Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Meagan Frank

I'm excited about this week's interview because it's our first non-fiction author.  Meagan Frank has worked as a reporter and free-lance author, but her first full-length book is Choosing to Grow: Through Marriage - a non-fiction, creative memoir.

You can find out more about Meagan and order her book here:  http://www.meaganfrank.com/

TAS: Let's get the plug out of the way. Tell us a little bit about the project you are currently promoting - who will be interested and why?

MF: My current promotion is for my book  Choosing to Grow: Through Marriage. It is a record of an eight-year project that included a low in my marriage, two years of research, five years of application and a year of writing. I interviewed 70 women, read over 25 titles, and collected objective questionnaires from over 150 women. I think this book can appeal to anyone interested in getting married, in staying married, in navigating the married life and even those who are on the backside of the married experience. I interviewed women who had been married 60 years and women married less than 6 months. Set against the backdrop of my own growth, I recount their stories, their wisdom, their insight, and it is a fascinating look at how the institution of marriage is constantly evolving.

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you most enjoy?

MF: I most enjoy the creative process. I enjoy research and compilation and then presenting my findings in a palatable and interesting way. I am fascinated by the connection and power of words, and I enjoy the challenge of continuing to learn more and more about my own voice and style. (Plus, I enjoy the flexibility I'm afforded to be a mom to our three kids--I can work my hours around their needs right now)

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you least enjoy?

MF: I abhor self-promotion. I am increasingly realizing that it is tough to get your name circulating, to get your book out there, to get eyes on the things I've written, and I feel like a boring nag when I try to encourage (endlessly) people to take a peek at my work. It is a necessary evil, and my least favorite part about being an author.

TAS: What moment as an author have you experienced that you are likely to remember 20 years from now (good or bad)?

MF: My favorite moment so far was my virtual Novel Launch through my publisher TreasureLine Books. It was a day of connection with friends, family, readers, book-lovers and supporters of all kinds. It was exhausting, but an incredibly positive experience overall.

TAS: What bad habits do you have when it comes to writing/promoting your books and/or what do you wish you could do better?

MF: I am not as consistent with my writing as I would like to be. I hope to establish a predictable schedule where my productivity can increase and I can move closer and closer to full-time writer status. (especially when my youngest joins the full-day school goers this fall)

TAS: What is your proudest moment as an author?

MF: So far, I think my proudest moment as an author was holding a physical proof of my book that actually had my name on it. It is one thing to have word documents that occupy the folder on my computer titled "book" and it is another thing to hold a real book in my hands.

TAS: How many hours a week do you spend writing?

MF: I am embarrassed to admit that currently it is probably less than five hours a week. I have three kids home for the summer, and I am in presentation and promotion mode. When I was writing my book it was closer to 30 hours a week. I hope to up those hours significantly in the fall.

TAS: If you had to choose between selling 1 million books but only making $20,000 in royalties or selling 1000 books and (somehow) making $40,000, which would you choose and why?

MF: I would choose selling the 1 million books for less money. I really believe in the message of my book, and I wrote in the hopes of helping people who were quietly struggling with similar issues. The more people I can reach, the better, and royalties are honestly the icing on the cake.

TAS: What's the greatest thing you can realistically imagine happening as a result of your writing? How likely do you think that is to actually happen?

MF: I would love to get a speaking gig, about this book and my findings, that could fill an auditorium with 500-1000 people. That would be the ultimate. I think it is possible...with a lot of work and plenty more promotion. I really enjoy the speaking part of the book project. 

TAS: Tell us about the most interesting thing you’ve ever eaten.

MF: I'm not the most adventurous eater. I haven't consumed any bugs or crazy animals, so I think I might be a bit boring with this answer. I did once have chili with beans that had sprouted...purposefully. It was delicious, and the beans looked like bugs (does that count?).

TAS: If you had a couple hours to kill in a strange city and you could either spend the time in their zoo, museum or library, which would you choose and why?

MF: I would spend the time in the museum. I am a lifelong learner, and I think the museum would offer the best window for a chance to learn. Libraries offer windows to learning anywhere, but to have access to a strange town, I think the museum would offer the most insight. Plus, zoos make me sad. I don't mind animal preserves, but zoos are a little more depressing.

TAS: If space aliens landed and said you could come with them to their planet to see wonders beyond wonders . . . but you would never see earth or your friends and family again, would you go?

MF: No, I would not go. I have invested my life in building and maintaining the relationships with my family and friends. I really think that relationships are the point to life, and without them, I would not find much wonder in a distant world.

TAS: If an aging friend with painful, terminal cancer asked you to kill them, and you knew there wouldn't be any legal problems, would you do it?

MF: I don't think I could do it. I would not be able to live with myself if I were responsible for ending another person's life...even if they were in such a terrible situation. I would only offer to help make him/her as comfortable as possible.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Claire Chilton

Claire Chilton has written numerous works including, short stories, poetry and now her debut novel:  Whatever Became of the Squishies. She holds an English Literature BA Hons degree from the York St John University and won the 1997 Editors Choice Award from The International Library of Poetry.  

Check out her website HERE.
And you can buy her book at Amazon.
You can also follow her on Twitter , check out her Blog 
, find her on Goodreads  And Facebook  .

Let's get the plug out of the way. Tell us a little bit about Whatever Became of the Squishies   - who will be interested and why?

CC: This book will appeal mostly to children and young adults. It is a child-friendly fantasy adventure. Although is has been popular with adults too, for its social satire and entertainment value.

Carla Mainston is a rebellious purple teenager, living in the hygiene-obsessed, green-skinned colony of Derobmi. She's encountered racism throughout her young life, and been arrested on many occasions for crimes against cleanliness. Life is lonely and hard for Carla. She craves adventure and a new life - somewhere she belongs.

She lives on the planet of Dumfollab: A world with a misplaced history dating back millions of years to when the Squishies occupied it. History was formed from the rubbish they left behind, and today the planet is a melting pot of cultures and colonies.

In the colony of Derobmi the people are green and clean. They worship the gods of soap powder, and consider it a deadly sin to 'dirty another's carpet'. Colonies developed from empty beer bottles, broken Persil washing balls, and faded crisp packets. Gods, laws, and entire societies have developed from abandoned junk, and after thousands of years, simple phrases like 'how white are your whites' or 'Bud-wi-serrr' have become ancient testaments. Carla's green-hued brother becomes ill with a mysterious disease that runs rampant throughout Derobmi. While looking for a cure Carla is drawn into a dangerous adventure, which spans from the ancient archives, to the dark caverns beneath Foamy Mansion. With new friends, new love, a killer on the loose, early death prophecies, and ominous super powers, Carla must discover more about her own dark history to survive.

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you most enjoy?

CC: The thrill of writing under the influence of pure inspiration has to be my all time favourite moment. There's a wonderful feeling that I can't even begin to describe, when you are suddenly inspired out of nowhere and you sit up and start writing it down. It's a rollercoaster ride and you don't know when it will end, or where. I love those moments, the best story lines happen during this time and you're not just writing an adventure, you're on one!

I read somewhere a long time ago, that writers don't invent stories, they are given them (be it by a muse, the cosmos, or a little story demon sat on their shoulder). I don't know what gives me my stories, but I do love it when he/she/it drops by to take me on another journey.

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you least enjoy?

CC: Editing! The word itself sounds pretty harmless, but editing is like a spreading disease on your lovely pages. You start, thinking it won't take long. Only to find that four months later you're still editing because you keep finding new things you need to do/change/fix. It's an important process though and it does provide your readers with a perfect book, or as close to perfect as you can get. So I do it even though I really don't want to. I suspect if I'm ever driven insane, it will be during the editing of one of my books.

TAS: What moment as an author have you experienced that you are likely to remember 20 years from now (good or bad)?

CC: I've had so many moments where my heart jumps into my mouth in shock and awe, as an author. My first royalty cheque, my first award, my first book sale, when a major UK agent contacted me, when I published my book for the first time, when I got through the first round of ABNA, when I joined Fantasy Island Book Publishing. All of these moments are ones I'll remember for the rest of my life. I don't think I'll ever take life as an author in my stride. At the end of the day I'll always just be Claire writing a story, and then jumping up and down in excited awe that people actually like the stories I wrote. I never really believed my little novel would get off my bedroom shelf and meet the world, but I'm overjoyed that it has.

TAS: What bad habits do you have when it comes to writing/promoting your books and/or what do you wish you could do better?

CC: Oh I'm awful at promoting myself and my book. I babble far too much and always say what I think. I call it 'foot in mouth syndrome'. I'll always be a bit silly, a bit childish and tad inappropriate. I wish I could be one of those people who is always well presented and says the right thing at the right time. But I'm not that stylish, so I'll probably always trip over red carpets, landing with my skirt over my head and mumble 'bollocks' to the cameras. Luckily for me, some people find it endearing or amusing.

TAS: Do you have any specific procedures you follow when you write?

CC: I always start a new project with a short story, to capture the feel of the story as it happens in my head. I find if I take too long to write down the inspiration, it fades away. A short story is a great way to record my ideas in a format that will maintain its original inspiration.

I also still handwrite my novels, it takes longer sure, but I'm a pen and paper addict, I love handwriting my manuscripts. After the first rough version is written, I edit it and type it up on my laptop. I feel a bit like a dinosaur doing that these days, but its how I've always written my stories, and it's how the inspiration flows.
TAS: Do you prefer to write when the room is quiet . . . or do you like to have some background noise?

CC: I can write with some music on not too loudly, although every once in a while I'll get distracted by the lyrics of the song. But I find music is a great motivator for writing powerful scenes. Generally I'll listen to a song while thinking about a scene and turn the music off for the actual writing.

Other people making noises while I'm writing can bring out the 'wrath of Claire'.

TAS: Do you think bestsellers are typically better books than books that don't sell as well? Why or why not?

CC: The cynical marketer in me says bestsellers are the ones that got the best marketing and promotion. People read what they've heard of, so by recommendation more than anything else. In my experience people tend to buy books by the same author, one they enjoy. If they need to find a new author, they look to the book stores, magazines, lists and their friends for recommendations. So regardless of how well a book is written, its sales are controlled by popularity, not quality. Awareness of a novel or an author is more likely to land a book on the bestsellers list, than the quality of the book.

That said, a bestselling book has to be enjoyed to be recommended. So quality does come into it. But there are millions of enjoyable books in the world, and the defining factor between those that are bestsellers and those that are not all comes down to marketing and awareness.

If readers haven't heard of a book, they probably won't try it, no matter how good it is. So no I don't think bestsellers are better books, I just think we're made more aware of their existence.

TAS: Have you ever changed the way you worded something you were writing because you weren't sure the grammatically correct way to say it as originally imagined?

CC: Yes, although Google is my best friend if I'm not sure. But I have had some seriously sticky sentences in my time. Sometimes it's best to sacrifice that inspired sentence for something that makes sense (Oh the pains of editing!)

TAS: Tell us about the most interesting person you’ve ever met.

CC: I've met quite a lot of interesting people in my life. I seem to be drawn to them. The most famous one I know is Derek Landy, he's a lovely interesting Irish guy, with a wicked sense of humour.

TAS: Tell us a little bit about your home town and what makes it special.

CC: I live in York in England. It's a beautiful city with some unique qualities. It's ancient, with Roman walls and the odd Viking wandering the streets. I believe historically it's been a city since the Roman era, where it was called Eboracum. The city today has 365 pubs, one for every day of the year. It also has a large amount of churches in it, and they say you can't walk anywhere in York without walking over a grave, because it's so old, people have died in every spot here. Most recently archaeologists found the graves of gladiators in someone's back garden in York. So it's an old and unusual city. Visitors often find it very beautiful and very nice, because it is. The crime rate is low, the place is scenic and it's a nice city to live in. I've lived in York my whole life, so I don't think anywhere else will ever feel as much like home.

TAS: If you had the opportunity to eat human flesh . . . and no-one had to die, it was already, just sort of there and had been prepared by a chef . . . would you try it?

CC: Not if you paid me! I'm a vegetarian so I wouldn't even eat a well prepared cow, let alone a human being. I'm a firm believer in life is precious, unless it's the life of a carrot, which I have no qualms about munching on. I'm also a big believer in the right to live how you choose, so don't expect any vegetarian lectures from me. People choose their own paths in life; I'd never try to enforce my opinion on others.

I follow a very simple moral code: Live and let live - except for carrots of course, pesky orange blighters!

TAS: Have you ever made up a lie to get out of something, and if so, can you tell us more?

CC: I'm sure I have, but I just can't think of any. I prefer to tell the truth in most things and avoid lying. But I'm not perfect; when it comes to delivering bad news I use little white lies sometimes to soften the blow. Honest to a point of stupid, would describe me perfectly.

If I lie about something, the guilt usually gets to me and I confess the truth about twenty minutes later. I'm awful at keeping secrets!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

S.L. Pierce

S.L. Pierce is a novelist who specializes in thrillers. Her first novel, Secrets, is mystery/thriller that is availble now, and she's working on her second novel which will be a psychological thriller and is due out in June. She also has a collection of gritty short-stories calle The Hate.

Please take a moment to check out her website:  http://piercebooks.com/ and blog http://slpiercebooks.blogspot.com/ when you have a chance.

TAS: Let's get the plug out of the way.  Tell us a little bit about the project you are currently promoting - who will be interested and why?

SLP: Secrets is a Mystery/Thriller set in California's Silicon Valley.  Secrets will appeal to any fiction reader who likes a strong female lead and a fast pace.  When I read I skim a lot of the descriptive stuff so, when I write, I leave a lot of that out and focus on the story and the characters.  

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you most enjoy?

SLP: I enjoy the freedom the most.  I choose what to write, where the story goes, everything. 

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you least enjoy?

SLP: Strangely, the freedom is what I like the least also.  There is no one standing over my shoulder saying "Great Job" or stopping me from going down the wrong plot path.  I have to figure that out myself. 

TAS: What moment as an author have you experienced that you are likely to remember 20 years from now (good or bad)?

SLP: The moment I will absolutely remember forever is the first reviewer who read my short story book and told me I was her new Indie favorite.  The stories are rather gritty, not really for everyone, but she 'got me'.  That gave me the confidence to keep going. 

TAS: What bad habits do you have when it comes to writing/promoting your books and/or what do you wish you could do better?

SLP: My bad habit for writing is making excuses why I'm too busy to do it.  It's just fear and I know that.  For promoting, hmmm, that's a tough one.  I'm not a very social person but I find promoting fun because it lets me be social in a way I can't in 'real life'.  

TAS: What is your proudest moment as an author?

SLP: Right now my proudest moment is finishing my second book (not released yet).  The story was incredibly challenging are there were times I just wanted to give up.  But for once in my life I didn't just quit when it got hard.  

TAS: What is your least favorite genre?  Do you feel you could write something that was at least average or better in that genre for the right price?

SLP: My least favorite genre is fantasy.  Which isn't to say I haven't read it.  I have, but I could never write a fantasy book.  I just don't have enough imagination for it.  You would think it would be easier because you can create whatever you need for the story but I just don't have that ability.

TAS: Have you ever written something that made you cringe to imagine your children/parents/significant other reading it?  If so, tell us more.

SLP: I'm laughing to myself right now.  The answer is no but the reason is because I don't even get as far as writing the scene (in my case a sex scene).  The cringe factor stops me.  Oddly enough, my family reading a gruesome murder scene I have written doesn't bother me. 

TAS: If you could ask one question of one author (living or dead) and you would get a detailed, honest answer, who would it be and what would you ask?

SLP: I would ask Laura Ingalls Wilder what her life was like after she married Almanzo?  Was she happy?  The tone of all her books up to getting married were so happy.  But The First Four Years seemed so sad.  It makes me wonder what happened.  

TAS: Is the World a better or worse place in 2011 than it was in 1970 and why do you answer the way you do?

SLP: I would say it is neither better nor worse.  I believe every generation has their version of the best and worst.  In the 70's there were wars, political battles, etc. just like now.  I think the problem today is everything is broadcast the second it happens so it seems like things are worse.  

TAS: What city that you've visited has the most interesting food?  Tell us more.

SLP: Easiest question on here!  Chongqing China.  My husband, mother and I were there as the guest of the family who's daughter my parents hosted as an exchange student.  Fantastic trip, by the way.  But at one dinner they brought in a large platter with a bowl in the middle.  But around the bowl were these cooked baby chickens except they still had heads.  We didn't know what to do with them.   

TAS: Imagine death is rapidly approaching.  Would you prefer to just die instantly without knowing it was coming, or would you like to have 10 minutes to contemplate before the inevitable end?

SLP: I absolutely would not want to know.  I am so afraid of flying, not because of the dying part if we crashed but because I would know it's coming.  Oh, just the thought makes my stomach drop. 

TAS: If you could rewind to when you were 15 years old, knowing everything you know now, and redo your life from that point, would you take the opportunity?  Why or why not?

SLP: Yes, I would but only knowing what I know now.  The reason is because I was a nervous kid.  I was mostly nervous about looking stupid so I never tried anything.  I would go back and try everything I could; plays, sports, etc.  I would take every opportunity that presented itself.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

M. Edward McNally

Today's interview is with M. Edward McNally.  Ed writes fantasy and he told me he is trying to coin the phrase "Muskets & Magic" as he combines elements from two somewhat diverse interests:  Dungeons & Dragons and the US Civil War.

An interesting anecdote Ed mentioned is that he studied with Jane Smiley the year she won her Pulitzer as he was completing his master's degree in English Literature/Creative Writing.

I've just finished reading Ed's book:  The Sable City, and I found it to be a fun and well-crafted fantasy/adventure story.  One of my favorite elements was Ed's attention to detail and description of things that gave a real feel to events that were otherwise far outside of our normal experiences.  For example, I like the way he describes not just the action in his fight scenes, but the subtler textures that the characters would be experiencing - such as the feelings of being hurt or injured.  It seems that writers in this genre often get caught up in the heroism in ways that prevent them from humanizing the characters.  Ed's talent for that element provides an added dimension and level of interest to the reader.

You can buy The Sable City at these links to: AMAZON or SMASHWORDS 

TAS: Let's get the plug out of the way. Tell us a little bit about The Sable City - who will be interested and why?

MEM: The Norothian Cycle, of which The Sable City is the first book, is a wide-ranging fantasy based in part on the premise that a world in which magic was "real" would not look like an idealized version of medieval Europe, only with some orcs running around and guys in pointy hats shooting lightning bolts out of sticks.  The world I have tried to create in my stories is one with its own history of cultural, political, religious, and economic development, all shaped by the “fact” that magic is real.  But that is just background.  I am a firm believer that the story and the characters come first.  The rest is just set-dressing, when you come right down to it.  Though I do have an awful lot of it.

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you most enjoy?

MEM: Getting lost in my own head to the extent that I totally get away from myself.  It’s like I’m not even writing, I’m just scribbling or typing as fast as I can to keep up.

TAS: What aspects of being an author do you least enjoy?

MEM: The reaction of the people I care about when I get lost in my own head to the extent that I forget about them, too.  I really am sorry.  But I’m not going to stop.  Not again.

TAS: What moment as an author have you experienced that you are likely to remember 20 years from now (good or bad)?

MEM: The first time I got a short story published in a literary magazine, I took it to a park and read it about twenty times, sitting on a bench.  That was almost 20 years ago now, and just thinking about it, it’s like I’m still there.

TAS: What bad habits do you have when it comes to writing/promoting your books and/or what do you wish you could do better?

MEM: I’m awful at self-promotion.  I keep making friends, not “customers,” which is apparently the wrong way to go.  But anything else makes me feel icky.

TAS: Do you have any moments or anecdotes that led you to want to be an author?

MEM: When I was about ten, I had a cutesy little-kid poem published in the Kansas City Star.  My name in print...that was it, I was a goner.

TAS: Do you write books that are part of a series or stand-alone?  Why have you chosen as you have?

MEM: Series, and it chose me.  I made a “world” over the course of about ten years, during which time I did not write any “fiction” in the traditional sense.  Then some of the people of that world started to yammer at me, and I get the feeling they are not going to stop until their story is told in full.

TAS: If an editor suggested a change that you felt weakened the story but you also felt it would increase sales, would you do it?

MEM: In theory, yes.  I am always willing to listen to the suggestions/criticisms of people I respect.  But if it was a matter of changing something so profoundly that I felt it wasn’t my story anymore with the changes made, then no.

TAS: If a movie studio intended to make a film of one of your books and you had a choice of $1,000,000, but you'd give up all creative rights, or $100,000 and you'd have a large say, which would you take and why?

MEM: Door Number Two.  I am lucky in that I live pretty simply, and wouldn’t have any idea of what to do with the extra $900,000, other than worry about it.

TAS: Is there anything that you look forward to that gets you through a tough day?

MEM: I am such a huge fan of sleep.  Seriously, I can bribe myself to finish a page in exchange for a nap, or a chapter to let myself sleep-in the next day.  Sweet, sweet sleep...

TAS: If you knew you would be trapped in an elevator for a couple hours and you could choose any living person to be trapped in there with you, who would it be and why?

MEM: Probably a lame answer, but it would have to be one of my friends that I can BS about nothing and everything with for hours on end.  If it was, like, someone I had always wanted to meet, I would say something stupid in the first five minutes and then the rest of the time would just be really awkward.

TAS: Tell us about an embarrassing moment.

MEM: That time I was trapped in an elevator with Thomas Pynchon (kidding)

TAS: If you were on a first date with someone you were really interested in and they audibly passed gas, how would you respond?

MEM: It depends, are we at a Bears game or the Opera?  Is she mortified, or does she shout “Boo-yah!” and raise her hand for a high-five?  There are other variables I would have to take into consideration before rendering summary judgment.