Author Interview: Pamela Freeman

This month I am pleased to present an interview with Australian author, Pamela Freeman, who has many publications to her credit – some of the titles for children and young adults include The Willow Tree’s Daughter, The Murderer’s Apprentice and the Network Mysteries; and for adult, The Casting Trilogy.

Thank you for your time, Pamela. Please tell us a bit about your writing background.

I started writing professionally as a scriptwriter for children’s television, and began writing stories for kids then. I’d written stories for adults before, but never submitted anything anywhere – I didn’t have any confidence in them (and reading them over, I think I was right!). My first short story was published in 1990 and my first children’s book, The Willow Tree’s Daughter, came out in 1994. Since then, I’ve published twenty books. The Castings Trilogy (Blood Ties, Deep Water and Full Circle) are my first books for adults.

I’ve read several of your books, even the ones for the younger audience, and was impressed. My favourite is The Casting Trilogy. I’m interested to know if there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

No, not really. I first thought about it when I was around 12, but I had a vague idea that I needed to have a really interesting life before I started writing, so around 15 I decided I wanted to work in television, and set my sights on that first. I think that did me no harm, frankly, as TV writing gives you a great apprenticeship in story-telling.

I didn’t know you started out writing for television. That must have been quite different to novel writing. Tell us about your latest publication?

My most recent book is Full Circle, which is the third and final volume of the Castings Trilogy. I hope people who have enjoyed the first two books will feel satisfied by this one!

For kids’ books, my most recent publication is Victor’s Challenge, which is a funny chapter book for younger readers, a sequel to Victor’s Quest, my most popular books for kids. It has great illustrations by Kim Gamble.

I must admit that I can’t wait to get my copy of Full Circle. The first two books were excellent! What project are you working on at the moment?

Several! I am working on Ember and Ash, a stand alone novel set in the same universe as the Castings Trilogy. I promise, it’s not the fourth book in the trilogy! It’s set more than 20 years after Full Circle, and involves earlier characters only peripherally. We get to see the Ice King’s realm, and discover more about the old Powers of the Domains.

Sounds interesting. Is your life reflected in the stories you write?

No, fortunately I haven’t encountered too many blood thirsty ghosts out for revenge recently! Seriously, I think an author’s life always influences what they write, but in my case the influence is indirect, more a matter of theme and flavour than content or characters drawn directly from people I know. A couple of my children’s stories have been sparked by incidents in my own life, but they tend to be just the jumping off point for a very different story.

Where do you get inspiration for your stories and characters?

So many different places that it’s hard to say. The Castings Trilogy was actually inspired by a lecture Bishop Desmond Tutu gave on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission – a fairly obscure inspiration, which I hope will make sense once people have read Full Circle.

Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

If it’s a short story, not always. If it’s a novel, pretty much, although things do change in the writing and surprises can always trip you up. I prefer to know the end because I like to make plots interesting and fair for the reader, so they don’t end up feeling that the solution to whatever problem the heroes are facing just came out of thin air.

Satisfying the reader isn’t as easy as it sounds, so I understand what you are saying here. Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, I would like to know how do you manage it?

I usually have several stories at different stages – one I’m actually writing, one with the editors, one with an illustrator, and so on. So I concentrate on one book at a time, but I juggle two or three over the course of a year.

I suppose it all comes down to discipline. How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Basically, I write while my son is at school. Towards deadline time, I may also need weekend writing time, but I try to keep that to a minimum. Having juggled a career as a writer and a consultant in organisational communication for quite a few years before he was born, I was already used to fitting my writing in around something else, which was helpful.

What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Three things – just do it. Write, write, and keep writing. Second, find a community of people who can read and critique your work with some understanding. I workshop everything I write and I find it invaluable.

And thirdly, listen to criticism and be prepared to do the redrafts. The main difference between a professional writer and an amateur is the number of drafts they’re prepared to do.

Oh, I wish this was a live interview because I’d go off in another direction here and ask you more about rewrites and drafts. But…it’s not…so I’ll continue on. Who is the person behind the writer? What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m a mum! I do all the mum things – except cleaning. Not really a cleaner. But I manage my son’s soccer team, and take him to a multitude of sports, and cook (I enjoy cooking a lot) and steal time for reading and TV and Facebook. I like computer games (especially logic puzzles), I love the net, I like making music with my family, I garden a bit… just a life, like anyone else’s, except I walk into bookshops and there are my books, which sometimes seems quite strange! I got a fan email from India the other day (I didn’t even know you could buy the books in India) and it was astonishing, knowing my words had reached someone in Mumbai and meant something to them.

It’s unfortunate that many fans don’t see authors as people with real lives so it’s good to see that you do the same things as other people. It makes you more human…if you know what I mean. Who would you chose to play the star role if your book(s) was made into a movie and why?

For Ash, I’d pick Daniel Radcliffe – looks right, acts well, right age… perfect!
For Bramble, I just don’t know… I’d love to hear suggestions.

Maybe readers of this interview will make some suggestions for you. Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

I think sometimes you get to a point in a book where you don’t quite know what to do next. Some people, I think, suffer more from this than others. This is when I love having more than one story on the boil. I switch to the other one and let my unconscious deal with the problem. I know that some other writers have more difficulty with this than I do – talking it out usually unblocks things for me, or going for a walk. On the other hand, I think ‘writer’s block’ is sometimes a code for either laziness or fear – being afraid the book won’t be good enough is a good way to freeze your creativity! All you can do is ignore that and just keep writing, even if what comes out at first is total crap and you have to throw it away later.

What are your writing goals for the future?

More books! Lots more books! Some set in the same universes as the Castings Trilogy and Victor, some not.

Secretly, what I would really like is to have many, many people waiting for the next book in the way I wait for my favourite authors’.

There can never be enough books, so keep writing them and people will keep reading them. Do you have anything else you would like to mention?

My next book for kids will be a non-fiction picture book about Lake Eyre in the centre of Australia – usually a dry salt pan, every ten years or so it floods and creates an extraordinary oasis, full of life. So keep an eye out for The Dreaming Lake.

Thank you for your time, Pamela. It’s been wonderful “chatting” with you and I wish you all the best for the future.

If you would like to learn more about Pamela and her books, please visit her website – Pamela Freeman.

Author Interview: Ellen Jackson

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Ellen Jackson, author of over 60 children’s books.

Thank you for your time, Ellen. Please tell us a bit about your writing background.

When I was a kid, I loved to write. But my mother wanted me to train for something that had an actual salary–so I became a teacher. I read books to my class every day, and I kept thinking, “I could do that.” Eventually I moved to a town where jobs were scarce. No problem. I decided I’d just make my living as a writer. I wrote a picture book that I thought was a work of genius (it wasn’t). I worked and worked on the manuscript and probably rewrote it fifty times.

While working on book number one, I thought of a second idea. I wrote book number two in about fifteen minutes, and sent the first draft off to five different publishers. I also submitted it to a writing class, where the teacher tore it apart in front of everyone. I totally lost interest after that, but one of the publishers actually bought it. That manuscript, THE GRUMPUS UNDER THE RUG, is still in print and has done very well.

That’s very encouraging. Tell us about your latest publication.

I write nonfiction as well as fiction. One fun project has been the SCIENTISTS IN THE FIELD books. For this series, the author follows a scientist around while he does his work in “the field,” which can be on top of a volcano, or in some strange and lonely spot on land. I was lucky enough to hook up with Alex Filippenko, an astronomer who’s studying supernovae. I went with him to the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii and watched him do his work. Then I wrote about it for my newest book THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE.

You might think that kids wouldn’t like a book about astronomy. But all children love to ask questions such as: “Where did the universe come from?” “How big is it?” Children’s eyes light up when they’re told about supernovae, huge explosions bigger than thousands of nuclear bombs, and black holes, places where time and space no longer exist. Science is the greatest of all adventure stories. If you keep that spirit of adventure alive in your nonfiction books or articles for kids, you can’t go wrong.

But I also love fiction and imaginative stories. My latest fiction picture book is called EARTH MOTHER and it tells a deceptively simple story about the cycle of nature.

Where do you get the inspiration for your stories and characters?

My ideas are a by-product of my life, my childhood, the books I’ve read, my hopes and fantasies–everything that’s gone into making me who I am. Ideas come more often to people who pay attention. After I published my first book, I was afraid I’d never have another idea again. But I kept writing, and the ideas kept coming.

I keep an idea file, and when I get an idea I write it down on a card. I always check Amazon or BOOKS IN PRINT to see if anyone else has published something similar–and if so, how long ago that was and in what format. If my idea has already been done in the same way and in the same format, I usually pass.

That sounds like a system that works for you. Thank you for sharing it. Do you work on more than one story at a time? How do you manage it?

Yes, I have to work on several books, or I’d go crazy! Sometimes I get “stuck” on one project, so I work on something else to give my brain a rest. I keep a folder on each book with notes and ideas and even poetic ways of expressing a thought. For THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE, I interviewed Alex over a period of days and taped his answers so I could quote him in the book.

If you’re really, really lucky, the idea for a book might come to you all in one piece. That’s what happened with EARTH MOTHER. I had a vision of a beautiful woman diving with otters, and I asked myself, “Who is she?” The story came to me late at night.

I love it when that happens. What advice would you give a newcomer to writing?

I have a lot of advice, but I’ll keep it short here. First of all, believe in yourself. Lots of people, even your friends, will say discouraging things. You have to be strong enough to persist, no matter what. Also try to learn how the business works. If you understand that, you’ll be able to write things that editors want to buy. It’s not enough simply to listen to the voices in your head. Those voices have to actually communicate to someone.

Children’s writers need to remember what it was like to be a child–the smells, the tastes, as well as the fears and wrong ideas that kids have about the adult world. Some of my best stories come from my memories of how children think. For example, I recently sold a manuscript based on my childhood ideas about place names. When I was seven or eight, I thought that Death Valley was full of skeletons and that Orange County was filled with orange people. As an adult, I took the core of this idea and expanded it into a picture book.

I feel inspired by what you’re saying and will, no doubt, run off and write some ideas down after this interview. Who is the person behind the writer? What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m lucky to have a supportive husband and a demanding dog who needs lots of exercise. So whether I like it or not, I get out of the house a lot. I live in Santa Barbara, California, which is a beautiful town for walking and thinking. I guess you’d say I’m an introvert who loves to read, listen to music, and to explore the natural world. I have two or three really good friends and we laugh a lot when we get together. I play tenor recorder with a Bach group and I do volunteer work in the community. For ten years I worked at our local library helping kids find books and doing other librarianish things. And I also used to cook at our local homeless shelter. Actually, my life is (usually) quiet, which is perfect for a writer.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t have problems, I most certainly do. Like everyone else, my writing life gets interrupted with car problems, financial problems, health problems, dog problems, family problems, and environmental disasters (wildfires in this area). One of the hardest things about being a writer is just finding blocks of alone time to get your work done!

Do you have anything else you’d like to mention?

Writing for children is a profession and there’s a lot to learn. If you’d like to write for kids, read a couple of good books about the children’s publishing industry, such as The Complete Guide to Publishing Children’s Books by Harold Underdown and Lynn Rominger. Also read lots of books in the genre you hope to write for. It’s important to see what’s already been done, so you don’t submit a manuscript based on an idea that’s been done a thousand times before.

Second, don’t get so hung up on your story that you forget to polish your language. How someone tells a story is as important as what story it is that they’re telling. You should make sure your language is fresh, entertaining, and compelling.

Thank you, Ellen, for an informative interview. I’m sure my readers will get a lot out of what you’ve said.

If you would like to find out more about Ellen’s books, please visit her Goodreads author page.

Author Interview: Sean Williams

This month I have the honour of interviewing Sean Williams, author of several publications including The Change trilogy, the Broken Land series and several Star Wars novels.

Thank you for allowing me to interview you, Sean. Tell us about your latest publication.

I’ve had two series finished this year, giving me double cause to be anxious. Endings are hard enough when you’re writing just one book; over three or four the target can become very hard to hit. The Grand Conjunction concludes a gender-bending gothic-noir space opera set well over a million years in the future. The series, Astropolis, is full of all sorts of odd things, including a character who speaks solely in the lyrics of Gary Numan, and I was never entirely sure that I could pull it off. Reviews have been glowing, though, so I’m beginning to relax a little now.

The Scarecrow ends my “Broken Land” series for kids. It’s inspired by South Australian landscapes (like all my fantasy novels) and draws a lot of its characterisation and concerns from my own childhood. I felt very close to my young protagonists, and it’s been hard leaving them behind. I’ve since found the opportunity to continue their story as adults in a couple of sequel novellas, so I haven’t quite let them go yet.

Having read a couple of your books, I know how real your characters become so it’s no wonder you’ve grown attached to them. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished a new Star Wars novel, but I can’t reveal the title, alas. The deadline for that was very tight, so I’m just beginning to catch up on all the things that have built up in the last few months. One is an introduction to a reissue of Arthur J Rees‘s classic mystery novel The Shrieking Pit, which required a lot of research. Another is a series of linked poems for an anthology celebrating the work of Charles Darwin. When I’m working on a book, particularly when time is tight, I don’t like to do anything else but write when I’m at the computer, so everything else gets put on hold. Then my brain breaks as I try to do nine different things at once, all of them usually late. Then it’s on to re-writes or the next book. It keeps life interesting.

It sounds exhausting. Is your life reflected in the stories you write?

In all sorts of odd ways, and probably ways you wouldn’t recognise. Some of it’s up-front: the landscape of my fantasy novels, for instance, which is very clearly modelled on places I have spent a lot of time in down the years. There are themes that return many times because they’re themes I’ve struggled with all my life. Some of them I’m still struggling with now–like the nature of fatherhood, and love, and one’s place in the world; those old favourites. My friends pop in the books, as names or in certain behaviours, but it’s like meat in hot dogs: you’d never see them in the finished products. I’ve occasionally destroyed Adelaide, my home town, just for fun.

The one area of my life that I haven’t included in a story is writing. It feels a little….obvious. And a little too close to home, perhaps.

Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

I like to. Otherwise I risk getting lost. Given I write at least two books a year, there isn’t any time to waste. As far back as I can remember–back to when I was writing novels in high school instead of doing my homework–I liked to work that way. I always make sure there’s some room to have fun in along the way, but I don’t like to set out without knowing exactly where I’m going first.

That makes a lot of sense. How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

That’s the question, isn’t it? It’s one I’ve struggled with several times in the last twenty years. It’s such an all-consuming vocation–or can be, if you let it. I totally dived in at first, to the detriment of lots of things, from my love-life to my mental health. Eventually it occurred to me that, while it was great I was doing something I loved, I also needed to live a healthy life. So I started taking time off, going out, rejoining the world. Now, with a wife and family, the pendulum sometimes swings the other way, but I still write every day, and I still meet my deadlines. Since I’ve never been happier, I’d say I’ve got the balance about right. Touchwood/

That’s something I’m still struggling with so I admire you for finding the right balance. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Read a lot and write a lot. They’re the first two of the ten-and-a-half “commandments”–my attempt to compile every piece of writing advice that doesn’t need to be qualified. (link: I also have an A-Z of writing that might help. (link: But as long as you’re reading and writing, you’re on the right trick. Weird to think that some people want to be writers without ever actually reading. They just think it’d be a good way to make a living. As the late great Charles Brown used to say: “Everyone wants to be a writer. It’s the writing that’s the hard part.”

Well, he certainly was right. Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

Some people definitely suffer from it. I don’t know why. There have been periods where I’ve found writing on a particular project very hard, but that can be worked through. I mean, accountants have to go to the office whether they’re feeling inspired or not, right? Musicians have to perform if they’re booked play in a concert. Why should writers be any different? Finding your way through that feeling is one of the great challenges of writing. If you can’t do it, you’re in big trouble.

Well said. What are your writing goals for the future?

To keep loving what I write, and to write better books. That’s it.

I wish you the best of luck with that too. Thank you for your time.

If you would like to know more about Sean and his books, please visit him at his website.

Author Interview: Kate Forsyth

This month I have the pleasure of interviewing Kate Forsyth, author of several books, including The Puzzle Ring.

Welcome, Kate. Please tell us a bit about your writing background.

I wrote my first novel when I was only 7, and have been writing ever since. I don’t remember ever deciding I wanted to be a writer – it feels as if I was born with the desperate desire – but there must have been a point in which I realised people were paid to spend their days reading, writing, and daydreaming, and knew that it was the job for me.

It sounds brilliant, but I doubt it’s as easy as you make it sound. 😀 Tell us about your latest publication?

‘The Puzzle Ring’ is a novel about a girl who discovers her family was cursed long ago by one of the Sidhe (a Scottish fairy). She sets out to break the curse but discovers that to do so she must go back in time to the tumultuous last days of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, a time when witches were burnt, queens were betrayed and wild magic still walked the land. It is a thrilling adventure story, filled with all sorts of fascinating information about Scottish history and fairy lore.

I’ve already put it on my “to-read” list as it sound like a book I would enjoy. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a YA fantasy novel called ‘The Wildkin’s Curse’ about a wildkin girl who sets out to free her cousin from prison, with the reluctant help of two starkin boys. Her cousin has the Gift of Telling which means she can foretell the future, but also has the gift of altering the world with her words. She can wish, she can curse, and she can change the future. It’s the sequel to an earlier book of mine, ‘The Starthorn Tree’.

Is your life reflected in the stories you write?

Not directly. I write stories about curses and perilous quests and battles and fairy queens. However, I do believe that every writer builds stories out of their own lives and their own imaginations. We take everything we’ve ever heard or seen or read about or wondered about or been excited by or disgusted by, and we turn it into something else. It’s an alchemical process.

I agree totally. Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

Yes, I always know the ending before I start. I don’t always know HOW I’ll achieve the ending, but I cannot start writing until I have a clear narrative arc laid out in my mind.

I believe writers could easily be swept away with their story and let “life” slip away without meaning for it to happen, so I’m interested to know how do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

It can be difficult, but I try very hard to! I do this by only writing when my children are at school or asleep, or when they are so busy and happy they don’t mind what I do.

What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Read a lot, write a lot, and rewrite a lot. It’s actually very easy.

And a question that will allow us to see the person behind the writer, what do you do when you are not writing?

I am very busy with my family – I have 3 children aged under 11 – so that involves all the usual mum things of shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing and folding – urk! It’s a sign of my true love for my family that I do it. For my own pleasure, I read books, I garden, I walk by the beach with my dog, I go the movies and out dancing with friends.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

All writers get blocked sometimes, but know to go and work on something else and let the subconscious mind work on it at will. I like to think about the problem before I go to sleep, and I usually wake up with the solution.

What are your writing goals for the future?

To keep writing till I die.

It has been a pleasure “chatting” with you, Kate. Thank you for your time and good luck with your future writing ventures.

To find out more about Kate’s books, please visit her website: Kate Forsyth

Author Interview: Chris Howard

This month, I am proud to present an interview with Chris Howard, author of Seaborn.

It’s a pleasure to have this opportunity to interview you, Chris. Please tell us a bit about your writing background.

My mother was a writer and an artist, and growing up I had no concept of a “real job” versus an artistic pursuit–no pressure to take one over the other. (I ended up studying philosophy in school, and have spent the last twenty years developing software). I think, more than anything else, the idea of the arts as a valid career path opened up the world of writing and painting for me. My mother also made it pretty clear that if you don’t submit anything, you’re never going to get published. My first rejections were from F&SF and Dragon Magazine in the early ’80s, and my first publication was a short story, “Diminisher of Peace” in The Harrow in 2006. So, twenty-something years of writing on-and-off before an editor accepted something. I used to collect rejects, stick them in a folder, to go through every once in a while. I don’t bother anymore. I know I have well over a hundred and fifty.

That’s a lot of rejections, but you’ve already proven that a writer should never give up. Tell us about your latest publication?

Seaborn, which came out last July, is my latest novel. I’m also an illustrator with some pen and ink work in the last issue of Shimmer (came out a few months ago). Seaborn is actually the middle book in a series that begins with Saltwater Witch (young adult) and ends with Sea Throne. Both of these are complete, the first with a publisher. No idea when they’ll see the light of day, though. Sea Throne is presently a victim of the recent shifts in the publishing world, with Juno Books becoming an imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books division, and with a tighter focus on the popular and key elements of urban fantasy–that’s werewolves and vampires, and with people from the sea–any way you define “urban fantasy”–being on the fringe. So, Sea Throne’s sort of in limbo at the moment. Time to work on the next series!

I wish you the best of luck with Sea Throne. What project are you working on at the moment?

I have a new fantasy series going. It’s quite a bit different than the Seaborn books. It’s in the future, so you have nanotech, self-cleaning clothes, and my main character’s a dryad–an SF background with magic and demons and forest deities. I like the mix. I think readers will too. Instead of a loose 3rd person POV I used in Seaborn and Sea Throne, the new series, starting with the book I just completed–Winterdim, is all in first person POV, with each book from a different character’s perspective.

That does sound like an interesting mix. Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

Depends how broadly you’re interpreting “how.” I certainly have a good idea of who’s going to come out the other end of the story alive, and whether they’re going to succeed or fail. I don’t have protags fail often–never completely. On the other hand, they never step out of the last chapter unchanged, undamaged, or not without a whole new set of problems.

As far as writing process goes, I typically begin writing the ending before I hit the middle of the story. This works to plant a stake in the ground and gives me a pretty clear direction to move the story. By the time I’m three-quarters done, I may have the ending complete–with minor tweaks when the rest of the writing catches up and then a few more after a post-complete edit pass.

I believe in having a concrete ending and often write the last scene at the beginning of the process. Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you manage it?

Usually. I may complete a short story or two in the time I write a novel, but I never get into another novel length work. That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking one or two books ahead, or even the next series. I’m always doing that. For me at least, it’s never the lack of ideas, it’s always about the lack of time to pursue them. I keep a journal–I use Moleskine notebooks, unlined so I can draw in them, too. I go through one of these a year, and by the time I’ve finished one book, I have enough notes, plot ideas, conclusions to get me started on another. I also draw and paint, and I’m usually way ahead of what I’m currently writing. As part of my writing process, I picture scenes from the next book or series and paint them.

I have always been interested in how other writers go about their business so thank you for sharing that part of your writing routine. Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

I’m not sure I do. If we’re talking about writer’s block being the state writers run into when they don’t understand enough about a particular scene, plot direction, character motivation, and can’t continue without getting a better handle on these things, then I do believe. Everyone gets that, and the response is to sit back and think about those things that feel fuzzy, that don’t make sense, take time to put yourself into a character and play around, try to understand what they’re feeling, what they see when they step into that scene. Sometimes it works to try something unexpected. People aren’t robots–unless your character actually is a robot. They don’t always follow a script–they certainly don’t in real life. Why would readers expect a fictional character to behave that way?

I don’t think I’ve ever just sat in front of a blank sheet of paper, pen in hand, or in front of the screen, fingers hovering over the keyboard, waiting for the words to come. Maybe a long time ago, and the cure for that is to put the pen down and go read a book. Get some inspiration, look at some art, photographs, listen to some music. I’m still a newb at this writing thing. I’ve just completed my fifth novel (worth publishing–have a bunch that aren’t), and if I had to give some advice on this: A lot of the writing process relies on trusting yourself to tell the story–and not getting hung up on a particular scene. It could be that you’re just not ready to tell that part yet. Move on to the next. Pick a scene later in your story that you’ve been dying to write. Who says you have to have everything written prior to that scene? Skip ahead and start writing. You can always come back and fill in chapters, and when you do, you’ll have a better understanding of your story and characters.

What are your writing goals for the future?

Simple. Novel a year. That’s the plan. Do some painting and drawing during and in between–maybe sell a few. Near term I want to pursue this future fantasy thing to the limit. I’ve plotted three books, but I can take it to more. Beyond that? I have a hundred stories to tell, worlds to build, characters to create and their shoes to step into. I’ve written two YA novels, Nanowhere and Saltwater Witch. I may come back to writing more YA at some point, and when I do it’ll probably be historical fiction.

Thank you, Chris, for a very interesting interview. I’m sure visitors to this site will be as grateful as I am for the time you’ve given us today.

If you would like to know more about Chris and his writing (and even his artwork) be sure to visit his website –

Author Interview: Deborah Woehr

Today’s interview is with Deborah Woehr, the author of Prosperity.

Thank you for your time, Deborah. Tell us a bit about your writing background.

I’ve always kept a journal of some sorts since I was eleven, but I didn’t start writing fiction until after I turned 30. Since then, I’ve had one short story published and self-published three books, one of which was an anthology by various bloggers.

Was there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

There were two moments, actually. I tried to write my first story when I was 16, but couldn’t get past my intimidation over the blank page. So, I kept writing in my journals until I turned 30. I had lost my younger brother that year and was having a difficult time coping. My grandmother, who had been writing children’s stories for years, gave me a book entitled, What If?. The book contained a bunch of exercises. I maybe completed one of them before I started writing on my own.

Please accept my condolences. I will have to keep a look out for that book as it sounds interesting. Please tell us about your latest publication?

I published Prosperity in January 2008, a ghost story I had been working on for 10 years. It’s about a clairvoyant woman who must solve the mystery behind the haunting of a small town, while battling her own ghosts.

I’ve had the pleasure of reading Prosperity. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a sequel, called Shades of Evil. In this story, Amanda must find out what happened to her estranged father in order to help find her missing brother.

It sounds like an interesting story. Is your life reflected in the stories you write?

Yes, although I make my characters’ experiences much worse than my own.

Good. I like to hear that! Where do you get inspiration for your stories and characters?

With Prosperity, I recalled a story about a lynching that occurred in San Jose sometime in the early 1930s. I first heard about it from my eighth grade science teacher, who told the class about how the citizens could smell the sweet stench of burning flesh for at least a mile. That story obviously made quite an impression with me because it stuck. I had several false starts with Prosperity and didn’t come up with the lynching idea until the seventh or eighth draft.

Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

I usually have a general idea, but have come to accept that it might change, depending on how the middle progresses.

Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you manage it?

I usually work on one story at a time, unless I have a complicated character that needs a solid back story. That was how God’s Last Twilight was conceived.

How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

It’s hard sometimes, because I’m obsessed with writing. I could spend all day in front of the computer, if I didn’t have a family and a job. I write for at least an hour every day. My writing sessions don’t always involve my books. I also write articles, when I can think of a solid idea for one.

I’ve read many of your articles and know you put a lot of thought into them. They are always interesting to read. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Get a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, a good dictionary and thesaurus, the Strunk & White style guide, and The Chicago Manual of Style. I have two shelves of how-to books on writing, but these are essential for every writer. Make a point to write everyday, so that you can strengthen your skills and develop your own unique voice. Don’t rely on family, friends or writer’s forum buddies for feedback on your work. Your best bet is to start a blog and write short stories and/or articles in order to give readers a sample of your work. Be sure to engage your readers in conversation so that they will get to know you.

That’s excellent advice. Now, here’s a question that always intrigues me, who is the person behind the writer? What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m a wife, mother, Internet junkie and aspiring graphic designer. When I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my kids, watching TV with my husband, or trolling the Internet for various information or artistic inspiration.

Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

Yes. I believe it comes from either lack of self-confidence or stress.

What are your writing goals for the future?

My first goal is to publish Shades of Evil by next year. Then I would like to explore different avenues of writing, such as copywriting.

I wish you the best of luck with your next publication. Do you have anything else you would like to mention?

I think that’s it. Thank you for interviewing me, Karen. It was a pleasure.

Thank you. It’s been wonderful getting to know you a bit better.

If you would like to find out more about Deborah or her books, please visit Goodreads.

Author Interview: Justin Elliott

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Elliott, author of The Lord of Beasts.

Welcome to Scribe’s writing desk, Justin. Was there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

I think like most people who write I have always had the desire to do so. For as far back as I can remember I have always enjoyed creating worlds, characters, and stories. For years I ploughed my creative energies into role playing games – you know, Dungeons and Dragons and the like – that all changed when I was reading something, I can’t remember exactly what it was now, and I had that thought I’m sure all readers have at one stage or another… ‘I can do better than that.’

So, in 2001 I think it was, I buckled down and wrote a short story called “The Soul Gem” and sent it off to a webzine called ‘The Harrow’ that accepts stories from unpublished authors and they accepted it! That was it, I have been writing seriously (more or less) since then.

It’s impressive that the short story was accepted by the first publisher you sent it too. Well done! Tell us about your latest publication?

Scholastic, New Zealand, published my first novel in July 2008 – and I’m still grinning about it now! It’s a young adult fantasy adventure called “The Lord of Beasts”. It’s about a group of friends who are being hunted by a monstrous faery called a Barghest. The story follows their quest into Faery as they hunt for the one artefact that might give them a chance to survive.

I read The Lord of Beasts several months ago and highly recommend it. Now I’m eager to learn more about the sequel. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m working, slowly, on the third and last book of the series. I didn’t intend writing a trilogy, honest! But you just have to go where the story takes you. Scholastic have had the second, provisionally called, ‘A Dark Future’ for a while now, but due to staffing changes there have not given me answer, one way or the other yet. I’m expecting to hear from them in the next couple of weeks – so keep your fingers crossed!

I’m also planning a new work, but that’s in the earliest of stages.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck with the trilogy. Do you know how a story will end when you first start writing it?

Ok, I admit it! I’m an outliner. I find that without one my writing gets bogged down and stalls. So, yes, I do know how things are going to end before I start.

For me, my outlines are like a road map used so I don’t get lost as I’m trying to get to the end. The outline is flexible and I have yet to stick to one without changing it more than once. My stories still seem to generate lives of their own and veer off in unexpected directions, but with the outline, I never loose track of where the story is heading… or should be heading.

I’m interested to know how you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I’m not sure balance is the right word, but I do my best not to let either side – real life or writing – take over from the other.

The only real concrete rule I have is that weekends are for family. The other five days a week I try and hit a minimum word count. This is a flexible number I set depending on how busy things are – it usually ranges between 500 – 1000 words a day. I fit writing in when I can – lunch at work, after my son has gone to bed, if my wife, Allison, is working in the evenings – but do at least the limit I have set myself.

I totally agree with that. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

I’m really just a newcomer myself and I’m not really sure how much my advice is worth… the one thing I would say though, through my own experience, is persevere.

If you’ve done all that work to write your story, taken the big and difficult step to submit it, don’t give up at the first rejection. Send the story back out there again, and keep doing that until someone accepts it, or you run out of markets.

I submitted to a number of overseas publishers and agents before Scholastic made their offer, ‘The Lord of Beasts’ would never have been published if I had given up after that first rejection.

What are your writing goals for the future?

I would love to be able to give up the day job and write full time – wouldn’t we all! But more realistically, my goal is to get the ‘Lord of the Beasts’ sequel published. Then I’ll worry about the next one. So that’s it I guess, create a writing career one work at a time!

I like that goal and I look forward to seeing the sequel to The Lord of Beasts on the shelves soon. Thank you for giving me your time and sharing your thoughts.

If you would like to find out more about Justin Elliott and his books, please visit his Goodreads page.

Author Interview: Jim C Hines

This month’s interview is with Jim C. Hines, author of The Stepsister Scheme.

Hello, Jim, and welcome to Scribe’s Writing Desk. First off, I must thank you for taking the time to let me interview you. Now, let’s get stuck into the questions. Tell us a bit about your writing background.

Well, I’ve been writing since 1995. My first real success was in 1998, when a short story of mine won first place in the Writers of the Future competition. Since then, I’ve sold about 40 pieces of short fiction and six novels to DAW Books. It’s only in the past few years that things have really started to take off. My oddest writing sale was a story published on a coffee can, and the most profitable was a four-word bumper sticker to Northern Sun.

That’s impressive! It doesn’t surprise me about the sticker either. We’ve always been told that there’s not a lot of money in writing. Tell us about your latest publication?

My latest book is The Stepsister Scheme, which is basically a mash-up of fairy tale princesses and Charlie’s Angels. It’s the book I wanted to write since my daughter was younger and our house was flooded with princess merchandise. It goes back to the early fairy tales and presents three heroines who get to kick butt, fight the bad guys, and save the prince. There will be at least three books in the series, and I’m really excited about them. Also, it has the best silverware combat ever. 😉

Hah! Children are inspiring in so many ways. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m actually working on the third princess book right now, Red Hood’s Revenge. Of course, in my universe, Red Riding Hood ended up being one of the most feared assassins in the land….

I always thought there must have been another side to her. Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you manage it?

I know writers who juggle multiple projects, but I’ve never been able to handle it. If I get an anthology invitation, I have to put my current project on hold, write the short story, then go back to the original project. My brain has a hard enough time holding on to one story; it just can’t handle two. Though if I ever get to the point where I can quit my day job and write full-time, I might push myself to change this.

I can totally relate to that. How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?

Eight years ago, I took a government job specifically because I knew it would allow me to write during my lunch break. Since then, I write during my lunch, an hour a day for five days a week. It’s not a lot, but that’s when I get most of my fiction done. I’ve also got two young children at home, and my wife recently started grad. school, so time management is always a bit of a trick. My wife has been very supportive, which helps a lot. Mostly it’s a matter of choosing what’s most important and making time for those things. (There’s a reason I haven’t played a video game in years.)

Now that is dedicated! I’m impressed. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Be patient, and be stubborn. Regarding patience, if you wanted to be a doctor, you’d expect to spend years studying. An electrician? Years of study and practice before you’re licensed. Writing is no different. It takes practice and time, and if you expect to break onto the New York Times bestseller list right away, you’re probably going to be disappointed. The stubbornness goes hand-in-hand with the patience, because you will be rejected. Most successful writers seem to have anywhere from 500 to 1000 rejection letters. But the best response to rejection is that stubborn determination to do even better with the next story.

What are your writing goals for the future?

I’m not sure, honestly. I want to do at least four books in my current series, assuming it sells. I know I want to keep writing for as long as my brain and my fingers still work, but as to what’s next? Well, I’ll figure it out when I get there. Maybe a nice blend of Twilight and Harry Potter so I can make my billion dollars and retire to a life of luxury.

Sounds like an interesting concept. Best of luck for the future and thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

If you would like to find out more about Jim and his books, please visit his website and his blog.

Author Interview: Simon Haynes

On the first day of each month, during 2009, I intend to post an author interview. This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Simon Haynes, author of the best-selling Hal Spacejock series.

Thank you for giving me your time, Simon. Tell us about your latest publication?

My latest novel was published in June 2008, and it’s the fourth in the Hal Spacejock series. Hal’s a well-intentioned freighter pilot who is massively over-confident and woefully under-skilled. He’s accompanied by a creaky old robot who is understanding, precise and stubborn, and also prone to the occasional flash of hot temper. They make a great pair, and I have a lot of fun writing about them.

(My books aren’t heavy on the science fiction. They’re just set in the future where humans still haven’t outgrown all the problems we have now, even though technology has moved ahead. There’s a fair bit of satire in my books.)

They sound like an interesting combination. What project are you working on at the moment?

Book five in the series. I’m hoping to have the first draft by the end of March, and I’m currently 100,000 words short of my target, which is 100,000 words.

I do have a neat plot outline though.

I’m a great believer in outlines. Best of luck getting that first draft completed by the deadline. Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

I have a rough idea, but it changes with each version of the plot, and again with each draft of the novel. I do a lot of drafts – maybe half a dozen before the book takes shape, and another 10-15 during the editing process.

That’s a lot of writing, but obviously it pays off. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

Don’t treat your first novel as the best (or only) thing you’ll ever write. Bash it out, tidy it up and shop it around agents, but switch your focus to the next novel as soon as you can. I know this sounds glib if you’ve just spent five years working on a manuscript, but you could spend another ten years tweaking and polishing it and maybe it won’t sell. Move on, write something else.

Most published authors have three or four early, unpublished novels in the bottom drawer. Regard each one as a learning process, not a waste of effort.

That’s good advice. Who is the person behind the writer? What do you do when you are not writing?

I’m a husband, a father to two daughters (11 and 14), a keen cook, a good handyman, an archer and a golfer. I also suffer from a bad lower back, which has curtailed my archery, golf and windsurfing for some years now.

Who would you chose to play the star role if your book was made into a movie and why?

That’s a tricky one. How can any movie actor match the ideal in the author’s head? In Hal’s case I reckon someone like Simon Pegg might be good (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) – someone capable of playing it completely straight while everything collapses around him. (Another example is Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther movies.)

What you don’t want is a comic actor, because Hal isn’t a wisecracking loon or a comedian. Nobody in the books is. They’re not that sort of humour.

That’s interesting as it gives us a much deeper understanding of the characters. Do you believe in writer’s block? Why?

No, I believe in distractions and I believe in writers wanting to do something more fun than writing. But at the end of the day, if I plug in the laptop, lock myself in a room and turn off the wifi, I know I can force out 2000 words.

I couldn’t agree more. It’s been a pleasure “talking” to you and I wish you all the best for your past and future publications.

If you would like to find out more about Simon or his books, please visit his blog – The Hal Spacejock Series.

Author Interview: Alan Baxter

This is the first author interview for 2009. I plan on doing one a month throughout the year and I hope you will return to the website each month to read them.

The first interview is with Alan Baxter, author of RealmShift and MageSign.

Alan, welcome to Scribe’s Writing Desk and thank you for allowing me to interview you. Was there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

I’ve always had the desire to write. As far back as I can remember I was making up stories and writing them down. I once got into trouble in primary school because my teacher was convinced that my parents must have written the English assignment that I handed in. Once my parents had convinced her that it was my own work she became concerned about the dark nature of it as there was murder and blood involved. So I guess I’ve always had the urge to write dark fiction!

Tell us about your latest publication?

My latest book is MageSign, which is the sequel to my debut novel, RealmShift. In RealmShift the protagonist is a very powerful immortal called Isiah with the unenviable task of trying to keep some kind of balance between all the world’s religions. In the sequel, MageSign, the protagonist is back again, but on a rather more personal quest this time. Both books are rollicking good thrillers on the one hand and dark speculative fiction on the other. They’ve been called dark fantasy and horror and urban fantasy and a number of other things, so they’re obviously a little hard to pin to any genre. They’ve both received great reviews and I’m very proud of them. Both available on Amazon, of course, and you can learn all about them and read the first three chapters of both for free at my website!

They sound, and look, intriguing! What project are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on promoting MageSign primarily. I’m also usually working on a few short stories, as I love the short story medium and I’ve got a handful out here and there, trying to get them published. I’ve sold a few, which is always gratifying. I’m also starting to put together the bones of my next novel as a project for next year. It’s a new book, with new characters and a new idea, so I’m quite excited about it. I like to let the idea stew in my brain for a while and then I’ll slowly start to make notes and put together a rough story plan, then the serious writing begins. I’m at about the notes stage now with the next book. I’ve also set up an independent publisher called Blade Red Press, so I’m working on that as well.

It’s good to hear that you have numerous things to keep you busy. Where do you get inspiration for your stories and characters?

Anywhere and everywhere. For example, I recently wrote a short story about a guy that dies and leaves his daughter seven garages all over Sydney that she had no idea existed. It’s a bizarre idea, but it came about because I heard of someone that really did that. His family were mystified to discover, on his death, that he owned seven garages. I have no idea what he did with them – in my story it all becomes dark and ominous, of course! Real life provides fantastic fodder for speculative fiction. I just extrapolate people and events that I notice and paint them with my own particular brush. Other times a scene or a character will just pop into my head and I’ll build a story around that. That’s how RealmShift came about. I came up with the idea of the Isiah character and just let it percolate in my mind for a while and slowly built a story around the character. Inspiration can be found everywhere.

Do you know how the story will end when you first start writing it?

Not always! When I wrote RealmShift I had no idea until about halfway through how it was going to wrap up. With MageSign I knew exactly from start to finish all the major story details and just had to build it and flesh it out. With this next book, I know the beginning and middle, but again have no idea how to wrap it up at this stage. But I trust in my abililty as a storyteller and I also believe in the story itself – if you start to tell the story, it’ll lead you on to the end.

I look forward to reading more about that story in the future. Do you work on more than one story at a time? If so, how do you manage it?

I usually work on one novel at a time, but always have several short story ideas rolling around. If I’m finding the novel a bit tricky, I’ll put it aside and write a short. That helps to relubricate the story-telling machine and I’m usually able to get on with the novel with renewed inspiration and motivation. In between novels I tend to write shorts and blog posts and all sorts of things like that and I’m always trying to promote my current and previous work, so there’s always several writing related things happening. And with Blade Red Press up and running now as well there’s another thing to think about!

Best of luck with Blade Red Press. I hope all goes to plan. Who would you chose to play the star role if your book was made into a movie and why?

Well, given that my “day job” is as a martial arts instructor, there’s a lot that Isiah does in the books that I could probably do a lot better than a regular actor. But could I act as well? Who knows. I do love the idea of playing my own hero as I’ve always been a huge fan of movies, but I don’t think I really resemble Isiah all that much. A lot of people have commented about how both RealmShift and MageSign would make great films, so I’d love to see my books optioned one day. Being such a movie fan, seeing one of my novels on the big screen would be awesome. I think I’d probably get involved and insist on being the fight choreographer (as most movie fights are awful) and then have a cameo role as a minor character somewhere. Perhaps I’d body double for the star in the fight scenes!

Now that would be interesting. I hope the situation arises so that we can enjoy that cameo role! 🙂 My sincere thanks, Alan, for participating and please accept my best wishes for the future.

If you would like to find out more about Alan or his books, please visit his website – Alan Baxter Online.