Interview With Riley Redgate

Featured Author

Today Featured Author Riley Redgate is on the blog, here to talk all about her novel, Seven Ways We Lie.

Welcome to the blog! Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi! I’m Riley. I go to school at Kenyon College, I’m an econ major, and I spend all my free time singing with various campus groups.

Seven Ways We Lie was a brilliant read – it took me right back to my school days! Was there something in particular that inspired the story or any of the characters? Aside from Dante’s Inferno 😉

My main inspiration was the internet. I started blogging in high school, on Tumblr, where everyone’s extremely honest about their feelings and lives, because there’s an illusion of privacy. I started wondering about the people in my high school classes–what secrets everyone was hiding–and the seven sins worked as a framework through which I could explore seven narrators’ inner lives.

One of my favourite characters was Valentine Simmons – mostly because he asks a lot of the same questions I used to ask at that age, and shares a few of my dislikes too (eye contact!) Did you have a favourite character?

Oh boy, that’s like choosing a favorite child … uh. Every time someone asks this I go for a different person. These days, Kat is my favorite. Her story arc is separate from the unifying plot arc of the novel–she’s also the one person whose arc really has no involvement in romance. That isolation turning into connection without needing, or even being particularly concerned with, romantic love is important to me.

I think it’s particularly skilful that you make all the characters in their own way sympathetic. Towards the end, one of the characters does something particularly awful, but as a reader, I could sympathise with, even though I couldn’t condone their actions. Was that challenging?

It was fun, mostly! I love morally gray characters and antiheroes, although “antihero” is kind of a charged term. I feel like every character, no matter where they fall on the protagonist to antagonist spectrum, feels that they’re the protagonist of their own story. Even when characters ended up making, uh, questionable decisions, I couldn’t write them as if I were judging them, otherwise the story would’ve turned into moralizing.

How did you find writing from seven(!!) different points of view?

Also fun. I have a pretty short attention span for projects, so switching POVs allowed me to get the feeling of bouncing back and forth on projects without actually doing so.

I think I have which character is which sin straight in my head. Some are pretty obvious, but there were a couple I had to think about a little bit. (I won’t spoil the game for readers) When did you have that idea and how much did it influence the planning of the story?

Well, that idea was pretty much the crux of the story–my way into the characters’ lives. I planned the sins and their respective characters long before I figured out the actual storyline.

What great books have you read recently? Any authors you particularly admire?

I just finished the luminous Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. An overwhelming and phenomenal book. (Liberty: I loved that book too – superb. Everyone should check it out!) My favorite authors are, as they pretty much always have been, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, and Patrick Ness.

What is your writing process like?

Varies from book to book! Sometimes I’ll outline chapter by chapter; sometimes I’ll fly by the seat of my pants. For the writing itself, I have no particular rituals or times of day. It just happens on its own.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Be stubborn. All you need is one ‘yes,’ even after a hundred ‘no’s. Similarly, pleasing everyone is an impossible task; not everybody has the same reading tastes, so you might as well say to hell with it and write what makes you proudest.

And finally, what’s next for Riley Redgate?

I’ve got two more YAs set to release in 2017 and 2018! I’ll be able to talk about them more publicly at a later date. 🙂

Thanks so much for having me!
It’s been my absolute pleasure!

Interview With Kenley Davidson

For the second of February’s Featured Author posts, we have an interview with Kenley Davidson. Learn all about Kenley and her books here.

Welcome to the blog! Tell us a little about yourself.

First, thanks so much for inviting me to be a featured author!

I should probably start by saying that I am brand new to authoring/publishing, and this is my very first book. It was kind of inevitable that I would write one eventually, because I’ve been in love with books since I was barely tall enough to see over the library checkout counter. I can still remember the librarian staring at my stack and asking if I was actually going to read all of them.  Yes.  Reading all the books has pretty much always seemed like a great idea.

My writing habit started when I was a teenager, and ever since then my computer has been full of random bits of story ideas, character sketches, poems, blog posts that never happened, and the occasional impassioned essay about something or other (that no one will ever be allowed to read).

I already had that burning desire to one day write a novel, but then I went and got married and had two amazing kids and got very distracted by the everyday demands of being a mom.  During those years, the writing would happen in fits and starts, but it still happened, and eventually, with the aid of a lot of patience on my family’s part, I finally finished something!

I still read whenever I can grab a moment, in between meeting my self-imposed writing deadlines, helping with homework, and playing with my needy four-legged friends. I also love words and word games (no one will play word games with me, ever, and I’m very sad about it) and dictionaries, and most especially I love the coffee that makes it possible for me to write anything before noon.

I really loved your unique twist on the Cinderella story in Traitor’s Masque. What inspired you to write it?

So, I hope I don’t offend anyone with this answer, but I wrote the first draft of Traitor’s Masque over four years ago, as my personal protest against the Disney animated version of Cinderella, which, thanks to my kids, I’ve probably seen well over a hundred times.  Well, maybe part of my inspiration was my love for fairy tales, and part of it was frustration with the story.

We’re introduced to a girl who is completely spoiled by her father, a father who destroys her life by marrying a harpy, and then dies, leaving her in permanent servitude to said harpy.   Somehow, this same girl ends up sweet and compliant, having happy dreams and waiting for a prince to rescue her. When does she have all the other emotions? Grief? Anger? Regret? This Cinderella might be a nice person, but she doesn’t seem very human. Then she “falls in love” with a man she knows nothing about, a man who has nothing very interesting going for him except his title and teeth that glow in the dark, neither of which seemed very appealing to me.  I love happy endings, but they don’t seem very satisfying when the only obstacles on the path to true love are overcome by convenient magic while the heroine sits and cries.

Traitor’s Masque basically came out of my exploration of the story of Cinderella in light of real life.  What does this story look like if its characters are real people who experience real emotional responses?  What if Cinderella were a strong young woman who goes looking for her freedom instead of waiting for a prince to save her?  I knew I didn’t want to leave magic as an easy way out, but other than that I tried to use the foundation of the original story and then let it play out from there.

Do you have a favourite character?

I love them all, of course, but if I had to choose I would probably say Lizbet Norelle.  I think I may have unconsciously written her as a sort of wish-fulfillment — this woman who is a mom and yet also has an enormous responsibility that she shoulders, and does it gracefully, without any apparent need for recognition.  She has somehow found a balance between the different aspects of her life and is totally respected for her unique talents and abilities.

But, that said, I should probably also admit that my absolute favorite character to write was Prince Rowan.  I had no idea villains could be so much fun!

One of my favourite elements was the banter back and forth between Trystan and ‘Donevan’. Was it as much fun to write as it was to read?

Yes!  I actually love writing dialogue, and theirs just seemed to happen without much intervention from me.  I was as excited as they were to find out that they just “get” each other’s humor without needing any explanation.

From the synopsis of Goldheart, book two in the Andari Chronicles, I think I have an idea what fairy tale you’re taking on next. Care to share any more?

Of course!  I was hoping I hadn’t been too opaque with the description.  Book 2 is based on Rumplestiltskin, another fairy tale that seemed to invite more exploration beyond its traditional presentation.  I’ve always felt that the villain in that story was entirely mis-identified, and I had a main character just begging to be used, so it all seemed to fall into place very naturally.  Goldheart is also a lot shorter than Traitor’s Masque, so for anyone who felt like four hundred pages was a bit much, I hope this will be more to their liking.

Will there be more in the series, or are there any other projects you’re working on?

I’ve already completed the rough draft of Book 3, entitled Pirouette, which features Kyril Seagrave (another of my favorites) as the main character and is based on the Twelve Dancing Princesses.  I’m planning for at least three more fairy tales after that, all based in the same world, following characters from one of the previous books.  There are, of course, several other projects I’m dying to work on, but I’m trying very hard to be an adult and finish this series first!

What great books have you read recently? Any authors you particularly admire?

Recently it has seemed very hard to find time to read, which makes me very sad.  I’d say the best books I’ve read recently were Three Men in a Boat by Jerome Jerome, Indiscretion by Jude Morgan, Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews, Running Barefoot by Amy Harmon, and Nice Dragons Finish Last by Rachel Aaron.

Some of my favorite authors:

Robin McKinley: her fairy tales were some of the first books I read over and over again, and I still re-read them on occasion.

Sharon Shinn: she has such an amazing gift for building extraordinary and believable fantasy worlds.

Terry Pratchett: because, well, Terry Pratchett.  One of the few who can make me die laughing and break my heart with the same book.

Ilona Andrews: I wish there was a magic formula for the way she creates such deeply compelling characters that I’m always angry when I reach the end and there’s no more to read.

What is your writing process like?

Writing process…I guess I’m supposed to have one of those, aren’t I?  This year (meaning since the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year because that’s how I measure time these days) is really the first time I’ve committed myself to writing as more than a thing I do whenever I can snatch a few moments for it.  All three of my completed novels to date began as NaNoWriMo projects, because setting aside time for writing one month out of the year seemed more doable than pretending I was going to have time for it every day.  Now, though, I’m making an effort to take it seriously, which means trying to form better habits.

The first and most important part of that process, is, of course, coffee.  Coffee must happen before the words do.  I try to be productive between ten and two every weekday, and to utterly ignore any voice that tells me there are more important things to be done during those hours.  Dirty dishes?  Later!  Laundry? Later!

And because I’m still so new at this, I feel like I’m learning more every day—about myself and about how I write.  Traitor’s Masque was the most appalling example of pantsing a story that you could possibly imagine.  It was not the smartest way to go about it.  I’m trying to learn how to use an outline and plan ahead, and yet, this is a struggle because my characters are very real to me.  I could no more plan out their lives for them than I could plan out my children’s futures.  My characters surprise me.  They defy me.  They do things I most definitely do not approve of!  So part of my writing process right now is learning to work within the boundaries of these two needs—to have a plan, and to let the characters be themselves.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

All I can give is what I’ve found to be helpful for me, though I can’t claim to have tested it very well yet!

First, read all the books!  If you want to tell stories, learn how they work.  Eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and make them a part of your life.

Write things down. Write everything down!  Learn how your brain uses words and develop dexterity with written language.  Even if it’s just thoughts, ideas, snippets—practice getting it out of your head and onto the page.

Get and give critiques.  One of the best things I’ve ever done for my writing is dig down into the bare bones of it and learn what makes it work.  Take your work apart, put it together.  Let other people take your work apart and tell you what they see.  Take other people’s work apart and see how it’s different from yours.  Then use what you learn.  When you get critiques, don’t throw them away and start something new, work with them.  See what happens when you take advice.  Sometimes the advice will be good, sometimes it will be bad, but it can be hard to tell the difference until you try it out.

And remember that even while we’re sweating over the harder parts of our craft, we should write because we love it and can’t imagine our lives without it!

And finally, what’s next for Kenley Davidson? 

Lots of editing!  Alas, not my favorite part of the process.  I would much rather write the shiny new stories and not have to clean up the messy old ones.  Right now, because I’m brand new to this, I’m in the middle of a very steep learning curve, especially on the marketing end of things.  Figuring out how to promote my books (my introverted soul quivers in terror), what kind of publication schedule is effective, how to find readers—all of these are big questions that I will be exploring in the next few months, while I work on editing Book 3, which I am hoping (crosses fingers) to have out by April 12!
Thanks Kenley! Good luck with Book 3 and the rest of your writing journey.

Interview With Kelsey Ketch

For the second of January’s featured author posts, we have an interview with Kelsey Ketch. Learn all about Kelsey and her books here.

Welcome to the blog! Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a Young Adult and New Adult author. I have my degree in biology and work as a wildlife biologist full time. I live in North Carolina, United States. I love learning about new historical discoveries and new perspectives on past events, and use the knowledge I collect to create twists and turns in my own manuscripts.

It’s been a busy few years for you with the release of the Descendants of Isis trilogy. What have been your favourite parts of the experience?

I would say my favorite part of the experience is the research. I go as in depth into learning my material as possible through books, documentaries, and online sources. Each time I learned something new, the better the story became. Particular when it came to the Egyptian god Set and the Temple of Isis, which became vital in Name of Ra.

The final instalment of your Descendants of Isis trilogy released in November. For fans who haven’t got round to picking it up yet – what can they expect from the book?

Name of Ra takes the reader to the edge of reality, and closer to the aspects of ancient mythology. The villains are nastier, causing death and destruction in their wake. The challenges will be harder, causing both Natti and Seth both mental and physical strain. The sacrifices will be greater, and the stakes will be higher. The readers will learn what Seth’s role is in Isis’s prophecy and can expect more than one resurrection as a result of this fight.

Seth has been on quite the journey in the series so far. How did you approach his transformation from someone who is initially quite deplorable, to the loveable bad boy who stole Natti’s (and a fair few readers’!) heart?

I can’t take full credit for Seth’s transformation, for Seth was the one in charge of his future. However, even when I first dreamt of the young man that would become Seth, I knew—despite the deceit, arrogance, and theft—he had the potential to grow into someone better. He just had to be given the right opportunities and the right motivation. Natti and their heritage connections became a big part of that. I merely crafted the situations and analyzed his reactions, taking into account his background and other influences. My only fear was that Seth’s transformation might come on too fast. No one changes overnight, if at all. Fortunately, letting Seth be who he is, I feel the timing was just right.

What’s your favourite element of Egyptian mythology (included in the series or not!)?

There are so many things I love about Egyptian mythology, but the one aspect that fascinates me the most is their concept of the afterlife, Duat. It’s amazing how much detail and thought the Egyptians put into it. There were several ancient funerary texts, one of the mostly widely known is the “Spells of Emerging in Daytime” (Book of the Dead), which is a manual to help the deceased to pass through many challenges they would face while wondering Duat. My favorite part is in the Hall of Judgement, when Anubis places the deceased’s heart on the scales to be weighed. In many depictions, you can even see Anubis adjusting the scales ever so slightly, since not every heart is perfect, so that the deceased may pass into Osiris’s Kingdom.

Are there any other mythologies you’d like to explore in your fiction?

Most definitely! Though Egyptian is my favorite, I love learning all about different cultures, their mythologies and beliefs. Samarium, Mayan, Voodoo, Christian, Greek, Hindu are just some of the cultural influences I’m placing into my current/upcoming WIPs. And I’m sure more will arise as more concepts line my bookshelves.

What great books have you read recently? Any authors you particularly admire?

It’s been a while. With everything that is happening in my life, including publishing, it’s becoming harder to find time for the things I once took for granted. The most recent books/series (mostly read in 2014) I’ve enjoyed are the Campus Crush/Birth of Phoenix Series by Ashelyn Drake, the Monster Within Series by Kelly Hashway, the Burn Out Series by Kristi Helvig, and Perfected by Kate Jarvik Birch.

I can’t say there are any particular authors I admire. I’ve read a lot of different works, each with their own unique voice and writing style to draw in their audience. But I feel I more admire the individual novel or series than the author themselves. Particularly if they are well researched, well developed, and contains well thought out characters. That’s because you really aren’t getting to know the author behind the work. You’re more getting to know the story they’ve created. So I admire novels such as the Hereafter Series by Tara Hudson, the Hush, Hush Series by Becca Fitzpatrick, The Ghost and the Goth Series by Stacey Kade, and newer classics such as The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, and The Dragon and the George by Gordon R. Dickson. For more novels I admire, check out my ‘favorites’ shelf on Goodreads.

What is your writing process like?

Honestly, I probably describe my writing process as a little chaotic. It starts as an idea—kind of a movie trailer running through my head with the basic plotline. Then specific scenes start to come to mind, not in any particular order, and I write them into a journal until I have enough to start weaving pieces together in a Word document. That’s when the real work begins. While weaving the story together, I begin my in depth research and letting the story take me through its journey until I finally reach the last chapter.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Keep at it, and don’t let anything stop you.

And finally, what’s next for Kelsey Ketch?

I’m currently in the process of working on two separate novels. The first is a work in progress called Dark Reflections. It’s a new adult dark fantasy/romance that is based loosely on the concept of Robert Louis Steven’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as well as a mixture of aspects from Voodoo/Hoodoo, some vampirism, and even a tiny bit of Egyptian lore. Nineteen-year-old Alana stumbles upon a curse and is cast onto an isolated island where she literary lives a double life: one as herself and one as a murderer. Adapting to the monster she’s become, she lives with the blood of several innocent victims on her hands. That is, until Cole washes up on her shore.

The other novel I’m currently revising is a manuscript I wrote through high school and undergraduate called Death’s Island. I finished it several years ago and at one point even had an agent for it. But it was never published. So I’m reworking it to be a new adult historical adventure based in the eighteenth century and adding a little on the Mayan god, Ah Puch. Journeying across the sea to find a legendary treasure buried by her great grandfather, Meriden finds danger around every corner including a mutinous crew, treacherous storms, and sailors bewitched by greed. Yet those issues pale in comparison to the cursed forests and hideous monsters she finds once she reaches Death’s Island.

Thanks, Kelsey! Fascinating answers and good luck with your current projects.

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Interview With Author Keira Gillet

Today I’m hosting an interview with author, Keira Gillett. Keira is self-published and the second book in her Zaria Fierce Trilogy, released November 6, 2015. The last time Keira was on the blog she discussed her writing playlist for Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest. You can see my review for the book here.

Q: Hi Keira and welcome. What drew you to Norwegian mythology and folklore?

Keira: Thanks, Liberty! I’m happy to be here. Zaria Fierce was always going to take place in the north. I bounced her story all over the globe from Russia to Canada. I even considered a completely different world. Like Goldilocks trying out the different beds, chairs, and porridges, it was simply finding what was just right. When I picked Norway and started writing, Olaf appeared and I knew it was a perfect match.

You see, I had been waiting for the villain to make himself known to me. Previous plots for Zaria were abandoned because the villain wouldn’t take shape. Without an agenda there wasn’t a story to pursue. I enjoy Scandinavian and European mythology and folklore because they have many parallels and crossovers. I take from both to suit the story, and sometimes I make it up entirely. It’s been lots of fun adding in new creatures and beings for Zaria and the gang to meet and interact with as they quest for a magic sword.

Q: Do you have beta readers? How have they helped you write Zaria Fierce?

Keira: I do! Think of a book like having dinner. I can easily write the meat and potatoes. I’m told I’m very good at providing all the pertinent information in a timely and easily digestible manner. My beta readers tell me where I should consider adding side dishes and dessert to the menu. Their insights help me tremendously, and both improve the story and the reading experience.

Q: Do you feel that there is more pressure when starting a new series/sequel?

Keira: I’m going to say writing a sequel has more on the line than the first book in a series. It’s generally considered that the sequel to the first book in a series or trilogy is the worst book when compared to the rest of work. It’s like book one is about being interesting and setting up the story, book two builds on it but doesn’t go anywhere, and three concludes the story with a big finale. My beta readers have told me they think book two is even better than the first book. Whew!

Q: What’s one of your favorite/funniest things someone has said to you about your books?

Keira: This falls under both a favorite and funny. I really enjoyed my sister’s comment when she was halfway through the first book. She said, “Keira, don’t get mad, okay? But you’re spelling heart wrong. You might want to fix that before you publish.”

Q: As a writer how do you keep from being discouraged?

Keira: Discouragement is around every corner for anything you do. It doesn’t matter if you’re an author, artist, actor, or any other avocation or occupation. There were times I had to pick myself up in the process, but it wasn’t the writing that discouraged me. I have a very healthy attitude about writer’s block – e.g. put it aside to ruminate about it for a day and/or keep pressing forward and write a little each day until I can break through to the next wave of inspiration.

Where I sometimes needed a pep-talk was in the promoting of the first book. I’m a one-woman show so it’s important to put effort where there’s a healthy return on investment. My attitude these days is that the worse anyone can say to me is no and if they do say no then I move on and keep pressing forward. If you don’t let setbacks faze you, you’ll realize every step you took (no matter how small) helped you reach the summit of success. You’ll never reach the top unless you take a little action every day.

Thanks again for having me on the blog!

Zaria Fierce and the Enchanted Drakeland SwordBook Two in the Zaria Fierce Trilogy

Summary: If Zaria Fierce had her say, being a princess would mean you’d never have to wait for news. In the eight months since Olaf tricked her, Zaria has felt a near constant mixture of restlessness, listlessness, and hopelessness. When the time comes to fix past mistakes, she is more than ready to climb aboard the ship sailing towards the giants. Summertime in Norway promises many more adventures, but also many more perils… something sinister lurks beneath the surface following her every move, haunting her, disturbing her dreams, and stealing her peace. Can Zaria figure out what it is and stop it before it’s too late?

Release Date: November 6, 2015

Available in E-book, Paperback, and Audiobook (Coming Soon)

Praise for Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest (Book 1):

“Are you in the mood for an old fashioned magical jaunt? Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett is a classic “perilous adventure” book for middle grade readers.” Jennifer Bardsley, The YA Gal

“A captivating blending of fantasy storytelling with today’s technology. At the base of this tale is deep, abiding friendship that stands the tests of time, adventure and even danger.” Kathy Haw, Goodreads Review

“A great book with a lovely story and amazing characters. It’s a fantasy and adventure book that will be the delight of Narnia fans and those looking for a bit of Norwegian folklore thrown into it.” Ner, A Cup of Coffee and a Book

“If you’re looking for an action-packed adventure dipped in fantasy, look no further. This book kept me on my toes with its many cliffhangers and plot twists; it was quite hard to put down at times.” Meredith, All ‘Bout Them Books and Stuff

“I love when a story jumps right in and hooks me like this one did. I highly recommend you look into it if you are in the mood for a fun adventure. I also recommend that you get it for any book loving middle schooler you know.” Emily, Midwestern Book Nerd

Excerpt:

Filip slung his window open and tossed out his backpack. It landed in a thump in the hedgerow. Aleks pulled it out and slung it over his shoulder with his own bag.

“How’re you getting down?”

“Hopefully with your stargazer.”

“Then why toss down your bag?” Aleks asked, exasperated.

“Just in case,” Filip said with a wink at Zaria.

She suppressed a smile. She looked to the others, “Does anybody have rope?”

Aleks and Geirr both nodded. Then Geirr unzipped his bag and pulled out a neat coil from on top. He tossed it to Filip, who snatched it up as it sailed by the window. He disappeared into his bedroom and reappeared moments later slinging the coil out the window. It unraveled to the ground.

“Good,” Filip said briskly. “It’s long enough. Now let’s see if it holds.”

Filip quickly scaled the side of the house and they gathered their belongings preparing to dash. Without warning, Mrs. Storstrand stuck her head out of a bottom window and shrieked at the sight of them.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.

“Run!” Filip shouted, grabbing his friends’ sleeves and rushing for the street.

Aleks cursed and threw Filip his backpack while slinging his own around to the front and unzipping a pocket. He looked frazzled as he dug inside the opening. Mrs. Storstrand was quick. She was already out of the house and chasing after them. She threatened life and limb and the most terrible of all – letting Filip’s father know what he was about.

At last Aleks found the stargazer – a shiny purplish egg-shaped object perforated with stars – and almost dropped it in his haste. After a brief fumble, Aleks located the largest star, and hastily jabbed his finger into the hole. Just like that, Mrs. Storstrand froze mid-run. But so too did Christoffer, Filip, and Geirr.

Aleks looked at Zaria and to the others. “Damn,” he hissed. “Wait! How are you not frozen too?”

goodreads-badge-add-plus-fad3b68d35050280ea55d50f17c654b5

Keira Gillett author pictureAuthor Bio: Keira Gillett is a technical publications librarian, book blogger, world traveler, artist, and now author. She graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Drawing and Painting. From an early age her mother instilled a love of the written word, as such she has always been a big reader. Her first book, Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest, is about a young girl who must complete a quest to save her friend from a nasty river-troll.

Website: http://keiragillett.com

Social Media: Twitter (keiragillett), Facebook (zariafiercetrilogy), Pinterest (zariafierce)

Interview with Christina Harlin

Today I’m delighted to share an interview with Christina Harlin, author of the Othernaturals series. Lucid, the second book in the series, is available now.

1.     Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m from Kansas City, Missouri.  That means I’m almost directly in the middle of the continental United States.  We get an interesting mix of everything here, including people, weather, and ideas.   I’m a fourth-generation Missouri gal and I love my home state!  Nearly everything I write takes place in Missouri or very close by.  We’re proud of our ghost stories around here.  If a town doesn’t have at least four good ghost stories attached to it, it soon will, and that’s a promise!

For almost 25 years I have been married to my better half, the wonderfully stubborn Bruce, who has been instrumental in keeping me going when it comes to writing.  We have a 21-year-old son Jake, my partner in ghost-hunting, who makes me laugh every day. My boys, as I call them, are the best things I have going for me!  I have a day job at a Kansas City law firm where for many years I have worked with terrific people who are like a second family to me.

For fun I play computer games, mostly role-playing adventures, and I watch a great many movies.  Each week I post two or three movie essays on my blog www.themovieorphan.com.  I’m pretty serious about my film fandom.

I fell in love with fantasy fiction in fourth grade, when our teacher read Madeline L ‘Engle to us, and I’ve been writing paranormal fantasy since then.  Paranormal fantasy isn’t all that I write, but there’s nothing I love writing more.

2.     What made you want to be a writer?

This compulsion to write was apparently something I was born with.  My mother tells me that before I actually knew how to write sentences, I drew stories in pictures.  I have a suitcase full of things I wrote as a child and teenager.  I wrote my first book – though I use the term loosely – when I was 12, on a spiral notebook in multi-colored magic markers.

I have always taken great pleasure in writing.  It’s one of my favorite things to do, and I would continue writing stories even if they were never to see the light of day.  In fact, that was the case for a long time! Simple fear kept me from making efforts to put my writing out in the world – fear of criticism, of rejection, of exposing too much of myself.  Eventually I realized that if I did not at least try to share my stories, I would someday regret it.  So about fifteen years ago, I put on the big-girl knickers and got serious about writing books.

3.     What’s your writing process like? Are you a plotter or pantser? Do you have a specific writing ritual?

Of the two choices, I am more a plotter.  I want to move through the story alongside my characters to see if they have any surprises in store for me.  Often they will insist on taking matters in another direction.   However, I have also taken the pantser-route when I was blocked.  Jumping ahead in the story is a great way to get “unstuck.”

My writing ritual, learned through many arduous attempts, is to have an ending firmly in mind before beginning.   Though a word-for-word ending is never set in stone, an ultimate story goal is a necessity for me.  Endings are my weakness.  Unless I am working toward an end goal, I’ll meander.  As far as the Othernaturals series is concerned, I realize the individual book endings are fairly open; the story doesn’t exactly conclude so much as pause.  But I have a definite goal in mind for the series as a whole, and everything is leading toward it.  I hope people will stick around to find out where we’re heading!

4.     The Othernaturals deals with supernatural creatures and phenomena – do you have a favourite element that you’ve included, or would like to include in the future?

Sally Friend, the only one of the Othernaturals who has no specific psychic power, has instead developed a clever way of dealing with the very real disability of her sun allergy.   Because Sally is the group’s self-proclaimed vampire (who feeds on psychic energy rather than blood), I have every intention of introducing a love interest for her – in the form of a self-proclaimed “werewolf,” so she can have a humorous version of the sworn-enemies love story.

As for the major story arc, there is a particular monster I’m looking forward to using.  In studying vampire history, I learned about legendary creatures called “preta.”  A preta is a revenant human spirit that roams the world in insatiable hunger (sometimes for human flesh!).  Some legends say that these spirits are being punished for a lifetime of greed, while others say they are meant to punish other greedy or gluttonous humans.  In my mind, they sound like less-gruesome versions of zombies, minus the rotting flesh.  I cannot wait to put the Othernaturals up against a horde of them!

5.     The latest instalment of The Othernaturals deals with dreams and REM sleep – did you have to do a lot of research around this? What drew you to the world of dreams?

The research came first, many years ago.  In graduate school, I studied psychology, moving particularly into areas like biofeedback, hypnotism and exploring different levels of consciousness.  I was amazed by these studies.  How I wished I was a better candidate for hypnotism!  I failed regularly at attempts.  My professor’s analysis?  I was trying too hard to be hypnotized, which is absolutely counteractive to the process.

These alternate levels of self-awareness, properly managed, have untold benefits to mental and physical health.  Awareness of altered consciousness has been practiced for centuries by yogis, swamis, and religions such as Buddhism.  The goal is to practice awareness during all states of consciousness without altering those states of consciousness.  Any philosophy that looks to meditation as a vital part of its practice will likely have a method that is in essence the same as lucid dreaming.  I found the idea so fascinating, it’s no surprise that lucid dreaming became part of a story I wrote.

In lucid dreaming, the dreamer becomes aware that she is in a dream, and at that point, may be able to stop, or even manipulate, the dream.  The notion caught my fancy at once, as it was something I had done myself, without knowing that it had a name.  I’m a victim of recurring dreams, not nightmares, but stressful and upsetting nonetheless.  After enough of these dreams had plagued me, I became able to recognize when I was having one.  Then, I could either awaken myself, or change the dream.  Practically speaking, lucid dreaming is an ability that can be taught (I believe that now there is even an app for it!) and is useful in therapy sessions or in promoting creativity and problem-solving.

In empirical science, lucid dreaming is considered worthy of study but is very hard to prove.  The debate is almost a comedy of semantics, full of sentences like, “Maybe you weren’t aware in your dream, but were just dreaming that you were aware in your dream.”  There is still so much mystery behind the purpose of dreaming itself that dreams take on mystical proportions.  Luckily, in fiction, one doesn’t have to be absolutely true to the research.  Proving whether lucid dreaming is reality isn’t my job!  Lucid dreaming happens to the Othernaturals because I say it does!

The same goes for another phenomenon that Rosemary and her crew undergo: not only are they lucid-dreaming, but they are sharing the same lucid dream as it is projected by an eighth person, their hostess Ivy Robbins.   Whereas lucid dreaming is sometimes scientifically supported as a reality, telepathic dreaming is considered almost pure fantasy.  That’s okay with me!

6.     What was the hardest part about writing The Othernaturals books?

I have trouble keeping control of Rosemary Sharpe!  I love her, I really do, but she will get herself into trouble one of these days and I won’t be able to stop it.  That young woman is willful to a fault, a bit entitled because she grew up rich and pampered, plus has quite a problem when it comes to impulse control.

First, she has considerable telepathic talent (that is, she can control the thoughts and actions of others, if she desires) and will sometimes use her ability for selfish or petty reasons.  I know that if I had her kind of power, I’d be tempted to use it constantly, so right now I’m glad she has a fairly kind heart and that she is proud of the successes and friends she has earned honestly.

Second, she’s so infatuated with Andrew Fletcher that I can hardly keep her out of his lap.  I keep reminding her that Andrew is gun-shy and mistrustful, and that coming on strong will only drive him away.  I appeal to her business savvy: the webshow she hosts and produces is of primary importance to her, so for the sake of her show, it’s better to keep things professional.  Thus far, she is cooperating in theory, but almost daily I find myself having to reel her back in.

7.     Your tie in website is great for getting a flavour of your work and finding more out about the characters. What gave you this idea?

At present, my books are only available in electronic format, so I thought, “Why not take advantage of that?”  Othernaturals is a fictional webshow created by Rosemary’s own small production company, and it seemed only logical that there would be a somewhat cheesy website to accompany it.  I try to make the site connect with the books without being intrusive – readers need only visit if they want a little extra fun.   It includes things like correspondence to the characters from their “fans,” and a couple scenes that didn’t quite fit in with a book’s flow but which add a little extra dimension to the story.

Www.Othernaturals.com is both what I imagine their show’s website would resemble, and promotion for the book series itself.  Some of it is meant as spoof, such as the ad page for Andrew’s bookstore.  Andrew would not actually advertise by touting the psychic aura of used books, but since that is a particular skill he uses, I thought it funny to imagine him catering his store to an all-psychic crowd.

Sometimes, the Othernaturals website is a bit of a meta-headache: the page that promotes the fictional book that is being written by Stefan, a fictional character who is writing in the course of my own fictional book, is one such example.  I often forget that no such story actually exists.

8.     What are your favourite horror stories?

My favorite author of horror is Shirley Jackson, who wrote what I consider the best ghost story I’ve ever read, “The Haunting of Hill House.”   I also love Ira Levin’s books “Rosemary’s Baby” (yes, I took the character name from him) and “The Stepford Wives.”  I read almost everything Stephen King publishes, but I got particular frights from “Pet Sematary,” and his more recent “Duma Key.”  “Let the Right One In” was a wonderful spin on vampires.  The two scariest books I’ve read recently were not horror stories so much as speculative sci-fi:  Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go,” and Charlie Huston’s fantastic apocalyptic tale “Sleepless.”

9.     Why do you think we enjoy a good scare so much?

Our bodies and brains enjoy that little kick-start of adrenaline!  Experiencing cathartic fright in a safe environment,  through a movie, a book, a roller coaster (well, relatively safe!), gets the blood pumping, sharpens the senses, feels sexy, turns us on, makes us creative, unites people with a shared experience, and opens our eyes to possibilities.

10. And finally, any tips for the aspiring writer?

Don’t let fear keep you from trying.  I’m still learning that one, because there remains that temptation to withdraw, if I see a less-than-stellar review or get yet another no-thank-you letter.  Bumps in the road – which you might view as failures – are actually valuable, once they stop sucking.  They can hurt like hell when they happen, causing anger, disappointment and the desire to chuck the whole idea of writing.  We tend to be our own worst critics, making these global, kneejerk accusations: I’m awful at this, I’ll never get anywhere, my life was easier when I wasn’t putting myself through this.

Give it some time, and give yourself a break.  Things that I once saw as the “end of the line” are now some of the more valuable lessons I have learned.

This is a surprising and rather brutal truth:  the formal publishing industry doesn’t really care about your talent or dedication as a writer.  Publishers want to know if they can sell your work to the public and make money off it.  That is the bottom line they are looking at, and though it feels cold, it’s not personal.  It’s just business.  It’s wonderful, if you can be both talented and lucrative – but there are a lot of writers out there, in competition for a limited amount of resources.  Once I fully grasped this, I stopped taking rejection quite so hard and moved beyond the traditional publishing paradigm.

Most important, remember that time can work miracles.  I tried, and tried, and tried, writing to please everybody:  my agent; an endless line of editors; the publishing companies behind them; some faceless person somewhere who had the power to nix an entire idea with the stroke of a pen.  I had a book contract, and I worked every day for well over a year, doing everything the publisher, editor and agent asked me to do, to prepare for the release.  As happens sometimes, the contract was cancelled, very late in the game and for reasons beyond my control.  Cancelled?!?I  It was yanked!  A bad dentist yanking a stubborn tooth couldn’t have yanked any harder than they yanked that contract! I was crushed.

But look here: it’s six years later, I’m writing what I love to write, getting to know smart creative people (like you, Liberty!), and that busted contract didn’t manage to kill me after all!

Thanks so much for stopping by Christina!