13 Inspiring quotes from awesome authors

Every week for most of this blog’s lifetime I’ve interviewed a different author. After four years of regular interviews, The Dabbler’s archives have become an invaluable resource, filled with advice on every part of the writing process.

So I’m making an ebook. This ebook will be a compilation of quotes from various authors I’ve interviewed over the years. So far the ebook has 22 quotes from more than 10 authors–and I’ve still got more than 30 interviews to go through.

This ebook will be my next subscriber freebie, so if you want to see it when it’s finished you should take a moment to sign up for my newsletter.

In the meantime, here’s a preview–13 of the quotes I’ll be including in this awesome ebook.

What authors have to say about planning

Writing is easy. Planning is difficult. But the reason writing is easy is because I have a good plan. So I spend a lot of time making sure I know exactly where I’m going before I even start. This avoids what a lot of people mistakenly call “writer’s block,” which isn’t really writers block, it’s just that they get stuck if they don’t know where they’re headed.

~Steve Alcorn, multi-published author and founder of www.WritingAcademy.com

The history of trains is hugely connected with the development of the United States as a singular entity. So, my first suggestion would be: find some time period appropriate museums, and go there. If you have a train museum nearby, visit one. There’s nothing quite like seeing the history to put you in the right frame of mind.

~Meggan Connors, author of Jessie’s War, a novel set during the American civil war

Typically I write a skeletal outline of the main events of the story first, then add in details between the ‘bones’ and flesh those out independently. Sometimes those won’t need additional work, but if they do I’ll keep breaking down the scenes fractally until I can write them out in prose. It helps me reduce plot holes significantly and make sure there are valid reasons for everything that happens. I hate having things happen arbitrarily so I’m always checking my characters’ motivations and making sure the progression is as tight as possible.

~Hugo Jackson, author of Legacy, a fantasy novel

What authors have to say about writing

I hate the first draft. Most writers love that part and hate the editing. I’m the opposite. The first draft is like running through mud. However, when I sit down to write fiction, I do not get out of the chair until a chapter is written. Doesn’t matter what time it is. I’m a night owl anyway, but I’ve often written until 3 and 4 in the morning because I was not quitting until I’d ended the chapter. Not sure that’s easier in any way, but it’s what I do. It’s a driving force to reach the end so I can enjoy the edits.

~Hope C. Clark, mystery author and founder of FundsForWriters.com

Writers write (as opposed to just talking about it).

I see so much terrible advice it makes me want to scream – but the thing I don’t like the most

is writing advice in and of itself. I wasted a lot of time reading about how other authors wrote

books, when I just knuckled down and worked hard to discover my own process, I made a

hell of a lot more progress.

~EJ Newman, author of 20 Years Later and the Split Worlds Series

Listen, listen, listen. And watch. Everything you need for your writing is there in front of you. Watch and listen and get it down as honestly as you can. Of course, you adjust to your own story, characters and situation. As for dialogue, you have to tidy it up and take out the ‘y’knows’ and ‘likes’ and hums and haws. Stephen King, in his book about writing, stresses honesty. I agree with him one hundred per cent.

~Cecelia Frey, author of A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing

There are plenty of days that your writing will suck. You’ll want to just throw your hands up and walk away in disgust. Just remember that you can always fix it in rewrites, and plow on through.

~Elaine Corvidae, Author of Daughter of Snow and other fantasy novels

What authors consider the most important advice for new writers

I would council aspiring writers to not be afraid to make mistakes, or to start over. I would advise them to be persistent, get to know themselves, and continue to make new friends who are positive, supportive, and well grounded in their goals and ideas.

~Judith C. Owens-Lalude, author of The Long Walk: From Slavery to Freedom

Never give up! The published author is the aspiring writer who never quit!

~Marcella Kampman, author of Inanna, Goddess of Love: Myths & Legends from Sumer

Fight not only to write daily, but to write BETTER daily. If editors aren’t buying your work, you’re doing something wrong. We too often try to argue with that truth. Keep struggling to improve until someone bites on your manuscript. Never stop tweaking.

~Hope C. Clark, mystery author and founder of FundsForWriters.com

Writing is a lonely slog. Be prepared for that. Find ways of dealing with it – socialize with other writers, get out to literary events, spend time with family and friends, schedule recreation and fun time, try to have a normal life. Don’t let your writing devour you. Destructive geniuses are all very well, but the trick is to survive to write another day.

~Cecelia Frey, author of A Raw Mix of Carelessness and Longing

Be persistent. Writing is a huge commitment, not just in getting the words on the page, but in all the other, less-fun bits that come after. The will to keep going is the biggest factor that separates the “aspiring author” from the “author.”

~Elaine Corvidae, author of Daughter of Snow and other fantasy novels

Follow your heart when you’re writing. Listen to your editor. They’re there to help you, to make your manuscript shine. So don’t take it personally, they’re there to help you catch all of the mistakes and plot holes before it goes into print. And read your contract. Sometimes authors forget that publishing is a business. Once contracts, royalties and money are involved it’s all business. Learn as much as you can.

~Liz DeJesus, multi-published speculative fiction author

Did you find these quotes inspiring? Want to read more? Sign up for my email newsletter and you’ll get the book when it comes out this summer! (Not to mention you’ll get the Ultimate Novel Planning Resource List)

Author Spotlight: Michelle Mogil

all-threeToday’s author writes science fiction and fantasy, short stories and novels. She’s also got some interesting thoughts on what it takes to be a writer.

Please give Michelle Mogil a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your most recent novel?

The Melancholy Man is the third novel in my Love Eternal Series.

The Blurb: Esther Blackwell thought she had written works of fiction: two novels about a middle-aged couple who, through an odd series of circumstances, become blood-sucking creatures of the night. Then, her characters start showing up in her life and stirring everything up. Esther finds herself drawn into their surreal world by one particularly long, lean ancient Irishman who can’t seem to keep his hands — or his teeth — off of her. It would seem she had finally found the love and devotion she’d always longed for. Unfortunately, he’s already bound to another mate, a green-eyed, red-haired beauty who is not ready to let go and more than willing to cause trouble.

2. When did you realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

A number of years ago, my brother self-published his book about life on the USS Guadalcanal, and I realized how easy it was to put my stories out there. I was terrified when I pushed that “Publish” button, but was amazed when people — utter strangers, even — enjoyed my work. It encouraged me to put more out there. I now have three novels and short stories in four anthologies published. Currently, I have three projects in the works with a fourth one hatching in my feverish little brain.

3. What’s your favourite genre to write in & why?

Fantasy and science fiction, which are sometimes intertwined. I’ve always had a vivid imagination and I spend a lot of time in it. My favorite leading question is, “What if?”

When I was in school, I nearly always had my nose in a book and the books I read were mostly science fiction: Arthur C. Clark, Ray Bradbury, Ursula LeGuin, Isaac Asimov, and so forth. I was teased unmercifully, of course, because I was a nerd and nerds weren’t yet considered cool.

4. What modern author do you admire most and why?

I fell in love with Ursula LeGuin when I read “The Lathe of Heaven”. What a concept: your dreams can change reality! After that, I read every book of hers that I could get my hands on. She could write in fantasy AND science fiction, mix them together, and do it well. She created characters and worlds I cared deeply about.

5. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

I don’t really have a process. The writing pretty much does its own thing. Inspiration comes in spurts, usually at 3:00 AM. My brain will say “What if?” and I’m off on a weird journey. I’ll scribble or type furiously for a while, and then it will dry up and then my brain will say “What if… you suck at this?” I hate my brain sometimes.

6. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The very hardest part is when my editor does a face-palm over something that I thought was terribly clever. Actually, no. The absolute hardest part is highlighting that offending thing and pushing the delete button. I make it easier on myself by challenging my imagination to come up with something better.

7. Do you ever find it difficult to move from one novel to the next? If so, how do you make changing projects easier?

I don’t find it difficult because, as I finish one, I’m already writing the next one. Things happen to my stories that suggest another story needs to be told. That’s probably why I find it difficult to write the ending for my novels. They simply don’t want to end…

8. You’ve also written a number of stories for Theme-Thology anthologies. Can you tell us a bit about this process?

I am always a little bit surprised by how difficult it is to write a short story. You have only a short period of time to develop characters and a plot and this “economy of words” thing often escapes me. I love the English language, so I use as many words as I can. I find it hard to limit myself to a set number of these beautiful, beautiful words.

9. If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Grow a thick, slippery skin. In other words, learn to take constructive criticism and let the nasty stuff slide off your back.

Some will praise your work, some will give thoughtful critiques. Then there are those who will slam your writing because… well, who knows why? Maybe they were neglected as a child or are caught in a bad relationship. Or maybe they have a painful, itchy rash on an unmentionable body part. Who knows? Never, ever respond to your critics. You will not come out in a good light if you start a snark war with one of these people. Write a nasty email about it and send it to yourself, make a voodoo doll and stab it repeatedly with hat pins, or burn them in effigy. Whatever it takes to make you feel better. But don’t ever respond in real life.

10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

As I said earlier, I’m currently working on three projects, two of which are related to the Love Eternal series.

The first is a novella (which is threatening to grow into a full-blown novel if I don’t rein it in) about the buffer period between Ana’s “change of life” in The Gentle Man (Book One) and Ethan’s attempt to rebuild his marriage with her in The Loyal Man (Book Two). I guess I should call this Book One-and-a-half…? Anyway, I’m focused on the difficulty of forgiveness in this one. Ethan needs to forgive Ana for what she did and Ana needs to forgive herself, except that she can’t help doing something stupid all over again. She’s created another situation after which she’ll have to seek forgiveness yet again.

Then there was a particular character in The Melancholy Man (Book Three) who decided her story needs to be told. So I’m beginning to outline a novel that features her. She’s delightfully snarky — my favorite kind of person — and she’s got something to say, usually in a sarcastic tone.

Third, I’m working on a solo anthology for HDWP Books featuring four previously published short stories and several brand-spankin’-new stories, all just a little bit weird, all just a bit twisted. Much like their creator…

authorphoto1Michelle Mogil is a late comer to the publishing world, but she’s working hard to catch up. She has three self-published novels thus far and four short stories in anthologies. Science fiction, fantasy and the supernatural are her first loves. Her Amazon author page is here:

http://www.amazon.com/Michelle-Montague-Mogil/e/B00AAISZTK/

Michelle has always loved to write, filling notebooks and journals with her thoughts and observations, but has only just now found the courage to show it to complete strangers. She is humbled and gratified to find people like to read the words that come out of her brain. She posts some of those words for free at http://www.michellemogil.com.

Author Spotlight: Ben Hennessy

WoD1Today I’d like to introduce Ben Hennessy, author of YA fantasy novel Queen of the World. He is also one of the final authors to be featured in my series of interviews  spotlighting Inspired Quill Press.

He’ll be sharing his journey to publication and some key advice for writers still on the quest.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Queen of the World?

Queen of the World is the story of a young girl named Sarene, who lives in a world where peace is maintained by the word of the Four, all-powerful mages with the ability to do anything they wish. The rulers of each nation act according to a single rule: if they wage wars with their neighbours or mistreat their people, the Four will punish them. As such Sarene has grown up to believe that her kingdom, Tamir, is a peaceful and safe place to live in and one she would like to explore for herself. However the further she travels from her childhood home the more she comes to understand that not everything is as simple as she was led to believe. This story continues on into my latest release, The Whisper of Dreams

2. When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

Writing a novel was one of those bucket list ideas. I’ve always been interested to know if I could work on a single piece of fiction for an extended period of time and come out with something I was pleased with, but was of the opinion that my shocking attention span and lack of motivation would combine to ruin my attempt. I found myself with some spare time while travelling through several different countries in 2010 and decided to give it a serious try. I kept plugging away until it was finished and things have snowballed from there.

3. If you could attribute your writing success to one turning point in your life, what would it be and why?
I left a pretty solid career job to go travelling, and I knew I had to have something to show for it at the end aside from wicked stories and a bunch of digital photographs. Getting a dodgy back-alley tattoo somewhere in Thailand crossed my mind, but instead I thought to use the time I had to try and get a manuscript ready for when I returned to the UK. if I hadn’t finished it I doubt I would have tried. As to whether that could be determined a success… Well, it’s for other people to judge!

4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?
When I’m working on a project I try to get myself into a routine of starting around the same time every day, usually with a pre-ritual such as a cup of tea and a snack, a certain album or musical artist and the same chair. I tend to have a ‘book album’, so something which I play every time I work on a specific manuscript. It tells my brain that it’s time to work, and I hear the songs so many times I stop paying attention to them and distracting myself.

I try to get the first draft down as close to what I want it to be. I’m not the type of writer who blasts through a draft and then edits the hell out of it. I try to fix typos and grammar as I go along, take time to consider the scene I just wrote before moving on to the next, and generally stop myself getting too carried away. I think if I found I had to wipe half a manuscript for an error I didn’t see pick up on it would utterly dishearten me from continuing.

5. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The hardest part is always starting. There’s too much other important stuff for any writer to be doing, such as watching cat videos on YouTube or browsing crab recipes on your phone. The best way to get past that is to always remember that it doesn’t matter if you write ten words a day or ten thousand. Eventually you’ll get to the end and have a piece of work in your library.

6. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Getting carried away and having your characters do or say things that you weren’t expecting. It’s weird, and it’s rare, but it’s completely fantastic.

7. Why did you choose to publish with a small press?

I got talking to Sara of Inspired Quill through a chance meeting on a literary website and talked about the state of fantasy at the time (when vampires and zombies were still huge). I mentioned I’d recently completed a heroic fantasy manuscript and she invited me to send it to her. IQ liked it, said they were interested in publishing and sent me the contract to review. I was really pleased with their focus on being a social media enterprise and future plans to include classes and local events, and thought it was a great place for a new author like myself to progress.

8. If you could give an aspiring author just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Just write. Doesn’t matter if it’s a little or a lot. Keep adding to your work and the rest will take care of itself.

9. What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m working through Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. One of my favourite books as a kid. It was very sad to hear of his recent passing. I hope Death is treating him well after all those years together!

 10. Are you working on anything readers can look forward to?

I’m currently writing the third in the Queen of the World series. Check out www.hennessywrites.com for more information!

Ben Hennessy is an exciting new author from Essex, England. Brought up on a literary diet including the likes of Stephen King, David Gemmell, Terry Pratchett and David Eddings, he looks to take all these elements and create a unique style of fiction which blends heroic fantasy and a subtle sense of wry humour. Having spent the last decade working various jobs in locations such as Ireland, New Zealand and Vietnam, he is now hoping to forge a new career as a full-time writer.

Purchase your copy of Queen of the World today!

Do you have questions for Ben? Feel free to ask them in the comments below!

Author Spotlight: Hugo Jackson

Legacy CoverToday I’d like to introduce Hugo Jackson, author of the fantasy novel Legacy. He also does a significant portion of the marketing for Inspired Quill Press, so I’m thrilled to be presenting his take on both writing and marketing.
Please give Hugo a warm welcome.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Legacy?
 
Legacy is the story of Faria Phiraco, a resonator: one who manipulates elements using crystals from the moon. It is an ancient and extraordinary power which she and her father, the Emperor of Xayall, guard with their lives.
When the Dhraka, an aggressive race of red-scaled dragons, discover a mysterious relic from the mythical aeons-lost city of Nazreal, they lay siege to Faria’s peaceful city, desperate to tear secrets from her and gain control of the power she possesses.With her father missing, Faria has to rely on her own strength to brave the world tha attacks her at every turn.  Friends and guardians rally by her to help save her father and reveal the mysteries of the ruined city, while the dark legacy of an ancient cataclysm wraps its claws around her fate… and her past. She soon realises that this is not the beginning, nor anywhere near the end.  A titanic war spanning hundreds of years unfolds around her, one that could yet cost the lives of everyone on Eeres.
2. When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?
Well, I’ve enjoyed telling stories for years and years. Even when I was as young as three, I’d construct stories that my older sister would draw out for me, and I’d consistently reimagine various TV shows that I’d watch because, invariably, I wouldn’t like the principle character. Once I graduated from writing fanfictions and began telling my own stories, the first of which I actually developed being Legacy, I knew that it was a story I wanted to share. I have a real passion for my characters and the kinds of stories I know I wanted to see when I was younger. I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t want to share something that means so much to them.
3. Why did you choose to write YA?
 
I think Young Adult fiction has one of the broadest scopes of style. It’s almost universal, but without being either basic or ridiculously explicit. I discovered some of my favourite adventures in books, TV, anime, movies, etc when I was in my teens, and I would love to know my books could conjure the same inspiration in others. It’s also a chance to create fantasy worlds that don’t have to explain themselves, but yet have a darkness that children’s books don’t. You have an amazing balance between realism and idealism, fantasy and reality, and humour and darkness. It’s one of the few genres that can cover everything but still be so unique at the same time.
I’ve always found the idea of a purely ‘adult’ book to be very unforgiving, but that could just be a complex of mine. Either way, it’s harder to convince an adult of another reality, because often they’ve been in their own for too long. Suspension of disbelief is that much more difficult. Young adults have ambition and idealism and darkness and fears, so fantasies in either direction come so much more easily. More importantly, they haven’t been told as often that the world is a barren and hopeless place. It’s the perfect time to show them that it isn’t, and is still worth fighting for.
4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?
Typically I write a skeletal outline of the main events of the story first, then add in details between the ‘bones’ and flesh those out independently. Sometimes those won’t need additional work, but if they do I’ll keep breaking down the scenes fractally until I can write them out in prose. It helps me reduce plot holes significantly and make sure there are valid reasons for everything that happens. I hate having things happen arbitrarily so I’m always checking my characters’ motivations and making sure the progression is as tight as possible.
5. What is the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?
 
Ironically, starting at any given point is what I find most tricky. Especially if I’ve had a break or I’m not feeling confident, pushing myself to get the words out of my head and onto the page is very hard. Writing is such a mental workout that when the words aren’t doing justice to the picture in your head it can begin that demotivational spiral to inactivity. Generally I try to ignore how I feel about it and push forward to progress, even if all I get down is the dialogue. I work exclusively on a computer, so the ability to edit is a great comfort, knowing I can come back and change it at any time. Purging old, unsatisfactory words is a great catharsis.
6. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
Editing is great. I get to go through, knowing I’ve already finished, and just add depth to everything, or touch up pacing. I can make a scene faster or slower or completely change a character’s motivation. It’s a fantastic way of exploring the world you’ve built, and it’s where I get most excited for unleashing it on the world.
7. You also help with the marketing of Inspired Quill Press as a whole. How do you balance that with your own writing and other commitments?
Haha, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t forgotten about this interview a few times over the last week with everything I’ve had to do! So some days are easier than others. Typically because all of my work is done at a computer I’m able to jump windows between the two. I’ll try to touch on both at least once each on any given day, but it depends on how many releases and projects Inspired Quill has going on. I have a fairly tenuous attention span, so having a lot of projects to jump between (including costume construction and voice acting) actually helps my productivity. The more I do, the more motivated I am.
8. If you could only read books by one author for the rest of your life, who would you choose and why?
Garth Nix. He’s never written anything that I’ve been able to put down voluntarily. Shade’s Children was absolutely gripping and Sabriel is one of the best adventures I’ve ever read.
9. If you had the opportunity to give an aspiring author just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t ever stop. There will never be a piece of writing you’ll make that will please everyone, but there will be someone out there to whom your book will be the best thing they’ve ever read, and will be their favourite book of all time. Live and write for the people like you, who you want to give your stories to.
10. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?
 
I’m currently editing Legacy’s sequel, Fracture, to be released at some point in the future, as well as the third and fourth books in the Resonance Tetralogy. Everything else I have in development somewhere (among these are a Steampunk series and another action series starring a werewolf and a Chinese water dragon), but it’ll be some time before they surface.
Hugo resizedHugo Jackson is an author with Inspired Quill. He was born in Chichester, England, where he studied performing arts and worked in hospitals, and also bashed people’s heads in as part of the Raven Tor Living History group. He now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. His first fantasy novel, ‘Legacy’ is available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. You can find him at www.hugojackson.com.
Do you have more questions for Hugo? Feel free to ask them in the comments section below!

Author Spotlight: Susan E. Clarke

ChroniclesofSyntaxToday’s author is a little bit different from the normal breed, though her interview comes with great timing after my article about independent film earlier this week. Susan E. Clarke is actually here to talk about her script book, the Chronicles of Syntax, published by Inspired Quill Press.
I’d tell you more but I think she can say it better. Please give Susan a warm welcome.
1. Can you tell us a bit about the Chronicles of Syntax?
Chronicles of Syntax is a Science Fiction story set in the present day and leading toward an oncoming apocalypse. The Angel Network are trying to find people with an alteration to their genetic DNA. They believe that when their powers are combined they will access to memories sent back from the future, which will allow them to stop the end of the world.
The book is the season one script book for my multi-award winning science fiction series.
2. When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?
Around about the time my acting agent started introducing me to people as a phenomenal writer lol. I don’t have a memory in my childhood where I haven’t been writing and I remember the moment as a kid when I realized the power and potential of putting pen to paper. Once I wrote Chronicles of Syntax, my writing career shot off in a certain direction. I didn’t choose writing for a profession, it chose me and I love it.
3. The Chronicles of Syntax is a script book. Have you ever written or considered writing an actual novel?
I have written a novella when I was 16 but this was more to practice my writing skills (although I didn’t realize this at the time). I do want to write a fiction book and get it published, it’s one of my biggest bucket list goals. But script writing and novel writing are very different skill sets and novel writing requires much more of your time than script writing does. I’m hoping to master it within my life time as it would be nice to see my book on the shelves.
4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?
I’m usually sparked by a situation of a specific piece of dialogue. If it’s good enough, it will haunt me and develop in my daydreams until I have time to sit down and write it. When I’m writing I don’t always have a destination. I put my characters in a space and let them react to each other. Usually, very exciting things happen. That’s how I write.
It sounds very ignorant, and I’m certain I’ll be eating my words at some point in my future, but I’m not one for figuring out structure or the ’10 page crisis’, or anything specific like that. The flow of my writing comes from the natural pauses and emotion within my scenes. I find that if I sit and plan out the whole story before I start to write, I usually won’t write it – because I already know the end.
5. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?
Formatting. I’m quite a fast typer and I don’t slow down when dialogue and story is running through my head at a million miles an hour. I put far more value in getting the page in paper to risk slowing down or stopping to get things in the right place. Formatting is one of my most pet peeves, it takes way longer than writing something and it’s dull. But now there are things like Final Draft or Trilby which does those things for you. If you can handle those programs I would probably suggest you try and do that while you’re writing instead of after. But at the end of the day, writing should be something that make you feel free, so do whatever makes you feel most comfortable.
6. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
The characters and their interaction towards each other. Often I find myself laughing or being shocked by how a character has reacted and that’s wonderful. The story can come and go – you can always pick those characters up and place them in a new environment – but their make up, who the are and the intricacies of the people themselves, that’s a glorious invention and the only part of my writing I’m a little precious over.
7. Why did you choose to publish your scripts in book format?
Chronicles of Syntax is very lucky in the fact that we have a wonderfully large fan base and we wanted to give them something that they could take home and cherish. Also, some edits had to be made in the filming of the series and I felt it was important for them to have the full story.
8. If you could give an aspiring author just one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don’t start writing with the end goal completely fixed down. For example, don’t sit down and say, “okay this is going to be the next Hollywood feature”. That might inspire you but it will also give you limitations. Only ever focus on telling a good story, the rest will fall into place on its own.
9. What are you reading right now?
I am currently re-reading The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce.
10. Are you working on anything readers can look forward to?
I am. I will be bringing out several more projects this year so watch this space.
Susan E. Clarke is a multi-award winning Creator with a successful science fiction series. Her work has been shown in festivals worldwide and her stories are much loved by thousands of people. Coined ‘Britain’s answer to Joss Whedon’, Sue is working very hard to live up to this and more.
Do you have more questions for Susan? Go ahead and ask them in the comments section below!

Author Spotlight: Mark Cantrell

markToday’s author is another Inspired Quill author, Mark Cantrell, who works as a journalist during the day and writes his novels by night. He’s here to discuss his career as a writer and his newest novel, Silas Morlock.

Please give Mark a warm welcome.

1.Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Silas Morlock?

Silas Morlock is a dark urban fantasy with shades of the macabre horror thrown in. It’s a story about good and evil, the darkness that resides inside all of us, and what happens when that darkness escapes to smother the world in shadow.

The book deals with a last-ditch struggle to save the human soul from extinction. By that, I don’t mean some intangible and metaphysical entity, but something with a real physical existence – books, art, music, the products of humanity’s creative spirit.

I often think of Silas Morlock as a cross between Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and FW Murnau’s Nosferatu, but with a horrifying presence all of its own.

Beyond that, it’s a story about guilt and redemption, betrayal and revenge, purpose and belonging, and the unlikely hero’s rather more down-to-earth motivation – the desire to impress his way back into his former girlfriend’s affections. Well, that takes him into a very dark place indeed.

2. When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

To be honest, I’d have to say it was right from day one. From the start I always wanted to make a go of it, though I never had any illusions that success was a long shot, and would only come (if at all) after a long haul ‘apprenticeship’.

To my mind, writing is something of a calling. It’s not just a job, or a hobby, but a way of life. Yeah, I know, I’m a dreamer and an idealist, but that’s no bad thing for a writer. In fact, I’d say it kind of goes with the territory.

Okay, so I have to pursue my calling around the gritty realities of the day job, and I’m a long way from being able to embrace my writing as a full time activity, but that doesn’t make it any less of a serious endeavour.

A lot of people will dismiss my writing as a frivolous pursuit – and being published doesn’t necessarily alter that reaction – but it’s par the course for writers, really. Among the reactions you get, positive as well as indifferent, there’s a strand that takes the view you should grow up, give up, and conform to an everyday life. To Hell with that.

As it happens, I have an everyday life – don’t we all? – and I suspect few people are truly ordinary; we all have our little quirks and idiosyncrasies, the seeds of the extraordinary about us. Mine just happen to have embedded me in the world of writing, and why would I give up on being me?

3. If you could attribute your writing success to one turning point in your life, what would it be and why?

I’ve had a creative urge for as long as I can remember. I suppose most of us do and somehow we lose it along the way, or else it’s absorbed into aspects of adult living that aren’t immediately associated with being creative.

As a kid, I made things out of Lego, plasticine or Meccano, or else I was scribbling drawings (I’m no loss to the art world). I even ‘wrote’ my own books about dinosaurs and things like that, writing up my own summaries of what I’d read and illustrating them with my own drawings. I think I’ve still got one or two of them somewhere. My handwriting was certainly more legible back then.

This creative compulsion could all so easily have been lost to childhood as it receded into personal history, just like it does for most people I guess, if it hadn’t been for the chance gift of a ZX Spectrum computer when I was 16. My Dad turned up with one out of the blue, and I’d have to say this was the turning point that got me going into a creative future.

My writing today – Silas Morlock, my other novels, the short stories I’ve written, even my career as a journalist – owes its origins to that 30-year-old black box with its tiny 48K memory and its squidgy rubber keyboard.

To cut a long story short, I wasn’t content just to play games on the old Speccy – it wasn’t long before I was writing my own. These were text and graphic adventure games, so they demanded a lot of writing – descriptions, response messages and so on.

Since I was selling these things mail order, before they were eventually picked up by an Indie outfit called Zenobi Software, I had to write the accompanying instruction documents and storylines associated with each game, so that was essentially my first foray into creative writing.

It wasn’t until a few years later, though, that I made the conscious shift into becoming a writer. I’d thought about writing on and off over the years, but never quite connected the reality of it with me; that is until I did some voluntary work at a cassette magazine for the visually impaired.

One of the other volunteers was a writer. I can’t quite explain the how and why of it, but after we’d chatted about his writing something just clicked into place. I felt inspired to have a go at writing a short story, so I picked up a vague idea for a storyline to an adventure game and turned it into a story, bashing it out on an old typewriter.

Sore fingers later, I ended up with something long enough to be a bad novella, but I had caught the bug and discovered what I wanted to do with my life. Poor fool, he says too many years later.

4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

If there’s a process to my writing then I’ve yet to work out what it is. I’m a ‘pantster’, I work it out as I go along, but I guess a certain method has emerged out of the madness over the years.

I learned the hard way that novels, or indeed short stories, aren’t written – they’re-written.

Back when I first started writing, I produced my manuscripts on a typewriter, but then I moved onto writing on an Atari ST computer. Fast forward through university and into the world of work, and a couple of incompatible writing machines before I finally joined the PC-owning, Word-using fraternity, and I was obviously forced to type drafts in from scratch from one machine to the next.

Inevitably, this brought about changes and gave me an insight into the drafts, so I was effectively re-writing them rather than just keying them in. By then I was working on my first published novel, Citizen Zero, and the process taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of re-writes for improving the quality of a piece of work.

So, I suppose that’s become a process for me now: once I’ve finished the first draft I print it out, give it a read through and an edit on paper, then I type it back into the machine from scratch, re-writing it as I go. Once that version has been edited on screen, I’ll print out my second draft and edit that.

At this stage, if the editing process identifies any weak scenes then I’ll re-write them from scratch before slotting them back into the main manuscript. Sometimes, an individual scene might go through two or more re-writes before I’m happy.

All this might sound laborious, but believe me it’s worth it.

5. How much planning do you do before starting a first draft?

Minimal, really. When an idea detonates, I’ll try and capture as many of the initial fragments as I can. Normally, that takes the form of a rough outline usually scribbled on a couple of sides of A4, together with some brief notes about primary characters, settings, themes, and the broad arc of the emergent story.

Often, there’s a few key trigger scene ideas in my head, so I’ll capture as many of those as I can in note form, sometimes with brief snatches of dialogue. Then I tend to launch into the writing, planning and outlining as I go. I certainly don’t create detailed plans of the entire book before I start writing, the way some authors do.

Experience has taught me it’s best to strike when the iron’s hot; at least that’s the way that works best for me. I’ve got a couple of novel ideas lying fallow at the moment. When the ideas first hit, circumstances meant I had to leave them to go cold. They’re strong ideas, with a lot of accompanying notes, and I am still adding to the raw material, which tells me they’re viable, but re-igniting a cold project is a lot harder than diving straight in after that initial burst of inspiration.

6. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

Erm, Jeez… all of it? How do I make it easier? Nicotine, caffeine, beer on a good day. Sometimes I just bleed on the keyboard. I honestly don’t know how to answer this question. If it’s easy then what’s the point?

Then again, is it really all that hard? You get an idea, you thrash it out, you hit the keyboard and get on with the task of turning raw thought into a finished manuscript. Sure, there are hurdles along the way, plot questions that need answering, wrong turns, and re-writes, but that’s all part of the process of pulling something into existence out of raw nothing.

When the inspiration and the words are flowing, it’s beyond easy – you’re barely there, just a vessel channelling it all into existence. When some hard thinking is needed and you can’t see the solution to a problem, I guess that’s when it becomes hard going; getting stuck can be frustrating, but solving a problem is a great feeling. You don’t get the satisfaction of fulfilling a challenge if the hurdles aren’t there to overcome.

7. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

When that first rush of inspiration gives me the idea for a new story has got to be the best part of it all. It really is a rush when a fresh idea strikes. It’s like a burst of mental lightning that fires up my brain and crackles down my arm; it’s always a frenzied occasion, scribbling down the thoughts and ideas as fast as I can, and yet the mechanics of my arm never seem quite enough to keep pace with that fizzing creative energy. It’s such a buzz.

After that, I guess my next favourite it the culmination of the process, when the story is complete, the manuscript has been polished to the best of my ability, and I can sit back, look at the stack of pages and say: “I made that.” There’s such a tremendous sense of achievement, of completion – and I don’t mean just the project, but more in the sense of self. In a way, I suspect I don’t just write these stories into existence but bring a part of myself into being too.

The moment never lasts, of course. After the sense of completion comes a sense of loss, a void that soon aches to be filled again, especially with lengthy long-haul project like a novel; after all, they dominate your every waking moment for a long time. Nature abhors a vacuum. That’s probably what triggers those creative bursts of inspiration. It’s the need for the next ‘fix’.

8. If you could give an aspiring author just one piece of advice, what would it be?

Keep at it and don’t let the bastards grind you down (easier said than done, I know). Besides that, I’d say read. You’ve got to read. Soak up them words and meanings. No writer worth a damn ever neglects their reading. It shouldn’t be a chore, because you love immersing yourself in the written word, in the stories and the life experiences and the sheer bloody awesome wonder they convey. Oh yes, and write too. We mustn’t forget that.

9. What are you reading right now?

On The Steel Breeze by Alastair Reynolds.

10. Are you working on anything readers can look forward to?

At the moment I’m playing Victor Frankenstein, or maybe Igor, with my writing and trying to spark some life back into it. I think my efforts at practising maniacal laughter and cries of “It’s alive!” are starting to annoy the neighbours.

Later this year, or early in 2016, Inspired Quill will be publishing my dystopian thriller Citizen Zero, so I hope that’s something to look forward to. I originally self-published the novel back in 2010. It wasn’t my original plan, but with the election of the current Tory-led coalition, the recession and the austerity drive the Government implemented, I felt the book needed to be out there. I wrote Citizen Zero in the late 90s, but it’s only in the last few years that I feel the novel has come into its era.

Aside from that, I’m working on a few short stories at the moment. They’re a mix of science fiction and fantasy, with a few more literary efforts in the mix. I haven’t done much in the way of short fiction for a while, articles and blogging has kind of dominated my writing output of late, so I want to generate a body of fresh fiction.

After I’ve got a few more stories under my belt, I intend to pick up one of those two novel ideas I mentioned earlier and get book number five written. If only I can decide which one to do first…

Mark Cantrell AuthorMark Cantrell is a writer and journalist living and working in the UK. He is the author of the novels Silas Morlock (2013) and Citizen Zero (2010) as well as a host of short stories. When he’s not writing he usually has his head buried in a book.

Purchase your copy of Silas Morlock today!

Author Spotlight: Matthew Munson

FallFromGraceI’m extremely proud to announce that I’ve partnered up with Inspired Quill Press to present a number of debut authors here on The Dabbler. Each author will share some of their journey to publication and advice for those of us still working towards our first book contract.

Matthew Munson is the first Inspired Quill author to join us, here to discuss his debut fantasy novel Fall From Grace. 

Please give Matthew a warm welcome.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Fall From Grace?

Absolutely. Fall From Grace is all about a trio of friends – Paul, Joseph and Lauren – who are caught up in the middle of a two-thousand-year old heavenly war. Paul is an ex-priest who is struggling to find his purpose in life, Joseph is a complete sceptic about anything otherworldly, and Lauren is the most spiritual out of the three, who wants to believe but also needs to know. During their exploration of what’s happening to them, they discover the secret truth about a very old rebellion.

2. When did you know you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?

When I knew that I was allowed to! As a child and teenager, I always thought you had to have special qualifications in order to qualify as a writer. Well, that’s true, in a way, but the qualification you need is creativity, and you can’t necessarily study for that; you develop your creativity by reading, practicing your art through writing and discussion about books and words that you care about.

I discovered that this passion I had – that had always existed as a flame in the pit of my stomach – could be turned into a career by tenacity, hard work and creativity. I was in heaven!

3. If you could attribute your writing success to one turning point in your life, what would it be and why?

I was 10 years old, and I was in my final year of primary school. I hated geography, and I suspect that my displeasure was fairly obvious – so my sainted teacher, Mrs Cooper, allowed me to write a short story instead. It was about a cowboy who flew into space on the back of a dinosaur. When I’d finished writing it (and illustrating it too), no-one laughed at me or called me stupid; in fact, they encouraged me to continue and improve my writing.

Even before that, however, any moment that I was encouraged to read, voraciously, was a good time in my life; it showed me what I wanted to read, what styles I admired and what good writing looked like.

4. Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?

You know, I really admire people who completely plan out their story before writing the thing. I can’t do that – and believe me, I’ve tried. No, I’m far more of a “pantser” – I write and develop the characters and plot as I go. It feels more natural and creative that way.


Being literal for a moment, I like to write at the “extremes” of the day; usually between 7am and 8am and then again between 7pm and 10pm. I can usually pound out 2 or 3,000 words in that time, and I spend the time in between on other things – usually making notes, emails and everything else that pays the bills!

5. Your novel centers around the concept of a war in heaven. Did you do much research into mythology before writing it?

Oh, very much. I went to a Catholic high school, so can honestly say that I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover and understand it from a textual point of view. I’ve also moved from a Christian to an spiritualist to an atheist, so I’ve been very much able to experience different points of view all within my own head.

I’m friends with people who are religious, spiritual and atheist, and they’ve all given me a lot of things to think about. I consider myself fairly open-minded and willing to accept other points of view, so it’s given me a lot of contextual information for the book and its sequel.

6. What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The ending, as I hate to see the back of characters I’ve grown to love and care about. Paul, Joseph and Lauren were all expressions of different parts of my own life and journey, so it was hard when I wasn’t writing about them anymore. I initially coped with that by writing a sequel, but now that’s over to, I’m having to write something completely different so I can try and move on with the end of my baby!

7. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

The blank page. Seriously, I love it. There are so many possibilities ahead of me there, and it excites me beyond measure.

8. If you could give an aspiring author just one piece of advice, what would it be?

Read everything. Don’t limit yourself to a particular genre just because it’s your favourite; I’m a sci-fi / fantasy geek, but I read thrillers, crime and adventure books as well; they help expand my mind and my writing ability. It’s how you learn.

9. What are you reading right now?

I’ve just started reading 11.22.63 by the sublime Stephen King; what a great writer that man is.

10. Are you working on anything readers can look forward to?

I hope so! I’m currently working on three books; a non-fiction book on dyspraxia, a condition I have, which is a collaboration with a friend of mine; a thriller provisionally entitled Darkness Falls and a sci-fi book – the first draft of which I’ve just had back from an editor I work with, Lin White. Life is very busy right now, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

MatthewMunsonMatthew Munson is a book hoarder and inveterate writer. There have been times when he’s realised that he hasn’t been listening to anything another person has been saying because he’s been planning a chapter in his head. He lives in south-east England by himself, which is probably for the best, as he spends a lot of time muttering to himself to see if dialogue works …

Purchase your copy of Fall From Grace today!

Don’t forget to leave any extra questions or comments you have for Matthew in the comments section below!

Special Author Feature: Liz DeJesus

morganOne of the first books I ever read from Musa Publishing was First Frost by Liz DeJesus. I was thrilled to discover her unique twist on fairy tales and even more thrilled to interview her back in 2013.

Musa has now closed its doors, but the careers it started will continue for many years. Liz is one of many Musa authors who not only already had books published elsewhere, but has also found a home for the series she formerly published with Musa.

Today Liz has returned to share her accomplishments in the last two years and the lessons she’s learned as her writing career grew.

1. We last spoke in January 2013. Can you talk a little bit about where you were in your writing career at the time?

It’s hard for me to remember exactly where I was two years ago. But I believe I was working on the edits for Glass Frost and I remember being extremely excited for the sequel to be released. People were just starting to discover First Frost, it was getting positive reviews and people were enjoying the story.

2. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about writing since then?

Definitely write for yourself. I have to be sure I’m happy with the story and not focus so much on what everyone will think. I think that stops a lot of authors from moving forward with their work. Worrying about what other people will think, if it’s good enough or what people will say, all of that fear, anxiety and worry is a killer of creativity. So I ignore my inner critic and focus on what my heart is telling me. As long as I’m having fun writing the story that’s all that really matters to me. When I send it to my editor that’s when I worry, but by that point I’ve already worked on the story for a couple of years so it’s a matter of making sure everything makes sense.

3. How do you balance your schedule between writing/editing/marketing?

I have kids and a hectic family life so there really is no ‘schedule’ per se. I steal little pockets of time here and there and that’s how I get everything done. I write the old fashioned way, notebook and pen. That’s easier for me because all I have to do is throw my notebook in my purse and I can write anywhere which is especially helpful if you’re in the car waiting in the parking lot or at the doctor’s office. So I’ll transfer those notes when my kids are napping or I’ll wake up a little early in the morning and get some work done.

As far as marketing goes, I’m always promoting my books. When I pay my bills (I still write checks) I’ll stick one of my business cards in the envelope, I’ll post on facebook, twitter, Instagram and tumblr. I schedule book signings, go to comic conventions, book festivals and hand out bookmarks. There is a lot that goes into promoting a book.

I’m extremely lucky in the fact that I have a supportive family that understands that being a working author is my dream and they go out of their way to ensure I have the time to do what I need to do. It’s not always easy but knowing I have their support means the world to me.

4. What’s your favourite social media network and why?

Definitely Facebook. I’m on 24/7. I love interacting with my friends, family and fans. A close second is twitter.

5. Of the marketing techniques you’ve tried, which have been most successful?

Purchasing ads at websites like bookbub.com and websites and blogs that are in the same theme as my books. I purchased an ad in Faerie Magazine’s website and that definitely boosted things for my books (specifically The Frost Series).

6. Where would you like to see your writing career in 5 years?

I would like to be signed with a traditional publishing company, but so far I’m happy with independent publishers and I’m happy with where my career is at the moment.

7. If this was your last interview ever, what would you really want to say?

That I’m thankful to Musa Publishing, Indie Gypsy, Arte Publico Press and every editor that has taken a chance on me and my work. I’m grateful to my fans for taking a chance on my books. To the bookstores that have accepted me with open arms and allowed me to have book signings in their stores. I’m thankful, and blessed to have the love and support of my family and I’m humbled by the fact that I get to write for a living.

I’m blessed in more ways that I can imagine.

Bonus Question: Would you like to share any last thoughts on Musa’s closure?

Musa Publishing has closed their doors. I am eternally grateful for everything they have done for me over the past 3 1/2 years. I am the author I am today because these incredible people believed in me and my work. I cannot forget to thank Kathy Calore Teel who was the Euterpe (YA) head editor at the time I submitted First Frost to Musa Publishing. So from the bottom of my heart thank you for seeing the magic and whimsy that so many others didn’t see at the time. And of course thank you to Celina Summers, Jeanne De Vita, Kerry Mand, Kelly Shorten, and Dominique Eastwick for all of their hard work and sacrifice in order to make Musa Publishing a success (because even though they are closing their doors they are doing it with grace and with their heads held high). So thank you so much for everything.

While I am heartbroken about Musa Publishing, I can’t help but be excited about the next chapter that’s opened up right now. My dear friends at Indie Gypsy have graciously accepted the Frost Series. So worry not, Bianca Frost fans, you will get to see what trouble she gets into next. They will release First Frost, Glass Frost and (the long awaited) Shattered Frost. Release dates, covers and other exciting news will be coming soon.

As one door closes another door opens…here’s to the next chapter for everyone. Looking forward to what the future will bring.

Liz DeJesus was born on the tiny island of Puerto Rico.  She is a novelist and a poet. She has been writing for as long as she was capable of holding a pen. She is the author of the novel Nina (Blu Phi’er Publishing, October 2007), The Jackets (Arte Publico Press, March 2011) First Frost (Musa Publishing, June 2012), Glass Frost (Musa Publishing, July 2013), Morgan (Indie Gypsy, July 2014) and The Laurel (Musa Publishing, November 2014). Her work has also appeared in Night Gypsy: Journey Into Darkness (Indie Gypsy, October 2012) and Someone Wicked (Smart Rhino Publications, Winter 2013).

Liz is currently working on a new novel and a comic book series titled Zombie Ever After (Emerald Star Comics, Fall 2014).

www.lizdejesus.com

Special Author Feature: EJ Newman

Planetfall_final coverToday’s author is another special guest who I interviewed here and had actually been stalking her on the internet–I mean subscribed to her newsletters full of short story goodness–for some time before I interviewed her. I was excited in that glorious fangirl way the first time I interviewed her, and now, several published books later, I am extremely pleased to welcome EJ Newman back to the blog.

Please give EJ Newman a warm welcome.

1. We last spoke in May 2012. Can you talk a little bit about what your writing career was like at the time?

It was a little bit strange. You know, it’s hard to think back to that time – I measure my life in books written now, rather than dates. I think I had finished the first Split Worlds novel then and had written many stories set in that world. If memory serves, I had met Lee Harris, then of Angry Robot books (now with Tor) and he was in the process of deciding whether he wanted to buy the series and it was terrifying and thrilling and nerve wracking in the extreme. It really was a critical turning point in my career; I had a short story collection and one novel published by micro presses and I was all set to self-publish the Split Worlds when I met Lee and he fell in love with Between Two Thorns. Everything was changing and I felt that my writing was actually going to turn into a career at last.

2. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned about writing since then?

That no matter how many people tell me they love my work, and no matter who they are, the self-doubt never goes.

There was a time, really, really early on when I was desperately trying to get my first novel published, when I thought that if I got a book deal, the doubt that I had what it took to be a professional writer would magically disappear. I thought that someone investing thousands of pounds in my work would finally quiet that voice at the back of my head that I’m not a real writer, or at least, not a good one.

The thing is, that feeling of ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and inadequacy doesn’t go away so easily. I’ve learned to live with it and write despite the doubts. I know now that they will always be there and to be honest, I fear the day they truly disappear, as that would be when I stop trying to write better than I have before.

3. How do you balance editing/marketing existing projects and writing new things?

Writing the new book has to come first. When I’m in a first draft phase, I prioritise that over all other things in my day. The internet connection stays off until something between 2,000 and 4,000 words get written (it depends on the project). Then I do all the other stuff. I try not to schedule a first draft writing phase at the same time as the month of a book launch, but of course, sometimes that doesn’t work out – especially when you are having three novels published in one year like the Split Worlds novels were!

4. You’ve also narrated a lot of audiobooks. How did you get into that?

By accident! I podcasted my very first novel a chapter a week when I was trying to get a book deal and had no idea if I could actually write or not. I hit upon it as a way to get feedback without jeopardising any first publication rights.

Unexpectedly, I got lots of great feedback on my reading of it and a couple of people asked me to narrate short stories for them. I then recorded a few things for free, to build a portfolio and then auditioned for a royalty-only project and got it!

Since then I’ve recorded several audiobooks written by other people, over 50 Split Worlds short stories, all three of the novels (which was such a relief as I really wanted to narrate my own work!) and most recently a wonderful novel called Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran for Ghostwoods Books.( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Those-Rosy-Hours-Mazandaran-Unabridged/dp/B00TTLNFV2) That was the most technically challenging as there are lots of words in different languages and even some singing. It’s a wonderful book and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

5. Of the marketing techniques you’ve tried, which have been the most successful?

In all honesty, I have absolutely no idea! I get fan mail from all sorts of people who describe lots of different ways that they’ve come across my work. Sometimes it’s my podcast, Tea and Jeopardy, sometimes it’s Twitter, sometimes it’s just pure luck and they stumbled across my book in a shop somewhere on the other side of the world.

I think the main thing is to say yes to every opportunity, be it appearing on a convention panel, or on a podcast or being interviewed somewhere – whatever comes your way – and, if you can bear it, Twitter can be great too.

Ultimately though, the books have to come first, as does trying to improve one’s craft. Otherwise all that hard work trying to find readers does nothing – if the work isn’t good enough once they’ve found you, you’ve wasted their time and yours.

6. Where would you like to see your writing career in 5 years?

I’ve just reached my first five year milestone: to get a book deal with one of the big five publishers. I’ve just signed a two book deal with Ace/Roc for two standalone science-fiction novels and I am absolutely thrilled.

As for the next five years… well, I’d like to have several more Split Worlds novels published as it’s pretty crowded in my head and they need to go somewhere. I want to branch out into another genre but I’m not ready to talk about that yet. I want to write more science-fiction. I’d love to feel more financially secure but that’s pretty unlikely, given the nature of creative work.

You know, what I really would like to have in 5 years is more books under my belt and for them to have found people who love to read them. Of course, like every other author, I would love to have one of my books optioned for film or TV, but that’s such a lottery it’s very much in the “that would be fabulous” day dream box, rather than career milestone.

7. If this was your last interview ever, what would you really want to say?

Hmm, that’s a tricky question. There are things I’d like to say if it was my last day on Earth, but not necessarily my last interview. I guess I would just beg writers who are constantly searching for that secret to writing a book and getting a deal to stop doing that and just focus on writing as much as possible and reading as much as possible (and not talk about the story in your head with anybody, otherwise the desire to tell it evaporates before you reach the page).

All any writer of any level of success can do is talk about what worked for them and it won’t necessarily be what works for anyone else. I really do believe that you just have to figure out how to write the most productively, and the best you can, by yourself.

Back when I was desperate to be published it felt like I was banging my head against the biggest, most unfair iron gates in the world. Like everyone with a book deal must have done something and then just wouldn’t share it with anyone else. It’s not like that. I promise. It’s just hard work and a tiny bit of luck.

Emma Newman writes dark short stories and science fiction and urban fantasy novels. ‘Between Two Thorns’, the first book in Emma’s Split Worlds urban fantasy series, was shortlisted for the BFS Best Novel and Best Newcomer awards. Emma’s next book, Planetfall, will be a standalone science fiction novel published by Ace/Roc in November. Emma is a professional audiobook narrator and also co-writes and hosts the Hugo-nominated podcast ‘Tea and Jeopardy’ which involves tea, cake, mild peril and singing chickens. Her hobbies include dressmaking and playing RPGs. She blogs at www.enewman.co.uk.

Please leave your thoughts and questions for Emma in the comments section below!

Special Author Feature: Donna Alward

Cowboy'sValentineToday I’m really excited to announce the first in a series of special author features, Donna Alward. What makes Donna special? She–along with everyone else on the special features list–was already interviewed on my blog over two years ago. Since then, she’s published several more books with multiple publishers.

Now she’s come back to discuss how her career has changed and what she’s learned since her original interview in 2011:

1. We last spoke in February 2011. Can you talk a bit about what your writing career looked like at the time?

Wow, I really need to think back. That was the year that I started a novella series with Samhain and also saw HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART release, and that book went on to be nominated for a RITA. That was a super-exciting milestone in my career. I felt there was something special about that book when I wrote it. In 2011 I was still very firmly entrenched in writing for Harlequin’s Romance line and having a little fun on the side with my Samhain books, which were shorter, a bit sexier and about First Responders and not cowboys.

2. What is one interesting thing you’ve learned about writing since the last time we spoke?

Just one? Since 2011, there’s been a HUGE boom in self-publishing, which has led to authors having so many options. In some ways that’s a good thing, but trying to keep up with an ever-changing market is a challenge. I think I’ve learned that no matter HOW you’re publishing, the key is to keep true to the vision you have for your stories. Then you can work with that to sort out the best form of delivery to the reader.

3. You have two book releases coming up this year. How do you balance time to promote multiple releases with time spent on writing the next book?

Actually, I have LOTS of releases this year. February sees THE COWBOY’S VALENTINE from Harlequin American, followed by THE COWBOY’S HOMECOMING in May. My next Jewell Cove book releases from St. Martin’s Press on May 5, and in late June I have a fun novella called NOTHING LIKE A COWBOY out with Samhain. It’s part of a trilogy with Sarah M. Anderson and Jenna Bayley-Burke and it was a blast to write. TWINS UNDER THE RANCHER’S TREE hits shelves in November, and you never know if another project might end up on the schedule before the end of the year. ☺  Balancing time is really challenging sometimes, but I find that I focus my promotion on connecting with readers more than buying a lot of ad space or doing a huge blog tour. I really try to touch base with my readership via my newsletter, and I’m part of a group blog called The Chocolate Box (www.chocolateboxwriters.com) which is a lot of fun. I do other stuff as it pops up, and I tend to take a day at the first of each month to do up promotion and administration tasks so I can focus on writing better.

4. What’s your favourite social media network and why?

I love Twitter for fun stuff, but I use Facebook a lot. I have an author page where I share stuff and a personal profile where I connect with closer friends and family. I also love Pinterest, but I can get sucked into looking at stuff and lose HOURS. LOL!

5. Out of all the marketing tactics you’ve tried, which tactics were most successful?

I was just telling someone the other day that I ran a BIG marketing push last summer, and spent more money than I ever have before, and ended up with no noticeable uptick in sales (which could be due to other factors, but even so). By far the best reader response I’ve had, and the most fun, too, was this past December. I wrote a bonus scene as an epilogue of sorts for CHRISTMAS AT SEASHELL COTTAGE, based on feedback I’d had from readers. I sent out an advance notice to my subscribers that access to the scene would happen on a certain day, and then on that day they were sent a password to access the bonus scene. I got more hits and comments from that than anything else on my site, and it was a lot of fun too. The readers seemed to love it.

6. Where would you like to see yourself in another 4 years?

Not going bankrupt from tuition fees. LOL Still writing. Four years seems a long way away and I wonder what the industry will look by then? But I think I’ll still be writing the same type of warm, feel-good, down-home romances.

7. If this was your last interview ever, what would you really want to say?

Oh my. I think I’d want to say…spend your life doing something you love, and when you’re not doing that, make sure you’re spending your time with the people you love. Life’s too short to not be happy.

Bio:

DonnaAlwardAn avid reader since childhood, Donna always made up her own stories. She completed her Arts Degree in English Literature in 1994, but it wasn’t until 2001 that she penned her first full-length novel, and found herself hooked on writing romance. In 2006 she sold her first manuscript. Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly twelve years in Alberta where her Harlequin career began, writing about cowboys and the west. She’s a two­ time winner of both the Bookseller’s Best Award and the Colorado Award of Excellence, anda 2012 RITA finalist. Donna loves to hear from readers; you can contact her through her website at www.donnaalward.com,visit her facebook page, or through her publisher.