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Tuesday 27 August 2013

Guest Author - Terry Tyler

This weeks Guest Spot belongs to Terry Tyler, bestselling author of Nobody's Fault and You Wish. If you enjoy Terry's interview check out her work here:

  1. When did you start writing and was there any particular event that drew you to the pen?
I seem to remember that I wrote stories as a child, and I remember writing a fair few in my twenties, but there wasn’t a moment at which I thought, I want to be a writer.  Writing my first novel, which I did in 1993, was just the natural progression from the short stories, I suppose, and started when I happened to have a lot of time on my hands.

  1. Do you have a favourite character from another author’s book?
Impossible to pick just one, but here are a few.  Gino Santangelo in various Jackie Collins novels.  Mr Wopsle in Great Expectations.  John Godwin in Susan Howatch’s The Wheel of Fortune.  Tyrion Lannister in GRR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.  Oh, too, too many.  If I start thinking of all the characters I’ve loved in books I would be here all day!  Those are the first that sprang to mind, though, particularly Gino. 

3. Do you pre-plan your stories or are you a take-it-as-it-comes writer?
My novels are always planned out first.  I don’t start writing until I know the whole story and have a chapter plan written out, at least for the first six chapters or so.  I need to do this for the continuity, as my books are very character driven, and I hate the sloppy continuity that you see in some books, where people behave out of character just to get the plot to the place the author wants it to be.  All my stories have ends that need to tie up for the last chapter, so I have to work out the time lines very carefully before I start.  I do tend to deviate as I go along, though, and think of better twists or new sub-plots.

4. Do you have set schedule to write to or do you grab the time as it comes?
I don’t go out to work, so writing is the focal point of my day.  It’s my priority, too, aside from family commitments.   I fit other things around writing, rather than the other way round. 

 5. How do you take writing interruptions?
Depends what they are!  I don’t get many.  The people who are likely to interrupt me know to ask if it’s a good time to talk.  But I don’t start chucking my toys out of the pram if someone interrupts me, even if it’s not particularly welcome.  It’s not the end of the world.

6. What do you enjoy and what do you hate about writing?
I love everything about it.  If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t do it.  I don’t know why I love it.  There’s nothing I hate about it.  One of my favourite bits is writing ‘the end’ at the end of a first draft – I love the fact that the whole story is now THERE, and my job is now to improve upon it.  I really, really enjoy the re-writing/editing. 

 7. What’s your advice as to how to handle a bad review?
Oh, I’ve written so much about this – a whole blog post, and more!  For a start off, you have to expect them, and they don’t really matter, because we all have different tastes.  The only time I think they DO matter is if you get several saying, for instance, that the punctuation and grammar is bad, or that it needs a good proofread/edit.  Then you know that it isn’t just personal taste, and you need to give the book serious reconsideration.  Happily I have never had very many, I’ve only got about six bad ones out of the over 3 or 400 reviews I have scattered over various sites.  Some of the negative comments I agree with.  I imagine most people who don’t like one of my books just stop reading it, the same as I do if I’m not enjoying something.  The first bad review irked me a lot, but you have to get sensible about them.  The way I look at is is this: do you honestly think that everyone is going to love everything you do?  Are you so insecure that you can’t handle a bit of criticism?  I think the best way to handle them is to read them, take in what they’ve said, and move on!

8. What other projects do you have on the boil?
Oh, lots!  I’ve recently finished novel number 6 for Amazon, which I hope to have out there by mid September.  I am currently putting the final touches to a short story collection, which I hope to publish in about November.  This will be free on publication, for the first 3/5 days – I haven’t done a free promotion for nearly a year, and thought I’d give it a whirl!  I’ve got the plan for the next novel, which I am DYING to start – I don’t usually start a project until one is finished, but I just had to write the first two paragraphs of this new one, because I have never been so excited about beginning a new book before! 
This week I have finished a short story which will be in a collection with proceeds going to an animal charity.  In the autumn I will also be busy with my twice weekly pieces on entertainment site The BizzNiz (I’m going to be commenting on Strictly Come Dancing!), and I have lots of book recommendation posts lined up (in my head) for my weekly blog on the UK Arts Directory.  Then there’s my own blog…. thank goodness I have an understanding husband and no children!

 9. Do you have any advice to offer other Indie authors about self-publishing?
Far, far too much to put in an answer to an interview question.  I’ve often thought, who am I to give advice?  But I am coming to realise that I do now have a fair bit of experience I can pass on.  In my blog on the UK Arts Directory I am, at the moment, writing a series of posts entitled ‘The truth about self-publishing’, in which I’m aiming to tell people stuff they really need to know, that they probably won’t read anywhere else.  Candid observations, if you like!  But far from all negative.  I’ll put the link at the end of this interview.

10. Does any particular strategy work for you to boost sales?
Not one single one, no.  It’s a combination of everything I do – the tweeting, the blogging, the Facebook page posts.  Sometimes I’ll do a 77p offer for a weekend; these have varying success.  I don’t know if people buy my books as a response to some post I’ve made, on the recommendation of a friend, or through finding them on Amazon – I expect it’s equally spread over all three.

 11. Does social networking improve your sales?
Without them there would be no sales.  End of story!
 12. Ever thought about branching out into a different genre? If so which one?
I don’t think about genres, I just write the story I want to write, then try to decide what genre it is when I put it on Amazon!  Although my books are all contemporary fiction, they’re all slightly different genres; for instance, Nobody’s Fault is a family drama, whereas Dream On is light-hearted rock fiction.  However, the one that I shall be starting soon – yes, the one that I am GAGGING to start! – will be different again.  It will span a period of about 40 years, and has elements of historical fiction, too, but I don’t want to say more at the moment because it’s the best idea I’ve ever had!!!

13. And to finish - how about giving us a few of your favourite songs, past and present?
Present?  I haven’t known about modern music for years!  I remember Alexei Sayle saying that a scientist had isolated a gene in the human body that made you go off pop music at the age of 37….!  I have to say that when I hear pop music now I think it all sounds the same – ooh, Daddy, you didn’t used to say that to me, did you??!  But my all time old favourites – too, too many to mention, I couldn’t say one without thinking of ten more, and wanting to include them all.  But I love most things by the following: Aerosmith, Free & Bad Company, Al Green, Steely Dan, Thunder, Kate Bush, David Grey, AC/DC…. I also love some old Motown (Roadrunner by Junior Walker & The Allstars is one of my all time favourites), Miles Davis, Will Young, Oasis, some early 70s ska, Deep Purple, mid 80s pop, some old 60s stuff like Wichita Lineman by Glen Campbell and Windmills of Your Mind by Noel Harrison, some punk, Debussy, The Lark Ascending by Vaughn Williams – look, I told you I could go on forever, didn’t I?  If I had to choose one type of music it would be rock, but I like so much different stuff.  There’s even one song I really like by Olly Murrs, but that’s about as modern pop as I get!

Monday 19 August 2013

Guest Author - Micheal Rivers

     This weeks Guest Spot belongs to Micheal Rivers, bestselling Paranormal Thriller author of The Black Witch and Verliege among others. Micheal is also a paranormal investigator. If you're reading this with the lights down low, now's the time to turn them all the way up! If you enjoy Micheal's interview check out his work here:

1.   When did you start writing and was there any particular event that drew you to the pen?

A: I have been writing most of my life. There was always something about seeing the words written in books that held a certain fascination for me. I was like a lot of other children of my time and thought how great it would be to see a book with my name on it.
A pen is like a magnet to me, always has been. I guess you could say there was too much inside of my head to just leave it there. 

2.   Do you have a favorite character from another author’s book?

A: Alexander Dumas’s characters are excellent. I would say his characters among a host of others have a natural draw to me. I really can’t say one character in particular could be called my favorite.

3.   Do you pre-plan your stories or are you a take-it-as-it-comes writer?

A: Good question, but a bit complicated. I would have to say the stories as well as the characters plan for themselves and I figure out how to place them correctly into the stories. The way my mind works sometimes I wonder who is controlling who. It comes to thoughts of everyday living and how that particular character or characters would handle what is happening with them.

4.   Where does your inspiration comes from? What motivates you?

A: My inspiration comes from every breath I take. Motivation is a powerful tool, but I would have to say the world itself motivates me in more ways than I care to contend with at times. Look at the world, its history of mankind, and the wonders and mysteries we cannot explain away in a single breath. Therein lays all the motivation you could ever ask for.

5.   Do you have set schedule to write to or do you grab the time as it comes?

A: I write whenever possible. There are times when I have to get away from it just to be able to collect my own thoughts in lieu of passing on the thoughts and stories of all there is around us. I guess you could say I take small vacations from it to visit with myself.

6.   How do you take writing interruptions?

A: The reactions vary. For trivial things I ignore them while with others I ignore them also if I am deep into something. At times I will get a little peeved because I don’t want to derail my train of thought and lose something I feel is important. Make a note concerning it. That is not the same as the flow of what is happening at the time. There are times when you tie an emotion to what you are writing and don’t want it to change until you are finished.

7.   What do you enjoy and what do you hate about writing?

A: I love everything about writing. I can write on walls, trains, the neighbor’s cat, makes no difference. I do have some qualms concerning peripheral elements of writing but it is a necessary evil we all have to contend with.

8.   What’s your advice as to how to handle a bad review?

A: Ignore it unless it is good advice. What you write is not going to be for everybody so face the judge with a smile.

9.   What other projects do you have on the boil? How about a brief line or two about the sequel to The Black Witch? And can you give us an insight into the brand new action/adventure novel you are currently writing?

A: I have four manuscripts on the burner at this time. I am writing one out of my genre based on an actual person, fiction of course. This will be a series. It is action adventure and a host of other deviltry thrown in for good measure. It involves world travel, intrigue, and world politics.
The Black Witch has a sequel in the works and it involves the grandson and his wife from the original characters of the book. This one seems a bit tricky but it is coming along nicely. My favorite of the other two is titled Scratch. Prepare to sleep with the lights on. 

      10. Does social networking improve your sales?

 A: Social networking is very important for more reasons than just sales. It is a very good way to be            connected with your readers and well as other authors. In answer to your question, yes it does help with your  sales.

11. Please tell us one of your interesting stories about your role as a paranormal investigator.

A: I enjoy investigating the paranormal as much as I possibly have time for. I had a friend come to my house asking me to repair a toy teddy bear that belonged to her son. The bear was not unusual in the way of toys in any form. It was small and held a flashlight in its left hand. It was a comfort for a child in the dark who is trying to fall asleep and keep the boogeyman at bay. If you pushed the button attached to the bear it would speak and give the child a thrill knowing it talked to him. The bear had stopped working entirely.
I have a lot of knowledge concerning things like this because of building and working on animatronics for an amusement park. So I checked it out and found it could not be repaired without a great deal more than the toy was valued at. I removed the batteries and told her the sad news. She had already replaced the bear with another, but she had not given it to him as of yet.
I placed the bear in the corner of the living room and continued our visit. Later that night we decided to hold a session trying to see if any spirits were in the neighborhood who wanted to connect with us, hoping to get some useful information. We got more than we bargained for. My home had a lot of paranormal activity on a regular basis and that night did not disappoint us. As we started to ask questions my equipment showed absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. But, with each question the flashlight in the toy bear’s hand would light on and off in answer.
Keep in mind the bear was broken beyond repair with no batteries to conduct electricity and any other means to make the flashlight work. The entity who was operating the toy bear was a female child whose father also was in the room. His name was Clyde. We could never get the child to tell us her name.

Thanks David for having me on your blog, wishing you much success with your future endeavors.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Guest Author - John Paul Davis

This weeks Guest Spot belongs to John Paul Davis, bestselling author of The Templar Agenda and The Larmenius Inheritance. If you enjoy John's interview check out his work here:

1.      When did you start writing and was there any particular event that drew you to the pen?

 When I was young, I used to love making up stories; sport aside, it was the best thing about school. I attempted writing a few short stories, both in and out of the classroom, when I was about 10 or 11, but I didn’t keep it up. I started again after graduating uni: I did a bit of travelling on my gap year, which included trips to Italy and the USA. Rome in particular left me simply transfixed. I’d read Angels and Demons a year earlier and several of Ludlum’s in the past, many of which were set in Rome, and the real life locations really struck a chord. The churches and museums of Rome, notably the Vatican, really stimulated my imagination and later served as fodder for The Templar Agenda.
 2.      Do you have a favourite character from another author’s book?
 You mean besides Matt Drake? In truth, I have quite a few. I’m a huge fan of Ludlum and Grisham: their novels always have brilliant characters. Jason Bourne is definitely one of the best, while Grisham’s Darby Shaw and Mark Sway are also standouts.
 3.      Do you pre-plan your stories or are you a take-it-as-it-comes writer?
 I always pre-plan – these days I won’t even start writing the book until I have the skeleton of a plot in place. When I started out, I took it as it came: as a result, it took me five years to complete my first novel. I think there has to be some leeway for exploring a book’s potential – not only is it a natural part of writing a novel but it’s also half the fun. That said, it’s important to keep the end in sight. As soon as you lose sight of the destination, you become something of a hostage to fortune. 
 4.      Where does your inspiration come from? What motivates you?
 All of my books have been influenced by my real life experiences. History and travelling are two of my greatest passions, and I would credit my experiences in life as having the greatest impact on my writing. Where possible, I try to visit every location I use in a book first – see the sights through my characters’ eyes, so to speak. I particularly like to target mysteries and enigmas, or else look into elements of history that aren’t well known. As for motivation, being a writer is a dream job which I would love to sustain. At the moment, that’s all the motivation I need.
 5.      Do you have set schedule to write to or do you grab the time as it comes?
 I don’t have a set schedule but I do try to write every day – or at least do something productive, like reading or research. When that’s not possible, I’ll just make sure I’m back on it the next day.
 6.      How do you take writing interruptions?
 At the end of the day they’re just a part of life. I always set goals, and try my hardest to keep them in sight. As long as I meet my goals, interruptions don’t worry me.
 7.      What do you enjoy and what do you hate about writing?
 There is so much to enjoy – for me, it’s a dream job. I’ve always enjoyed the role of storyteller; in my opinion that’s the best part of being a writer. Whether I’m working on a thriller or a historical biography I always write about the things that interest me, so I’m always doing something I’m passionate about. It’s a great learning curve as well. As a non-fiction writer, there are other perks as well: like being interviewed for a major newspaper, or being asked to appear in a documentary. They’re more rare than frequent, but they do happen.
There’s nothing I really hate about writing. The editing stage is probably my least favourite. It’s also the bit which takes me the longest. For the biographies, this is particularly critical as it’s imperative that the facts don’t get lost in translation.
 8.      Mostly for our other authors out there, what’s your advice as to how to handle a bad review?
 All you need are two things: their address, and a good hitman...not really :D
Every author gets bad reviews – usually the best get more than the worst. Just look up Dan Brown, Robert Ludlum, Stephanie Meyer… The list is endless. If your writing is original, it will take awhile for you to figure out who your fans are. If you’re successful, the scrutiny will be big. But it’s also a sign that you’re doing something well.
I guess the important thing is to look for the trends. If some people are criticising what other people like, the best thing you can do is stay strong – long-term these people will become your core fan base, while the critics will leave your future work alone. I agree with John Locke when he said that the more hostile the review the further they are from your intended audience. If, on the other hand, the trend is more negative, but also written in a considerate way, then there might be something you can improve on. In which case, swallow your pride. No matter how gifted an author, the art of writing can never be mastered straight away.
 9.      What other projects do you have on the boil?
 I’m currently working on the next thriller, which should be out within the next six months. I do have a couple of side projects as well, but mostly I’m concentrating on my writing.
 10.  Do you have any advice to offer other Indie authors about self-publishing?
 In essence, decide what you want to write, persevere with it and have fun. I find it extraordinary how many Indie authors seem to write one novel and spend the rest of their time on Twitter spamming their followers. Readers are much more likely to take a chance on your book if you have more than one out there. Worse still, you could go to all the effort trying to get people to buy your book, and even if you succeed, once they’ve read it, then what? By the time you’ve actually got round to writing the next one, that reader might have found a new favourite.
I think the best advice, which personally I have found invaluable, is to study the careers of authors who have already made it. What did they do which worked so well? There’s a famous saying by Charles H. Fowler, The best teachers of humanity are the lives of great men. I think that statement is true for every skill/craft as well. Who is your role model? If you don’t have one, find one. Take the time to learn from the success stories.
 11.  Does any particular strategy work for you to boost sales?
 At present, I’m still concentrating on writing rather than marketing. The best strategy, in my opinion, is to come up with a book that people want to read. Writing about a good subject is worth a century of daily auto-tweeting. After that, people shouldn’t underestimate the importance of a good title and cover.
 12.  Does social networking improve your sales?
Twitter has been great because of the connections I’ve been able to make; and I’m sure that it has also helped me get my name out there, too. In the early days it probably helped with a few sales, but not so much now. That said, I am convinced that the John Lock strategy works so I haven’t given up on it. At the moment, I only really use it for the enjoyment.
 13.  You write both fiction and non-fiction. Which do you prefer?
 I genuinely love both.
14.  Both The Templar Agenda and The Larmenius Inheritance have been successful on both sides of the Atlantic. Do you have any plans to develop either book into a series?
 I have plans in place for well over 20 novels, most of which are standalones. Personally, I prefer coming up with characters that fit the plot, rather than putting the same character in the ‘right place at the right time’. I love Ludlum and Higgins, in particular, in that regard because they only wrote a series when there was a logical progression. I think it’s possible Frei/M├úder and Anson/Stocker could have another encounter but only if I was convinced it was in the best interests of the book.

Monday 5 August 2013

This weeks Guest Spot belongs to award winning Fantasy author, Melissa McPhail, If you enjoy Melissa's interview check out her work here:

1. Do you have a favourite character from another author’s book?
I'm a glutton for the anti-heros. Two that come immediately to mind are C.S.Friedman's Gerald Tarrant, the darkly compelling vampiric sorcerer of her Coldfire Trilogy, and Karen Marie Moning's Jericho Barrons, who is one of those indelible characters that lodge in your consciousness and tantalize you relentlessly thereafter. From a writer's perspective, I enjoy studying these characters to see what characteristics and traits drew me to them. There's a certain mysterious allure to characters who are both powerful and powerfully inaccessible. 
2. Do you pre-plan your stories or are you a take-it-as-it-comes writer?
I think I fall somewhere in the medium of these extremes. Writing epic fantasy, I've had to develop story arcs and plot threads that loop through five books, so some planning is definitely in order.Yet I find if I've spent too much time trying to plan out a character's thread, it loses some of the creative magic in the telling. I'm forever skirting that ethereal boundary between enough planning to keep the story cohesive and moving in the right direction and too much, which has the effect of stalling my progress completely. I've discussed this topic on my blog, actually. It's so interesting to hear about the many different processes writers use to find their creative nirvana.    
3. What do you enjoy and what do you hate about writing?
I've often pondered the difference between passion and addiction. I'm still not sure where that line is drawn as these words apply to artists. This passion I have for writing is so pervasive of my spirit and influential upon my mood that it often feels like an addiction. Perhaps it's callous to compare these ideas (and to any with actual substance-abuse struggles, I apologize for my impudence) and yet...if I were to try to stop writing? It's inconceivable.    
Anatole France once said, "To know is nothing at all; to imagine is everything." The desire to write, to create, for me is the sublimation of all that is brilliant and all that is dark in life. To have a medium through which to draw forth these extremes, upon which to channel the emotion of life's heartbreaks and rejoices - this is both a gift and a responsibility, though never a burden. 
Life is chaos. As artists we are able to take these confusions and tragedies and weave them into something that makes sense of them, even if only in our collective imagination. The Fantasy genre is a perfect medium for exploring some of humanity's most long-sought virtues - nobility, honor, trust, faith - as well as its secret hopes, its fears and its most compelling and dangerous vices. It's adventure, romance, treachery and rebellion, bravery, cowardice and confusion. Life is mirrored in fantasy - but in a way that feels distant, safe. It allows us to look deeply into human motivations without seeing too closely the reflection of our own lives. 
These are some of the things I enjoy about writing. The only thing I don't love about it? When I'm not writing.        
4. What’s your advice as to how to handle a bad review?
This question reminds me of a quote from Shusha Guppy, who said, "It is very important not to become hard. The artist must always have one skin too few in comparison with other people, so you feel the slightest wind."
I believe this is fundamentally true about anyone engaged in a creative enterprise. It's one of the tragic ironies that those with necessarily the thinnest skins are subjected to the most piercing criticism. It takes a definite maturity to receive another's ideas and views of your creative work with serenity and tolerance, without flinching or feeling an innate need to strike back. As artists, we've all developed those self-protection mechanisms - we've had to - and they necessarily extend to our creative works, which we adore and praise as our own children no matter how homely and ill-forged they are. Yet if a stranger approached you on the street and remarked, "That is the ugliest baby I've ever seen!" Would you stand there and argue with him about it? Or would you merely keep walking and continue on with your day, perhaps harboring ill tidings but hopefully realizing the absurdity of the interchange. 
Unsolicited criticism is somewhat absurd. How can anyone expect to critique something you poured your heart and soul into, something you lived and breathed and cried over for weeks or years? And how silly of you to care, knowing the inherent difficulty anyone faces in even trying to write a critique. Most importantly, the ones who slop around their malcontent in one-star reviews more often than not didn't try at all - neither to understand your work nor to critique it with equanimity. Those low-star critiques are the obnoxious man on the street. Take them in stride.       
5. What other projects do you have on the boil? Is the third book in the series on the way?
You really need your wits about you to write epic fantasy with any success. When I finished Cephrael's Hand, I had introduced six primary viewpoint characters. In The Dagger of Adendigaeth, that number grew to eight. In book three, I'm already looking at twelve and the story is barely begun. Add to this that I write rather long books - quite long compared to most indie novels out there. (I have my rationale for this, but that's a story for another blog.) 
At this point, with so many character threads and so much happening in the story spanning the globe, I really can't think about the process as writing a book - the task ahead becomes too daunting. I have to think of it as just telling a story. So, while I'm technically working on book three in my series, I'm really just trying to tell this story in a fascinating and entertaining way.  
Thank you so much for interviewing me, David. I appreciate and immensely admire your generosity in supporting indie authors.