or take over a story, but I’d never really seen it in action until Ellen. She’s the cook at Sophia’s new home and like the maids, was meant to be more of a background character. She wanted nothing to do with that! She kept popping in and letting me know she wanted a bigger role and well, she got one.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing? 

Kat: Everywhere. The books I’ve read, movies and TV shows I’ve watched, my friends and family. But sometimes inspiration just comes to me, usually when I’ve turned off the lights to go to sleep, which is one reason why I keep a notebook next to my bed. It seems those ideas always come when I’m not ready for them.

 MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Kat: Again, everywhere! I’m a mom with a full time job and a son who plays three sports. I’ve been known to write on my breaks and lunch at work, and pull out my laptop at basketball practices or dentist appointments, especially if I’m under a deadline… like now.

 MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

Kat: WOW! Tough question… I love knowing that something I’ve written is out there for anyone to read and the amazing reviews I’ve gotten so far have felt wonderful, but the biggest reward for me is that my son has seen me take chances and follow my dreams. Knowing how proud he is of me is definitely the best. 

 MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Kat: Keep going. Keep pushing through the blocks, and the times where you hate every word you’ve written because we’ve all been there. If possible, find yourself a good writing group to help keep you sane. If I didn’t have the Rebel Writers, I never would have finished “Family Secrets”. If you can find a good group, they will understand what you’re going through and can support you in ways even your best friends and family cannot.   

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

Kat: Another tough question. First and foremost, my favorite is the Harry Potter series. I came to it late, after I got a kick in the butt from my sister-in-law and I absolutely love it! I have re-read it more times than I can possibly remember. I also love my indie authors. Rachel Higginson’s Star Crossed Series is what got me into writing again, and I’ve read it multiple times. I love everything she writes. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but I am big fan of all the books written by my rebel sisters, Stormy Smith, Caylie Marcoe, Elizabeth Tuttle, Regan Claire and Theresa Kay. They write different types of books, but they’re all fantastic.

 MTG: What books are you reading now?

Kat: I just finished Nikki Jefford’s “Hunting Season”, the fourth book in the Aurora Sky Vampire Hunter series and it might be my favorite in the series so far. Next up is “Bound by Spells”, which is the second book in the Bound series by Stormy Smith. I have an ARC copy and I cannot wait to get started.

 MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

Kat:

  1. I’m really shy at first, but once you get to know me, I’m a bit of a talker.
  2. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and only watch a couple shows regularly, but I’m addicted to Netflix and will get obsessed with shows that have been out forever. My current obsessions? House MD and Dexter.
  3. I don’t have any hobbies beyond reading and writing. Sometimes I think I’m going to be crafty, but I’m definitely not… like at all…

 MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Kat: I do! I’m halfway finished with book two in the Secret Societies collection. “Deadly Secrets” is a continuation of Sophia’s story and I plan on releasing in July or early August of this year. I also have the first chapter of a novella about Sophia’s parents up on the site, Literrater. I’d like to have it published by the end of the year.

The Secret Societies collection will continue after that but will tell the story of a different paranormal group and since they all live in the same area, the stories will intertwine. For example, people in “Deadly Secrets” will show up in later books. My goal is that each set can stand alone as a series, but you can read them all in order to fully understand what is going on with these groups and the relationships between them. The first set, Secrets, focuses on Sophia and the witches, and will consist of two full length novels and one novella.

About the Author:

Kat Nichols

Kat Nichols was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago. The youngest of four children, she'd been known to play for hours with only a cardboard box for entertainment. Her imaginary friends had friends... and family... and even little cities to play in. As she grew older, she began to put some of these stories down on paper, rather than keeping them in her head. 

Writing a novel had always been a dream for her, perhaps an item on her bucket list, but it wasn't until she joined a writing group with other aspiring writers that she finally got to work.When not writing, Kat is reading or driving her son to and from practices and wishing she was reading.It depends on the day. 

Kat still lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her wonderful husband, their hilarious son and their sometimes adorable and sometimes annoying cat, Ozzie.

Author Spotlight: Eden Ashley

Eden Ashley

Hello Everyone!

Today, I posted a review for "Banewolf" by Eden Ashley, which is the sequel to “Dark Siren”; a new series that I have gotten completely swept away with.  As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author I wanted to share. 

MTG: I posted a review for your book today; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

Eden: I'd have to say that I enjoy writing Rhane and York the most. Scenes between the two of them are always fun, and usually a chance to add some humor to the darkness of the overall story line. 

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?  Where did the siren come from?

Eden: My inspiration comes from all around, things I see, read, and hear just automatically spark my vivid imagination. I'm always daydreaming. Sometimes a particular scene will spin around in my head, trying to sort itself exactly right. During those times, I have the attention span of a squirrel on crack.

Kali was actually labeled a siren after the story was completed. I'd already built this huge, complicated world of unique creatures and a few places. But any name I came up for Kali's character just didn't seem to fit. So, I went through the scrolls of different mythologies and found the creature that she most resembled--a siren--and called her that.  

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Eden: I know it's cliche, but I like writing at coffee shops. Less often, I'll write at home. But the television is there, and it is my muse's arch enemy.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

Eden: The biggest reward is when a reader loves the story so much that they are moved to reach out to me. 

MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Eden: Stop talking about wanting to write and just write. 

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

Eden: “Bet Me” by Jennifer Crusie for its romance and comedy that literally makes me laugh out loud no matter how many times I read it.  “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand because it's just amazing writing on a level I could only hope to ever near aspiring to. And “Dragon's Milk” by Susan Fletcher because it made me laugh and cry and believe in dragons.

MTG: Looks like I have a few more for my "To Read" list! What books are you reading now?

Eden: “Surrender to Me” by Shayla Black. “Goddess of Legend” by Erin Ashley Tanner. And “The DarkAngel Chronicles” by Meredith Ann Pierce. 

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

Eden:

  1. I usually unwind with either a hot cup of yumminess at Starbucks or an hour at the gym.
  2. My hobbies include traveling as often as I can. Getting out of the country seems to be an ongoing them lately.
  3. I brainstorm to Bassnectar's “Butterfly” featuring Mimi Page. I put that song on repeat and scenes just come to me. 

MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Eden: Yep! I'm currently working on two different novels. One is the fourth and final book of the Dark Siren series, “Primed Son”. The other is a stand-alone new adult novel entitled “Love, Alchemy”. I'm really excited about finally completing Rhane and Kali's story. And this new novel--feedback on the first few chapters has been really encouraging. I can't wait to get it out there!

About the Author:

Dark Siren

I'm crazy at heart and not really mentally sound. Somehow, the people that should know better licensed me to be a therapist. 

Latest obsessions: Once Upon a Time the TV series, Starbucks Cream Brulee Lattes, Swedish Clogs, Dexter (I have a terrible habit of getting into shows only after the series finale has aired), Say Yes to the Dress, Suits (USA network. Awesome show. Check it out), Scandal (How can you not love it?), and free Kindle books. 

Dark Siren, the first in a planned series of four books, is a story of redemption and second chances as two characters come to understand that sometimes, great evil is necessary to preserve what is loved most. There's lots of action, plenty of romance, adventure, and drama. It's young adult fiction that adults will love too.

I promise you'll find something different in Dark Siren. The story definitely indulges in supernatural elements...but not in a traditional way.  (Courtesy of Eden’s website)

Author Spotlight: Mike Fernandez

Mike Fernandez

Hello Everyone!

Today, I posted a review for "Humbled by the Journey" by Miguel “Mike” Benito Fernandez.  As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author that I wanted to share. 

 MTG: I posted a review for your book today; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, time/place you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

Fernandez:  During the walk I had periods of not feeling well, it most have been the rapidly changing weather in the mountains. On particular day I could not take another step when I arrived at a small mountain top village after the sun had said goodnight. The scene was from the Middle Ages. Stone structures in the dark, a heavy mist, cobblestone streets and a church at the end of where my eyes could see.  There was a small bar just before the church, with a wooden bar top, a couple of people standing and three tables occupied by other "pilgrims” like me. The bartender would call out to his wife in the kitchen for whatever the patrons asked for. I asked, "do you have a room for the night?" He did.

I stayed in this room, what seemed as an imaginary mystical place for two days, nursing a slight fever. The room was cold and humid. The only heat was the body heat generated from the patrons below. As I slept I heard the sound bagpipes and violins. Northern Spain and Southwestern France are more Celt than Iberian. It was here that I began to write my notes that become the book. 

MTG: Why did you pick the Camino as your fundraiser as opposed to something else? 

Fernandez: It seem appropriate to experience a simple life, one where all Pilgrims are equal. El Camino has been a place of pilgrimages for well over 1000 years. People from all over the world walk its trails for many reasons, asking for forgiveness or praying for a miracle to benefit a love one. I met some who had experienced a personal loss and sought solitude to heal or people walking because they wanted to lose weight. I chose it because it is a humbling place where I became more grounded to core principles when I first did it with my daughter. It just felt right for this cause. 

 MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

Fernandez: “The Boys in the Boat”. I like nonfiction books. This is a story about a young man who is abandoned by his parents. He lives alone through much of his younger years. He learns that in order to protect himself, he needs to be independent and not rely on anyone. He was a loner and an achiever. The only way he could afford a college education was to win a scholarship and he does with the university's rowing team. A rowing skull depends on each rower to propel their boat through the water and cut it as if it was cutting a fine line on a glass surface. They were a good team but did not become a great team and the winner of the Olympics until they learned to row as one! 

He had to give all he was. Independent, self-reliant to be a team members. All he thought was important was given up to become great. There was no "I" in the team. It was the Boys on the Boat that became ONE. 

 MTG: What books are you reading now?

Fernandez:  “Hemingway's Boat”. I have always enjoyed reading Hemingway and books about him. In 1999, I went to Cuba for the first time since leaving as a child. My principal reason for going was to meet his boat captain Gregorio Fuentes, he was 99 years old. He died in 2002 at 103. Today we are working to restore a sister ship of the Pilar built by Wheeler, who stopped building boats in the 50s.

 MTG: What inspired you to write about your experiences?

Fernandez: My wife Constance. She is a native Michigander and knew very little about her heritage, her grandparents came from Croatia and Macedonia. She felt that my grandchildren and those who followed should know about the man who came to our great country as a child. But I rejected her suggestions for 10 years. 

Then about two years ago, after my granddaughter successfully survived open heart surgery, I decided to do El Camino as a fundraiser for the benefit of families who could not afford care and particularly the same care that my granddaughter experienced. 

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Fernandez: Behind my home, by the sea wall overlooking Biscayne Bay in Coral Gables, Florida. Also at out ranch, near Havana, Florida. The name is totally coincidental.  

 MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

Fernandez: Sharing the story with young people. I have spoken at numerous colleges and Universities; just last night I spoke at the University of Michigan to over 1000 students. My style is more like a conversation than a presentation so there is a great deal of interaction and Q&A.

 MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

Fernandez:

  1. I have never lived a balanced life. I have had both success and failure as the result of my commitment to anything I do. 
  2. I love building things but not managing things. I have built 25 companies but always sold them after it stopped being fun.
  3. I love the sea! 

 MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Fernandez: Another El Camino walk. It will be with my 11 year old and we begin as soon as he finishes school this May. 

About the Author:

Mike Fernandez is the founder of MBF Healthcare Partners, a private equity firm that invests in healthcare service companies nationwide. Mike has been honored frequently for his business achievements, named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa, from St. Thomas University, a degree that acknowledges and celebrates his outstanding achievements as a humanitarian, leader and philanthropist.  A gifted storyteller with a terrific sense of humor, he lives in Miami with his wife Constance and their family.  “Humbled by the Journey” is his first book.

 Links:

About the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation:

All proceeds from “Humbled by the Journey” go to The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) focused on early childhood education, development initiative and "universal readiness" -- that is, making available and affordable high quality health, education and nurturing for all children between birth and age 5 in Miami-Dade County, population 2.6 million, Florida's largest county, with more people than 16 states. In doing so, the initiative works toward the social, physical, emotional and intellectual growth of all children so that they are ready and eager to be successful in the first grade and, indeed, in life.  For more information visit: http://www.teachmorelovemore.org/ECIF.asp.

Bonus: Enter to win a copy of the book!

Author Spotlight: Hannah Fielding

The Echoes of Love

Hello Everyone!

Today, I posted a review for "The Echoes of Love" by Hannah Fielding.  As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author I wanted to share. 

P.S. Enter to win a paperback copy of the book!

MTG: I posted a review for your book today; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary. 

Hannah: I first visited Venice, setting for “The Echoes of Love”, as a young child. Then, as now, I was wide-eyed and enchanted by the beauty of the city. I distinctly remember standing in the main square, the Piazza St Marco, gazing up at the stunning architecture of Saint Mark’s Basilica and feeling I had somehow entered another world – a fairytale world. Then I looked down, at the square itself, which was overrun by hordes of pigeons. There was nothing beautiful about those birds. They were quite spoiling the place. And it struck me then that Venice is a city of two faces: that which the tourists flock to admire, that makes the city the capital of romance, that breathes new life into the imagination and leaves a permanent, inspirational impression. And the other side, the darker side, which is concealed in what Erica Jong called ‘the city of mirrors, the city of mirages’.

When I returned to the city as an adult, I became quite fascinated by the concept of Venice – what it means to be Venetian; what the city really is beneath the layers of history and grandeur and legend.  Frida Giannini wrote, ‘Venice never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water.’ I understand this quote – there is something fairytale about the place, and with that comes some reluctance, perhaps, to see the realism beyond.

Venice so captured my imagination that I knew someday I would write a romance novel set in this most elegant and fascinating of cities. But it had to be the right story to fit the place. For me, that meant a story that reflected the two faces of Venice – the mask she wears, and the true form beneath.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Hannah: Place and settings have always had a powerful influence and impact on me and certainly are apparent in my writing. I write what I feel; it must come from the heart and therefore there are certain aspects of my writing I owe to my background and my life. I have traveled extensively and have always tried to soak up the individual characteristics and charms of each country and its people. The passion of Spain, the romance of grandeur of Italy, the mystery and allure of Egypt, the exotic wilderness of Kenya have all left a special mark on my soul from which I draw inspiration.

Music is also a great source of inspiration to me, whether classical or modern and in any language. I have a huge repertoire of songs from all over the world that I listen to while doing my research and it helps me create the initial atmosphere for my story.  For “Burning Embers” I listened to African music, and world music from the 70s. For my Spanish trilogy I chose various interpretations of Flamenco (it differs from province as each has its very own way of singing Flamenco) and songs from the modern Spanish singers like Julio Iglesias and the Gypsy Kings. During the research of my Italian novel I surrounded myself with Italian folklore music and the wonderful voices of Peppino di Capri, Raffaella Carra, Mina and I Santa California.

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Hannah: In England I write in our wood-panelled library surrounded by all my favourite books, and in France I write in my bedroom. Both places have wonderful views over the gardens – and in France I love the backdrop of the azure Mediterranean and sky.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

Hannah: I think the Sun newspaper in the UK featuring my book as one of the most romantic books ever written.

MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Hannah: Write from the heart. Be true to yourself and don’t compromise to please the market. Markets change, fads come and go; your work will remain. Also, don’t get discouraged. Continue to write whether you think your work is good or bad. There is no bad writing. There are good days and bad days. The more you write, the better you will get.

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

Hannah: “The Far Pavilions” by MM Kaye. I first read it in the 1980s, and since then my copy has been well-thumbed. MM Kaye has been an inspiration to me in my writing, because, like me, she was a traveller at heart and she wrote wonderfully descriptive stories set in exotic locations that really transport you to far-off lands. “The Far Pavilions” is like an Indian “Gone With the Wind” – epic, moving, romantic, sweeping. If you’d like to know more about this writer and book, you can read a blog post I wrote on the subject at http://www.hannahfielding.net/?p=1523.

MTG: What books are you reading now?

Hannah: A book called “Return to You” by Samantha Chase, via Netgalley. I review romance books on my website.

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts. 

Hannah:

  1. I once unwittingly snubbed the actor Richard Burton (full story at http://www.hannahfielding.net/?p=676).
  2. 2. Before writing full time, I ran a business renovating old cottages.
  3. 3. I collect antiques: Chinese porcelain, Japanese sculptures, and French and Italian glass.

MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Hannah: My new book will publish in April of this year. It’s the first book in a fiery trilogy set in Andalucia, Spain, spanning three generations of a Spanish/English family, from 1950 to the present day. It tells the passionate story of the de Falla family, some of whom have roots in England, and their interaction with the gypsies. A tale of love, treachery, deceit and revenge a rumbling volcano, set against the fierce and blazing Spanish land, which is governed by savage passions and cruel rules.

Hannah Fielding

About the Author:

When I was a child, my governess told me fairy stories. These tales, full of superstition and magic, were my first inspiration, and the warmth and colour they still evoke greatly influence my writing. They were also the experience through which I learned to become a storyteller, as my governess and I had an agreement – whenever she told me a story, I would have to tell her one in return.

As a novelist, I am obsessed by vivid colours, lush landscapes and tales of exotic customs in far-off lands. I can trace much of this back to a dear and long-departed friend of my family Mr Chiumbo Wangai, who fascinated me as a teenager with stories of the witch-doctors and magical ceremonies in his native Kenya. When I visited the country myself, I soon fell in love with its beautiful countryside and unforgettable sunsets.

Though I have been telling stories since I was a child, it was only after my children had grown up and my husband and I had turned our family business into a success that I felt I could devote myself to writing full time. After I dug out the various ideas and sketches I had jotted down over the years, I realised how profoundly my travels throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and particularly Africa had burned themselves into my memory. I felt driven to turn them into a novel.

The mystery, magic, heat and passion of Kenya’s landscapes inspired me to use them as the setting for my first novel. “Burning Embers”, a passionate love story set against the backdrop of the country in 1970. My later travels through Europe provided rich fodder for more stories, including my new novel, “The Echoes of Love”, set in Venice and Tuscany, Italy. (Courtesy of Hannah's website "About Me")

Author Spotlight: NLB Horton

NLBHorton.jpg

Hello Everyone!

Today, I posted a review for "The Brother’s Keeper" by NLB Horton.  As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author that I wanted to share. 

MTG: I posted a review for your book today; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

Horton: Readers tell me they enjoy the vicarious travel in my books, and it is important to me to provide a sense of place. “The Brothers’ Keepers” is an accurate travelogue of Italy, Switzerland, and parts of Germany and Israel. I returned to all these locations in 2014.

The history and theology in “The Brothers’ Keepers” also is accurate, although I tweak the history to suit my story. The book is a feasible adventure empowered by two strong female characters: archaeologist Grace Madison and her daughter Maggie, a hydrologist. I write international suspense driven by contemporary family dynamics, and depict women as capable, intelligent, and committed, thereby having a global impact.

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

Horton: I have a favourite author: Daniel Silva. I own in hardcover every book he’s written, and my recent favourite is “The Heist”. I believe Silva is the best international thriller writer of our time. He is unbelievably consistent. I admire and enjoy reading about his protagonist, Gabriel Allon. His storylines are complex and require thought, which I enjoy. He places his stories in locations I have been, so there is the additional joy of “revisiting” them through his eyes. I love his multi-generational approach to characters. He is just in the master class.

I also enjoy David Baldacci, Steve Berry, and Donna Leon.

MTG: What books are you reading now?

Horton: I am reading an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Laurie R. King’s new novel, “Dreaming Spies”, and an ARC of “A Fine Summer’s Day” by Charles Todd. I am re-reading Anne Perry’s Inspector Monk series, too.

Since I am writing Book 3 in the Parched series, I try not to read contemporary international suspense so I do not clutter my own work. Reading historical suspense at this phase gives me a break from my own story while keeping words and sentences and phrasing firing in my brain.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?  Do your travels and studies have a big influence?

Horton: I would definitely cite my travel and study as influences. One of my goals when I received my Master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary was to develop a fine library, and it surrounds me as I work. I am a lifelong reader, and I think bits and pieces of information get stuck in the crevices of my brain somehow. Eventually they congeal, and a story begins to take shape. It is a great joy to produce these manuscripts.

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Horton: I only write at my desk. If I am traveling, I will take notes on my iPad Air or dictate into a recorder, but the stories are pounded into the computer here.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

Horton: Signing with my fine literary agent was huge, and reader reviews are equally exciting.

MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Horton: Practice. Take courses. Find a mentor. Join a writer’s group. And develop a thick skin

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

Horton:

  1. I was one of twelve, and the only woman, to qualify one year for the IGFA (International Game Fish Association) World Championship and am an avid fly fisherman.
  2. I collect antique French pottery. (See my Pinterest board.)
  3. My favourite animal to ride is a camel in the Middle East, and my least favourite animal to float the Amazon with is a Robinson’s tarantula. (“Yes, I have” to both of the questions that ensue.)

MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Horton: I am writing Book 3 now, which finds archaeologist Grace Madison up to her tattered gardening hat in espionage while trying to save the reputation of someone she adores — at considerable risk to her person, naturally. I hope to write two more in the Parched series after I complete Book 3.

Thank you for letting me share “The Brothers’ Keepers” with your readers, Maria. I hope they join Grace and me on this wonderful adventure.

Thanks to Virtual Authors Book Tours for making this possible!

About the Author:

Winner of  ‘A People’s Chioce Award’ in fiction, NLB Horton returned to writing fiction after an award-winning career in journalism and marketing as well as earning her Masters of Biblical Studies degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. She has surveyed Israeli and Jordanian archaeological digs, tossed a tarantula from her skiff into the Amazon after training with an Incan shaman, driven uneventfully through Rome, and consumed gallons of afternoon tea while traveling across five continents.

Horton is a member of the venerable Explorers Club, based in New York City and founded in 1904 as an international multidisciplinary professional society of explorers and scientists. From her home in the Rocky Mountains, she writes, cross-country skis, gardens and researches ideas for her next novel. Horton’s first novel in the Parched series, “When Camels Fly”, was released in May 2014.  “The Brothers’ Keepers” is the second, with the third installment available in fall 2015.

Website: http://www.nlbhorton.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/NLB-Horton/289059931145461
Twitter: https://twitter.com/NLBHorton
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/nlbhorton/
Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8121286.N_L_B_Horton

Author Spotlight: Sean DeLauder

Sean DeLauder

Hello Everyone!

Today, I posted a review for "The Least Envied" by Sean DeLauder.  As part of the review process, I also had the opportunity to do a brief interview with the author that I wanted to share. 

MTG: I posted a review for your book today; tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

DeLauder: The book tries to present itself as an adventure story tracing Joseph Campbell's tried-and-true monomyth arc (I love myth and I love adventure, so it makes sense I would follow, loosely, that plotline), but there are some more subtle themes traveling under the surface that pop their heads out like ground squirrels every so often. Some are obvious, such as the nature of heroes and the absence of absolutes in the world (shades of gray rather than pure Good and Evil), and some not so much.

The vast majority of stories involve the transformation of a character from one version of themselves into another, and this is the case for all of the main characters in this story. At the same time, the journey provides a mechanism for another form of transformation, that being the transformation from theism to humanism, or the reliance of people on supernatural beliefs to save them to reliance upon themselves. That's a big, big theme in the book, and it supposes that salvation can only come from one place--oneself. It's a much more proactive position than religion by itself, though that isn't to say the spiritual serves no purpose. On the contrary, I think it provides the impetus to believe something can happen (e.g., in this story, it is represented by the nebulous "Unless"), but it's up to individuals to make it happen.

MTG: I know this book is the second in a series.  Will we see any of the same characters in other books in the series?  Or are they just in the same setting?

DeLauder: Many of the characters in this story do appear in the other works, though you may not recognize them at first. Many have important agendas, and if their identities are known then those agendas are discovered or fall apart. The focus in the other books will not be the main characters you met in “The Least Envied”, though some will play a significant role, but they will be familiar characters and characters whose histories have been alluded to but not fully explored. One particular character arc remains unresolved and requires attention the first and last books.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?  There’s a lot of underlying philosophy in your book, was there a specific person that had a strong influence?

DeLauder: Philosophically speaking, much of that comes from the meanderings of my own mind. I was raised in a very religious family, so I spent a lot of time thinking about what is right and wrong, and that often branched out into other philosophical avenues, though it has been bolstered by my discovery of Carl Sagan. I share his incredulity that, in light of the galactic scope of our vision, people continue to focus on their petty, insignificant, and insipid disagreements. People are myopic and selfish, so much so they are unable to look past their own problems and inflated sense of importance. They need that, though, because human beings are a complainy sort of creature that would lose all sense of worth if they didn't think their neighbor being a fan of the wrong football team wasn't the biggest problem with world.

MTG: Each of the wogs sounded like they looked slightly different.  What does an undamaged wog really look like?

DeLauder: Wogs are designed to be innocuous creatures, so they aren't very tall. Perhaps knee-high, with some variation above or below. They also require a covering to prevent the dust and debris of the world from gumming up their gears, so they usually have a protective layer of purple fur. They're bulky creatures, requiring them to have long, wide feet to keep them upright. Since they don't bend at the waist, they have disproportionately long, skinny arms, that allow them to reach objects on the ground without having to lean over. It's been a long while since they've received any maintenance, however, so they're all in various states of disrepair.

I remember watching “Despicable Me” for the first time and thinking the minions shared a lot of similarities with the wogs. I may have even chuckled to myself and muttered "plagiarism". Then, of course, I saw “Despicable Me 2”, in which the minions were transformed into knee-high, purple-furred monsters with long, gangly arms. That was mortifying, and clear evidence that someone from Universal Pictures has been rummaging through my stuff.

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

DeLauder: Absolutely. No question. “The Once and Future King”, by T.H. White. White had extensive knowledge of medieval practices, Arthurian legend, a clever and subtle hand, and wonderfully tactful moral compass. I think he, before Carl Sagan, alerted me to the absurdity of human behavior and helped shape my philosophy. You can see echoes of his King Arthur in Billy-Bob--both are very hard, very persistent thinkers who know most problems are far beyond their ability to solve, but understand they are things that must be tackled for the good of humanity. In the end, Arthur dies to be reborn again. Perhaps Billy-Bob is Arthur returned.

White wrote a book that is powerful and beautiful and quirky. It's everything I could ever hope to write myself.

MTG: What books are you reading now?

DeLauder: There are a few books I'm reading at the moment, which is normal. I try to avoid books that I think are reminiscent of my own or might influence my prose, so I gravitate toward historical works. Right now I'm reading Memoirs of Hadrian, by Marguerite Yourcenar. Every once in a while I need to indulge in some kind of fantasy to let my brain rattle out all the loose junk it accumulates from hard reads and heavy thinking, so I'm going to be starting The King of Elfland's Daughter, by Lord Dunsany, very soon. I might go back to something comfortably familiar as well. Asimov's Foundation series, maybe.

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

DeLauder: Writing is about as predictable as the weather. I can sit on the couch with a laptop and write, or in bed, or at work, or in the car. All part of a plan or a need to uncork the ideas that have been accumulating. Or it can be more sudden. I have been awakened in the middle of the night to scribble on a sheet of paper and I've interrupted conversations to take notes on my cell phone. The worst time is in the shower, because then I have to repeat my ideas to myself over and over and over again to ensure I remember them long enough to write them down. There's been many a time I've forgotten what I had in mind by the time I made it to my notes--only to have the memory triggered hours, days, or weeks later, which is both exasperating and a tremendous relief.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

DeLauder: I tend to write for myself, so it's gratifying when I find others who can engage in the stories I've written. Even so, when I write a well-crafted and evocative line or paragraph or scene, it's extremely fulfilling. The most gratifying moments are those where the most effort is concentrated on an infinitesimal location. I've spent hours staring at a word trying to improve it, trying to rebuild a sentence around it to make it more effective, and when that breakthrough finally comes, even though it's such a tiny component to the story that a reader will invariably overlook, like an imperceptible blot of paint that blends perfectly with the rest of the image, it's very comforting to me to know that, in my mind, I nailed it down just the way I want it.

MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

DeLauder: This is a common question for which I have two answers. The first is, obviously, read and write. A lot. Reading will help program your brain to understand what good writing is (depending on what you read, I suppose). Then write. Carry something around with you to write on, to catalog observations. There are a lot of books out there that tell you how to write, and I suppose those can be helpful, but nothing is going to help more than doing it. You can read books on how to ride a bike, but you're not going to get good at it by reading about how to do it. Reading and writing should be part of your routine. Do it all the time. My book, for example. I strongly advise you to read my book. All the time. Buy yourself a new copy every few days. Your friends, too.

Just as important, you need to experience the world around you. New experiences are one of the best ways to trigger new avenues of thought, which you can use in your stories. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to paddle a canoe across the Atlantic, but expose yourself to new ideas. You'll be surprised by where your mind can take you if you nudge it off the tracks.

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

DeLauder:

  1. I sneeze in threes. When I sneeze more or less, I wonder if maybe something in the world is out of kilter.
  2. I love anthropomorphism, as anyone who reads my books will know (particularly “The Least Envied”, in which many inanimate objects actually have voices). The idea that the world has something to say about its situation fascinates me and lends an interesting facet to storytelling, particularly because I envision the components of the world as being entitled, grumpy, very task oriented, and often frustrated (e.g., the sun is always chasing shadows around the curve of the planet, trying to shoot them full of sunny arrows).
  3. “The Least Envied” was 20 years or so in the making. I started writing it in high school, on a whim, because I had nothing better to do with myself. It has undergone many, many, many transformations, but I'm most pleased with this one. I may come back to it some day and release a new edition after whittling down some of the dialogue, but only if I think I can improve the story without disrupting the message.

MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

DeLauder: There are several ideas burning holes in my brain. Obviously, I'd like to work on the next book in this series, “A Hero”. At the same time I've had an idea to write an alternative story about Robin Hood, as well as forays into a quirky murder mystery and possibly an erotic 1940s spy satire (murder mystery and erotica are so obnoxiously popular, I find the urge to make fun of them hard to resist). As for which one will be finished first, it's hard for me to say. Whichever is fortunate enough to have the wind catch in its sails, I reckon.

About the Author:

This author has held several positions in recent years, including Content Writer, Grant Writer, Obituary Clerk, and Staff Writer, and is under the false impression that these experiences have added to his character since they have not contributed much to his finances. He was awarded a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism and a BA in Technical Communication by Bowling Green State University because they are giving and eager to make friends. He has a few scattered publications with The Circle magazine, Wild Violet, Toasted Cheese, and Lovable Losers Literary Revue, and resides in the drab, northeastern region of Ohio because it makes everything else seem fascinating, exotic, and beautiful.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5446542.Sean_DeLauder

Twitter: @SeanDeLauder

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