Your new cover for Caleo - Leech: Book 1
has been revealed and it looks unbelievable! I figure now is as good a time as any for a follow-up interview, plus we needed you to stop here on your current blog tour anyway.
You've put quite an investment in the cover and the edits, before the fans go crazy and make Caleo viral do you feel it was a smart thing to do? james:
Of course it was the smart thing to do. I should have done it from the beginning, but live and learn. Will:
Live and learn is right. It's like the series has a whole new breath of life. Speaking of which how is Jack - Leech: Book 2
coming along? james:
Jack is coming along nicely. I have already gotten the cover back from my designer and it will be reveled at the end of the eBook version of Caleo - Leech: Book 1
. So you will have to buy the book to get a sneak peek of Jack’s book. Will:
That's very sneaky of you. Lol. Tack on another reason to buy Caleo.
Would you like to reveal any exciting morsels about Jack's story? james:
In this part of the Leech Series
we are following Jack through the next part of the story. I don’t want to spoil any of the story for those who haven’t read book 1 yet, but all of the characters are going through a lot of problems that have changed who they are. Will:
I have read book 1 and it's completely understandable that those characters will have to change and grow up quickly after the events of book 1.
It's still pretty early, but have you thought about a title for book 3 yet? james:
Actually I have and it has been decided already. I can’t tell anyone till after the second book is complete. I wouldn’t want to give any spoilers. Will:
Even the title would be a potential spoiler? That has to mean something significant is going to happen in Jack - Leech: Book 2
Are you going to have the same artist who did the cover for Caleo do Jack's as well? james:
Yes she will be! I love the work she has done with the first two books and will be hiring her in the next month or so to complete the series. Will:
That seems pretty quick, but you may as well get it done while you have her attention.
You have a whole new website now, do you like how it turned out? james:
I love my new website
. The guy who made it for me did a great job. Will:
Thank you very much. I just needed the right direction and a little encouragement and by the magic of html there it is. What kind of plans do you have for it? james:
I’m planning it being the home base for everything that happens with me and my books. All interviews, reviews, author guest post, ect… will be posted so that everyone can easily find everything people post, under one website. Will:
That's a smart idea to bring all that together in one easily accessible place. It's time to build that content.
I think I'll cut the interview short and end it here. I know you're pretty busy with the rest of the tour and planning this and that for promotions for Caleo. Thank you for taking the time to answer these few questions though. james:
Not a problem at all I am always happy to stop by.
Will Green: Is Selso Xisto your real name or pen name?
Selso Xisto: Believe it or not, it is my real name! My family is Portuguese though, not from another planet unfortunately.
Will Green: Lol. That is unfortunate. If you were from another planet then this would be my first alien interview.
Tell us about your books that you have available?
Selso Xisto: Particle Horizon is my first book. It's a real labor of love, an amalgamation of many ideas and themes I've been cooking in my head for years. It's an epic, fast-paced science fiction story which tells a galaxy-spanning story from the perspectives of three main characters on different sides of the conflict. Mankind is divided by faith and science; a dangerous new cult has started a civil war against the progressive Union of Free Worlds and the idyllic asteroid world of Angelhaven is the new front line. The greatest mind in human history has discovered a power that both sides want, but which may ultimately be the undoing of all. We follow Xavier, an uncompromising Marine commander with a secret ability neither science nor religion can explain; he's been sent to Angelhaven to stop the Legion invasion but he has a personal agenda - he wants revenge and answers. Una lives on Angelhaven and is caught in the middle. She is the first true artificial intelligence; a sentient machine with a human body. She fights for her humanity as her world falls apart around her. On the opposite side, Aja is a reluctant conscript in the Legion and wants only to survive… and protect her precious secret. All the while, an implacable, inscrutable nemesis stalks them all as unknown eyes watch events unfold with interest.
Will Green: Having read it already myself, with a book review to soon follow, it is everything you summarized right there and so incredibly much more! Any epic SF fan should definitely take the time to read Particle Horizon.
What can you tell us about your next project?
Selso Xisto: I haven't yet decided what it will be. I'm mulling over a new science fiction project or a sequel to Particle Horizon.
Will Green: Please let it be a sequel to Particle Horizon. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters were amazing! Of course I’ll have more to say in the review.
Selso Xisto: Thank you very much; I'm so happy you liked it! I really am torn over whether to do a new story or a sequel; I have a few definite ideas of where the Particle Horizon sequel will go and I think it's only a matter of time before I return to that universe and those characters I love, how's that? I'm currently so busy, I simply haven't found the time to start the next one, but I will soon!
Will Green: I suppose that’s all I can ask for; this isn’t Stephen King’s Misery. I can’t kidnap you and break your legs to force you to write the next one. Besides I don’t have a cabin where we can “work”. I hope you find this humorous and not at all scary.
Where do you get the information for your book(s)?
Selso Xisto: Everywhere! There are so many rich and stimulating SF worlds in books, comics, film and games that it is often hard to nail exactly where a theme or specific influence comes from. I read a lot of science blogs and magazines and a lot of speculative articles give me ideas for the science in my books. A lot of the religious and social stuff comes from my own background and studies and personal speculation as to how future history could plausibly go.
Will Green: Yes! Now that’s what I like to hear. You can’t pin it down, stimuli are everywhere. You surround yourself in all things SF it seems, but your story is very much its own things. Of course there are minor similarities to this or that, but that’s always going to happen. Did you know that there are people out there that do not want to read or watch anything in a certain genre in fear that their work will be too influenced by it? What are your thoughts on that?
Selso Xisto: I think that's both futile and self-defeating. Everything ever written was influenced by something else. Some of the best books I've ever read were unashamedly influenced by other books and yet better in their own way. There is very little truly original art in the world in my opinion. Originality is something we should strive for, but I think it's just human for your work to be colored by your own tastes. Conversely, I think particularly in a tough genre like SF, you need to be well read if only to avoid the many clichés established by others. SF is tough because of the amount of already established, brilliant ideas. Arthur C Clarke once said (I think rightly, too) that there are no ideas left in science fiction because he'd already done them all. Obviously, this isn't totally true, but I know what he meant. If you read his early stuff, he's basically covered all the main themes hinted at in pretty much all SF today. I think by not reading what everyone else is reading, you just diminish your own work. If you are some kind of creative genius, then why be so worried about being influenced by others? I think positive influences make art better. Peter F Hamilton, Arthur C Clarke, Greg Bear… these guys all heavily influenced my writing and I'm proud to say so. If they hadn't, I don't think the final result would have been quite as good. What I would say though, is that you can use genre influences in a positive way. For example; taking elements from other, quite different genres to spice up your own. If you bring a new paradigm into a firmly established genre with its own language and clichés and turn them on their head…
Will Green: Well stated, Selso. I have read it more than once and you have just confirmed it; “There is very little truly original art in the world…” Thank you for bringing up all those good points on the subject matter. There is nothing wrong with familiarizing yourself with other established works in the genre you plan to write in.
We could go on and on, but we won’t right now. So what was the most surprising thing you've learned since you started writing?
Selso Xisto: Twitter was a great discovery! I've made so many cool friends on there and I'm always pleasantly surprised at how helpful and supportive people can be. I've been writing since primary school so it’s hard to put my finger on one particular aspect of writing that's surprised me. I suppose when I got my first draft back from my editor I was surprised at how bad my grammar could be!
Will Green: Twitter is terrific for connecting all types of people, although I tend to lean on Facebook more than Twitter, somehow it feels more personal, for me anyhow. Lol. I wonder how many first time writers get their first draft back and say to themselves “Oh wow, that’s terrible.” I’m sure it’s a lot.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Selso Xisto: Hard to say; Particle Horizon took 7 years but it was a somewhat off and on project. I almost gave up on it for a while as it was such a complex story I wasn't sure I had the chops to finish it. I'm glad I persisted though, I'm very happy with it and have been getting very positive feedback from those who've read it - I also got my first review a couple of weeks ago and it was fantastic, five stars! Yay! I don't think the next one will take anywhere near as long - I've learnt a lot about character and structure that would have saved me a lot of re-writes and editing.
Will Green: Holy….! 7 years? That’s a long time, but I’m glad you put the effort into it and didn’t quit, it was well worth it. It was a very complex story; a lot was going on the whole time. I’m sure you had trouble juggling the different storylines, it isn’t any wonder you didn’t think you could do it, but I must say you pulled it off fantastically.
Selso Xisto: Again, thank you so much! The positive vibes I've been getting make all that work so worth it. I wish I could travel back in time and tell myself that someone one day would like it; I probably would've finished it in half the time! It's funny, looking back at my first draft, covered in my editor's notes, I realize how different the whole story was made by one or two tiny additions made at the very end of the process.
Will Green: It probably would not have been the same if you finished it in half the time. It’s funny how small moments can make a story so much more.
Who or What inspires you to write?
Selso Xisto: I think most writers have a similar 'itch' inside them to get their crazy ideas out. I've been scribbling silly stories since I could write but only in the last five or six years have I taken it really seriously or had the self-confidence in my writing to get it out there. My inspirations tend to be very visual; a lot of the themes and settings for Particle Horizon came from a drawing I worked on for about a year during University. I did an A3 sized drawing of a futuristic asteroid colony and lavished it with detail. This image stuck with me for years and must have had a big subconscious influence on the setting of the book. Reading a lot of classic science fiction is also bound to feed the imagination!
Will Green: Very nice. I have an itch, but I just need to hunker down and get it out, not sure when that might happen though. Was it just time and practice that put the confidence in you to take the next step?
I bet your fans would love to see this drawing of yours, myself being one of your fans.
Selso Xisto: Fan is a very unfamiliar word to me, this book was just ramblings in my head until a few months ago but it's very kind and flattering of you to say so! The drawing is not particularly good and was drawn a long time before Photoshop, but seeing as you've asked so nicely I'll reluctantly take a picture of it for you later; I promise I write better than I draw!
Will Green: Well thank you very much. I think it’s great how an image can spark a massive story.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Selso Xisto: Hmmm… Writing quirk… I did used to have an unhealthy obsession with semicolons which my editor has tried to beat out of me with a long stick; she has almost succeeded.
Will Green: You know a good way to prevent from using those altogether would be to pop that colon/semi-colon key right off of your keyboard. I’m sure your editor would be just fine with that.
Selso Xisto: True, but then I would NEVER get any writing done as the compulsive obsessive inside me would just stare at the gap in my immaculate keyboard and be completely unable to focus on ANYTHING ELSE EVER AGAIN.
Will Green: LMAO! Oh that’s great! Too funny! I could see it now. “What happened to Selso?” “Some guy told him to get rid of semi-colon key and he’s never been the same since.”
What book are you reading right now?
Selso Xisto: I'm reading Absorption by John Meaney which is an amazing SF novel set in a very strange future. It's disgustingly good and I hate the author for being such a good writer.
Will Green: I guess if it’s that good, it must be a recommendation of yours. Is he mainstream or is he an indie author?
Selso Xisto: He's mainstream and I've only just discovered him after getting a little tired of some of the hard SF that's around right now. A lot of it is a little cold and I don't care about any of the characters. Absorption is bursting with ideas and moves along at a fast pace, I highly recommend it (though you should obviously read Particle Horizon first if you haven't!).
Will Green: True, a lot of hard SF characters are cold and calculating and they tend to be rather solitary. I’ll put it on my ever increasing “To read” list.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Selso Xisto: I have many but I'd have to say the one who most consistently blew me away was Peter F Hamilton. The Night's Dawn Trilogy is the most epic and mind-bending story I've ever read, blending fantasy ideas seamlessly into hard SF and telling a breathless, page-turning tale. His multi-character perspective structure heavily influenced me too. He has so many great ideas is sickening! He blows them away!
Will Green: Fantasy and SF in one epic tale, count me in. I love sinking my teeth into something really grandiose and getting absorbed into it. Particle Horizon had me, I must say.
Selso Xisto: I can't tell you how gratifying it is to hear that. I worked really hard on the plot and really thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew on a few occasions during the first draft, so it's actually with a sigh of deep relief that I accept your compliment!
Will Green: You’re very welcome.
What kind of music do you listen to and why?
Selso Xisto: I listen to all sorts… When I really need to get some work done though, I have to go with the classics - White Album by the Beatles is my favorite :D
Will Green: Well of course you have to have the Beatles in your arsenal of music to write to.
What do you watch on TV and why?
Selso Xisto: I'll watch pretty much everything from HBO and most of the documentaries and comedies from the BBC. We're pretty spoilt for good TV in the UK! I do think the best TV show of time is undoubtedly the reboot of Battlestar Galactica… I've watched the box set about a hundred times. Such brilliant storytelling and compelling characters. I even forgave them for the slightly contrived ending because the whole thing was such an epic, emotional journey that I felt we had to cut the creators some slack at the end!
Will Green: I should really get into Battlestar Galactica. The reboot came around the time Stargate: SG1 was ending and I was heavily into that, but I never really watched Battlestar Galactica at all. Did you watch Stargate?
Selso Xisto: I did not and therefore don't feel qualified to talk much about the TV show; I did really love the main theme from the original movie though. It seemed to be a perfect setup for a series. I always felt it was such a shame such a hack director made the Stargate movie because the whole Chariots of the Gods story was pretty entertaining and had a lot of possibility that got smudged out by all the Hollywood guff. A lot of TV show scifi gets diluted by the special effects budget not being able to live up to the premise of the show and the ever-present ratings war. For me, Battlestar was the one main exception; the execution of the show was never held back and the great writing and plotting flourished. Just watch the pilot. If that doesn't blow you away, I'll eat my bike.
Will Green: Although seeing you eat your bike would not only be entertaining it would probably garner you some incredible attention. I’m sure I would be hooked after the pilot, so there would be no need to digest a perfectly good bike. And then passing it….ohhh boy.
What kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?
Selso Xisto: Well, I still think of myself as an aspiring writer so I'm all ears! I've had a few people ask me related questions on Twitter and I guess the one thing I'd recommend to anyone getting started is to get a good editor because you'll NEVER spot all the problems and mistakes in your own manuscript and ultimately you'll get a better book. I'd also say that in my personal opinion it is pointless to jump on genre bandwagons; write what YOU love, don't try to write what you think will sell. I think for the most part, you can't fool a reader and love always shows through your writing.
Will Green: Thank you for your time, Selso. And thanks for all the recommendations as well as the great advice.
Selso Xisto: You're more than welcome!
Will Green: Is Jonathan Balog your real name or pen name?
Jonathan Balog: My mom says it’s my real name, but I don’t always trust her.
Will Green: Haha. You don’t always have to trust her, but I think it’s safe to in this situation. Why didn’t you go with a pen name?
Jonathan Balog: Have you ever looked at photos of the way you dressed Freshman year? No matter how cool you thought it looked at the time, it inevitably looks stupid in retrospect. I want every book I release to be something I can live with for the rest of my life. I’m pretty sure any pseudonym I’d come up with would be one I’d regret later. Besides, I want everyone I despise to know I’m successful.
Will Green: Excellent points. Rubbing your success in the faces of those you despise is one of the higher priorities to achieve, I would say.
Tell us about your books that you have available?
Jonathan Balog: I just published a collection of short stories called Inaugural Games, which is available on Amazon.com’s Kindle page. The title refers to both an event in one of the stories, and the fact that the book itself is my own grand opening.
All of the stories in that book were submitted to magazines, and each was promptly shot down, albeit with some very kind notes. Whenever I got a rejection letter, the editor always wrote something along the lines of, “We’re going to pass on this one, but we really enjoyed reading it, and we look forward to your next submission.” That was actually a confidence booster. In the research I’ve done, I’ve learned that when an editor says something like that, you can take it at face value. If they really think you suck, they’ll just write something like “Good luck submitting this elsewhere” or “Pursue another line of work immediately” or “Do us all a favor and die.”
Earlier this year my girlfriend brought up the option of self-publishing. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea. I figured I could either spend years trying to get these stories into magazines, or I could just put them out myself and see what happens. Also, while I don’t personally know anyone outside of academia who reads literary magazines, I DO know a few people who buy e-books from unknown authors. Most importantly, I’m very proud of these stories, and I’m much happier knowing that at least a few people are reading them.
I don’t want to say too much about the stories themselves, as I would inevitably end up giving away some of the best surprises. I will say that most of them are satirical in one way or another. The Deviant
is about giving in to temptation, and how the pleasure you derive from it ultimately outweighs the guilt you feel at the start.Inaugural
was written to get people to think about the nature of violence as entertainment.Charlie
is about college life, and how you constantly feel like the pressure is going to kill you.
I got the idea for The Man Who Sold Flowers
while walking around Rome in the post-midnight hours, noticing all the floral stands that stay open all night.The Truth
is a formulaic detective story, hard-boiled to the point of parody that serves as a blatant stab at the “power of positive thinking” self-help movement.Will Green:
Very nice, giving the title two meanings like that was brilliant. I knew it referred to one of the stories, but I wasn’t sure if this was indeed your first book. I read it and it was a great book, my review will be coming right up. A few of the stories stood out more than others, but I’ll save that for the review.
Well it’s unfortunate that none of the stories made it into magazines, however if they did then you may not have self-published and we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. I’m glad they didn’t tell you to die either, as you may or may not know dying is pretty detrimental to your health.
I’m glad she brought up the idea of self publishing; she must be a smart lady. Hopefully with this interview and the book review coming up we can get a few more people reading them. And let’s just say I know a few people who like to read too.Jonathan Balog:
Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Yeah, Heather’s brilliant. I occasionally wonder what she’s doing with me.Will Green:
Obviously she's keeping you in line. If she wasn't keeping you in line then it would be someone else, but why not stick with someone who has a sense of humor?
What can you tell us about your next project?Jonathan Balog:
I’m working on something novel-length. I can’t say more than that at the moment, as it’s still in the early, early stages. Check my blog once in a while (jonbalog.blogspot.com
) and I’ll keep you posted as it develops. Apart from that I’m working on a piece about the Sistine Chapel for cracked.com, as well as a few travel articles on Rome.Will Green:
Well if your novel is anything like Inaugural Games
count me in. I am now subscribed to your blog so I’ll be getting the updates on anything you put on there. Sistine Chapel and cracked.com, that’s a wild combination, how did you get into that?Jonathan Balog:
Well, that’s kind of Cracked’s thing: wacky, educational shit. I just decided to pitch the idea because it was something I already know a little about. Of course I’m still trying to convince them to run the article, so who knows if it’ll ever see the light of day.Will Green:
Well hopefully they decide to run it. I'm sure you'll let everyone know on you blog.
What was the most surprising thing you've learned since you started writing?Jonathan Balog:
I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at the reactions the book has gotten so far. I’ve gotten emails from a wide range of people saying they laughed their asses off the whole time. That was a surprise to me, because most of the time I just write for people who share my particular weird brand of humor. Guess I’m in higher demand than I thought. My boss on the other hand said she found it disturbing. Nice to hear I can have that effect.Will Green:
That’s always good to get those kinds of emails already. You know considering that it’s only been on the Amazon charts since March 21st and all. Yeah, maybe more people share your brand of humor than you thought. I know I found it funny. Sounds like your boss got stuck on The Deviant
, if she would have read a little further she would have found that it’s not all penguins and fireworks.Jonathan Balog:
That’s what it’s all about, man. Penguins and fireworks. The rest is just details.Will Green:
I think it's a little more involved than just those things, but that's for the reader to decide.
Who or What inspires you to write?Jonathan Balog:
Fear. I think every successful writer experiences an epiphany at some point in where he sees himself at his 70th birthday party, still nursing dreams about becoming a writer. Stephen King had his when he was teaching high school English and living in a double-wide trailer in Hermon, ME with his wife and two kids. I had mine while living week-to-week in a flat in Rome with my girlfriend and our pit bull, sustaining myself on dreams, cheap wine, and pasta.
Once you’ve had that vision, it’s either get serious about writing, or abort the mission. If you’re a real writer, Option 2 is unbearable. Writing is the only thing I can do well that I honestly love, and that I could theoretically use to build a career. It’s my one shot at really achieving something with my life. Whenever I catch myself getting lazy, I scare the hell out of myself with the thought of dying without having written anything. Then I get back to work.
Also, in a way, I think all artists are fighting their own mortality, since creation is the exact opposite of death. Word count a day keeps the reaper away.Will Green:
Sounds like fear is the fire under you that keeps you moving ahead, it’s an interesting point of view and I had no idea about that with Stephen King. Yeah hopes and prayers don’t exactly pay the bills.
Now that is a wonderful quote “Word count a day keeps the reaper away.” I think I’ll use that…with your permission of course.Jonathan Balog:
Knock yourself out!Will Green:
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?Jonathan Balog:
I don’t know. I guess I’ll leave that up to everyone else to point out. My friend Lynsey says I write like I talk, but that’s probably just the ADHD coming out.Will Green:
If you write like you talk, then I think that’s a good thing. It’s all natural with no added preservatives.Jonathan Balog:
You’re gettin’ the real deal, baby.Will Green:
What book are you reading right now?Jonathan Balog:
I’m halfway through Julian
by Gore Vidal
. It’s a fictional autobiography of Julian the Apostate, a Roman emperor from the fourth century. Julian was the nephew of Constantine the Great, the emperor responsible for converting the empire (and therefore a quarter of the world) to Christianity. When Julian assumed the throne, he made a last attempt to reverse the tide and spearhead a revival of Hellenistic religion and culture. Obviously he failed. It was a very pivotal moment in history, and regardless of your own religious views, its worth knowing about. The world today is very much the result of Julian’s family.Will Green:
You said it’s a fictional autobiography, so how do we know what to take away from it that is fact or fiction?Jonathan Balog:
According to Vidal
it’s all factual, with the obvious exception of the dialogue. You have to take his word for it, but the guy’s nothing if not diligent in his research. While he was writing it he was living in Rome and doing his research in the libraries of the American Academy at Rome and the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. It’s generally agreed that the book is a fairly accurate account.
Of course, history isn’t so much a set of facts as a series of arguments. Take it as someone’s very well-informed opinion.Will Green:
Well in that case those facts could be trusted if he's as dedicated to his research as you say he is.
Who is your favorite author and why?Jonathan Balog:
Shit, just one? Tell you what; I’ll give you my top four: Kurt Vonnegut
, Hunter S. Thompson
, Cormac McCarthy
, and Neil Gaiman
. The first two for believing that art can be used as a tool to initiate social change (and being hilarious while they were at it.) McCarthy
for technique. I love Gaiman
because he writes fantasy stories about the real world. I love fantasy, but I’m not a big fan of escapism for the sake of escapism. Like Hamlet
says, it should hold a mirror up to nature. By all means, tell me about gods, monsters, and magic, but tell me what those things have to say about the human experience. In The Sandman
, when Gaiman
writes about the Endless, on the surface he’s telling a story about supernatural beings, but those beings are manifestations of the essential elements of the human condition.
Also, while his work is entertaining on its own, it’s also a cultural connect-the-dots and a celebration of the art of storytelling itself. I love how he draws on mythology, fairy tales, literature, religion, and history, pulling the reader into a conversation that’s been unfolding for thousands of years. The guy’s fucking brilliant, and if you disagree, you are quite simply a bad person.Will Green:
What books would you recommend from those guys you listed? Obviously The Sandman
by Neil Gaiman
, American Gods
is also a big one, but the only thing I’ve read from him is the graphic novel he did; Marvel 1602
which was absolutely fantastic. It brings together some of our favorite Marvel heroes and their struggle with being “witches” in Europe.
I quote Kurt Vonnegut
on occasion here on the blog, but I’ve never read any of his work. As for the other two; I don’t know anything about them. Just recently a friend of mine, David Beem
author of Abyss of Chaos
, had nothing but high regard for Neil Gaiman
, I suppose I should really look into him now. He is now added to my ever growing reading list.Jonathan Balog:
All right, here’s your summer reading list from Dr. Balog:Kurt Vonnegut
—Start with Slaughterhouse-5
, then move on to Breakfast of Champions
and Cat’s Cradle
. There’s also a good collection of short works called Armageddon in Retrospect
that was put out by his children after he died. It contains an essay he wrote about his experience being a POW in Dresden, and the last speech he ever wrote (but sadly never got to deliver.)Hunter S. Thompson
—Everyone should read Hell’s Angels
, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
, and Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72
. If you like those and want some more, check out The Great Shark Hunt
, The Proud Highway
, or Better than Sex
—(In this order) No Country for Old Men
, The Road, and The Border Trilogy
. Save Blood Meridian
for last.Neil Gaiman
series is beyond praise--one of the best damn things I’ve ever read. Even if you’re not into comics, you owe it to yourself to check those out. Just be sure to read them in order. The downside to The Sandman
is that Gaiman
set the bar so high that nothing he’s done in prose has been anywhere near as good. Then again, that’s like saying “That’s a cool movie, but it’s not as good as Casablanca.”
You’re right, American Gods
is a great one. Good Omens
, the one he wrote with Terry Pratchet
is brilliant and funny as hell. I also really like his first short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors
. Some pretty cool stuff in that one.Will Green:
Oh great as if I didn't have enough to read as it is. Thanks for the prescription Dr. Balog.
What kind of music do you listen to and why?Jonathan Balog:
Mostly ugly guys with bad voices and great lyrics. Leonard Cohen
, Bob Dylan
, Tom Waits
, Nick Cave
, Johnny Cash
, Lou Reed
, etc. I could listen to those guys every day. Most people think Leonard Cohen
is depressing, but I’ve always thought the opposite. The subject matter of his songs might be tragic, but the fact that he can convey those experiences in such beautiful lyrics is inherently hopeful. Like he says in Anthem, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” To me, Cohen
is living proof of the power of language.
Depending on my mood, I also listen to loads of brit pop, shoegaze, punk, post-rock, metal, goth, hippie crap, country, and jazz. I’ve never understood people who only listen to one genre. It’s like eating the same kind of food every day.Will Green:
You have quite the array of music you enjoy. I’m right there with you, how can you settle yourself to just one genre? It gets stale after a while. I’m not quite as eclectic as you are in your selection, but I feel mine is a little broader than some others.
I know what all the others are and before I look it up could you shed some light on what “shoegaze” is? Maybe throw an example or two out there.Jonathan Balog:
It’s a very guitar-heavy style of music that’s typically very down-tempo, low-fi, and melodic. In 1991, the Irish band My Bloody Valentine
released an album called Loveless
which is generally regarded as the quintessential shoegaze record. Layers and layers and layers of guitar, distorted every which way. It took them over two years to record it, and at the time it was the most expensive record ever produced. I’ve never heard any other band manage to pull off a sound that’s simultaneously so abrasive and so ethereal. I’m actually listening to it right now because my girlfriend’s at work. She says it just gives her a headache. For me it’s like sandpaper for my equilibrium.Will Green:
I'm going to have to agree with your girlfriend on this one. Those distorted layers upon layers just doesn't do it for me.
What do you watch on TV and why?Jonathan Balog:
I don’t have a TV, so I’m limited to the shows that are available for streaming outside the US. Fortunately that includes South Park
. I’m continually amazed at how Matt and Trey have managed to keep that show fresh for sixteen seasons. They really are the leading satirists of our generation.The Simpsons
was great, but it lost its edge over a decade ago. I’m actually more into Futurama
these days. The humor’s more cerebral, and the characters have a lot more bite.
I also regularly listen to the podcast of Real Time With Bill Maher.
He’s by far my favorite political comedian. I tend to agree with him about 80% of the time, and even when I don’t, I at least feel like I’m being challenged. I love Stewart
, but when I watch them I can’t help but think that I’m just having my existing opinions sold back to me. With Maher
I feel like I’m getting actual commentary. He might be unabashedly liberal, but he’s not afraid to occasionally voice opinions that are unpopular with his audience. And of course, being on HBO
, he can get away with a lot more shit than the guys on network.Will Green:
If you look a little deeper I bet you could find a lot more to stream in your part of the world than just those few things.
I’m sorry to say, but the only thing I can agree with you on is The Simpsons
suck and Futurama
is better. I could never get into South Park
, I’m really not sure why.
You don’t even live in the states and you still follow all the political turmoil BS out there. Ugh politics just isn’t for me. Granted those guys are great comedians, but I just cannot get into those topics.Jonathan Balog:
Well, sure. I’ve lived here for almost four years, but I’m still an American citizen and I vote by absentee ballot. I’m not one of those left-wing douche bags who threatens to run away to Canada whenever things don’t go my way. I mean, I am a leftist, and I am a douche bag, but for completely different reasons.
I feel morally obligated to stay as informed on American politics as I can, first and foremost because I have voting power in a country that wields influence over the entire planet. Also, while I might not live there now, my family does, and so do most of my friends. My decision to move abroad was prompted by a desire to explore the world, not because I hate America. I actually love the place, and I’d like to see the quality of life there improved. That’s not going to happen without universal health care. It’s not going to happen while my gay and lesbian friends are treated like second-class citizens. It’s certainly not going to happen if we refuse to pay taxes and shift our war debt onto our grandchildren.
And for the record, I don’t get my news EXCLUSIVELY from comedians. It’s just nice to have a little comic relief from the pro-wrestling match that has been this GOP primary.Will Green:
That's very informative of yourself. You have ideas that I completely agree with. It's too bad the monkey's that are in office now and the ones that will be don't share the same ideas.
What kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?Jonathan Balog:
Apart from the obvious read-all-you-can and write-all-you-can, the best advice I can give would be not to listen to my advice. The methods that work for me won’t necessarily work for you, and vice versa.
I graduated from a liberal arts school with a less than practical degree. I then moved to Philly with no job and very little money, and spent the next year and a half plummeting into debt with my psychotic roommate. After finally landing a job as a bellboy, I saved up my cash and moved to Rome, where I spent years living week to week, working on bar crawls, teaching English and giving unlicensed tours. It’s been a wild ride, but because I let the world kick the shit out of me for years, I have a wealth of experience on which to draw. I believe my fiction is better for it.
Figure out what conditions are conducive to YOU being creative, and maintain those conditions. Learn what factors hinder your productivity, and eliminate them.
Above all, don’t listen to my advice because it’s still a little early in the game for me. For all I know I could be making a horrible mistake. Ask me again in a few years.Will Green:
Well thank you very much for advising everyone NOT to listen to you. Haha. But I think the advice you did give is pretty sound.
It’s very unfortunate that you had to live as you did for those years in Philly, but it’s a life lesson learned and you’re a better person for having those troubles, which you pretty much said yourself.
Thank you for your time Jonathon, I look forward to keeping up with you and your fiction. Hopefully we can bring you some attention with your inaugural effort on Inaugural Games
Pleasure was all mine, Will. Thanks for the interview!
Is Diet Stroeh your real name or pen name?Diet Stroeh:
Diet Stroeh is my real name. Diet is short for J. Dietrich Stroeh. Will Green:
So I guess it is somewhat of a pen name. Tell us about the books that you have available?Diet Stroeh: The Man Who Made it Rain
is a book about water, and lack of, during the 1976-1977 Marin County (California) drought.Three Months: A Caregiving Journey from Heartbreak to Healing
is a book about what I experienced during the time my Margaret was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer until she died.Will Green:
Is The Man Who Mad it Rain
a fiction or non-fiction? Is it told from a certain perspective?Diet Stroeh:
It is a fictionalized account of a non-fictionalized water drought. The goal was to show the connections between water and people around. For example, the cause of a drought in one place can also impact water sources elsewhere. And in all cases, water is a natural resource that we ought to take care of.
Will Green: Hmm that doesn’t sound so bad now, you didn’t exactly sell it to me with that first line, but now I’m a little more intrigued.
I’m sure Three Months was pretty tough to write. How do you tell that sort of story, in a journal format possibly?
Diet Stroeh: Yes, it was tough to write. The format that worked for me combined both my personal experience of losing someone to cancer with a compilation of care giving resources I found helpful. The road was rough and the learning curve steep. At times documenting the resources actually helped me work through some of the emotional trauma.
This book grew from notes I kept about what I was feeling as well as what I had to remember to do for my wife to keep her as comfortable as possible. For me the writing helped me to stay focused. It also helped me to get through seemingly endless periods of waiting and not knowing.
Will Green: It sounds like keeping notes, writing, and researching was your coping method. Everyone copes in a different way.
What can you tell us about your next project? Are you working on another book?
Diet Stroeh: No I am not, although I have considered writing about my 3 ½ day hospital stay after an aortic valve replacement surgery – this would be a “what to expect” book based upon personal experience.
Will Green: Ouch! That’s no good at all. Do you think you could get a whole book out of those 3 ½ days or would it be more of a short story? And would it be a journal entry format?
Diet Stroeh: Truthfully, I don’t know.My writing style tends to be narrative. I imagine it will be a slim, non-fiction book that can easily be read in a short period of time.
Will Green: Sort of a first person account of what to expect and not necessarily instructional in nature. I think it could be a hit among that crowd.
Where do you get the information for your book(s)?
Diet Stroeh: Life experiences. I don’t start out to write a book about anything. Rather, I find that what I have to say takes on the form of a book.
Will Green: Do you ever have to do any type of extra research for anything you come across?
Diet Stroeh: Yes.Facts are critical in non-fiction. I have learned over the years that it is important to know what I am talking about so that what I have to say to others can be truly useful.
Will Green: Yeah facts are a pretty important part of non-fiction. If you mess something up people tend to get a little testy. What was the most surprising thing you've learned since you started writing books?
Diet Stroeh: How hard it is to write and complete the work.
Will Green: Are you talking about distractions?
Diet Stroeh: Not distractions. Because I work with a professional editorial team, I am not faced with distractions. However, the process of writing a book can be challenging at times. Details have to always be taken into account. It’s not enough to just write how I feel. I have to make sure it is grammatically correct, makes sense to others and contains facts, as necessary.
Will Green: No distractions must be kind of nice. I think it’s all necessary evils that need to be dealt with; otherwise the work wouldn’t be very good.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Diet Stroeh: Around 2 years.
Will Green: Does that include editing?
Diet Stroeh: That does include the first few rounds of editing. Then it’s off to the publisher who takes over the copy-editing and promotional process.
Will Green: 2 years sounds like a long time, but I guess it’s something that just shouldn’t be rushed. Who or What inspires you to write?
Diet Stroeh: I am motivated by an inner need to express my experiences and to offer them up to others who can benefit from what I have learned.
Will Green: That’s admirable and straightforward. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Diet Stroeh: My notes made late at night. Sometimes they are short and sweet. Other times they are very deep and moving.
Will Green: So those last few moments before sleep takes you is when things start popping up. I don’t think that can be helped.
What book are you reading right now?
Diet Stroeh: The end of the day is when I am less focused on what I have to do in the outside world.
I just finished a book of the American Revolution called Unlikely Allies by Joel Richard Paul.
Will Green: Would you recommend it to anyone to read?
Diet Stroeh: Yes, I would. It’s a great read for anyone interested in non-fictionalized political intrigue, betrayal, and espionage. It also captures the complexity of human motivation and how it has shaped history.
Will Green: Hmm that sounds good. I have a friend who would probably be very much into it. He enjoys the war aspect of American history, mostly the Civil War era though.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Diet Stroeh: Aldous Huxley - he was a futurist and a humanist.
Will Green: What are some of his works you might recommend?
Diet Stroeh: Brave New World explores the dehumanizing aspects of scientific progress.
Will Green: That’s an interesting concept and a sad truth.
What kind of music do you listen to and why?
Diet Stroeh: Classical , folk songs, ballads, and the music I grew up with from the 50’s and 60’s.
Will Green: There’s nothing wrong with that variety. How about TV what holds your attention there?
Diet Stroeh: Mash re-runs. They are funny, I don’t have to think. 60 Minutes – informative.
Will Green: Mash was big just before my time, I’ve seen the intro many times, but I never sat through an episode.
What kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?
Diet Stroeh: Not to be discouraged. Learn about the process of writing and get help when you need it.
Will Green: Thanks for taking the time to talk to with me Diet. And thank you very much for the advice.
Is Laura Lee
your real name or pen name?Laura Lee:
Yes Laura Lee
is my real name.Will Green:
Is there a reason you didn't go with a pen name?Laura Lee:
I don't think I could come up with a better one than Laura Lee
Alright I suppose that’s a pretty good excuse. Tell us about your books that you have available?Laura Lee:
I have written 12 non-fiction books and the novel Angel
. The biggest seller was The Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravation
, which came out in 2001, and sold 85,000 copies. I have also written one children's book A Child's Introduction to Ballet
. My most recent non-fiction was a book called Broke is Beautiful
about the joys of being broke.Will Green:
Clearly you're pretty established out there ...85,000 WOW! What made The Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravation
so popular?Laura Lee:
I did a lot of radio interviews to promote it. When it first came out I was doing two and three interviews a day. The publisher did a really good job with the promotions. It came out right after the September 11 attacks, it was slated to come out that week, as I recall. So I hadn't expected to get any media attention at all. People seem to be amused by life's little annoyances. It is universal. The fact that I have not sold that many copies of any of my books since shows that I don't really know what made it that popular.
Oh so it was more of a novelty item then anything else, but people really flock to those. What are each of the rest you have listed there about? I guess A Child's Introduction to Ballet
is fairly self explanatory. What about Angel and Broke is Beautiful.Laura Lee:
I don't know if I would use the term novelty item, but it was a good impulse purchase. It is one of those books that takes massive amounts of research to write and that can be read very quickly. I did a lot of those, The 100 Most Dangerous Things in Every Day Life
was another. I did a book called Blame it on the Rain
with Harper Collins
that was a challenge to research. I looked a times when weather may have changed the course of history. I enjoy reading about history so that is where the book came from. One of my favorites was The Elvis Impersonation Kit
for which I interviewed Elvis tribute artists. It was packaged as a novelty gift box with sideburns and a CD. But I had the opportunity to just have fun and exercise my humor. I'm on Goodreads
, so you can see my full list of titles there. It gets to the point where you've written an annoying number of books. Like people say, “bring some of your other books” and you pull out this huge stack and they look at you a little sideways.
The novel, Angel
, which I am promoting now is about this:
Since the loss of his lively, charming wife to cancer six years ago, minister Paul Tobit has been operating on autopilot, performing his church duties by rote. Everything changes the day he enters the church lobby and encounters a radiant, luminous being lit from behind, breathtakingly beautiful and glowing with life. An angel. For a moment Paul is so taken by his vision that he is tempted to fall on his knees and pray.
Even after he regains his focus and realizes that he has only seen a flesh-and-blood young man, Paul cannot shake his sense of awe and wonder. He feels an instant and overwhelming attraction to the young man, which puzzles him even as it fills his thoughts and fires his feelings. Paul has no doubt that God has spoken to him through the vision and he must figure out what God is asking him to do.
Thus begins a journey that will inspire Paul's ministry, but will put him at odds with the church he loves as he is forced to examine his deeply held beliefs about himself, his community and the nature of love.Broke is Beautiful
is my most recent non-fiction book and it is about the creativity that comes from financial constraints. I just learned that it has been published in China to my surprise and delight.
Will Green: I think I know several people who would be interested in Angel. I’m sure it would hit home with a lot of church goers.
Laura Lee: One of the best experiences I've had with Angel was joining in a book club discussion at a UCC church. I was really grateful and appreciative to have my title selected and it was a great opportunity to be able to speak with people who had read the book. I'm hoping to have more invitations like that. I met some interesting people and it is always interesting to learn what people responded to, what they brought to the book, what they took away. Writers don't write books, you know, it is a combination of a writer and a reader that creates a book. So when I get to speak to a reader, and they tell me what they read, I get to experience a new story. It's like in the old days when people told stories around the fire.
Will Green: That must give you a great sense of pride to sit down and hear your story through a reader's perspective. Congratulations on breaking into China with Broke is Beautiful. That’s amazing! It must be pretty good, I’ll be picking up my copy.
Laura Lee: I'm quite surprised it has been sold in China. Apparently it's already out there. I just learned about it. It seems like such an American book. I'm really curious to know why they are interested in it over there. A few of my books have been translated. The one with Harper Collins was translated into two or three Asian languages and I remember doing a Japanese interview for that. The Pocket Encyclopedia of Aggravation was available in French. The only one of my translations that I could actually read. When you get a copy of your book in Chinese characters you're so curious to know what was left out for Chinese culture and how different expressions were translated.
Will Green: Yeah I guess it would make you wonder if your message is still getting across the way you intended in a new language. What can you tell us about your next project?
Laura Lee: A year and a half ago I started writing a sequel to the novel, Angel, and am about 2/3 done with it, but I don't know if I'll finish it. I also have a concept for a philosophical book about ballet that I might try to sell. I do ballet master class tours with a Russian dancer and we have a lot of friends in America in the dance world.
Will Green: What happened that you seemed to have lost interest in carrying on with Angel? I say go for your ballet book you have in mind. You're already in the business so getting a following wouldn't be hard at all for you.
Laura Lee: Angel is available. It has been getting very good reviews, but so far this hasn't translated into sales. It doesn't seem to make sense to finish a sequel to a novel if the original novel itself hasn't found its audience. If Angel starts to get attention and people seem to want to know more about the characters I will probably be motivated to finish the sequel that I started. At the moment there is a certain sense of futility about it.
Will Green: That’s a good point. I guess now you just have to really sell those characters.
Laura Lee: I started the sequel because I'd become so attached to the characters and finishing the book felt like a loss. I was no longer able to write them and imagine them. Someone suggested I should keep going. I said, “but the story is done.” Then I had the thought of telling the same story from the perspective of the other main character, beginning earlier and going on beyond the point where the original story ends. I had been working on another novel a bit, but I got excited about this idea and I started focusing on it. It got me out of my post-Angel depression to work on it. The thing with another story, though, is that you run the risk of messing up what you did in the first place. Every person has a different impression of the characters and the story. Readers create their own experiences and they have different ideas about the back story and the motivations that are not spelled out. I worry that providing more information about Ian might take away some of his mystery.
It's very close to being finished, so part of me says to just finish it.
Will Green: Where do you get the information for your books?
Laura Lee: It depends on the project. The fiction is from imagination and life. Non-fiction books come from basic research. I've done primary historical research, interviews, internet research and a lot of book reading.
Will Green: So you don't have one specific place to go for your research?
Laura Lee: No. How you research depends on what type of information you're seeking.
Will Green: That’s true. What was the most surprising thing you've learned since you started writing?
Laura Lee: I've been writing for a long time now so it is hard to remember a time before I did. I was surprised by the novel Angel at how much the writing just flowed once the pieces were all there. I feel as though I learned how to be a writer on that one, that all of the years of writing finally coalesced and I put what I had been learning into practice. I learned how to really make use of what I was getting from my subconscious. The inspiration came to me when I had internalized the craft part of writing to such an extent that I didn't need to focus on that any more.
From an audience perspective, I've been surprised to learn that your most accomplished book may not be your best seller. As a writer, I feel as though going from something like Aggravations to Broke is Beautiful, in which I was able to express my own point of view more, was a step forward, an evolution. But Broke did not sell as well as Aggravation, and so far the novel has sold the least of all, which is, I suppose to be expected.
I used to have an almost religious faith that if you found your voice and produced something that people responded to that it would simply become known through recommendations and word of mouth. The work was the key. The important part was developing the skill to tell the story so that it came as close as it could to the version in your head. You will never write anything as beautiful as you experience it inside, but you work on the craft in order to get as close as you can. I've been getting great reviews on my novel, but I'm still waiting for that word-of-mouth snowball to get large enough to roll down the hill. The reviews, so far, haven't really led to sales.
Will Green: Wow that's pretty deep, Laura. You're at a point in you're writing where you can just sit back and let your subconscious lead the way to bring the pieces together. Amazing!
I don’t think it’s quite as simple as letting the people spread the word. You gotta give those people a kick every once in a while to get them spreading the word. Well this interview is all about getting the word of mouth out there about you and your books. I hope we can help you achieve some kind of snowball effect. And you’re right, that beautiful picture you’ve painted in your head will never be fulfilled in the words you can put down.
Laura Lee: I do appreciate the opportunity to speak with you about my books. Part of marketing a book, especially fiction, is that it has to get its own momentum. A number of studies have shown that the most common way that people decide to pick up a book is through recommendations from friends, either in person or through their on-line social networks. So when I say that I am waiting on the snowball to form I am not saying that I am not proactive in promotions. Reviews, even good reviews, don't necessarily inspire people to go out and buy a book. That is what I am discovering with Angel. It has a lot of excellent reviews and I'm grateful for that.
Interviews make people aware that you exist. Having the book in front of people makes it possible that they'll consider it, but when it comes down to it, you need enough people doing that and then telling their friends. That part is beyond your control as an author. Especially with a book like Angel which has a theme that makes some people uncomfortable. Some people will see the theme, or see the "other books" people bought with it on a commercial site, and they are all gay romances because that was the first audience for the book, and they might say, "that's not the kind of thing I read" and not explore any further.
You need many voices out there explaining what it is and isn't. You need people saying, "you might not think this is the kind of thing you'd read, but..." So there is no surefire formula, short of being a celebrity and having a huge publisher behind you that is determined to make your book visible to everyone in the world. With a book with a small publisher it is very hard to get the traditional media to take you seriously these days. With my non-fiction I was always able to count on some traditional media interviews and reviews, but I think today self-publishing is so much easier that the editors are bombarded with requests from self-published authors of varying quality. They have trained themselves to tune writers out. My hope is that slowly a word of mouth and online presence for the book will grow to the point that some of the people who wouldn't consider Angel the first time around will consider it.
Will Green: That’s very informative, thank you for breaking it down like that. I guess you just have to keep pushing until something finally gives way and people are picking it up.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Laura Lee: It took me a decade to produce Angel. I worked with the themes for a long time and let my subconscious work on it. The non-fiction books are produced to deadline. I completed Broke is Beautiful in one month in order to get it done before I left on my ballet tour. I don't want to make it sound like the book was just thrown out there. It is probably my best non-fiction. I am a full time writer, so I just did it and nothing else for a month. I worked very long days.
Will Green: Wow! Angel must be your pride and joy if it took you that long to work on it. You are seriously disciplined if you can punch out a book and have it ready to go in a month.
Laura Lee: I feel as though Angel is the next step in my evolution as a professional writer. It's something I've worked toward for a long time. My father was a writer and his dream was to publish "the great American novel." He would always say things like "when you write your novel." It felt a bit like when your parents ask you which college you want to go to rather than whether you want to go to college. It was just sort of expected that I was going to be a writer, and a certain kind of writer, even during the years that I was trying to do other things like being a radio announcer. I inherited the idea that the pinnacle of being a writer was being a novelist. When I was younger I felt a real pressure to write a novel and to make it good. I'm not saying anyone else made me feel that way. I put the pressure on myself. So I worked on it a lot. I was frustrated a lot. Interestingly, after all that work, there came a point where I let myself off the hook and said I didn't have to write a novel. I was good at the non-fiction. I was proud of my body of work. I didn't have to be anything else. Once I allowed myself not to do it, and took that pressure off, that's when it flowed. I was not doing it for anyone else or to prove anything. It was just a joy to write and play. Angel took me out of myself and I was able to just step aside and let the story be told. The thing is, I had to do all of that slog beforehand to get to the point where this was possible. It took years of effort to get to the place of effortlessness. I'm hoping now that it's done that there will be further growth and new works that have that feel to them. I am satisfied with what I managed to do. So I'd like to share it with as many people as possible and to allow the characters to have a life beyond me. I want it to be successful enough to allow me to keep working in this way, to be able to keep learning and growing as a writer. I would prefer to be able to keep exploring what I can do in this new direction rather than going back to what I mastered in the past.
Will Green: That’s an amazing story in itself Laura. That’s reason enough to read Angel, being that you learned so much and grew so much as a writer during its creation. Who or What inspires you to write?
Laura Lee: At this point, I don't really know how not to write. It's a habit. People are always asking me what I'm working on or if I'm writing a book. I'm always writing a book and working on ideas. Whether any of those ideas will be published books is another question. Some of them have to simmer for a while.
Will Green: How many writers can say actually say that writing is their habit? So you truly just sit down and let it happen?
Laura Lee: I don't know if there is an "it" that happens, but I write every day. I wouldn't call it "writing practice" or "morning pages" or anything like that. That is a bit too goal oriented. I would generally just be writing than doing anything else, and I feel most myself when reading and writing. Most of the writing I do is not intended for publication. It's just a process. I have a habit of writing down my thoughts and some of them prove useful later and most of them don't.
Will Green: I’m truly impressed that you just write everything out like that. And if something comes of it great and if not that’s fine too. Amazing!
Laura Lee: Angel wouldn't exist if it weren't for that approach. I started it in 2000 after a trip to Mount Rainier. I had this inspiration from the mountain and from a mountain tour guide I met there who had once been a minister. It was the kernel of an idea, and I saw potential in it. I had a feeling of it. But I couldn't make it work and I abandoned it many times. I just let it be a background concept and it would get trotted out again from time to time. I'd try something and abandon it again. Eventually lightning struck, metaphorically speaking, and the Frankenstein's monster came to life. I was just waiting for the bolt of electricity to get it to stand up.
Will Green: It's incredible how at the strangest moments inspiration and a clear picture just strikes like that. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Laura Lee: I always start with an idea, write down my thoughts and then go away from it. Whenever I get that sense of writer's block, that it isn't flowing, I stop writing. I take writer's block to be a message that I am missing something or going in the wrong direction or even writing for the wrong reason. Rather than getting mad at myself for not being able to do it, I put the question to my subconscious-- what am I missing here? It is the same whether I am writing a corporate speech or a poem or novel. I need to let my subconscious take the pieces of the puzzle and put them together. I usually get the flash of how the pieces fit while I'm trying to get to sleep or I'm in the shower. So I need things around to write on.
Will Green: Now that you put it in that type of perspective I find myself getting that same exact way doing the interviews I do. Sometimes I get stuck on how I want to reply to a given answer and if I walk away and do something else for awhile, later on I sit back down to keep moving along and boom the answer just comes to me. Once again thanks for breaking things down and putting them in a different perspective.
But please tell me how do you write stuff down in the shower?
Laura Lee: I don't. I get out. I have been known to write things in the bath though. In fact, I do that frequently.
Will Green: Well if you’re always writing something, then that means something is always running through your head and how could you possibly relax in a bath if you’re not writing?
Laura Lee: Usually I read a book, but reading books tends to make me stop to write things. That's why I don't always finish books.
Will Green: What book are you reading right now?
Laura Lee: I usually have several going at any given moment. I'm on a theology kick right now. I've been reading The Restored New Testament by Willis Barnstone (a translation of the New Testament) and The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen. I've been reading through the New Testament of the Bible in chronological order, the order in which scholars think it was written. I've been reading a lot of books on Biblical interpretation, the development of Christianity and the historical Jesus as well. After writing from the perspective of a Christian minister in Angel, I've become very interested in reading about Christianity. What I take away from it is probably idiosyncratic and unconventional. Then again, I think we all have our own internal theologies. It's conventional to be unconventional.
Will Green: See I’ve tried to read more than one book at a time, but it just doesn’t work for me. It seems like it takes so long to get through just one if I do that. I prefer to concentrate on one and get through it. But you take the cake, you’re reading those deeply religious books at the same time. I agree it is “conventional to be unconventional.”
Now without getting too heavy into the subject would you agree or disagree that there are some contradictions in the story of the Bible?
Laura Lee: Of course there are. There are supposed to be. I would just note that there is not a story of the Bible, it is a collection of works. The different books of the Bible have different perspectives. They are in dialogue with each other. My way of thinking about God is that he did not make a man in his image, he made mankind in his image, and to get as full a picture of God as possible you need to listen to many different perspectives. In fact, the people who compiled the New Testament chose to include the same story told four ways. (The Gospels) They were not stuttering. They were trying to include a richness of perspectives. It frustrates me when people try to "debunk" the Bible by showing its internal contradictions or by saying that this or that wasn't historical or scientific. To me, that is not the point. Whether Jesus was born in a manger in reality is not the point. You can believe that he was and that it is important that he was, or you can believe it is mythological. In either case, the important question is why people are telling this story and what it means. Why have people been telling this story for years? What are we supposed to take from it? Is "that it happened" really the moral of something like the resurrection or Noah and the flood? No, I don't think it is. I don't think that is really the importance of those stories for the people who believe that it literally happened, nor should believing that it didn't literally happen be a reason to abandon those stories or assume they have nothing of value for us today. To me the literalists and the atheist "debunkers" are arguing within the same framework and it sometimes misses the point.
Will Green: That is a very intelligent and well informed response, thank you for that. It’s refreshing to know you are so open minded about all things religion. You don't seem to let yourself be too strict in any one area of religion.
Laura Lee: I see it as a process of discovery. I don't expect to come to a final conclusion. I don't want to stop exploring. When it comes to questions of the nature of the universe, I am not sure we're equipped to say we, as human beings, know it all. Every time you decide you have the absolute answer, you've closed the question. For most of the big questions, I tend to find that the truth doesn't come down to an either/or question. The answers tend to be a matter of balance and context. I do think that the type of religion that speaks to a person has something to do with his personality. Some people are comfortable with things being more open ended, and some people are not comfortable unless they have things resolved. I am fine with things being more open ended.
Will Green: Who is your favorite author and why?
Laura Lee: The first author I really responded to was Douglas Adams. I like his dry humor. The second novelist I fell in love with was Milan Kundera. The first of his novels that I read was The Unbearable Lightness of Being. After that I had to read everything he wrote. The Joke was my favorite. I went through an Eastern thought period in the 90s and read Tich Nhat Hahn and poetry by Rumi. More recently I discovered Alain de Botton. He combines two things I have always enjoyed, British dry humor and musing philosophically about life.
He is the first author whose work I admire who is my age. Seeing what he's achieved and knowing he was born at the same time I was makes me feel unaccomplished and jealous!
Will Green: Douglas Adams...he did The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, right? That was a fantastic movie. I’ve never gotten around to reading the book(s) though. Would you recommend those books?
You’re really into spiritual enlightenment and religious beliefs and some of the old British dry humor...gotta love that stuff.
Don’t focus on his success focus on yours. You’ll have your time to shine.
Laura Lee: I hope so. Douglas Adams and Alain de Botton are atheists, incidentally. (Adams was while he was live at any rate.) I haven't read Alain de Botton's latest book yet, but it's on my to do list. It is about how atheists need some of the ritual of religion. So I'm quite interested in that.
Will Green: That's an interesting fact that I had no idea of. I wonder if Adams ideals contributed to his story telling in some form. And there again I know a few people who would be interested in a book you've mentioned. I have a few atheist friends who would probably be interested in Botton's book.
What kind of music do you listen to and why?
Laura Lee: When I was writing Angel I listened to "Calling All Angels" by Train over and over. If they were to make a movie of Angel (I'm not expecting it) I would like to hear that song under the end credits.
Will Green: That was a great song, but like any good song it got played out, but it would definitely fit your book. Well in the meantime while you're waiting for someone to call you about the movie rights you could make your own soundtrack and put that on it.
Laura Lee: The other song would be Peter Case's “Two Angels.” It really fits the book. Maybe that would be under the opening credits.
Will Green: What do you watch on TV and why?
Laura Lee: I've been watching Six Feet Under on DVD. I'm half way through season 2. I first got it out from the library because I liked Peter Krause in Sports Night. (I recommend Sports Night too.) I like it because the characters have depth and complexity and weirdness.
Will Green: I started liking Peter Krause when he did The Lost Room on SyFy, it was a three part mini-series, but it was really good. I wish they would have carried it on to be a full fledged show...I suppose you could count Warehouse 13 as an extension of that mini-series. After that my wife and I started watching Dirty Sexy Money and he was in it. It was a good show for what it was, but they ended up screwing up the story line and it ended. I think he did Six Feet Under before that...possibly. I’ve never actually watched any episode of Six Feet Under though, sorry to say.
Laura Lee: I tend to watch older series on DVDs that I get from the library and I watch an entire program from beginning to end straight through.
Will Green: That's probably a good idea, instead of feeling like you're tied to a TV series while it's running. It would essentially be an extra long movie.
What kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?
Laura Lee: I suppose you have to decide what you are "aspiring" to do. Every writer writes with the hope of being read, of course. Aspiring to sales success and having a career is not necessarily the same as aspiring to be the best writer you can be and doing your best work. In the fantasy model of being a famous novelist they go together. I think we all have a dream of producing that great book we were meant to write and having it take off like Harry Potter or being selected for Oprah's Book Club. On the off chance that this doesn't happen, you have to be clear with yourself about what you want from writing. Is it important that it be your career and a way of making a living? Or is it simply important that you continue to learn and grow and master the craft to do your best work? If the focus is on making a living, then you need to develop serious marketing skills and focus on the types of writing that are most likely to pay off. This is one set of skills and different from the set of skills you need to write the next great collection of spiritually infused poetry. One person can have both skills, but it is difficult to put both into practice at the same time. You have a finite number of hours in the day and a finite amount of energy and mental focus. If you decide that it is your calling to write a literary novel or a poetry collection and you aspire to do the best work you can from an artistic point of view regardless of financial success, you need to build up some psychological defenses in order to keep the faith that you are doing what you were meant to do. We live in a world that generally measures success with money and titles. Those are things that are difficult to come by as a writer. Keeping the faith is the hardest part. Simply being proud to have written an excellent poetry chapbook that sold five copies is a big emotional challenge. If you decide to stop writing there will generally not be a big outcry from people telling you must keep doing it. If you still feel as though you are "you" if you're not writing, my recommendation would be to write as a hobby and not to be goal oriented with it. If you don't feel as though you are you unless you are trying to do the best writing you can, and sharing it with an audience, then you probably don't need my advice. You don't have any choice in the matter.
Will Green: I think you’ve really broken it down Laura. Aspire to a particular outcome and set goals to match that outcome. This is some great advice and you make great points with the various directions a writer may go before, during and after getting a little attention.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me Laura. You’re very inspirational when it comes to a lot of things and the advice was tremendous as well.
Is Larry Benjamin your real name or pen name?Larry Benjamin:
My real name is Lawrence but everyone calls me Larry except my father, so yes Larry Benjamin is my real name.Will Green:
That's simple enough. Is there any reason you didn't go with a pen name instead?Larry Benjamin:
There are a couple of reasons actually. My writing tends to be very emotional and although I write fiction I draw on my experiences. In my personal life I advocate always bringing one’s authentic self and living out loud so, to me, adopting a pen name seemed like hiding. Second, I wanted to use my real name to make sure all those kids in school who thought it was okay, who thought it was fun, to bully the skinny sissy boy who was always reading or bent over a notebook furiously scribbling, got a message from me: You may have damaged me but you didn’t break me.Will Green:
Excellent Larry, those are a couple fantastic reasons not to got with a pen name. I hope those who picked on you get that message loud and clear. Tell us about your books that you have available.Larry Benjamin:
Right now there’s just the one, What Binds Us
which is my debut novel from Carina Press
, scheduled to be released March 19. Next up is a collection of short stories, tentatively titled Damaged Angels
. And I’m just starting work on my next novel.Will Green:
March 19th that's a great day, it's my second daughter's birthday. She's going to be five so What Binds Us
is bit out of her range right now. What can you tell us about your next project?Larry Benjamin: Damaged Angels
is a collection of short stories written over several years so you can really see my growth as a writer, I think. Damaged Angels
is very different to What Binds Us
. The stories in the collection were written during a dark period in my history and give voice to the invisible, those conspicuously absent from mainstream fiction: the drug addicts and hustlers, the mentally ill, the confused and the men who fall in love with them, all of them bravely trying to make a place for themselves in the world of normal men.Will Green:
Writer growth and progress through the dark times of your life, sounds like a hell of a combination a lot of people could be interested in, including myself. Does it read like a journal? Or is it how you said, a series of short stories?Larry Benjamin:
It doesn’t read like a journal; it’s a series of stand-alone stories that have similar themes. They’re intensely emotional stories with lots of imagery. One story is written as a series of letters and is loosely based on the Stations of the Cross; it gets really interesting because there is a “resurrection” after which the letter writer continues writing. Another story’s main character is a drug addict. His addiction is portrayed as a “starving infant screaming to be fed.” As he sinks deeper into his addiction his “child” becomes “a woman wise in the ways of men. A sullen dark eyed temptress in a black lace peignoir controlling not with tears and threats of tantrums but seducing with come hither looks thrown over a bony brown shoulder.”Will Green:
Well I’m sold. The imagery sounds incredible. Where do you get the information for your books?Larry Benjamin:
I like to think it’s all made up but, like most writers, I think my work is formed of my experiences—whether it’s actual day-to-day living or my inner, secret fantasy life.Will Green:
I like that “inner secret fantasy life.” I think we can all relate to that life. What was the most surprising thing you've learned since you started writing?Larry Benjamin:
For me the writing is a solitary practice so from that perspective it’s relatively easy, but I was surprised by the work required for the business of writing—the editorial process, connecting with readers. Oh yeah, and I learned how absolutely crucial a good editor is to the process and to make the book the best it can be.Will Green:
It's an amazing process to go from a recluse with only your inner voice to talk to in the writing process and then stepping out and connecting with all the different parts of the marketing side. Just don't get distracted with marketing or that second book may never get written.
I think good editors can be some wild animals.Larry Benjamin:
Haha. I don’t know that Rhonda would like being called a wild animal. Seriously you’re right. It’s very easy to get sidetracked by the marketing aspect and forget that your real job is to write.Will Green:
I’m sure there is some kind of beast lurking deep down inside Rhonda. Lol.
How long does it take you to write a book?Larry Benjamin: What Binds Us
took a year to write—and that was writing at night, at odd moments during the day, on weekends. I work a regular full time job that’s pretty demanding so I write a lot during “stolen moments.” Damaged Angels
took longer because I wrote those stories as they came to me with no intention, at first, of linking them together in a single offering.Will Green:
A year is a long time, but considering it was with "stolen moments" I can see why. I like that by the way. I'm sure there are lots of stolen moment writers out there.
Who or What inspires you to write?Larry Benjamin:
Different things inspire me to write. For example I was in a meeting one morning―a rather dull meeting, so I was bored―and a woman arrived late. She was from Finland, thin and fashionable, altogether arresting. I started taking notes to describe her; she became an exotic bird in my description and I then tweeted the description. That’s typical of me: I tend to write when words pile up inside me and I need to write them down to clear my head.Will Green:
Haha now that’s great! I can relate to that situation. We had a company wide meeting not too long ago, the CEO was droning on and on, so I imagined and wrote down the beginning of a zombie attack. The head of IT didn’t survive...too bad.
Have any of these mini writing moments of yours made it into your stories?Larry Benjamin:
Oh yeah lots of them. I like to take snippets of conversation or actual events and build on them, twisting them into something else so I get an outcome I can work with. A zombie attacking the head of IT. Hmmm I think I’d turn him loose on the Help Desk. Or maybe Customer Service at Verizon.Will Green:
You would have to ship that zombie to India to have him get Customer Service at Verizon. Now would we really want Indian zombies running around...no probably not. Haha. We could talk about zombies all day, but we should probably move on.
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?Larry Benjamin:
Well, I still write by hand, usually in a composition notebook. But because I write all day long, I often write on scraps of paper, napkins, the margins of books I’m reading. I literally have a whole box of loose papers that became What Binds Us. Also, I tend not to plot my stories in advance. I have an idea at the beginning and an endpoint in mind, then I create characters and write trying to weave everything together until the story is told.Will Green:
I’m starting to think writing is a bit of an obsession of yours. Which is always a great thing for an author. Again I really like how you do things...storing scraps of notes and what not and eventually taking all those little pieces of thoughts and putting them together. You’re sort of a seat of the pants writer.Larry Benjamin:
Haha. Actually you’re probably right—I’m obsessed. It’s funny you picked up on the fact that I’m probably obsessed with writing because my Goodreads blog—shameless plug here—touched on that very topic last week.
Yeah, I’m definitely a “pantser,” probably why it can take me a long time to write a story. I just sort of sit around and write randomly and the story begins to tell itself.Will Green:
Ha there you go then, it must be true. I assure you I did not look at your Goodreads blog before this interview...I should probably subscribe to it since you have tid bits like that.
What book are you reading right now?Larry Benjamin: James Baldwin’s Just Above My HeadWill Green:
Do you like it so far? Would you recommend it?Larry Benjamin:
It’s a great book. I love his writing, his voice—he’s one of the few writers whose books I own where you’ll find I’ve highlighted text. But man this book is LONG. Nearly 600 pages. If I could speak to him, I’d say, “Really James! 600 hundred pages?”Will Green:
Ah Ha see that's a perfectly good reason why printed books are still relevant. Sure you can highlight in a digital book, but it's just not that practical.
The only way I can get into a book that long is if it's an epic fantasy story. The big one now is Game of Thrones
. Those books are massive. One book could easily be broken into three smaller ones. The same goes for Just Above My Head
, 600 is a lot to take, why not go with two 300 page books? Would it seem less relevant if it was shorter, doubt it. I plan to do a guest post onParanormal Wire
about this very subject in the near future. Be sure to watch for that.
Who is your favorite author and why?Larry Benjamin: F. Scott Fitzgerald
because he not only told wonderful stories but he was such a visual writer and he could create an entire world for you to inhabit.Will Green:
Do you have any recommendations from him?Larry Benjamin:
Hands down, The Great Gatsby. The Last Tycoon.
And his short fiction—fabulous.Will Green:
His short fiction too? Alright I'll have to dig into him a little deeper.
What kind of music do you listen to and why?Larry Benjamin:
I listen to all kinds of music—country, classic disco, dance. I tend to like loud, powerful music with strong lyrics. Right now Adele is a favorite. And Celo Green—his music is amazing and his lyrics really tell a story. I love words and both artists write songs with beautiful words. Will Green:
Those two are very very popular right now. I’m sorry to say I haven’t really given them a chance. Maybe I’ll give them another shot. What about TV, what holds your attention?Larry Benjamin:
I don’t watch a lot of TV. Even as a child I was never much into it. I preferred reading or making up stories in my head. Right now I watch Glee!
(religiously), The Amazing Race
, Modern Family
and Happy Endings
Really? So many people watch Glee
, that show is something my wife and I just can not get into.
Do you think not watching much TV as a kid is the reason for some of those dark times in your life? If you had TV would you have been out and about like you were? I guess we can speculate about the what ifs all day, but what is, is what is, can’t change it now.Larry Benjamin:
You don’t like Glee!
? Man we’ll have to talk more about that later.
We HAD TV as kids—well it was black and white back then and only 4 channels but that was what TV was then. My brothers watched all the time. I mostly found it boring. The reason for the dark times in my life had nothing to do with watching TV and everything to do with bad dating choices.
You’re right. I don’t spend a lot of time looking back or dwelling on things I can’t change. I just pour it all into my writing.Will Green: Glee
just doesn't work for me, that sing songy jumping around choreographed stuff.
It's good you found an outlet for all that negativity in your life. Keep pouring that energy into something somebody can use.
What kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?Larry Benjamin:
Tell the stories that are inside of you that you need to tell rather than stories you think people will want to read. But above all, believe in yourself and don’t stop writing.Will Green:
Thanks for taking the time for talking with me Larry and thank you very much for the advice. Too many people think too much about what others want to read.Larry Benjamin:
Will thanks so much for having me. I really enjoyed talking to you.
Click to go to the Amazon purchase page.
Is Natasha Larry your real name or pen name?Natasha Larry:
It’s my real name, although I should probably change that.Will Green:
Why? Do you plan to get so rich and famous that someone will want to steal you? I think by that point you will be able to buy your own security detail; physical and virtual.Natasha Larry:
LoL, I actually have no rich and famous plans. No, I just wish I had a pen name that was a little more mysterious. Like… Candy Kane. Wait, maybe I secretly want to be a stripper? ;)Will Green:
Lol. Well I think you would be required to wear candy stripes if you had a name like that. I think this could seriously get out of hand...we should probably move on. Lol.
Tell us about your books that you have available? Natasha Larry:
I’m the author of a young adult-paranormal/fantasy series. The first title is also the series title,Darwin’s Children
. Here is my publisher’s synopsis of the first title: Seventeen-year-old Jaycie Lerner's life is complicated enough being a black girl in a prestigious small-town Tennessee private school. But trying to act normal and fit in really gets difficult when her telekinesis and telepathy kick in. Jaycie's not just special, she's super-special. And with her great power comes great responsibility ... sometimes more than she can handle. But she's got her oddball family to help her - a super-strong and fast surrogate mom, a telepathic dad, a very persuasive godfather, and a new friend who's really hot - literally! Jaycie's just trying to get through every day and learn how to maintain control over her powers. But when trouble strikes, things really heat up fast, and literally get explosive. The good news is, she's got someone special looking out for her - at least she thinks it’s good news...
For some odd reason, I actually prefer what Mr. Asshole said about it
“Over all I give this book 4 out of 5 BFF Broken Heart Charms
. What I loved most about this book is that it doesn’t try to pretty life up for the readers. Some people are dealt bad hands in life and have their own inner demons to deal with. I feel a lot of young adults can relate, if not emphasize with the characters.”
Click to go to the Amazon purchase page.
The second title is Unnatural Law:
Seventeen-year-old Jaycie Lerner's psychokinetic power surge is over, but her problems are just beginning. With this much power unleashed, she's a danger to herself and others - especially her best friend and would-be boyfriend Matt Carter. But Matt's not willing to give up on her. Meanwhile, Allison Young, Jaycie's live-in trainer and surrogate mom, has problems of her own. She's lonely and having strange dreams, but all she can remember is a rose as her life and everything else descends into chaos
Will Green: This is one of the rare occasions....the only occasion...so far...that I have read one of the books you are showing off today. Darwin's Children was a great great read. The whole thing was just fun. I loved how certain types of mythical creatures were explained. And Mr. Asshole, as you so nicely call our own James Crawford...Haha...hit it right on when he said the characters are easy to relate to.
I still have to read Unnatural Law. I have no excuse for not reading it yet.
Natasha Larry:Ooo, now I’m mad at you, and we can’t make out after this interview is over. Tsk Tsk. Of course, I’m kidding. I know how busy and crazy this world can be. I do hope you like it when you get around to reading it, I’m actually very proud of chapter five, which isn’t something I say about myself often.
Will Green:Aww man c'mon really no making out??? I...ahem...still need to buy it (*looking at floor shaking head in shame).
Are you working on something else right now?
Natasha Larry: I am working on completion of the third title. I’ve been struggling with it because up until a few days ago it was missing that extra “mmmm,” that gives me warm fuzzies inside. Now I just have some rewriting to do. I have also completed a short story.
Will Green: What happened a few days ago that gave it the Campbell's soup slogan (“Mmmm”)? Lol. Can you share the title of the third entry in Darwin's Children?
What about that short story, got any juicy details?
Natasha Larry: LOL, you are so frickin CUTE. Actually, it was a conversation with Mr. Asshole, who in secret is very sweet to me =) He made a comment about the Hunger Games, and for some reason, that conversation sparked something in me. I advise every writer to get a friend and crit buddy like James, he just makes you better. LoL, funny enough its James again who gave me the title for this book. It’s called Common Descent, and I got the idea from an article he sent me about some of Charles Darwin’s theories.
Here is the first line: “Jaycie knew she was going to have to kill this girl.”
The short story is done, and I think it will be ready to go. I want to include a preview of Caleo and the DOMErevelation in it, along with a sneak peek of The Newfoundland Vampire. Oh, I should probably include the prologue of my next book in it as well. It’s not like most things readers have seen from me, and is a bit more violent because it focuses on the vampires in this world, but I’m pretty excited about it.
Will Green: Aww thanks. Sometimes my wife doesn't find my little remarks cute. I get a lot of eye rolls. Lol.
Don't you just love it when you're at a lose for something and then suddenly in a random conversation it comes to you?
Wait was that an exclusive sneak peek at the first line from Darwin's Children book 3: Common Descent?
Holy Crap it'll be like one of those movies that have 90 movie trailers before the movie actually starts. I hope you add some links to skip the previews...not that anyone should...I'm just sayin.
Ok ok we're getting distracted here...what can you tell us about your next project?
Natasha Larry: HAHA! Well, there are a few new characters and the one I’m most excited about is Brianna Miller.
Will Green: Well c'mon tell us something about Brianna Miller.
Natasha Larry: Well, she isn’t superhuman, but she is very special. I think she’s probably a character that required a lot of thought on my part, to explain why she can do what she can do. She happens to be the perfect, killing machine. She’s also bat-shit insane, which makes her really funny to read. What I found most challenging about her was the fact that she hears voices. So, I had to be very careful with her as to not confuse the reader. I’m happy with how it turned out, though. Here is a brief look at Bri Bri for your enjoyment:
“Why does everyone think we’re insane?” she asked, raising her sultry, gray eyes toward the ceiling. Aren’t we? I’m pretty sure you just said ‘we’ out loud, a voice echoed inside of her head. “Honest mistake, I drift in and out a lot,” she shot back aloud.
Will Green: I think “special” might be an understatement. She must have been the product of insomnia. Which brings us to the next question; where do you get the information for your books?
Natasha Larry: Some of it is from things I remember from college. I’ve also read a lot of comics and graphic novels. Sometimes I just make up some shit. =)
Will Green: What was your Major in college?
Natasha Larry: History! I eat that shit up. I think my favorite areas are the Cold War (American History) and the Classics. I love Ancient Rome and all its batty philosophers and wars for no reason. =) My Ancient Greek professor once told us that Athens and Sparta actually drafted a treaty once to stop the war… because they were running low on males and had some deed-doing to replenish their war machine. What’s better than that? I also have an Associate’s degree in biology, which really helps with my writing. I love genetics and microbiology. Yummy.
Will Green: You, my friend, are the definition of Nerd! I'm not sure I can actually believe you are into all of that stuff. It's so left field that it just has to be true!
Onto to comics. What is your favorite graphic novel you have read to date?
Natasha Larry: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller.
Will Green: Ol Frankie can do some crazy stuff. That man's mind is amazing!
Now, what was the most surprising thing you've learned since you started writing?
Natasha Larry: That the best and only sane part of being an Indie author are connecting with other writers that are just as bat shit nuts as you. You learn from them, and if you’re lucky, are inspired by them.
Will Green: Haha that's pretty good. The crazies have to stick together. I love chatting it up with all the different batty people I've met so far. Including yourself ;-).
Natasha Larry: We are pretty insane, and I love every second of it. I love it when we all get busy and are having conversations of the period of weeks, get confused, and have to start over. LoL, I owe you guys so much. Plus, the fact that you call Nova Sparky often makes my day. We should start a superhero team! Mr. Asshole, Mr. Wayward, Sparky and the Nala. Yeah? LET’S DO IT!
Will Green: Oh Hellyeah! We can't forget about that David Beem though. He'll be Beem w/ Cello. Now we have to think of some superpowers hmmm...
While we're thinking about superpowers we should finish the interview...
How long does it take you to write a book?
Natasha Larry: Generally it takes a little over a month. That isn’t counting the re-writing.
Will Green: That seems pretty quick, I guess re-writing is the meat potatoes though. Who or what inspires you to write?
Natasha Larry: The people in my life, comic books and awesome shit in general.
Will Green: “...awesome shit in general.” Haha that says it all doesn't it? Give us an example of “awesome shit”.
Natasha Larry: Well, say someone I know says some funny shit. I'm all like…. I gotta use that in the books! That’s why Jaycie says Christ on a cracker all the time. Or, if I’m reading some random, science article about the amygdala hijack… I’m all… I can totally lie about this article and call it science fiction. =)
Will Green: Wow you're such a Nerd...I love it!!! Sure you lie about it and call it science fiction now, but in a few years when the article comes true it'll be science fact!
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Natasha Larry: Probably that I write in Sharpie. People find that bizarre for some reason.
Will Green: It's not bizarre, I think it's genius. One it helps with writing mistakes and two when you make those mistakes you'll get even higher on the sharpie fumes and write even more creatively. How much of Darwin's Children was sharpie high induced? Lol.
Natasha Larry: LoL, I think most of Unnatural Law was sharpie induced. I was still writing in pen with the first book. Common Descent… totally sharpie induced… especially the part where you find out that John…. Haha, not telling!
Will Green: NOT TELLING??? Oh you! I really need to catch up before Common Descent is released. I think Brianna might just be pretty sharpie induced as well. Haha!
What book are you reading right now?
Natasha Larry:Tricksby Ellen Hopkins and an ARC by a fellow Penumbra author, Charles O’Keefe. It’s called The Newfoundland Vampire. I like it so far.
Will Green: What are they about?
Natasha Larry: Tricks is about a group of teens and how they all wind up, literally, turning tricks. Its heart breaking. The Newfoundland Vampire is about vampire Joseph and his coming to terms with being one of the undead. It’s an adult title, but it reads more like YA.
Will Green: I'm not so sure about Tricks myself, but The Newfoundland Vampire sounds like something I could get into.
Favorite author and why?
Natasha Larry: Frank Miller…I love him for what he did with The Dark Knight graphic novels alone; don’t get me started on Sin City.
Will Green: Frank Miller is pretty damn awesome! 300, Sin City, The Dark Knight...didn't he do something with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles too?
Natasha Larry: Did he? I know he did some Daredevil and the series Ronin. I’ll have to look into that.
Will Green: I read Ronin a very long time ago before I knew who Frank Miller really was. I loved it. I had no idea he did anything with Daredevil. I must find many of his works now.
What kind of music do you listen to and why?
Natasha Larry: I have very eclectic taste in music. Lately it’s been a lot of old school Madonna and Disturbed.
Will Green: WOW!...Now that is a combo. Haha. Like A Virgin and Stupify I'm pretty sure you're the only person who could pull off that playlist in one sitting. Lol.
Natasha Larry: Hehe, it was actually more of a combination of Borderline and The Night because it reminds me of Alonzo from the books. Of course, you have no idea who that is, do you? Pllllll, that’s a raspberry. =)
Will Green: Nope I have no idea who Alonzo from the books is...so there is no need for the raspberry lady!
What do you watch on TV and why?
Natasha Larry: Sons of Anarchy, The Colony, Family Guy, American Horror Story, I watched a few episodes of The Walking Dead, but Zombies creep me out. House M.D. is probably my favorite show.
Will Green: I don't know much about Sons of Anarchy or The Colony, but American Horror Story was superb, I'm very interested in whatever they might do for season 2. Did you know this is the last season of House? That really sucks!
And if zombies creep you out, I guess I won't be seeking you out for my zombie apocalypse team. Sorry NaLa. :-)
Natasha Larry: Haha! Update! I gave The Walking Dead another try, mostly due to a few die-hard fans threatening my life and loooove it. Super hooked. And I would be a great asset in a zombie apocalypse! I’m very much into my cardio. Not really… I’m not into cardio at all. I would be good for throwing at the zombies for a diversion while everyone gets away. Not much for a survivalist ;)
I do know it’s the last season of House and I’m in mourning. I mean, how will I live? Did you see Chase get stabbed?? OMG.
Will Green: Having your live threatened for not watching a show...that's a bit harsh. Haha. What Chase got stabbed...we must be behind a few episodes!! Ugh we could talkaboutthese shows for days and days, we've got to finish this thing up. Lol.
What kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?
Natasha Larry: If you really want writing to be what you do, and you are truly passionate about what you do, and you don’twant your writing ripped apart by someone better and more experienced than you are, you will never write anything great.
Will Green: Truly Awesome advice Natasha, thank you very much. And thank you very much for taking the time for this interview; I had a great time putting it together.
Natasha Larry: You happen to be one of the six people in my virtual crew that I have a serious crush on. =) Thanks for having me.
Will Green: Happy dance for being in a virtual crew...Reverse Rain Dance, because you have a serious crush on me. What it popped in my head I can't always control it. Lol!
, and Barnes & NobleNatasha Larry's Official Website/Blog
Find Darwin's Children
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Will Green: Is Charles Wells your real name or pen name?
Charles Wells: It's my real name. I've been told since childhood that H.G. Wells is a distant cousin but my family tree doesn't show him anywhere. Just the horse thieves and town drunks is all.
Will Green: Well that's a wonderful lineage to lean on. Stealing horses and selling them for drinks. That's a hell of a life. Tell us about your books that you have available?
Charles Wells: It's what you'd expect from a a man like me who's distant cousin is Doc Holiday. (Yes, Wyatt Earps' best friend) Oh, I bet I failed to mention that he is in my family tree. HA.. Anyhow, I have twelve self published books on the market. Seven are my Whispering Pines suspense/thriller series. Three books are filled with short stories similar to "twilight zone"odd stories and titled Strange Short Tales. One book is non-fiction called Hear the Sunshine. That's about my life dealing with a progressive hearing loss and subsequent Cochlear 22 channel hearing implant operation as an adult. It's not a self help book. It's a book intended to help parents spot hearing problems in their children. It's a funny, southern flavored attitude and inside look at being handicapped. And speaking of funny, the "other" genre and book I have is called Talk Show Cartoons. I've been drawing and writing a cartoons for many years and finally published a small book collection of the best ones. The first raving review I received from a reader at Barnes and Noble said, "What is this crap? This is the stupidest book I have ever seen. Do Not Buy It." This reader at least gave it a one star rating and failed to notice that the book, at that time, was free. (Today it's .99 cents on Amazon) We all have our opinions and that person must have enjoyed sharing their's about Talk Show.
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Will Green: Wow that's a healthy collection you have out there. I think I'm going to slowly start collecting the Whispering Pines Series. Is that an ongoing series or is there an end in sight? And are they available as digital downloads? My preferred method of reading for the past year, I might add.
Charles Wells: Whispering Pines is available in digital and print. On the print copies, books 5-7 are in processing now and should be ready soon. The first four are set to go. Hear the Sunshine is digi and print as well. I had the print copies made at trade paperback size (5.5 x 8.5) which is the largest paperback you can buy. I don't care for anything smaller and the costs are not that much more for the readers. They are on Amazon, print and digital, plus I let Smashwords do the rest of the distributions for me which includes Barnes and Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, and Itunes for the Ipad. I've got the digital markets covered from CPU to ram chip I think.
Will Green: I downloaded the first two books of Strange Short Tales, because they were free, which is probably my favorite four letter f word. I'll be reading and reviewing them in due time.
Charles Wells: I put those two out free so readers could take my writing style out for a test drive. They are fun to write and I wanted everyone to see what they got before buying book 3. In that one, there is one story of mine about an F-14 tomcat pilot and his RIO. (rear seat radio guy) I had to get a lot of help from an old friend who flew them for the Navy as a career. He did a wonderful job and the story puts the reader right there on the flight deck.
Free at Smashwords.com Click to be taken there.
Will Green: I bet my father would be interested in reading Here the Sunshine. He lost his hearing in his right ear a few years ago due to a tumor on his hearing nerve on that side. He wears a hearing aid, but sometimes it seems like more of a hassle.
Charles Wells: Sounds like he was hearing a lot but not understanding the words. I talk about that very issue in Hear the Sunshine. I don't get into the medical/technical side of the Cochlear Implant. I try to show people the human side, the ups and downs, the laughs and tears, the fear of having an unseen handicap. One segment in the book is where I tell about getting into trouble with the law when I failed to understand something said to me. It's funny to look back on, but it was a nightmare at the time. As for the critic on my Talk Show Cartoon book, well, its free because I run the cartoon as a series (also free) on my webpage and keep it updated once a week with three panel cartoons. I didn't feel right about bundling them up and selling, so I gave them away and already have another about half finished. That critic is entitled to his opinion about the book though. No hard feelings.. (other than the minor one of my wanting to strangle him purple in the face)
Will Green: Haha that was nice that guy could give you his opinion like that. I bet a few people picked it up just to see how “stupid” it really was.
Free at Smashwords.com Click to be taken there.
Charles Wells: Very true. I guess most of us like to see a train wreck so long as we aren't on the train when it happens. We flock to house fires, car wrecks, and disasters but when it happens to us, we get mad at the gawkers. We humans are strange.
Will Green: Are you working on something else right now?
Charles Wells: I've always got something in the pot simmering. At the moment though, I'm well under way (10,000 words and counting) with book 8 in the Whispering Pines series. I don't have a title for it yet, but something will develop I'm sure. If not, I might ask that person who gave Talk Show the review mentioned earlier, to name it for me. (snickers) I'm also putting together a collection of short personal quotes that I call Guidelines for Southern Writers. It's a list of "Tweet" sized funny sayings I write down at all times of the day or night and it's getting to be a large document, growing daily.
Will Green: You're “biggest fan” might just call it Whispering Pines Part 8: Why did you buy this?
If you come up with enough personal quotes for Guidelines for Southern Writers you might just be able to turn it into a daily desktop calendar.
Click for Amazon purchase page.
Charles Wells: Hey, cool, I think I'll steal that title. Hahahahah. (clears throat) Okay, uh, yes, a desk calendar; that or a nice bird cage liner or maybe emblazon the quotes on toilet paper or something. HA..
Will Green: Quotable T.P. Might just be a hit. What can you tell us about your next project?
Charles Wells: If I tell you that, I have to shoot you. No wait, uhh.. Okay. I'm researching several ideas at the moment and making a few "test" runs with them to see if they "click" in my mind. I can tell within a few pages of writing whether something will work or not and trust my "gut" instincts. I'd rather not divulge the genre or much else, but I am sure there are readers out there who might find it enjoyable. If not, then I'm having a ball writing it and that's good enough for me.
Will Green: Ok, keep your secrets Mr. Wells, but as long as you're having fun that's all that matters. So where do you get the information for your books?
Charles Wells: Thank God for Google and Bing. If it's not in one of those search engines then it's not likely to be found anywhere else on earth.
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That may be true for most people, but believe it or not there are still people that steer clear of the internet for research. Have a look at the interview with Khloe Kamalis
I saw that interview and agree in theory with some of it. I was around when the internet was running at 300 bauds per second which is, today, like comparing a turtle to a rocket engine. I don't like a lot that has happened with the web but overall, I trust it more than going to the library and looking up something in a 1954 encyclopedia. (HA) My experience is to take an overall average of the information you find and balance it.. subtract twenty percent, and that's most likely the truth. Will Green:
Twenty percent of the average of the information you find is crap…you must be into statistics.
What was the most surprising thing you've learned since you started writing? Charles Wells:
I always thought when a book was finished, when you type "The End" then it was over, done with. The rude lesson of that is what many authors learn quickly. Writing the book is the easy part compared to editing, proofing, getting cover art work done, then publishing, and last, marketing which is the straw that could break the camel's back. Getting a story out of my head and into the hands of a reader is a package deal that involves a lot of work by everyone involved in the process.
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Will Green: Boy that is the truth. I'm not yet an author myself, but I am learning that lesson from friends I've made along the Wayward Things path I've taken so far. About how long would you say it takes you to write a book?
Charles Wells: It takes me about six weeks to finish a raw first draft but I'm a full time writer. I write three or four hours of a morning and then spend my afternoons and early evenings editing. When draft one is finished, I send it off to a beta reader to make sure the plot holds up from start to finish. While waiting on that, I start the second draft. That can take several months including having to wait on my beta readers (test readers) to report back from the first draft so I can adjust according to their suggestions. While on that topic, I've learned one important thing about this stage of a book. A writer has to LISTEN to their editors and beta readers. You have to trust them. If all they ever tell you is "WOW.. that's great.. " then find new people. I need honest critic, not praise. My ego is huge like most writers but not during this phase of the process. IN fact, my present final proof reader, the last guy to see my manuscript before it is uploaded it to the retailers, is a vicious, nit picking character that is by far, one of the best in the business. Mistakes still get past him but not many and not often. He is the thunder behind all my lightning.
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So it is true you NEED a nit pickity person among your writing “team”. In a guest post with Natasha Larry
she referred to this person as an “asshole”. You need someone to tell you it sucks and you can do better, otherwise it will suck and you’ll never do better.Charles Wells:
That is ironic about Natasha Larry
. First off, my proofer's name is Larry and in our morning chat group on the internet, Larry is known as the "asshole." Hahahah. I swear to you this is so true. Amazing, but yes. I've known Larry for over 40 years and his proofing is an art unmatched by anyone. He keeps words my characters would never say, out of their mouth by marking them and telling me "Catfish would never say ya'll. He would say yawl." Will Green:
Ohh that’s good! Although Natasha
is not the asshole in the group that honor goes to James Crawford
, chief book reviewer here on WaywardThings, but Natasha Larry
is the one who came up with it. Ok straying off topic, sorry, your Larry seems to be a force to be reckoned with.
Well who or what inspires you to write?
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Charles Wells: I come from a large family (six kids) and I was the story teller on dark rainy nights. I started writing the better stories down before I was ten years old. I don't think inspiration is what drives me to write. It's the satisfaction of how I can create a place and the people inside that place and use them to entertain others. Writing itself, to me, is a curse. If I go many days without putting something on paper then I feel as though I'm about to explode. I have to write because it's an addiction and I'm always looking for that next great fix (story idea) to get high on.
Will Green: That’s a different sort of inspiration, get a story on paper or explode. That’s incentive I would say. But on a serious note the satisfaction of entertaining others, that’s what it’s all supposed to be about at the end of the day.
Charles Wells: You're a writer too Will so I think I hit a nerve with you. We write for the same reason a comedian gets up on a stage. We love the thrill, the attention, and the applause. That drives us to do better and better and the way it works for me is like I said. If I'm not having fun writing it, then nobody is going to have fun reading it. That's the bottom line.
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Will Green: That is absolutely it! What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Charles Wells: When I started writing book one of the Whispering Pines series, I realized one day that I had entirely too many plots running at the same time. I ripped out a few and put them aside. Those became the core of book two. While writing book two, the same thing happened again, too many plots, so I ripped out some of those and they became the foundation of book three…and while writing book three, (Do I need to keep going on with this or do you get the idea now?)
Will Green: Got it. Now that you say that a few stories I’ve read and listened come to mind where the authors probably could have done something like that and the main story would’ve been better…or smoother maybe. If too much is going on then the reader can’t keep up and the story fails, for me anyway.
Charles Wells: Tom Clancy is horrible about that sometimes, plus he is bad about dumping a pile of facts on the readers that sound more like "look at what I know" than "look at what I want you to see." I love most of his books and Red October is one of my top 5 movies, but in my opinion, Clancy needs to send his manuscripts to my "asshole" proofer, Larry. They need some fixin' (as he would say)
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Will Green: I’ve read all of the Splinter Cell books and those are under the Clancy banner, but not written by the man himself, but the info dumps weren’t too bad.
What book are you reading right now?
Charles Wells: I'm a member of a group in the Amazon community section of "Meet Our Authors" called "The Spinning Wheel 7thEdition." It's a small but fun group of writers who can take on serious topics for writers or who can babble half the day about their dog's upset stomach. (Ha) Since I don't read books within my own genre (for obvious reasons) I tend to read books from this group so if you are out there looking for some of the best Indy writers around, head to the Spinning Wheel and join the discussion. You'll never regret it.
Will Green: I just might join that group and I bet I know a few others that wouldn’t mind jumping in there to check it out. Who is your favorite author and why?
Charles Wells: Three way tie between Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Sterling (Twilight Zone) and Stephen King. It's not the genre that attracts me to them. It's the sheer power they have over a reader. They grab you by the front of your shirt and don't let you go until that story is finished. Tom Clancy is good but too winded for my tastes, but Hunt for Red October was one of my all time favorite movies.
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Will Green: I’ve never read anything from those guys except Stephen King, the only thing I read of his was The Talisman and he wrote that with Peter Straub. Great, great story, but then it just kind of ended, he didn’t wrap everything up very well. I don’t know maybe that’s just me. That sort of spoiled me on him and I’m not all about “star power” with big names anyway.
Charles Wells: I think the older King books were the best due to the uniqueness of his style and ability to capture the readers. I like the Talisman too but with his stuff today that edge is gone and he needs to adjust. (Now that takes nerve to offer advice to a professional, does it not?)
Will Green: Wells vs. King…Who will win? Bahh King’s had his time to shine its someone else’s turn now.
What about music what do you listen to?
Charles Wells: Before going deaf, I played lead guitar in a rock and roll band of the 1960's. I loved everything music except hard country and hard rock. Stephen Wolfe did great songs but I hated to watch them. Weird. Ha!
Will Green: Your band, was it a big name people might recognize. Some people just don’t have stage power, so that’s not weird at all.
Charles Wells: Our "heyday" was in the mid to late 1960's so I doubt anyone would remember. We played opening act for several large groups at the time including the Almond Brothers once, The Turtles, and one other act/show I forget the name. We were called The Rainy Day Mods but outside of Georgia, I doubt anyone will remember us.
Will Green: I know the Almond Brothers, but not The Turtles, unless they are of the teenage mutant ninja variety and The Rainy Day Mods…nope sorry.
What do you watch on TV and why?
Charles Wells: I love to watch NCIS but the last two seasons have gone a bit stale. Time to change the writers I think. I pray if my Whispering Pines writing gets that stale, that somebody will let me know.
Will Green: That’s the way those police procedurals do, they’re good for a while, but then how far can you take the same old story with different characters. That’s when the story needs a good twist to get the creative juices flowing in the writers again. Something crazy, some kind of shock to the overall system. So maybe if your Whispering Pines series starts to feel stale, just do something no one expects, let’s not leap to a parallel universe or anything like that, unless somehow it just works.
Charles Wells: I fully agree and my wife and I have discussed ending the series. She wants everyone to get married and live happily ever after. I want to blow them up with a nuke or something.. hahahahaha.. She will win I'm sure. I hate unhappy or plain hateful endings. I don't kill off characters that don't need it.
Will Green: Wedding/Nuke I’m sure there’s a happy medium in there somewhere…geez!
What kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?
Charles Wells: Expose your soul and follow your nose, break a few rules, run with scissors if you have to. Most important of all, be natural and write what flows, not what you have to force out. Writers block is not being unable to come up with something. Writer's block is not figuring out the best way to get it out and on paper (or into a computer). Above all, never cheat your readers. And here's icing for the writing cake. My favorite quote from the Laws for a Southern Writer says it all. "If the story ain't no fun to write, then it damn sure ain't going to be any fun to read." Good luck to you.. Write where no man or woman has ever written before, if that don't work then write where you have the most fun.
Will Green: Excellent advice, thank you very much for the advice and your time Charles.
Charles Wells: Thank you Will and good luck to you in the future. Special thanks to those reading as well. "Yawl come see us, ya hear?"
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, and SmashwordsCharles Wells
at Wellston Publishing
Click for Khloe's profile on Amazon.
Hi y'all my name is Khloe. I'm a first generation Greek-Cypriot born in the U.S.A. and southern by the grace of God. You can usually find me behind my laptop sipping on sweet tea in the summer or a Berlin hot chocolate in the winter, and burning up the keypad. Somewhere in between all of this I managed to go to college, too. I attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA., and Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. I just want to be successful in sharing my written words and music with everyone who is willing to listen, or read. Give me some sweet tea, or hot chocolate, a laptop, or my guitar, and I'll write you a story. xoxo
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Will Green: Is Khloe Kamalis your real name or pen name?
Khloe Kamalis: Khloe is a combination of my name. I have 5 names on my birth certificate thanks to Greek and Italian parents who I guess couldn't make up their minds and didn't want to offend relatives. Plus my dad is old country Greek from the island of Cyprus, and they name children after family members such as grandparents, etc. But I chose my two favorites, which is my last name and my third name in the list. It mixes well I think.
Will Green: Wow! Now that is one of the better pen name stories I’ve heard and read about. I like how Khloe is spelled with a K too. When you sign a check do you need to finish your signature on the back with all those names? Tell us about your books that you have available.
Khloe Kamalis: My newest book is in the YA paranormal genre. It's called Deception V.A.M.P.S ~ATL., and is the first book of a trilogy called The Young Immortals, a Southern Gothic Trilogy. It's about a group of long time friends and band mates who go searching for their lead singer/rhythm guitar player, seventeen year old, adopted Savannah 'Little Eagle' McLeod. During the summer she met her real life grandfather, her mother’s father, a Cherokee Nunnehi (spirit man) who tells her the true story of who she is and in doing so reveals the truth that her adoptive parents have lied and deceived her all these years. He also reveals the prophecy of her fate in the world, a path chosen for her by The Great Spirit. The destiny of her plight in life is the year 2012. Before she can begin the quest to fulfill that prophecy she goes missing one night during a gig at a well known, yet creepy night club in Atlanta, Georgia. The book is written in blog format and uses the alternating point of view of six teens to tell the story and define what happened up to and after the disappearance of Savannah. This story involves Angels, Nephilim, Skinwalkers, and Strigorim (a new breed I created in the book to be around 150 years old.) I've never read a blog type book like it before; though I know there are blog type books out there. I hope people will read the story and enjoy, wanting to continue to the second book in the series.
The first book I wrote is called For The Love Of Cyprus. It's a romantic suspense revolving around the 1974 invasion of the island of Cyprus. It's fiction based on a true story. At this time I'm planning on re-releasing it with a new cover in a few months. I've had a wonderful response to the book and most of my sales have been in Europe, though it's been well received here in the U.S. also. A lot of research went into the book, and of course I thank my mother and father for the story itself.
Click to buy from Amazon.
Will Green: Now, I’m not one for romance tales, but I like the idea of a fictional story being woven into a real life event. On the other hand V.A.M.P.S sounds great. It’s based on American Indian legends with paranormal elements set in a modern age that is easy to relate to, plus you’re going with a different style (blogging) that I’m really interested in checking out. Are you working on something else right now?
Khloe Kamalis: I am. I'm finishing up the second book of The Young Immortals, a Southern Gothic Trilogy which takes the reader back in time to the lives of some teens who lived in the Civil War era in the sleepy town of Roswell, Georgia, a small town north of Atlanta.
Will Green: And what are your plans after the second book?
Khloe Kamalis: Of course my next project will be the third book of the Young Immortal series, along with a book I began for NaNoWriMo and never was able to finish because of time restrictions. I'm not sure if it will be a standalone YA paranormal or a series. It's too early to tell how the muses will move me.
Will Green: Oh so you participate in NaNoWriMo? Do you do it officially or just on your own? And do you want to reveal anything about this other story?
Khloe Kamalis: I participated officially, but due to time restraints on finishing the newly released book, and family issues, I wasn't able to meet the word count goal. There's always next year though. And I'll tell you the name of the project which I have turned into the beginning of a book to be called The Death Coach. That's all I'm going to say about it right now.
Will Green: Sounds intriguing. Where do you get the information for your book(s)?
Khloe Kamalis: Oh boy. I live in Roswell, GA. and most of my books, so far planned or written, take place in and around that historical, little antebellum town. I often visit the Roswell Historical Society, or the Atlanta Historical Society libraries for information. I even travel about 40 miles away to the Georgia Archives south of where I live. Also we have a wonderful town historian, police officer, and author Michael Hitt. Sometimes when I see him he is a plethora of valid information. Diana Avena and her husband Joe run The Ghost Tour of Roswell. Their stories are true and well documented. They are a wonderful help also. For other locations I have lived in a few places where I have friends who can go look things up for me or point me in the right direction on the internet. I believe in lots of research as I don't want someone to come up to me later and tell me what I wrote is bunk with regard to real life situations and locations.
Will Green: Wow you have quite the group of people to go to for everything you might need. I’m surprised you don’t go to the internet for most of your research needs to start with. C’mon Khloe everyone’s doing it. Lol.
Khloe Kamalis: Lemmings may all follow the head lemming as it leaps over the cliff when they jump too, but not me, lol. Granted, the internet is a tremendous source of information, but not everything can be found there, especially when it comes to information on properties, people, incidents in old news articles, etc. and life even before the year 1920. Plus, sometimes more than often one must pay for the information found. I'd rather travel around rather than pay online. My follow up, book two, of The Young Immortals series goes back to the Civil War era before coming back to the future (so to speak) and that kind of information down south isn't always easy to obtain on the internet.
Will Green: No bandwagons for you. Lol. What was the most surprising thing you've learned since you started writing?
Khloe Kamalis: Oh gosh I've learned so much. But I think the best thing I've learned is that writing takes not only a love of telling stories, but dedication. We moved in July right in the middle of my writing the first book in The Young Immortals series, Deception V.A.M.P.S. ~ ATL. That put me back quite a bit, then in August I was asked by a good friend to help her with her group at Atlanta's yearly DragonCon convention. What a fun time. I met lots of nice people, learned of some great paranormal stories, and failed to write lol. The schedule for DragonCon was brutal, as in it took almost 18 hours a day of commitment as a volunteer. But it gave me great contacts and good experience. Once that all was over, moving, unpacking, and DragonCon I put my nose to the keyboard and wrote. I don't use a calendar nor do I use an outline. I let my muses speak to me as I write. So far so good. Though that style is not for every writer.
Will Green: I would say you were pretty dedicated to that DragonCon group, 18 hours a day…that’s craziness! At least it was a good time and you got stories and contacts from the experience. From the way you talk about your style it seems more modern than anything else I’ve read, being that it’s done in blog format. I’ll be reading it soon enough to find out for sure. Well how long does it take you to write a book?
Khloe Kamalis: I'm not sure to be honest. I've only written two and a half books. I don't like to rush myself yet I do set deadlines. If I meet them then cool, if not I just keep on keeping on. Deception V.A.M.P.S. ~ ATL took me around 7 months to write and is approximately 94,000 words. I know, long for a YA supposedly, but I've seen just as long in other YA books. Let's see, I started the book at the end of June. Out of that 7 months July and half of August and the first week in September were taken up with moving and DragonCon. I seemed to make it through the holiday’s fine. So I guess in all maybe 5 months or so not including the research, or book cover.
For The Love Of Cyprus was different. I began writing that book when I was a freshman in college in Boston when I was fifteen. Yes I went to college on scholarship early in life. So I worked on that book off and on for years. It really was a work of love for me though.
Regardless, I just make the time to write. Luckily I'm one of those people who, so far, don't require lots of hours of sleep.
Will Green: Wow, you can really break it down like that? That’s impressive by itself. You were a freshman in college at fifteen? You’re a nerd and I mean that in the most loving and endearing way.
Khloe Kamalis: I suppose I am. I was home taught from the age of twelve because I was a kid actress over in Orlando, FL on Nickelodeon, along with a few parts in movies. I still act as an extra now and then in The Vampire Diaries filmed in and around the Atlanta area. I went to Boston to play a gig when I was fourteen, went to Berklee College of Music to take a tour. They invited me to play as an interview while I was there. I did, and everything after that just happened. A month later I was offered a scholarship and the next semester I was off to Massachusetts. Because I was so young, my mom and dad moved with me. Nerd, yeah lol. It's a good thing.
Will Green: You are the definition of right place right time with all of that happening. Who or What inspires you to write?
Khloe Kamalis: As for the who, it's my mom. I'm her caretaker as she is disabled and can't walk, and I live at home with my parents. She can scoot into a wheel chair though, and often accompanies me when I go on my research quests. If ever I throw my hands up and go head desk so to speak, she's always there with comforting words and encouragement. As for the what, well I've always loved to tell stories. I've been writing since I was a little girl. I'm also a musician so music and books are my outlets. Every year there is a storytelling festival in Roswell, Ga. hopefully this summer I will take part in it as well as playing my original songs at various venues locally.
Will Green: You’re mom sounds like a great lady, you just drag her along on your research expeditions and I’m sure she loves it too. And she’s a built in encouragement system.
You’re inspired by stories to tell stories and play music. I like it. I look forward to hearing about your storytelling adventure; hopefully you share a little bit about it on Facebook or Twitter.
Khloe Kamalis: As time goes on I will share the news on Twitter or Facebook. Right now I'm concentrating on finishing up this series. Then I'm going into the studio in March at Jan Smith's Studio in Atlanta to record. I'm making a three song demo. Not sure where I'll go with it but it doesn't hurt to have one. I have a huge song portfolio too. So I stay busy with both written word genres, music and books. I've requested info for the storytelling festival in Roswell, but have yet to hear from them.
Will Green: You're just too busy to tell people you're constant whereabouts, that's understandable. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Khloe Kamalis: Probably the sound of soft, running water (we have a small electric waterfall in the living room where I write) and the music of SoundScapes from the cable on TV. Yes, I write in the living room where there is all kinds of activity. The water and music is calming though, and since I'm a spontaneous writer it gives me a sense of peace when I stop and just stare at nothing in particular allowing the messages from my muses to flow. Sounds sort of nuts but hey, that's just me. Oh and sometimes I need a chocolate covered, devils food doughnut by Entemen's to chew on when I'm writing lol.
Will Green: Yup, those qualify as quirks alright. Lol. If that’s how the muses flow then that’s how they do it. Mmm doughnuts, who wouldn’t want that? Now tell us what book are you reading right now?
Khloe Kamalis: I'm not. I don't think it's fair to the author of a book or to myself to have to feel pushed by my own work to read someone’s novel. I have several TBR books to read and will begin when I finish formatting and a few other things I need to finish up. Then, it's settle back and read in between blog tours, etc.
Will Green: Interesting, well when you do read do you have a favorite go to author and why?
Khloe Kamalis: I don't have just one. I can say Nicholas Sparks for his humanistic portrayal of characters and modern day situations. I can say also Bertrice Small for her writing in general. She is somewhat of a mentor to me by her writing style and varied genres. My favorite book is A Moment In Time by Bertrice Small. A paranormal fantasy romance and her books started me off on a trail of writing. She's elderly, but still going, and I really admire her. Two YA authors I also admire are Becca Fitzpatrick of the Hush Hush series, and the up and coming Nichole Chase of the Dark Betrayal trilogy, an up and coming YA author from Savannah.
Will Green: You know I just can’t get into Nicholas Sparks it’s all way too real for me. I’m more of a sci/fi / fantasy / paranormal kind of person. So I’ll probably check all the rest you have listed there.
Khloe Kamalis: I'm not a die-hard Sparks fan. I guess I have quite a few authors I like but as I said, Bertrice Small is one of my favorite. Her books lean toward romantic fantasy.
Will Green: What kind of music do you listen to and why?
Khloe Kamalis: Again, varied genre. I write and listen to a lot of country music and have for years. Country runs in my family. Speedy Haworth who played guitar for Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton way back in the day is my uncle and my inspiration. But in my teen years I was all over the place with genres. When I'm writing though, I usually listen to SoundScapes or sometimes again, varied genres.
Will Green: Whoa, those names are some deep country music, not the poppy half rock stuff that is “country” now. Despite your background you’re a real down home country girl.
Khloe Kamalis: Yeah, uncle Speedy is gone now but his music and memory live on. All I can say is poppy half rock stuff is not my forte. Southern rock I like, but if you want good Bluegrass or country Allison Krauss, Kelly Pickler , Ashton Shepherd, and Miranda Lambert are about as close to real country as you're going to get for females. Josh Turner, Tim McGraw, Alan Jackson, George Straight. Okay 'nuff said lol.
Will Green: If you're going country you can't go wrong with that group. How about TV?
Khloe Kamalis: Ha ha! I rarely watch TV. When I do I like documentaries, or sometimes HGTV to see who is buying what or decorating what. I don't really watch a lot. Too busy with books and music.
Will Green: So nothing huh? No House, Bones, Vampire Diaries, nothing like that?
Khloe Kamalis: Nope. Like I said, I've been doing extra parts in Vampire Diaries for a while now, but I rarely find time to watch it. I'm not a TV person when it comes to watching. News, documentaries and a few other things I catch now and then when they're on but, I'm not a die hard watcher!
Will Green: Well ok...I guess we won't be chatting about TV. What kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?
Khloe Kamalis: Write from the heart. Don't write in a genre because it is popular or because someone made millions of dollars writing in that genre. Research and make sure you have your facts right. Edit, edit, edit. Make sure your i's are dotted, your t's are crossed and your grammar is in the right place. People pick up on that, and sometimes will ream you the first chance they get if it bothers them that much. And above all don't give up the ship if you really love to tell stories. Don't push yourself either. Eventually you will find your own style and set your own pace. Join a Social Network that has writing groups, aka Facebook, Google +, and Goodreads. Follow what new writers are doing, and check out the advice of well honed writers. Above all enjoy yourself, don't let it become a burden. Don't let the story own you. If it does that then maybe you're not cut out to be a writer. It's like letting the bicycle steer itself, right? You must enjoy it even when things look hard. If you love it, don't give up. Things will work out. Ask questions etc. You'll get there.
Will Green: Now that is some great advice and a lot of it. Enjoy yourself, don’t let it become a burden and don’t let the story own you. That is some stuff to take to heart right there. Thanks for your time Khloe. I look forward to reading Deception V.A.M.P.S. ~ ATL
Deception V.A.M.P.S.~ATL. (The Young Immortals ~ A Southern Gothic Trilogy)
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Will Green: Is Mackenzie Brown your real name or pen name?
Mackenzie Brown: Mackenzie Brown is my pen name and from a very early age I wanted to use it. It is a family name on my mother’s side and is in homage to my grandfather Angus Mackenzie Brown who is no longer with us, but remains an inspirational figure in my life to this day.
Will Green: That’s very nice you could use your grandfather’s name like that. Tell us about your books that you have available?
Mackenzie Brown: Currently THE SHIFTING is my only available work on most e-books format. I am exploring the possibility of putting it in print presently.
My three prior novels will be edited and available as e-books for 2012, but only once I have completed my current project. They are THE BOOK OF SOULS –A fantasy for adults and children, charting the perilous journey of Imelda Stone who discovers her true lineage, just as she is forced to use her new found skills to rescue her father from certain death. ANNIE’S WAR – Charting the early lives of my maternal grandparents and the challenges they overcame, culminating in their exploits during the Second World War. LOST BOYS – Is a thriller set in 1970’s Liverpool charting one mans hunt for a serial killer who had been abducting pre-pubescent boys for over 25 years – despite the fact that no tangible evidence exists - he is convinced one of the victims was his son.
Will Green: So those three books are available in print?
Mackenzie Brown: No longer. But if I’m happy with the print version of THE SHIFTING I may also make those three available.
Will Green: Are you working on something else right now?
Mackenzie Brown: My latest project is THE BURNING, a sequel to THE SHIFTING.
Will Green: And tell us about that.
Mackenzie Brown: THE BURNING begins ten years on from the end of THE SHIFTING when sociopath Charles Teague resurfaces in an attempt to have his revenge on the Forshaw family, who he blames for the incarceration of his beloved Rose, the love of his live. Twenty-year-old Toby Forshaw who is attending Cambridge University is forced once more to stand up against his old foe, but Teague has a well oiled plan and more than a few tricks up his sleeve.......
Will Green: A tale of revenge, I look forward to seeing the announcement that The Burning is available. Tell us where do you get the information for your book(s)?
Mackenzie Brown: Most research nowadays is available on the worldwide web but I do occasionally use other methods. For ANNIE’S WAR I was forced to research my family tree and interview various relatives. I have also been known to contact various organisations and societies for other bits and pieces of information.
Will Green: Forced to interact with your family lineage and relatives, oh that’s just terrible (psst…that’s sacarsm). Anyway, what was the most surprising thing you've learned since you started writing?
Mackenzie Brown: I’ve learned the importance of editing. Getting the first draft done is critical, but I now know that there is still a long way to go before I get anywhere near the finished article. I recommend rewriting until you’re sick of doing it.
The other thing I believe in is the constant evolution that takes place during the writing process over the years. It is about finding a style that works for you, but retaining the view that you can always do better.
Will Green: So stop thinking about it and get some words down and then go back and spruce those words up and then do it again and again. So how long does it take you to write a book?
Mackenzie Brown: From start to absolute finish I would say 6 to 12 months.
Will Green: And then begins the dreaded self-marketing. What are your thoughts on that?
Mackenzie Brown: It is early days for me as an independent author. I think I’m on the right track, but I see it as a long haul thing. I was told by a fellow indie author that I need to get my other works in e-book format to help me build up a readership. I intend to follow that advice and will try a variety of methods, including running some ads. I’m currently testing some Facebook ads. Not sure they’re working very well though. Twitter has been a massive positive for me, with so many resources available and lots of authors willing to help and advise.
Will Green: I don’t think there is any clear cut way to self-market one’s self. It seems to me you need try everything you can think of and when something works then just run with it until it’s exhausted and try again. Ok so who or what inspires you to write?
Mackenzie Brown: I have a deep-seated desire to write. I’m not really certain where it comes from. I’ve always sketched or put words on paper from a very early age and a myriad of things inspire me to work. It could be the influence of another writer, or just a desire to explore an idea or a series of characters. These days I like a challenge and this is how THE SHIFTING was born. I wasn’t sure I could pull off a novel that takes place in both present day and Victorian London. But I’m pleased with the result.
Will Green: Takes place in both present day and Victorian London, well that settles it, if you’re reading this I’m already well into The Shifting.
Mackenzie Brown: I don’t want to give too much away, but the story relies upon the Victorian connection working in strict contrast to the modern world. A reader recently told me that he could actually see the fog and feel the repression of the age when he was reading THE SHIFTING. I took this as a massive compliment.
Will Green: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Mackenzie Brown: Not sure whether it is of any interest, but .....I don’t plan a novel in the traditional way. I start with a framework, which is essentially the story and like to leave the detail relatively loose. It’s probably because I’m lazy, but my excuse is that I like to keep things spontaneous. I’ve also grown into the habit of speaking dialogue aloud whenever I can. I think it helps me judge how real speech sounds.
Will Green: So you’re an outline kind of author, but then you move into writing by the seat of your pants. Yeah ok I understand that and speaking dialogue aloud makes complete sense. If you want the voices in your reader’s head to have a cohesive conversation you have to talk to yourself first.
Mackenzie Brown: I get some funny looks from members of my family when they pass by my office and realize that I’ve apparently been talking to myself. The first sign of madness I was always told......I suppose I’d have to agree!
Will Green: Like beauty madness is in the eye of the beholder. When you’re not talking to yourself what book are you reading?
Mackenzie Brown: Just finished Empire Falls by Richard Russo. And started The Kydor Chronicles by A. R. Hughes, an unpublished novel a friend has asked me to comment on.
Will Green: Well how was Empire Falls, do you recommend it? Would you say A. R. should publish The Kydor Chronicles?
Mackenzie Brown: Empire Falls is a fabulous book, but you need to invest time in it to appreciate it properly. I highly rate the way Richard Russo builds his plots and his characters, but his style is a bit of a throwback to writers from the early 20th century. The Kydor Chronicles is an impressive work, but in my view it requires some trimming and editing before it is unleashed on the public.
Will Green: Sounds like you might have yourself a side job with the The Kydor Chronicles. Who is your favorite author and why?
Mackenzie Brown: It is impossible to say because I like so many writers and so many genres. I’ll opt for James Lee Burke because I can easily slide into his narrative. His descriptive writing gives you the feeling that you can smell or taste New Orleans. A place I’ve never been to, but somewhere I feel I know as the result of Burke’s writing.
Will Green: What would you recommend from James Lee Burke?
Mackenzie Brown: I’d recommend A Morning For Flamingos or In The Moon Of The Red Ponies. But in truth his novels are always of a consistently high quality.
Will Green: What kind of music do you listen to and why?
Mackenzie Brown: I have fairly eclectic musical tastes. I like to listen to jazz to relax and sometimes when I’m writing, but I also like artists who write their own stuff and as long as the music is melodic I’m drawn to clever lyrics. I particularly like, Steely Dan, Donald Fagen, John Mayer, Nora Jones, Sting, Elvis Costello and Silje Nergaard, a Norwegian jazz singer. Why do I like music? I suppose I like the stimulation it provides to my senses.
Will Green: You’re right that is quite the eclectic hodge podge of music and what about TV?
Mackenzie Brown: I like movies rather than TV series. I don’t have the time or the inclination to get involved in long endless series that tend to rehash the same old stuff. I am a closet film buff and enjoy watching the great directors. These days I’ve grown fond of Indie Films. I get a little bored with the formulaic nature of some mainstream movies.
Will Green: I have to admit I’m just about the opposite of your standings on TV, I enjoy TV shows, because it’s a continuous story whereas a single movie is done and over with. The same with books I would rather start a series than read a standalone novel. You’re absolutely right about some movies and their straightforward nature. If the outcome is predictable it’s not enjoyable.
Mackenzie Brown: An interesting contrast to my taste and something that gives me hope as I embark upon a series of books that are likely to feature characters from The Shifting.
Will Green: Very good. Count me in for the series. One final question what kind of advice could you give an aspiring writer?
Mackenzie Brown: My advice to any would be writer is if it makes you feel good; then do it. Don’t even think as far as publication when you begin. Write as much and as often as you can and hone your craft. Find that unique way of working that is yours alone and enjoy the creative process for yourself first and foremost.
Will Green:Well thank you for your time Mackenzie and thank you very much for the advice.
Mackenzie Brown: The pleasure has been all mine, Will. Thank you very much for this opportunity and let me re-iterate that I love nothing more than connecting with other authors, so don’t be a stranger and connect with me on Twitter or Tumblr.
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