Author Interview: Stewart Hoffman

stewart-hoffman

Stewart Hoffman is the author of The Bug Boys, a science fiction novel about a couple of middle-schoolers who get super powers. You can find this fun tale on Book Club Reading List.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

Back in 2006, I was at the theater watching Superman Returns, and I started to think about what I would do if I were to create a superhero adventure. How would my heroes get their powers? Moreover, how would that work in the real world? I wanted to create something a little different from the usual superhero origin story, and through the writing process, The Bug Boys idea took shape and became a reality.

Who is your favorite character?

Alex. He’s the main hero of this story even though there are two Bug Boys. He’s creative, but not very organized, unlike his friend Ian.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Nearly every character in this book is loosely based on someone I know. For my first book, I wanted to make things easy for myself, and not have to create everything from scratch. Using people and places I know made it easier to track where the story and characters were heading.

Describe your writing process.

I joined two writers groups to help me get through this project, and set a pace I knew I could maintain. Every two weeks, I’d have a new five or six-page chapter done, and I’d review the text with these groups. Based on their feedback, changes were made, and I would keep marching on. These groups were also a good barometer going forward. If I got the feeling I was wasting my time with this project (as in, people were struggling to find something nice to say about my work!), I would have saved myself the embarrassment and shelved the idea forever!

Who are some authors who have influenced you?

Thbug-boysere is a reason the main family’s surname in my book is Adams, and why I have a character called Mrs. Pratchett. I love the books by Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, and their influence shows in my sense of humor and choice of story topic. I wanted to be honest about that inspiration so that’s why they are included. I also enjoy John Scalzi’s work (Red Shirts) and Harry Harrison’s novels (The Stainless Steel Rat). I also hope Andy Weir (The Martian) writes some more books too; he’s hilarious!

What made you want to become an author?

I simply wanted to do something creative with my life. I knew I could tell a fun story, I just needed help with the mechanics to make sure I released something worth reading.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Set a pace you can maintain and stick to it. Let your ideas brew for a while before sitting down to write (never force it), and find other writers to critique your work as you go. They’ll help you recognize your weaknesses, and ask tough questions about your work.

Thank you, Stewart!! Readers, watch for my review of The Bug Boys later this week!

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Author Interview: Jillian Bald

Jillian BaldHere’s my interview with Jillian Bald, author of The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down. I found this good tale on Book Club Reading List.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

In the beginning, it was a simpler story about a girl sent away to a new land for an arranged marriage. I had planned to tell the story from her perspective. The ideas that I began outlining were more back stories of her husband, Mauro Baric, and from there, the stories about those living at the Baric castle. Resi and her journey are still prominent, but I ended up focusing on the men in the books more than I originally thought I would. I am happy with this choice, though.

Who is your favorite character?

All of my characters are dear to me in their own way, but I have taken special care of Jero in the books. His role will grow as the trilogy progresses, and I have had fun with his struggles. You might expect me to say Mauro or Resi, but Jero is my number one.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

I hope I did not base any of my characters on real people. We have all had a friend like Fabian or Isabella at some point in our lives (maybe we are like them ourselves, and not like the more serious Mauro). I decided on a few personality and physical traits for each of my characters, and, weirdly, the people in my book sort of took on their own voices.

Describe your writing process.

I write notes down on my tablet in chucks of ideas, always out of sequence, but I organize these pieces of the story into a storyboard on my computer. I save every idea, even if it is just a sentence at a time. In the end, half are thrown away, but the other half is in the book. Before I wrote the first draft, I did a lot of research for The House of Baric for the setting and culture. When it comes to actual writing, I begin at chapter one and take the story in its order. I am always ready to move little plotlines around and edit, edit, edit.

Who are some authors who have influenced you?Shields Down Digital Front-smaller

I have been influenced by many writers. For entertaining romances, I have a lot of books by Julie Garwood in my collection. I have read a lot of early John Irving novels. He has something to say with his storytelling, and I like that in a book. I am a fan of Hugh Howey. He is a newer author, and I like his writing style and his story choices. I do like the classics. I am a bit old-school in my preference for formal punctuation, semi-colons, and long sentences in the writing of Tolkien or Jane Austen. Their original readers had not traveled far from home, and they had to create the world for their audience in pages of descriptive writing that must have taken great patience to perfect.

What made you want to become an author?

I have some flexibility in my schedule at this point in my life, and I had some stories twirling in my head. I am not a full-time author yet, but that is my goal. I have been writing for several years now, and it is a wonderful, creative outlet that gives me a lot of satisfaction.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

“Unplug” from the distractions of your electronic world and listen to the “voices” in your head. Write down what they say at the time, or you will never remember that brilliant thought. Trust your instincts. Read your dialogue out loud, like a play, to be sure the conversation is natural and you are keeping true to the different voices. Be prepared that it takes a long time to write and edit a decent story, but even longer to publish and market a book.

Thank you, Jillian!! I’m also a bit old-school in my preference for semi-colons and the classics. Readers, watch for my review of The House of Baric Part One: Shields Down, coming soon!

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Author Interview: Laurel McHargue

Laurel McHargue

Laurel is the author of Waterwight (review coming soon) and “Miss?”. Both titles can be found on Book Club Reading List.

How did you come up with the idea for Waterwight? 

I woke from a dream (on my Mum’s 86th birthday) in which I was running away from bad guys and had to fly across a large body of water. Halfway across, I started to fall. A flying frog came out of nowhere and said, “Grab hold!” I did, and he got me safely to the other side of the water and then died in my arms! I shared that dream with a friend and she said, “Oh my gosh! You HAVE to write a story about that!” The rest poured out of me!

Who is your favorite character? Why?

I’d have to say Orville is my favorite character because not only is “he” the one who inspired the whole story, his evolution in the story continues to fascinate me. I’m not done with him yet! There will be more challenges for him in the rest of the series. I can’t give away any more!

Did you base any of your characters on real people? 

I used the names of real people (mostly children) I know or met while writing Book I, and in most cases, I used the superpowers they told me they’d want as inspiration for scenes.

What made you want to write in this genre?

I coached high school writing groups for several years while I was teaching English and after I left teaching, several of my students were writing fantasy adventure. I thought I might try the genre “someday,” but it was the dream and my friend’s suggestion that pushed the “DO IT NOW” button in my brain! I plan to write in as many genres as possible over the course of my lifetime because each one presents a unique challenge, and I do love challenges!

Did you have to do any research for Waterwight? What kind?

I did some basic research on the characteristics of the different animals you’ll encounter in Waterwight because I didn’t want anyone to say, “They don’t do that!” Of course, I didn’t find any evidence that frogs fly, but the stuff I DID find out about frogs really helped me to describe many of the scenes in which Orville plays a key role.

What can you tell us about your plans for the sequel? How long until book 2?

I’m working on the sequel now and have told people it will be done by the end of this year. YIKES! I have a lot of work to do, especially since I’m working on several other books at the same time. By the time you publish this interview, “Haikus Can Amuse! 366 Haiku Starters” should be available! But I’m really excited about the new world the Waterwight characters will have to explore in books II and III, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to deliver on my due date.

Tell us about your journey to becoming an author. Where have you found the most success or difficulty?

I’ve been our family storyteller since I was a youngster, and my friends would tell me I should write books. I journaled through my high school years, but didn’t keep it up regularly while I was in the Army and raising children. I started journaling again during my first year of teaching 7th grade English in a difficult school because I couldn’t believe what I was experiencing each day, and those journals provided the details for my first novel—“Miss?”—which is a loosely fictionalized account of that year.

I’m still working on the “success” aspect of writing (in terms of being able to make a living), but I do believe I’ve been greatly successful because of the feedback I get from my readers! There’s nothing more rewarding (well, I suppose money would add to the “reward”!) than having total strangers tell you they couldn’t put your book down.

The difficult part is in establishing the workday routine. As an Indie author, you’ve got to make writing your full time job. If I didn’t have a spouse with a job that paid the bills, I don’t believe I’d make that time for myself, so I consider myself to be very fortunate. My dream is to tell him someday, “You can retire now, darlin’! I’ll pay the bills!” (At least I have a pretty good record of crazy dreams!)

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Make writing your full time job. And don’t wait to find an agent! Publish yourself, and get your work out there!

Thank you, Laurel! Readers, watch for my review of Waterwight coming soon!

Laurel loves to hear from her readers! Contact her on Book Club Reading List

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Author Interview: Alexander Marmer

Alexander MarmerHere’s my interview with Alexander Marmer, author of Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu, a novel I found on Book Club Reading List.

How did you come up with the idea for Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu?

I’ve always been fascinated by Egypt. Egypt and the pyramids always mesmerized me, the Great Pyramid in particular. I always knew there were more mysteries to the Great Pyramid than what we learned about in school and in numerous books about Egypt. The meeting of Anatoly Vasiliev, who devoted more than 40 years of his life studying and analyzing the Great Pyramid, back in 1996 in Moscow, cardinally changed my perspective about the Great Pyramid’s constructive methods and inspired me to write this book.

Who is your favorite character?

Michael Doyle. In some ways he is like me. I always assumed that Michael is a more adventurous version of me with much bigger ambitions and determination.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Some of the characters are totally based on real people. For example, Michael Doyle is the “unrealized” version of me. The character of Kirilov in the book is almost identical to the real-life World War II veteran whom I had the honor of meeting in 1996 in Moscow. The other characters were products of my imagination and “collective” images and traits of a several real-life people.

Describe your writing process.

I started writing the book back in 2007 and was writing it on and off for a long 7 years. While I was writing my first novel I held a full time job in the police department and at the same time was in the US Army National Guard. In addition I also had a family and two kids. To find free time was hard, but somehow I managed to find time to write, typically on a commuter train to/from work or during a free time on my two deployments overseas.

Who are some authors who have influenced you?

Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes adventures!  I grew up on these adventures, reading and re-reading them over and over again.
Agatha Christie and her two detectives Ms Marple and Hercule Poirot.
Alexandre Dumas and his “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers.”
Robert Louis Stevenson and his “Treasure island.”
William Shakespeare and his “The taming of the Shrew.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald and his “The Great Gatsby.”
Dan Brown and his eminent “The Da Vinci Code” inspired me to write my own novel. Dan Brown’s widespread use of trivia facts throughout the entire novel made his book for me the most enjoyable piece of reading material I’ve ever read.

What made you want to become an author?Four ways to pharaoh Khufu

Mystery and adventure have always being a part of my DNA and lifestyle. I was always intrigued by the stories of the hidden treasures, sunken ships, etc. I always dreamed that one day the opportunity would arise and I would go to some remote jungle, desert or under the ocean and participate in the treasure-seeking expedition. Well, I’m still hoping that this day will still come, but in the meantime I decided to use my imagination and mentally travel to those remote places and go on the treasure hunt. That’s why I wrote my first novel.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Keep on writing – don’t give up! I know a bunch of unrealized and unpublished authors because they could never finish their manuscripts. I know that by publishing my book I have already inspired at least three “hung up” authors who “resurrected” their unfinished manuscripts and got back in the writing chair.

Thank you Alexander! Watch for my review of Four Ways to Pharaoh Khufu coming soon!

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Author Interview: Katie Robison

Katie RobisonKatie Robison is the author of the action-packed novel Downburst, which I found on Cheap eBooks.

How did you come up with the idea for Downburst?

I was actively brainstorming ideas for a new book. I knew I wanted a unique paranormal/ fantasy element, and I came up with a concept at the same time that I was reading a book of Maori stories. This prompted me to develop my fantasy element by weaving in various Native mythologies, which has been one of the most rewarding parts of this project.

Who is your favorite character?

This is a hard one. I really admire Kit, especially how she grows as a character over the course of the series. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Rye. (My very favorite character doesn’t appear until book two.)

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

I based the descriptions for my main characters on real people (I write better if I have a picture in mind, which is why I always visit and/or research the places I’m writing about), but in terms of personality, the characters pretty much came to life on their own.

Describe your writing process.

Before I do any writing, I do a lot of brainstorming and outlining so I have a clear picture of the entire book (or series, in this case). If I have any specific scenes or pieces of dialogue in my mind, I’ll jot them down so I don’t forget them. Then I go to work on the first draft. Generally, I write linearly, but sometimes I’ll jump around if I’m stuck. There’s definitely an organic element to this process, where I’ll generate ideas as I’m writing, and this is why the outline is important. I allow myself to incorporate these new ideas (usually, they improve the story), but the outline keeps me from getting off track and losing sight of the big picture. Once I’ve got a draft, I’ll let it sit for a bit then come back to it and note any inconsistencies or other things that need to be fixed. After a little revising, I’ll send the manuscript to my critique partners. What follows is a process of getting feedback, making changes, getting more feedback, and making more changes until I feel like the plot is airtight. I finish by checking for typos and other small errors and polishing things at the sentence-level. Then we’re ready for publication.

Who are some authors who have influenced you?downburst-cover

I have a lot of influences, but I think I can pinpoint my love of beautifully plotted adventure stories to Alexandre Dumas and my fascination with flawed characters to Edith Wharton. For Downburst in particular, I decided to switch to first-person present tense, which I’d never used before, after reading Suzanne Collins. For this type of story, it worked a lot better to have a restricted point of view, and the present tense lent the narrative a kind of urgency that helped to build suspense.

What made you want to become an author?

I don’t think there was any one event that made me want to be an author. I’ve just always known I wanted to write, and I’ve been coming up with stories since I was a kid.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Embrace writing as a process. You won’t get it right with your first draft, but that’s okay! (I threw away my first version of Downburst, killed off my main character, and started over.) The more you revise and rework, the better the story—and your writing—will become.

On a related note, be humble enough to solicit and accept feedback, but don’t feel like you need to submit your work to a committee. Relying on a few trusted and qualified critique partners, who are passionate about your story, is sufficient.

Thank you, Katie!! Readers, I am well on my way in Downburst and I can tell you–this is a high quality book. Stay tuned for my review, coming in a few days!

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Author Interview: James Lawless

James LawlessHow did you come up with the idea for this book?

It was during the time of the Celtic tiger that the idea of the novel was hatched. Money was plentiful, capitalism was all devouring and with it, its rampant corruption. There was no opposition to it socialism in the bad books.
There are three main strands running through it. Firstly, it may be read as a poignant love story — Anna is a ballerina with whom the main protagonist, the university student, Guido van Thool, falls in love. But Anna is also an acronym for Anarchists of the New Age, which brings us to the second dimension of the novel as an ideological story positing ideas in the mind of the philosophy student Guido, in the wake of the collapse of Russian communism and the dilution of politics, on what alternatives there are to the all-devouring monolith of corporate capitalism. Anna wants to steer Guido away from this sort of ‘dangerous’ thinking, but his friend, the anarchist Philippe, keeps goading him. Paralleling the lives of the lovers is that of a corrupt judge, Jeremiah Delahyde (the third strand) who literally crashes into the world of Guido and Anna on a fatal New Year’s night.

Who is your favorite character?

Despite my liking for Guido, I have a soft spot for the judge. Some of my readers said that he is so bad and crazy they actually like him. Apart from the anarchism, he tells the novel from the other side, as it were.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Not really, except myself, of which they are all myriad parts.

Describe your writing process.For Love of Anna

I try to do a couple of hours most mornings. But if I get waylaid by emails and promos, I get frustrated with my day if it wasn’t spent creatively. I have a cottage in the mountains of west Cork with no internet and, when I can get down there, I am able to write.

Who are some authors who have influenced you?

Cervantes, who started all of us off on the novel; Virginia Woolf, who raised the bar to poetic heights; Michael Ondaatje, whose novel The English Patient is one of my all time favourites and which combines poetry and thriller in an absorbing tale.

What made you want to become an author

My mother reading stories to me as a child and my father buying me my first diary at the age of twelve.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

Not to aspire, but to do. Writing is a condition and if you’ve got that condition and are not simply a dilettante you will know that what is needed is hard graft.

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Author Interview: Brian Laslow

Brian LaslowMy interview with Brian Laslow, author of The Marijuana Project, which I found on Book Club Reading List.

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

People have told me over the years that what I do, being a security consultant, was fascinating. I took on a medical marijuana production facility client and went through a similar ethical dilemma as the main character. I thought it may all make an interesting book subject.

Who is your favorite character?

Well, I’d have to say the main character Sam because he’s based on me. Not because of some narcissism but because it was a lot of fun doing some ’embellishing’.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

All of the main characters are based on real people in my life.

Describe your writing process.

The general plot just kind of came to me so when I had some time and the spirit moved me I wrote what I could. I would then just think of what should come next in the plot and kept going. It took 10 months, but it’s almost exactly as I first imagined it.

Who are some authors who have influenced you?

To be perfectly honest, none. I just really appreciate anyone who has an idea to do something and just does it, whether it’s writing a book or The_Marijuana_Project_Brian_Laslow_t580anything else.

What made you want to become an author?

It’s never been a dream. I wrote an industry book a few years ago as a way to add credibility to my consulting business. That experience made me believe I could also write a novel, so I did so.

What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?

A few things. First, don’t worry about every little word in the beginning, just write it. If you try to be perfect right away, it will never get done. Then, surround yourself with experts who will help turn your manuscript into something you will be proud of and people will want to read. Like with anything else in life, you need the help of other people to make a venture successful.

Thank you Brian! Readers, watch for my review of The Marijuana Project coming soon!!

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