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An Interview With Indie Author Rebecca Howie

Another interview, another awesome author helping out. Thanks, Ian.

lonelyboy1977

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Greetings folks, today it’s time for something a little different. No veiled attempts to get you to buy my book; no complaints about how much my life sucks; no insights into the craft of writing. Instead, having recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with fellow indie author, Rebecca Howie, who is a mystery writer from Scotland, I am posting that interview below for your reading pleasure.

Rebecca self-published her debut novel, The Game Begins, last year, which made enough of a splash to make it up to 16th place on Amazon’s Teen and Young Adult Detective category within three months. She is currently preparing her second book, A Woman Scorned, for publication in the not too distant future.

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Indie Interview: Irene Olson

This week, Irene Olson took time out of her preparations for the release of her new novel, Requiem For The Status Quo, to talk to me about her inspiration and how she keeps herself from giving up.

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Hi, Irene, Welcome to Read A Lot. 

Q. Had you always planned on becoming a published author?

A. Not at all. I was my father’s primary caregiver when he had Alzheimer’s disease. It wasn’t until five years after his death from that same disease that I decided to honour him by writing a novel capturing my experiences loving him through that time. I started writing Requiem For The Status Quo on December 29, 2012 and knew absolutely NOTHING about the writing craft. Fortunately, I’ve learned quite a bit since then.

Q. What inspired you to write Requiem?

A. My first answer provides my primary inspiration but added to that was my time as my sister-in-law’s secondary caregiver when she battled the same disease as my father’s when she was diagnosed just one month after his death from Alzheimer’s.

My brother was a stellar caregiver for his wife and I volunteered as his go-to person where her care was concerned.

Additionally, as an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator, I heard many stories that provided peripheral story lines for Requiem. I wanted their voices to be heard.

Q. What made you choose the genre?

A. I had a difficult time selecting the genre because although Requiem certainly qualifies as Women’s Fiction, it has far reaching implications as a family drama. My characters are female and male; Alzheimer’s is no respecter of genders.

With over 44 million cases recorded in the world as of this writing, the disease is bound to have an impact on every person’s life. My author website characterises my work as Mainstream Contemporary Fiction.

Q. What is the book about?

A. The title reflects how a person’s life is irrevocably changed once dementia invades a family’s peace. The caregiver and the person being cared for crave normalcy, status quo, and that easy going status flies out the window soon after diagnosis.

Family caregivers are oftentimes ruthlessly challenged by uninvolved family members who are quick to condemn, but reticent to offer assistance. Although that was not the case for me, such is the case for Colleen Strand, a widow who recently found her own footing who takes on the task of caring for her father, Patrick Quinn, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Her older brother, Jonathan, criticizes Colleen at every turn and verbally abuses the father when he has the gall to exhibit symptoms of his disease. In short, Jonathan travels down the road of denial, leaving Colleen to deal with all matters regarding their father’s care.

 Connected tenuously to a father who barely remembers her and a brother who has become an enigma, Colleen faces the moving target that is Alzheimer’s disease, determined to clothe her father with the dignity he deserves, while struggling to squeeze every minute of time she can from him.

Q. Do you find it easier to write with a schedule or with no time restrictions?

A. I’ve participated in two NaNoWriMo events (National Novel Writing Month) that take place each year during the month of November. I didn’t write Requiem in a month’s time, but my other two novels were written during November of 2015 and 2016. 

Requiem, however, took a couple years to write. I wrote out a list of episodes – from personal experience – that I wanted to somehow include in my novel. I then created characters that might participate in those episodes.

The protagonist, Colleen Strand, is certainly based after me, but I took great liberty in changing many aspects of her character.

For my subsequent novels, I used a program called Snowflake, an extraordinarily efficient program that helps writers flesh out their characters and story lines.

The writer answers numerous questions about their characters, e.g., their physical appearance, their worst and best life experiences, their interests, etc. and by the time the author fills out their profiles, he or she has a pretty darn good idea of how the story line will evolve. I highly recommend the program.

Q. Can you choose a favourite character from Requiem?

A. Boy, that’s difficult, but if I had to pick one, I’d pick Pilar Madrigal. Pilar is Colleen’s best friend – a woman who’s not afraid to tell it like it is where Colleen’s welfare is concerned. Her brutal honesty helps, rather than hinders, Colleen’s survival as a lone caregiver.

As a rule, the family caregiver, whether caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or any other number of debilitating or terminal diseases, needs a cheerleader as a friend. That cheerleader, however, must also know when to be painstakingly firm when it comes to insisting on what is in the best interests of the beleaguered caregiver.

Q. Was there ever a point while you were writing when you wanted to give up?

A. Yes, as a matter of fact, I had all but lost hope that Requiem would ever get published. After querying close to a hundred agents and being told time and again that the story-line was one with which they weren’t comfortable – I guess some agents wore the same mantel of denial as does Jonathan, the antagonist in my novel – I concentrated on my other two novels, forgetting that I had also submitted Requiem to a few independent publishers.

When my publisher, Black Rose Writing offered me a contract earlier this year, I was glad I hadn’t closed the book – so to speak – on the project about which I was most impassioned: Requiem For The Status Quo.

Q. What is the worst part of the writing process for you?

A. Quite simply, starting. I enjoy creating and designing characters, but starting Chapter One, Page One, is the most difficult step in the process. I must say, when I started writing my first novel, I thought creating dialogue would be the worst part about writing, but I’ve been told that I do a great job of giving voice to the characters; that their speech patterns are true to life.

And let me tell you, this is not me boasting about that apparent ability of mine, rather, it’s expressing shock that I’ve managed to do that aspect of the craft some justice.

Q. Do you have a favourite piece of writing advice?

A. Yes. Doing NaNoWriMo taught me that the first draft is just that, a first draft. Don’t edit as you go or you’ll never complete it. Just start writing and for the most part, don’t go back over what you’ve written until you’re done.

The first draft will never be the final work product. As author, Anne Lamott has said, “It’s just your shitty first draft.” Once you resign yourself to that fact, it’s quite easy to just pound away at the keyboard and put words, paragraphs, and chapters to paper.

Q. Where can people learn more about your books?

A. My author website will provide ongoing updates. If people sign up, they will receive the latest and greatest news about my writing projects. REQUIEM will be released by Black Rose Writing on July 20th. The paperback is currently available on my publisher’s website for preorder, and is also available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A week later, it will be available in ebook format.

Q. What have you learned since you started writing?

A. That’s easy: just because you want something published, just because you love and believe in your story, doesn’t mean the publishing world will. It’s a painful kick in the heart when you learn this fact, but you can’t take it personally.

This industry is a very subjective one so just because you get turned down, doesn’t mean you’re a failure. As a matter of fact, I go by this saying, “A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.” That was the case for me, and even though I don’t consider the term “loser” a user-friendly word, the adage still holds true for me.

Q. What’s next for you?                                                                                                                                 
A. I am currently in the process of presenting my 2nd novel, Backseat Driver, to agents and independent publishing houses. In a nutshell, it captures the dilemma between vulnerability and pride. There is no easy way to say it: when a magnifying glass is held up in front of a person, it is virtually impossible to ignore the imperfections and scars it reveals. It is what one does with those revelations, however, that marks the true essence of a person.

My 3rd novel, Mountain Slide, is in its final first draft stages and just as with my two previous novels, I’m loving the characters and what they manage to accomplish in their lives.

Thoughts On: 11.22.63 by Stephen King

There are plenty of books on my shelves I’m yet to start reading, but as is my habit, I went in search of more reading material at my local library. After reading On Writing, I decided I’d give some of Stephen King’s other novels a try, and in the K section, there were the usual suspects- Carrie, It, etc- but 11.22.63 caught my attention because it took up so much space and I knew if I finished that in the borrow period, I’d be pleased with myself, so I decided it would be my next pick.


11.22.63 by [King, Stephen]


Title: 11.22.63

Author: Stephen King

Published: 2012

Genres: Alternative history. Time travel. Fiction.

Buy From: Amazon. Book Depository.


Blurb:  WHAT IF you could go back in time and change the course of history? WHAT IF the watershed moment you could change was the JFK assassination? 11.22.63, the date that Kennedy was shot – unless . . .


Thoughts:

The premise sounded intriguing enough, I’ll give the book that. Time travel. History. Time travel.

Did I mention time travel?

Okay, so maybe that prospect played more than a passing role in my decision to pick up 11.22.63. I’m a sucker for a good piece of historical fiction, and although this one isn’t technically a historical novel, it is set in the past, and I loved Jake’s attempts at fitting in.

This isn’t one of the Stephen King novels I see people posting about a lot, but I couldn’t understand why when I was reading it. Jake was just the right amount of sceptical and curious when he’s first told that there’s a wormhole in his friend’s cafe that will allow him to travel back to 1958, and his initial concern when he decides that he wants to go back in time isn’t to save JFK but to prevent one of his students from becoming a victim of a horrifying attack, which greatly improved my outlook on where the story was heading.

A downside, however, is the lack of concern for the so-called butterfly effect every time-traveller in every book ever is always so worried about, although that does make this book a little bit different from the others. It’s mentioned at the beginning, but only given the occasional reference after that, and I know everything Jake did made me wonder about what was going to happen to the future he’d left behind.

But for the most part, I loved this book. The story stands on its own, which was a bonus, the characters were interesting enough and the story kept me turning pages, so, like I said, I don’t understand why nobody talks about this one.


The opinions expressed in this review are mine and mine only. I have not been paid for this review.

 

 

 

Indie Interview: Jeffrey Kohanek

Welcome to another Indie Interview. Today’s author is Jeffrey Kohanek, the author of The Runes of Issalia series. Jeffrey grew up in rural Minnesota where comic books sparked his imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. His tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer’s imagination.

Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses that imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire young adults and the child within us all.

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Hi, Jeffrey. Welcome to Read A Lot.

Q: Had you always planned on becoming a published author?

Not at all. Since I was quite young, I had a creative nature, resulting in artistic endeavours that include me even creating my own comic books. Also possessing an aptitude for math, I found my teenage-self guided toward a career in Engineering.

A degree and a few working years later, I realised that Engineering offers little in the way of creativity, so I took MBA courses and became a Product Manager. This sufficed for two decades, enabling me to utilise my creativity to solve consumer problems with innovative new products. However, I eventually realised that the characters inside me longed to have a voice.

Recalling how much I enjoyed creative writing in college, I decided to capture the ideas bouncing about my head and form them into a story. As the characters came to life within the pages, I found myself addicted, realising my true calling as an author.

Q: What inspired you to write The Runes of Issalia?

The series is the culmination of ideas spurred by decades of reading fantasy novels. Magic is typically a key component to fantasy and that’s where my story began.

I had an idea for a magic system that was unlike any I had read. Within this world I conceived, runes hold an intrinsic meaning. We call the force that pulls object toward earth gravity because someone named it that. Imagine that there is a symbol, or rune, that represents gravity’s true name, and you found a book that depicts this symbol and others.

Now imagine yourself as a rare individual who has an inherent ability to collect raw energy and charge these runes with power. The result depends on the rune used and on the person’s capacity to collect energy. How the magic is utilised depends on the user’s creativity. That’s where things become really exciting.

Combining this magic with a world that has a long and deep history was critical to the plot. The government in the story is a continent-wide Empire that controls church and state, creating a cult-like mentality and providing an inordinate amount of control over citizens lives. As a dystopian society, the government, and the secrets they keep are core elements of the overarching plot line.

Q: What made you choose this genre?

I’ve loved reading epic fantasy since I first opened The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in fourth grade. Decades of experiencing fantastical worlds created by masters in the genre made it an easy choice for me. I love the idea of creating an entire world from nothing, including the economy, politics, ecology, geography, people, and of course, the magic.

Q: What is the series about?

All citizens of the Issalian Empire are assigned a rune at birth, designating their position in society and defining their vocation for life. Being among the 1% who live without such a rune, Brock, the protagonist, ranks below the lowest rung of society and he is treated like an outcast.

A tragic event encourages him to risk his life and obtain a fake rune. His bold nature and desire to do something important with his life cause him to choose the rune of the ruling class, the Ministry.

                                                                                                                                                          Under a false identity, he enters a school where society’s elite are trained in magic, science, and combat. There, he begins to uncover secrets held by the Ministry, including a lost magic, buried and forgotten for centuries.

As the first book in the series, I classify The Buried Symbol as an origin story. It pulls the reader into this new world as they share in Brock’s rise from nothing. It was written with the intent that the reader is constantly discovering something new about the world, the school, the government, and about Brock’s amazing new abilities.

It’s the perfect entry point for those who aren’t hard-core fantasy readers while hitting on some of the most desired tropes of Coming-of-Age fantasy enthusiasts. Readers will find that books two and three are more traditional epic fantasy, with multiple POVs, quests, monsters, more extensive magic, and an epic final battle. All three are fast-paced for the genre, with action, adventure, mystery, or romance occurring in every chapter.

Q: Do you find it easier to write with a schedule or with no time restrictions?

I try to set goals for myself, but since I work a day job and have a family, I try to keep them realistic. Accordingly, I try to average 1,000 words a day with 500 being my minimum.

Q: Can you choose a favourite character from your books?

I fell in love with Master Nindlerod, a kooky Engineering instructor at the school. I loved him so much that I wrote him into later books, giving him a significant role in final book of the series.

Q: Was there ever a point while you were writing when you wanted to give up?

Editing. The Buried Symbol was the first book I had ever written and I underestimated how much editing goes into a 100,000 word novel.

Q: What is the worst part of the writing process for you?

Editing again. However, editing is SO important, it’s worth it for the end result.

Q: How much of your stories do you plan, or do you make them up as you go along?

I outline my novels before I begin writing. In fact, I had a very rough outline for the entire series when I started writing book one to ensure that I planted the right seeds in early on so they would bloom later.

Rather than being strict with the outlines, I tend to use them as a plan, reminding me of key events and details required to properly execute the plot or grow the characters. How chapters unfold is undetermined until I actually write them. In fact, I often find that the characters write me in directions I hadn’t intended to go.

Q: Do you have a favourite piece of writing advice?

Get an editor. They will not only make your books better, but they will make you a better writer. Before you send your book anywhere, get an editor.

Q: Where can people learn more about your books?

I’m on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and have my own website at www.jeffreylkohanek.com

Q: What have you learned since you started writing?

I’ve discovered that being an author is my true passion. I intend to grow my career as an author and am hopeful I can switch to full-time in a few years.

Q: What’s next for you?

I’m currently writing a prequel to The Runes of Issalia series, set 400 years in the past. It’s the story of a girl who plays an integral role in key historic events that are referenced in the main series.

Think of it as a Forrest Gump-type tale set in a fantasy world, providing readers with insight about what really happened during those historic events. I know that fans of the Runes series will love it and I believe it will help to introduce new reader

Indie Author Friday: Rebecca Howie #IndieAuthor #YA #mystery #thriller @RebeccaH2016

Thanks for having me, Teri. I had fun.

Books and Such

It’s Friday!  Today’s indie author is Rebecca Howie, with her YA mystery, The Game Begins.  If Rebecca or I turn up missing, you’ll be able to find us either at Hogwarts or on a desert island reading the Harry Potter Series.

It’s been four years since the car crash took away her father and Sam Beckett’s nightmares are back with a vengeance.

When her friend suggests she take a PI course to distract herself, Sam agrees, but she soon realises it won’t be as simple as she expected when her first case leads to a woman being killed, her husband accused of her murder, and a series of threatening text messages sent to her phone which lead Sam to believe that her father’s crash might not be the accident everyone thought it was.

What’s the most constructive criticism you’ve been given in your writing career?

I know it’s simple…

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Indie Interview: Brad Windhauser

This week’s Indie Interview is with Brad Windhauser, the author of The Intersection, a story which looks at the effects gentrification has on a Philadelphia neighbourhood and how it impacts the residents during the fallout of a road accident.

Hi, Brad. Welcome to Read A Lot.

Q: Had you always planned on becoming a published author?

I did always place getting published as a goal of mine. Working towards this goal compelled me to continue to work on my craft until that happened.

Q: What inspired you to write The Intersection?

As a resident in a gentrifying neighbourhood, I looked around at my neighbours and saw how gentrification was impacting them—in positive and negative ways. I wanted to explore this topic in order to better explore the diverse and complex points of view about this important issue.

Q: What made you choose the genre?                                                                                       

I’ve always written lit fiction and I felt this weighty topic, explored through varying points of view, works well for literary novels.

Q: What is the book about?

The book follows the fallout of an accident involving a white driver and an African American bicyclist. The accident stokes gentrification tensions in a tense south Philadelphia neighbourhood. Through varying points of view, the story examines people connected directly and indirectly to the effects of this accident.

Q: Do you find it easier to write with a schedule or with no time restrictions?

I do set regular time aside each week to write, although if I have a good grove going, I wont interrupt it just because I planned to stop at a certain time.

Q: Can you choose a favourite character from your book?

I found a lot to connect with in most of these characters, although Rose, an elderly woman who witnesses the accident and takes it upon herself to try and bring the community together, sticks out. There is something about her pain but strong spirit I appreciate.

Q: Was there ever a point while you were writing when you wanted to give up?

The book went through a few different iterations as well as various drafts—this can be very frustrating, for once you feel like you have the story licked, you pull a little thread and things unravel.

I also found it hard to get the book published, so that was discouraging, but the book’s out now so it was all worth it.

Q: What is the worst part of the writing process for you?

Being disciplined about editing—that means going through a draft, setting it aside for a bit so I get reasonable distance from it in order to evaluate it with fresh eyes. Failing this ends up wasting time, which can be frustrating.

Q: How much of your stories do you plan, or do you make them up as you go along?

I usually allow the story and characters to dictate where a piece goes. I find that if I plan too much out then things (events, actions) feel too forced. The more I get to know my characters, the clearer the whole story becomes—there’s no way to plan for this.

Q: Do you have a favourite piece of writing advice?

Read, and read often. I cannot overestimate how crucial it is to study the craft, and the best way to do this is to expose yourself to as much of it as possible. Books are the best teachers.

Q: Where can people learn more about your books?

My website. I update it with new material frequently.

I also keep my author page on FB updated.

Q: What have you learned since you started writing?

Respect the writing process, and in so doing you allow the story to come together, reveals itself over time.

Q: What’s next for you?

I’m completing a short story collection now, which I plan to submit to various publishers this summer. After that, I have a second draft of my new novel—set in a San Diego restaurant in the late 90s— to revise. 

July: Upcoming Posts

This month there’s a whole host of Indie and non-Indie authors coming to Read A Lot, a very special guest, and a lot of writing prompts. Here’s a quick look at what’s to come over the summer.

Sunday 2nd July: Brad Windhauser Indie Interview

Wednesday 5th July: Writing Prompt Wednesday #43

Sunday 9th July: Jeffrey Kohanek Indie Interview

Wednesday 12th July: Writing Prompt Wednesday #44

Sunday 16th July: Irene Olson Indie Interview

Wednesday 19th July: Writing Prompt Wednesday #45

Sunday 23rd July: Connie Chappell Indie Interview

Wednesday 26th July: Writing Prompt Wednesday #46

Sunday 30th July: Special Guest