An Interview I Gave…

I was recently interviewed by one of the vendors at the Gulf Coast Indie Book Fest (where my books and poetry art cards were featured last month), and the interview went live today. A couple of other authors are featured in the post, too, including Adam Holt, whom I shared a table with. (Look for that collaboration again in the future, I suspect.)

Here’s the link to the post which includes my interview. Thanks to Dylan Drake for the interest and the opportunity!

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Welcome to the Blog Tour

Well, it’s been quite a week around here! The social media blitz should die down for a while, now that Finis. is out and we’ve had the launch party. The festivities yesterday were really wonderful; thank you, profoundly, to everyone who came out to celebrate and who has already bought the book and who has left reviews. Such a delightful end to my summer break — because, yes, I went back to my classroom today. *le sigh*

So I’ve been invited to participate in a blog tour by the excellent Leah Lax. (Thanks, Leah!) Without further ado, here we go!

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1. What are you working on?
This summer I’ve finally been at a moment in my life — and hopefully this won’t be the last time I’m here — where I have that “writer’s trifecta” of a book about to come out, a book that’s in edits, and a book I’m writing (or in my case, rewriting). Though I love all these projects, I think for this interview I’ll focus on the book that has just come out, Finis. It’s set in a world where people are still quite human, but they also have distinct animal characteristics, called their Animal Affinities. They aren’t part animal, not really, nor do they traditionally have animal familiars, but they do evince certain qualities and tendencies that make them more than just human. For example, the protagonist’s mother and sister are giraffe-esque: they’re tall with golden skin and lots of big freckles. When they walk, they lope gracefully like distant ships on the ocean. Her cousin is like a seahorse, with his webbed fingers, prehensile feet, long nose, and spiky brown hair. Her problem? She doesn’t apparently have one of these Animal Affinities, and it’s causing terrible difficulties in her life. This is the story of her journey as she attempts to get out of that predicament.
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2. How does your work differ from other work in your genre?
Finis. is magic realism, and as is the nature of magic realism in general, it is generally unlike the stories around it.
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3. Why do you write what you do?
I write the kind of things I like to read, which means I don’t tend to stay in just one genre all the time. My specialties are magic realism, fantasy, and poetry. Often a situation or a problem or a piece of dialogue will get stuck in my head until my subconscious starts to wrap a story around it, secreting layers of metaphor and imagery and character. Sometimes what comes out is interesting enough to start editing into something more meaningful. But nearly always the story begins as a tiny obsession in my mind, and then I have to write it just to stop thinking about it.
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4. How does your writing process work?

Well, the school year is about to start, and I teach high school full-time, so my writing process is about to get a lot more desperate! I’ll borrow time here and there for a half an hour at a time during the week, and then on the weekend I’ll leave my house very early on Saturday morning to head out for a writing date with my friend and fellow novelist Sarah Warburton. We’ll sit at Panera for a few hours and get some work done. I also have a critique group that meets every few weeks, and having external deadlines on manuscripts that aren’t in the publishing process yet really helps me to get the pages in. I’ve found that external deadlines are absolutely necessary for me. I hate disappointing other people far more than I mind disappointing myself! I’ve also noticed that my writing process tends to change when I have a major shift in my routine; i.e., my habits during the summer are really different from my habits during the school year. And every time one of those routine shifts occurs, I try to revise the way I do things to always be more productive, more efficient. So we’ll see how things go this semester. One thing about having a schedule that’s always way too busy is that my writing time, when I do get it, becomes sharply focused. I no longer have time for writer’s block, and so I spend time thinking about what I’m going to write when I’m doing other things, like exercising, folding the laundry, trying to fall asleep — and then when I do finally get a chance to sit down and do it, I usually can. That makes my time in front of the journal or laptop more useful.

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Thanks again to Leah for initing me on this tour! If you’re interested in Finis., here are some links where you can buy it:

Amazon

Smashwords

Oyster Books

It’s also available in Apple’s iBooks store, and more venues are coming online each week. Check the Finis. Facebook page for updates.

 

Interview with Russ Linton, Author of CRIMSON SON

So this week I’m reading Crimson Son by Russ Linton. It’s funny and poignant, about the teenage son of a super hero. And even though this novel would be classified as “genre fiction,” it so far has the hallmarks of good literary fiction: tight writing, solid story, layered characters, excellent pace. (We can get into why I think “lit-fic” and “genre-fic” should come out of their respective fabricated corners and start kissing and making up at a later date.)

Russ generously accepted my request for an interview, so here you are, dear readers. Enjoy. (Oh, and you might notice a tidbit or two about his next novel buried in his comments, too.)

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Describe Crimson Son in 15 words or fewer.
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The powerless son of a superhero’s emotional journey through his father’s secret world.
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All genres have conventions and tropes which, when handled with finesse, can be executed beautifully even though they’re familiar.  What was the most interesting thing you learned about your genre while working on Crimson Son?
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I embraced tropes in Crimson Son. Since the focus was on the powerless, the superheroes and villains are exactly what they always are — bigger than life, quasi-celebrity, borderline stereotypical personas. Almost like a pantheon of greek gods, they are forces of nature or perhaps, part of the setting. The POV is zoomed in on the real, and fragile people that get mixed up in this world. As a genre, I learned that superhero fiction has no genre! I’ve seen it under science fiction, I’ve seen it under fantasy and even urban fantasy at that. On Amazon, superhero lists as a category for paperback books but not eBooks. It is a very much a cross-genre topic and that’s one thing that drew me to it.
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What’s your favorite aspect of your protagonist’s personality?
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He’s a bit like me. A smart ass with an occasionally colorful vocabulary and a love for geekery. I wasn’t interested in delving too far into “the other” with my first novel. My next novel though, well, I go to a bit of an extreme.
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Describe your writing process and/or your day-to-day writing life.
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I’m a pantser. I sit down and type and see what happens. As the story develops, I do get a sense for the direction I want it to go (or it wants me to go, not sure which) but even then, I let spur of the moment decisions surprise me. I keep writing and taking in sections to my crit group each week until I get a first draft under my belt. I’m usually shooting for 1000 words a day so I get pretty far ahead of the weekly crit group. Once I feel I’ve completed a draft, I take a bit of a break, rope some people into reading it, and then tear things apart based on my own reflections and their critique. After draft 2 or 3, I round up some beta readers and depending on their feedback, dive in again.
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With the release of Crimson Son, I find my daily writing life is out of whack as I navigate marketing and other unfamiliar territory. However, I’m still plugging away at my current novel and hope to be done by the end of this year.
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Authors usually have lots of influences that inspire them. What book or author have you found to be most influential. Why do you choose that one out of all you could pick from?
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The first books I ever read that left a lasting impression were Lewis’ Narnia series, especially The Magician’s Nephew. I was so entranced by Lewis’ style, imagery and even the British spelling of things, it sunk deep into my subconscious.
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I didn’t realize how deeply that story affected me until I launched this full time writing journey and sat down to re-read that book. I’m not an overly emotional person, but I got a bit misty-eyed when I read the description of the Wood Between the Worlds after so many years. When the children surface in a new world, you realize that they came from a single pool and the wood they left behind is filled with more and more pools and the possibilities are endless. He created a place where every writer stops before picking a pool and jumping in head first.
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I have a few nods to this book in my current fantasy piece which has the working title, First Song.
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You’ve elected to go the self-publishing route with Crimson Son. What’s been the most rewarding part of this process? What’s been the most frustrating?
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Most rewarding is hearing people’s reviews of my book and seeing that my work has affected them in some way or that they clearly understood the ideas and themes I was trying to convey. As a writer, your work always sounds good to you (or terrible for that matter) so having the connection between written word and reader affirmed is the the most rewarding thing I can imagine. Of course, this happens with traditional authors as well, but in the self-publishing process there is no giant corporation between myself and the reader. I can’t sit back and wait for a marketing machine to make something of my book, I have to be in the trenches every day and talk directly to the reviewers and readers who have connected with my novel.
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Most frustrating is the snobbery I’ve encountered for traditionally published works. Many reviewers are reluctant to even look at self-pubs. I get it, I’m sure they’ve been burned many times by poorly edited, poorly written stories that were rushed to press simply because the author “could.” However I have put much effort into making Crimson Son as professional as possible. The quality, I feel, could rival many traditionally published works — from the meticulously edited manuscript down to the professional cover and quality paper the text is printed on. Overall though, it makes me want to work harder to share this story with the world and prove that I can hang with the best of them.
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What three pieces of advice would you give to writers interested in publishing?
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One — Don’t rush the process. Way too often people hit “publish” before the book is ready. Professional editing, line and copy, is essential (developmental you can perhaps handle with a solid crit group). Keep editing until you get to the point where you think “oh, I need to do this” and when you check, you find you’ve already done it. You owe it to your potential reader to provide a solid story.
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Two — Whatever you do, don’t design your own cover. Find a pro, preferably someone who has designed book covers before. The old “don’t judge a book by its cover” is perhaps the most oft-ignored piece of advice in the online marketplace. If a cover looks cheap or is unreadable at the tiny thumbnail size, your potential customer will ignore the book.
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Three — Never assume you are going to upload to Amazon or B&N or whatever retailer and then sit back and collect royalties. This is equivalent to tossing your book in the ocean and assuming it will wash up on a shore and someone will read it. You have to hustle that book DAILY to make even a few sales and every sale counts. Building momentum for a book is tough and keeping it going, even harder. If you don’t plan to devote some time every day to selling your book, don’t bother placing it online.
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It’s summer, and everyone and their hamster are doing “You Must Read This” book lists. What’s the #1 pick — other than Crimson Son, of course — that you think people should read this summer?
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I’m reading the Bhagavad Gita to provide some inspiration for my current fantasy novel. I recommend picking up something outside of fiction and grounding your work a bit with it. On the fictional front, I plan to chase down some Ursula K. LeGuin this summer, particularly her Earthsea series which I have sadly never read.  I enjoyed the subtlety of her Tales from Earthsea and hope to write quietly epic fantasy like that someday.
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In the fourth grade, Russ Linton wrote down the vague goal of becoming a “writer and an artist” when he grew up. After a journey that led him from philosopher to graphic designer to stay at home parent and even a stint as an Investigative Specialist with the FBI, he finally got around to that “writing” part which he now pursues full time.
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Russ creates fiction in many genres. His stories drip with blood, magic, and radioactive bugs. He writes for adults who are young at heart and youngsters who are old souls.
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Thanks again to Russ for sharing his expertise and experiences with us. Check out his blog here, where he has detailed more episodes on his journey to self-publication. You can find Crimson Son in most distribution channels, which are listed on his blog.

In Which I’m Interviewed About Writing…

One of the writers I met this month at DFWCon, Laura Gokey, asked me to do an interview on her blog about writing, and I was happy to oblige!

Thanks, Laura, for the opportunity.

You can find my interview by clicking here.

Also look around on her site at the fun stuff, including some YA book reviews and descriptions of her own interesting fiction projects.

 

An Interview…

I was interviewed this week by Kasia James on her blog Writer’s Block.  Her anthology The Milk of Female Kindness will be coming out soon, and I was fortunate enough to have a few pieces selected to go into it.  Check out the interview here, and while you’re there, check out the rest of her lovely blog, too.  Several of the anthology’s other authors are being featured there as well.