Catching up with romance and fantasy author Emma Baird

Hi Emma, it’s great to have this chance to find out a bit more about you. Thanks for allowing yourself to be bullied in this way. Let’s jump straight in to my not very exacting interview! I’ve read most of your books, and love them, I’m not just saying that because we’re pals.

I’d advise readers who love romance to get started NOW on book 1 of the Highland Books: Highland Fling, where we meet Gaby and go with her to the perfect setting for romance: a little village in Scotland where she meets a variety of brilliant characters, and of course, the love of her life – her cat! (kidding)

Q1. What kind of books do you write?

Women’s fiction – which is a broad church, thankfully. So, I can write romantic comedies in the main, but also chick lit, young adult and I’m currently trying my hand at urban fantasy stroke paranormal romance.

Women, luckily, are very open-minded about what they read. And they tend to read voraciously. I think that gives writers so much freedom.

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

I just read. And read. Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens and a lot of Greek mythology which meant I was useful for crossword clues.

 

I remember loving Judy Blume. She tapped into the 80s child psyche so well. Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret and Forever are the two books I remember the most, the latter for obvious reasons… Though I did have to figure out what the British equivalent was for the food mentioned in those books—Graham Crackers for digestives and jelly for jam.

And er… my mum had a copy of a Jackie Collins book, and a friend and I used to sneak into her bedroom and read it. Now, that was educational.

Lol I bet it was. My parents used to go through my books quite carefully to check they were suitable. I’m glad to say a few things slipped through! They didn’t realise I read their books too!

Q3. I know you’ve recently released a boxset of the three books so far in your Highland Books romantic comedy series, so what are you working on at the moment?

What can we look forward to in the future from you?

Oof. I went through this mad writing phase in the last four years and finished quite a few books. They are not yet fit to be unleashed. Re-writing and revising is the really important bit of the book process. I wish I could find a way to stop procrastinating about it. My way of dealing with rewriting is to start another story instead!

However, I’ve finished the fourth book in my Highland Books series, Highland Chances and hope to have it out by the summer. And I thought I’d fling in a final one, Highland Christmas to finish it all off.

I started a novella on Wattpad recently—A Leap of Faith, a COVID-19 lockdown love story. Not sure if that proves I’m overambitious, stupid or what.

Q4. Who are your favourite authors? What are you reading now?

I re-read my way through Barbara Pym’s books a couple of years ago, and I really enjoyed Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop. I love their observational skills, and the way they make the ‘ordinary’ so interesting. I’m a big fan of crime (cosy mysteries are such fun!) and big sagas. I’m re-reading James Mitchener’s The Source at the moment.

Special mention too, to Fiona Walker and Marion Keyes (women’s fiction experts extraordinaire). I’ve read all their books – and Marion Keyes is vastly entertaining to follow on Twitter.

Q5. What do you do when you’re not reading?

Cook. I love cooking. I don’t do anything else while doing it, but prep and cook, so it feels mindful. I walk a lot, as it’s easy exercise. Kind of fond of drinking wine too… (interestingly, you can drink and write, but you can’t drink and read!) Also, I’m very much into the 21st Century habit de jour – Netflix binge watching. What the flip did we do before Netflix?!

Q6. What is your writing process?

Boringly prosaic. A word count per day. The day job helps with that too. I get a percentage of my income through copywriting – blogs, website content, product descriptions, e-books, video scripts, etc. The usual deal is you get paid by word count, so that discipline makes writing for yourself a lot easier.

At least you’ve got a process that works for you! Emma, thanks so much for ‘popping along’, and I wish you every success with the Highland Books, and with your future projects.

To find out more about Emma and her work, please follow the links below:

Links:

Blog: https://emmabaird.com/

Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/SavvyDunn

Twitter: @EmmaCBaird

Amazon author page: Emma Baird

Emma Baird and I nervously pose just before our talk at a library in Scotland easily two years ago now.

Emma Baird and I nervously pose just before our talk at a library in Scotland easily two years ago now.

***

Author Interview – Paul Nelson, author of young adult fantasy, mystery and other genres

As we continue to rack our brains for something to do at home, this week I thought it would be nice to showcase the work of an Indie author and reshare a short interview from two and a half years ago!

Paul Nelson is the author of the Susquehanna series of books for both young adults and adults. The first book of this series is Burning Bridges Along The Susquehanna, which I highly recommend for a pacy and unusual read. Paul has also written Saving Worms After The Rain, and the Fisher’s Autism Trilogy. Paul is an advocate of autism and his main characters are autistic. It is Paul’s desire to open up the eyes of all of us to what it is to be autistic and to break through the preconceptions about autism and the way autistic people are treated. I can highly recommend these very original books, as they are warm, funny and very human. In addition, I love the period detail and the settings of these books, as they are steeped in local history and folklore.

Now, over to Paul:

Thanks for agreeing to be tortured in this way, Paul, I have a few basic questions for you, if you don’t mind. Hopefully these will help people to see the man behind the books!

Q1. What kind of books do you write?

I write fiction that includes those with disabilities, especially autism. Saving Worms After the Rain is an adult mystery with historical elements, and the Fisher’s Autism Trilogy are aimed at young adults and are mainly fantasy.

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

Reading was hard for me as a child. I think I have ADHD. When I got older, I read lots of short stories by Truman Capote in school. I also love John Steinbeck and Anne Rice.  I read a lot about spirituality…Richard Rohr and Buddhism.

Q3. What are you working on at the moment? What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I’m working on a novel about a young woman with an autistic brother. (Spoiler alert, that’s the Susquehanna series, people, buy it now here) It’s historical and fantasy combined. They find a time portal and travel back in time. It’s about the Susquehanna River Valley, where I live.

Q4. What are your favourite authors? What are you reading now?

Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Richard Rohr, Anne Rice. I’m not reading too much right now. I’m trying to spend most of my time writing. 

I know what you mean, I don’t read much when I’m writing either, it seems too much of a distraction, and I’m worried about bringing other authors’ voices and styles into my work. Plus I just don’t have the mental energy!

Now on to Q5. What do you do when you’re not reading?

My autistic son needs a lot of my time. I make sure I walk for at least 40 minutes a day. It’s good for the body and the spirit and mind. I do a lot of writing in my head when I walk. I also love movies. I wrote a screenplay of my first book. My son and I go to movies quite a bit. (Caron adds: let’s hope we can all get back to that soon.)

Q6. What is your writing process?

I like to write in my head first. When I sit down to start writing a rough draft, I imagine what I want to write as a movie scene. It’s like storyboarding in my head. After I write all the scenes, I go back and embellish, add descriptive passages and link the scenes together. I’m a very visual person.

That’s an interesting approach – I find it difficult to write until I’ve created a book cover – I need that visual stimulus to bring my story alive in my head, but I don’t do the full on storyboarding. Maybe I should try that.

Thank you so much for sharing your writing process with us. I’m really looking forward to your new book – and all your subsequent books out there in the big wide world.

About the Author:

Paul Nelson is a former music teacher who has written a trilogy of fantasy fiction books inspired by his 19-year-old son Michael, who was born with autism. Michael has a hard time communicating on his own, but Paul knows his son has a story to tell. Paul wants to show the world that people with autism are not ‘badly raised and in need of spanking’ nor are they ‘stupid and lazy’, but are creative, intelligent, compassionate people with something to say and who deserve the same respect everyone else should get. On top of that, his books are a breath of fresh air. The books are available as a set in one volume called FISHER’S AUTISM TRILOGY, or as individual volumes, entitled: Through Fisher’s Eyes, Dark Spectrum and A Problem With The Moon.  In addition to this trilogy, there is also a novel for adults, Saving Worms After The Rain, which Paul describes as a mixture of mystery and the history of central Pennsylvania. You can follow Paul on his author page on Amazon.com or on Twitter.

***

Writer’s Showcase: Caron Allan

This week I’m cheating yet again, as I’m reblogging a post about me from Christy Oslund’s website https://colliedogpress.wordpress.com
Take a look if you’ve got ten minutes to kill, it’s full of fascinating insights into authors’ lives and work.
And thank you, Christy, for taking the time, and for the great conversations. I appreciate it.

Collie Dog Press

Genre: Mystery (Friendship Can Be Murder series), Romantic Historical Mystery (Dottie Manderson series).

Background: I wrote my first novel Ghosts! Ghosts! Ghosts! in 1970 and unfortunately it is now lost because my mum kept it in a drawer with my drawings, a knitted bookmark and a tea-cozy I made. I started reading adventures at age seven or eight and was reading Agatha Christie by age nine. [Eventually] I remember sitting on my bed in Aldershot, Hampshire, UK, and thinking, I want to write a new story, but what shall I write about? Then I thought, what is it I am afraid of?

Writing Highlight: I had to overcome [close] people telling me that a) I was no good as a writer, b) it was wicked thing to want to write fiction, and c) who did I think I was anyway, thinking I could be a writer? So…

View original post 277 more words

Books are life!

Is it possible to gauge the influence our reading has on us over time?  Think back to the first books you read as a child, can you still remember them? Have you read those same books as an adult and still found the same ideas and images grabbing you as they did in those early days? It was my mother who encouraged my love of books, reading, and this led to writing. This is particularly important as my mum died this week, so I’ve been very introspective, thinking gratefully about her life.

I can remember her reading The Wind in the Willows and The House at Pooh Corner to me when I was a very young child.  I can remember that sometimes I was bored, sometimes I couldn’t find my way through the complex language to the story inside. But I loved the story-reading process, loved the new ideas and characters, and I always longed for the next chapter, begged her not to stop reading.  I can remember thinking, when I’m a grown-up I can read and read and read and  no one can tel me to stop and go to sleep.  (Didn’t know about Life then!) I can remember reading fairy stories from a huge colourful book to the poor guy who came to mend the boiler, when I was no more than 5 or 6.  I suppose I also loved having a captive audience!

I can remember being so inspired by the stories I read that I started writing my own stories – not usually more than a page long to begin with – and not usually very interesting. Even then I had a pen name, and signed my work ‘by Sammy’. That wasn’t even one of my (many) imaginary friends, it was my own creative self.

The books that have shaped my life?  I loved Treasure Island, Jane Eyre, the Famous Five, the Lone Pine Five, all the usual books that kids in the 1960s read. The Wind in the Willows taught me that children’s stories don’t have to be facile.  Shakespeare’s plays taught me that I have a brain and I’m not afraid to use it.  Enid Blyton’s books showed me that being nosy is a sure way to get into trouble and end up tied up in a cellar (but oh the adventure!).  Many, many books taught me to believe I could write,  Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Dorothy L Sayers and Patricia Wentworth taught me what I wanted to write, and that you don’t have to be highbrow or obscure to be a good writer.

I was thrilled to discover there were all kinds of works:  poetry, plays, fiction, non-fiction. There were genres. I could read romance, I could read classic, I could read crime. I could read fantasy-crime from Jasper Fforde and Tom Holt. I could read J B Priestley and J M Barrie, Arthur Conan Doyle and William Makepeace Thackeray. I could read translated works. There are just sooooo many books, and given time, I could read – if not all – then a pretty good number. Books made me take that leap of faith, experiment, and when things didn’t work out, I had somewhere to go to recover.  If all else fails, they make a bloody big pile you can hide behind.

But over all of this, the books themselves, crowding about me like friends, took over my life to the detriment of all else – apart from my family of course 🙂 and I can honestly say that nine times out of ten, I’d sooner spend my money on a book than a bar of chocolate – and those who know me know that is really saying something.

***

Murder, Mayhem and Indie Publishing

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… breathe, Caron, breathe…

Emma Baird - author

Dear lady, this month thou shalt stand up in front of people and attempt to inform and entertain… Not much of a tall order is it?

Up there on this year’s to-do list, which always includes something along the lines of Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, was’do a workshop/book event’. As someone who’d rather have a tooth pulled out sans anesthetic than stand up in front of an audience*, this is a biggie. I’ve published four books so far and this is my first ‘launch’.

Night and Day by Caron AllanTo ease the experience, I bullied roped in another writer to join me and billed it as a Q and A session. Given that most people think they have a book in them, why not appeal to that audience by positioning our event as an exploration of the world of indie publishing? And unlike me, my author chum makes decent money from…

View original post 298 more words

Author Interview – Paul Nelson, author of young adult fantasy, mystery and other genres

As we continue to rack our brains for something to do at home, this week I thought it would be nice to showcase the work of an Indie author and reshare a short interview from two and a half years ago!

Paul Nelson is the author of the Susquehanna series of books for both young adults and adults. The first book of this series is Burning Bridges Along The Susquehanna, which I highly recommend for a pacy and unusual read. Paul has also written Saving Worms After The Rain, and the Fisher’s Autism Trilogy. Paul is an advocate of autism and his main characters are autistic. It is Paul’s desire to open up the eyes of all of us to what it is to be autistic and to break through the preconceptions about autism and the way autistic people are treated. I can highly recommend these very original books, as they are warm, funny and very human. In addition, I love the period detail and the settings of these books, as they are steeped in local history and folklore.

Now, over to Paul:

Thanks for agreeing to be tortured in this way, Paul, I have a few basic questions for you, if you don’t mind. Hopefully these will help people to see the man behind the books!

Q1. What kind of books do you write?

I write fiction that includes those with disabilities, especially autism. Saving Worms After the Rain is an adult mystery with historical elements, and the Fisher’s Autism Trilogy are aimed at young adults and are mainly fantasy.

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

Reading was hard for me as a child. I think I have ADHD. When I got older, I read lots of short stories by Truman Capote in school. I also love John Steinbeck and Anne Rice.  I read a lot about spirituality…Richard Rohr and Buddhism.

Q3. What are you working on at the moment? What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I’m working on a novel about a young woman with an autistic brother. (Spoiler alert, that’s the Susquehanna series, people, buy it now here) It’s historical and fantasy combined. They find a time portal and travel back in time. It’s about the Susquehanna River Valley, where I live.

Q4. What are your favourite authors? What are you reading now?

Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Richard Rohr, Anne Rice. I’m not reading too much right now. I’m trying to spend most of my time writing. 

I know what you mean, I don’t read much when I’m writing either, it seems too much of a distraction, and I’m worried about bringing other authors’ voices and styles into my work. Plus I just don’t have the mental energy!

Now on to Q5. What do you do when you’re not reading?

My autistic son needs a lot of my time. I make sure I walk for at least 40 minutes a day. It’s good for the body and the spirit and mind. I do a lot of writing in my head when I walk. I also love movies. I wrote a screenplay of my first book. My son and I go to movies quite a bit. (Caron adds: let’s hope we can all get back to that soon.)

Q6. What is your writing process?

I like to write in my head first. When I sit down to start writing a rough draft, I imagine what I want to write as a movie scene. It’s like storyboarding in my head. After I write all the scenes, I go back and embellish, add descriptive passages and link the scenes together. I’m a very visual person.

That’s an interesting approach – I find it difficult to write until I’ve created a book cover – I need that visual stimulus to bring my story alive in my head, but I don’t do the full on storyboarding. Maybe I should try that.

Thank you so much for sharing your writing process with us. I’m really looking forward to your new book – and all your subsequent books out there in the big wide world.

About the Author:

Paul Nelson is a former music teacher who has written a trilogy of fantasy fiction books inspired by his 19-year-old son Michael, who was born with autism. Michael has a hard time communicating on his own, but Paul knows his son has a story to tell. Paul wants to show the world that people with autism are not ‘badly raised and in need of spanking’ nor are they ‘stupid and lazy’, but are creative, intelligent, compassionate people with something to say and who deserve the same respect everyone else should get. On top of that, his books are a breath of fresh air. The books are available as a set in one volume called FISHER’S AUTISM TRILOGY, or as individual volumes, entitled: Through Fisher’s Eyes, Dark Spectrum and A Problem With The Moon.  In addition to this trilogy, there is also a novel for adults, Saving Worms After The Rain, which Paul describes as a mixture of mystery and the history of central Pennsylvania. You can follow Paul on his author page on Amazon.com or on Twitter.

***

Going Indie – part one

I’m a self-published—or Indie—author. And that is no longer something to be lamented or ashamed of, nor has it been for quite a few years. I published my first book in January 2013, and since then have inflicted several more books on the unsuspecting reading public, with many more planned for the future.

If you are thinking about being an Indie author, or you already are one and are ready to quit and get a ‘real’ job, here is my take on Going Indie. I hope overall, I will encourage rather than discourage you. Shall I say at the outset that I am finally making money? Because yes, I write because I love it, and I love the creative process, but at the same time, I need to live. I need to buy food, notebooks, pay bills and assist my hubby in keeping a roof over our heads. And it has taken the best part of five years to get there, though I’m sure plenty of other people could do it in a shorter period.

Fully aware of the unbelievably huge learning curve that awaited me, I decided in 2012 to ‘go for it’. How else would I ever see my books in print? How else could I share my words and my worlds with other people? I knew my chances of getting accepted by a publisher were virtually nil—as a creative writing tutor once unhelpfully pointed out to her newly enrolled class, we stood a better chance of getting onto the space programme. Well I was 50 in 2010, so I stood absolutely no chance of going into space (not that I wanted to) so where did that leave me with my dreams of being an author? It was obvious I only had one option available, so I took it, hesitating and afraid, but with a sense of audacity. Did I really dare to do it? Yes, I decided, I did. Oh and by the way, I was still working full time at that point.

What did I have to learn? The short answer is everything.

  1. I had to learn how to edit and proofread. I read everything I could, did some courses to brush up my grammar skills, I even got a lot of work as a freelance proofreader and editor. I had to learn to do this myself as I couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it for me.
  2. I researched how to format a book for the various self-publishing platforms. I learned how to do this myself as I couldn’t afford to pay anyone to do it for me. I had reasonable computer skills but knew nothing about creating a manuscript from a computer document. That was all new to me.
  3. I researched the different self-publishing platforms as I knew nothing about them, and I wasn’t really in any kind of group or society or anything where I could ask other people. I was at that time completely out of touch with other self-published authors.
  4. Then I had to write the books. And edit, then rewrite, then edit, the rewrite, then edit… I knew that you couldn’t just finish a first draft and put it on Amazon as a book. I now know that when I’ve finished a first draft, that is just the beginning of the process. It’s the bit I find hardest, actually. I love rewriting, that is freeing and creative, but putting the bare bones down on the page? That’s tough.
  5. I tried using betareaders. That didn’t work for me. All that happened was the nice ones said, ‘Yes it’s wonderful’, and the others all just said the opposite to everyone else. I ended up with a new opinion for everyone I asked. Not helpful. So I didn’t bother with that again. Though I do now have writer buddies I occasionally run an idea or dilemma past.
  6. I had to learn how to create book covers. I tried Fiverr, and sorry to be mean to anyone but I got nothing worth using. And again, I couldn’t afford to pay anyone to design and create my covers, so again, I had to learn to do it myself. Now I find it so satisfying and it helps me to fix a book in my head, makes it come alive. To begin with I used PowerPoint, with stock photos from Morguefile or Pixabay. You can create a slide the size of a book cover (research the correct size—a quick Google search will give you that) then when you’ve finished fiddling with it, you can save itas a jpeg. And hey presto! This is one of the first ones I made.

It’s not great but I used it for quite a while before I made something a bit nicer.These days I still make my own covers, and I still use Pixabay or Shutterstock, but I now use Canva—which is wonderful flexible and FREE to make some very acceptable covers. And my other marketing materials. Here’s a couple of examples of covers I’ve made on Canva, I’m really proud of these even if they still look a bit homemade. I love them, and more importantly, the books are selling. so take time to think about a good cover for your work. It needs to both blend into your genre or niche, yet stand out. Prospective readers should get a vague idea of what the story is about, and know what to expect from your cover. It’s essential the title and your author name can be read in the thumbnail size, so make sure they are really bold and clear.

   

Part Two of this blog next week:

***

Author interview – Emma Baird: multi-genre author extraordaire!

It’s been a little while since I last did an author interview, and I recently ‘met’ Emma Baird by the magical medium of the Interweb. With her recent release of her novel The Girl Who Swapped, I thought this would be the perfect time to interrogate her before she can recover from post-publication exhaustion.

Hi Emma, it’s great to have this chance to find out a bit more about you. Q1. What kind of books do you write?

Women’s fiction – which is a broad church, thankfully. So, I can write fantasy, chick lit, young adult, contemporary fiction, humour, adventure stories, thrillers, crime fiction… You get the picture. Women, luckily, are very open-minded about what they read. And they tend to read voraciously. I think that gives writers so much freedom.

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

I just read. And read. Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens and a lot of Greek mythology which meant I was useful for crossword clues.

I do remember loving Judy Blume. She tapped into the 80s child psyche so well. If I mentioned Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret or Forever – I’m sure there are lots of people who would nod along, saying ‘Yup! Loved those books.’ I did have to work my way through understanding American food references, though. Graham Crackers, digestives, basically.

And er… my mum had a copy of a Jackie Collins book, and a friend and I used to sneak into her room and read it. Now, that was educational.

Lol I bet it was. My parents used to go through my books quite carefully to check they were suitable. I’m glad to say a few things slipped through! They didn’t realise I read their books too! Q3. I know you’ve only recently released The Girl Who Swapped, which I’ve read and really loved by the way, so what are you working on at the moment?

 What can we look forward to in the future from you?

Oof. I went through this mad writing phase last year and finished quite a few books. They are not fit to be unleashed, however.

I do have one book that I’m quite fond of, a coming of age tale that needs a little French polishing. It is set in a small Scottish town, and it tackles lack of confidence, homosexuality, crime and acceptance. The working title is Artists Town, though I’m working on that too. Re-writing and revising is the really important bit. I wish I could find a way to stop procrastinating about it. My way of dealing with rewriting is to start another story instead!

Q4. What are your favourite authors? What are you reading now?

Otherwise, I’ve just finished Anita Brookner’s Hotel Du Lac, as I adore many of the 20thCentury women writers. I re-read my way through Barbara Pym’s books a couple of years ago, and I really enjoyed Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop. I love their observational skills, and the way they make the ‘ordinary’ so interesting.

I LOVED Lauren Graff’s Fate and Furies – and she’s a much more current writer. Special mention too, to Fiona Walker and Marion Keyes (women’s fiction experts extraordinaire). I’ve read all their books – and Marion Keyes is vastly entertaining to follow on Twitter.

Q5. What do you do when you’re not reading?

Cook. I love cooking. I don’t do anything else while doing it, but prep and cook, so it feels mindful. I walk a lot, as it’s easy exercise. Kind of fond of drinking wine too… (interestingly, you can drink and write, but you can’t drink and read!) Also, I’m very much into the 21st Century habit de jour – Netflix binge watching. What the flip did we do before Netflix?!

Q6. What is your writing process?

Boringly prosaic. A word count per day. I set it low. I read a book by Martha Beck years ago about the importance of setting small goals. So, mine is 200 words every day. As it is so low, most days I manage 500 words, so every day I get to feel like I’ve over-achieved my goal. The day job helps with that too. I’m a copywriter – blogs, website content, product descriptions, e-books, video scripts, etc. The usual deal is you get paid by word count, so that discipline makes writing for yourself a lot easier.

At least you’ve got a process that works for you! Emma, thanks so much for ‘popping along’, and I wish you every success with The Girl Who Swapped, and with your future projects. I’m looking forward to reading your Scottish-based book hopefully fairly soon. But you can’t rush these things! To find out more about Emma and her work, please follow the links below:

Links

http://emmabaird.com

http://diabetesdietblog.com

Twitter @Glitterbaker

***

Author Interview- welcome back to Jenny S Burke

Jenny S Burke (writing as J S Burke) has very kindly agreed to come back and give us a quick update on how things are going in her writing life.

Hi Jenny! It’s so great to ‘see’ you again, thank you for giving up your time to chat with me again. Last time you were here, you were talking about your first book, The Dragon Dreamer, which is a fantasy/science-based story of an unlikely friendship between a dragon and an octopus, and is aimed at middle school and young adult readers.

Q1. What has kept you busy since we last spoke?

Thank you so much for having me back here! I’ve written stand-alone Book II of the Dragon Dreamer series. As you mentioned, Carrie, like Book I, Dragon Lightning is a young adult science fantasy with dragons, an undersea world, and unexpected friendship. This is layered for readers age 9 to 99, so it’s a good family read.

The Dragon Dreamer and Dragon Lightning are immersive reads; great ‘vacation books’ to dive into. There are more than 100 positive ratings and reviews for them on Goodreads and on Amazon US. I’m also drawing more fantasy snowflakes for my book illustrations and for the colouring book. These mandala flakes are drawn from animals and plants.

Q2. How different is it writing a subsequent book compared to your first?

In some respects this book was easier, because I understand how to write a science fantasy novel. I developed more characters in Dragon Lightning, which was fun. The Dragon Dreamer has two minor characters who became major players in Book II.

Q3. Is there anything you wish you could go back and tell yourself?

Start writing sooner!!!

LOL. Jenny, I can completely understand where you’re coming from with that one, I’d like to go back in time and tell myself that! When I look back and see all the time I wasted agonising over whether or not to just go for it…

Q4. Has anything in your writing style or process changed as you’ve gained experience?

I’m more comfortable writing in my own style, blending science and author experiences with fantasy. Once when I was aboard a research vessel at sea, three waterspouts headed for our boat. This harrowing experience is now in Dragon Lightning and provides a turning point. The characters come alive for me and tell me what they need to do, which is very helpful.

It’s very exciting when characters do that, as a writer you have greater confidence that your characters are fully rounded and not just cardboard cut-outs. And I also understand what you mean about using real life experiences to enrich your writing.

Q5. What can we look forward to in the future from you?

I’m working on a colouring book with the fantasy snowflakes my dragons grow in the winter clouds and writing Book III of the Dragon Dreamer series.

I love the idea of the colouring books – and as a Brit, I really appreciate you taking the time to put in all those extra letter U’s too! 🙂

Q6. Where can readers find you?

Please do visit me at my sites! And thank you Carrie for having me on your blog!

My pleasure, Jenny and may the new book make you proud! It’s worth mentioning by the way that Jenny writes under the name J S Burke. Links below for books and social media!

FACEBOOK: 

TWITTER: 

AMAZON.COM:

AMAZON.CO.UK:

AMAZON.CA:

AMAZON.AU:

WEB LETTER (Blog): 

***

Author Interview – Stuart Aken, sci-fi and romance writer extraordinaire!

I am so thrilled to welcome Stuart Aken this week who has very kindly agreed to talk about his highly acclaimed and varied work. I’m going to jump straight in because as you will see, Stuart’s got a lot to tell and I didn’t want to cut any of it!

newstu1000

Q1. What kind of books do you write?

It’s tempting to answer this facetiously with ‘Great!’ but I’ll be a little more considered.

My dislike of the cubby-holing and restrictions of genre has persuaded me to ignore it as a guide to my writing. My books tell stories first and foremost. I’m interested in the human condition, justice/injustice, the abuse of Big Business, and the environment, but I’m also fascinated by our capacity as a species to produce wonderful objects, design complex and intriguing theories to explain our world, to love, to hate, to kill and to create. So, I write stories that include romance, sometimes with erotic content to emphasise the difference between love and lust. I write stories that project into the future to see where we, the human race, may be in years to come. I write stories to explore ideas and the way myth and legend can become driving forces for people’s beliefs.

Because readers generally like to be given some direction when looking for books, I’ll apply the recognised labels to what I’ve written so far. But none of my books fall entirely within the confines of these pigeonholes we call genres.

Breaking Faith is a love story with dark undertones. Essentially it’s a romance, set in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is the Yorkshire Dales in England.

The Methuselah Strain is set on Earth some hundreds of years hence and follows the exploits of a woman who’s an IT genius on a search for a man who can help her create a child by natural means in a world of hedonistic leisure.

M.E. and Me is a medical memoir of my ten years with ME/CFS and celebrates my recovery from that condition, whilst giving readers information and guidance on how to cope with it.me-and-me-for-ebook-new

A Seared Sky: Book 1, Joinings; Book 2, Partings; Book 3, Convergence, is an adult epic fantasy trilogy set in an imagined world. It follows the quest of a party of pilgrims led on a dangerous mission by their religious leader. Told through the viewpoints of three separate couples, it interweaves their tales as they travel in the hope of finding justice and freedom. This is largely an adventure story in the fantasy mode, but avoiding the dragons and sword and sorcery routes.

Blood Red Dust: Generation Mars, Book 1 is set on Mars in the year 2074 and follows a group of chosen scientists as they settle on the red planet in an attempt to continue the human race after the Earth has been devastated by climate chaos. They are pursued by a religious extremist group intent on destroying all human life.

Stuart, I’ve read Blood Red Dust and loved it! Looking forward to the next one and I’m hanging on your WIP progress updates each week on Twitter. But moving on…

Q2. What were your earliest influences? What did you read as a child?

I was brought up in a household without books. My mother and father both read, but they obtained their books from the local library, since they lacked the means to buy them. As a result, I’d read the entire contents of the children’s section by the age of 11. It contained all the children’s English classics as well as some American books for children. I approached the fearsome librarian and asked if I might borrow books from the adult section (available once age 14 was reached). She gave me permission, provided I passed each book in front of her for approval. I’m unsure whether she permitted my first book, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, because she was unaware of its content or because she felt it really was suitable. A book that dealt with the horrors of trench warfare, the expletives of soldiers and their adventures with prostitutes, may not have been the best introduction to adult literature but it educated me in the ways of the world. That we had no TV in the house until I was 14 years old meant I spent a lot of time reading.

As a young adult, I read great quantities of science fiction; Ray Bradbury’s wonderful lyrical style, John Wyndham’s fascinating stories, and the works of Aldiss, Asimov, and so many other great authors. Later, I tackled many of the classics. And I read a lot of contemporary novels: Graham Greene, John Fowles, William Golding and Iris Murdoch were among my early favourites.

joinings-cover-2

Q3. What are you working on at the moment?

Last year, my publisher launched Blood Red Dust, a science fiction novel set on Mars. At present, I’m interrupting the writing of book 2 in the Generation Mars series to complete this interview. But I’ll be back to the writing tomorrow. The book continues the story of those early pioneers, but is set five hundred years into the future. That, in itself, should say something to you about the nature of the book, I hope. I prefer not to discuss the WIP whilst I’m in the process of creation, so I’m afraid that’s as much as I can tell you at present. Even the title is currently not for public consumption!

Q4. What can we look forward to in the future from you?

Once I’ve completed the book referred to above, I’m keen on writing more short stories, and having a serious attempt at some poetry. Short stories, apart from being a pleasure to write, really concentrate the mind and tighten the storytelling faculties. And poetry is a great way to develop concise style and explore metaphor and simile, as well as being an ideal medium for protest against the ills of the world. A marvellous way to indulge the imagination and widen the creative mind. I’ll continue to write my blog posts. And I’ll begin the research and development of book 3 in the Generation Mars series.

Q5. Who are your favourite authors?

I estimate I’ve read some ten thousand books. That’s a lot of words. A great many authors. Most have contributed something to my writing in one way or another, even if it’s a warning about how not to do it! But I suspect I’ve been influenced most heavily by Ray Bradbury, Iris Murdoch, Stephen King, Dorothea Brande and Graham Greene. I’ve enjoyed Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, Tom Sharpe, John Le Carré, Richard Adams, Nicci French, D.H. Lawrence and Howard Spring, among many others.

Q6. What do you do when you’re not reading?

If I’m tired, I watch the idiots’ lantern: it relaxes and is undemanding at the end of the day. But I love walking, and my wife Valerie, and I are fortunate enough to live within the boundaries of an area of Gloucestershire called the Forest of Dean. The woods are extensive and we have to walk only a hundred yards from our front door to enter the steep public footpath that leads into the trees that grow either side of the valley in which we live. I was once a professional photographer and I still indulge for my own pleasure. The garden is a work in progress and we love to get out there and try to tame it in the good weather.

Q7. What is your writing process?

Ah. I’m a pantster. That is, I write without plotting. I know many writers find this approach inexplicable and even a little terrifying. But I’ve tried the plotting route: I wrote 78,000 words of a thriller by hand on lined paper in the days before electronic typewriters became easily available (yes, I’m that old!) I wrote that book to a plot. When I went back to start the editing and read what I’d written, I was so dissatisfied by the result that I chucked the whole thing in the bin. That story still lives in my head. Maybe, one day, I’ll revisit it.bf-682x1024

So, writing as a pantster: I develop my cast of characters first. I’m a visual man so I collect pictures from the internet and use these as the physical basis for my characters. I use a table to describe each of them, give them a history, family, background, ambitions, personality traits and any other aspects I feel are needed to get to know them well. At the back of my mind I know what I want to say in the story, and I develop a very lose framework, which I don’t write down. It resides in my head so it can be altered as it develops. But I generally know how the story should end. I set my characters free into the location(s) I’ve chosen or designed and place barriers in the way of their ambitions and then allow them to get on with it. Often, they take unexpected turns and go off in directions I never intended. This means I have to rewrite when I start the first edit. I never read what I’ve written the previous day, but always end a day with a short or an unfinished sentence that acts as a prompt for the next writing session. And I always finish the story before I read any of it back.

When I was younger, I could sit down with no idea in my head and write a short story from start to finish in a day. On one occasion I completed a 10,000 word story this way. These days I’m a little more relaxed, but I generally write around 2,000 words a day when I’m in the creating phase. Editing takes a good deal of time, especially if further research is needed. But I enjoy the whole process: there’s something really satisfying about constructing a sentence from exactly the right words, don’t you think?

Let me thank you Caron, for this opportunity to let readers, and other writers, know a little more about me. I’ve enjoyed our chat and it’s a privilege I appreciate. I hope I haven’t been too wordy. Loving the language, I do sometimes tend to overindulge!

Thank you, Stuart, it’s been a fascinating insight! I am also a pantser, and whenever I’ve tried to use a plotting ‘system’, I lose heart very quickly.

Links:

Website on WordPress: http://stuartaken.net/

Tweet with me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/@stuartaken

Like my author page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/StuartAken

Read with me on Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4234877.Stuart_Aken

Pin with me here: http://pinterest.com/stuartaken/

Professional connections on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/stuart-aken/22/1b6/aaa

Google Plus: http://gplus.to/StuartAken

Amazon Author page: http://author.to/stuartaken

My ebooks on Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/stuartaken

Universal Amazon links to books:

Breaking Faith: http://mybook.to/breakingfaith

The Methuselah Strain: http://getBook.at/Methuselah

M.E. and Me: http://myBook.to/MEandme

Joinings: http://mybook.to/joinings

Partings: http://mybook.to/partings

Convergence: http://mybook.to/convergence

Blood Red Dust: http://getBook.at/BloodRed

All my books published by Fantastic Books Publishing: https://www.fantasticbooksstore.com/authors/stuart-aken

bloodreddust

****