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Interview with Ben Starling

A couple of months ago I read and reviewed a brilliant short story by Ben Starling called Something in the Air which you can check out here if you’ve not already done so. Today, Ben has been kind enough to answer some questions and let us know about his latest novel, Something in the Water.

BEN white_headshotWelcome, Ben. Could you tell us a bit about yourself? I notice you’re an animal lover. Which animals have had the biggest impact on your life?
I was brought up mainly with dogs and one dog in particular—a beautiful blue-gray Great Dane that had a life-changing impact upon me. It’s extraordinary how powerful the bond between a favorite animal companion and a person can be. I still dream of her sometimes and am sure she is watching over me…offering support, guidance. I’m sure all my best bits of plot and dialog are sent to me from her! That’s why I set my short story Something in the Air in an animal sanctuary. I would love to have another Great Dane one day, thought I’d name her Dooby Scoo.

When did you start writing?
I’ve been editing other people’s work for quite a while: business plans, magazine articles, non-fiction, and an occasional screenplay. But I have only dabbled in fiction previously with a novella I created, and also illustrated, for my children.

Do you think writing ability is something you’re born with, or is it a craft that has to be learned?
Everyone is born with at least one story inside them—and that story is the life we live!

Thomas Edison said, “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration”. We can all write from the moment we learn to hold a pencil, but to engage the reader, there’s a great need to study and work at the craft—a craft that is highly complex and fluid. So a person born with a powerful imagination balanced by a logical, analytical mind is very lucky. But that’s just the one per cent. The writer needs patience too, and a lot of time at the keyboard…a lot of perspiration.

How do you deal with writer’s block?
I don’t think I’d be very good at writing to a deadline because time is the best cure for writer’s block—time, and a change of scenery, which allows the unconscious mind to go to work on the problem.

There was an essay-writing exam technique I remember from school: Read all the questions slowly, then start answering the first. By the time you get to the second question, the answer will be in your head.

So for dealing with blocks in writing, I go for walks, sometimes in the park, or along a canal near my home. Or I head for a busy part of town and make sure my mind is occupied. When I get back, the block has gone.

SITW handMoving on to your novel, Something in the Water. Do you have any favorite scenes in the novel?
In fact I have several—and they are very different, each performing an important function as three intertwined plots unfold. But what I am most proud of, and which came as a pleasant surprise, was that not one of my women beta-readers suggested the main love scene, written from a woman’s point of view, would be a contender for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award! (There really is one in the UK.)

Is there a villain in the novel? If so, how would you describe him or her?
There are several, and though the villains are ostensibly working together, each has a different agenda. This presented me with a fascinating opportunity to explore the dynamic of their twisted relationships. As for characterization, each villain has varying degrees of “darkness” within them. All I’ll say is that when writing about evil characters, sometimes less is more…

The novel is set in the South Pacific. Can you give me one interesting fact – relevant to the book – about this setting?
In fact, my novel is set in a fictitious South Pacific island chain that is near, but not in, Solomon Islands. As for an interesting fact—although Solomon Islands are unique and very beautiful—no paradise is perfect, and it’s imperfection and conflict that make stories fascinating. One fact that inspired a small subplot within my novel is that in Solomon Islands, they still hunt dolphins for the aquarium trade and kill them for food.

Now for a quirky question. If you were a fish, what fish would you be?
I think I’d choose to be a whale shark. A huge, majestic, plankton-feeder with no predators (except humans) that’s free to glide through the world’s oceans. What a spectacular view that would be!

And finally – What can we look forward to next from you?
Something in the Water will be supported by a series of short stories that reveal the backstories of the major characters in this world.

The first in the series, Something in the Air, is available now free at my website as well as free on Kobo (also available at Amazon) and the second short story in the series, Something on the Fly, will be released in the Spring!

Something in the Water is available on Amazon

Connect with Ben at www.ben-starling.com and
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Author Interview: Anthea Carson

Tell us about your lastest project.

My last novel is called “The Dark Lake.” It is the story of a woman who is trying to overcome addiction and alcoholism. She is trying to get her life together. After all, who wants to still be living with their parents when they are in their forties? She is going to therapy. She is looking for a job. She seems to be getting better but she keeps having these nightmares. The nightmares disturb her so much that her therapist wants her to deal with them, and to try and remember what happened the night of the party, the night that was so traumatic that it might hold the key to her mental illness and addictions.

However she can’t remember that night. She doesn’t want to think about it. She avoids thinking about it at all costs. But then they drag her car up from the bottom of the lake. “Why are they dragging her car up from the bottom of the lake after all this time?” she wonders. And how did it get there in the first place, because she can’t remember–she won’t remember.

Your first book sounds traumatic. How did you feel writing those parts?

Actually my first published book was “How to Play Chess Like an Animal,” which of course was not traumatic but quite fun. My second book which was also published by a small publisher (same publisher) was called “Ainsworth,” and was a young adult fiction that took place in the sandhills of Nebraska, an environmentally sensitive area that has recently become the subject of debate since there was an oil pipeline set to go through there. How heartbreaking it would have been to so many people who loved that area and grew up there, as I did–growing up visiting my cousins farm there.

It was my third book that was traumatic, “The Dark Lake.” The second and third books in that trilogy was even more traumatic to write, and it’s already written. I remember literally curling up in a ball and lying down on the bed writing that one. It felt like I had a big steel ball of pain right in my stomach. I have never gotten pneumonia in my life, but I got a severe case of pneumonia that took me out of commission for a month while writing books 2 and 3 of that trilogy, and I’m convinced it was from the emotional trauma. I had buried a memory that I didn’t even know I had! I thought, during the second book in particular, that I was making something up, but it turned out it was a real memory, just buried, and it came up through the writing. And it certainly wasn’t the memory I had expected, either. The first book in the series, the Dark Lake was actually quite easy to write, for me. As I wrote it, I realized that I had been in the process of writing it for twenty years. There was something so…traumatic about my high-school days, even though they were fun. A friend of mine who was also part of that time said we were all basically like combat buddies, and that was what made us so close. We had just done so much, so fast.

Do you have any quirks to how you write?

I have to be inspired to write well. If I am not inspired my writing is flat. So to get inspired sometimes I need the right music, the right environment, maybe take my laptop to an outdoor cafe and sit under an umbrella. I love the rain, so sometimes if it isn’t raining I have an app on my phone and I will put on the sound of rain. In order to write I have to be able to imagine very vividly. Sometimes I go back in my mind to places I’ve been or people I’ve known and they become so real in my imagination it’s as if I were really back there in certain places or with certain people. It’s as if I could literally look around and see things that I couldn’t possibly have remembered, that’s how accurate my perceptions become. Some of the books I’ve written are from places I’ve been as a child. When I was a child I used to stand there and just stare at the things around me and feel the sensory perceptions of being there as if I were storing it up for future reference. I remember doing that.

You mentioned writing stories when you were younger, do you ever consider writing them now?

I didn’t have the discipline to finish a novel, and most of the writing was very adolescent, a lot of poetry and short stories. I suppose there were aspects of my writing back then that are still visible in my writing today. I used to paint, and I remember an english teacher telling me that I write like a painter paints. The main thing I did though, as a kid, was read all the time, and the reading is the thing that has done the most for my writing.

What book do I wish I had written?

That’s easy. T.S. Eliot’s Book of Practical Cats.

What started you writing, if you remember and why do you write now?

I knew that I would be a writer when I was very young, and I think taking in the world around me, and being so mesmerized and in awe of it was part of that, although for a while I expressed that feeling through drawing and painting. The reason I write now is because I think I finally may have gotten past the thousand pages of crap that everyone must write before they finally get good. So it would be a shame to stop when I finally got good.

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

After I add the two other parts of the trilogy online or in published format to The Dark Lake, (which are already written) I will finish what I am currently working on which is a novel set in the chess world. I’m a tournament chess player, and am in the top 100 female chess players in the US. That world of chess players is funny, full of drama and tension and interesting. I’m going to set a love story in that world.

How do you balance other things in your life, chess playing and writing?

And parenting! My kids are 14 and 11. That’s probably the hardest thing to balance. The chess is easy, because I love chess playing, I guess I’m a chess addict. And my son plays, and is actually higher rated than I am, so taking him with me is easy. But my daughter has always wanted all my attention, and sometimes it doesn’t seem there are enough hours in the day. I find myself getting up at 3:00 in the morning to write. Chess tournaments are usually on the weekends, although there are weeknight tournaments as well. A typical chess game during a weekend tournament can last as long as six hours, and there are three games in one day, so there is no room for anything else, and my husband has to watch my daughter. My son will usually be playing too, and taking just as long as I do. During the week, the game has shorter time controls, so no more than three hours. I guess I have to squeeze the writing in when I can. Maybe just during the day when the kids are at school, or the middle of the night.

If you want to find out more about Anthea Carson and her books you can check out her facebook page, website, kindle boards or buy the dark lake.

Author Interview: Paul Kater

My interviewee today is Paul Kater

Tell us about your latest project.

I have one project that is approaching its finish, and a few that are on the way.

The one nearing completion is a fantasy children’s book. The main character is a young witch who gets into all kinds of strange adventures with a few friends.
This little witch is the kid sister of my almost famous character Hilda the Wicked Witch, of whom I am working on the 9th book.

The last iron in my fire is the 6th story of Lily Marin, my Steampunk heroine. She is a far more intriguing character than Hilda or Charisma. Lily is a singer who has a secret, which made her develop an alter ego that she tries to hide from the people who know her. That, of course, becomes increasingly difficult.

How do you find writing in different genres? Do your fans mind and do you make it obvious for them?

Producing more than one genre is refreshing. That is the only way I can say it. Sticking to one genre for me is like looking at one thing only, and that is a waste, as I’d be ignoring so many other things. There is a lot out there in the world, each thing with its own beauty, shape and colour. Depending on my mood I prefer one thing to the other. That, by the way, is how I started writing Steampunk, because that has somewhat of a ‘dark’ atmosphere. I was not feeling very cheerful and had the urge to write. That is how for Lily Marin came to be.

I don’t think my fans mind the different genres. Some like to read many genres as well, I know of a few who also read genres I don’t write, and that’s of course fine. They also don’t want to look at one thing only.

For the people who only like one particular style or genre, there is always the choice to skip the books they don’t care about.

When I am writing something that is not the fantasy-world of Hilda the Wicked Witch, I mention that on my website and my Facebook Author page clearly, so people know what to expect. The majority of fans, I know that, are there for the Witch though.

It’s unusual for a writer’s main characters to all be the opposite gender, was this a deliberate decision or just what the stories required?

For Hilda this was deliberate in a way. Hilda was ‘born’ out of the necessity to quickly have a character which was very versatile. I quickly was clear on using magic, and what better person to wield magic than a witch? I had a view of the character’s attitude, and somehow that did not blend in well with a wizard.

Lily came to be after I had read a few Steampunk books where the main characters all mostly male. Of course, the Parasol Protectorate of Gail Carriger being a magnificent exception. For some reason, I think that writing female characters fits me better than male characters, although in Bactine, which is a Steampunk/Scifi crossover, the main character is a man. A soldier.

What book do you wish you had written?

Ouch, that is a hard question. There are so many wonderful books. I think that would be Jack Vance’s scifi fantasy series about Tschai the mad planet.

What’s your favourite genre to write and what’s your favourite genre to read?

This has to be fantasy. Steampunk and SciFi are great and interesting, but fantasy is boundless.

For reading, it’s perhaps even harder, as more than one genre have amazing books. Steampunk, fantasy, paranormal, SciFi, they all have their own attraction. I like the diversity in reading, which may be the reason why there is diversity in my writing as well.

Would you still write if there was no financial need to, and if not what would you do instead?

I have a full-time job as an IT consultant, so writing comes – uhm -… No, let’s be honest. Writing comes first, despite the job. If I could support myself through writing, that would be great. So far, I give away most of the books I have written. Only the lastest book of Hilda the Witch (part 8), and a big Steampunk/SciFi story called Bactine are actually for sale.

I cannot see me sit idle, without writing. There are too many stories and ideas inside my head. If I don’t let them out through writing, I think I’d go bonkers.

In juggling both a day job and writing do you have any tips for others doing the same?

First thing would be to be smart with the time you have, although that might be an open door. For me, writing is a creative thing that does not stop when I leave my writing software. I keep thinking about it most of the day (and night even), so I always have something with me to record thoughts, ideas, and things to research. At work that’s a simple little notepad, and in the car I have a voice recorder app on my phone. It’s quick and easy to use, so ideas don’t get lost.

Something else that’s important to me is to get out and away from everything regularly. Don’t live a life that’s only work and writing, because then life escapes while you’re busy doing other things. The best places to describe are the ones you’ve seen, smelled and felt. The best forests I have written about are the ones I walked in, as an example. Keep your eyes, nose and ears open. Pick up everything that’s there, take home a fallen leaf if you want and can. Everything can help to detail a situation better. Pay attention to people, even when you’re waiting in line to pay your groceries. Watch the rain fall, and go outside in it to experience it. You can’t convey what it is to be cold if you’ve never been cold.

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

The next effort will be to finish book 9 of Hilda. That is in a ‘crucial’ stage now. This story is a rework of three fairy tales that go criss-cross through each other. It’s becoming quite complex. I started this story after a comment in a review on “Hilda – Snow White revisited”, where someone said he’d love to see Hilda appear in another alternate version of a fairy tale. So I decided to take it a bit further, and went for two. Which somehow turned into three fairy tales in one story. (I am not going to do that again, trust me!)

And I already have plans for a new children’s book, but that’s something for the further away future.

If people want to learn more about Paul Kater and the books he has written so far, they can go to his website, where he has a separate page dedicated to the books he has published so far, and have a look (or like) at his Facebook author page or on Google+.

Author Interview: K. T King

Tell us about your latest project

I have only released one book so far.  The title is Always There. It’s a drama about a group of friends and their journey through a series of events that could change their lives forever.

What inspires you?

My greatest inspiration has been my son.  I love to write and don’t feel as though I need much inspiration to get me started.

Would you still write if there was no financial need to, and if not what would you do instead?

I definitely don’t write for financial reasons.  I write because I enjoy it.  Yes it would be lovely to make millions like some authors have, but I know only a few have achieved it.  I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t write.  I think I’d be lost!

Writing is obviously an important past time for you, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I was fourteen when I first realised I wanted to be a writer but it remained a hobby for a long time.  It was only a couple of years ago I decided I had to start taking my passion for writing more seriously.

What’s your perfect writing day like?

My perfect writing day is having an empty house so I can get carried away and not have to worry about what is going on around me.  I like to get involved with my plots and characters and find it easier if I don’t have any interruptions.

You like to have an empty house, do you need it to be quiet then or just no distractions to write?

I like to have music playing in the background and definitely no other distractions.

Do you find the character’s, the plot or single scenes come to you first when you get a new idea?

I tend to start with a single scene and work around it building the plot and characters.

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

I am currently working on my next book, A Time To Let Go, which is another drama.  I am hoping to have a go at writing in a different genre after this next drama.  I don’t want to give too much away, but I do have some ideas!

If you’d like to know more you can check out the author’s website here

Author Interview: Shaina Cilimberg

Today’s guest is Shaina Cilimberg

Tell us about your latest project.

Crowded (Deep River High) is about three teens trying to live for God and the mistakes they’ve made along the way. There’s a rivalry between Josh Summers and Cole Martin. Cole made a mistake that cost his girlfriend, Emily Davis’ trust. Josh is the new kid at school and he has a crush on Emily. So, Cole is trying to win Emily back and Josh wants her for more selfish reasons. Cole gets abused at home and Josh bullies him. Josh has a great home life, but a tragic past. He used to be popular, then became unpopular at his old school. You find out why in the book. The boys are such grey characters. Cole is a genuine, sweet guy and probably the guy you want as a boyfriend. He regrets what he did and he is sincere in his apologies and tries really hard to be kind to others. Josh just gets  under his skin. Cole doesn’t get how someone could be so conceited and still be a Christian.  I prefer Josh, but I totally get where Cole is coming from. In Josh’s defense, he never lies to Emily about Cole. He has good qualities. He loves his sister, who’s a year younger than him so much.

Emily is torn between all of this. She knows it’s wrong to enjoy having two guys fight over her, but she still does and is conflicted by that. She’s not so sure what to think of either boy.

What inspires you?

Tv shows, books, movies, personal experience, curiosity, my love for God, teens and writing, music, reading about past events, Youtube (Hey, don’t judge me. They have videos with good info on there!!!)

Which do you prefer, paper books or ebooks and why?

Ebooks because you can read them when it’s dark out if your in the car at night.

Do you intend to bring your ebook out as a print book as well at any point or just stick with ebooks?

I think I’ll stick with e-books for now.

When did you start writing and why?

I started at eleven as pen pals with my aunt, then it came as enjoyment. I was like half this girl who’d do anything to be popular (except for sex and drugs lol) and half this girl who wanted to write plays to do with my cousins and I wrote one. Then I decided I wanted to write to bring people closer to God or to God and kind of express how I felt and questions I had. I also wanted to show ppl that the bad things the characters do is not the way to go but there’s always forgiveness. That’s not saying sin is ok because you’ll be forgiven anyway. I’m saying for people who truly want to turn from their sins, they can. I also wanted to touch on topics that are relatable to other teens.

Well at 21 I realized baptism is required for salvation so I was baptized for the forgiveness of sins and gift of Holy Spirit at 22. I still write for the reasons above and I write based on past personal experiences and what I’m curious about.  It was that way as a teen and that way now. I also put a little of myself in every character. I think ear to shoulder length hair is short on a guy. If you read the Bible as a whole, go to the Greek, then Biblos.com you will see that it’s not saying guys should have crewcuts. It’s saying it shouldn’t hang loosely around the shoulders like a veil. So, that’s probably an inch past the shoulders and when you look at different versions some say “no such custom neither do the churches of God” which means its okay for a guy to have long hair. I think the verse was more about a woman’s hair and it was just saying for men to not wear their hair like a woman’s. Nothing wrong with long hair on a guy in and of itself.

I love Christian rock music, so I mention some bands in there. I like to stay relevant. None of my characters are gonna be anyone’s stereotype of what a Christian is. My characters have a goal of being more Christlike and better people. They have questions, they make mistakes, they get mistreated, they laugh, they cry, they can be clumsy and aren’t always the brightest.  I write to convey a message too. I write about how people should treat others as opposed to the way they are being treated, I write how people should act. I feel like my characters are real people.

What book do you wish you had written?

Narnia

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

Well, I am working on the next book in the series. I also am doing schoolwork and studying.  I also read the Bible and would like to be more active in church.

Do you intend to stick to the Christian genre or try other genres as well?

I think Christian.

You can check out Crowded on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Author Interview: Katie Mettner

Katie Mettner kindly agreed to do my interview today:

Tell us about your latest project.

Sugar’s Dance is my newly released novel set in the Twin Ports of Lake Superior. It’s a journey of grief, forgiveness and love in a romance suspense genre. The protagonist, Sugar, is at a point in her life where she can no longer keep pretending that she isn’t hurting from an accident that took her family and left her with deep physical and emotional loss. She knows that she has to figure out a way to move forward with her life emotionally before she is lost to the overwhelming sadness. The story opens as she sits on her front porch swing sipping coffee trying to put her jumbled thoughts in order. She had just spent the summer with a couple that had come to stay at her lodge for their wedding and she was missing them. Her brother arrives and in the blink of an eye she is thrown into a protected witness type situation with her new bodyguard, which is not something that she is comfortable with. She is being hunted by a drug lord who kidnapped his daughter and son-in-law (the couple who stayed with her for the summer) who were actually protected witnesses of the state. She must find the information that he wants and get through the anniversary of her parent’s deaths without falling apart. Her bodygaurd, Agent Walsh, holds her on the dance floor he quickly sees that this case is going to be anything but simple. As he works with her to track down the information he also breaks down her emotional walls and finds out what she’s really hiding. When her brother is kidnapped and her life is in danger will she find the strength to save them both?

Do you have any quirks to how you write?

I’m not really sure if it’s a quirk, but I don’t write in order of chapters. I write scenes and then form the book around the scenes. In Sugar’s Dance I wrote the bridge scene first and that was the inspiration for the rest of the book. As I write the second book, Sugar’s Song, I am finding myself doing the same. The big scenes are telling the story, but the smaller scenes are developing because of the bigger scenes.

Is the first scene you have often the initial spark for your ideas or does something else provide the spark normally?

The character provides the initial spark and the scene provides the flame. When I wrote the first scene of Sugar’s Dance I was already friends with Sugar, but I needed that one thing that fueled her and made her into the flame. When I drove across the Blatnik Bridge that spans Lake Superior for the first time I heard the match strike. It was that “a ha!” moment for me. It was the first scene I wrote in Sugar’s Dance, even though the reader doesn’t come across it for a few chapters. I just finished that “a ha!” scene in the next book of the series, Sugar’s Song, and I can tell you that again the reader isn’t going to come across it for a good way into the book, but it sparked off the whole adventure.

Are there any of your characters you particularly relate to, if there is, who and why?

I have a special love for the protagonist Sugar. Like Sugar, I love coffee and ballroom dancing! She is also passionate about the things that she believes in like organ donation and family. Sugar is her own person, but a lot of my life experiences are entwined in her character. I can relate to her on a very real level because we both have physical disabilities that have shaped our lives. I am a below knee amputee and Sugar is, well, let’s just say you will have to read the book to find out what they are!

Her brother Jesse is someone I can relate to as well. In the story her brother (who is actually not her brother) is someone who would do anything to help her through this time that she is going through. He is deeply protective of her as well as very supportive of her. They have the kind of relationship where they can just be themselves with each other, the good, the bad and the ugly and would do anything for each other. As I developed his character my brother was playing through my mind and my relationship with him. We live far apart but we both know that if one of us needed something we’d be there in a heartbeat. My brother is a lot like Jesse in that he’s tough and all manly on the outside, but when it comes to the women in his life he is tender and understanding.

Characters seem to be important to you. Do they form easily for you or do you have to put a lot of work in to flesh them out?

Characters are very important to me. You can have the best plot line in the world, but if the reader can’t relate to the character, if the character isn’t believable, then it’s useless. The characters in Sugar’s Dance came very easily. They were like old friends, people that I have known my whole life. The fun part is revealing who they are throughout the book and once in a while throwing something in the reader doesn’t expect or showing some side of them that suddenly makes the reader go “a ha!” I love to build my characters and my kids love to help me build my characters. We have a lot of ‘sessions’ talking about the characters and how they are going to progress or for the new characters who they are going to be and what makes them tick. The other day my husband even told me he had a great idea for the villain in my new book! For me character development is the best part of being a writer.

What started you writing if you remember, and why do you write now?

I honestly don’t remember when I started writing. I have always loved books and I loved how words went together and how you could start off with a clean sheet of paper and as you wrote your pencil became duller and duller, but when you finished you had something that could make someone feel happy, sad, lonely or angry. My parents always had us at the library and reading and exploring and so I think my interest came from holding a book in my hand and saying “Someday my name is going to be on one of these.” When my son was born we always called him Spaghedward and I wrote my first official book when he was about two. It’s called Spaghetti Eddie and it’s a children’s book. I haven’t published it because I need to find an illustrator, but that was my first kind of foray into writing as an adult. I write now because I enjoy it. I enjoy sitting down and telling a story that can raise so many emotions throughout the course of the book. I enjoy the character development the most and how with each turn of the page the reader gets deeper and deeper into that character’s life and what makes them tick. I hear from the readers that Sugar’s Dance keeps them up at night with the “one more page” syndrome. When I hear that then I know that I did my job of drawing the reader into her life as they walk along with her on the journey.

Do you think reading so much as a child influenced your likelihood of becoming a writer or that it would have been something you wanted to do either way?

I think reading is the only way to become a good writer. Writing is one of those things where they can teach you the fundamentals in school of how it SHOULD be done, but that doesn’t mean that’s how it HAS to be done. I still needed to read all the different genres and really figure out how the words go together and to use combinations of words and punctuation to imply tone and get across to the reader exactly what those characters are feeling. I had great teachers all through my school career who started us journaling and just let us write free and really encouraged us. Some kids hated it, but for me it was a good way to let my imagination be free. So reading definitely influenced me as a writer and shaped who I am as a writer.

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

As mentioned I am working on the second book in the series called Sugar’s Song. We are going to get to know one of the minor characters a lot more, but I can’t say much more than that because it will give away a lot from the first book. It will also take place in the Duluth/Cloquet area and there will be some fun tie-ins from the first book. I have a third planned as well, but that one will deviate a little in location.

If you want to find out mroe about Katie and her books check out her webpage here

Author Interview: Ric Hofing

My interviewee today is Ric Hofing,

Tell us about your latest project

My latest project is the second novel in the First Sniper War series. This time Erik and Michael find themselves being used as pawns between powerful German army officers and fanatic Bolsheviks who are willing to do anything to achieve their goal of assassinating the Russian Tsar.

Historical fiction can mean a great deal of research. Is the research something you find easy?

When researching my first novel I discovered that I really enjoyed research.  I am fortunate that my local library has a wealth of research material.  With the aid of the internet I was able to discover other great sources of research material, particularly book stores that carry out-of-print books and specialty books.

What inspires you?

Initially I was inspired by friends and family who asked me to write stories or poems for them. As I grew older the challenge of writing a novel appealed to me more and more. As the story grew I felt myself wanting to write more and more.  My friends and family still inspire me, but now there is a huge new audience to write for, and share my work with.

Do you intend to publish any of the stories or poems you wrote early on?

I recently published a collection of short stories on Amazon called “The Groovy Red Camera and other stories”.  This is a collection of 9 short stories that I have written over the years.  I continue to write short stories as ideas come to me and plan to publish other collections in the future.

Which do you prefer, paper books or ebooks and why?

I still prefer paper books, though I am reading more and more on the Kindle. When I travel and use a Kindle I can bring many books; the weight and volume of a Kindle is a small fraction of the three or four paper books I would normally travel with and is an undeniable advantage. However, I still enjoy the feel of paper between my fingers, the smell of a paperback novel, and all the wonderful memories that come along with paper books.  It will be some time before I switch completely over to ebooks, but I can see demand for paper books dwindling slowly as time goes on.

Since you prefer paper books do you also intend to put your own ebooks into paper at some point?

I have recently hired an editor to edit my first novel, which I plan to publish through CreateSpace as a paper back. The success of that endeavour will determine if I continue to publish both ebooks and paper books in the future, but I see ebooks (and ereaders) becoming more and more popular every day. I strongly suspect that ebooks will eventually replace paper books, at least for popular fiction, the way that digital cameras replaced film cameras.

What book do you wish you had written?

I would have to answer this with not a book but a series of books; the Brother Cadfael series, by Ellis Peters.  I started reading these books years ago, quite by chance, after seeing a made for TV movie on A&E channel based on one of the books in the series. After reading the first one I madly read through the remainder.  In fact I have read every one of the books at least twice.  These novels captured me from the first page, and instilled in me a love for the historical mystery, and a desire to write historical novels of my own.

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

At the moment I am doing research for a new series of novels that will be historical mysteries that take place in second century Rome.  Ancient Rome has been an interest of mine for many years, and I have read a great deal of fiction and non-fiction about this fascinating era in world history.

Do you stick to all the historical events you find out about or do you like to write about completely fictional events?

My novels are primarily fact based, tempered, of course, with artistic license.  Readers of historical novels want to be entertained and, to a certain degree, educated or informed.  There is a very real attraction for many readers (myself included) to immerse themselves in that other time and other world for a little while.

My short stories tend to be more fictional.  With my short stories I let my imagination wander a bit, artistically speaking, and explore some of the elements of pure story telling.  My primary goal when writing short stories is entertaining the reader.

Here’s The First Sniper on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Author Interview: Greta Burroughs

My next interviewee is Greta Burroughs.

Tell us about your latest project.

My latest project is a children’s chapter book “Patchwork Dog and Calico Cat.” There are five stories that should be fun and entertaining for kids in the elementary school age bracket. It will make a nice bedtime story book for parents.

What’s your favourite genre to write and what’s your favourite genre to read?

I love fantasy both to write and read. It’s a way to escape reality and be in another time and place if only for a little while.

What inspires you?

My husband, Robert DeBurgh inspired me to start writing and the subjects I write about vary from children’s stories to fantasy to an account of my experiences with ITP, a blood disorder. The inspiration for the books come from my life and the things that make me the person I am. I have always enjoyed reading to kids so that is why I like to write chldren’s and young adult fantasy.

You say your husband inspired you to start writing, do you let him read your work first or make him wait until everyone else can read it?

My husband reads and edits as I write. After I have completed a chapter, he looks over it and gives a thumbs up or down, makes suggestions and encourages me with his compliments.

Do you have any quirks to how you write?

I do not have any particular habits. I write mainly when I have the chance between all the other stuff I do. It took about three years to complete “Gerald and the Wee People” since I only worked on it a little at a time and about five years to complete “Heartaches and Miracles” since it was on an ongoing account of my experiences with ITP.

If there were no restraints on your time, either medical or financial, would you spend most of it writing or are there other things that interest you just as much?

I really love to write, though I have not had much time lately to devote to my unfinished manuscripts. I would probably continue in the same manner as I am now but if there were no restraints or other distractions, I would be free to concentrate more on the writing projects I wish to complete and actually get them done!

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

My time is spent mainy marketing and promoting the two books I already have out. My goal is to have “Patchwork Dog and Calico Cat” out by the end of the year and write a sequel to “Gerald and the Wee People” next year.

You can follow Greta on facebook to find out more.

For more info on her books:

Gerald and the Wee people on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, B&N, Smashwords and Breakthrough Bookstore.

Heartaches and Miracles on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, B&N, Smashwords and Breakthrough Bookstore.

Author Interview: Annarita Guarnieri

Annarita Guarnieri has kindly agreed to be interviewed today.

Tell us about your latest project?

Well, my latest project started here in Italy, last year, and now will soon be published in the US as well, by Inknbeans Press. It is a series of small books about cats, based on my 20 years of life with cats. The first one, “How to Survive Being Owned by a Cat”, aims to give a series of practical suggestion on how to “handle” a cat, be it a kitten or an adult cat… not the things you’ll find on a regular manual, but the tricks you learn through direct experience. And there are also a lot of anecdotes about how I came to devise those tricks in the first place.

When and why did you start writing?

I can’t remember a time in my life when I did not want to write. Well, when I was very small, four or five, and could not write yet, I would spend afternoons inventing stories and using my dolls and other toys as the other characters of the plot (I always was the main character, of course). Growing up, I started “rewriting” plots of movies whose ending I did not like, or to write a follow up story because I liked the characters. That was step two. Then I tried writing a few short stories of my own, when I was in my teens, with the predictable result of writing something awful. Much later, in the Eighties, I got into a Star trek club, here in Italy, and had the luck of becoming close friends with a very good writer, Mariangela Cerrino. When I started writing stories for our fanzines, she finally taught me exactly how to build a good story. Since then, I’ve written a few short stories, a Star Trek short novel, and I have some projects still under work.

You mention writing Star Trek fan fiction for quite a while, do you think you’ll ever try to write your own sci-fi world at any point?

Well, I love Star Trek, its universe and most of all its (original) characters, but what I loved was not the SciFi setting of the saga, it was the relationship among the characters themselves: To tell the truth, I never liked Science Fiction very much. I translated a lot of it in the past, but my favorite dimension is Fantasy, because I find it a better instrument to give room to what I like best: delving into the nature of the characters and in their psychology.

What’s your favourite genre to write and what’s your favourite genre to read?

Well, this is a difficult question, for I have always been a rather omnivorous reader. A few years ago I would have answered “fantasy” without any hesitation, but since the good, old heroic fantasy has changed into urban fantasy, dealing mostly with vampires in love, I’ve turned my attention to other genres that appealed to me in the past. Right now I read almost anything, from mainstream to thrillers, to horror (if it is really good) to… you name it!
As for my writing, it’s more or less the same thing. I started writing inside the Star Trek universe, then I began writing a fantasy saga but never finished it… it’s a project still in my drawer, so to speak, and sooner or later I’ll get back to it. Instead I started writing short stories that vary in genre… comic, dramatic, gothic, vampire. So I suppose I’ve become omnivorous in my writing too!

What inspires you?

This is a difficult question. As a writer, I undoubtedly had two sources of inspiration, my friend Mariangela Cerrino first, for I grew up reading her books, and then David Gemmell, who still is my favorite author ever. But to exactly define what inspires me is rather difficult. You could say that my pen goes where the heart and the mind lead it!

What are you planning on doing next/What else are you up to?

Well, I have a few more ideas concerning cats, and actually a second book about them that should be published here in Italy in Spring. I’m also working on a gothic/historical novel set here in Italy in the year 1200, and I’m trying and planning to put my hands on that fantasy novel, The Dawning Crown, that has been sitting in my drawer for so long. In the meanwhile, I go on with my main job as a translator and editor.

I imagine being a translator and editor for your main job can be both helpful as a writer and make it harder, which do you find?

It is a little of both. It is very helpful because across the years (I began working as a translator and editor in 1979) it has helped me hone my English (I’m Italian, born and bred) and to get to recognise a truly good book, to learn how a book must be written to be deemed “good”. At the same time, translating is a time consuming job, so writing on the side is far from easy because of lack of time. I have a lot of projects hanging just because of that.

If you want to find out mroe about Annarita and her books you can head to her website here, she also runs her own blog here

Author Interview: Jim Murdoch

Jim Murdoch has kindly agreed to be my first interview of the new year so here it is.

Tell us about your latest project.

At the moment all my time is being taken up with promotion of an ebook entitled The Whole Truth, an omnibus edition of my first two paperbacks, Living with the Truth and Stranger than Fiction. Here’s the basic blurb:

Jonathan Payne is a jaded bookseller at the end of a wasted life which has been spent in a dull north England seaside town. He could be an everyman, but seems to have missed the boat somewhere. He’s both distastefully pathetic and oddly sympathetic. A passive character, he has been happy to read about life without experiencing either great joy or great despair. If Death were to knock on his door it wouldn’t trouble him greatly.

The knock comes. Only it’s not Death. It’s the truth. Literally. The human personification of truth.

Truth proves to be a likeable, if infuriating, character with a novel mode of expression: “glib dipped in eloquence and then rolled in a coating of irony,” to quote one reviewer. He knows everything and has no qualms revealing intimate details of lives of the people who cross his path while he’s with Jonathan. He’s quite indiscriminate. The same reviewer described him as “one of the most endearing antagonists I have come across.” Comparisons with Peter Cook’s devil in Bedazzled are not unreasonable.

Jonathan learns what he’s missed out on in life, what other people think and the true nature of the universe which is nothing like he would have expected it to be. At the end, having learned far more than he ever wanted to know, he finds out that it’s usually never too late to start again. Only sometimes it is: no Ebenezer Scrooge or George Bailey-esque turnaround for poor Jonathan.

I also have the paperback edition of my fourth novel, Milligan and Murphy coming out before the end of the year so I’ll need to start promoting that too soon. It’s a novel based on the writings of Samuel Beckett, specifically his novel Mercier and Camier.

What’s your favourite genre to write and what’s your favourite genre to read?

I don’t consider myself a genre writer, in fact in my naiveté I assumed that most writers weren’t. It’s only since I’ve been online that I’ve realised how mistaken I was. Until I started reviewing books on my blog I read twentieth century literary novels almost exclusively – during my twenties I went through a phase of only reading books by Nobel Prize winners. My aspirations were always to be a literary novelist which meant punching above my weight, especially at the start, but my third and fourth novels definitely fit the bill. Not so sure about the fifth.

The first two books are really unclassifiable however this quote from the author Kay Sexton talking about the first novel probably nails it:

“[T]his is one of those novels that bookshops must hate: not ‘hard’ enough to be spec fic, not ‘weird’ enough to be fantasy, too realistic for the humour section and yet too humorous to shelve easily with the lit fic. And that, I suspect is going to prove to be its charm; for those who do read it, it’s a singular take on the world, and it will either resonate with you or leave you cold. […] But I can recommend that you try it — if you like distinctive fiction that rings no bells and blows no whistles but creeps up on you with its absurdities, this book will satisfy you, as it did me.”

She did slightly better with the sequel:

“I tried to come up with one of those pithy one-liners that you are supposed to use to encapsulate a project for the movie industry (which is popularly supposed not to be able to cope with more than a sentence of information at a time) and what I decided on was Alan Bennett meets Douglas Adams! […] I loved it.”

When and why did you start writing?

I didn’t write when I was very young. Apart from one poem, in Scots, when I must have been about eight. It was about a public hanging of all things. I have no idea where that came from but I’m afraid I don’t have a copy so I can’t give you a taster. During my primary school years the poetry that we concentrated on was in the Romantic tradition, sometimes with and sometimes without the capital r, the likes of Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Wordsworth, Walter de la Mare, John Masefield. But when I moved to secondary school (I’d be about twelve at the time) I started submitting poems to the school magazine and every year I would get a handful published. It was here that I was first exposed to poetry that wasn’t quite so pretty, specifically the war poetry of Wilfred Owen, but the real change for me came when I was sitting in a cold classroom on a dreich Tuesday afternoon. Our teacher handed out roneoed copies of Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Mr. Bleaney’. We groaned en masse but as she started to open up the poem I found myself captivated. There were no similes, no metaphors, no alliteration, no onomatopoeia, no babbling brooks, no blokes sitting in fields full of daisies. Suddenly I realised what poetry was; all the rest was window-dressing and for the next twenty years I wrote poetry almost exclusively. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-thirties and in crisis that I thought to try something else. And that something else proved to be two novels written back-to-back in about three months.

Why do I write? That’s like asking me why I breathe. In 1997 I wrote this poem:

The Art of Breathing

To find room for the new
you have to let go of
the old

so to learn how to write
I had to forget how
to breathe

and for a time I thought
I had to write to keep
breathing

which makes such perfect sense
but only if you’re a
poet.

20 November 1997

I believe that the need to be creative is something natural, something we all have. Some people paint, some write music, others dance or crochet and others write. I define a writer as a person whose natural response to life is to write about it. I didn’t discover that need until I passed puberty but then that’s often the time when we start to come into our own as rounded individuals. I don’t write to tell stories, to entertain. I’m not interested in making a name for myself. If I found myself alone on a desert island I’d still write.

I no longer draw any distinctions between the kinds of writing I do. The material dictates the form. I began as a poet but poetry, at least the poetry that I find myself capable of writing, has its limitations. Since I completed those first two novels I’ve written another three, two plays, a ton of short stories and I’ve even dabbled with flash fiction. But in my heart of hearts I’m still a poet before anything else.

Have you released any of your poetry to the public?

I’ve only published one poetry book, This Is Not About What You Think. It’s a collection of poetry covering just over thirty years arranged in such a way that it moves from poems about childhood through to old age, a sort of seven ages of man. You can read the whole of the first section of the book on my website here along with some other poems. There are some audio and video readings here and in the right hand column of my blog there is a list of poems and stories available online that I update whenever anything new goes up anywhere.

What’s your perfect writing day like?

Being a writer these days is far harder than it used to be especially if you’re foolhardy enough to go it alone. Yes, it’s a great time to be a writer because getting into print has never been easier, but being read has never been harder for a lot of reasons. Even those who have written something that they’ve managed to get accepted by a traditional publisher are not immune and only the big names like Thomas Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy can afford to keep their distance from their adoring fans. The rest of us have to roll our sleeves up and wade out into the social networks and try to get noticed. I could be writing now but instead I’m doing this interview, my second today as it happens. Not that I’m complaining. As long as the questions are interesting I’m happy to prattle on about my writing all day long but while I’m doing that I’m not doing any new writing. So my perfect writing day would simple be to write and not have to worry about checking my inbox or Facebook or making sure that I’ve responded to all the comments on my blog or kept up with the books I have committed to review. It would be nice just to get up and have nothing to do bar write. I’ve written two lengthy blog posts about this recently, one on boredom and the other on intuition, but the thing that comes out of both of them is that a writer really needs space to be creative, literally time to be bored and when was the last time you could afford that luxury?

What’s one piece of advice you could give to other writers in this new day and age of self publishing and ebooks?

Be professional. I used to be an IT trainer a good few years back. One of my trainees once she’d finished her qualification used to help me out preparing assessment materials. She was keen and efficient but sloppy. The thing is, whenever I pointed out her mistakes, her response was always the same, “It’ll do. Give me something else.” Er, no, it wouldn’t do and I always ended up fixing her work before I could use it. Never take an “it’ll do” attitude towards any aspect of your work. Perfection is unattainable – don’t go the other way – but never settle; if it’s not good enough and you know it’s not good enough do something about it before it gets pointed out to you.

What are you planning on doing next? What else are you up to?

I’m not a big planner. Not as far as the writing goes. I know what books I’m planning to release next – after Milligan and Murphy I’m aiming to put out a collection of short stories near the end of 2012 called Making Sense – and I know what books I have to read and review before the end of the year but as for what I’m going to write next I’m just allowing nature to take its course. I have an idea that I can’t seem to be able to rid myself of but I have no clue if I’m up to the task in hand. Like most of my books I have no story but that’s not so weird: the film director Mike Leigh never starts out with a script, just a concept, and Harold Pinter would often begin with just a voice in his head – no context and maybe not even a gender – and that would be his jumping off point. I get that. When I got the idea that blossomed into Milligan and Murphy I had just crossed the St Andrews Suspension Bridge in Glasgow when I heard the words, “Milligan and Murphy were brothers,” and the rest, as they say, is history. So I’m in no rush to start my next novel or whatever it turns out to be. I’ll be living with it for a good three years – prolific I am not – and that’s a long time to be stuck flogging a dead horse. No, I’ll know when the time is right. It’s only nine months since I completed Left, my last novel.

You can find Jim’s books at the links below:

FV Books
Smashwords

If you want to find out more info about Jim himself you can check out his blog, website or follow him on either twitter or facebook.