Monday, December 27, 2010

Author spotlight with Megan Johns

Megan, what influences your writing and why?
In The Path of Innocence, my debut novel, I wrote from the heart. I was going through a period of illness and I found it really therapeutic to escape inside my head.

Suddenly I discovered all this stuff inside waiting to be unlocked and that my mind could take me off in all sorts of different directions. My aim was to write a women’s novel with a strong romantic thread and emotional depth, but apart from that, the story took on a life of its own. In my current WIP, my writer’s head is making me adhere more closely to genre requirements, although the characters and my own instinct are still key in steering the direction it takes. What I really enjoy about writing romance is being able to put the characters in conflict and exploring their innermost feelings.

How do I develop my characters and setting?
Settings are very important to me. I find that if I can put my characters in a setting with which I feel an emotional attachment, that they, in turn, will respond to the environment. Setting definitely influences their behaviour and hence the plot. When I am starting off, I will have a pen portrait of my characters and I try to let them grow, almost organically, adding extra layers as the story develops and the characters become more complex.

Am I a pantser or plotter?
I am definitely a pantser. I usually know roughly where I am heading, but not necessarily how to get there.

How do I deal with writer’s block?
When I am writing, I try to stick to a routine and I set minimum daily targets. Even on a less productive day, I endeavour to write something, possibly knowing it isn’t quite right. That way, I can go back when I am fresher and revise it. Sometimes it’s surprising how little effort it can take to transform material you thought was destined for the bin. No effort is wasted.

Guilty pleasures?
Chocolate and desserts—especially with chocolate sprinkled on top.

What one thing would I say to readers?
My heart and soul went into The Path of Innocence and, although it may be slightly out of the box, it is a really deeply emotional read with a core message that love, if it is strong enough, will always win through.
Why not give it a try? You won’t regret it!

The Path of Innocence

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Author spotlight with Marc Jarrod

Hi Marc! Thanks for agreeing to this interview.
So, tell us, how did you feel when you got your first publishing contract?
That I wrote something and a publisher recognized it as a saleable product that the publisher was willing to take the time and effort to make it even better. It felt great and it made me feel important.

What is the biggest piece of advice you can give a beginning writer?
If you get rejected by an epub on your submission, don’t get dejected. Just keep plugging away. If given advice by your publisher or a critique group, take that advice and use it to improve your writing.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

What influences your writing? And why?
Sometimes it is life experience whether it be me or some one I know.

Name one thing readers don’t know about you.
I am probably older than most of my fellow authors. :)

What are you working on now?
Tarot story. Author had to pick a tarot card and write a story around it.

Who is your favorite all-time author?
James Patterson. He writes great thrillers and they are fast reads.

Are love scenes easy/difficult to write?
At the risk of sounding sexist, :) for a male, yes love scenes are hard for me to write.

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
In outer space. I know that sounds corny, but space truly is the final frontier as James T. Kirk once said. I think the planet Saturn is truly the most beautiful planet, with the exception of earth, of course. However, from what I have seen of pictures of the universe, it is truly magnificent, and I would love to explore it.

Do you have another career besides writing? What is it?
I work at UPS as clerk and package handler.

What’s your biggest reward in being a writer?
Getting good reviews not only from a review web site, but also from your fellow writers.

To date, which is your favorite story?
Which one did you have the most fun writing? I have written 4 erotica stories and 1 non erotica. Believe it or not, it is the non-erotic story that is my favorite. It is set around Christmas and it is a feel good story. It is titled, Christmas in July. Published through Divine Destinies.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Author spotlight with Tessa McKay

Hi Tessa, tell us do you categorize yourself as a pantser or plotter?
A plotter, no doubt. That isn’t saying that there is no spontaneity or room for change along the way, but I like to know where I am going and have some idea of how I am going to get there. I like to have the details laid out, and I make notes, oh so many notes, about everything. And don’t ask me to work without an outline.

Who is your favorite all-time author?
That would be a big toss–up between Emily BrontĂ© and Jane Austen though they couldn’t be more different. Each appeals to a different part of me, I suppose. I have spent more time analyzing Emily because even though she presents more of an emotional appeal, she is actually the more structurally complex of the two. I like to relax with Jane. Wonderful scholarship exists on each though.

Are love scenes easy/difficult to write?
It actually depends upon my mood. I can know what is going to happen and how the scene is supposed to work, but that is the time that I really have to be in the moment and completely in simpatico with my characters. I think the most difficult thing involved is making sure each character is experiencing the moment in her own way and refraining from any editorial any judgments or guidance from me.

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
Probably in England. It is the place where history comes alive for me. I love the city of London, the moors of Yorkshire, and the cliffs of Dover, all.

How do you deal with the dreaded writer’s block?
You are going to hate me, but I don’t get writer’s block. There is always an idea waving its arms around frantically at me, and my most difficult task is to ignore it while I am in the midst of other work. I suppose if it ever did strike I would travel, if possible. My ideas begin with places rather than people or plot, so a change of scenery would be just the thing.

If you had the opportunity to say one thing to your readers, what would that be?
I would like them to know how much I appreciate them taking the time to enter and hopefully enjoy the worlds I create. Writing gives me so much happiness, and I hope that I can pass that on to my readers. I would love to hear from them any time via my website or on Twitter.

Twitter: @tessa_mckay

Monday, December 6, 2010

Author spotlight with Jane Toombs

Hello Jane and welcome. Tell us, what has been your biggest influence on becoming a writer?
My father. As a child I watched him I watched him type his articles for the Michigan History Magazine and his non-fiction books on his big old L.C. Smith typewriter. I begged to use it. He told me I couldn’t until I could spell a lot of words. Then he’d teach me, but in return, I had to type him out a story. I’d been read to before I could read, but it never occurred to me until that moment that I could write a story. He was the perfect critiquer, first praise, then a firm but never mean pointing out of what could be improved.

How did you feel when you got your first publishing contract?
Here’s the scenario. I was less than a year into my second marriage, where I added my three still-at-home kids to his two. My stepdaughter took to me right away, but her brother, who’d been his dead mother’s favorite, remained standoffish. As luck would have it, when the phone rang and it was the agent telling me he’d sold my first book in 1973 , a gothic called Tule Witch , to Avon, the only one home was Mikel—out in back shooting baskets. I ran out on the rear deck and down the stairs to where he was standing, shouting his name. At the bottom I grabbed him and hugged him, screaming, “I sold my book!” He stiffened, but then relaxed and hugged me back. “That’s wonderful,” he told me. From then on, our relationship warmed up. So selling that book also helped Mikel and me become closer.

How do you categorize yourself: pantser or plotter?
I stated out as a pantser because, when I began writing seriously I thought you had to finish a book in order to sell it. So I simply started at the beginning and wrote to the end—these were typewriter days. After I acquired an agent, and sold, I still wrote my second gothic that way, which he promptly sold. If any editing was done, I never saw any of it, and these were major NY houses. But the third gothic I wrote the same way didn’t sell. Then he called me and said he had a packager asking for authors to write a gemstone series and needed one to do topaz. Could I send him a synopsis and three chapters? I had to ask him was a synopsis was. He was surprised, but told me, adding that most books sold on a partial, which was what this was. News to me. I decided to try this method and my partial sold. I finished the book with the help of the synopsis I’d written and had an Aha! moment. After selling again on a partial, I decided to go back and write a synopsis for the book that didn’t sell. After I discovered how I had wandered all over the place, I tightened the book and it sold. So from then on, I became a plotter. I don’t follow a synopsis exactly, but it does keep me from wandering.

What makes a book great in your eyes?
One that not only grabs me right away and keeps me glued to the pages, but also one that resonates afterward, so that I think about the characters, and how the author made me feel everything they did. A book I remember in the years to come.

What is the biggest piece of your advice you can give a beginning writer?
Finish every story or book you start. That, plus a ton of perseverance will sell a book, providing you have at least an ounce of talent. I have a bad habit of planning a series and starting the first book, then getting distracted by another writing project. I took my own advice the year and made a New Year’s resolution to finish the first book in every series I’ve started that still seemed viable—seven at last count. I could not write anything else unless it was already contracted for. I chose A Darkness of Dragons Trilogy to begin this project. Dragon’s Pearl, the first book, had three chapters written. I wrote the fourth, then had to pause to finish a contracted-for anthology novella. Picking up again, I finished this first book. As I was wondering what epublisher to send it to, Devine Destinies sent out a call for books. Deciding this was more than a coincidence, I submitted and they took it, asking to see the rest of the trilogy. So then I had to finish the second book, Dragon’s Diamond, which had only one chapter written. When it was accepted, I knew I had to write the third, Dragon’s Stone, which had nothing but a synopsis. Which I’m doing. Now I can see that in a series, once you do finish the first book, if it’s picked up, then you have to keep going with the next, and so on. Which means it may take me the rest of my life to finish all the first books in those series. But it does illustrate my point. You can’t offer any publisher a book you haven’t finished. Not unless you’re a multipublished author and that publisher knows your record.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?
Unfortunately, I had to give most of them up as I aged, so I’m not admitting to any of them as I can no longer indulge.

What influences your writing? And why?
This stumps me. Like all writers, many of the ideas that circle the landing field in my mind all the time, never make a landing for one reason or another. Most current events are too ephemeral to base a book on. And the older I get, the less I’m likely to write about something that’ll take a ton of research, though I’ve done a lot of that in the past.

We’re all influenced by what goes on in our lives and around us and I’m sure a lot of that creeps into every authors’ books, but I know I don’t deliberately choose to have it happen.

Name one thing readers don’t know about you.
I’m an introvert. Like most are, I’m. shy. Maybe this is why I hate to make phone calls, though I enjoy talking to whoever calls me.

What are you working on now?
Besides writing Dragon’s Stone, I’m finishing another contracted-for anthology novella. This is because I belong to a promo group of twelve authors who promote each other called Jewels of the Quill—where I’m Dame Turquoise. One of the ways we promote each other is by doing anthologies, some of which have won awards. So I don’t do this just for myself.

Who is your favorite all-time author?
All the old ones, most of them dead. E.A. Poe; A, Merritt; H.P. Lovecraft.; Charlotte Bronte; Jane Austin.

Are love scenes easy/difficult to write?
Love scenes never have been easy for me. First of all, I believe they have to fall naturally within the context of the story—which gave me a lot of trouble with H/S editors when I was writing for them. I was always being told—more, more. Also love scenes have to fit the characters’ personalities. And I’ve never been able, after being a nurse, to call sexual parts anything but their actual anatomical names. But I do believe making love is a part of romance novels and I’ve learned to write love scenes, even hot ones, which none of my early books had.

Do you write in one genre or several different ones? And why?
I’ve written in all genres except men’s action and erotica. Because at one time or another in my long writing career, each of the other genres appealed to me. Or else the genre I was writing in no longer was popular and I was forced to try another. I’m sort of stuck on paranormal right now. It actually was my first love, but editors kept telling me to take it out. And look at it today!

If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
Hey, I live across the street from the south shore of Lake Superior and this is June—summer is here! With perfect weather. Ask me again in December and you’d hear a different story.

How do you deal with the dreaded writer’s block?
Never have it. If I park myself in a chair in front of the computer and start writing anything, I may have to rework it later, but I’m off and running. I might procrastinate, but I’m never really blocked.

Do you have another career besides writing? What is it?
I was an RN for many years and I wrote right along with nursing.

What’s your biggest reward in being a writer?
Selling. No, I mean it. I think every author wants to have readers and getting books published means readers, whether or not you make a lot of money. Mind you, I don’t knock money—it does make life easier.

To date, which is your favorite story? Which one did you have the most fun writing?
I think perhaps a book I wrote for a packager about immigrants. My agent asked me which nationality I wanted to write about. Because The Scots—which was the name of the book—were part of my heritage, that’s the one I chose. The research was endless because it started in Scotland with the reason for emigrating, then went through several more generations in this country and some wars. Took loads of research and a long time to write, but the book went through more than one edition in paperback. I got a lot of satisfaction from writing that book and feel I learned something about what my ancestors had to face when they came to the United States. I hated to let go of the characters.

How do you go about developing your characters and setting?
I decide what the book will be about first. In A Darkness of Dragons, I needed background first. So, in the past, Merlin steals magic from the Immortal Black Dragon in an attempt to heal King Arthur. He fails, and in the doing, makes a bitter enemy of the dragon, which from then on is determined to destroy mankind. Merlin succeeds in trapping him in a Welch mountain cave, but can’t keep him there unless subsequent generations renew the wards that keep the dragon trapped. Which is the problem the characters in modern America face in my three stories. Because, you see, the dragon emigrates with their Welsh ancestors to this country and is forced into the stope—a cave-like area created by having been mined-out—of an abandoned copper mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. They must learn how to keep him there.

So I had to choose characters who had Welsh ancestry. Some had to know a fragment or so of what they were because they needed to be able to lead those who knew nothing in the right direction. After I figured that out, it became easy to create such characters. As soon as I begin writing about any character, she or he comes alive in my mind and I soon learn all about him or her as they demonstrate to me who they are. But when I put something in, such as Nala, the Siamese cat, I don’t always know why. Not until the third book did I understand why she was there.

As for setting, I live in Michigan’s U.P., surrounded by abandoned copper mines. I usually set books in areas where I have lived, which includes different areas of California, Upstate New York and Northern Nevada, as well as the U.P. If I must use another setting, my research is as thorough as I can make it.

If you had the opportunity to say one thing to your readers, what would that be?
Suspend disbelief and enjoy.