Author Interview: Michael Forester

I am delighted to welcome Michael Forester. His latest novel, Dragonsong, tells the story of Rebekah, a young woman bent on revenge. After her lover is murdered, Rebekah bargains with the Prince of Demons and acquires the ability to transform into a dragon. Her self-assigned mission is simple: to punish he who she holds responsible for her pain — her father.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hi Jessica and thanks for inviting me to join you on your blog today.

I’m a deafened author from the UK. I divide my time between the UK’s New Forest (heaven on earth as far as I’m concerned) and Tenerife where I spend my winters writing. At 60 years of age I’ve retired from a successful career in business to pursue the first love of my life, writing. Fun facts? I live with my hearing dog Matt. He’s thirteen and a half now and retired now. But you can’t tell a dog he’s retired! He still accompanies me out and about in a ‘retired’ uniform, but he’s as deaf as I am now, so he doesn’t tell me about sounds like the door bell any more. People ask if I’ll have another hearing dog. The answer is probably that I will, but not while Matt is alive as it would mean breaking the bond with him in order to establish it with the new dog. I owe my old friend far to much to do that to him.

My first creative writing book was ‘If It Wasn’t For That Dog,’ and is about my first year with him. It’s still available on Amazon.

2.  When did you start writing?
My biography starts with the phrase ‘Michael Forester was born with a pen in his hand,’ so I guess you could say I started writing quite early! My first books were about business. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that I gave up writing for business and turned to creative writing. Now I write fiction, poetry, and mind body spirit.

3. Why did you start writing?
Like most writers I’d say I started because I had to. There’s an inner compulsion that drives us to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. It’s harder to stop it coming than it is to let it flow. And of course, doing so is hugely satisfying. There’s nothing like taking on a writing project, such as your first novel, wondering if you’re up to the task then looking at the finished product, bound, published and out there being read and enjoyed by people.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
I’ve written several, but let’s talk about Dragonsong first, as that’s the one I’m currently focused on. I had planned to write a short story for a friend who had helped me out of a problem. For reasons personal to the friend, it was to be called ‘Lady Attie of the Lake.’ As I settled to the keyboard, quite unexpectedly words in rhyming verse began to appear in my mind. Over the next few days the words and lines blossomed into a magnificent 3,000 word Arthurian poem about a female warrior who saved a blinded seer from a dragon. Needless to say, my friend was delighted!

But as I lay in bed thinking about it a few days later, questions began to occur to me. Where had Lady Attie come from? Who was the blind seer? What was their history? Suddenly I found myself creating the prequel, a 7,000 word poem called ‘The Seer of Albion.’

But it didn’t stop there either. I was now in full flow as the story just rant and ran into a third ‘book’ called Dragonsong, with the final resolution to the story coming in a fourth, ‘The Sleep Stone.’ The complete work, a fantasy novel in rhyming verse, was also named Dragonsong. People have been kind enough to call it ‘beautiful,’ and ‘the most unusual book they ever read.’

5. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
The title refers to the ‘song’ or sound of the dragon. It first comes up in the book like this:

When all was quiet in that place
a power came upon her frame
contorted now became her face
as she a dragon now became
and dragon song roared forth into the night.
She roared her agony at last
as voice she found and pain declared
for all the evil that was passed
and all the suff’ring she had shared.
Then Harmony exuded hate that hour.
Thus energised by deepest pain
she rose in strength into the night
and life would never be the same
as dragon thus did take to flight
and o’er the land it flaunted now its power.

6. Does your story have a moral?
Very much so. Dragonsong tells the story of Rebekah, who believes her father Merlin has murdered her lover, Vidar. She persuades the Prince of Demons to turn her into a dragon to enable her to take revenge. However, she has been fooled by Oberon, Captain King of Elves who is the real murderer. The story explores the consequences of her error and the power of hatred and, ultimately, love.

7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
The answer has to be Rebekah, who turns at will into Harmony the Dragon and back again. She is a tragic character who gave me the opportunity to explore the fallout from negative emotions allowed to run their course.

8. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Dragonsong.
A manipulated woman who finally finds rest in love.
Ok that was nine words!

9. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
People say you should write a little every day. That doesn’t work for me. When I’m in full flow I write from morning until night, perhaps 12-15 hours, taking meals at my desk. I become oblivious to my surroundings and become totally absorbed in the story.

10. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
I write an outline only when I have a strong sense of where the story is going. In the early stages I prefer to let my unconscious have a completely free reign.

11. What is your favorite book genre?
Literary fiction. My heroes are the greats of literature, historical and current. The likes of John Steinbeck, Salman Rushdie, Kazuo Ishiguro

12. What is currently on your to-be-read shelf?
My to read shelf seems to get bigger and bigger! Currently I’m reading Shark Alley by Stephen Carver. Dr. Carver is my editor. The book is a literary delight and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes 19th century literature of has an interest in the 19th  century.

13. What is your favorite book?
There are several I could choose. To me the most beautiful book ever written is But Beautiful by Geoff Dyer. If I had written that book I could die happy. When I started writing there were two authors I said I wanted to emulate. For intellectual ability, Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and for emotional content Isobel Allende in Paula. I have yet to approach either.

14. Any project in the works?
Lots!
My next release will be a short story collection, The Goblin Child and other stories that will appear this Autumn. After that I’m expecting to release Forest Rain, my first collection of inspirational Learnings for the spiritually awakened. Then next year I’m looking to release a dystopian novella, A Home For Other gods and probably Vicious as well. Details of all of these will appear on my web site.

15. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
It various enormously. Dragonsong took three months with virtually no changes from the first draft. Vicious took six years.

16. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
Without question credibility and characters that the reader can identify with, combined with a readable writing style.

17. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If you want to write, you have already proved you have the base material to do so. But 90% of success lies in tenacity – keeping at it. I don’t mean just stubbornly believing you’re already a master author though. You must serve the apprenticeship as with all trades and professions. Take courses. Show your work to sympathetic friends. Read, read and read again. Read books you like from genres you like. Read books you don’t like and ask yourself why. Read popular books and ask yourself how you would have written them. Read great literature and ask yourself why it’s regarded as great. Then be prepared to spend time and, if possible, money, on learning how to get better. Get edited. Submit to magazines. Post on line – there are many sites where you can do so for free. Read the stories of how the literary greats achieved their prominence. Virtually all had to go through the mill of rejection time after time after time. So grow a thick skin, but learn from your mistakes and from feedback others of experience are prepared to give you.

Most important of all, never, never give up.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
I find it impossible to answer! Both are fundamental parts of my life.

2. Ebook or physical book?
Physical without question. Part of the pleasure of books comes from owning them, seeing them on the shelf.

3. Travelling by car or travelling by airplane?
I love international travel! The further the better, so aircraft.

4. Working in a group or working alone?
Could a writer work in a group?

5. Being Spiderman for a day or being Batman for a day?
How about Solomon? Could I be Solomon please?

6. Reading or writing?
If you made me choose it would be writing. I’d find it hard to live without.

7. To find the love of your life (only to find out that you’re not the love of their life) or to have someone declare you the love of their life (note, however, that this someone is not a person whom you are romantically interested in)?
Oh brother. What a choice… Are you always this cruel?

8. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
Either would be purgatory.

9. Bungee jumping or going on the slingshot ride?
Ask me afterwards…

10. Being drawn into a tornado or being drawn into a whirlpool?
I already live in a tornado. It’s called writing.

11. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
The abandoned road sounds fun. Is there a flying saucer coming down on me?

12. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?
I’d find more to write about in the latter.

13. Drinking a glass of expired, curdled milk or eating a bowl of cold, slimy worms? (Note: the worms would be dead, though not cooked.)
Let’s see, that a choice between yoghurt and noodles isn’t it?

14. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?
Aren’t all writers two stories tall?

15. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
What a horrific choice.

Thank you for joining us, Michael!
Readers: want to connect with Michael? You can find him on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. Also, be sure to check out his author website and blog.

Author Interview: Cory Clement

Coffee with Architects of Worlds Afar is pleased to welcome Cory Clement. His debut novel — Farewell Keystone — tells the story of Owen Reilly. In the midst of struggling to stay sober, Owen meets an aspiring wrestler named Sonya. Together, the pair embark on a road trip which proves to be unlike anything that Owen could have ever expected. Shortly thereafter, Owen is forced to make a daunting choice, one which could essentially alter the course of his life.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a just a weirdo from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I dig pro wrestling, watching cheesy 80’s movies and low-budget horror flicks (with my cat and a coffee if I’m really lucky), and of course when that isn’t going on, I’m prone to listening to music while brainstorming scenes and characters for one of the stories I’m working on.

2. When did you start writing?
It goes way back, and I can actually remember one of, if not THE first things I ever tried to write story-wise. As mentioned, I’ve been a huge horror movie buff for as long as I can remember. I ended up loving a particularly cheesy and bad movie by the name of ‘Troll 2’. It was on HBO all the time, and has since gone on to garner a HUGE cult following and fanbase, for literally being the best worst movie ever made. I loved it as a kid though, and I can fondly recall writing out a little one or two page story about the so-called ‘Trolls’ (ahem,goblins) in the movie coming after me and my family. I did that with a lot of horror movie characters (had them coming after me and friends/family) and it spawned into coming up with actual ideas of my own. It was fun and a way to escape, and with age (to this very second) it spawned into the top way I know how to explain or express myself. It can be fun, it can hurt – but the thing is, once you feel that release and outlet, you’re forever hooked and attached to the writing, at least I know I am.

3. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel? 
Well, for me Farewell Keystone is part-idea, part-diary. Obviously there are some created things thrown in the mix, but a huge portion of it came from me just having so much on my mind struggling with depression and sobriety – and just life, really. It began though watching Twin Peaks for the first time ever – there was a marathon of it airing and I was just hypnotized in the best of ways. The music from that show, I can’t even tell you how much of a role it played for me in the early stages. And the show itself almost let me know it was okay to be a little weird or quirky – so seeing that show for the first time was huge in the inspiration department creatively. I also just always wanted to escape Philadelphia and move to start off somewhere new. To this day I still am saving up for that to happen, actually. Besides that, like I said, I just kept feeling a lot and going through things and used the backbone of the story as a way for me to express and release a lot of emotions and opinions. I had attempted many times to write the story, but it never felt ‘right’, until I seriously hit a rock bottom in my life. I couldn’t find a job on top of all the chaos going on, so I tried passing time by writing a little and it finally felt like the story it was meant to be so I kept going with it. Then it just was a matter of pushing myself to finally actually realize the damn dream of putting out a book. I think the story itself lets you know when its ready and meant to be finished.

4. Does your story have a moral?
I think that’s honestly up to the reader – if they extract something out of it, whatever it is good or bad that’s their right and the beauty of it. For me, Owen and Sonya, the two main characters are almost yin and yang of myself. Owen is the scared, in fear and worry type of person afraid of whats going to happen and feeling lost – while Sonya is that strong, determined go for it and stop worrying so much side of me which at the time was very hardy to reach and still can be at times. So, there are certainly lots of morals and lessons and meanings to it for me – but as far as a bottom line one I think that’s up to the person who reads it. If you spend the money on the book, and feel or want to view it a way completely different than me, like I said, that’s all good.

5. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
Usually me sitting around with pen in hand listening to music. The music factor is big for me – generally instrumental ambient/drone type stuff. One thing I always HAVE to do before I write though, is cast my characters as if it were a movie. The character names come first, and I envision them as a particular actor or actress I think suits them, and go from there. Obviously it can switch around as far as characters, and you have to keep adding some in along the process – but before I even write about a character, I have to sit back and think of the ‘dream’ actor or actress I would pick to portray them if it were a movie. I suppose that stems from being such a big movie nerd, and I also have aspirations to get my work adapted for film versions, so the whole casting thing is an absolute must for me. There’s been times I had to stop myself while in the middle of a solid writing spree because I had a character coming into play and just couldn’t visualize them properly. Not sure if other writers do that, but the casting is so big to me, as is the mentioned musical aspect. I prefer doing at the very least the casting part with pen and paper. No matter how far and advanced technology is, the power of pen to paper and that feeling is a necessity to me.

6. What is your favorite book?
I don’t know if I could even pick one…Black Coffee Blues by Henry Rollins is up there. Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, Snuff by Chuck Palahniuk I loved the hell out of too. I’m honestly not a huge reader. Its film that motivates and inspires me most, I just find it better and easier to write in the style of a book versus screenplay. I write all my stories as if they are films in my mind, and hope that becomes a reality at least once for me. I just don’t dig the formatting and style of screenwriting. I’ll tell you a random gem that I think is criminally neglected – In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami.

7. Any project in the works?
Of course. I had the idea in my mind to stop writing for a bit to just focus all on the promoting of Farewell Keystone, but it didn’t last very long. The sense of joy and contentment I got when I finished Farewell Keystone was just insane. The whole process was just ethereal – getting the cover designed and finished, getting the final proof sent to me. Getting to let everyone know that I actually did it, including myself. Its addicting, and I would know what addicting is, trust me. I’m working on my next novel, Clean Slates as we speak but its just in the layout process. With Farewell Keystone I messed around with escaping a place you don’t want to be in or can’t stand – with this I’m going to explore having to come back in some form. I also imagined what would happen if I made a solid amount of money from writing enough to move off and be financially set – if I would fall into the drinking again, if I’d want a relationship and trust anybody, if I’d actually feel complete if I could get away. So those ideas among others are being balled up into the next novel idea. That’s what I want to finish next to be my follow-up….the other two or three are just longtime ideas that I haven’t pinpointed how I want to approach exactly, not to mention I want to see what happens with Farewell Keystones release. If opportunities arise from that, things can always change.

8. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Just do it. I know for me it was such a worry, so scary to think of everyone being able to see my work, judge me, laugh at me or point their finger. But life’s too short, just try and see what happens. Don’t worry about being perfect, worry about enjoying it as much as you can and finishing it and not letting others dilute your image. Don’t take it all too serious either. If you go through the finished product and find four or five little random typo’s or errors – just keep moving and remember that you still did it. Just have some fun and see what happens, reach.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies? 
Movies for sure, but as I noted before, my preferred style of writing is in book form. But from a hobby/fan approach, there’s nothing that tops movies.

2. Dogs or cats?
Dogs, but you need at least one cat in the household at all times. Since I have moved out on my own, I’ve lived in apartments not allowing dogs so I’ve been without one for a while and its a huge void – its horrible not having a dog. But because of that, I went out and got a cat, and she is pretty awesome. In a dream world, I’d have two or three dogs and this little spoiled diva of a cat I got now.

3. Summer or winter?
Winter. Easiest question ever asked…I CANNOT STAND hot weather. Bring on the snow.

4. Cake or ice-cream?
Can I use cheesecake as a happy medium? If so, that. If not, then ice cream.

5. Ebook or physical book?
Physical. I’ve never read an ebook, kindle or such and don’t intend to. A book is meant to be physically in your hands. I saw many self-publishing authors out there solely putting out ebooks and saying its a waste of money or time for physical, and even if that is the case, I still could never release a book without an actual book. It doesn’t compute to me.

6. Nights out or nights in?
Nights in, I’m a pretty introverted person and bit of a loner.

7. Working in a group or working alone?
Working alone for sure.

8. To find true love or to win the lottery?
At this point its the lottery.

9. To find the love of your life (only to find out that you’re not the love of their life) or to have someone declare you the love of their life (note, however, that this someone is not a person whom you are romantically interested in)?
Call me selfish and cold, but the second one easily.

10. Losing your ability to speak or losing your ability to hear?
I’d want to be able to still hear music and watch movies, so, I’d go with losing the ability to speak.

11. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Never read another book. Film is too important to me, and as mentioned I’m not the biggest reader anyways.

12. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
I don’t have a huge sweet-tooth, and coffee is way too vital, so this is beyond easy – never eat chocolate.

Thank you for joining us, Cory!
Readers: want to connect with Cory? You can find him on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. Also, be sure to check out his author page on Amazon.

Author Interview: Laura Allen

The Wanderer tells the story of Asa, a gypsy girl who has just discovered that she’s an alien — an alien wanted dead by other extraterrestrials, no less. Sound like an interesting read? If so, you’ll definitely want to stick around. Author Laura Allen is in the (virtual) building, and she’s excited to share more about her debut novel with us. 

Laura Allen

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

  • Where are you from?

I’m from the outskirts of Tacoma, Washington!

  • Where do you currently reside?

A small town outside of Tacoma, WA

  • Do you have any hobbies?

 Hobbies, oh boy! I love to write, read, watch jeopardy and wheel of fortune with my family, explore the outdoors, and pin on Pinterest!

  • What do you do for a living?

I’m a Daughter, an Author, a Friend, and I breed Sugar Gliders!

  • Give us a few fun facts about yourself.

I own a bearded dragon that’s named Drogon, and 4 Sugar gliders, I can read lighting fast, and I’m quiet for most, but If I feel comfortable with you, I’ll be crazy weird, (lol)

2. When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was eleven.

3. Why did you start writing?
When I was eleven, I started just randomly getting ideas that should have happened on a Tv show or a movie. I then started writing on Quotev, (At that time I didn’t know most sites, and wasn’t into Wattpad, like most are.) I soon came to love writing, and in 2013, in November I started The Runners Series, my first novel written without fan-fic’s to help. I started Nanowrimo that year, also. It was a stressful, and fun year!

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
Yes, very well, it was at a hotel, going to work a vending show!

  • On a related note, how different is the final product (the book) from your original vision?

Very, it started out as just one book, but I thought; what if a reader came to ask what had happened before that last book? I would have so much explaining to do! So I went back to writing, and the last book will change, and It’ll probably leave the readers speechless!

5. How did you arrive at your book’s title?
A Necklace pendant I have, see each runner gets a pendant, it’s pretty big deal, and so The Wanderer, is what fit Asa

  • Were there other titles which you were considering?

No, not really, I had found many amazing titles, but nothing that fit.

6. Does your story have a moral?
Don’t trust everyone, haha, no seriously that’s probably the biggest moral there, if there really is one

7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
Well for the ones you haven’t met it would be a tie between Adria, and Misty; both Runners. I won’t spoil it, so I’ll use just The Wanderer’s characters for now.

I got to say the most fun to write was Ki, he’s very sarcastic, and funny, and I enjoyed spending time getting to know him!

8. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in The Wanderer.
Different, she’ll be something unusual.

9. Let’s discuss what a typical writing session looks like for you.

  • Do you listen to music as you write?

Yes, mostly all the time, especially because I live with five other people in the house!

  • What is your preferred writing time? Morning? Afternoon? Late at night?

Early mornings, and usually late at night I get the bazaar ideas!

  • Do you have a specific location that you go to when you want to write?

I usually like to write anywhere, (mostly indoors.) I can write in a hotel, a starbucks (Or local café), or at home!

  • Do you set daily goals for yourself (in terms of word count)?

Not unless I have myself a deadline.

10. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
No, I sometimes Outline different things, but then again, I sometimes I like to just free-hand everything!

11. What is your favorite book genre?
Young Adult

12. What is currently on your to-be-read shelf?
The Benighted by A.M. Dunnewin is on my TBR

13. What is your favorite book?
Legend by Marie Lu, she wrote her book with passion and love, she fell with her characters, she kicked butt with her characters, and she grew stronger with her characters.

It’s dear to me, because I found a work of art that the artist took pride and love and mixed with patience, and hard work! The plot was absolutely amazing!

14. Any project in the works?
The Maker, (The 2nd in The Runners Series)

And I’m playing with a few other ideas, as I finish the second and start the third of The Runners Series.

15. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
It can take from a minimum of six months, all the way up to two years.

16. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
The passion! If you love to write, and are not doing it for the money or the fame, you’ll write something (most of the time) that’s worth reading, I’ve seen authors, who are well known, writings go down the drain, because they are too greedy, sadly.

17. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
First, is that if your writing for money and not writing for the love of writing, then this isn’t your thing. Writing is something that you have to have a love for doing. Many Authors well tell you it’s a job, it’s the money that counts. Well they’re lying. Writing is something you need to love to make a good story.

And second, and also my main advice is don’t give up, my first draft no one could read, it was all gibberish, and everywhere, when I went back to editing and working it into what it is today, I was laughing and crying, and wanting to kick myself, but I came out of it and you all can too.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Ebook or physical book?
Physical book

2. Living in the city or living in the country?
Country, (But not too out by myself)

3. Travelling by car or travelling by airplane?
Car, I love stopping at little pit stops, and enjoying the view!

4. To find true love or to win the lottery?
True love

5. Being Spiderman for a day or being Batman for a day?
Batman (I wanna take his bat car for a spin!)

6. Bungee jumping or going on the slingshot ride?
Bungee Jumping

7. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
Movies/Television (You never said I couldn’t have Youtube on my internet, lol)

8. Having your car break down on an extremely busy expressway or along an abandoned road in the middle of nowhere?
Busy Expressway, (I will not die in the middle of nowhere!)

9. Finding yourself caught in the middle of a hurricane or finding yourself caught in the middle of a snowstorm? (Note: in both scenarios, you’d be outdoors and have no access to shelter.)
Hurricane

10. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?
Two stories (Although being two inches would have its perks, hm)

Thank you for joining us, Laura!
Readers: want to connect with Laura? You can find her on TwitterGoodreadsFacebook, and Instagram. Also, be sure to check out her author website.

Interview: Ben Langdon, Eliza Langdon, and Lorin Olsen

Today’s interview is a little different from most others that Coffee with Architects of Worlds Afar has featured, for we are joined by a father-daughter writing duo as well as by their novel’s illustrator. Isn’t that neat? 😀

Without further ado, allow me to introduce Ben and Eliza Langdon — authors of The Adventures of Charlie Conti: Small Sacrifices — and Lorin Olsen.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

BEN: I’m like most people, I guess, juggling a lot of different things while keeping them connected in some ways. I’ve got three (mostly) teenaged kids, work as a high school teacher, write superhero fiction and run a weekend place called The Imagination and Learning Centre where we offer board games, workshops and a place to buy comics and pop culture things. It looks like a lot, but each part helps with the other parts.

ELIZA: I’m nearly fourteen and live in Portland, Australia. I’ve lived in Cottbus, Germany for four months when I was little, but mostly I’m an Australian through and through. I don’t know what I’ll do when I get older but I like cooking, reading and watching TV. I’ve got two brothers and anyone who has two brothers knows what that’s like.

lorin_olsen[1]LORIN: Hah well I usually have a hard time talking about myself, but seeming that is the
point of an interview I’ll do my best.

I live in the USA on the East Coast in Massachusetts, and I spend most of my free time jumping from art project to art project. Basically I love making stuff, so almost all of the things I do include doing something creative, I obviously draw and paint, but I love digital sculpting, prop-making, cosplay, and making small video games. Speaking of video games, that is actually what I went to college for, video game design. Didn’t work out great as that is apparently an extremely difficult job to find. I currently work three different jobs, I do freelance illustration work, I teach children’s art classes, and I work at a store called T.J. Maxx.

2. When did you start writing/drawing?

BEN: I started writing novels about eight years ago, but before then I did a bunch of short stories and online collaborative writing – both of which was really great practice. I think the best boost for my writing came from a writing group I joined through the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, under the tutelage of Paul Collins. Having a group of other writers read and critique your work really does help, and without it, I doubt I’d ever have finished my first draft.

LORIN: Well, technically I have been drawing since I could remember, but in the past several years, starting a year or so after college, I have taken it much more seriously.

3. Why did you start writing/drawing?

BEN: I started writing superhero fiction because I wanted to get stories that went beyond the pages of comic books. I’ve always been interested in characters: their backstory, motivation and connectedness to their world. You can get a lot of that in comic books, but I wanted more. So I started writing ‘The Miranda Contract’ which explored the life of a 17 year old kid, including his convoluted family history, feelings of prejudice and being trapped by his reputation. On top of those issues, he was also an uberhuman: a kid with the ability to generate and control electricity.

ELIZA: Dad and I wrote ‘Small Sacrifices’ because I didn’t really like the books on the YA shelf. Nothing got my attention. I was really into watching TV series like ‘Pretty Little Liars’, ‘Veronica Mars’, ‘Hart of Dixie’ and a bunch of others. I liked the characters and what they did. And I wanted that in a book. Dad and I sat down and started coming up with a main character and then outward to the supporting characters and the place they lived in. I thought it was kind of like thinking up a TV show in a way.

LORIN: Well when I was little, I started drawing because it was a fun way to hang out with my dad. He would draw with me and my brothers and sometimes my cousins too, and doodle superheros, ninjas, and knights and have a great time. I think that was my original reason for loving this stuff. My other reason though, after college when I got more serious about art, was realizing I could potentially make it a profession. Finding work was very difficult, so after applying to a crazy number of video game companies for even the lowest positions, I decided that maybe that wasn’t what I was meant to do. So I just started working hard at improving my drawings to get to the point where it was a marketable skill.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?

BEN: Like Eliza said before, we started this project because Eliza said she didn’t want to read books anymore, and that was kind of alarming for me, an English teacher! We’d always thought up stories together, ever since all the kids were little. The stories would be really twisty, linking backstories together and basing characters on people we knew. So we took that idea a bit further – the main character, Charlie Conti, is based on Eliza. Her middle name really is Charlie. As the story grew, we started to put more subplots into it, and by the end it serves as something of a prequel to my first novel, ‘The Miranda Contract’. Going forward, characters from both series will feature in each other’s books. I don’t think it’s too confusing. The books can be read on their own, or enjoyed on a deeper level knowing who’s who and where they fit into the wider, fictional world.

ELIZA: I remember we went outside with two chairs and started talking about the characters and the scenarios. We got a guy to do a picture for us on fiverr.com and it was so awesome we had to get him to do the whole book. His name was Lorin.

5. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.

BEN: We came up with ‘The Adventures of Charlie Conti’ series title first, and it just sounded right. Something about the right number of syllables. As for the book’s title, we played around with that for a while. It was important to me that the title had more than one meaning. I’ll let Eliza talk about the actual title.

ELIZA: ‘Small Sacrifices’ is about Charlie having to make all these changes to her life to make other people happy. She takes everything seriously. It also plays on the fact that Charlie’s Dad is shrunk down to the size of a Lego Mini Figure for most of the story.

6. Does your story have a moral?

BEN: Basically the story is about being your own person, and not feeling compelled to do what other people think you should do. Charlie feels like she has to be the mother figure in the Conti household because her Mum is gone, and her Dad is a complete loser. But, through the book she realizes that the world won’t end just because she can’t be everything to everyone.

ELIZA: It’s also about the pressures of being a teenager. Charlie’s best friend experiences some cyber bullying and there’s other kinds of bullying and stuff in the book too.

7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?

BEN: I’m not going to say Charlie, even though she is quintessentially the greatest character in the book. I’ll say I like the character of Dan in the book. He’s the younger version of the main character in my first novel. I really enjoyed writing about a younger Dan, from a time when he wasn’t a hero but was being influenced by the wrong sort of people. Knowing where he ends up is nice and it’s good to show readers that Dan is a complex character. He’s a hero, but he struggles with it, especially in this book.

ELIZA: Charlie, obviously. She was fun to create and I feel like I know her as well as I know myself. I even know where she’s going and what she’ll end up doing in the other books. I really have a hard time when readers say they love Luca – because, seriously? Little brothers are terrible. Kidding.

LORIN: Oh man, well this is a tough one. If we are talking about characters designs for Small Sacrifices, I would have to go with Charlie first, then Luca and Nakaya tied for second, they are a ton of fun to draw!

If we are talking personal characters and not characters from Ben’s book though, I would have to say Violet Feathers. Although she is more simple than a lot of my other characters design wise, I have spent more time developing her backstory and personality than most of my other characters. She is a bit like Charlie in some ways, she is tough because she has to be, but would rather be nice, she has had to deal with some difficult stuff for a kid her age and is doing her best, she isn’t as smart as Charlie is though, but she makes up for that by keeping ghosts as bodyguards.
[Picture #1 of Violet Feathers]
[Picture #2 of Violet Feathers]

8. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Small Sacrifices.

BEN: Trying desperately to be normal.

ELIZA: Serious, but can be goofy.

LORIN: I love her so much!

9. What does a typical writing/drawing session look like for you?

BEN: When I’m writing by myself, I use an outline of the novel and kind of write like I’m putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I use scenes and multiple points of view to keep the story moving. The actual writing can be done on the computer or by hand in notebooks – it changes depending on where I am at with the writing. The best possible conditions for writing seem to include notebooks of scribbled ideas and snatches of dialogue, together with a huge chunk of time where nothing else needs to be done.

As for writing with Eliza, we did things differently. We worked on characters first, to ensure each one had their strengths and drawbacks, their reasons for being in Henty Bay and the kinds of things they could bring to the story. We spent a lot of time discussing the plot during long drives in the car or just sitting around the lounge room. The actual writing was done in bursts, where we’d discuss a scene and then I’d write it. The pages would be passed to Eliza who would check them and add comments and lines (especially dialogue).

We added Lorin Olsen into the mix as our book’s illustrator, and that changed the process of writing again. When we got illustrations back from Lorin they would often bring up new ideas or slight changes to what we’d planned. A major example of this is Charlie’s brother, Luca, who was supposed to be a rather useless little baby brother, but after getting images back from Lorin, Luca changed into an older and more energetic character.

LORIN: Sitting at my computer, reference on one monitor to help with whatever I am working on, music playing through my headphones, and me crossing my fingers that someone doesn’t interrupt me. As a digital artist I am tied to my computer at my home, and as someone who works three jobs I am stuck fitting artwork around my other work, so I don’t get to work on art as often as I would like and I have a hard time setting a good routine or schedule. My one real ritual to start the day off though would be warmup characters, 15 to 20 minute character portraits, like these.

10. What is your favorite book genre?

BEN: I like to read contemporary Australian writers in what would be probably called literary fiction, but I also enjoy genre fiction, particularly superhero fiction. As for comics, I’ve been a die-hard fan of Marvel Comics since 1988, particularly the Uncanny X-Men.

ELIZA: I like to read teenage books but they have to have good storylines or I’ll give up on them. I like some comics, especially ‘Saga’, ‘Giant Days’, ‘Bat Girl’ and ‘Harley Quinn’.

LORIN: Hah, well I am really bad at making choices, I can’t decide between period dramas and science fiction.

11. What are you currently reading?

BEN: I’m currently reading two books for my English classes at high school: ‘Stasiland’ by Anna Funder, and ‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley. Both books deal with a dystopian society and the curbing of individual rights for the ‘greater good’. I’ve really enjoyed the conversations I’ve had with students about these books, particularly the Year 10s who are studying ‘Brave New World’. There’s a lot to discuss, including the fact it was written nearly 80 years ago and yet the issues are still incredibly relevant today.

ELIZA: I’ve just started reading ‘Midnight’ by Jacqueline Wilson. I’ve read lots of her books and I really like the way she creates characters.

LORIN: I have had a really hard time keeping up with reading lately, but top of my list is actually a webcomic called Necropolis by Jake Wyatt, along with that, I have to get a copy of ‘The Miranda Contract’ and read that.

12. What is your favorite book?

BEN: Everyone hates this question. I think it depends on a lot of things but I’ll offer up two options. The first is ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee for its ability to inspire me every time I read it, particularly the character of Atticus Finch. The second book is ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ by Patrick Ness because it’s a whole lot of fun and draws together a really detailed love of TV shows like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’. I’d highly recommend both of these books.

ELIZA: My favourite book is ‘My Sister Jodie’ by Jacqueline Wilson. It made me cry because of the ending, but I’m not going to spoil it for you.

LORIN: I would have to pick Une page d’amour by Emile Zola. I don’t read French, so I had to read a translated version, but the visual nature of his writing and the depth of character emotion is truly stunning to me. He paints pictures with his writing in several passages that actually made me cry when reading it, and I feel super silly saying that but I have to be honest.

13. Any project in the works?

BEN: I’m currently writing ‘The Halo Effect’ which is the sequel to ‘The Miranda Contract’. It brings in alternate realities, zombies and mad scientists while continuing the story of Dan Galkin and his group of friends.

ELIZA: ‘The Friend Zone’ is the next book in ‘The Adventures of Charlie Conti’. It’ll bring in some new characters and maybe even a few bounty hunters. Wait and see.

LORIN: Too many! One would be Kidpocalypse, a series of illustrations depicting a photojournalist’s efforts to catalog the child inhabitants of the apocalypse after the fall of the adults. Sounds depressing but it actually is pretty lighthearted. Another would be illustrating a version of the Oscar Wilde story The Selfish Giant. Other than those two I have two comics I have been brooding on for a long time but am not far enough along to be comfortable talking much about them.

14. How long does it usually take you to write a book or draw a picture?

BEN: I don’t know if there’s a ‘usual’ in that question. I’d say it takes a bit over a year to two years to get a book done. I’m still working on my craft so projects will move along in different speeds. There are plenty of ideas, so running out of them is never going to be a problem. It’s mostly dependent on what else is going on around me, and how much time I can shift into the actual writing part of writing. It’s hard work – if anyone tells you something else, they’re (probably) lying!

LORIN: Well, for Ben and Eliza’s book, the illustrations ranged from an hour and a half or so for the simplest, to probably around six or seven hours for the most complicated. That is just actual drawing and painting time though, I mull over the details and description provided for a piece for a good while before I ever start sketching.

15. What advice would you give to aspiring writers and illustrators?

BEN: Decide why you want to write and don’t let other people hijack that reason. If you want to be an international success, then that’s fine. If you don’t, then that’s fine too. Always make sure you’re writing for you, first. Unless, of course, writing is your one and only source of income and then it becomes your career and that’s different. For me, writing is about balancing my life rather than taking it over. And ‘write’, obviously. Don’t just think about writing a novel, actually go and do it.

LORIN: Draw a lot! Sounds stupid, but if that is what you want to do for a living, you really have to actually do it. I can’t tell you how much time I see people spent looking for a magic answer to getting good when the answer plain and simple is practice. Other than that, be kind to people. It is better to have friends who you work with than clients who are just another boss.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
BEN: Both. It really depends on my mood and the story. Deadpool is a great movie but I don’t like the comics. And there are so many fantastic books out there that are not made into movies.
ELIZA: Movies.
LORIN: Movies: they can more easily be enjoyed with others.

2. Dogs or cats?
BEN: I’ve learned that I’m not very good with animals. I’d like to think I like dogs more.
ELIZA: Dogs, especially King Charles Cavalier Spaniels.
LORIN: Cats, even though I am allergic to them.

3. Summer or winter?
BEN: Summer
ELIZA: Summer
LORIN: Winter, sweaters and hot teas are the best.

4. Nights out or nights in?
BEN: Nights in are easier to use for writing.
ELIZA: Nights in
LORIN: In, the outside is a terrifying place.

5. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
BEN: Telekinesis – nothing better than to create force fields out of nothing!
ELIZA: Telepathy
LORIN: Telekinesis. I have read and watched enough science fiction to know that telepathy is a curse.

6. Making a phone call or sending a text?
BEN: Texts are much more convenient.
ELIZA: Text
LORIN: I hate both. I prefer email or face to face.

7. Being Spiderman for a day or being Batman for a day?
BEN: Batman…. It’d be good to be a billionaire for a day. I’d be doing a lot of bank transfers!
ELIZA: Spiderman
LORIN: Spiderman. He swings more!

8. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
BEN: Human languages, but I’d take either.
ELIZA: Animal
LORIN: Human languages. I don’t want to know what animals are saying, seems scary!

9. Being two inches tall or being two stories tall?
BEN: If it’s a temporary thing, I’d go two stories tall. The Dad in ‘Small Sacrifices’ gets shrunk and he doesn’t have a good time at all!
ELIZA: I’d go short.
LORIN: Two inches tall. I don’t want to be chased by peasants with pitchforks and torches. Though things were never that good for Thumbelina either…

10. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
BEN: Hmm, Slasher film. There’s a chance you can beat the bad guy and things go back to normal after that.
ELIZA: Walking Dead. You’d survive longer.
LORIN: Slasher film. I would rather die quickly than be whined at by the cast of Walking Dead for seven seasons. I just hope I would get a cool death rather than one of the embarrassing ones…

Thank you for joining us, Ben, Eliza, and Lorin!
Readers: want to connect with Ben and Lorin? You can find Ben on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook; also, be sure to check out his author website. You can find Lorin on Facebook and YouTube; he invites all to visit his website and blog, too.

Author Interview: Andrew Orange

Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and help me extend a warm welcome to Andrew Orange — author of The Game of VORs. 

Caspar_David_Friedrich_-_Wanderer_above_the_sea_of_fog[1]

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hello! My pen name is Andrew Orange. I was born – and presently live – in Moscow, Russia. Before starting to write, I read a lot. 🙂 The Game of VORs is my first novel. This book is difficult to assign to a specific genre. (SF-parody? Adventure story? Satire? Dystopia? Social fiction?)

I’m a college graduate and I hold a Ph.D. I studied the history of the United States and other countries. This is reflected in my book.

2. When did you start writing?
I started writing during my childhood. In the beginning it went wrong, but then it got better. 🙂 My first fiction book was published in Russian in 2014. I worked on it for several years.

3. Why did you start writing?
For many reasons. The main reason…I am better at writing than at anything else.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
Yes, I can recall. At the time, I had read almost all of the books written by well-known American author Lois Bujold. (By the way, she is popular in Russia.) Hers are good books, but I did not like their principal ideas. The romanticizing of imperialism and feudalism…I know what real contemporary feudalism and imperialism are. As a result, I decided to write a sharp social fiction novel disguised as a SF-parody.

5. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title. Were there other titles which you were considering?
I chose the book’s title once and did not change it. There were some problems with the translation into English. The above-mentioned Lois Bujold wrote a novel called The Vor Game. The main characters in most of her books have the prefix “vor” in their surnames (Vorkosigan, Vorob’yev, etc). By the way “vor” means “thief” in Russian. I decided to play with it, and my novel was subsequently named The Game of VORs.

6. Does your story have a moral?
Different people understand the moral in different ways. The principal thought (moral?) of my book is that the world is ruled by ideas and emotions. The materialism and nihilism are also the ideas, connected with the emotions. Power and money are only tools.

7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
My favorite is Kier, the main character of The Game of VORs. Usually, the author creates the hero from himself (so-called “the rule of the mirror”). But not everyone avows it.

8. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in The Game of VORs.
He’s a reflective, shy idealist.

9. What is your favorite book genre?
Science Fiction and Fantasy. History and Philosophy in non-fiction.

10. What is currently on your to-be-read shelf?
I want to read the book But What If We’re Wrong? Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past by Chuck Klosterman.

11. What is your favorite book?
I have read many good books. It’s difficult to select one.

12. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
A year or more.

13. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
In the first place, the talent and work of the author.

14. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read good books. This is the best way to write your own good books. 🙂

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books.

2. Dogs or cats?
Cats.

3. Summer or winter?
Summer. Russia is a cold, northern country. Here, there are the polar night and polar day in the northern regions. This is also reflected in my book.

4. Cake or ice-cream?
Cake.

5. Ebook or physical book?
Physical book.

6. Living in the city or living in the country?
In the city.

7. Making a phone call or sending a text?
Sending a text.

8. Working in a group or working alone?
Working alone.

9. To find true love or to win the lottery?
To find true love.

10. Reading or writing?
Both. 🙂

11. To speak using ONLY rap lyrics (from songs released in the 21st century) or to speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books?
To speak using ONLY quotes from Austen’s books.

12. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind.

13. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
Going without watching any movies/television shows for a week. As a rule, I don’t watch TV. I can, but I don’t.

14. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Never watch another film.

Thank you for joining us, Andrew!
Readers: want to connect with Andrew? You can find him on Goodreads and Facebook. Also, be sure to check out his website and Publishers Weekly’s review of The Game of VORs.

Author Interview: Andrea Lightfoot

Allow me to present Andrea Lightfoot, author of Fantastica – Surreal Prose & Poetry. Her book consists of interviews, stories, and poems created by the residents of — and visitors to — Fantastica, a mystical place that has the distinction of being the closest that one can get to Fairyland.

Andrea Lightfoot

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Liverpool, England, and still live in the neighbouring area. My day job is working as a receptionist assistant, but outside of work, I attend ballet lessons, drama, and am in the church choir.

I love drawing, colouring, reading and writing stories and poems, and I also collect tumbled stones (gemstones that have been smoothed – i.e. amethyst, brecciated jasper, carnelian, danburite…. that sort of thing) and I like being out in nature. I’m also open to new experiences which can help to broaden my horizons.

2. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
Not the exact moment, no. I had ideas at different times, from various places and situations about individual stories, poems and other kinds of prose, and I decided to call the book “Fantastica”, as it related to the fantasy genre, and to fantastical pieces of work. Then I made the decision to add to the title, and call it “Fantastica – Short Prose & Poetry” or something to that effect.

After that, I thought a more unusual title would be better – “Fantastica – Surreal Prose & Poetry”. I felt that there are probably loads of books with “short stories & poetry” in the title, and my humble tome did seem rather surreal with out-of-the ordinary-characters and magical, mystical events. My editor liked this title more than the others I suggested, so it stuck. I used the words “prose and poetry” in my book title, due to the fact that, even though there are poems in there, not everything is a poem, but not everything is what you would call a story either, and “prose” covers every eventuality.

At first, despite the title, my stories, poems and anything else, were completely unrelated, and when people from writer’s forums, and a professional editor tell you that people like stories and poems to be related in some way, there must be something in it. Maybe I should change the book completely? I didn’t want to, not after so much work – but hang on a minute! What about that word, “Fantastica?” Surely I could do something with that!

As it turns out, I did. “Fantastica”, rather than just being some random word in a book title, became a country that “is the nearest place to Fairyland, and is part of the “Mystical Realms.”

3. What is your preferred writing time? Morning? Afternoon? Late at night?
I find it quite therapeutic to write stories and poems on my work lunch break. It helps me to relax. Apart from that, it’s just whenever I get the chance, and the motivational energy.

4. Do you have a specific location that you go to when you want to write?
Other than the library, I write either at home, or at the family caravan in north Wales. I have even thought of writing in a park – that would be ideal on a lovely warm summery day!

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
I read books more than I watch movies, so I’ll go with books

2. Cake or ice-cream?
Cake, especially if it’s chocolate or coffee cake!

3. Nights out or nights in?
Nights out – not just for the pubs and clubs (I’m not teetotal but at the same time, I’m not a big alcohol drinker either), but also for cultural and entertainment reasons like going to see a show, a concert or to attend any other evening event.

4. Living in the city or living in the country?
Living in the city.

5. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telekinesis.

6. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
To the future, especially the far future to see what it’s going to be like.

7. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind.

8. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
Going without watching movies/TV shows.

9. Losing your ability to speak or losing your ability to hear?
Losing my ability to speak. I’d rather learn sign language or use other kinds of communication, and be able to hear what people are saying, than never be able to hear. Besides, I love to listen to music.

10. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
It’s a hard one. I like coffee, but I like chocolate even more, so I’ll go with – to never again drink a cup of coffee.

Thank you for joining us, Andrea!
Readers: want to connect with Andrea? You can find her on Twitter and Goodreads.

Author Interview: Ulff Lehmann

It is my pleasure to introduce Ulff Lehmann. His debut novel, Shattered Dreams, just recently hit shelves!

UlffBookcover[1]1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
All right, if you draw a line between where I was born and where I primarily grew up, you not only find the place where I finished school but also where I live now. To make things easier, I was born in Wattenscheid (now a part Bochum) grew up in Sprockhövel, and went to school and now live in Hattingen. All three are cities in the Ruhr area of Germany.

Unlike the US, we have no high school here, and no SATs. If you want to go to college/university you need to have the Abitur, a school qualification. The Abitur helps you with some things, like getting apprenticeships in many more academic-leaning professions, like banking. I was stupid enough to go into banking, finished that by the skin of my teeth, went to college a few years but didn’t finish.

I am German, obviously, but for the past quarter century I have almost exclusively read books in English, which is why I write in that language. In my youth I was state champion in rowing, which is why I loath any regular kind of sports. Seriously, I hate sports. .

2. When did you start writing?
I first took writing seriously when I joined the first German fantasy club, and decided I would want to write about the character whose persona I slipped into when going to cons. But it wasn’t until afterwards that I started writing in English. I realized that since I was reading only in English I was unable to phrase things properly in my native tongue and thus switched.

3. Why did you start writing?
As I said in 2, it was because dressing up as a fantasy persona was not enough for me. But there is, obviously more to it. (Isn’t there always?) I always made up stories, even when not writing, but it took me 2 nervous breakdowns to go to therapy and figure out who and what I was, turns out the answer is the same, a writer. I write because without it, I would go out of my mind.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for Shattered Dreams?
Initially I merely wanted to write about my character in the shared world of the fantasy club I joined. I wrote several connected short stories but never reached the end. Once I left that club, I felt that I needed to properly tell that story due to the constraints a shared world put on me, also having to rely on others for specific input (can I do this and that in this city? Several months later came the answer: No. for example) So I set out to put down the tale I wanted to tell.

Ironically, what I wrote back in the late 1990s early 2000s is nothing like the finished book. Some story beats are there, yes, but the now published version of Shattered Dreams has nothing to do with what I wrote back then.

When I began I was reading a lot of D&D related fantasy novels, which, naturally influenced my writing style. It was all shining knights, wizards who threw fireballs and that sort of shit. I haven’t looked at that stuff in ages, it was a whole different animal, structurally and tonally. As I said, I was influenced by the novels I read, but over the years I stopped reading those novels and delved more into suspense and other genres, including historical fiction. I liked the realism, the grit if you will. Also, upon an acquaintance’s recommendation, I began to read A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, and fell in love with the style, the story was nice, but it is the style, that very narrow third person very limited narrator that changed chapter by chapter that really caught my heart. And while the initial novel(s) had some of that, when it came to getting back into the story, as part of my therapy, it became clear to me that I had to change the entire structure and tone. Basically, aside from one or two passages, I wrote the entire book again, sticking to the beats I had already established, but changing everything. There were no shining knights, no fireballs, just dirt and pain and blood, even the magic changed.

5. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
Initially the title was Awakening, but I changed it to Shattered Dreams. Awakening was always more of a working title anyways, but it stuck for a decade or so. When I delved deeper into the marketing side of things, what attracts readers and why, which happened after I had finished the rewrite during therapy, I knew I had to change it. I wanted the title to be enticing, sure, but I also wanted it to relate to the story. So I sat down and asked myself “what is happening?” and by that I meant the simplest most basic answer I could come up with. You know, if you have to sum up The Lord of the Rings with as few words as possible, you’re bound to come up with something like “Two little people toss a ring into a volcano to save the world” not precise but that is the gist of it. Tolkien could’ve named the book The Ring, or The War of the Ring, and it would have made people look twice. I wanted that sort of title, something attention grabbing that would only reveal its deeper meaning once you read the book. So I looked for the premise… the one thing that this part of the trilogy was about. Once I reached Shattered Dreams, the remaining two titles fell into place.

6. Does your story have a moral?
Pretty sure there is one, at least one, but I’d have to read it again to make sure. It’s been years.

7. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Shattered Dreams.

  • Lonely
  • Hurt
  • Afraid
  • Sad
  • Desperate

8. What does a typical writing session look like for you?
I start with the routine, because the process and the routine go hand in hand. The day before I return to writing, I make sure to go to bed so that I wake up at around 8 to 8:30 in the morning. From there, I fix a cup of tea (well, tankard is more appropriate, seeing that the bugger holds 0.75 litres) switch on my TV and watch one episode of a drama and two episodes of a sitcom. I also have my breakfast during that time. When the second episode of whatever sitcom is done, I shut off the TV, switch on the stereo to blast something metallic through the speakers, loud enough that it will reach me under the shower. After that, and before I get dressed, I change the song to The Blood of CuChulainn and then get into my clothes. With the final notes of Blood ending, I open my windows, put on my shoes, grab whatever non-fantasy book I am currently reading and head to my favourite café. There, I enjoy the novel whilst drinking a large cappuccino. Then, with my mind clear, I return home, switch on my writing computer and the stereo with my “writing-soundtrack” and begin.

The process is rather straight forward. I check where I left off, recheck some of the previous chapters to get my bearing, and write. I generally have a good idea of what I want to do, where the story will go, and while that first day of writing is mostly spent fixing some stuff from where I left off and before, I add another few pages before I stop. The following days are the same, only now I am fully back in the zone and new pages start flowing.

9. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
Personally, I don’t care much for them, the stupid characters will do whatever the hells they want to do, so they will refuse doing something that is against their nature.

10. What is your favorite book genre?
I read anything that is good.

I currently write fantasy, but I refuse to limit myself, or be limited by even this genre.

11. What are you currently reading?
The Bourne Supremacy

12. What is your favorite book?
I, Jedi by Michael Stackpole

The first person style of the book just works for me. It’s one of the few Star Wars novels I have read more than once, and the only one I have read several times. Yes, it is SW, but it also is a detective story, a spy story, a story about personal growth, it has bits of piracy in it as well… Mike Stackpole didn’t let the genre define the story, but the character, and it, the story, takes us where it takes us without checking off beats of a to-do list.

13. Any project in the works?
Shattered Hopes, the sequel to Dreams is in beta read, and I am working on Shattered Bonds, the conclusion.

14. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
Until it is finished.

15. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
Whatever you like. Story is as important as delivery or style. If the style sucks, the story might be a good one, but I will not finish it just for the sake of the story. If the style’s great but the story sucks, same thing.

16. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Read! Read! Read! Read! Read! And read out of your f***ing comfort zone! Also, read books that suck, because you learn more from them… only thing is, the more you read, the more you may come to realize that the books you adored are actually books that you would consider sucky now. 😛

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books

2. Dogs or cats?
Cats

3. Summer or winter?
Winter

4. Cake or ice-cream?
Cake

5. Car or motorcycle?
Bus

6. Ebook or physical book?
Dead trees all the way

7. Nights out or nights in?
Nights in

8. Living in the city or living in the country?
Depends

9. Making a phone call or sending a text?
Call

10. Travelling by car or travelling by airplane?
Plane

11. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Hotel

12. Working in a group or working alone?
Alone

13. Losing all of your money or losing every picture you’ve ever taken and every picture that has ever been taken of you?
Pictures

14. To find true love or to win the lottery?
Love

15. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
Internet

16. To never speak again or to never eat solid food again?
Speak

17. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?
Staying awake

18. To never read another book or to never watch another film?
Film

19. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
Chocolate

20. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
Slasher film

Thank you for joining us, Ulff!
Readers: want to connect with Ulff? You can find him on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook; be sure to check out both his personal profile and his book’s page.

Author Interview: M.R. Darling

Coffee with Architects of Worlds Afar welcomes M.R. Darling–author of A Blue Horizon.

MRDarling

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Originally from a small town on the St. Lawrence River, I passed through a myriad of minimum wage jobs before being forced to resort to social services when work dried up. With a long history of using and repairing my own computers, I opened my own business in the hopes of attaining the bare minimum I required to survive. The dwindling economy eventually killed this as well, and my brother and I packed up to move out west.

Out here, the economy boomed for those in the right industries, I was just not among them. Once again relegated to slave labor, I spent almost a decade dealing with the usual pains that were now accompanied by the additional layer of a wealthier society to be looked down upon by. While not a great job, it was a job, and more than I had back home. Walking to and from work on a daily basis gave me a lot of time to think. In those extended hikes, I thought about many things such as all my failed attempts at writing.

Starting as an over-imaginative, prepubescent kid behind his mothers typewriter, I banged out a four page story on paper that I folded sideways to more resemble a real book. It was based on this cool pendant my cousin had found in the woods. When I asked what it was, he called it an ‘eternity key’ and I became instantly enamored with the name. I can’t recall any of the story, and the single copy has long disappeared, but that was my first independent attempt at a literary work.

After that, I made halfhearted attempts at writing over the years with my most serious endeavor being while on social assistance. Weighing in at only 15,000 words, it was the beginning of a horror story that is still interesting enough to go back to one day, but I had stopped then due to the smothering self-doubt that my social stature brought.

2. When did you start writing?
I didn’t make a serious push until May of 2015. I had come to the end of my rope with my job, and was sitting on a small stockpile of savings coupled with a retirement fund that I could withdraw now instead of later. My treks back and forth to work had also allowed me to expand upon the usual entertainment you create for yourself when bored. Starting with a single thought about a passing metro car, I built the story up from a multitude of ideas until I arrived at the conclusion that this could be a book – That this could be ‘my’ book. After coming to terms with the idea that I could now afford to do so, I stepped back into those shoes of that wonder-struck kid in front of his mother’s typewriter and began in earnest.

3. Tell us a little bit about your book’s title.
The title did not come to me until the end of the book. My working title was ‘Ashworld – Book 1’ and stayed that way for the majority of its creation. I came to the conclusion that Ashworld was too final sounding, and opted for Ashrealm instead. I also wanted a subtitle for the books, but what that would be had eluded me until I was explaining a scene to my brother. To explain that scene, I had to explain another, and when I uttered the words ‘bright blue horizon’ – his eyes lit up. He suggested that be the title, and despite my initial apprehension, I had to conclude that it fit the book well.

Initially calling it ‘A Bright Blue Horizon’, the ‘Bright’ was removed for brevity. My brother suggested I remove the ‘A’ as well, but the entertainment world is chocked full of works with that title. So, in the ‘A’ stayed.

4. Does your story have a moral?
Going to a catholic school, I was bombarded by morals. They were the cornerstone of my belief system growing up, and I suppose they have never left. The wicked should be punished, the good rewarded, and the meek aided. The world has never worked that way, but we wish it all the same.

If I had to point to one overarching moral within the story, it would have to be: You are responsible for your actions. The book is rife with situations where people pay, or are rewarded, for their actions. Not everyone gets their just deserts, but this is only book one (evil grin).

5. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
Every author should say their protagonist, that’s the person who would be on the page for most of the book. If you’re not in love with that character, why should any one else be? In my case, I actually have four protagonists; Each with a distinct personality and from different walks of life. A range of characters was important to me, and I wanted multiple views of the story for people to explore.

As far as a favorite goes, that would be like choosing your favorite child – It’s simply unthinkable. They’re all my favorites for different reasons, which is obviously vanity at its worst as they are all from my own imagination, and thus me.

6. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
If you can do an outline and stick to it, all the power to you! My mind wanders and changes direction on a whim that seems almost wholly not my own. That can get you lost, muddled in your own machinations and stuck in a corner that you can’t seem to write out of.

Flying by the seat of your pants may sound romantic, or something to be envied, but I assure you it isn’t. Having a definite plan on where to go next will get you to the end of your book, where waiting for the right inspiration to tell you what to do next can leave you treading water.

7. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
Characters! You can have all the technology, lore, love scenes, or thrills and chills you want – if your characters are boring or empty, no one will care. Make them believable, make them human, they should never always have the right or wrong answer. Even Sherlock Holmes was wrong on occasion. Everyone in your book, regardless of moral compass, should be likeable or at least relatable from some point of view. Get into their skin and figure out how they think. If you can answer, without question, what a character would or wouldn’t do in any situation, then you’ve got them.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Silly question, books AND movies. Books for the deep and pondering plot lines that Hollywood wouldn’t dare make, and movies for the brainless popcorn spectacles.

2. Summer or winter?
Canadian, so clearly winter. It’s much easier to keep warm than it is to cool down.

3. Ebook or physical book?
They both have their place, but I’m old school enough to want a physical book.

4. Nights out or nights in?
Nights in, clubs got boring years ago.

5. Living in the city or living in the country?
City, you can’t get a decent steak at 3 a.m. in the country without cooking it.

6. Having telepathy or having telekinesis?
Telekinesis, I’d really rather not know what goes on in other people’s heads.

7. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
The future of course, the past has already happened – show me what’s next.

8. Traveling by car or traveling by airplane?
By car, you get a much better view of things from down here.

9. Losing all of your money or losing every picture you’ve ever taken and every picture that has ever been taken of you?
Money can be replaced, and despite the old adage, memories aren’t forever. Pictures help us recall what the mind has forgotten or edited with time.

10. Being Spiderman for a day or being Batman for a day?
Definitely Spiderman, the only power Batman has is wealth.

11. Reading or writing?
Writing, creation is more satisfying than consumption.

12. Being able to speak and understand every language known to humankind or being able to speak and understand every language known to animals?
Humankind, your dog’s thoughts don’t go anywhere near as deep as you’d like to believe.

13. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
Movies and television, entertainment on the internet is far more diverse.

14. To never speak again or to never eat solid food again?
Smoothies, jello, and pudding for life? Done and done!

15. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?
I’ve done both, walking is much easier.

16. Spending half a day locked in a coffin (there would be a hole for air, of course) or spending two days trapped at the bottom of a well?
The coffin for sure, it would be the best sleep that I’ve had in years.

17. To never again eat a piece of chocolate or to never again drink a cup of coffee?
Chocolate can disappear, I could never go without my coffee.

18. Finding yourself trapped in the universe of The Walking Dead or finding yourself trapped in a slasher film?
The Walking Dead. Everyone being reduced to their true value, instead of the value they have in a bank, would weed out so much of the worthless chaff that the world has accumulated.

Thank you for joining us, M.R.!
Readers: want to connect with M.R.? You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. Also, be sure to check out his blog and his pages on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords.

Author Interview: Marcus and Ashley Kusi

Today we are joined not by one author but by two. Marcus and Ashley Kusi–authors of Communication in Marriage: How to Communicate with Your Spouse Without Fighting and First Year of Marriage: The Newlywed’s Guide to Building a Strong Foundation and Adjusting to Married Life–are here!

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
MARCUS: I am originally from Ghana, Africa. Ashley is from Vermont, US. We live in Burlington, Vermont. I love to play/watch soccer and cook delicious meals. Spending quality time with my family is one of my favorite hobbies. Ashley loves getting new cookbooks and finding creative ways to make healthier versions of her favorite foods for our family. We really value our time together as a family.

By day, I am a Business Analyst by profession and Ashley is an amazing stay-at-home-mom. By night we podcast, blog and publish our books about married life and the lessons we have learned to build a strong foundation and keep our marriage happy.

I studied Computer Information Systems at Castleton State college and Ashley studied Psychology and Accounting, until we had our first child.

2. When did you start writing?
We started writing seriously in 2013. It began with our blog, and two years later, we published our first book: Communication in Marriage: How to Communicate with Your Spouse Without Fighting. Ashley has always had a love for writing ever since she was young; it was actually her dream to be an author.

3. Why did you start writing?
We wanted to share our marriage experiences and things we have learned to help other couples. We felt like we had information and real life experiences that other newly married couples could learn from and hopefully not need to make the same mistakes we did. We thought about how we could save a marriage from ending in divorce and agreed that building that foundation was the best place to start.

4. Tell us a little bit about your newest book’s title.
We had different titles to choose from. We knew the book was going to be a guide to help newlyweds build a strong foundation for their marriage. So naturally, “First year of marriage, newlyweds guide, and building a strong foundation” needed to be in the title. It took us a while to finally agree on the title we have today.

5. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
ASHLEY: We love outlines! It makes it easier for us to write better and serves as a guide for us. Marcus usually gets the bones of the outline together and then we go through it together to arrange it the way we think is best.

6. What is your favorite book genre?
MARCUS: I prefer non-fiction and read paperback editions. Ashley used to enjoy fiction, but now she primarily reads health and wellness books and publications.

7. What are you currently reading?
MARCUS: I am reading Quitter by Jon Acuff.

8. What is your favorite book?
MARCUS: I do not have a favorite book because every book I read is different and provides something unique for me. My favorite book with relation to marriage would be The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Ashley would add the book Boundaries and Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud. Those books have helped our relationship open up in many ways. The Five Love Languages helped us to be conscious of how each other receives love so that we can love each other more effectively by speaking each other’s love language. Boundaries helped show us and reassure us that there should be boundaries within our marriage as well as around our relationship.

9. Any project in the works?
We always have a few projects in the pipeline. We get many ideas and keep a list going so we always know what our next step is. Connection will be the next topic we most likely will delve into and of course we are working on a monthly podcast episode.

10. How long does it usually take you to write a book?
Between 5 to 14 months. It depends on everything going on in our lives.

11. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
MARCUS: Choose a deadline for your manuscript to be done and another deadline for your book launch. In addition, make sure your book is something you will be proud to read.

ASHLEY: Just do it. There will always be excuses to keep putting it on the shelf, but if you have a message you want to get across; then take that chance and do it.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books

2. Summer or winter?
Summer

3. Cake or ice-cream?
Cake

4. Car or motorcycle?
Car

5. Ebook or physical book?
Physical book

6. Nights out or nights in?
Nights in

7. Living in the city or living in the country?
In the country

8. Making a phone call or sending a text?
Sending a text

9. Travelling by car or travelling by airplane?
Car

10. Staying in a hotel or going camping?
Hotel

11. Working in a group or working alone?
Working in a group

12. To find true love or to win the lottery?
Find true love

13. Reading or writing?
Reading

Thank you for joining us, Marcus and Ashley!
Readers: want to connect with Marcus and Ashley? You can find them on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. Also, be sure to visit their Amazon page and blog.

Author Interview: Ty Findlay

Please put your hands together for Ty Findlay–author of Venessa’s Hope.

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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

  • Where are you are from?

Born in North York, Toronto, but raised in Brampton, Ontario.

  • Where do you currently reside?

Moved to Ottawa, Ontario in 2008 to pursue a law degree. I hated law but loved the little city and decided to stay.

  • Do you have any hobbies?

I love to read. I like to find new authors and genres to enjoy. I’m always searching for the next best indie author to follow, but I do have my favorite commercial authors that I follow as well. I read as much as I can, but since starting a writing career, writing has taken up much more of my time.

I’m always looking for a new adventure and inspiration, so I do spend a good amount of my free time coaxing friends into getting out for a few hours to get into a bit of trouble.

  • What do you do for a living?

I am a personal support worker, which means I take care of people. Currently I work with elderly people who have Alzheimer and dementia. When I’m not doing that, I’m juggling being a writer and an entrepreneur.

2. When did you start writing?
I started writing as a child. I love music and I used to always try my hand at writing songs. In middle school one of my teachers introduced me to poetry and I was a part of the WEIR program, where you write poetry and get feedback from a professional writer.

Then in high school I took drama and any time were able to write our own skits and performances, I did. If you were in my group you knew that all you had to do was memorize your script, I would take care of the story line.

Writing was always an escape for me and I have stacks of binders at my mother’s house, from my high school years, filled with stories I’ve written but never had the nerve to publish.

3. Why did you start writing?
I started writing because it was a way for me to escape to a place that was peaceful for me. There was a lot of chaos in my life growing up but, writing always helped me to express the things I always felt I couldn’t say. I wasn’t raised in a home where expressing your opinions or feelings was encouraged, so I would express myself through the characters that I created.

4. Do you recall the moment you first conceived the idea for your novel?
I was going through a particularly rough time in life and I was just reflecting and thinking about how experiences can lead us to make some really messed up decisions, that take us to places we never thought we would be in life. Plus, I had watched a documentary about how lots of women weren’t happy working in the sex industry a few days before and thought it would be an interesting thing to write about, from the perspective of someone who felt trapped because of their life choices. After that inspiration just hit. Mixed with life experience and some research, Venessa’s Hope was born.

5. How did you arrive at your book’s title?
I didn’t think of a title until after I finished writing the book. It just came to me and it tied perfectly into the ending of the book. Venessa found hope, she found redemption, she got to start over. I couldn’t think of anything that would express what I was trying to convey better, so I stuck with it.

6. Does your story have a moral?
I think the moral of the story is that it’s never too late to start over. You don’t have to be trapped by the things in your past and your past does not have to dictate your future. I think as people we get stuck in the loop of feeling that it’s too late to seek better for ourselves, but that isn’t true. If you have breath in your lungs then regardless of what you’ve been through, or what people think of you, you can build a brighter future for yourself, that could touch the lives of other people. You just never know where life can take you unless you try.

I think a major theme that you will come across is we have to be grateful for who we are and what we have. Seeing how Venessa and Eric interact with each other and how Venessa’s life story affects Eric, it will make you kind of pause and think, my life isn’t really all that bad. We like to complain about our mishaps and shortcomings, but we often forget that there are people out there suffering through worse things. Taking the time to familiarize ourselves with the struggles of others, will make us much more appreciative of our personal journeys and hopefully more compassionate to the hurt and confusion that is going on everyday around us.

7. Of the characters you’ve created, which one is your favorite?
I love Venessa to pieces. I can identify with her internal fight; given that I spent years of my life fighting myself as well. Like Venessa most people couldn’t see it on the outside because I was really good at hiding it, but like Venessa we all have breaking points. Creating Venessa and building a story of hope for her character, gave me hope as a person. I was at an all-time low when I started writing my book and by the end I was inspired. I felt like if I would build a story of redemption for an imaginary character, I could build a similar story for myself and so Venessa is very dear to me, because in some ways she is me.

8. Using five words or less, describe the protagonist in Venessa’s Hope.
Sassy
Broken
Strong
Determined
Brave

9. How do you feel about outlines? Are you for or against them?
I like outlines. I feel like they can give you a good basis to work around. I don’t believe in following them exactly because when you’re hit with inspiration, you really shouldn’t ignore it. Still an outline is a great way to organize your thoughts and frame the details you want to include in your book.

10. Any project in the works?
I’m currently writing my second novel, Storm Alexander and I’m hoping to have it finished and released by the end of the year. Other than that, I’m just working on collaborating with other writers and expanding the content on my blog and creating a few more ideas for my bracelet line.

11. In your opinion, what makes a story ‘good’?
I think a story is good when it grabs your attention and makes you think. I like controversial books, that don’t fit the regular mold but force conversation about topics that people don’t like to talk about or make people take a second look at themselves in the mirror and try to identify their own issues. I feel when you get to the end of a book, there is something about you that should change, a part of your perspective that is supposed to be altered in some way.

12. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Make sure it is your first love. I say that because if it’s your second or your third, the work that comes with trying to build your career, can be really disheartening if it’s not something that really moves you. Also, read as much as you can, knowledge is power and reading is a great way to trigger creativity and it helps you identify your own writing style.

And now for a game of “Which Do/Would You Prefer?”
1. Books or movies?
Books. I find movies leave out all the in-depth details you can find when reading a book. In a book you can get a much better sense and description of a character then you do in a movie. There really isn’t time for so much character development in movies.

2. Summer or winter?
Summer hands down. I hate being cold and winter lasts too long.

3. Ebook or physical book?
Although I’ve been reading a lot of ebooks lately, I really love actually going to the bookstore and buying books. I just always feel so accomplished after reading a book and adding it to my already extensive collection.

4. Living in the city or living in the country?
Living in a small city like where I live now. Ottawa is the perfect mix of city madness and rural silence; you just have to go to different parts of the city to find what you are looking for.

5. Being able to travel to the past or being able to travel to the future?
Being able to travel to the future. I wouldn’t worry so much about the past if I knew that all my mistakes and lessons helped build me a pretty fantastic life.

6. Making a phone call or sending a text?
Phone call without question. I hate trying to text a really juicy story, it takes away from the thrill. Having to wait for a reply completely kills the vibe and only creates anxiety. Texting is only good for yes and no answers or when you are at work or somewhere where you really shouldn’t be using the phone lol.

7. Travelling by car or travelling by airplane?
Travelling by car. I love the scenic route, you get to completely reroute your destination based on a sudden whim of inspiration, check out the scenery and stop and take pictures of cool things long the way. Plus, road trips make for some interesting jam sessions in the car.

8. To find true love or to win the lottery?
Probably finding true love. I know better but I’m such a hopeless romantic. I truly believe in the beauty of being able to build a life with someone.

9. Being Spiderman for a day or being Batman for a day?
I’ve got a thing for Spiderman. It would be cool to swing from buildings and claim pretty much anything for a day.

10. Going without internet access for a week or going without watching any movies/television shows for a week?
Since my livelihood is on the internet, it would have to be going without television, which I do already. My son pretty much hogs the television these days and even when he’s away, it doesn’t get much uses.

11. To never speak again or to never eat solid food again?
I’m a foodie so I would much rather be a mute than not eat solid food again. I’ve worked in retirement, I see the mush they feed people who can’t eat solids, I’m not okay with that for the rest of my life!

12. Staying awake for forty-eight hours (continuous) or walking for twenty-four hours (also continuous)?
I’m not a big fan of too much exercise, but I already pull crazy all nighters, that leave me sleep deprived for far too long. I’ll take the coffee binge over the feet blisters any day.

13. To have every day be Saturday or to have every day be your birthday?
Have everyday be my birthday because I like cake, presents and parties, plus it’s an excuse to dress up and look cute, which isn’t something I regularly find time to do.

Thank you for joining us, Ty!
Readers: want to connect with Ty? You can find her on Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, and Instagram. Also, be sure to check out her author website.