Category Archives: Author Interview

Meet The Author… F.F. John

Funmi is a writer I met through the One Stop Fiction Authors Facebook group, and I’ve seen  her blossom from the start with her first novel in the Nome Chronicles, the Pursual. Today, she’s launching her fifth novel in her second series, LegionMarked, the sequel to LegionBorn. Let’s meet this fantastic author.

F.F. John

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Biography

As a child, F.F. John was inquisitive and loved to find answers in books. When her home ran out of space for mer books, her mother told her to write the stories she wanted to read. So, she did. 

Today, she conjures worlds of characters that have a lot to say about everything. And she lets them as they tend to give answers to the riddles she’s yet to solve.

F.F. John lives at the top of a hill with my husband and children on a small island in the Eastern Caribbean.  I am the author of The Nome Chronicles, a young adult dystopian romance, and the urban fantasy series, LegionBorn. I’m currently working on Excelsia, a young adult space opera series as I expand the LegionBorn universe. Join my mailing list for updates on upcoming books at https://subscribepage.com/greatworlds.

How long have you been writing?

My late mother encouraged me to write for the simple reason that she’d run out of room for books in our home. She would tell me to create the books I wanted to read and I did. It started off with super short stories but soon cascaded into much more elaborate tales. None very good, if I must confess, but she loved them all the same.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? 

Unfortunately, no. However, I distinctly remember the first piece of fiction writing that made me realize writing could be fun! It was an assignment in the 10th grade. Mr. Arnold told us to write five more chapters for A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry. BEST. ASSIGNMENT. EVER! At the time, I was maybe 14 or 15 and I loved creating tension between my characters. I still have that assignment and read it a few years ago. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it was written with a zeal that I vividly remember. And, I got an A+ so not bad.

What made you want to become a writer?

FF_John_The_PursualMy kids. When they were small, I read everything I could get my hands on to them. In fact, they got to hear me read The Economist to them in utero. Between that and the amount of time they spent surrounded by books, it was no surprise that they constantly demanded stories for entertainment. It came easy to me–teaching them to spell with a story or teaching them to not touch the hot stove via storytelling. I then started a blog about my life with them that became very popular. That and a political analysis website of mine had people encouraging me to write. Then, my kids told me I should turn one of the funny stories I’d made into a book, so that others could borrow it from the library. That got me thinking why not? It took a while but I eventually got to writing fiction.

How has your environment & upbringing colored your writing?

There was a period in time where I would read books just so I could figure out which ones to get for some of my favorite nieces and nephews. Between getting them quality reads and finding stories for my own children, I noticed a lack of books with diverse characters. I knew I couldn’t just complain about it, so I set off to remedy the situation. My books contain characters of all races and are a reflection of the world I want to see–one where the color of our skin, the religion we choose, the sexual orientation we were born with or our chromosomes do not define us. I’m currently working on a fantasy series that will have a Vietnamese-American girl from West Virginia as the main character. My hope is to continue to create diverse story worlds with diverse characters that anyone from anywhere can identify with and be entertained by.

Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Gosh, I daresay it’s a little bit of both. Per the gift, there’s nothing like meeting a character in your mind’s eye, discovering his/her story and putting it down. It’s incredible to get that in front of readers and have them enjoy it, no matter if that’s only five people.

Committing to fiction writing has allowed me to tap into a side of myself that needed to breathe.

As for the curse of it, there’s a bit of pressure to live up to my personal expectations. I love writing but its a bit of a time-suck and that bites into family and friend time. I’ve been very fortunate because the people who love me have been beyond gracious. I can only hope to repay them for their kindness and patience. I’ve started by writing a few characters into my books. Sister Patti in the LegionBorn series is based on a super cool family friend who didn’t let anything like the aftermath of a Category 5 hurricane stop her from getting me my manuscript when I couldn’t get it printed on the island I currently live on.

Pen or typewriter or computer?

It depends on the story. Recently, it’s been a combination of computer and paper. I used to log every thought into a Google Docs document but, since Hurricane Maria in September 2017, I’ve been without internet at home, which means I primarily work offline. As such, my trusty notebook allows me to jot down ideas. Oh, and my voice notes are a key component to my story building as well.

Goals of certain # of words a week or when inspiration strikes? 

When I’m in ‘storyland’, I aim for 20,000 to 25,000 words a week. Once I have an outline or ‘scene list’ (a collection of story scenes), I can knock out a first draft very quickly and I wish I did. Sadly, I don’t edit that quickly. I spend months doing that, my story twisting and changing before my eyes.

Do you outline or just write? 

FF_John_LegionBornOh, I have to outline. I go with the flow when I’m making up stories for my kids on the fly. That’s easy to do because they participate and if the tale goes off track, they reign it in so the conclusion is satisfactory for all of us. (Yes, this is something we’ve been doing since the kids were babies. Now they are teenagers and still enjoy making up silly stories when we’re in the car).

As for my books, I like to have a sense of where the story is going. What happens in the beginning, in the middle and at the end. Then I try to imagine other possible scenes that help flesh out the plot. From there, I craft a loose outline that can be very detailed but I don’t marry myself to it. I know it could change at any time.

Do you want each book to stand on its own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’ve watched the way my kids read, they enjoy long series with characters getting through extraordinary circumstances. While I don’t have that patience, I’ve learned that my kids are more reflective of the norm in that people enjoy longer book series that they can sink their teeth into. With my urban fantasy series, LegionBorn, I’ve decided to turn it into a multi-book universe. While LegionBorn focuses on Vaughn Prentiss, I have another related-series that will focus on another character. I’ve found that growing the series through the experiences of multiple characters is a lot of fun and the only issue now is finding the time to create more stories. Fingers crossed it will all work out!

Do you consider yourself to be a successful writer? If yes, why? If not, what do you think would make you successful?

It’s funny you ask this because I just realized I’m a successful writer! While my level of success might not be that of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King’s, I consider myself successful in that I’ve managed to craft stories and characters that readers like/hate enough to send me a private message or a demand to get another book in the series done. There’s no way to explain the feeling I get when I have those sorts of discussions with my readers. I’ve still got room to grow, though, and that’s the goal. 

Do your books have a lesson, a moral?

I’m the child of Nigerian parents and I was fortunate to live in Nigeria during my formative years. Nigerian culture plays a huge impact on my life as an author. It has to do with the great respect and almost mysticism there is around the art of storytelling in Nigerian culture. It’s the way elders share wisdom with the young. As such, I will confess that my stories always have a little moral or two to them. The danger of hubris is one that comes up again and again in the LegionBorn series. My Nome Chronicles series features the power of forgiveness among others.

What writing/publishing wisdom would you bestow upon new writers?

FF_John_LegionMarkedI’m still ‘green’ myself but if I could give some advice it would be the following—you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Once you accept that, it will make the entire process a little easier. Be sure to continuously learn the craft. You will never not need to (yes, the double negative was purposeful). Understand genres as that will make you knowledgeable about reader’s expectations and what your covers should look like. Treat self-publishing as a business. It requires you to understand not just the art of storytelling but also the skill of marketing, networking, researching and much more. You can pay someone else to deal with these things, of course, but if you don’t know the ins and outs of the business, you’ll always feel lost and you’ll lose more money than you should. Ask for help when you need it. There are always authors out there willing to provide answers. Play nice with others and most will do the same. Finally, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. You’re in competition with who you were yesterday. That’s it. Focus on getting better. Be inspired by those who do well and know that you are capable of success. No matter how big or small that might be.

Do you send out a newsletter, and if yes, what’s your experience?

Yes, I do and interested readers can sign up at https://subscribepage.com/greatworlds. I have enjoyed this part of my author journey because it reminds me of my good, old blogging days. I share a little bit about my life with each message–what I’m watching or reading, what snack I’m craving (usually chocolate mousse cake), my favorite kitty cat gifs (they are a tad addicting) or how the writing process is going. My readers tend to write back and share their favorite gifs, recipes (yes, I got a great steak recipe from a subscriber that we now use for lamb. It’s delicious), advice on how to solve certain problems and much more. I prefer engaging this way though I’ve been encouraged to also communicate visually on my Facebook pages. We’ll see.

Where can we find you online?

Email: funmi@ffjohn.com

Website: https://ffjohn.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/F_F_John

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FFJohnwrites

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ffjohnauthor/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/F_F_John/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/F.-F.-John/e/B06Y4Z5DPR

Bookbub page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/f-f-john

Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16612509.F_F_John

iTunes book page(s): https://itunes.apple.com/us/author/f-f-john/id1225855673?mt=11

Thank you, Funmi, for sharing a bit of history about yourself and about your writing. It is always intriguing to find out about how others became writers and how they experience it.

Book 2. LegionMarked is launching today, 19 June 2018! To celebrate, Book 1. LegionBorn is on sale for $0.99 but only for one week. Grab it while it’s hot!

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Meet The Author… Alexis Marrero Deese

I met Lexi on Facebook. I was looking for fantasy authors and her book, Ignited, jumped out. It’s a beautiful cover, and a very intriguing story. I had to get to know Alexis Deese a bit better.

Alexis Marrero Deese

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Tell us a bit about yourself

I am an avid reader of all things Young Adult and Fantasy. Favorite authors include Brandon Sanderson, Jacqueline Carey and Leigh Bardugo. Although a Tampa native, I currently live near Atlanta Georgia with my husband and three dogs. I enjoy gardening, reading poolside and binging on Netflix.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?

I do! It was written on a yellow legal pad stolen from my father’s office and was about a little girl who runs away from home only to get swept away into a land full of dinosaurs. She has to fend for her life before she can go back home. I’ve always had a vivid imagination. My mother still has the story and it’s nothing more than a few sketches with some scribble underneath but I remember it very well.

What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Definitely Kushiel’s Dart (honestly that entire series) by Jacqueline Carey. Read it, people! I love stories with rich world-building and this series gets you hooked from page one. There is romance, danger and political intrigue. Basically all the things I love. If she had a dragon in there I’d be done.

Who is the most famous author you have ever met?

I met R. L. Stine a few years ago at a book convention in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was a beautiful day and I definitely geeked out. I stood in line for an autograph 🙂

R.S. Belcher friend requested me and I fangirled just a little bit. Oh, maybe I should change my other answer. Read Shotgun Arcana (the start of his Golgotha series) by Belcher, it’s SO GOOD!

What are your books about? Could you tell us a bit about them and why they are a must-read?

I write Young Adult Fantasy with just a hint of romance. My debut novel, Ignited, is a multiple POV, fast-paced adventure full of elemental magic, political intrigue and dragons. It is the first of a planned quartet titled: Dance of the Elements.

Do you want each book to stand on its own or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

I’m definitely trying to build a solid body of work. Submerged, the sequel in the series takes place right where we left off at the end of Ignited. With the exception of a couple stand-alone projects I’m working on, all my current and foreseeable projects will be connected.

Of all the characters you have created, which is your favorite and why?

Kay is certainly my favorite. She is a precocious seven year old with too much attitude and too much power. She dreams of riding dragons and she’s kind of a badass. I’m actually releasing a novella featuring Kay later this summer. The novella will show everything that occurs in the two week period between the first two novels of my series. The second book is set to release in February.

What did you edit out of this book?

I actually deleted an entire chapter from Ignited at the suggestion of my editor. She said the chapter was redundant and the flashback was unnecessary. She was right and my novel was stronger for it. Always invest in a good editor! Submerged is currently in the hands of my Critique Partner so its editing fate remains unknown for now.

Can you give us a small teaser of your work?

I’m currently working on both Kay’s novella (title unknown at the moment) and Windswept, the third installment in my series. I’m happy to share an excerpt. Here are the opening lines from Kay’s story:

             For the first time since she’d been taken Kay opened her eyes and knew exactly where she was. The early morning light forced her to squint; someone had positioned the beds in just the right spot so that dawn brought its blinding radiance no matter which bed she chose to sleep in. She frowned down at the row of empty beds and reached blindly for the small glass of water on her bedside table.

            Every morning there was a new glass of the stale, warm water. Kay wondered who had the job of sneaking in her room at night and placing it there. Ash perhaps? She drank the morning’s rations and thought of the crisp water from the well back on her family’s property, somehow the water had always been cold, even in the middle of the summer. Here in the Sand Sea, the summer never ended.

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Vanity Publishers!!! In the publishing business, money always flows down to the author. It’s sad how there are so many scams out there ready to trick newbie authors into giving them all their money 🙁

How do author friends help you become a better writer?

I love this question so much because I would be nowhere without my CP (critique partner). She is literally life saving. Having good friends who are also authors helps you in so many ways. Aside from the wonderful constructive criticism, my friends also provide me with motivation to write and answers to the publishing ins and outs. If you don’t have any author friends and you’re an inspiring author, go get some now! Join a Facebook group or a local writers club because writer friends are priceless!

Thank you so much for your answers, Lexi! It’s great to hear you talk so enthusiastically about writing. It’s clear from this and your earliest work you are a writer at heart 🙂

I couldn’t resist. I had to post the blurb for Ignited. Here it is:

AM_Deese_IgnitedA NOBLE DAUGHTER.

A FORMER SLAVE.

SCORCHED EARTH AND DANGEROUS GAMES.

“Jura imagined it sounded like rain.”

Juggling death is nothing new for seventeen-year-old Jura, daughter of the First of the Thirteen, successive rulers of the Republic of the Sand Sea. However, when a blood chain ensnares her father, she is thrust into the seat of power and forced to rule her elders.

“To Tylak, water had never tasted sweeter.”

Jura must track down her father’s assassin and balance a country on the verge of collapse. To find the Prince of Shadows and uncover the truth, Jura puts her trust in Tylak, a former slave accused of stealing from the Everflame—a man she once condemned to death.

In a world where water is currency and enemies lurk around every corner, Jura will use her wits or risk igniting a world war.

You can follow Alexis Marrero Deese via the following social media:

Website: www.amdeese.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/authorAMDeese

Twitter: https://twitter.com/authoramdeese

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authoramdeese/

Alexis Marrero Deese’s book Ignited, as well as the anthology Once Upon a Wednesday which includes her short story called Magic Show, is available on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and Nook.

Meet The Author… James Dorr

Horror lovers are in luck as I have another horror writer for you to meet this week. Meet James Dorr, past Bram Stoker award nominee and writer of a novel, several collections, and too many short horror stories published in too many anthologies to mention. Apart from writing dark fantasy and horror, he also writes science fiction and mystery. James takes on an active role in the writing community as a member of HWA (Horror Writers Association) and SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). Let’s get to know James a bit better.

James Dorr

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Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born in Florida, raised in the New York City area, in college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and am currently living in the Midwest. I’m a short story writer and poet specializing in dark fantasy and horror, with forays into mystery and science fiction. My The Tears of Isis was a 2013 Bram Stoker Award® finalist for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection, while other books include Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance, Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret, and my all-poetry Vamps (A Retrospective). As an Active Member of SFWA and HWA, I have more than 500 individual publications. I have also been a technical writer, an editor on a regional magazine, a full-time, non-fiction freelancer, and a semi-professional musician. I currently harbor a Goth cat named Triana. My latest book is a novel-in-stories published in June 2017 by Elder Signs Press, Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-day Times of Earth

How did you become a writer? 

I actually began writing fiction and poetry rather late. In college, for instance, I’d been art editor on several magazines, though occasionally doing some fill-in writing. In graduate school the situation somewhat reversed itself with me doing occasional fill-in illustration until I got a job with a university computing center as a technical writer. It wasn’t until I left that job, though, that I (with an M.A. in Literature), began to seriously try my hand at creative writing. Along with that, I’ve also had an interest in music and currently lead, and play tenor recorder in, a group specializing in Renaissance dance music.   

Who are your favorite authors and how much is your work influenced by them?

James_Dorr_TheTearsOfIsisTwo authors that I often cite are Ray Bradbury (who I approached as a science fiction reader, but stayed for the “dark bits”) and Edgar Allan Poe. Both, for their juxtapositions of both horror and beauty, have influenced me immensely. In fact, my Stoker® nominated collection The Tears of Isis is dedicated to Poe, “who led the way,” and is based in part on a passage in his essay on “The Philosophy of Composition” stating that the “most poetical topic in the world” is the death of a beautiful woman. Well, not everyone dies in the stories in that book, necessarily, but art does walk hand in hand with destruction, led by a poem about Medusa as a sculptress. And then, more death-centric, my novel-in-stories Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth also borrows another theme from Poe, that “[t]he boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague” (cf. “The Premature Burial”), as well as borrowing its very form as a “novel-in-stories” from Bradbury’s masterpiece, in my opinion, The Martian Chronicles. Then for two quick additions, Bertolt Brecht’s theories of “epic theatre,” particularly in terms of artistic distancing, have been an influence on some of my fiction while Allen Ginsberg, especially in his longer works with their cadenced rhythms, have been an inspiration for poetry.

Pen or typewriter or computer?

I almost always compose prose directly on the computer, though I may work out individual scenes or portions with problems with pen on paper. Poetry, on the other hand, is almost always drafted in pen, then rewritten to the computer.

Why do you write horror?

I like to get in characters’ heads, to write about, and figure out, characters under stress (not to mention invent situations to put them there), and for stressful scenarios horror seems the place to go. I’m also interested, though, in myths and legends and people’s beliefs in the inexplicable, where horror, again, provides a place to work these sorts of ideas out. 

Do consider yourself to be a successful writer? If yes, why? If not, what do you think would make you successful?

James_Dorr_VanitasjpgYes, in that I’m doing something I enjoy, I’m being published and at least some people are reading it, and I’ve received some honors for doing so.

No, in that I don’t have as many readers as I’d like, publishers are not exactly beating down my door, and at best I’m just earning supplemental income, and not much at that. I’m admittedly not that good a self-publicist, but interviews like this help (and thank you, Jacky!). Also more reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, blogs, etc., would be very helpful so, if you should read this and consider buying one of my books and like it, please consider reviewing it too — just a few lines are fine, and any writer is helped by reviews, even if not all are four or five stars.  

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? If yes, why?

As a graduate student, I did a series of humorous science essays for an alternative newspaper under the name “James Bearson.” I was in a Ph.D. program in English at the time (I later got out and accepted an M.A., but that’s a different story) and did so in part to avoid questions like “what does an English major know about science?” as well as from some of my professors like “why are you wasting your time on that stuff instead of studying more for my class?”    

Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book and why it is a must-read?

My most recent book is a mosaic novel, or “novel-in-stories,” Tombs: A Chronicle of Latter-Day Times of Earth. In it a Ghoul-Poet, an eater of death, contemplates a city in which all have finally died, seeking to find out what it was that made humans human. It is divided into five sections and with an “Entr’acte,” the sections in turn divided in self-contained story-chapters, about half of which also have also been published elsewhere. To quote from the publisher’s blurb: “It had been a time when the world needed legends, those years so long past now. Because there was something else legends could offer, or so the Poet believed. He didn’t know quite what – ghouls were not skilled at imagination. Their world was a concrete one, one of stone and flesh. Struggle and survival. Survival predicated on others’ deaths.

James_Dorr_Tombs“Far in the future, when our sun grows ever larger, scorching the earth. When seas become poisonous and men are needed to guard the crypts from the scavengers of the dead. A ghoul-poet will share stories of love and loss, death and resurrection.”

As such, Tombs is listed by Amazon as both “Horror” and “Dystopic Science Fiction,” to which I might add “Science Fantasy” and “Dark Romance” (but beware: in that last category some stories are tilted toward adult consumption). It is not a “happy” book, I would say, but not an entirely despairing one either. To quote again, this time from Amazon and a review by Heidi Angell: “Yes, despite the uncomfortable and dark future predicted in this future world, key elements, like love, money, and humanity’s ability to carve out some sort of life in even the direst circumstances carries on with a heart-broken tinge of hope and legends.

“I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes to think deep thoughts about what they read. For anyone who has an interest in politics, social issues, climate issues, anthropological studies, biomedical, and for the curious who like to imagine how the world could turn out. For me, this was more realistic an outcome than the Divergent series, Hunger Games, or Maze Runner, though definitely not for the same audience. This is a grown up’s view for grown-ups of what a dystopian world could potentially provide.”

What is your writing style?

I don’t think I have a single style, but rather try to provide what a story needs. Tombs, for instance, is written in a more literary, almost Baroque style because I thought the overall story wanted a serious, “classic” feel. Tales in The Tears of Isis, however, may vary from stream-of-consciousness, fairy tale, noir, dreamlike, more action-filled, even to light humor (though with a dark side too). 

Does your book have a lesson, a moral of the story?

For Tombs I like to think “love conquers all,” but, boy, does it have trouble doing so! 

What motivated you to become a published author? How did you break into publishing?

James_Dorr_StrangeMisstresses.jpgI first met Joe Morey, then editor/publisher of Dark Regions Press, at a poetry reading at a convention when he asked me if he could reprint a long poem I’d just read. From there we talked about a possible collection, from which Strange Mistresses: Tales of Wonder and Romance came about, mainly short fiction but with a poetry section as well. Several years later I approached him about a second volume resulting in Darker Loves: Tales of Mystery and Regret. I would add though that I’d built up a number of single sales in each case, allowing me to choose about 25 stories for each book from which Joe would pick just over half, so I wasn’t exactly unknown. Then a few years after that, with PMMP’s Max Booth III, I’d also already sold him a couple of tales for publications he had worked on, so when he was ready to start his own press he contacted me, in this case offering me pretty much a free hand in editing and story choice (the only constriction that the book had to total more than 60,000 words), from which The Tears of Isis was born.   

Thank you, James, for letting us get to know you better. I’m sure many of us authors are in the same boat regarding getting reviews and sales and feel your frustration. I’m glad you took up this offer for more exposure. I hope many authors will follow your example and head over to the ‘For Authors’ section on my website!

Most of James Dorr’s anthologies as well as The Tears of Isis and Tombs, are available on Amazon.are available on Amazon.

You can follow James via the following social media:

Email: edgarc@rocketmail.com

Website (blog): http://jamesdorrwriter.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/james.dorr.9

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/James-Dorr/e/B004XWCVUS

Just to let you know I wasn’t kidding about the numerous works James has been published in, here’s the list available on Amazon!

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Meet The Author… Jay Raven

Birmingham-based Jay Raven has written multiple horror/fantasy short stories which were published in many anthologies. He is an author with multiple books under his name, not all of them in the horror genre. Jay has been in the writing world for a while, as a journalist at first but now as a full-time novel writer. Let’s get to know Jay a bit better.

Jay Raven

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Tell us a little about yourself…

I have passion for all things horror, especially vampires. As a teenager I’d skip school to sneak into the cinema to watch Peter Cushing staking Christopher Lee.

I’ve been a full-time fiction writer for 25 years, widely published on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was only a few years ago that I began to focus on my dark fantasy output. Most of my stories are set in the past – I jokily label it “harpsichord horror”.

In my free time I do a lot of baking, although I’m not sure the description free time is strictly accurate as that’s when I dream up my best plots.

What is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you?

Just before Christmas I was signed up by Junction Publishing to write two Gothic horror/dark fantasy novels. It’s since become a three-book deal.

What is your favorite childhood book, and why?

Alice in Wonderland. Even as a child I loved its creepy, menacing atmosphere, laced with barely controlled mayhem.

How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

I grew up in Glasgow which had more than its fair share of Victorian grave robbers in its past. The cemetery near us had a small building where relatives would stand guard through the night to protect their newly buried loved ones. Learning about that made a huge impact on me.

Jay_Raven_StorybookWhat was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

While still at school I used to write local history pieces for my local newspaper. One was a three-part reconstruction of a notorious murder of a foreman by gangers building the railway between Glasgow and Edinburgh. My articles documented the manhunt to bring the killers to justice and the resulting public executions.

Just after part two appeared I was taking a shortcut home from my girlfriend’s house and I bumped into the school bully in the dark. I thought he was going to beat me up, but instead he was all excited and in awe, demanding to know what happened to the killers in the final installment.

Who is your favorite author? How much is your work influenced by his or her works?

Michael Crichton, author of best-sellers Jurassic Park and WestWorld amongst others. His writing is so tight, pacy and cleverly structured that it leaves you breathless. There isn’t a wasted word, character or scene. He is a master storyteller. I try to make my writing just as fast-paced and lean.

Music or silence?

I write with earphones on, music pumping. It blocks all external distractions and helps inspire me. You could say that my stories are created with their own soundtracks.   

Do you outline or just write?

Before I begin a book I spend two weeks creating a highly detailed blueprint – every chapter, scene, major hook, key pieces of dialogue all go into it and I end up with a 30-page mini version of the novel, which I just need to flesh out.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I’d bake artisan cakes in the shape of coffins and sell them at Dracula events in Whitby.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym, and if yes, why?

Jay_Raven_MiddleofNowhereI already do. Jay Raven is the name I use for my dark fantasy work. I write humour under my real name. I try to keep both sides completely separate. As Ghostbusters advises: “Top safety tip. Don’t cross the streams!”

What is your writing style?

I concentrate on making the work as visual as possible. I want readers to forget they’re reading and imagine themselves watching a movie. I inhabit the boundary between horror and fantasy. My work relies more on suspense than gore.

Do you try to be original in your storytelling or to deliver to readers what they want?

I try to do both – I obey the rules of the genre but mix in loads of new elements to keep things fresh. In Blood Riders, for instance, my vampires have demon horses and can communicate with each telepathically.

Do you have any difficulty writing characters of the opposite sex?

No, I started out writing short stories for women’s magazines. That’s something many people would be surprised about.

Out of the protagonists you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?

Anton Yoska, the marshal caught up in the jailhouse siege, is an idealised version of me. But where he is brooding, I am just moody. He is noble and high minded, I come across simply as pompous.

What do your plans for future projects include?

Jay_Raven_ToSnareAWitchWitch Hunt – a series of whodunits set in an alternative history (1930s) where a Russian empire warlock is a homicide detective investigating murders that involve supernatural elements.

What writing wisdom would you bestow upon new writers?

Write the kind of books you would want to read, don’t slavishly try to recreate what is currently hot!

How do author friends help you become a better writer?

I kick about ideas with my fellow writers. They see things from a different angle, and are brutally honest  – which is exactly what you need.

What has been the best compliment?

A magazine editor who paid handsomely for my first short story said – “Love this – do you have any more?”

What do your fans mean to you?

Everything. Their support makes it all worthwhile.

Can you give us a bit more about your latest book, Crimson Siege (Blood Riders – Book 1) as it is launched today, the 22nd of May 2018?

 

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When ruthless bounty hunters target one of 19th century Europe’s most feared vampire clans, the last place any lawman wants to be is caught in the middle…


But for Anton Yoska, Lord Marshal of the Imperial lands south of the Carpathian Mountains, fate has trapped him in a supernatural stand-off that can end only in terror, pain and destruction.
A gang of mercenaries led by Anton’s former army comrade Milosh Drubrick have captured vampire aristocrat Stefan Modjeski, wanted for a string of bloody ritualistic murders, and have come to Anton to claim the reward and seek shelter and protection. And as Stefan’s predatory undead kin lay siege to the jailhouse, Anton is faced with an agonising choice – hand over his prisoner and abandon the treacherous hunters to their unspeakable fate, or stand and fight.


What’s more, the vampires have made him an enticing offer if he co-operates – they’ll save his dying wife by turning her into one of their kind. He can join her, and the devoted couple will live forever.
The jailhouse defenders are outnumbered and out of options. It’s a battle that can’t be won, certain slaughter for them all, and Anton can’t trust his scheming allies. But Lord Marshal Yoska isn’t about to surrender.


For he’s an experienced vampire hunter, a dangerous man when cornered, and a single minded warrior who knows there are worse things to fear than death…

Why it is a must-read?

It’s pacy, visceral and packed with twists and turns.

Here’s the trailer for Crimson Siege:

Thank you so much, Jay, for letting us get to know you a little bit better. Besides reading your books, I’d love to try one of your cakes one day!

Jay Raven‘s books and anthologies containing his stories can all be found on Amazon. Why not get your copy of Crimson Siege now!

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You can follow Jay Raven via the following social media:

Email: jay@jayraven.com

Website: www.jayraven.com

Twitter: @JayRavenAuthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fantasywriterjayraven/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYpfhXi_m6ePYfeHG_MPO7A

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3153810.Jay_Raven

Meet The Author… Mark Tilbury

On the 20th of April, Caroline Maston organized an online interview with Mark Tilbury who just released a new book of his, The Key to Death’s Door. I was lucky to have time to attend. I didn’t know Mark’s book had a paranormal twist and now I can’t wait to have the time to read his books!

Mark Tilbury

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Can you remember the first book you ever read (or was read to you)?

I can’t actually remember, but it would have had to have been Enid Blyton or a Noddy story.

What did you read yourself as a child?

The Famous Five, and then Agatha Christie as I got older.

The Key to Deaths DoorWhat’s the best book you’ve ever read?

From the Corner of Eye by Dean Koontz. There’s a really evil antagonist who made me laugh out loud. You could say it inspires my bad guys!

What did you do before you became an author?

Computer repair! Glad to get out of it!

When did you decide to become a writer?

I’ve tried on and off my whole life and had a little interest, but it wasn’t until Kindle/Amazon made it possible to self-publish that I really decided to go for it.

Are you a full-time writer?

Yes, I’m very lucky that it is.

Do you have a writing routine?

I generally tend to write in the afternoons as I don’t seem able to write at any other time of day.

The Abbatoir of DreamsWhat are your main writing ambitions?

To write a story of the caliber of The Green Mile by Stephen King.

Tell us something about your work.

I’d describe my books as dark thrillers with a supernatural twist. Usually, there’s a protagonist against the most evil antagonist I can think up and ordinary people in extraordinary situations.

What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

The editing! The writing itself I get lost in, but the editing has to polish out all the mistakes.

Where do you get your ideas from and do you ever find yourself worrying about what goes on inside your head?

Yep. My head is a very worrying place to live at times! The starting point of my stories is normally with an antagonist speaking to me. King from The Liar’s Promise said ‘what doesn’t kill you will make you wish it had’ and that was interesting enough for my head to develop it. As for the stories, it’s normally a case of ‘what if’, e.g. in The Liar’s Promise what if a child remembered being murdered in a past life and the murderer being alive in this one.

How do you come up with the paranormal aspects of your book?

My imagination generally gets the better of me! I think of a ‘straight’ story and then it gets taken over by my strange imagination! I do have a very open mind on the supernatural due to things I’ve experienced, so maybe they’ve influenced me too.

Would you write in other genres?

Yes. I do intend to write some straight psychological thrillers soon, without the supernatural element.

The Eyes of the AccusedHow much research goes into one of your books?

I research as I go, but I always make sure I get my facts straight.

Have you ever killed off someone you don’t like in real life in one of your books?

No. Thankfully I’ve not known anyone in real life I’d like to kill, but there are a large number of politicians I wouldn’t mind getting rid of fictionally.

Do you watch horror and thriller movies and TV shows or is it only written work for you?

I’ve got all of the Stephen King adaptations on DVD, and I also enjoy things like Trial and Retribution, Cracker and Prime Suspect (I have the box sets!).

If you could write with any other author living or dead, who would you choose?

Mark Edwards. I’ve just finished reading The Magpies and was blown away by it. It’s an amazing read, and kind of where I’d like my books to go in the future.

The Revelation RoomHow important is social media to you as an author?

Very! It enables me to talk to people who both have read, and who may read my books. I love the interaction with everyone online and all the various ways I can keep in touch with everyone.

Do your daughters read your books?

Yes, they both read them. The Liar’s Promise scared the bejeezus out of Danielle, my youngest one (21yrs old). I sometimes what they think of me when they read them!

With what book should new readers start if they’re interested in your work?

The Abattoir of Dreams. It does contain scenes of abuse so not for everyone, but is ultimately about good overcoming evil, friendship, and trust.

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

By watching things that make me laugh.

It was very nice to chat with Mark and find out he is a very nice, normal person (who just thinks up twisted stories 😀 )!

Mark Tilbury’s books (including the audiobook The Liar’s Promise) are all available on Amazon, with his latest one being The Key to Death’s Door.

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Meet the Author… Christine Anne Asbrey

I’d like to introduce you to Christine Anne Asbrey, author of The Innocents, a historical mystery novel that will be available tomorrow. She did an amazing amount of homework before writing her book, and it’s a tantalizing tale of mystery, history, and romance.

Christine Anne Asbrey

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Did you always want to be a writer?

I was always a voracious reader, my mother teaching me with flashcards at the age of two, and graduating to the adult section of the library about the age of ten. I easily finished three books a week for years and was lost without one. Mysteries were a real love, and I consumed the works of writers old and new constantly. The one thing I always wanted to do was to write but never had the confidence or time to do more than dream about it.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

That would be in my work as a young police officer. I learned that talking people down from spiraling emotions is a powerful tool in keeping people safe, and more potent than violence. I also learned that listening to detail is vital too. Noting the small things helped to push cases along in gathering evidence. I also learned the complex and intricate ways people use language to put you down and grab power in a situation. Understanding that really helps you stay in control of a situation.

Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

That would be either the Pope of the Queen – on a protection duty. When the Pope visited Scotland I was the police officer at the bottom of the aircraft steps. We then moved with him into the city. As a fun aside, the glass-covered vehicle he used was nicknamed the Pope Mobile by the press. The crowds were all still there when we returned to the airport in the Pope mobile without him. We stood in full uniform waving flowers out the top to cheering crowds as we drove the full length of Prince’s Street in Edinburgh (the big main street in Scotland’s capital city). The crowd cheered us and waved flags as we passed. Only a Scottish crowd could hail a car full of police officers like that. Great fun.

What inspires you?

Often fact is stranger than fiction, so I’ll start with real crime or criminals. I‘ll then change it to ensure that even people familiar with that particular crime can’t guess whodunit. The stories are inspired by real crimes and people but they are not a memoir. They are stories where everything is historically possible. It either happened or could have happened.  

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been playing with the characters for about ten years, but work and life got in the way. I started writing seriously about two years ago and spent about a year being turned down by everyone. I acted on every bit of feedback and continually got my work reviewed and improved until it was polished enough to be accepted.

Do you write under a pseudonym?

I kinda do. I write under my married name and feature on social media under my maiden name for social interactions. I also write under initials. I don’t hide my gender, but it’s not immediately obvious when you look at the book cover.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

That would have to be ‘The Moonstone’ by Wilkie Collins. Not only is it considered the first proper detective novel in the English language, it also shows working class females as rounded characters instead of foils for male attention. It also is the first to introduce many of the elements we take for granted in mysteries such as red herrings, false suspects, the skilled investigator, and a final twist. Collins was actually vastly more popular than Dickens in his day, but is now largely forgotten in comparison.

How did you come to write The Innocents?

My grasp on the methodologies used by law enforcement, when applied the law in day to day enquiries in the days before technology was available, as well as historic weaknesses and blind spots in the both the legal and court systems, make for an authentic backdrop to the characters.     

I first became interested in the female pioneers in law enforcement when I joined the police in Scotland. History has always held a draw and the colorful stories of the older officers piqued my interest, making me look even further back.

The very first women in law enforcement had been in France, working for the Sûreté in the early 19th century. They were, however, no more than a network of spies and prostitutes, the most infamous being the notorious ‘Violette’. Now there’s another story which needs to be told!

Kate Warne
Kate Warne, the first Pinkerton woman, is the one holding the pole and dressed in pants.

The first truly professional women in law enforcement worked for the Pinkerton Agency, and they were trained by the first female agent Kate Warne, an ex-actress and an expert in working undercover. Kate Warne was an expert at disguise, adopting roles, and accents. She was said to be daring and able to pass her characters off, even in close quarters. In the only known photograph of her she is dressed as a man. 

These women were fully-fledged agents, with their skills being held in high regard by Alan Pinkerton who once said, “In my service you will serve your country better than on the field. I have several female operatives. If you agree to come aboard you will go in training with the head of my female detectives, Kate Warne. She has never let me down.”

I started to wonder why one of the female agents couldn’t be a Scottish Immigrant. After all, Alan Pinkerton was one. He came from Glasgow. Being a Scot in another land is something I know well. They do say you should write what you know.    

The topic for ‘The Innocents Mystery Series’ simmered in the background for years, and all the time I was researching more and more deeply into the period. I love the rapid pace of innovation and invention in the 19th century. Nothing pleases me more than finding spy gadgets available at the time which were invented far earlier than most people would think possible.

Work and life got in the way of the books being anything more than an idea until I was suddenly grounded by a serious accident. The enforced leisure time of recuperation focused my mind and the old dream of writing resurfaced. It started as a short story which took on a life of its own when it grew and grew—then grew some more.

Eventually, ‘The Innocents Mysteries’ evolved and I found the perfect home for it at Prairie Rose. This is my first foray into fiction. I have produced magazine and newspaper articles based on consumer law and written guides for the Consumer Direct Website. I was Media Trained by The Rank Organization, and acted as a consultant to the BBC’s One Show and Watchdog. I have also been interviewed on BBC radio answering questions on consumer law to the public.

How long did you spend researching before beginning your book The Innocents?

Copious amounts. The Innocents has taken years of research into the work of the early Pinkertons, especially the female agents and the kind of work they did, including their methodologies. My work has taken me all over the world, but working in the USA and visiting the places where these women worked deepened my passion for finding out more about how they lived. I also researched the tools and equipment available to them at the time. Connections to police and Home Office experts allowed me to research the birth of forensics with people who knew their subject intimately. 

I research everything, even the stationary which was in use and the correct codes for the telegraph stations mentioned in the books. The theatrical make up used as disguises in the book began to flourish right around the period the books are set in as lighting improved and people could see the flaws in the rudimentary stuff previously only lit by candles. The forensics are fascinating to dig into too. You name it I researched it.

How did you select the names of your characters?

As I write 19th century characters I try to keep them in period and maintain a sense of place. I’ll research popular or unusual names as well as using names of people I know if they’re appropriate. I’ve also been known to add really unusual names to my note as I come across them. Some are too good not to use.

What was your hardest scene to write?

The interrogation scene. I had to inject a sense of menace into it to make it work. I know it’s not usual to make your hero do bad things, but he’s a professional criminal and he has to find out who this mysterious woman is and how much danger the heroine poses to him.

Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

‘The Innocents’ is most definitely part of a larger body of work. It’s the first of a trilogy, but if people like them there’s plenty of scope to keep them going. I would still continue with each book being a self-contained mystery with the larger universe of the characters providing an over-arching connection between the books. The third book is written and at editing stage, but there are plenty of trials I can still put the characters through yet.

The Innocents, by C. A. Asbrey

Thanks, Christine, for sharing your writing journey of The Innocents with us.

If you like to follow Christine’s writing journey, you can find her on the following media:

Website: C.A Asbrey – all things obscure and strange in the Victorian period http://caasbrey.com/

Facebook: The Innocents Mystery Series Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/937572179738970/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mysteryscrivener/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CAASBREY

Christine Anne Asbrey’s book The Innocents goes live on Amazon tomorrow but you can pre-order today!

Meeting Nancy Jardine, Author of Celtic Historical Novels

My family and I were in town for a cup of coffee when we saw a pamphlet informing us of a craft fair in the town hall of Inverurie. Of course, we had to visit, and who did I immediately see when I walked in? Nancy Jardine!

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Nancy had a big table at the fair, full of all her books; her romantic mysteries Topaz Eyes (a mystery in a mystery), Take Me Now, Monogamy Twist, her Young Adult novel The Taexali Game; an anthology Crooked Cat Tales; and of course her Celtic novels The Beltane Choice, After Whorl-Bran Reborn, and After Whorl-Donning Double Cloaks.

We chatted about all things writer-related, from how long it takes to write a novel, to being on fairs and selling books. I learned something new from Nancy too, to about making files especially for Amazon. It was great to talk to another author about the trials and tribulations we have to go through from putting pen to paper all the way to get people to read our books.

I bought the Taexali Game for my daughter and you can expect a review of it soon (but she has to finish reading the Harry Potter books first)!

Meet The Author… Ingrid Foster

Ingrid Foster is the author of two short horror stories, a fantasy suspense novel, My Father’s Magic, the first in the Esme Bohlin suspense series, and working on the sequel called Revenge of the Dark Queen. She is a real world traveler and a great storyteller.

Ingrid Foster

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You have traveled a lot, including to places like Australia and The Netherlands (places I traveled as well) as well as thirty US states. What attracts you about traveling?

I grew up a reader, loving books about foreign places and strange names. When I enlisted in the Air Force and was given an opportunity to be stationed in Germany, I jumped at the chance. Exploring Germany and much of Western Europe allowed me to experience places I’d only read about. That’s what traveling gives you, opportunities to explore and sense new things.

Which country do I like best?

I don’t know yet, maybe I’ll know after I’ve gotten a chance to explore them all 🙂

You have written two short stories (A Home for Rose and Fresh Meat) and a novel; My Father’s Magic. In Fresh Meat, you feature a grandmother. Did you have a special bond with your grandmother?

I did. My grandmother is no longer with us. In truth, she was my best friend, especially when I was a child. My mother suffered from Post Partum Depression, so my grandmother retired early from her job so she could care for me. When I was a small child I used to spend hours playing with old makeup and perfume bottles, whatever I could find and create the most elaborate stories. My grandmother was always amazed and supportive; she never had a negative word, even when I beat her at Chinese Checkers.

Where did you get the idea for My Father’s Magic?

I wanted to write a memoir, but quickly tired of it. So I decided instead to write a story about a lonely young woman who finds a key to an old haunted house and discovers a family she didn’t know she had. Of course, being me, I needed to keep it entertaining, so I included magical creatures and scary things that go bump in the night.

I don’t plot my stories, so when I write, I never know what will happen next. My theory is that if I enjoy writing the story, my readers will enjoy reading it.

What is your favorite passage/dialogue in the book?

My favorite passage is when my main character, Esme, whose memory had intentionally been blocked by her sorcerer father when she was six, gets her memory back:

(Excerpt) Reaching out to open the stainless refrigerator, something caught my eye. At the far end of the kitchen, in a vacant hearth, sat a child’s table with two small chairs and a half-played game of checkers, the game appeared to be waiting for the children to return.

My_Fathers_Magic.JPGSomething was familiar about the scene, something that wouldn’t let me pull my eyes away and as I stared, a sense of déjà vu hit me. “Stoney, we never did finish that game of checkers, did we?”

As if in response, there was a loud thud and then Stone was by my side. “No, your father called you home and you never came back.”

There were so many questions I wanted to ask at that moment, but my mouth could only form one, “And you never picked up the game?”

Stone smiled down at me. “My mother thought to a few times, but I told her no, that one day you’d be back and we would finish.”

…over coffee laced with whiskey, we finished the game we started eighteen years before, in the living room in front of the fire. I had never enjoyed a game more in my life. And then as we curled up on the sofa, in each other arms, and the flames danced across the thick logs, I was content for the first time in a very long time; probably since I was six and my only care in the world was beating my best friend, Stoney, at checkers.

(Excerpt, My Father’s Magic)

What part of the story did you find the hardest to write?

When Esme is sexually assaulted by someone close to her. It was hard for me to write because I have a history of being both sexually assaulted and raped. I had to put myself back in those memories, so I could capture the raw emotions. It was actually quite therapeutic, especially when Esme gets justice in the end.

What can readers expect when reading your work?

My stories are all suspenseful and captivating leaving my readers wanting more. Or, at least, that’s what they tell me. At 5 Stars for most of my reviews, I must be doing something right.

Are you working on another book? If yes, what’s it about and could you give us a little preview?

The second book in the Bohlin Series is coming out later this year. It’s titled Revenge of the Dark Queen and it picks up where My Father’s Magic left off.

In the following scene, my main character Esme is on her way up in an elevator to her father’s penthouse. With her is Liebling, the last known Katzenspinder, a very old magical species that has the cashmere-soft body of a cat and eight legs like a spider, the front two ending in paws. Liebling’s fur changes color according to his mood:

(Excerpt) Seconds later, the elevator stopped and I took a deep breath, “Okay, we’re here.” As the doors opened, not waiting for my signal, Liebling dropped his invisibility and jumped down from my shoulder.

“Wait,” I told him telepathically. I started scanning the apartment.

It felt all right. I didn’t sense anything, no people, no spirits…but still, something was definitely off. I pointed my wand at the far wall, opposite the elevator, where my father’s elaborate gold mirror once stood.

“Revelare Cesern,” I said with more power in my voice than I expected considering how nervous I was.

Red words, left splattered and dripping, appeared on the far wall. Liebling, his fur now white, began to shake. “Need Edgar.”

I looked down at him, trying to catch his meaning. “Bruce is in school.”

“No. Go. Need Edgar.”

In my mind’s eye, I knew he thought I was walking into a trap and, based on my experience with my father’s magic, I knew that even though the last occupier of the penthouse, Geoff, was dead, his magic could remain.

“Very well,” I said, pushing the elevator’s “G” button. I lifted Liebling onto my shoulder and he turned invisible before I thought to ask. As the elevator lowered, Liebling shuddered. “Bad magic. Bad magic.”

(Excerpt, Revenge of the Dark Queen)

What is your preferred surrounding when writing?

I have a home office that allows me to close myself off from the world. As for music, I only listen to instrumental while I’m writing, and it varies according to the scene and story. For the Esme Bohlin Suspense Series, I listened mostly to Nox Arcana, Escala and anything Celtic. For the Dark Desert Tales which is all dark fiction, I’ll listen to something darker.

Thank you so much, Ingrid, for sharing your life’s experiences and giving us those wonderful excerpts of your novels. Katzenspinder… I just have to read your books now! 🙂

 

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Ingrid Foster’s books are all available on Amazon.

Meet The Author… Vanessa Ravel

Vanessa Ravel is an author I met on the Dark Fantasy Books website. She is a far cry from the standard girl next door and I expect her book, Four o’Clock Alice, isn’t any different.

Vanessa Ravel

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You are an epidemiologist by trade. Do you still work as a scientist or are you now a full-time writer? Does your work feature in some way in your book?

I still do consulting and medical writing on a freelance basis, which allows me to devote time to my real passion of writing fiction. Funny enough, after all my schooling, epidemiology doesn’t at all figure into Four O’Clock Alice, but I do have some ideas stewing on the back burner where I might be able to use my public health background. 

Why do you write dark fantasy?

Horror is my favorite genre, but I’m not really a fan of gore or graphic violence. I like writing about ugly things in the most beautiful way possible, so I think dark fantasy allows for that outlet over horror. To me, writing delicate prose about vile things is more shocking than any gorefest because, strangely enough, there is beauty in vile things. There is beauty in everything. You just need to find the right words.

Four o’Clock Alice is your debut novel. Did you intentionally write a novel or does its creation have a different story?

I did set out to write Four O’Clock Alice, although the original idea doesn’t at all resemble the finished product! The impetus for writing was a series of personal tragedies which afforded me the perspective to ‘write what I know,’ not in a sense of ever having been in any of the characters’ situations per se, but nonetheless being newly able to empathize with those situations.

How old is Alice and what is the target audience for your novel?

Although the book starts with a ten-year-old Alice and follows her until she is 17, I would not say this is necessarily a book for that age range. I believe the target audience for my novel is adult, although the older ‘young adult’ market (say, 14+) would sympathize with Alice’s coming-of-age situation.

 

Four_OClock_AliceCan you give us a quirky detail about Alice that doesn’t feature explicitly in your book?

Her second toe is longer than all the others. But don’t tell anyone; she gets enough hassle for having the touch of death.

What can people expect when they read your book?

You’re in for a surreal trip down the rabbit hole! Four O’Clock Alice examines the human condition from a unique perspective, and the book takes a surprising twist. There are certainly aspects of horror as the antagonists run the gamut from Lovecraftian creatures to evil overlords to flesh and blood humans (in my opinion, the scariest type of monster).

You have a lot of dogs. Please tell us more about them. Do they feature in your book?

I currently have four small dogs: Anaïs the dachshund (11, she may be short, but you’re still beneath her); Zoë the mutt (9, says she’s Chihuahua-beagle-dachshund, but she won’t show us her papers), Dolce the Chihuahua (7, she’s only comfortable if she’s sitting on another dog’s head); and Penny the schnauzer (6, if there’s a worm on the ground, she’ll roll on it). While my dogs don’t personally appear in my book, their humanity—particularly that of my beloved Dudley who passed in 2014—is largely what inspired me to write about what makes us human.

Are you working on another book? If yes, what’s it about, and could you give us a little ‘preview’?

My upcoming release will be a short story collection called Demon Dance: 10 dark stories to rattle your psyche. This book will be a big divergence from Four o’Clock Alice in genre and in tone, and can be classified as more horror/speculative fiction than dark fantasy. The 10 standalone stories examine the boundaries between personal demons and the ones that come from Hell. Here’s a preview from The Wild Hunt:

The rumbling intensified. Thunder? No—hooves. Dozens of them. Moving fast. Shaking the room. Then an additional sound rode in on the heels of that stampede. Howls and yips punctuated by agitated pants echoed through the night. As the racket came to a crescendo of howls, whinnies, and neighs, the glass French doors to the terrace exploded, and Marcus dove behind the couch. The late December air blew a rare handful of snow flurries onto the brand new pine floors. A dark form eclipsed the streetlight pouring in through the broken French doors. Horses chuffed. A hideous stench mushroomed into the lounge, provoking Marcus’s gag reflex. He peeked over the couch at Vesta. “What is that?”

Thank you so much, Vanessa, for letting us know a bit more about Four o’Clock Alice and your dogs. Please give a cuddle to all four of them from me 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading your book one day.

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Four o’Clock Alice is available on Amazon.

Meet The Authors… Bonita Gutierrez & Camilla Ochlan

This week, I have a double whammy for you. I’ve had the pleasure to have co-hosted two Dark Fantasy Books Giveaway Events with the authors of The Werewolf Whisperer, Bonita Gutierrez and Camilla Ochlan (amongst many others hosting the events who’ll you meet soon!). Bonita and Camilla have fun writing super exciting stories. Here’s some more info about two kick-ass ladies and their books.

Bonita Gutierrez & Camilla Ochlan

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Bonita Gutierrez & Camilla Ochlan

You’ve written The Werewolf Whisperer books together. Is it hard to write a book with another person?

BONITA: I’m a huge fan of collaboration. I love working with a partner(s), bouncing ideas off each other, creating new stories. Camilla and I come from theater backgrounds, which gave us a good foundation for writing together. The very nature of theater is working in partnership with others to create a show. The same goes for film and television (where we’ve spent a lot of our careers). Each person has a part to play, something to contribute. Of course, there will always be points of the story to work through, differences of opinions. That just comes with the territory. But for me, the process is very exciting.

CAMILLA: I write with two different writing partners on two different series — the other one is OF CATS AND DRAGONS, a Young Adult epic fantasy. I also write solo projects. From my experience, working with a partner is great as long as your sensibilities for the project match.

WEREWOLF WHISPERER came out of the love Bonita and I share for hard-hitting urban fantasy with biting humor and world-shaking consequences. As long as the collaborators focus on the core of the story and serve the book, everything can be worked out.

The two main characters in the book, Lucy Lowell and Xochitl Magana (I’m not sure how you pronounce that first name 🙂 ), are women who complement each other. Are you those two women, are the two characters a mix of the two of you, or are they completely random characters? 

BONITA: I think there’s a bit of both of us in each character. But we actually based Xochitl (pronounced Socheel or Sochee) on my experiences growing up as a person of mixed race (I’m half Mexican half Polish). Many of Xochi’s thoughts and feelings parallel my own and are deeply personal. That being said, she’s way more of a badass than I could ever hope to be.

CAMILLA: Aspects of both characters reside within me, as much as the characters sprang from my brain. But there is no everyday Lucy or Xochi walking in my shoes. I wish.

I understand Xochi’s temper, though I tend to keep that pushed far, far under the surface. I identify with Lucy’s pain most — her awkward social interactions and insecurity. But she’s evolving, becoming who she was meant to be, and I have to let her fly.

You both have backgrounds in martial arts. Does this feature heavily in the book? Would you have been able to write it without your martial arts knowledge?

CamillaOchlan_CloseUpCAMILLA: I have a black belt in Kosho Ryu and have dabbled in various martial arts over the years. I have a background in dance, and I studied stage movement and combat while getting my theater degree. I think having the background helps, but it is important to translate what you are seeing (in your head) to the page. That’s different even than crafting choreography, which is ultimately visual. You have to communicate the steps to your dancers or actors, and they’ll make it look good. On the page, you have to be clear enough so the reader can picture what’s going on, but not get bogged down with too much detail or technical jargon. I have used figurines to stage action sequences on checkerboards. I also focus on the consequence of the fight—if the character is hit or cut, how does that affect what’s going on?

BONITA: Like Camilla, I’ve been training off and on in martial arts for years (I have a background in Jeet Kune Do Kung Fu (Bruce Lee’s art), Kenpo Karate MMA and Kali Escrima (stick and knife fighting). It’s an essential part of my life. So, when we started writing THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER, it just felt right for the story and characters. We needed Lucy and Xochi to be formidable women who are able to handle themselves in very dangerous situations.

Though I still think we would have been able to write the series without our martial arts backgrounds, I think our training helps us create exciting, action-packed scenes that are still grounded in reality. There is something to be said for firsthand knowledge.

The books have a lot of Latino words in it (explained in a ‘lobo lexicon’ on your website). Who’s idea was that and is that because of their background?

CAMILLA: Living in L.A., Spanish is so much a part of everyday life. It was an important aspect for the tone of the piece. The city is a character, especially in book one. But we wanted to get it right, so Bonita’s dad was our best and most important resource. He is so generous. We still did a lot of research, hoping to find interesting, current language that would distinguish characters.

And then, with Kai, we wanted to bring in the Mandarin. Again, we were fortunate. My husband speaks Mandarin and helped shape the language.

BONITA: I’m not sure whose idea it was initially to have a spattering of Spanish in the book. I think we both thought it made sense for Xochi’s character. Of course, it helps having grown up around the language and having a dad who can help me with certain words I don’t know or a new colorful turn of phrase (all of which are on our website). 

What is your favorite passage/dialogue in the book?

BonitaGutierrez_CloseUpBONITA: Xochi’s “¡Híjole!” exclamations are straight out of my mouth. It’s a word I’ve adopted from my dad and can be used to express all sorts of feelings (good and bad). It’s the word that gives Xochi her flavor. Kai’s English/Mandarin/Spanish mash-ups are also a hoot. But my favorite thing to write is the banter between Lucy and Xochi. Their back-and-forth repartee helps the reader to really know the women and understand their profound friendship. Plus, it’s hilarious.

CAMILLA: There’s been a lot in the book that has made us laugh. I love Xochi’s Spanglish rants, where she’s completely aware that she’s going off the rails. My personal favorites are Lucy’s dreams. They are first person, present tense and so very, very different in tone from anything else in the books. They are like little buried treasures—just below the surface, and Lucy is completely unaware of what’s going on with all of that.

Did you do any scientific research for The Werewolf Whisperer?

CAMILLA: Yes, quite a bit of research and extrapolation. The most profound, for me, was my initial archeological research, which led me to the grave of a Paleolithic dog in Siberia. This dog was buried in the same way a human would have been buried. Now why would that be? Was the dog so greatly loved that he was like a member of the tribe? Or was he a member of the tribe? The article sparked a lot of “what ifs” for me. Beyond that, we are digging into genetic research because we want to continue in that vein of werewolf by science and not by magic.

BONITA: Funny you should ask that. We’re currently swimming in research…lots and lots of research.

Who is the target audience for your books?

BONITA: Though THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER is urban fantasy, our readers run the gambit: men, women, twenty-somethings, fifty-somethings, teachers, forensic scientists, homemakers, and even mechanics. Anyone who likes an emotionally grounded, action-packed story laced with biting humor will dig our books.

CAMILLA: I don’t know anymore. I thought the books would be for female urban fantasy readers exclusively, but we’re getting feedback that shows that the book appeals to a wide age range and to both men and women alike. I’d been told that men wouldn’t be interested in a book with two female protagonists. Whoever said that was wrong, I am happy to report.

The series is not paranormal romance. Maybe that is the expectation, but that is not the book we wrote. That will be a different series 🙂

I love the music video on your website. Can you tell me some more about it? 

BONITA: The song “El Gallo Mas Feroz” was co-written especially for THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER by David Gregory Byrne and my dad, Charles Gutierrez. It’s the signature song of one of our “Big Bads” — Memo “El Gallo” Morales, gang leader of East LA’s Los Locos and Xochi’s soon-to-be ex-boyfriend.

CAMILLA: We put the video together for a Halloween takeover (shout out to the Dark Fantasy Books Facebook group), and we liked it so much, we kept it on our Soundcloud. Thank you, P.J. for putting the video together.

Do you think The Werewolf Whisperer will one day be on the big silver screen?

BONITA: Actually, I would love to see it on the small screen. We originally developed THE WEREWOLF WHISPERER as web series. We even wrote a 13-episode story arc for season one. Those scripts turned into the novel series. So, I think television would be a natural progression.

CAMILLA: I think the series would be great as a long format TV show — like SUPERNATURAL but on Netflix.

It’s been two-and-a-half years since Book 2 of the Werewolf whisperer came out. When can your fans expect Book 3 to come out? What are you working on?

CAMILLA: We are working on BLOOD & BONES (book 3) right now, but there have been a few entries into the Werewolf Whisperer canon since the release of THE ALPHA & OMEGA (book 2). We released the novellas BEAST OUT OF HELL (on Amazon) and NO BEAST SO FIERCE (exclusive to our BEASTY BITES newsletter subscribers). As we are working on book 3, we are simultaneously working on a serialized novella about the character Kai.

But you’re right; we’ve taken a little extra time with book 3. I did, however, release NIGHT’S GIFT, RADIATION, and WINTER TITHE in the OF CATS AND DRAGONS series in 2017 with Carol E. Leever. And we have three more books ready to be released this year. Plus, Bonita and I have been meaning to break another urban fantasy series, which we are very excited about too.

BONITA: So, stay tuned!

Thank you, ladies. It’s great to hear you are so busy. I recently purchased the first book of The Werewolf Whisperer and can’t wait to dive into it after hearing how much fun you put into it!

 

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Books Bonita & Camilla have written together

 

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Other books Camilla wrote

All Bonita’s and Camilla’s books are available on Amazon. You can sign up on their website to get their Beasty Bites newsletter.

PS: Thanks, Bonita, for letting me know how to pronounce Xochitl 🙂