Saturday, 28 March 2015

A Notepad and a Dream - Danielle Shipley

In my new series, 'A Notepad and a Dream', I'll be interviewing up-and-coming authors about their books, their writing process and their future plans. If you have a book shortly due for release and would like to take part, or know someone else who would, please let me know via the 'Contact Me' page above. 

In the third installment of 'A Notepad and a Dream', prolific penmaster Danielle Shipley holds her breath and casts a spell...

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your novella?

I’m the 26-year-old wrangler of my headful of imaginary friends. I’ve been doing the writing thing pretty much my whole life, though it wasn’t until my latter teens that I started thinking about going pro. The latest addition to my rapidly expanding list of publications (because, you know, why stop to breathe, ever?) is the tangled web of magical drama affectionately dubbed ‘The Surrogate Sea’, which officially launched this past Tuesday, bringing the number of Wilderhark Tales to six. I aim to wrap up the series with Books 6.5 and 7 by the end of this year. (Seriously. I’ll breathe when I’m dead.)

'The Surrogate Sea' is the sixth book in The Wilderhark Tales, your series of novellas that are loosely based on popular fairy tales. What particular challenges present themselves with creating such a long-running series?

The characters’ to-do lists throughout the series basically read: 1, encounter a magical problem (sure, blame the witches, though you probably brought it on yourself). 2, go off on an adventure (bonus points if at least one leg of the journey goes through Wilderhark Forest!). And 3, find true love (because your author likes to play matchmaker). My own to-do list, then, has been: 1, find interesting ways to mix it up within the formula so that each Wilderhark Tale is both familiar and full of new things to love – i.e., the burden of fairy tale retellers everywhere. 2, find which famous fairy tales lend themselves to scenarios I can realistically see my specific cast of characters getting into – since once my world starts establishing its own parameters, I can’t just throw them out the window for the sake of ‘but this would be so cool!’. And 3, strive to make each new book live up to the ones that came before it – which, to hear my readers tell it, I’ve not been failing miserably. 

With television shows like 'Once Upon a Time' being very popular just now, the market for stories based on fairy tales is clearly very healthy. Did you consciously set out to meet a trend with your writing, or have you simply focused on telling stories that you enjoy?

Considering how totally behind the times I am, I call it a miracle that my lifelong fairy tale fascination and the current story climate happen to be in such great alignment. The first Wilderhark Tale, ‘The Swan Prince’, came about pretty much out of nowhere, with no real plans to ever publish it, never mind spin out a whole series. But the characters and I simply couldn’t leave each other alone. And when I decided I wanted to self-publish the Robin Hood trilogy I adore with my whole heart (‘The Outlaws of Avalon’, coming within the next couple years; stay tuned!), I figured I’d get in some practice by first putting out the multi-volume prequel that The Wilderhark Tales essentially is. 

What book do you wish you could have written?

If I could claim the Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater, I in a heartbeat would. I love those books’ way with words and wall-to-wall bromances. And, okay, their popularity, too. So sue me for wanting to be hailed by legions of fans as a wordsmithing master. Aim high, say I.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

There are several subjects I wouldn’t want to touch right now, but I’ve learned better than to trot out a hard ‘never’. A decade-and-a-half ago, I’d have told you I’d never write stories where the characters die. Skip ahead to the fall of 2013, where two of the three main characters in my National Novel Writing Month project were dead by Chapter One, and background characters by the hundreds went on to drop like flies. The stories my muses give me to tell are ever changing. The vast difference in nature between the beginning and end of the Wilderhark Tales will attest to that!

Finally, a twenty words or less, describe the best thing about being an accomplished wordsmith...

The power to find the words my fictional dependents need said is a privilege and joy like few others.


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Twitter Handle = @DEShipley

Sunday, 15 March 2015

A Notepad and a Dream - Alex Nader

In a new series I'm calling 'A Notepad and a Dream', I'll be interviewing up-and-coming authors about their books, their writing process and their future plans.  If you have a book shortly due for release and would like to take part, or know someone else who would, please let me know via the 'Contact Me' page above.

In the second 'A Notepad and a Dream' episode, Alex Nader talks about Tennessee noir and running out of whiskey.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your novel?

I'm a pretty lame dude overall.  Two day jobs distract me from three kids, an awesome wife, and these books that I can't seem to stop myself from penning.  My next release is going to be Burdin's End, the final book of the Beasts of Burdin trilogy, and it will be available on July 1st of this year barring any major catastrophes like running out of whiskey.  That happened once.  It was awful.

Your Beasts of Burdin series focuses on a demon hunter-turned-gumshoe who is trying to withdraw from the supernatural world.  What inspired you in your choice of subject matter?

A little bit of everything, but mostly classic noir like The Maltese Falcon and the Philip Marlowe series. I wanted to write something like that, but I'm not near as talented as Hammett or Chandler so I added lots of explosions and beheading to make up for my lack of skill.

At the start of the first novel, the main character, Ty Burdin, leaves Miami for a more peaceful life in Tennessee.  To what extent is the Tennessee in your novel shaped by your own experiences?

I once moved here as well.  It was a new experience, but now Tennessee is my home.  I've seen and learned a lot here and yeah, some of that has crept its way into my writing.  Let me tell you, this place, it's crawling with demons.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? 

Including words other than the cuss words.  Apparently other people's vocabulary is made up of more than four letter words.  I know, weird, right?

Who is your favorite author and what is it that you most admire about their work?

I've got a few favorites, but I have to say Joe Hill stands above them all.  He has this raw ability to make you feel and he uses it to take you on a ride in all of his work.  I'm fucking jealous.

What are your future writing goals?

I dunno, find some more readers, maybe?  Have some fun.  Yeah, that's it.  I want to have a lot of fun.  Writing is about the coolest thing ever, no need to screw it up with things like goals and expectations.  C'est la vie, brah, c'est la vie.

This entry will be updated with links when BURDIN'S END is available to purchase.

More info about Alex's books can be found here, with links to buy them from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

A Notepad and a Dream - Rena Olsen

In a new series I'm calling 'A Notepad and a Dream', I'll be interviewing up-and-coming authors about their books, their writing process and their future plans.  If you have a book shortly due for release and would like to take part, or know someone else who would, please let me know via the 'Contact Me' page above.

In the first 'A Notepad and a Dream' episode, we'll be meeting American author Rena Olsen.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your novel?

I’m really quite boring. I live in the heartland of America, central Iowa, where we do, in fact, have indoor plumbing AND the internet. I work as a therapist with children in an inner city elementary school, which basically means I get to talk about cartoons and play games all day. My book, THE GIRL BEFORE, is about a woman who discovers the family she’s always known isn’t quite what they’ve claimed to be. It explores the world of human trafficking, but from a unique perspective. There isn’t a firm release date yet, but it should be available late 2016 from Putnam.

What made you want to write this book?

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the End It movement, a push to raise awareness and end human trafficking. Honestly at that point I wasn’t even aware of what a huge problem modern day slavery is in the world. In my city! I started researching and read a lot of stories, and it got me to thinking about what it would be like to grow up in that world. From that, Clara, my main character, was born.

What are the central themes of your novel, and why did you choose these?

Wow, what a fancy question! Clearly, human trafficking is a big piece of the novel, but the main focus is Clara’s own perception of her world and her life, and how that changes as she is introduced to new facts and circumstances. I really strive to make all my characters multidimensional, and their circumstances believable. I’m not sure if you would call it a “theme,” but the psychological aspect of each character is super important. In simple terms, the themes that stand out most for me are love, truth, and redemption.

What would you say are your main influences?

This is the question where I’m supposed to impress with my big name influences, yes? It would be impossible to list all of them. I read close to 200 books a year, and each author adds to my own prowess as a writer. I try to capture the whimsy of authors like JK Rowling, CS Lewis, and JRR Tolkien, along with the ever-present wisdom they bury within an entertaining narrative. My biggest influence is Ray Bradbury. The way he is able to tell a story and still accurately capture the climate of various social and political issues is nothing short of magic. He is a master.

What would you say is your particular strength as an author?

As mentioned above, I really pay attention to the psychological aspects of each character. Strengths and weaknesses, likable and unlikable characteristics of each player. Because of that, my characters tend to be very distinct in their voice and actions. I’ve always loved dialogue, partially because the characters are always so opinionated on how they speak and what they say. Getting to write them playing off each other is probably the most fun I have when writing.

What are your future plans?

Well, I just received my edit letter from my editor today, so after I finish panicking, I’ll dive into revisions on THE GIRL BEFORE. The deal with Putnam was for two books, so after revisions are finished, I’ll pluck one of the many ideas from my brain and get to work on book 2. These books are for an adult audience, but I would like to be able to share some of my young adult writing with the world someday. Beyond that, I just hope to be able to keep writing for as long as the stories come to me. Most of all, I plan to keep dreaming.

This entry will be updated with links when THE GIRL BEFORE is available to purchase.