Tag: interview

Friday Five: S.A. Edwards

Today’s Friday Five focus is S.A. Edwards, author of YA fantasy novels.

Sophie Edwards has worked in many fields and gained qualifications in Hairdressing, Childcare, Photography, and is now undertaking a BA(Hons) in Creative Writing. She lives in the UK with her husband and three homeschooled children, with the beginnings of a grassfed farmstead in the back garden. She also designs book covers on the side.

Her debut novel Mage: The Guardian’s Oath is available now.

Eighteen years trapped in a village is enough to drive anyone crazy, so when a way out appears in the wall, Clara leaps at the chance to leave. But her joy quickly diminishes, for outside the wall’s protection, the hunters seeking her life can sense her, and an ancient, sinister plot emerges – a plot that’s killed her six times, and now, only one chance remains. To save those she loves and gain her freedom, Clara must face the darkest magic and find the courage to do what she fears most.

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S. A. Edwards1. Why do you write in YA?

The possibilities are endless. In the real world there are rules. In mine, they’re completely different. I find fantasy intriguing and the perfect opportunity to share the hidden magic out there with people in this world.

2. What literary character are you most like and why?

Belle, probably. Quiet, misunderstood in my young, a lover of books.

3. How much of your published writing is based on personal experiences?

Most of it, actually, only tweaked. A lot.

4. What are three things on your bucket list?

See more of the world.
Share my stories with as many people as possible.
Learn a language.

5. What do you want your readers to take away from your works?

If every reader who finishes my work feels satisfied and that it was worth it, if they want to read more, my job is done.

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Mage: The Guardian’s Oath is currently available on Amazon.

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Friday Five: David Taylor II

Today’s Friday Five focus is David Taylor II, author of children’s, sci-fi, and fantasy short stories, novels, and poetry.

David Taylor II is an author, playwright, songwriter and producer. He is the author of the new children’s favorite Diary of a Smart Black Kid and is also adding to his Dear God children’s series. His latest novel, Lucifer: Soldiers, Serpents and Sin, is an internationally best-selling book. He has created an entire story world called The Realm from that first book and continues to expand it. He is a co-composer for the smash hit theater production, Eye of the Storm:The Bayard Rustin Musical, nominated for 3 Black Theater Alliance awards. In 2015 his book Wayward Pines: Survival, from the hit Fox TV show of the same name, broke top 10 in the Amazon best seller list and is currently still in the Top 100 of Kindle Worlds sci-fi. He is the proud father of two, as well as a lover of football, pizza, and a good glass of lemonade.

11-year-old Baron Winters, protagonist of Diary of a Smart Black Kid: Sixth Grade, has a funny name. He’s smart, black, and a geek. That means parents, bullies, and bullets. And girls. He chronicles his foray into middle school, trying to understand it all. And survive.

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David Taylor 21. What author has influenced your writing style/subject the most and why?

It wasn’t an author, it was a film director, James Cameron. The man is a master storyteller and his movies hold up even years later. So I wanted my books to be good stories that hold up over time.

2. What genre do you currently read most and why?

Mainly fantasy and comic books, because it keeps my mind expanding.

3. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Ooooh I’ve thought about this one six ways to Sunday. If I have to pick only one, it would be super speed. Everything changes if you can move at super speed.

4. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why? What was the best thing about that job and why?

I worked at a certain retail outlet and the boss was horrific. Just mean on purpose. But at least I got discounts on purchases.

5. Why should people read YOUR stuff? Who’s your target audience and why?

People should read my stuff because I don’t care what I’m talking about, I’ve got a fresh twist on it you’ve never heard before. My target audience is people that love to Geek out as much as I do!

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Diary of a Smart Black Kid is currently available on Amazon.

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Friday Five: Francis Sparks

Today’s Friday Five focus is Francis Sparks, author of mystery/thriller and fantasy short stories and novels.

Francis Sparks lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his amazing wife Kelly. If he’s not working on his next novel or short story, you can find him teaching his children about dragons.

His debut novel, Made Safe, depicts the gritty underbelly of the American heartland. For Private Investigator Moses Winter, the job just got more complicated. His adultery case has taken a violent turn landing the subject of his investigation, Fred Dunsmore, in the hospital and Moses in jail. Moses is held for questioning along with his erratic client, Sharon Dunsmore, and Fred’s mistress, a Bosnian refugee who just happens to be related to the DCI agent investigating the case, Raif Rakić.

After Rakić secures their release, Fred goes missing, and Moses Winter finds himself compelled to find him. With the assistance of Rakic, Moses unravels Fred’s ties to Des Moines’s underworld and is forced to confront the most heinous crimes of his career.

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Francis Sparks1. What was your attitude towards reading when you were a kid?

I was awful at doing assigned readings of the classics in high school but starting in fifth grade I had my nose in a book from then on. Mostly fantasy novels.

2. If you could pick just one book to read for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

I would pick WAR AND PEACE. First of all I would finally have to finish it. Second I think it is such a massive work that I could read and re-read for many years and still find things that I’d missed.

3. What are some of your favorite words and why?

You know, there are certain words that I can’t put into a sentence because I associate them so closely with a particular work almost like they’re an actor who’s been typecast. I will say I’m sure I overuse words that I’m not aware of but I’m not sure I have favorite words. I try to write original sentences as much as I can and avoid cliche.

4. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? How do you deal with this?

I think it can be difficult to write any scene where someone does something abhorrent or evil because I try to always come back to the axiom that this person doing this thing doesn’t see themselves as being evil. They are the hero of their own story. So how do you get inside their head and understand how they can justify to themselves what they are doing. I’m not sure I have a good way of dealing with it other than to keep trying to figure them out.

5. What’s your current writing project and what are your writing plans for the near future?

I fell into a project of a lifetime. A retired New Jersey detective contacted me last summer to help him tell the story of his lifelong pursuit of one of the most prolific cat burglars in history. We’ve been working on it since then and are now querying the proposal. I never thought I’d write nonfiction but it has been a great experience.

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Made Safe is currently available on Amazon.

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Friday Five: Edwin Peng #AtoZChallenge

A to Z challenge 2018 EToday’s Friday Five focus is Edwin Peng, author of YA science fiction short stories, novellas, and novels.

Edwin Peng lives in beautiful Lincoln, Nebraska, with his beloved Pokémon buddy, Eevee. During the day, he indulges in super-villainy by performing high-power laser research at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At night, his secret identity is that of a literary superhero fighting to make the Young Adult Science Fiction genre less clichéd and more inclusive. He is the author of the Star City series, which features bad-ass heroines and space aliens who love blueberry pies. The first novel was released by Evolved Publishing on December 4, 2017.

Star City is the first book in the Star City series. When space aliens make contact with Earth, 18-year old Emma Smith is ready to serve. She answers the call of the United States State Department for the college freshmen to serve as student ambassador to the visiting Ba’ren delegation. As political struggles intensify between feuding human and Ba’ren factions, anti-alien sentiment on Earth reaches a lethal pitch. Emma is determined not to be a pawn in this complicated game of life and death and must risk everything to help maintain the fragile peace between the two species.

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Edwin Peng1. If you could pick just one book to read for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

If I’m stranded on a deserted island, it would have to be Robinson Crusoe.

2. What are some of your favorite words and why?

According to my editor, I use “very” a lot in my manuscript, so I guess that would be my favorite word.

3. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about YA/sci-fi, that you think they need to know?

YA is a lot more than – or at least, CAN be more than – novels about abusive, glittering vampires. There are so many aspiring and current authors who are writing quality YA novels. Ignore the disparaging stereotypes about YA and its readers – try some yourself!

4. Where do your inspiration and ideas for your stories come from?

There were many sources of inspiration for Star City. My dayjob as postdoctoral researcher at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln provides plenty of ideas about future scientific discoveries and technologies. History, economics, and linguistics provided many of the ideas found in the Star City series. For instance, the many attempts at constructing an universal language for all humans is what I had in mind when creating Ba’zek, the language of the Ba’ren.

5. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever researched for your works or biggest/most out-of-the-ordinary thing you’ve done while researching?

Researching sounds for the Ba’ren language is fascinating – and can make you look weird when you’re straining your facial muscles to make weird sounds.

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Star City is currently available on Amazon.

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Friday Five: Stephanie Villegas

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Stephanie Villegas, author of young adult and thriller short stories.

Stephanie Villegas is an author and freelance writer living in sunny Southern California. She graduated with a degree in Religious Studies from UCSD, where she developed a deep interest in cultural beliefs and diversity in literature. Among many other obsessions, she can’t get enough of Film Noir, vigilante comic books, and mechanical typewriters.

In her latest short story, “The Secrets I Carry,” secrets are difficult for any eleven-year-old child to keep. But in Nazi Germany, Gertrude’s family secret is a matter of life and death. When she and her best friend stumble upon something unusual in the woods, their accidental involvement could mean danger for them both. Must she reveal one secret to keep another? Or is it one more secret for this young woman to carry?

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stephanie villegas1. What author has influenced your writing style/subject the most and why?

That’s a tough one. I’d much rather give a list than a single author, but if I had to choose, I’d probably say Gillian Flynn. She steps outside the box and has revitalized an interest in Noir (with the rise of so-called “Domestic Noir”). She took a male-dominated genre, dusted it off, and crafted something new out of it. All the while, her stories are full of micro-tension, a strong voice, complex characters, and plot twists. Too many writers are afraid to write a gritty woman and Flynn definitely delivers.

2. Thinking about the stuff you’ve written, who’s your favorite character and why?

So far, my favorite character is Roger from “Author of Death”, which I hope to release next year. He’s broody and cynical, but also a hopeless romantic. Writing in his voice has been a ton of fun, and it has taken me to darker places than I ever anticipated when I initially began the project.

3. What do you want your readers to take away from your works?

The first thing anyone should take away from my works is that being different (whether that is mental illness, a physical disability, or being introverted) is not shameful.

Beyond that, my readers should probably take away that often there isn’t a happy ending for everyone because characters, like all humans, have hopes and interests that are often at odds with one another. Mercy in the eyes of one character may be considered a lack of justice in the eyes of another. I don’t mean to say that an ending like Hamlet or Othello should be normative, just that there is more than one way to end a story and not every one needs a scenic ride into the sunset.

4. What’s your current writing project and what are your writing plans for the near future?

I am currently trying to finish my Thriller novel “Author of Death” about Roger, a 1950’s pulp-fiction writer turned stalker. Things get all kinds of tangled for him when an unstable ex-lover, the police, and an organized crime syndicate become involved. Suddenly, he’s the primary suspect for a crime he didn’t commit and his only alibi is the crime he did.

In addition to that, I’m working on a Science Fiction Young Adult novella (possibly a short series), which so far I’ve only referred to as “Vatos Versus Robots”. As you may have guessed, this one is very different than anything else I’ve ever written so its been a really fun challenge and learning experience. The part I’ve been working on is about Diego, former robotics engineer, who has returned to his home planet (Nuevo Juarez) following his father’s death. When his little brother is murdered by the local cartel’s robots, life for Diego’s family changes drastically.

5. What do you want your tombstone to say?

I’m quite sarcastic so, if I could have my say, I’d want something memorable like “It’s dark in here.” Of course, I’d always be open to something along the lines of “Feel free to sit and read with me.”

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The Secrets I Carry” is currently available on Amazon.

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Friday Five: Vila Gingerich

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Vila Gingerich, author of children’s short stories, novels, and creative nonfiction/personal essays.

Vila Gingerich grew up in Mennonite communities across the Midwest. She spent seven years doing volunteer work in Romania and now lives on fifty acres in Missouri with her husband, cats, and an overgrown veggie garden. She was a winner of the 2014 Highlights for Children fiction contest and her work has been published in Highlights for Children and Purpose magazines. Vila teaches sixth through eighth grades in a private Mennonite school. She tells her students that everyone has a special talent, good books take you places, and sometimes it’s okay to add on your fingers.

Growing Toward the Sun follows Celeste, a ten-year-old wannabe detective whose giant imagination often gets her in trouble. When a thief targets her Mennonite community, her desire to solve the case clashes with the beliefs of her peace-loving people and with her promise to behave more responsibly.

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growing toward the sun cover1. Why do you write in the genre you listed above?

Growing up, I seldom got to read books about Plain kids like me. As an adult, I determined to do my part to change that for young Amish and Mennonite readers. Today I write for my old self, as well as for my nephews, nieces, and students. I know my audience but I also know their parents, and the guidelines they set for their child’s reading material. Somewhere along the way I realized I also want to reach readers outside my target audience, and I hope my coming-of-age tale will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

2. Thinking about the stuff you’ve written, who’s your favorite character and why?

Celeste is me so I love her, faults and all. I also love the real people I write about in my personal essays, especially the Romanians I learned to know during my time in their wonderful country.

3. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? How do you deal with this?

I’m awful at starting scenes much too early, meandering into the action at a snail’s speed. Since I am incapable of realizing this myself, I enlist the aid of honest, smart people to point it out to me.

4. If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Time travel. Duh. Victorian England. America before Europeans arrived. Egypt of the Pharaohs. Biblical Jerusalem. Incan civilizations.

5. What literary character are you most like and why?

I always wanted to be Jo March, but I’ve given up on that one. I’m not nearly tomboyish enough. So I’ll go with Emily of New Moon. Teacher, writer, reader, lover of cats, holder of grudges, lover of sunshine and shadows.

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Growing Toward the Sun is currently available through Amazon.

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Friday Five: CJ Anderson

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is CJ Anderson, author of young adult sci-fi/fantasy novels.

CJ Anderson is a teacher and author who has a slightly obsessed curiosity for the fantastical. When she isn’t assiduously performing these roles, switching back-and-forth whilst balanced precariously on the back of a Nimbus 2000, you can find her on alien worlds stalking hot demigods, nephilim, and elves from the cockpit of an X-wing. CJ and her husband, Superman, live northwest of District 12 with their superhero children and their cat-dragons.

Awakened, book 1 of her Gods and Guardians series, is non-stop action and romance with a syfy twist! Hair raising, skin prickling, and explainable is the only way to describe the connection Alaya and Dru experience when they first see each other. As Alayna is drawn into Dru’s world, she learns of the Guardians—others like her who have special abilities, whose genetics can be traced back to the Gods. . .except both the Gods and the Guardians are actually extraterrestrials, and . . . THEY AREN’T THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE FOUND THEIR WAY TO EARTH. “Aliens? Yep, they exist. LOTS of them. Bad ones, good ones … I’ve now seen two bad ones up-close-and-personal; and as for the good ones, well, I’ve met three. No, wait – FOUR, if you count me, because I.AM.PART.FRAKKING.ALIEN!”

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CJ Anderson1. What genre do you currently read most and why?

I mostly read YA science fiction and fantasy. I love the not-everyday-life situations in this genre and the thought provoking concepts and possibilities that pop-up in these books. The books I read usually have a strong character as well and the plot is character driven. I’ve always found it easier to relate to characters in books than to real people. So, I suppose that in a way, I like reading these books because I get to hang out with my “best friends.”

2. Where do your inspiration and ideas for your stories come from?

I’ll just be going about my day and all of the sudden a “what if” question or idea will pop into my head. I also teach at the elementary level and often times my students will share their “what if” ideas. I don’t remember exactly when this particular insight occurred, but it was a merger of “what if instead of ‘science fiction becomes reality’, it is ‘reality becomes science fiction?’” I was teaching Greek Mythology at the time and I shared this idea with one of my 5th grade classes. This led to a whole conversation about the TV show “Ancient Aliens” currently on H2, which I had not yet seen. I started watching the series and my plot grew from there.

3. What are some of your favorite words and why?

nyctophilia – (n.) love of darkness or night. Finding relaxation or comfort in the darkness.

I’ve always been a night owl and when I discovered the word nyctophilia I though, wow, that’s totally me!

collywobbles – (n.) butterflies in stomach.

I mean, this one is just fun to say!

4. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever researched for your works or biggest/most out-of-the-ordinary thing you’ve done while researching?

Well … I do write SciFi so I’ve researched some very bizarre things. To me, they are ordinary because I think about these types of things all the time, but I did feel a bit awkward researching Zero Point Energy (ZPE) and weapons. I mean, you never know who is out there watching your Google searches, and if they don’t know I’m an author …

5. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why? What was the best thing about that job and why?

Years and years ago I worked in a warehouse where returns were delivered from all the Walmart locations across the U.S. Being a creative, this was torture for me. Not to mention, much of the stuff was just thrown out. Not recycled, not repurposed, not sent back to the vendor. Because it was cheaper than any other option, perfectly good merchandise, trashed! if you were like 5 seconds late or had to leave for an emergency it was treated as like the worst thing in the world by management. One night, a lady who had been working in my department was having chest pains and was made to believe if she left for the hospital she would be fired. So, she stayed. When I came in to work the next afternoon, we all found out she had died! That was the absolute worst. The best thing about this job was the bull shit, (and I’ve had other similar jobs – but this was the worst). In all cases, the bull shit is what motivated me to keep trudging through life until I met my goals, first becoming a teacher and later a writer. Without all the BS I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I want to encourage my students and readers to think for themselves, to question everything, and above all things, always do the right thing EVEN if it breaks a rule!

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Awakened is currently available through Amazon.

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Friday Five: Bartenn Mills

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Bartenn Mills, author of cozy thriller and mystery short stories and novels.

Bartenn Mills was born and raised in the upper Mid-west but after moving north, south, east and west she settled in a small Iowa town where she raised a family without bloodshed and currently works full-time at a respectable job, certainly nothing that would suggest a life of fictional crime. Along the way she gathered a few contest awards and published several short stories and poems. Her debut novel, Bishop to Queen’s Knight, was closely followed by Bishop Bewitched. Her most recent novel, Vanilla Lies, is set in 1985 when computers were young and murder wasn’t so innocent. In the wee hours of the morning you can find her solving imaginary murders.

There are too many men in Jane Vanilla’s life —
One wants her love.
One wants her money.
One wants her dead.

Jane unwittingly has the only copy of a tell-all memoir. Everyone who’s read the book has died. As the circle of corpses close in on her, Jane needs to get her head out of the clouds before her feet get planted six feet underground.

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BartennMills1. What literary character are you most like and why?

Probably Pollyanna, as I always see a silver lining.

2. What are three things on your bucket list?

My bucket list is pretty complete. I try not to let the things I want to do get pushed into a tomorrow that may never come. But if my family was to pick three things I would like to do they would be go to Disney, go to Disney, go to Disney, even though I’ve been several times.

3. What’s your current writing project and what are your writing plans for the near future?

Currently I am working on Bishop’s Ghost, the third book in the Garfield Falls series, where Detective Bishop solves his first case. I’ve had several short stories accepted into anthologies and I would like to make them available as a single collection.

4. Why should people read YOUR stuff? Who’s your target audience and why?

If you like a fast thrilling story that doesn’t forget to develop the characters I think that you’ll enjoy my books. If you know who Cannon, Kojak and Magnum PI are you are my target audience.

5. How much of your published writing is based on personal experiences?

Everything and nothing. I’ve never killed anyone, I don’t know any police officers. I have met a witch. But I can relate to many of the emotions that my characters go through — love, hate, fear, longing.

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Vanilla Lies is currently available through Amazon.

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Friday Five: Shakyra Dunn

friday fiveToday’s Friday Five focus is Shakyra Dunn, author of fantasy and young adult short stories, novellas, and novels.

Shakyra Dunn can’t stray away from the impression that there is always an adventure around every corner! When she isn’t playing the role of the Creator, she is marching through the worlds of her favorite video game characters or taking drives around her city to see the sights. Born in Chicago, Illinois, she currently resides in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, striving to experience more than the little town.

In her latest, First Words: Final Lesson, a recently-crowned princess with a thirst for magic accidentally destroys her home. A simple youthful rebellion grows into a lifelong friendship. A young woman meets reliable allies. And a young boy is dealt a harsh hand when he sets out to make his own path. Four tales, four parties, all intertwined to set the stage for a bigger event. The sense of adventure builds as lessons prepare to be learned, building the bridge for their first words to be spoken.

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ShakyraDunn1. Why do you write in the genres you listed above?

Fantasy has been my own personal reality for as long as I can remember. I grew up playing a lot of story-driven video games as well as reading many books in the genre, and it weaseled its own way into my life from the moment I held a controller.

Fantasy opens so many different opportunities for crafting your own private world, and it unleashes so many possibilities. I couldn’t see myself becoming ensnared in any other genre as wholesomely as I stuck myself into this one. As for young adult, I like to show the darker side of growing up, discovering yourself, your potentials, and it blends well into different universes from the one that we know!

2. If you could pick just one book to read for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Just one? Oh wow, um, I may have to say right now, “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Can’t go wrong with Hunter S. Thompson.

3. What do you want your readers to take away from your works?

I want them to be inspired to follow their dreams. I’ve had a rather troubling past myself, and stepping into the field of writing was one of the most stressful and amazing things that I could have ever done for myself. My characters share their experiences with others, and they continue pushing forward to reach their goals.

It’s never bad to keep reaching.

4. What do you want your tombstone to say?

Ooh! This is a REALLY good one!

“Beyond the grave, magic will always flow. Keep your eyes open for pixie dust and wisps of wonder.”

5. What is the most important thing that people DON’T know about your subject/genre, that you think they need to know?

Just because it’s fantasy doesn’t meant that you need to go insane with the possibilities. Have rules in your world. Know your limitations. Make sure that your CHARACTERS have limitations, or they’re going to be perfect, and perfect is boring.

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First Words: Final Lesson is currently available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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