Author Interview: Allie Potts on Writing Near-Future Science Fiction

It’s rare to find a science fiction series that approaches world building in a truly new, fresh way. But in her series, Project Gene Assist, Allie Potts does just that. The first book in her series, The Fair and Foul, explores the idea of merging the human brain with the internet. Allie Potts weaves complex characters with futuristic technology that is at once highly original, and utterly believable.

In this interview, Allie shares how she went about creating vivid, real characters who inhabit a terrifying but thrilling new world.

What was the original inspiration for your science fiction series, Project Gene Assist?

I had just finished reading an epic fantasy series which featured the classic chosen one locked in an age old battle between the forces of good and evil and found myself wondering how that story line might have played out if the hero didn’t particularly believe in either. I veered somewhat from the original idea, but it helped keep my characters human.

You have created highly sympathetic characters in your tale. How do you approach character development?

Each of my main characters have a guiding motivation and a fear which I establish during the outlining process. These two attributes cause them to make decisions during the plot that aren’t always the best, but are at least understandable under the circumstances, which I believe makes them more relatable. After all, who isn’t guilty of poor decision making sometimes?

Your protagonist, Juliane, has a unique voice. How did you develop her personality?

I read Lisa Randall’s book on Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs to get a sense of a tone (she’s a brilliant mind in the field of particle physics and cosmology) and attempted to channel a few of my professors (both male and female) for mannerisms, but I also found myself sticking my nose up into the air while writing her early scenes. She’s not necessarily the most likable character I’ve ever written, but Juliane doesn’t care if people like her as long as they respect her.

Many of the readers of this blog are self published. Do you have any advice or marketing tips that have worked well for you?

The best thing I have done was to engage with the community. I commented on other blogs. I responded to comments made on mine. I interacted in Facebook groups, offering help and support where it was requested. In short I have focused on the relationships rather than the sales conversions which, in the long run (and face it, writing is a long game) has expanded my reach beyond what I could have done alone.

Also, never ever make a book related announcement on the same day as a Star Wars trailer gets released. In fact don’t compete with anything related to Star Wars. Pay attention to Comic-Con and mark those days on your calendar. I know this from experience.

What is the most unusual thing that has ever inspired your writing?

Probably a fire hydrant. It wasn’t particularly well kept and caught my eye. The next thing I know I’m writing a whole thing about it, comparing it to a garden gnome. The second most unusual thing is probably a paper clip I saw embedded in the asphalt. It made me sad – here was something that would never ever achieve it’s purpose in this world all because someone else was too lazy to pick it up and move it.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

Hmmm. I can hum and whistle at the same time. Does that count?


If you’d like to learn more about Allie Potts’ novels and get a sense of her funny, insightful writing style, check out her blog

Author Interview: Alistair Cross on Writing Vampire Horror

Crimson CorsetI’ll admit that I have always had a weakness for a great vampire story, and Alistair Cross’s fast-paced horror novel, The Crimson Corset, absolutely fits the bill. This story is no Twilight; it’s a gritty, nail-biting read that reminds you that vampires are not for cuddling. Add to that strong female characters and unique twists, and you have an excellent read.

In this interview, Alistair shares some of his writing best practices, inspirations, and advice for fellow authors.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I read a lot, write a lot, and spend a lot of time removing my cat from my shoulders and face so I can see the computer screen and do my work. I love the arts and am especially enchanted by great writers and great musicians. Outside of writing, I enjoy photography, loud hard music, and running. Especially when it rains.

What was the original inspiration for your vampire novel, The Crimson Corset?
It’s hard to say. Different aspects of this novel were inspired by different things. The White Room (a kink dungeon in the Crimson Corset nightclub) was inspired by a dance club I went to several years ago. My antagonist, Gretchen VanTreese, was inspired by a woman I saw on television. The character of Brooks, my protagonist’s brother, was inspired by a pizza delivery boy. The plot itself came from a mix of things too extensive and jumbled to accurately identify.

You have created a powerful female heroine in your tale. How did you develop her as a character?
I wanted Samantha Corbett to be strong but feminine, and for this, I drew inspiration from several literary heroines – everyone from Katniss Everdeen to Scarlett O’Hara. I gave her a rough home life because I wanted her to have an inherent knowledge of her own strengths and weakness before coming face to face with her real tormentors, the vampires of the Crimson Corset. I wanted her to have a strong will, a sharp wit, and the kind of survival skills that would hopefully get her through the nightmare that awaited her in the story. I liked her from the beginning and wanted her to survive, but wasn’t sure until the end whether or not she would. So I gave her the qualities I thought she’d need – and hoped for the best.

Your protagonist, Cade, has a unique voice. How did you develop his personality?
Cade Colter remains one of the most difficult characters I’ve ever written. It’s always harder to write good guys because they have to be interesting and likable. When it comes to villains, they just need to be interesting; they’re so much easier.

I developed Cade’s personality through trial and error. I originally had a hard time finding his voice and eventually realized it was because I was trying to make him into something he wasn’t. As I continued writing, I learned to trust him and once I did, Cade presented himself to me, fully-formed and ready to be written.

Many of the readers of this blog are self published. Do you have any advice or marketing tips that have worked well for you?
Author interviews, guest blog posts, and reviews have worked well for me. Whether traditionally or independently published, the goal is to achieve exposure. Once people know about you, the book sales will follow, but trying to push a book is often an exercise in futility. It’s counterproductive to force your product on consumers. You just have to let people know you’re here and what you have to offer – and then allow them decide whether or not they’re interested.

What is the most unusual thing that has ever inspired your writing?
The mating habits of porcupines. I’d elaborate, but the subsequent data is unsavory.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
Last year, my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I began a horror-themed radio show called Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! It airs on Thursdays at 9:30 pm EST and we have featured guests such as Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Christopher Rice. We talk about writing, horror, ghosts, and all kinds of fun things, so check out our Haunted Nights LIVE! page on Facebook, and come give us a visit.

If you have any other questions or comments for Alistair Cross, comment below!

Author Interview: Alison Williams on Writing Historical Drama

The Black Hours book coverWell-researched historical fiction can have a profound impact on a reader, particularly when it touches on a subject as fascinating and appalling as the persecution of “witches” in England in the 17th century. Alison Williams tackles this difficult topic in her novel The Black Hours, evoking a dark, terrifying mood that made me appreciate yet again that I wasn’t born a few hundred years ago. Her story not only graphically details the blind paranoia of the times and the torture used on women accused of witchcraft, but also exposes the vulnerable powerlessness that women in general were exposed to at that time.

Alison shared her insights on researching and writing her novel, as well as what inspired her to explore the dark topic of witchcraft.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Alison WilliamsI live in Basingstoke, a town in Hampshire in the south of England. I originally trained as a journalist and met my husband at college. We have been married for 19 years and have two teenage children. I worked in education for several years, mainly with children with special needs. In my forties I decided that I needed to focus on my writing so took a Masters in Creative Writing. This really helped with my novel – part of The Black Hours was submitted in my final portfolio. I now write full-time as well as helping out with my husband’s PR business. I love to read – my favorite authors are Hilary Mantel and Elizabeth Kostova. I also like to watch movies (especially if they happen to be starring Johnny Depp or Ryan Gosling!). I also love music and like to see bands live whenever possible – in the last month I have seen Johnny Marr, Arctic Monkeys and Stereophonics. I’m happy to say that my kids often come with me – although usually because I’m paying for the tickets!

What was the original inspiration for your historical drama, The Black Hours?

I’ve always been extremely interested in history and, in particular, women’s history. I find it rather sad that a man like Matthew Hopkins <the villain of the novel> actually existed and did the awful things that he did, but that he is not really that well-known. In fact, a lot of people that have read The Black Hours think that I made him up! He was responsible for hundreds of deaths in England yet is hardly mentioned in our history books. Consequently, I really feel his victims have largely been forgotten – all too often they are just names on a list in a book or museum. We tend to forget that they were real people, with real lives, families, dreams, hopes and fears. What they suffered was dreadful and I really felt compelled to give them a voice. Although The Black Hours is fiction and Alice <the protagonist of the novel> never existed, the methods Matthew Hopkins uses in the novel are all methods actually used on real victims. I hope, in some small way, the novel pays tribute to those real victims.

You have a gift for creating a distinctly dark and desperate mood that permeates your novel. Did you consciously cultivate this tone, and if so, what were your techniques?

Thank you! I’m so glad that the desperation of the women comes across. I think that the tone comes naturally as a result of the subject matter. I felt that I had to try and put myself in their shoes (as much as a 21st century woman can) and try to understand and express how they must have been feeling as their world and everything they loved was threatened and ultimately destroyed. The biggest compliment I have had was from a reader who said that she was actually shouting at Matthew as she read because she felt as frustrated as Alice must have felt. That helplessness, frustration and despair, that feeling that there was nothing you could possibly do to help yourself out of this terrible situation, was what I imagined his real victims must have felt.

The Black Hours also explores the complex gender and power relationships at a particular point in history. Do you feel that your protagonist, Alice, is empowered by the end of your novel?

I have a real problem with some female characters in historical fiction who manage to fight against the odds and be independent, free and liberated. While I want Alice to be empowered and strong, which I think she is, I also want her to be realistic. I think it does a disservice to women of the past when modern day writers ignore the constraints that women lived under. By making them falsely brave or heroic I think they take away something from the everyday bravery that many, many women had to have in order to just survive. In 1647, Alice was empowered by simply being able to live alone and fend for herself.

Many of the readers of this blog are self published. Do you have any advice or marketing tips that have worked well for you?

I am learning all the time! I think that marketing is really tough because there are so many other books out there fighting for the readers’ attention. The best thing I have done is to develop a support network of other independent writers. I don’t think it helps to see other indie authors as the competition, rather I see my self-published colleagues as friends. I know that I can ask them for advice and support and in return I am happy to offer my own advice and support.

What is the most unusual thing that has ever inspired your writing?

I meet up with a group of four other writers once a month. We all write in different genres and have very different styles. We have, in the past, swapped genres and had a go at writing a piece in a genre we were really uncomfortable with. I got science fiction/fantasy! I can’t say I was exactly inspired, or that my attempt was very successful, but it was good to stretch my writing.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

I have to have total silence when I work. Any noise is instantly a complete distraction. Even the dog has learnt to be quiet in the day when I’m sat at my desk! It’s a shame because I’d love to have music on or listen to the radio, but if I do that then my focus is instantly on whatever song is playing and not on my writing. I must have a terrible attention span! Noise isn’t the only thing that distracts me – working from home there’s the chores, the telephone ringing, the doorbell and of course Facebook and Twitter to distract. What I’d really like is to have a house with enough land to build a little office at the bottom of the garden where I could hide away from everyone and everything and just get on!

Author Interview: Ronan Cray on Writing Horror

Red Sand CoverI’ll freely admit that when it comes to scary books and movies, I’m a giant chicken. I’m the reader who skips to the end of the book to see who dies so that I don’t get too attached, but then ends up having nightmares for the next two weeks anyway. So Ronan Cray’s horror novel, Red Sand, is not a book that I would normally try. But I’m glad I did, because it is a quick read with a unique twist – every chapter is written from the perspective of a different character.

In this interview, Ronan talks about what inspires him to write horror and how he crafted Red Sand, which landed him on the “Top 10 New Horror Authors” by Horror Novel Reviews.

Tell us a little about yourself.

It starts with a lie. I am a fictional character, a pseudonymous projection of all that is cool in the actual author with none of the geeky quantities. That amounts to about 1.05% of the original. Still, that exciting reality exists, as it does in all of you, albeit heavily diluted by day jobs, boredom, and mundane responsibilities. My makeup derives largely from annual and weekend travel – tours through the dry husk of the Forbidden City in Beijing, tastings of clear whisky at the Oban distillery, cold drafts in a St. Petersburg apartment, the cool autumn deaths of Pennsylvania flora. I am the memories of a drowning man. After a near-death experience, when you say, “My life flashed before my eyes,” you don’t see that wait at the DMV, the TPS report at work, the bus ride home. No. You see Ronan Cray.

What was the original inspiration for your horror novel, Red Sand?

Red Sand came from a dream. A big fellow chased me over the dunes and volcanic rocks of a desert island. A conch horn blew in the distance. “No!” he said, in fear. “It’s too soon! I could have done it!” It was too late. Hunter became hunted. They unleashed the creatures. They swarmed over us, vegetable Isz, tubers and vines destroying our flesh before I woke. That scene, slightly modified, started the book. The rest followed.

One of the most powerful aspects of your story was how each chapter was written from a different character’s perspective. How did you come up with that idea?

We’re surrounded by voices and stories, all of them valid, all of them interesting. I don’t believe in main characters. Who is the main character in a family, in a marriage? Most of the ills of this life derive from our solipsistic worldview, each person believing themselves to be the main character in their lives, waiting for everyone else to recognize this. But far more powerful characters frequently intervene. I’m fascinated by everyone’s agenda, and how those agendas inadvertently intersect and conflict with everyone else’s. That’s where drama comes from. I wanted the reader to experience omniscience, knowing the trajectories of characters bound to collide yet helpless to stop it. So I decided to explore the same story from the point of view of many. Out of dozens available, I chose only eight. Or rather, they chose me.

What was the hardest part about writing Red Sand, and how did you overcome it?

Of course, the multiple points of view turned out to be the hardest part. I often wrote myself into a roadblock. I’d give a character special knowledge, revealed only to her and the reader, then kill her off. (The character, not the reader). With that knowledge lost, how could the other characters continue the plot? Interweaving the plot between multiple characters meant fastidious tracking of facts and careful placement of actors on the stage. I couldn’t comb out a linear story, like first person novels can. I had to braid it. Rope is stronger than its individual strands. I think a story told by multiple characters is stronger in the telling.

Red Sand put you on the “Top 10 New Horror Authors” by Horror Novel Reviews. Besides great writing, how did you land your book on this list?

I didn’t actively promote myself as some great author. I was just as surprised and delighted as the other authors on the list. But that honor has made me more careful. I want my next novel to live up to, even exceed the first. I think it has.

Many of the readers of this blog are self published. Do you have any advice or marketing tips that have worked well for you?

Three words: think long term. Does a painter throw a show with one painting? Does a band get on stage with one song? Many authors get discouraged after they see their first book turn transparent right before their eyes. The public is a fickle, hurried bunch (see question 3) and don’t have time to discover your greatness immediately. A self-published author is a desert mirage attempting to build itself from particles of sand.  It takes time. And lots of sand.

What are some books and authors that have inspired your writing?

I’m inspired by the old greats – Stevenson, Dickens, Kafka, Hugo, and especially Conrad. In the old days, horror was implied. There is nothing implied in Red Sand, and my prose can’t compare, but that is the foundation I build my books on. Horror is a result of understanding. Events only have meaning when perceived.  Who perceives it is the story. The old masters understood this. They spent a great deal of time showing the reader the character, developing the context. Only when the reader fully lived in that world did they reveal the conflict. Modern books tend to skip to the action (myself included), in part because we are all more educated, less naïve, but also because we are less patient. I still prefer old books to modern ones, with apologies to my contemporaries.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

I’m fortunate to have a video game company turning my next book, Dust Eaters, into a video game. We’re running a Kickstarter through November 1st to raise funds. I do hope you’ll support me.

Author Interview: T. Sae-Low on Writing YA High Fantasy

Author PicFor the sake of transparency, I’ll admit that the new author I’m interviewing today is one of my favorites. His YA fantasy Prophecy Rock series is action-packed and filled with characters who stay with you long after you’ve finished reading his stories. So far he has written the first book in the series, Genesis, and a novella called Shadows of Kyrus that will be released soon and I had the pleasure of beta reading. Both stories are quick, enjoyable reads that I recommend.

With the Prophecy Rock series, Sae-Low created a compelling world that feels real and robust. He is also gifted at creating powerful, believable female characters, a subject which you may already know is close to my heart. I hope you enjoy this peek into his thinking process as much as I did!

Tell us a little about the mysterious T. Sae-Low. Can we know what the “T” stands for?

Well, long story short, I’m a native of L.A. but went to college down in San Diego. After college I tried a couple different fields of work and ended up becoming a teacher. It’s Mr. Sae-Low by day and the mysterious T. Sae-Low at night! The “T” is just the first initial of my first name which is “Theppong.” The name is Thai which is where my parents are originally from before emigrating to the U.S. I’ve been told that it means “Angel of Mercy” or “Angel of  God” in Thai, but my family could just be messing with me. I’m thinking it’s the latter.

Cover_R5What was the hardest part about writing Genesis, and how did you overcome it?

Two things immediately come to mind. The first was creating the outline. It took so much longer than I thought it would. For months and months I spent countless hours researching to create Eos and all the characters that populate it. After that, I needed to figure out where I wanted the story to go. Once I had all that done, the writing came a lot easier than I thought it would…but it was just the first draft. The second thing that I think any creative mind can attest to was the revision process. To get the manuscript just right, at least in my mind, took a while. I continued revising and tweaking things until I was finally satisfied with the story. It took a lot of time and perseverance but it was well worth it when you see the finished product.

The female characters in Genesis are very strong. Did they come from your imagination or were they inspired by people from your life?

Yeah, I wanted to have strong female leads because I feel that they’re just so much more interesting than the typical “damsel in distress” archetype. Since the novel takes place in an age of constant warfare, I knew there would be a good number of battles (both large and small) in the novel. I didn’t want my female characters to be watching from the sidelines but actually in the thick of the action and even dictating what was happening.

I find my inspiration from a variety of sources, but I do tend to look back in history at ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Figures like Mother Theresa and Harriet Tubman come to mind. To endure incredible odds and still manage to come out on top is truly fascinating. For my female characters, in addition to being able to beat down their enemies in battle, I wanted them to have strong and opinionated personalities that almost commanded attention. I just felt it made them that much more interesting.

What was your inspiration for the vivid settings that you created in Genesis?

The world of Eos is a combination of a whole lot of different sources. I grew up reading and collecting comic books and watching anime with my older brother. Every title seemed to have a unique and wonderful world that I always wanted to learn more about. Why is the sky colored green? Why do they have to wear masks? Why are the buildings shaped like that? I found myself asking more and more questions as I delved deeper into these make-believe worlds. Another part of me has always been fascinated with mythologies of various cultures. Each one is so creative and different in how they try to explain and make sense of the world around us. I love reading about creation myths and what different cultures believe about the afterlife. All of these inspirations mixed together in my mind and what came out was the world and mythology of Eos and Prophecy Rock.

You’ve also written a novella that will be published soon, Shadows of Kyrus. Which story did you find easier to write?

Even though Genesis was a longer story, I felt it was easier to write than Shadows of Kyrus. With Shadows of Kyrus, I wanted to approach it a little differently and experiment with the narrative format. As a novella that takes place in the world of Eos but isn’t necessarily tied to the main story arc, I gave myself more flexibility in what I wanted to do. As odd as it may sound, I was inspired to write Shadows of Kyrus after I read some of the classic monster tales like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Shadows was originally supposed to be told as a series of flashbacks during an interview but the plot evolved in a different direction during the writing process that I am very happy with.

What is the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?

I ride the train to work everyday and just watching and observing different people helps me create some of my characters. Here’s a short story. So one day an older man boards the train with his bicycle and starts banging his bike against the seats and even into other patrons. He’s cursing and hollering at everyone and just making a huge scene. Eventually he starts mouthing off at another rider and the other guy gets so angry that he hurls his soda at the old crotchety man, splashing soda all over the place, including me! I and other people were upset but the old man was laughing hysterically at the whole thing. The other rider got off the train and the old man exited shortly after. It was such a weird and random scenario, but I honestly couldn’t stop wondering what this old man’s story was. How the heck did he get to this point in his life? Did something horribly tragic happen to make him become like this? Or has he been like this his whole life? Anyways, when I got home that night and did some writing, the incident inspired me to write the scene in Genesis where one of the key characters meets the old man at the marketplace.

What are some books and authors that have inspired your writing?

There are so many to choose from but the ones that stand out to me are the masters of fantasy like Tolkien because of his incredible ability to create worlds. I mean the guy even created the term Mythopoeia! George R.R. Martin is a master of weaving together multiple plot lines into one epic story like no other. I’m a big fan of Paulo Coehlo and his works like The Alchemist. His ability to tell a simple yet deeply profound story is a skill that I truly admire. I also listen to great speeches from history on my iPod (yeah, I’m a nerd like that). Speeches are fascinating to me because you have to deliver so much with such few words. Even though it’s a different medium, I try to incorporate the same principal into my writing as well.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

I just want to thank Kristen Pham for the chance to be featured on her wonderful blog. Please support indie and self-published authors. There are a lot of great writers out there who deserve to be recognized and are creating truly unique and ground breaking work. Thanks to everyone who has supported me and my writing. Please check out my website at to learn more about me and the Prophecy Rock Series. Shadows of Kyrus is almost available so please stay tuned! You can follow me on my blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Thanks!

Author Interview: Michael Fedison

me2The author I had the pleasure of talking to today is Michael Fedison, who not only has written a young adult sci-fi adventure called The Eye Dancers, but also a popular blog as well. His writing style is very natural and free-flowing. It feels like a peek inside a creative and very collaborative brain. His posts, both on the craft of writing and life in general, are very enjoyable to read. Visiting his blog always makes me realize how much I like being a part of the writing community, where it seems like most people are very open and want to share best practices. Mike is the embodiment of this – both a talented writer and just a cool guy happy to help fellow writers learn what they can from his journey.

The Eye Dancers is written from the perspective of four boys who find themselves in a parallel universe where they are the only ones who can save a missing girl. He does an excellent job giving each of the boys a unique voice. I enjoyed learning about how Mike found inspiration for his novel, and I hope you will too.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am, first and foremost, a dreamer, someone who always has his imagination on overdrive.  I have loved to write creatively since the second grade.  By day, I work as a technical writer for a computer software company—so the creative writing offers an escape.  At the same time, I can be practical when I have to be!

What was your inspiration for your The Eye Dancers?

eye_dancers_lowresFirst and foremost, The Eye-Dancers is a story inspired by my own childhood, the friends I shared growing up, and the conversations we’d have about outer space, life “out there” . . . all sorts of stuff.  Combine that with my desire to write a book about adolescence, growing up, friendship, the very nature of reality, quantum physics and parallel worlds, and the oneness of all things—even things that seem so distant and removed—and you have the inspiration behind The Eye-Dancers!

Tell me about your main character. Was he based on someone you know (or yourself)?

Well, there are really four main characters—Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski.  They are all inspired by friends I knew when I was a kid.  So it was fun to write for these characters.  Mitchell is the character I can relate to the most—when I was his age, I shared many of his characteristics.  Like Mitchell, when I was in junior high, I was very shy around girls, had an overactive imagination, and loved old collectible comic books, especially The Fantastic Four.

Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling blocked?

The Twilight Zone is always a favorite, as is Ray Bradbury.  If I’m in a slump, I can pick up a Bradbury short story, get lost in the language, the imagination, the enthusiasm, and that almost always serves as a tonic when creativity is running low.

What’s the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?

I would have to say the “ghost girl” dream I had when I was a teenager.  I dreamed of a little girl, standing out in the road, beneath the streetlamp.  In the dream, it was late, well past midnight.  I looked out the window, and saw her.  She gestured for me to come outside.  But I felt afraid.  The light from the streetlamp filtered through her, as if she were more ghost than girl.  What did she want?  Why was she there?

I never discovered the answers, as I woke up shortly thereafter.  For weeks, I wanted to include this mysterious girl in a story—but nothing seemed to fit.  Finally, I decided to file her away in a “story vault,” and hope I would be able to write about her someday.

Fast-forward twenty years, and I experienced the same dream, of the same girl!  The difference?  This time, when I woke up, I had the start of a story idea in place.  That story would become The Eye-Dancers.

What are some books in your genre that have inspired you?

Can I skip over the genre part? 🙂  I love to read—all genres, fiction as well as nonfiction.  Truman Capote is one of my favorites—a master wordsmith.  Ray Bradbury is phenomenal—unparalleled imagination and love of writing.  To Kill a Mockingbird, A Separate Peace . . .  I could go on and on!

What are some words that you live by?

Reach for the stars.  Recognize your dreams, your calling, and go for it.  Don’t get discouraged when things veer off course, as surely they will.  They do for all of us.  The key is to keep dreaming, keep working, keep perfecting whatever it is you feel passionate about.  There is only one “you.”  Do what you love, find your voice, and share it.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

I would just like to say that I write what I love, I write about the things that resonate for me.  That’s really all any writer can do.  Hopefully, by sharing the things that matter to me in the best way I know how, I can also make those same things matter to you.

Author Interview: Kendra Highley

author-picI’m excited to share my interview with today’s author – Kendra C. Highley. I had the pleasure of being one of the original reviewers for the first book of her Matt Archer series, and have been a huge fan ever since. For those who haven’t heard of the series, it’s about a boy who is chosen by a magical knife to become one of the world’s few monster hunters. It’s an action-packed, funny coming-of-age story under the most unusual circumstances, and I highly recommend checking it out. She recently published the latest book in the series, Matt Archer: Legend, and her contemporary YA novel, Sidelined, was picked up by Entangled Publishing and will be released this year.

Kendra was also one of the orginal reviewers of my novel, Into the Dark, and her advice was invaluable. Watching her star rising has been an inspiration for me, and I hope you feel the same after hearing about what motivates her in today’s interview.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a wife and mom of two, and work as an HR manager during the day. I love to bake, read, write and vacation. Vacations don’t come often though, so I have to enjoy them while they last! I live in the Dallas area and I report to two cats. I’m their primary staff advisor (it was a promotion–I’m very proud).

What was your inspiration for your the Matt Archer series?

Matt Archer Legend 680x453Strangely, that’s easy for me to answer. I was at my first writers’ conference in 2009, and a published YA author was talking about Twilight and the dearth of “boy-centric” YA. She said, “Boys don’t want to fall in love with misunderstood vampires; they want to kick vampire butt!”  My son was 8 at the time, and a big reader, and my initial thought was to write a short story about a boy who saved his uncle from a monster…and the whole Matt-as-a-Monster-Hunter concept was born from that.

Tell me about Matt. Was he based on someone you know (or yourself)?

There are little bits and pieces of people I’ve known, but Matt’s really his own person. He was a very strong character in my head from the very beginning. Odd, since he’s a teenaged guy, and I’m neither. But I just had this connection with his voice and he formed through that.

Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling blocked?

I’d like to have a pithy answer…but usually I go to my pantry and snack. : )

What’s the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?

A bottle of Vicodin. I’d had to have my shoulder stitched up after an injury and that’s what the doctor prescribed. I’m very wary of prescription pain pills, and had just read an article about how they were the #1 abused drug among teens now. Out of that, Sidelined (Entangled, 2013) was born. It’s a story about an elite high school basketball player with scholarship opportunities. However, she gets seriously injured at the state tourney and can’t play anymore. She eventually becomes addicted to pain killers and much of the story is about her spiral down, and her struggle back out.

Tell us about an inspirational figure in your life.

My Dad. He read to me nearly every night when I was little. I arrived at Kindergarten able to read because of him. He encouraged my love of books from early on, and when I told him I planned to self-publish, he was right there to support me. My mother died when my sister and I were teenagers, so we just had Dad…he’s always there when we need him. And he’s super-smart, too. When he retired, he went back to school to get a Ph.D. in American History…because he had dreamed of doing it. He’s an inspiration.

What are some books in your genre that have inspired you?

This would be a long list, so I’ll limit it to five:  A Wrinkle in Time, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Jackaroo, and Twisted.

What are some words that you live by?

Life’s too short not to eat chocolate. : )  But also “family first.” It’s really hard to work two jobs and juggle family life, but I try hard to take care of my family like they take care of me.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Writing is hard, and a lot of times you feel like giving up. I was lucky enough to meet Laurie Halse Anderson in 2011, and when she found out I was a writer, she signed my book cover with “P.S. Don’t Quit!!!!”  I took it to heart, and that made the tough times easier to deal with and the great times that much more rewarding.

If you are interested in self-publishing, there’s a great blog by Lindsay Buroker that can answer a lot of your questions.  She’s very generous with the knowledge she shares and, given her success, her advice works.  You can find her at <KP: I second Kendra’s recommendation. Lindsay’s blog is one of my favorite self-publishing resources.>

Author Interview: Rebecca Demarest

rebeccademarestToday Rebecca Demarest shares the inspiration behind the very unique voice of her novels, short stories, and blog. I had the pleasure of reading samples of her work, and her style is quick-paced and authentic. She isn’t afraid to tackle tough subjects with sensitivity and realism. After immersing myself in her writing, I was incredibly impressed by how driven she and prolific she is so early in her career.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a mild mannered technical illustrator by day and an author and book designer by night. My writing ranges from literary to speculative fiction, with an emphasis on bridging the gap between those two genres. I have a B.A. in English and Psychology from Willamette University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Emerson College.

What was your inspiration for your novels, Undeliverable and Mark of the Storyteller?

CaptureUndeliverable was inspired by a random news story I heard talking about this mysterious Lost Letters Office—now the Mail Recovery Center—in the United States Postal Service. I was intrigued, and started digging into its history and its current operations. That was much harder than it would seem because no one at the Center is actually allowed to speak to civilians about anything and their monthly auctions are actually rather secretive (I was nearly arrested for taking pictures). But once I had a sense of what the Center did on a day-to-day basis, I started contemplating what kind of story could happen there, what kind of people would be drawn to it. After a couple years of research and free-writing, Ben slowly came into focus and his story took shape. A lot of the details of the characters themselves came from myself, my family, and my friends, which helped to make them real to me.

As for Mark of the Storyteller, this was actually inspired by my senior thesis class at Willamette University. It was a fantastic class about Grimm’s Fairy Tales and we were given the opportunity to either do a research paper on the tales or create our own unique re-interpretation of them. I leaped at the chance to do a creative English thesis as I was already weighed down with a research thesis in Psychology, and wrote a short story that eventually became the villain interview section at the beginning of Mark. The basic concept I had wanted to address was ‘What happens when the villain isn’t who we think it is, but is instead the one person we’re supposed to root for? And why do we have those misperceptions?’ Let me tell you, creating the world that all these characters live in and wreaking havoc on the stories and characters we know well was an immense amount of fun.

Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling blocked?

News sites, actually. Articles about bleeding glaciers, people hijacking barrels of maple syrup, or the fact that the ancient Egyptians made jewelry out of meteorites can all give my imagination a boost. Also, turning off your music and actually paying attention to the world around you while you walk, including eavesdropping on your fellow commuters, can provide some outlandish leads.

What’s the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?

The absolute strangest thing was an article about a lithopedion, or stone baby. A lithopedion is the result of an ectopic pregnancy that self terminates after the 14th week and the mother’s body calcifies the fetus to prevent it from causing harm to the mother. I couldn’t help it, the idea just grabbed hold of my brain and I couldn’t shake it, so I’ve got a short story in the works centering around this phenomenon.

Tell us about an inspirational figure in your life.

While I have found many of my writing instructors and friends inspirational, the woman who is the most inspirational would have to be my mother. She has not led the easiest of lives and has dealt with a series of genetic and environmentally induced health problems, many of which required surgery and extensive recoveries. But through all of this, she has never lost her sense of adventure, determination, or love. In fact, she started her first business just a couple years ago as a professional storyteller and has reached her five year goals, four years early. If she can deal with all of the health issues, two kids, and a husband who traveled extensively for work and come out the other side with enough energy to devote to a whole new career, then I can do anything.

What are some books in your genre that have inspired you?

This is a really hard question to answer because I read a lot of books each year. In the literary genre, I find the work of George Saunders, Scott Nadelson, Steve Yarbrough, Tom Perotta, and a handful of others to be greatly inspiring, mostly modern literary authors. In the speculative fiction genre, I draw a lot of inspiration from Tamora Pierce, Robert A. Heinlein, Patricia C. Wrede, Jasper Fforde, and Terry Pratchett.

What are some words that you live by?

Be and not seem. This is one of Emerson’s philosophies, and I’ve had it on my wall as long as I can remember. In my life and in my writing I try to stay true to myself and my ideals. Do not pretend you are a good person, let your work speak for itself. Do not pretend you are competent, actually go out and do the hard work to make it true.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

I’ll be doing an Indiegogo campaign in November to help defray the last editing and marketing costs for Undeliverable, which will be launching in March of 2014. If you’d like to learn more about me or my writing, drop by my website at or follow me on Twitter @RebeccaDemarest.

Author Interview: Jason Robbins

Jason RobbinsWhen I stumbled upon Jason Robbins’ post-apocalyptic fictional blog, Soulless, I planned to read a couple of entries out of curiosity because I haven’t had a lot of exposure to fictional blogs. Instead, I found myself following every step of his anti-hero’s journey. He has created a character who should be difficult to sympathize with, but somehow you can’t help rooting for. Add to that the mystery of what triggered the apocalypse and why there are any survivors at all, and you can understand why I ignored my toddler’s cries for milk for several minutes so I could finish reading the latest entry. After marathoning all of the blog entries in one sitting, I was interested in learning about Jason’s inspiration for Soulless and how he tackles the thorny writing challenges he encounters writing for this medium.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I’m a native New Yorker.  Grew up in Queens and now I live in Manhattan.  I have a day job that I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say, creativity isn’t a big part of it.  I’ve always loved writing, and this guy I worked with, who I’m good friends with now, was actually writing a novel on the side.  He always talked about it, seemed to derive a lot of joy from the process. So I thought, what the hell, let me take a stab.  Been writing fiction in one form or another ever since.  I love it.

What was your inspiration for your blog, Soulless?

Apocalypse NYCI always wanted to write an apocalypse tale, but the market is so saturated with them now, I figured, what’s the point?  But then this idea hit me – What if the protagonist has no interest in saving humankind or propagating the species?  What if he actually, if only subconsciously, wished for the apocalypse?  What would that story look like?  I think all of us, in our darkest moments, have wished everyone would just disappear.  This story takes that mentality to the extreme.  I think it’s pretty interesting to see someone start like that and then grow into something more.

Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling blocked?

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve never actually experienced writer’s block in the seriously debilitating sense of the term.  If anything, I have more ideas than I have time to devote to them.  But, when I’m in the middle of a story, and I’m not sure where to take the proceedings next, I usually let the characters do the work for me.  I think about what that character or someone I know like that character would do next.  What’s the next logical step that character would take?  It helps shape the story more organically than if you plan out a bunch of plot points and drag the characters kicking and screaming through them.

What’s the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?

It’s funny, I had started writing the first post for Soulless, and I was walking down the street – don’t really remember where I was headed – and I came upon this sign someone had put up against a work-fence.  You run into weird things all the time in New York; in this case, someone had scrawled “What if when you die, they ask how was heaven?” on a piece of cardboard and propped it up.  And there were people streaming by all around me, but it happened that no one was right in front of this thing, so I took a picture, and it really looked like the city had been abandoned and someone left this sign there.  And that’s how I came up with the idea for the Messenger, one of the major antagonists in Soulless, a killer that leaves cryptic religious messages around post-apocalyptic Manhattan.  I even posted the pic on the site as his first message.

Tell us about an inspirational figure in your life.

My little cousin Alexis is the inspiration for the character of Emily in Soulless.  She’s a bit older than Emily now, but she’s adorable, charismatic, smart as a whip, and a brilliant writer for her age.  I’m a flawed person, but whenever I’m around her and her brother, Jesse, I always strive to be the best version of me that I can be.  I figure if anyone could bring out the good in my protagonist, it would be someone like Alexis.

What are some words that you live by?

I think Van Wilder said it best when paraphrasing Elbert Hubbard: “You shouldn’t take life too seriously.  You’ll never get out of it alive.”   If you’re looking for some words to write by, you can’t go wrong with Alfred Hitchcock’s “Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”  I always try to keep that in the back of my mind while writing, and it helps streamline the stories immensely.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

Yes, if you have a writer in your life, be gentle.  It’s not easy putting yourself out there in front of family, friends and the public.  Your support can give them the courage to endure and to succeed.

Author Interview: K.N. Lee

K.N. LeeThe first author in my new interview series is K.N. Lee, a talented up-and-coming young writer who has already self-published a novel, a book of short stories and a book of poetry. Her work, which is both creative and achieves a depth of emotion, is riveting. I’ll also admit that I’m drawn to her newest novel because it stars a strong female heroine who can take care of herself (and kick a little butt when the occasion calls for it, too). Clearly, she knows quite a bit about how to channel her muse.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Chicago, Illinois, raised in Atlanta, and currently live in Charlotte. I discovered my love for writing when I was in the second grade. Obsessed with books, I decided to create my own. I’d write a story, draw the pictures, and then cut up cardboard and wrap it in wall paper to make my book a hard back. It was the only thing I enjoyed. You’d have to force me to play outside. I just wanted to write!

What was your inspiration for your newly released novel, The Chronicles of Koa?

The Chronicles of KoaThe inspiration for Koa came from a nightmare that I had. Not only that, but I love characters that may look small and nonthreatening, but can indeed be the most dangerous person in the room. There are many factors that went into creating The Chronicles of Koa. I grew up an Anne Rice fan, and I fully believe that she has the best vampire lore. So, what did I do? I created my own version of vampire, completely re-imagined. I didn’t stop there. As a high-fantasy fan and writer, I also created my own creatures and classes. Syths, Scayors, War-Breeders, Jems…they add an unexpected element to the story. You’ve never heard of them before, so the intrigue is heightened in my story.

Where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling blocked?

Whenever I’m feeling blocked, I do a variety of things. Sometimes I’ll take a nice long walk with my iPod and my dog. Other times, I’ll take a yoga class or play video games (believe it or not, but video games are excellent inspiration!) Above all, I always go back to my desk and simply…write. It may feel forced at times. You may feel like it is a chore, but for me, I usually end up surprised by what I come up with. That blocked feeling has been conquered!

What’s the strangest thing that has ever inspired you?

Umm…OK…here goes. I had an experience with what I feel was a ghost. I was a child, and as I look back at the experience, I am no longer sure what happened. All I know, is that something grabbed my leg when I was trying to fall asleep. That moment, as horrifying, and as quick as it happened, started a traumatizing period in my life. I didn’t tell anyone what happened for years, for fear that whatever had grabbed me might still be watching me, and might try again. So, I took that fear and used it to my advantage. In silence, I instilled that feeling of absolute terror and let my characters use it. Such a real emotion gave my characters life.

Tell us about an inspirational figure in your life.

Tolkien is such an inspiration. He showed us that you don’t have to recycle the same creatures that have been used for centuries, and created his own. I do this myself. I may use elves sometimes, or vampires, but I also create my own creatures. In Koa, you’ll learn about Jems, War-Breeders, etc. In my high-fantasy trilogy, Rise of the Flame, you’ll see Tryans. The power of creation is exactly why I love writing so much.

What are some words that you live by?

If you have to choose between a material good or an experience, always go with the experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop! However, if I have a chance to travel, see a show, or hang out with friends, I’ll always pick the latter.

Is there anything else you would like us to know?

I suppose I would like everyone to know that even though I am always cheerful, bubbly, and giggly, there is a darker, more serious, side to me that fuels my stories. I don’t hold back in my writing, and I fear that I truly live through my characters. Who knows, pick up The Chronicles of Koa, Wicked Webs, or Thicker Than Blood on Amazon…I might just surprise you.