Interview: Elizabeth Hunter

We’ve all had the experience of reading a good book and not being able to put it down. And maybe we’ve also experienced reading a series of books that keeps getting better and better, stronger and stronger with each book. But it’s been a long while since I’ve become so strongly attached to a series of books as I have to the Elemental Mysteries. Due to that, I hope you’ll pardon my giddy excitement that I had the privilege and pleasure to interview the author, Elizabeth Hunter. She talks writing and traveling in the following interview:

AH: Which character did you have the most fun writing in The Elemental Mysteries?

EH: That’s really hard to answer because I love them all in different ways. (They’re kind of like kids.)  For the pure fun of it, probably Carwyn. I love his sense of humor and his heart. For a challenge? Tenzin. She’s very difficult to write because of her age, but that makes her really fun, too. And then Gio and Beatrice are always a joy. They’re like my oldest friends in the series because their characters came first

AH: The world you’ve created in this series is amazing. Can you explain your world building process?

EH: For me, it always goes back to character. The first character in the series was Giovanni. He came first when I imagined an immortal character whose life revolved around books. And then it grew from there. I started asking questions about him: When was he born? How had he lived as a human? Why was he immortal and how did it happen? What is his greatest strength? His weakness? What is he proud of? What does he regret?

And then I research. I do a lot of research to find the answers to all the questions. Books, the internet, music, documentaries. I’ve researched everything from Renaissance printing history to Caucasian geography to Taoist mythology. But that part is fun for me! I love research.

AH:  One of the aspects I really enjoyed about the world was the character names–they rang true and authentic. Do you have a naming process or do they just come to you?

EH: It’s a combination. Every now and then a name will come to me; but often, I have a history or a background, and then I search for a name that seems to fit the character and have meaning beyond the obvious. Beatrice’s name (while not the most popular for a young woman these days!) was obvious. Her father was a Dante scholar, and Beatrice was Dante’s muse. But Carwyn’s name, which means “blessed love,” I had to search for.

AH: Where is your favorite place to write?

EH: I write in my office now that my son is in school, which is quiet and lovely and has my lazy dogs keeping me company. And that’s wonderful. But my first four books were written at my kitchen table when I was still juggling the world. I mostly wrote at night when my son was asleep. Or at a coffee shop sometimes. I think it’s important to be flexible. I understand “getting in the writing zone,” but you don’t want to get to a place in your process where you have to have to be creative. Make a habit of being creative in lots of places, and you might find inspiration in unexpected ways.

AH: On your website, you mention that you and your son plan to visit thirteen countries and as a fellow travel lover I have to ask: What country would you visit for the sole purpose of taking a writing vacation?

EH: This is a great question! (And thirteen is really just the beginning.) I’m actually considering a research/writing trip to the Eastern Mediterranean this summer. It will depend on the timing, but I love that area. I’m fairly sure that Istanbul is the setting for a book that’s swirling around my brain, so I really need to go there. Sometimes a city or country will just keep popping up—in books, news, music, reader letters—so I’m following my gut. If I was going somewhere to just write though, I’d probably go to Ireland. I love the West coast of Ireland; it’s very relaxing, and I do like a good pub.

AH: What have been the easiest and hardest parts about being a published author?

EH: The easiest? Being able to make a living doing what I love. This is my dream job, and I’m supporting myself and my family doing it. I’m incredibly blessed. The hardest? When you’re self-published, there are many responsibilities that go with running what is basically a small business. I hire good people, but finding them and juggling everything can be a challenge. Still, it’s a challenge I gladly accept, because I retain creative control over my work. I write what I want, when I want, and I market my work the way I think is best. Nothing is dictated to me by a publisher or an agent. For me, that’s worth the trade-off in time.

Elizabeth Hunter is the author of The Elemental Mysteries Series, THE GENIUS AND THE MUSE, and The Cambio Springs series. SHIFTING DREAMS is the first book in Cambio Springs and recently came out March 5. For more information, please visit her website elizabethhunterwrites.com 

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Interview: Alex Bledsoe

I recently spoke with author Alex Bledsoe about balancing life as a writer and parent, hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, his upcoming novel, and the Shetland Islands. The following are excerpts from the full audio interview:

AH: What character have you had the most fun writing in your career and why?

AB: The most fun character would be Eddie LaCrosse because I’ve written five books about him and some short stories and at this point I can drop right into his voice and go.

AH: Can you explain some of the ways your background has influenced your writing?

AB: I started out in newspapers, which teaches you to write fast and clearly and to a deadline. And once you’ve been a newspaper reporter with those deadlines, book deadlines don’t scare you at all…I deliberately took a lot of jobs so they wouldn’t interfere with my writing. That was why I left newspaper work…I moved into photography and into editing so that I would have the energy and inspiration to write my own stuff around that.

AH: Has moving from Tennessee to Wisconsin influenced your writing style in any way?

AB: Actually, it’s interesting. I’ve lived in the south for all of my life since I moved to Wisconsin. It’s actually made me more conscious of the “southerness” of my writing. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that because a lot of my stories are set in the south but it’s become a lot more prevalent in my thinking now that I’m not surrounded by it every day.

AH: What more can we expect to see from the Tufa in your upcoming sequel in Wisp of a Thing?

AB: Wisp of a Things takes place a little bit after The Hum and the Shiver and introduces a new main character named Rob, who was a performer on an American Idol type show and he is coming to Cloud County which is the place that the Tufa live in search of a magical song that heals broken hearts. In his quest for that, he connects with a young lady who is under a curse and if the curse isn’t lifted by a certain point, it will become permanent. I don’t want to give too much away because that is there the story starts.

AH: If you could visit any country in the world for a writing vacation, which country would you go to?

AB: Scotland. I’d go to the Shetland Islands. I became fascinated with the Shetland Islands about five or six years ago.

AH: What are the easiest and hardest parts about being a published author?

AB: The easiest is that I get to do this for a living. After a long time of wanting to be in this position, being in it is great. I try to treat it like I would any other job. I get up early, I work for a certain amount of hours, I have deadlines…the hardest thing is that I’m also a stay-at-home parent to two little boys and that as you can imagine can kind of get in the way of the other…but parenting and writing are things that need both of your attention.

AH: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved with The Triumph Over Tragedy anthology?

AB: The editor of the anthology contacted me, described the anthology that he was putting together and asked me if I had anything I’d like to contribute. He was willing to take reprints, or older stories and that was good because I was right in the middle of a deadline…The reason I didn’t even hesitate is because I used to live down in Mobile, Alabama and when you live on the gulf coast for any amount of time you get extremely sensitive to hurricanes. I was living there when a hurricane hit Pensacola, which is only about a 45 minute drive to the east. With hurricanes, that distance is almost insignificant. It could have just as easily hit Mobile. It did tremendous damage to Pensacola, which was a place that I went to all the time. Then of course, when you live on the gulf coast, you go to New Orleans all the time. Everyone goes to New Orleans, once a month is not unreasonable. And when Hurricane Katrina hit there and destroyed all of these beautiful places that I knew, that I had been to…I can’t even describe how that felt…so when this happened in New Jersey, I felt for them in a way that I might not have…this one spoke really directly…

My story is very short. It’s only five to six hundred words so I can’t really tell you much about it or I’ll tell you the whole story. It’s sort of a gothic, love crafty, and horror story set in Arkansas and it’s called ‘Wrap’.

Alex Bledsoe is the author of the Eddie LaCrosse Novels, The Hum and the Shiver and more. His upcoming sequel Wisp of a Thing comes out June 2013. Find more information at www.alexbledsoe.com 

Interview: Melissa F. Olson

      

Images used with author permission.

I had the amazing pleasure to see Melissa F. Olson read from her book DEAD SPOTS and let me tell you, it is a page turner! Olson combines vampires, werewolves, witches, and the main character Scarlett is a null (and you’ll have to read the book to find out the implications of that), to give a fresh and fast paced read. I had a chance to catch up with her afterwards to ask a few questions and below is the resulting interview.

AH: Which supernatural creature did you have the most fun writing in Dead Spots and why?

MO: In this book I had a good time with the vampires. Villains are always fun to write, and I certainly had fun writing Ariadne, who’s like the slutty Goth version of Miss Havershim from Great Expectations. But more evil. I also really enjoy writing Scarlett’s vampire roommate Molly, because she’s so charming and fun, like the witty best friend in a romantic comedy, and then she’ll say or do something that reminds you she’s a bloodsucking fiend.

AH: Your book titles are very straightforward, especially with Trail of Dead as you explain on your website. Is there a specific reason you’ve chosen to title your works in this way and do you think it will change in the future?

MO: Usually I think titles are incredibly difficult to come up with, but both Dead Spots and Trail of Dead just kind of came naturally with the story circumstances: Dead Spots is that novel’s title because Scarlett is a dead space in the supernatural world, and because she stumbles into this clearing of corpses, and, to get a little bit artsy, because she’s pretty much dead inside after the things that happened in her past. I felt really lucky to come up with Dead Spots, and then realized I could piggyback onto a lot of those ideas with Trail of Dead, although I won’t go into detail because it might spoil the end of the first book.

In the future, I’d like to get away from the “dead” motif in my titles, though, because Charlaine Harris is already the queen of that particular list of puns. Maybe I’ll do a new set of puns with the color scarlet. There could be a book where she gets an anonymous death threat through the mail called Scarlett’s Letter, and one where she gets hit by a car called Smear of Scarlett. In yet another sequel she could team up with Justin Bieber to fight crime, and it could be called Scarlett (Bieber) Fever. And so on.

AH: What have been the easiest and hardest parts about being a published author?

MO: The hardest part is probably balancing my family life and my writing, especially before I really had an agent or publisher. At that time, every minute I took to write kind of felt like a minute I was taking away from my family, and there was no guarantee I would ever find any success with it. It felt like ditching the people who needed me so I could go gambling.

In that sense, I’m not sure there’s been an “easiest” part of being a published author; it’s more like a sense of relief, a loosening of pressure. Now that I’ve been published my writing has a new validation to it: I’m not taking time away from my family to play a giant slot machine, I’m taking time away to work at a job that I happen to love.

AH:  If you could visit any country in the world to take a writing vacation, where would you go?

MO: Great question. I’d want to go with somewhere with gorgeous weather (for me, that’s about 70 degrees and no humidity) and lots of beautiful scenery but no specific landmarks or tourist attractions, because then I’d want to go sightseeing instead of working. Maybe somewhere near the mountains in Nepal, or the cliffs in Ireland.

AH: Your adorable dog Max makes a cameo in Dead Spots. What is your opinion on talking animals and can we expect to hear some form of dog speak from Max?

MO: Ah, talking animals. I happen to love when dogs get a voice on paper, if it’s done right. I own the book version of Texts From Dog, and I’ve probably read through it fifty times. There’s a novel called Turning in Circles Before Lying Down about a woman who can suddenly hear her dog’s thoughts, and he’s hysterical (though he makes me glad Max is neutered; that dog can’t stop talking about sex). Harry Dresden’s spookily perceptive dog Mouse is one of the great characters in Jim Butcher’s series, and we get to actually hear what he has to say in one novel. I also like Kevin Hearne’s series about an immortal Druid who has a mind-link with his Irish Wolfhound, Oberon, but I do get awfully skeptical about Oberon’s college-level vocabulary and diverse interests in history and culture. That’s pushing the suspension of disbelief a bit too far for me.

I doubt I’ll ever write Max’s actual voice, unless I found a clever, magically-believable way to insert it, the way Butcher does. But I love putting him in the books, because I think Max is one-of-a-kind. He deserves to be immortalized, and until they perfect pet-cloning, this is the best I can do.

AH: You mentioned that there might be another book after Trail of Dead. What’s next for you after this series?

I hope to keep writing Scarlett books for as long as I find her interesting, and not a moment longer. I have a few different projects to work on during or after that series, though, and they’re all non-supernatural: I’ve been kicking around an idea about the relationship between two sisters for about a year, and my master’s thesis could be expanded to be book-length as soon as I get a chance. At some point I’d like to rewrite the first book I wrote, which is still unpublished, and I’ve also had a screenplay that’s missing an ending sitting on my desk for about four years; it’d be nice to finish that up. I hate having unfinished projects, so ideally I’d like to get all four of those things done before I start thinking about a new idea. Knowing me, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if I get sidetracked. It does tend to happen.

Melissa F. Olson is the author of DEAD SPOTS and the upcoming sequel TRAIL OF DEAD. For more information, please visit her website www.melissafolson.com

Interview: Carla Summers

Carla Summers in her natural habitat.

Sensual. Saucy. Provocative.  “Carla Summers” is all of these. It’s not her real name, of course, but the Raleigh-based author’s flair for spicy, erotica-laden prose and poetry precedes her regardless.  Little is known about her, but within the last year she’s burned up laptop screens everywhere with works like “We Have Only Words” (NSFW) and “Let Me Be Restored” (NSFW). But as Hennen’s John Winn finds out, there’s more to Carla than meets the eye.

[Caution–story contains external links which may have sexually suggestive content.  The Week in Review is not responsible if readers are disturbed or offended–Eds.]

JW: You’ve only written one poem so far, but it’s a very sensual one.  How did you happen upon the idea for “We Have Only Words”?

CS: My motivation always comes from life experiences.  Unfortunately for me, carnal passions are my biggest motivations.

JW: Do you typically write saucy prose?

CS: Yes.

JW: How do you juggle writing with your other duties?  Is there a set “routine” that you follow?

CS: No set routine, when I am involved in a deep thought process, I reach for a way to describe it.

JW: Who are your major influences, literary wise?

CS:  I am not well read therefore I have no favorites, except one writer on your website.  He is Alberto Arza.  I like to follow his writings.

JW: Final question: Do you have anything else up your sleeve?

CS: I have things I have written but have not posted due to the saucy nature of them.  I don’t want to be thought of as just a shallow sensual woman.  I have tried to write about other subjects–I do want to grow in the literary field–but my passions lie completely in the subjects of romance and love/sex between men and women.

My request for you is to give me an assignment.  That sets my mind to work for the mark.  I would like to see you challenge everyone to write about the same subject and post their work so that we may see the different styles and interpretations of each individuals thought processes.

The Interview: Natasha Phillips

A lovelorn Natasha Phillips blows a kiss to her reptilian paramour.

Quirky with a ironic, almost nonsensical sense of humor, Natasha Phillips (@SobukiRa on Twitter) defies labels.  One minute she’s blogging about international custody disputes, satirizing pop culture with her imaginary friends InkyBuki and Cranial Gerbil the next.  But the aspiring writer is no scatter brain.  With an impressive career as a researcher for a UK advocacy firm and a barrister in her own right, Natasha can hold forth as eloquently as any peer–male or female.  Future critics, take note.

Hennen’s John Winn caught up with Ms. Phillips via email and chatted about life in Europe, the origin of InkyBuki–and her forbidden love for a certain star crossed rodent.

JB:  You hail from London.  What’s different about writing there versus the States or Continental Europe?  Is it less dreary or are people there just numb?

NP: To my mind being in different places offers opportunities to observe the human condition in its many different forms; it’s a real privilege to be able to write and reflect in different environments. Londoners are generally bloody miserable so there’s definitely plenty of scope to explore the stagnation of our species there.

I was lucky enough to visit the States growing up as I have lots of relatives there and really enjoy travelling to San Francisco when I can. I have a romantic view of it though; in reality, it’s changed a lot since I was little and like London it’s become less unpredictable.

The Continent though, despite or perhaps because of its economic troubles holds a great deal of immediate colour in relation to the human condition which is readily visible still in day to day life. There is still warmth that you can tap into in most places; a humanity that still prevails.

But perhaps it’s really a question of degree; I think if you look hard enough in London or Las Vegas, you can still see pain and pleasure in all its complexity beating beneath the surface: it just depends how deep you’re willing to go. And whether or not you can source a really big monocle.

JW:  Who is InkyBuki, and why is she so mysterious?

NP: InkyBuki is the inky version of Sobuki Ra, who is a crocodile living in a bayou (the coordinates of which are top secret) and can be found most days swimming in the Twitter and Google + streams, terrorising other social media users and hatching mischievous plans with her best friends Ludvig, the Goblin Shark and Cranial Gerbil, a gerbil. I believe she is the only crocodile to date with opposable thumbs, which goes some way to explaining why she has taken up the art of writing and why she is perhaps a little mysterious about it.

JW: What’s with the gerbil obsession?  Is there something you need to share with the rest of the class?

NB: Cranial Gerbil is no ordinary rodent. The little pink plastic ball he lives in is all that stands between him and world domination. We are star crossed lovers. It’s very sad.

JW:  You’re also an advocate of family law reform in the UK.  Do you ever get weird emails or photos of people dressed like Batman?

Frequently, but I rather like Superheroes and action figures, so I tend to invite them all to the work meetings I help organise. Sometimes, if I’m very well behaved, they share their Trebor XXX mints with me.

JW:  Final Question: Dickens or Tolstoy–who is the most depressing writer?

NP: If one is more depressing than the other, it must be only be by a whisky.

 

Interview: Jen Knox

Jen Knox posing with a license plate.Jen Knox,starring as herself.

If life is a school of hard knocks, Jen Knox is a PhD. From a humble background in rural Ohio to a the grandeur and eccentricity of the Lone Star State, the author (and adjunct professor) has made a career out of telling stories both true and fantastical.  The road hasn’t been easy–filled with challenges and struggles that at times left her with doubt and loneliness, fear and pain. But fate has been kind to her–a promising writing career, honorable mentions from Glimmer Train, awards unbidden.

Recovering from a hand injury, the author took time to discuss books, blogging–and her favorite tenses.

JW: You recently won the Next Generation Indie Book Award.  How does it feel to be recognized by the literary community?

JK: It’s a wonderful thing to be recognized, especially as an indie author. I think that those writers who are working from the grassroots level, either through self-publication or with the support of a small independent press, have to work incredibly hard to be taken seriously by readers, so the credibility that goes with the award means a lot.

JW: Where did the idea for “To Begin Again” come from?

JK: The collection came together over the last three years. Actually, I wasn’t planning on releasing a collection at all, but as I went over the various stories I noticed that they were connected by a theme—each of the pieces focuses on a small life decision that grows exponentially leading to life-altering circumstance. I’m forever baffled by how easily a person’s life or perspective on life can change in an instant. This bafflement, I suppose, brought the collection together.

JW: In addition to being a writer, you also run a blog on the side.  How has that changed the way you write?

JK: I began blogging when my memoir, Musical Chairs, was released in 2009. To be honest, releasing my memoir was as traumatic as it was exciting. I began to record my thoughts (and emotions) concerning the process of publication and all that goes with the transition of entering my personal work into the public domain. My blog was a place to vent and tease out why I was so affected by the process. After a few months of this, however, I simply kept up the blog because it was a place to record general thoughts on the writing life; it’s a difficult but rewarding life, and there’s much to say. Blogging has been rewarding for me because it demands a regular writing schedule, which gives me some structure. Also, it offers community—connections and conversations with other writers that I might not have otherwise met.

JW: Are there any stories you aren’t willing to write?

JK: I haven’t come across one yet. I’ve been known to say I’d never write a story with a vampire in it, but who knows… The beauty about writing is that I never know what I’ll end up with until I reach the end of a story.

JW: Final Q: First, second or third person?  Which is better and why

Because memoir and personal essays are my favorite genre to read, I have to go with first person narration. I’ve read remarkable work from every perspective (though I find it rare in second person), so I don’t automatically like or dislike a story that is written from any perspective. But there’s something I love about the inclusiveness of a first person delivery. The sense that a writer (or narrator) is confiding in the reader can be especially powerful.