interview

Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Stephan von Clinkerhoffen

The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham, by Stephan von Clinkerhoffen, won Gold for Best High School Series in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! Stig’s Flight of Encounters, one of the books in the series, also received Gold in the middle school general category.

Congratulations on your achievements! When did you first start writing?

It’s a bit of a long story.

We were quite happily living in Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand, when I began writing.  About seven years ago Christchurch was hit by two massive earth quakes which destroyed our city and many thousands of homes. Surrounded by so much hurt and destruction I found it almost impossible to carry on my job as an artist painting beautiful landscapes.

I Googled “volunteering Christchurch” and soon found myself volunteering full time, first for the Civil Defence then for the NZ Red Cross. Assessing the worst hit areas and helping those most in need.

But the artist in me needed an outlet so I started to paint large images of a fantasyland with a few sentences describing each one in a short story, kids loved it. Then the stories grew and in no time at all I had started to write my first book Stig’s Flight of Encounters.  The title of the series comes from the twin cities of my home town Cheltenham in the United Kingdom and an imaginary city Drah-ham hence The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham. I found I could draw on the experiences that surrounded me; the poor living on a fractured land struggling to survive, and use it in the story of a young lad from a city of riches beyond belief where money was worthless. So the story developed book by book, painting by painting.

What’s the target age group for your books?

My series, The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham, is in three volumes. When I started to write the first book I was targeting 12 years and upwards but with each new book the age group has matured as have Stig and Meg, my main characters. Many of my readers are adults of fifty plus who like escapism and to take a break from reality. Can I call “young at heart” an age group?

Chess’s ed. note: Young at heart is a most acceptable age group, in my humble opinion.

What inspired your award-winning books?

When I was about nine or ten years old I remember being inspired by a teacher.  He told me to follow my passion, and helped me a lot with my art which I loved more than anything else. He also enabled me to win an award at an art exhibition. I still have the prize, a dinosaur book. He is now a main character in my book, War of Chaos, playing a “Guard of Old”. My art and my writing feed from each other so I’m glad of his encouragement all those years ago.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

The main character in the book series is Stig who is a “Reluctant Hero”. I also describe him with an old word from the 16th century: “Younker” denoting a young nobleman. I love that word.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

This is something I would like to do in the future. Can I put it on the bucket list?

Chess’s ed note: Yes, absolutely!

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

I think that someone like Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), but in his younger days, would be good as the main character.

Do you illustrate your own books?

Yes, I do all of my own illustrations, to me it’s a major part of my writing, because all of my wildest machines start on a sketch pad, to make sure that they are plausible, and potentially could work. I was in engineering, prior to my career in art and then writing, and because of this I don’t have magic in my books. I like everything to work as it should or could do, even if it is from another planet. I find this inventing of new mechanical wonders very exciting.

I always find myself looking at new machines and studying their mechanisms.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

I never read much at all, for several reasons, I like to be creative all the time, so I would rather be writing a book than reading one. Also, I would not want to plagiarise another author’s work so hopefully I will have a writing style of my own.

But that’s not to say I don’t hear of other authors or appreciate the work taken to write a book. I do love to watch a good sci-fi fantasy movie like Harry Potter, love that sort of thing.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I do like to put onomatopoeic words in italics. It seems to bring the sound of the word you are reading into the imaginative world of what you are seeing, in your mind’s eye. Early on my editors were in two minds about it, but now as it has progressed they have applauded it, many of my adult readers like it too.

There are a few images of my paintings in my books and at times my writing is an expression of these paintings in words.

I paint to music, but I write in silence.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Thank God I have a wife (Sally) who is very computer literate, she was also a sales person for quite a while. She has more experience at marketing etc. which I loathe. We know we need to do more promotions.

Sally is also my first port of call for editing, prior to professional editors, and helps with all those rewrites.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To all CLC winners I would like to say a big “Well Done!”

“Hats Off To You”, I know how hard and costly it’s been to get to this stage, so let’s all look to a bright future as authors, and as the ending of my first book says “My your beliefs travel with you wherever you are”.

Author Bio

Award winning author Stephan von Clinkerhoffen grew up close to the English Cotswolds, surrounded by nature and the region’s rich history. An engineer for twenty-five years, he spent ten years in the British aerospace industry.

Clinkerhoffen’s career influenced many of the inventions found in the Chelldrah-ham series, as did his time in New Zealand, where he served as a humanitarian volunteer in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.

An artist for the last thirty years, Clinkerhoffen has returned to England, where he rediscovered his love of local history—a love that permeates Belas Rift.

He has received praise and numerous awards for his writing from Literary Classics Book Awards, Kirkus Reviews, Readers’ Favorite, and ForeWord Clarion.

Follow Stephan von Clinkerhoffen and his writing on Twitter, Facebook, Goodeads, YouTube, Amazon, and his website.

Award-Winning Books

Stig’s Flight of Encounters

Stig is eager to test out his Spiral Drive, a power unit built for his clockwork plane. He’s so eager that he ignores his fellow inventor’s words of warning. It’s a decision that changes his life and tests whether he has enough fortitude and skill to survive.

Stephan von Clinkerhoffen’s City of Chelldrah-ham: Stig’s Flight of Encounters takes readers on a journey to Chelldrah-ham, the city of riches Stig calls home. They travel with him to strange and beautiful lands as his test flight goes astray and crashes into a wooden pod.

Stig’s trip back home isn’t going to be that easy. Soon he discovers bat-like creatures called the Bach that threaten the pod’s homeland. He escapes the encounter but will have plenty more to face.

Stig must rely on what he finds in nature and the help of new friends like Meg, whom he meets on his trek. He’s got his clockwork skills and a map that his father gave him. But is that enough to help him get back home?

War of Chaos

Stig and his friends Arn and Baits head out of the city of Chelldrah-ham on a mission to Polandrea. Their task is to determine whether the battling Bach creatures still pose a threat.

Stig has his own plans to find and rescue his missing friend Meg in Polandrea. Baits, meanwhile, is tasked as a member of the Guard of Old to search for signs of their absent leader, Lillet. Little do they know the danger that awaits them.

Chelldrah-ham prepares for war when the trio finds evidence of recent battles, and Baits learns Lillet’s fate. Stig and his comrades must confront the Bach and learn their mysterious secret if he hopes to rescue Meg.

Stig, Arn, and Baits must rely on their inventions, each other, and their own ingenuity to survive on a harrowing journey through a magical fantasyland fraught with hidden dangers.

Mystical creatures, secret weapons, action, war, and romance—along with author’s own fantastical artwork—await in The Hidden City of Chelldrah-Ham: War of Chaos.

Belas Rift

After the ferocious battle in War of Chaos, Stig and Meg pursue the evil Anet through a swirling interdimensional rift—and straight into new trouble.

On the other side of this portal, the two Manna find themselves in a world of giants and strange, ominous technology—a world that seems as obsessed with greed and gold as Anet herself. They’ve pursued their enemy to her homeland, a country known as England.

Alone and hunted by a terrifying flying machine, Stig and Meg find allies in the unlikeliest places, and they come to realize other Manna have made this trip between worlds before.

When their frantic search leads them to a golden temple hidden deep beneath the earth, Stig learns that fate ties him to this mysterious shrine. Unfortunately, the two Manna have bigger things to worry about. Anet knows Stig and Meg are in England, and she’s using all her resources to hunt them down. Stig’s ability to devise disastrous plans isn’t helping matters, but the Manna can’t afford to give up now. Anet is breeding new creatures to unleash on Chelldrah-ham, and it’s starting to look as if the Manna simply can’t stop her this time.

“Each of the three books in this magical collection are full of wonder and imagination with delightfully multi-faceted characters and a plot which keeps readers enthralled throughout this dynamic series. With a background in engineering and art, author Stephan von Clinkerhoffen lends a unique perspective to this enchanting series which he both wrote and illustrated.” Literary Classics Book Awards

In addition to the above-linked titles, a color edition of Belas Rift is available for purchase on Amazon.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Lynne Stringer

Stringer’s novel, Once Confronted, won Silver in College Fiction in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! Learn more about this author and her award-winning book below.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

I started writing when I was about eight, penning a little book called Goldie the Pony. It was written in felt-tip pen and I remember loving the experience of writing a book. I tried to write a few novels in my teens but didn’t manage to complete a full-length manuscript until I was in my twenties. Interestingly, the book that became Once Confronted was the third full-length original story I ever wrote.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Seventeen years and up, although I think teens of any age would enjoy it and I know many adults have!

What inspired your award-winning book?

Once Confronted was first written seven years after I was the victim of an armed robbery. I’d been exploring the storyline in my head for some time, and I think it came from the desire to be more like my protagonist, Madison Craig. She’s far braver than me and I wished I had that kind of bravery myself.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

Be the change that you wish to see in the world.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?

I’d like to but considering the level of quality I’d want I daresay I wouldn’t be able to afford it!

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Emilie de Ravin, especially since she’s Australian. She wouldn’t have trouble with the accent. 🙂

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

Enid Blyton inspired me to write as a child. I’ve also loved LM Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Veronica Rossi and Stephenie Meyer.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I differ from many other authors in the fact that I hate writing outlines and refuse to use them. The only outline I have is in my head and often the characters take control once I start writing.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

It’s hard to find a balance, that’s for sure, especially since I need to have a job that earns money and writing doesn’t often do that! Fortunately, I work as a professional editor so that keeps my writing skills honed.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

Never give up.

Author Bio

Lynne Stringer has been passionate about writing all her life. She was the editor of a small newspaper (later magazine) for seven years, and currently works as a professional editor and proofreader.

Lynne wrote her debut novel, The Heir (Verindon #1), in 2010. It was quickly followed by two sequels to complete the Verindon trilogy, a YA sci-fi romance series. Her latest book, Once Confronted, is a contemporary drama set in Australia and was released in October 2016.

For more information on Lynne, her books and her writing, visit her website: www.lynnestringer.com. You can also connect with her on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, YouTube, and Pinterest.

Award-Winning Book

After a normal day turns disastrous, Madison Craig tries to put her life back together. She’s jumping at shadows and finds even familiar places terrifying. Can she forgive the men who hurt her? Her friend Evan Mansfield sees no need to do anything but hate their assailants. He struggles with bitterness, but Maddy wants to move on. What will she do when one of the men asks for forgiveness?

“Once Confronted is a moving story that sheds light on the trauma experienced by victims of assault.  Author Lynne Stringer has crafted a powerful book with an important message of healing and forgiveness.” Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, S.A. Larsen

S.A. Larsen is the author of Motley Education, the Gold medal winner in the Juvenile/Grade School category of the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

I began writing little poems and songs during my elementary and middle grade school years. That morphed into darker pieces during my high school years when I was figuring out where I fit into the worldor if I fit in at all. (My teenage therapy.) Plus, I’ve written my daily thoughts in a journal for most of my life.

What’s the target age group for your book?

Motley’s target audience is ages 8-13.

What inspired your award-winning book?

My youngest child was born with Apraxia of Speech—a neurological disorder where no pathways from the brain to the mouth muscles exist. (*Basically, CJ had plenty to say, but was unable to speak. Because of that he gained an endearing love of puzzles and books, in particular mythology. We’d read and explore those for hours. He began speech therapy at the age of 22 months. Today, he’s a thriving thirteen year old, who excels in athletics and school, which I attribute to his disciplined years of speech therapy.) So from that background information, I knew I had to include all the Norse myths and history CJ had introduced me to. And my main character Ebony is a kid who is misunderstood because she’s different, yet determined to be who she is. That’s CJ, and in there lies my inspiration.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

“The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without.” (Elbert Hubbard) This is for Ebony Charmed, Motley’s main character and misfit medium. Her favorite place to ‘hang out’ is The Boneyard, which is a cemetery on the other side of a woodlot between her house and Motley Junior High School.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?

An audio version of Motley is currently in the works by my publisher, Leap Books.

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

I’d probably go with Anna Sophia Robb (from Bridge to Terabithia & Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) in her younger years.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

She’s not a children’s author, but Jane Austen is my absolute favorite and biggest influence. Her ability to knit a story together with such complexity, yet so much flow and emotion fascinates me. Children’s authors that I consider my favorites are LJ Smith, Melissa Marr, Dr. Seuss, Cornelia Funke, Meg Cabot, and Rick Riordan.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I like to write to the sound of the rain or earth tones. Kind of weird, but it works for me.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

I wish I had a better answer for you, but learning to balance it all is still a work in progress for me. I can say that I have found taking time to step back and breathe is vital to keeping it all together. Live, experience, allow for a little crazy, and then return to work. Spreadsheets, calendar lists, and sticky notes are pretty helpful, too.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To my fellow award-winning authors I’d like to offer a huge round of applause. I’m still in awe that I’ve been included with such an amazingly talented group of writers. And to my readers I’d like to offer up a huge Gouda Cheese thank you, as Ebony Charmed would say. I’m honored you’ve chosen to peek into Ebony and Fleishman’s world of ghosts, Norse beasts, a peculiar school, and of course The Boneyard. I hope you’re looking forward to book II as much as I am! And wait until you see it … think Sleeping Beauty, Sleepy Hollow, and crows. Lots and lots of menacing crows.

Author Bio

As a little girl, S.A. Larsen believed her closet held secret passageways to magical worlds brimming with all sorts of creepy creatures – her favorite kind. Sheri never did find a ghoul or a goblin in her closet, only a half-eaten fluffernutter that her brother repurposed as a hockey puck. Her debut novel Motley Education (Leap Books) is a multiple award-winning, fantasy-adventure for middle grade readers; this is the first book in the series. She’s written young adult stories, community interest newspaper pieces, youth athlete magazine articles, and Marked Beauty her debut YA contemporary-fantasy romance novel, releasing October 17, 2017 (Ellysian Press). She’s also a @MixedUpFiles contributor, #MGLitchat co-host, and writing mentor for First Five Pages under Adventures in YA Publishing. When she’s not chasing her characters around a cemetery or antagonizing them with the wonders of young love, she can be found in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children (yes, they all play hockey), a playful pooch, and three kittens.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website | Blog | Goodreads | AmazonAuthorPage

Award-Winning Book

Forget having a lively after school social life, Ebony Charmed is fighting to keep the entire afterlife alive.

Ebony’s less-than-average spirit tracking abilities are ruining more than sixth grade at Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted. Her parents argue so much her dad’s moved out. And, even though he’s scared of his own shadow and insists on bringing his slimy, legless lizard everywhere they go, Ebony wouldn’t survive without her best friend, Fleishman.

When Ebony’s Deadly Creatures & Relics’ project goes missing she learns her missing project is one of the keys to saving the spirit world.

Now Ebony and Fleishman must battle beasts from Norse mythology to retrieve her project before spirits are lost, the Well of Urd dries up, and Ebony loses all hope of reuniting her family. But someone lies in wait, and he has other plans…including creating a new world of spirits without them in it.

In addition to Literary Classics Gold, Motley Education has received the following awards:

First Place Winner, 2016 New England Book Festival for excellence in Children’s Literature

Bronze Award Winner, 2017 Feathered Quill Book Awards for Best Juvenile/YA Fiction

Honorable Mention, 2017 Purple Dragonfly Awards; ebook

“Full of thrilling twists and an intense battle between good and evil, this fast-paced tale, replete with magical beasts and lovable characters is a must read for young fans of paranormal fiction.” Literary Classics Book Awards

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I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I have!

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Jacqui Letran

Jacqui Letran is the author of 5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness!the Gold winner in the Young Adult Self-Help category of the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

Thank you so much! It is truly an honor to be recognized by such a reputable company as Children Literary Classics. I started writing professionally in 2014.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Although the content in my book applies to anyone, whether young or old, I wrote this book specifically for readers aged from 12 to their early 20’s. While writing, I imagine my readers reading the book in hope of discovering ways to let go of their emotional burdens, feel good about themselves, and trying to create better, more connected relationships. I wanted readers to be able to apply the content they are learning immediately so I wrote it in an easy to understand style, and included exercises through out the book to help readers work out some of their own concerns. I hope my books help readers gain insights, feel more in control of their feelings, and have the courage to let go of their pain and choose happiness instead.

What inspired your award-winning book?

I never entertained the idea of being an author until my clients kept requesting that I share my work in writing. I am blessed to have a private practice helping people take control of their lives by taking control of their thoughts and feelings.  I believe in helping people overcome their problems and giving them the tools to be their own source of strength and power. So with each client, I would teach them about their mind and how to take control of it to create the happiness and successes they deserve.  I provide a lot of new information to digest so my clients would ask for a written summary.  After repeatedly hearing this request, the most logical thing to do was write a book.  As the book evolved, I became more excited. I realized how important books were to me when I was a teen in need of help, and here was my chance to pay it forward.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

This is not about one of the characters in my book, but about the book itself.

“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Buddha

I know it’s a bit dramatic, but when you think about it that way, it becomes silly to hang onto anger or other toxic emotions, when you can choose happiness instead.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

5 Simple Questions to Reclaim Your Happiness! is the first of three books in the “Words of Wisdom for Teens” series. It is not available as an audio book yet, but that is in the works.  The second book in the series, I would, but my DAMN MIND won’t let me! won Literary Classics’ Top Honor Award for Young Adult Non-Fiction as well as a Gold Medal in 2016.  This book is available in eBook, paperback, and audio.

Who would you cast as the voice actor to narrate your book? 

If I could cast anyone to narrate my book, I would choose Emma Watson.  She is a beautiful, strong, and talented young woman with a lovely voice.  I admire her acting, and her activism for gender equality.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I’m not sure if this is a quirk, but I have to write my books by hand.  I discovered early in my writing attempts that if I typed my book, I would spend too much time editing as I wrote, instead of just allowing the concept to flow freely into form. By writing it out by hand, my ideas are able to flow freely and the process is much more enjoyable.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Book promotion is a must if you want to have success as a writer.  I schedule time for interviews, workshops, and other book promotion activities just as I would schedule time to see clients or work on other aspects of my business.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To my readers, even though it might not feel like it at times, the struggles you’re currently going through will pass.  You are stronger than you know and you have everything within you to overcome your challenges and become an even stronger person.  Believe in yourself.  Be true to yourself.  You deserve a happy, successful life.

To my fellow award-winning authors, it is such an honor to be among a group of truly talented writers.

Author Bio

Jacqui Letran is a Multi-Award Winning Author, International Speaker, Nurse Practitioner, and Founder of Teen Confidence Academy and Healing Minds. She is passionate about her commitment to guiding her clients to achieve remarkable success in their academic, personal, and professional lives. Through private sessions, group workshops, and keynote engagements, Jacqui teaches that success and happiness are achievable by all, regardless of current struggles and circumstances. A gifted and energetic leader, Jacqui dedicates her life’s work to helping her clients and students transform into happy, confident, and successful people.

She is also the winner of the:
2017 Literary Classics’ Gold Medal for Young Adult Self-Help Books
2016 Literary Classics’ Lumen Award for Literary Excellence
2016 Literary Classics’ Gold Medal for Youth Adult Non-Fiction
2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Award for Young Adult Non-Fiction

When not working with clients or writing, you can find her traveling in her RV, hiking with her dog or spoiling her three cats. She currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Connect with her on Facebook and on Instagram at Instagram.com/WOW4Teens and Instagram.com/MsLetran.

Award-Winning Book

Winner of the 2017 Literary Classics’ International Book Award’s Gold Medal for Best Young-Adult Self-Help book.

Are you tired of endless fights and misunderstandings between you and the people you care about? Do you feel like no matter what you say or do, you just can’t get anyone to understand you? Do you feel powerless, or as though it is easier hanging on to grudges and negativity than to continue struggling?

In this powerful book, Award-Winning Author and Teen Confidence Expert, Jacqui Letran, teaches you how to use five simple questions to transform your relationships from those filled with tension and frustration to those complete with trust and acceptance.

In this book, you will discover:

• How to identify your feelings
• How to understand why you feel as you do
• How to let go of your unwanted emotion
• How to create win-win situations, enhance and rebuild your relationships, and much more!

If you want to be in control of your feelings, and to let go of things easily, this book is for you. This compact guide is filled with simple tips and easy-to-follow techniques.

Get your copy today and get ready to reclaim your happiness and create amazing relationships for life!

“Valuable insight and unique perspectives allow readers to approach their concerns from a profound new angle in an effort to resolve issues and pave the way for a happier and more fulfilling life.” Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I have!

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Danielle A. Vann

Two of Vann’s novels won awards in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest! The Whizbang Machine, Book 1, won Silver in Preteen (11+), and Tunney’s Curse, Book 2, won Gold, also in Preteen.

Congratulations on your achievement! When did you first start writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a child—seriously! I was the kid that stayed up all night reading and writing. I started writing intensely in high school. I had an English teacher that pushed me to write more, be better, focus. She submitted one of my pieces to a contest called Wings of Freedom. It won and was displayed in the White House and then the later in the halls of Congress. It inspired me to keep writing. I selected journalism in college so that I could write daily. I knew that being an author was ultimately where I would finish my professional career. Roughly ten years ago I shifted my focus and started to write for the commercial market. Since then, I have five traditionally published books to my credit.

What’s the target age group for your books?

I’ve been very fortunate to not be stuck in a genre. I have two children’s picture books series, a non-fiction Christian book with friend and celebrity carpenter, Brandon Russell, and then the Young Adult series, The Whizbang Machine, book 1 and The Whizbang Machine, Tunney’s Curse, Book 2, that placed silver and gold in the CLC awards. I’m the mother of three children ranging in ages from 12 ½ to 5. I began to notice that my older daughters were struggling to find engaging, clean series for their age groups. I wrote The Whizbang series free of sexual content, extreme violence, etc. I wanted to give them a book they could read without being exposed to questionable behaviors. I too wanted it to be a series that children from ages 10 to college level could read as a part of classroom materials.

What inspired your award-winning books?

This is an easy one, and honestly something I like to refer to as serendipity.

One month before I was given the pleasure of signing my contract with the Waldorf Publishing team, my dear friend Erin snapped a photograph of an old Royal typewriter, seated in a beautiful tan and maroon case, which her family had been gifted. Knowing my affinity for antiques, especially those that deal with writing and literary works, she sent me a text one early Sunday morning with the words, “Look at what David’s father gave us.”

I hadn’t yet made my way out of bed as it was still very early. Hearing the familiar chime of my phone, I wondered who was texting me at that time. As the photo came through, with it came the idea for the first book. I sprang from bed and began outlining. Unbeknownst to Erin, that single photo became my muse. In honor of this gift, her oldest daughter became the basis for the character of Elizabeth Yale. The rest of the series has honestly taken on a life of its own. I write as it comes and once I start, it’s impossible to get the characters to stop finding their through my fingertips.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

Oh, I’m cringing but it’s true: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” HA!

Elizabeth Yale tries to get out of the drama, but well, sadly, she’s a drama magnet.

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your book(s)?

I’m very lucky to have had Audible buy into the rights for Book 1 and Book 2 very early in the game. In fact, they were sold before book 2 was nothing more than a single chapter. The Whizbang Machine is available on Audible.com and it is also can be purchased in physical copy through Audible, Barnes and Noble, Target, and other select retailers. We are hopeful that Audible will continue supporting the Whizbang series and buy into book 3 and 4 soon.

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Bailey Carr is my voice actor for book 1 and book 2. She is an INCREDIBLE! She has many award-winning books to her credit. Working with her is easy and pleasurable. The exciting part is both Whizbang books are full of Dutch words as they are set in Leiden, the Netherlands. She has been amazing to make sure she brings to the table all she can in the way of correct pronunciation and inflection. Truly, Bailey is a star in her own right.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

One of my favorite writers is Garth Stein. He is amazing. He brings a simplicity to the page that I would be so lucky to employ. I can’t help but marvel at his talent. My favorite book of his is called, The Art of Racing in the Rain. I loved the fact that they moved it over into YA and republished it. The minute they did I purchased a copy for my oldest daughter and forced her to read it. I’m happy to say she loved it as much I do and did.

Clearly, there are so many other masters of the craft such as J.K. Rowling. I love that she refuses to back down from long, somewhat complicated text and gives it her all. Readers, whether reluctant or not, are pulled into her spell. That, to me, is her true gift of magic.

Lastly, I’m a fan of Ridley Pearson. His Kingdom Keepers series is something I’ve read with my children. They eat up everything he writes. He, too, works to keep the scenes clean and accessible to the young and old. That is something we need more these days. I’m no prude, mind you, but I do believe in the magical time of childhood. There is plenty of time to muck it up later, both in life and in fiction.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

Actually no. I don’t think so. I am a straight from the book kind of girl. I work from a detailed outline. I stick to deadlines. I love quiet and no music while writing. If I am not feeling it, I walk away and come back. End of story. Kind of boring if you ask me. The scene is all the noise I need. Oh, I guess I do bounce my legs like I’m running a timed marathon when the action is happening. That’s quirky, I guess.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Oh boy, this is the million dollar questions, isn’t it?! Well, since I’m traditionally published the weight of promotion doesn’t fall directly on my shoulders. I have a wonderful team that backs what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I do a ton of my own. I write in the morning between 5 a.m. and roughly 10 a.m. every single day except for Sunday. I work for a publisher as the marketing specialist so I do my day job after that, and make sure I’m available to my family when and where they need me. That is, if I’m not traveling. However, they have been very lucky to travel with me as well.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

Absolutely! To the readers, thank you! I truly know that without someone to read my work what I do is meaningless. Truly, it is. I am always thrilled to hear from readers. I love it when they attend my events and speak about different scenes or even about the impact one of my books had on them. That truly is amazing to me. Oftentimes I feel that they know my work better than I know it! And for that, I’m so grateful. I welcome anyone to reach out through my social media sites and open a productive and positive conversation.

To my fellow award-winning authors, CONGRATS! Congrats! I recently was in Paris at another awards ceremony and while I was speaking I was able to say something that I truly believe in. And that is, writing is the intersection of determination and passion. I didn’t say talent and luck. I said determination and passion. Because, you see, I believe that once you have placed your intention and goals on what you love, passion sparks talent and luck is nothing but hard work in the making.

Author Bio and Award-Winning Books

Danielle A. Vann started her career as a television news writer at the tender age of 18. With a passion for writing Vann committed to learning every aspect of the newsroom as she worked her way up to reporter and anchor within two short years. After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma she took an anchor position in Louisiana. Her career as a reporter and anchor earned her an Associate Press Award. Her book genres span a wide-range from children’s books with two highly reviewed series, award-winning YA fiction, and five star non-fiction title. Danielle lives in Texas with her husband and three children.

Connect with Vann on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.

After years of running from his tragic past, Jack Yale books a flight home. With him is a typewriter that is intended to be a gift for his granddaughter, Elizabeth. The minute Elizabeth’s fingers cradle the large black and cream keys the machine responses: popping, sizzling, and roaring to life with a Whiz-Whiz-BANG!

Elizabeth quickly discovers the typewriter has powers beyond anything she has ever seen. The more she types, the more the machine spells out guarded secrets. Each secret leads them deeper into a haunted past. Each secret must be revealed in order to set history straight and remove a curse that has been on their family for centuries.

To solve the mystery, Elizabeth Yale, alongside Jack, will have to crack the code of the Whizbang Machine. What they find challenges their most basic assumptions of their family, the history of the typewriter, and even Elizabeth’s father’s death. The ultimate goal is to remove the curse. The question is: will Jack and Elizabeth be able to carry out their mission?

“The Whizbang Machine is an incredibly suspenseful book which will have readers of all ages eagerly turning pages with enthusiasm as they wait to see what will become of Elizabeth and her eccentric grandfather, Jack.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Amazon ~ Target ~ Barnes&Noble

“The Whizbang Machine, Tunney’s Curse” finds Elizabeth Yale clinging to life. Her plan to save the Whizbang machine has backfired. As her grandfather, Jack, feverishly works to save her, the Whizbang factory begins to topple down around them. Narrowly escaping, the pair realizes the Whizbang machine is missing. Jack and Elizabeth must follow the clues Elizabeth’s deceased father, Jesse, left behind to unravel the secrets of Tunney’s Curse and stop it once and for all. This must be done before Elizabeth’s mother’s 40th birthday—which is mere days away. As they dig, they are sent on a wild chase into the dark underbelly of the Netherlands, into the city’s canals looking for a sunken ship, and through the private chambers of a Queen. Each new secret exposed only deepens the mystery of Jack and Elizabeth’s family’s past. The ultimate questions remain: will they gather the clues and stop the curse in time? Or will someone fall to the curse once and for all?

“Recommended for home and school libraries, The Whizbang Machine: Tunney’s Curse is a dynamic fantasy adventure with mystery, action, suspense and intrigue.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Amazon ~ Target ~ Barnes&Noble

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

TALKBOOKS INTERVIEW WITH BETTY AUCHARD

What are people saying about Betty Auchard’s Dancing in My Nightgown?

“Auchard simplifies and normalizes the process of a new life transition.” ~ Jewel Sample, award-winning author of Flying Hugs and Kisses

 “The quality is excellent; her (audio) delivery is soothing. The story of transformation is exciting and compelling.” ~ David LaRoche, former South Bay Writers President

This April, both TalkBooks and Betty had a lot more to say about her book, Dancing in My Nightgown: The Rhythms of Widowhood, and writing in general. Read on to learn how this author’s “talking on paper” became awarding-winning reading material.

IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award) Finalist!

Married when she was barely 19, Betty Auchard went straight from her parent’s home to her husband’s bed. She raised four children, returned to college, taught art in public school, and became a grandmother, published artist, a retiree and then a widow.

When she loses her husband of 49 years, widowhood forces Betty to find out what she can do on her own. She has a lot to learn. Facing her new responsibilities she makes all kinds of mistakes. These short, upbeat, inspiring stories tell how this spunky woman got through widowhood—she decides to dance instead of sitting on the sidelines.

Betty laughs and cries her way through grief and, ultimately, comes to see her situation as normal. Through it all, Betty lands on her feet ready for whatever comes next. The last page doesn’t feel like and ending, because really, it’s just the beginning.

Q&A FROM BETTY’S LIVE INTERVIEW

How did you choose which tales to include in the memoir?

I started writing short notes to myself on scraps of paper the day after Denny died. Nothing seemed real and I didn’t want to forget what it was like. The notes became paragraphs and then turned into stories about my new life as a widow. I was so addicted to writing about every experience that I had to create an ongoing list for new stories that would one day be a reminder of how far I had come. Not until I joined a grief support group sponsored by Hospice did I find out that writing had become my tool for healing. I used to be afraid of widows—I didn’t know what to say to them. Now I know they need someone to listen as they repeat everything that happened over and over again. Only then does it feel real. I’ve learned a lot about grief recovery, and my heart aches for others who have lost a partner. (more…)

TALKBOOKS INTERVIEW WITH DAVID F. SNIDER

A warm welcome to SBW TalkBooks’ author of the month for March 2016, David F. Snider. The group read and interviewed him about his sci-fi novel, Stars in the Deep: Destiny, at its live author event. Continue reading to learn more about David and his writing, as well as what he thinks makes for a good story.

David Snider Stars in the Deep DestinyBook Description

When the NAVCOM Computer takes the ECS Destiny irretrievably off course, the crew and colonists on board must find an alternative world to colonize. In order to save the one way mission from catastrophic failure they must overcome various obstacles from within and without. Woven into the story are themes of love, hope, forgiveness and restoration, human spirituality and its potential parallels.

What inspired you to write a story about colonizing humans in space?

As a kid I was a crazy sci-fi nut. I remember taking a road trip in Christmas of 2009 and thinking about all different kinds of ideas. This one caught me. I’d tried several times to write and couldn’t get it off the ground; this one I couldn’t put down.

Space colonization has always been an area of interest for me. It is something we, as a race, must accomplish, if for no other reason than to ‘see what’s out there.’ I have another possible story arc which I may revive that explores colonization from different angles.

The beginnings of the idea for Stars in the Deep: Destiny started with the question: what if we had a society that developed under the ocean—a colonization of a water city? But the story took on a life of its own, with a ship the size of a cruise liner with 2,500 on board, including the crew.

Who are your favorite sci-fi authors and influences?

To name a few: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Andre (Alice) Norton, Piers Anthony, and Frank Herbert. I like books that are very much about world-building. Personally, I like to write larger works rather than shorts.

How did you go about producing and publishing Stars in the Deep? Was the MS submitted to agents?

The production process was long and arduous. I started writing the book in 2009. I finished the long process of writing and rewriting in 2012, but I never thought I’d have so much trouble getting it looked at. After a year of trite replies of “sorry, we aren’t looking for this kind of thing right now…” from countless agents (claiming to do science fiction), I decided to try self-publishing.

In 2013, I released the first edition through CreateSpace under my own label, Starhome Books. It wasn’t a bad first try, but it lacked a good copy edit. Xlibris, a member of the Author Solutions organization, released the second edition. The book benefited from a reasonably decent copy edit, and the original cover art was tweaked a little. The new edition also includes a glossary, which I felt was quite necessary.

How did you invent a language based upon Sanskrit for your group of native inhabitants in your book?

Sanskrit is an ancient language that used to be a common, everyday language back in India, and which was used for early religious writings. I wanted to create something that seemed alien with an element of believability taken from history, which I believe gives a sense of familiarity. Sanskrit is mostly academic at this point. Online, I found a Sanskrit and Tamil to English dictionary, and I took the words I wanted for names that reflected the characters’ occupations, as well as ordinals and months.

Was it difficult for you to create a bad character?

It was hard putting myself in that role. I feel like I need to identify with the characters, and I feel sorry for my villains—like I’ve treated them badly. I even turned one of my villains around. The philosophical stuff that crept into the story wasn’t predetermined; but I found it sort of worked and figured out how it fit into the story.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I first started reading seriously in the fourth grade. Science fiction caught me, and I didn’t stop reading from then on. I’ve wanted to write since I was married. I’m a musician who plays piano and organ (anything with keyboard attached), and I went to school, graduating with a BA in music and a BA in ministry. My college professors suggested that I write, but I didn’t feel I had the time.

When do you write?

I’m a VTA driver, and back in the day I could type during breaks. But they’ve changed the rules since then. So, I find time when I’m not working. The writing’s been on pause for a few months.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Writing is kind of new for me. I also enjoy music and woodwork.

What does your family think of your writing?

I had a habit of reading to my five children, who got to hear the book in progress. My wife also heard the whole thing and thought it would make a good graphic novel.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

I was surprised that sitting down and writing a story could absorb you so much. I created characters as I went along, and they grew on me.

This is the first book of a series. When will the next one come out?

I’m writing book 2 now, and there’s no anticipated release date. The characters decided the book should be different. I’m also looking for more beta readers. I hope to have Shining One out by year’s end.

What’s your writing process?

I have another story that I tried to write using the traditional outlining process. But I found that, for me it flows better and I have more fun freewriting to create all the characters.

What do you think makes a good story?

I need to like the characters; and I like a blend of action and thought provoking talk. I don’t like books where there’s action and nothing else. The story needs to feel like it could be real.

Author Bio

I am, after all, somewhat the normal average kind of person, though a few might beg to differ.  I was born and raised in San Jose, California, USA.  For those unfamiliar with California geography, San Jose is situated in Santa Clara County at the very bottom end of the San Francisco Bay. I attended Elementary, Middle and High school, all within moderately lengthy walking distance of each other. After High school, I moved to Santa Cruz, California for a couple of years to attend College.  There, I made a number of very good friends. One of those friendships became so close it became a strong union which has lasted 35 years and counting.  She and I are the proud parents of 5 children, all adults now.  We are also proud grandparents of one young lad of 2.

The greatest love in my life, next to my God and my Wife, ​​is Music.  I began piano at about 5 years old, switched to the accordion at the age of 6.  I mastered the accordion by late High School and studied music in college, where I earned a Bachelors for my troubles. So, I play, sing, read, write, arrange, and conduct music.  It has been the air I breathe for nearly my whole life.

Recently, I finally owned up to the fact that it is possible to be passionate about more than one gift.  I avoided the writing side of my skill set because of my full concentration on my music.  ​All the advice and urging of friends, family and professors I’ve had over the years went in one ear and ‘mostly’ out the other.  Then one day, with the echoes of all that urging rolling around in my head, I just decided.  Why not?  So, my computer and numerous spiral bound writing pads have become full of numerous story ideas in various stages of development.

Connect with David on:

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7157769.David_F_Snider

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/david.snider.528     

His website: HTTP://WWW.STARSINTHEDEEP-DESTINY.COM

Interview of Patty Fletcher

I have not yet read the work of today’s interviewee, but I’m inspired by her story. Patty Fletcher is the author of Campbell’s Rambles, a memoir about how she obtained her guide dog, Campbell. Learn more about this author’s writing and her international publication that features work by blind and sighted writers from around the world.

When did you first start writing?

I began to seriously write when I was in the sixth grade, and my parents bought me an electric typewriter for Christmas. I’d had a semester of typing by then because I attended the Tennessee School For the Blind and Physically Handicap in Nashville, TN at the time, and it was a required class. Their belief was this, “According to the sighted world at large you already have one strike against you, so your goal is to show them different any way you can.”

I sat right down upon opening the gift, put in a sheet of paper from the pack that had come with it, and began to compose a short story. My mother had made chocolate covered coconut balls for Christmas that year, and I began to munch on one as I thought, and soon I was typing away. When I finished there was a crazy funny fictional story about a coconut ball that had been sprayed with chemicals from the nearby Eastman Chemical Company and had grown to a large size, come to life and was beginning to take over the town.

I knew right then that writing was something I wanted to do. I’ve never looked back. I wrote short stories for extra credit in English Lit any time I could and was always the one asked to tell stories at all the camp out trips I went on, and simply love all things writing.

What is your primary genre?

Although my first ever type written short story was one of fiction, my primary genre is nonfiction. I love to write about what I do. I love to write of my life, and all the awesome, terrifying, wonderful, and sometimes horrifying things around me.

What do you hope to communicate to your readers?

I want to make the reader feel what I feel, and see the way I do.

When I write my goal is to take the reader straight in to my experience. I want them to laugh with me, cry with me and feel my anger fear, joy, and sorrow.

I want them to know what it is to truly be me. I want them to know blindness and mental illness does not have to always be a sad way of life but holds many awesome adventures. Yes, sometimes they’re frightening. Sometimes Campbell and I have the strangest calamities befall us, but we don’t sweat them too hard, and usually before they’re even over I’m already rolling a story round in my head and simply cannot wait to get back to my laptop to write it all down.

You also have a magazine called The Neighborhood News. Where did you come up with the idea, and what’s the magazine about?

The Neighborhood News came to be after an editor of an online magazine I was writing for at the time, and I had a difference of opinion that led to an argument between the two of us during which she said to me rather nastily, “Well if you don’t like how we do things, why don’t you go create a magazine of your own?” I immediately stopped writing for her, and then with the assistance of my then book editor The Neighborhood News was born. It was a slow process, the title changed a couple of times, and the content as well. Finally, the editor I had then and I seemed to for whatever reason be growing apart, and after much discussion with and with support from a writing group I belonged to at the time, and due to the kindness of my now editor, Claire, The Neighborhood News began to evolve and grow. It is a monthly magazine filled with both advertisements, news worthy events concerning what the readers themselves are up to and literary submissions from folks both blind and sighted around the nation and world. Yes we even have readers in other countries.

The mission of The Neighborhood News? Simple!

I want to create a safe place for people to learn and grow together. A ‘Neighborhood’ if you will, of people who are connected but unique in their own way as well.

A place where I can not only share what I learn and know, but where the people living in ‘Neighborhoods’ all over the world can write in and talk about what they know, and what they’re learning of, and doing as well.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

Do I have quirky writing habits? Wow! Do I!

First off I write at the oddest times. I sometimes wake up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, a thought will cross my mind about a particular book I am working on, blog post, or an idea for The Neighborhood News, and next thing I know even if it is only an hour since I went off to bed, I’m up, making coffee, and writing away.

My other habit that some feel is quirky is that I do my very best writing off the cuff. My truest and best writing is done on impulse, with no plan forethought draft, nothing. Just sit down write it spell check it and it’s done. People don’t seem to understand how I can write so much at one time, but it’s just my way.

I guess I do have a couple more weird things, one is, when I get extremely in to what I’m writing I tend to wrap the ends of my hair round my fingers while proof reading, and when I’m deeply involved with the writing process I hold my bottom lip in my teeth.

The man I occasionally keep time with says he knows when he sees me at the computer, and my hair is wrapped round the ends of my fingers, and my bottom lip is firmly held in my teeth, he has lost me for at least an hour or two, and lucky for him he respects it, because I do not like to be interrupted when I’m on a roll.

Do you keep a regular diary or journal?

Absolutely! The majority of my current book, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life* came straight out of a journal I kept while the events written of were going on, and almost all of my blog entries in Campbell’s World are straight journalings. Nothing more nothing less. It’s just my way.

Where’s your favorite place to write?

I have two favorite places. The first is in my favorite chair in the living room. I am actually in it now. It is comfortable I can keep all the things I like to have with me easily to hand on a table next to me, and be involved with activity around me. I moved my desk in to the living room too, and if the room is filled with people sometimes I’ll sit at my desk, with a document open and write about what’s going on.

This however changes in summer. I have a porch swing, and I love nothing better on lazy summer evenings after the sun goes down, and folks get out on their front porches, and do what I call “Front Porch Sitting” to sit and listen to what’s going on around me and write.

It is the best time ever in the world for me to simply curl up in the swing with my laptop Campbell stretched lazily at my feet, and write a few great chapters, or work on some article for The Neighborhood News.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

I love to read while taking a long hot soak in the tub. I read mainly via audio books and so reading while in the tub is no hardship for me, just tap tap the BARD AP or Kindle AP and I’m on my way to other worlds.

If you had to choose one of your books to be adapted for film, which one would it be?

I have only one book published thus far, but if I could have it made in to a movie I’d be truly in ecstasy! I can’t think of much else that would take me to that kind of level of happiness. I sometimes sit and try to figure out what actor I’d have play my Seeing Eye instructor, Drew Gibbon. I have to smile just writing it. I dream of it often.

If you could spend one day in the life of one of your characters, who would it be and why?

If I could be one of the characters in my book I’d have to be Campbell. I’d really like to know what is in his mind. I’d like to know if what I believe to be is really so. He seems so very satisfied being a guide dog, but then again, he had no real choice, and other than his behavior and body language I haven’t a clue how to know what is in his mind, but … Would I really want to?

He might think me the silliest lady on the planet, but somehow I don’t think so. He really does come to life when the harness comes out and we are on our way out the door.

Still, I’d love to have his perspective on things.

*Legal Notes: THE SEEING EYE® and SEEING EYE® are registered trademarks of The Seeing Eye, Inc. See: www.SeeingEye.org

IMG_0060Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport, TN, where she worked for nine years at CONTACT–CONCERN of Northeast Tennessee, Inc.  She now writes full time.

Her autobiographical book is Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life (C 2014). There, she tells how she obtained her first guide dog from The Seeing Eye® in Morristown, NJ: what motivated her, the extensive training she had, and the good friends she made.

For more details about her and her book, including where to purchase the book in e-book or print format go to: www.dvorkin.com/pattyfletcher/

To see her blog and newly updated website go to http://campbellsworld.wordpress.com/

SBW TALKBOOKS INTERVIEW OF ROBERT BALMANNO

SBW TalkBooks recently completed its first group read of 2016. This January, the book club read Embers of the Earth, a dystopian coming-of-age story written by the vibrant and personable Robert Balmanno. He’s contributed numerous works for publication, including nine novels, over the last 38 years. Read on to learn more about this author’s work and influences, as well as his person-to-person approach to sharing his books with others.

Synopsis

The Year 519 A.G. After Gaia. Civilization needs a restart. The Gaia-Domes, technology-rich, oppressive, and fanatical are collapsing. Contending religions and sects roil the planet. Semilliterate primitives, decimated by environmental catastrophe, struggle to comprehend their obscure roots and uncertain prospects. A brilliant youth, groomed for the task from childhood, is sent by the New Rebels on a 12-year odyssey to uncover archives that will enable him to construct a new alphabet and write the Foundation Document for a postlapsarian world. But can he successfully complete the mission without losing his faith, his principles, or his life? Drawing on what Joseph Campbell called the monomyth narrative, Embers of the Earth chronicles a future where ecology is destiny, revolutionaries are venerated as goddesses, family secrets have global repercussions, and the reluctant hero is a teller of tales who sparks an underground cultural revival by refusing to tell lies about humankind’s past.

Live Interview Recap

Embers of the Earth reads as a stand-alone novel, but it’s also the third book of The Blessings of Gaia series. What led you to write these books?

The Blessings of Gaia is a quartet of books that includes September Snow, Runes of Iona, Embers of the Earth, and my current work in progress. While writing September Snow, I came to the realization that there would at least be a trilogy. A library patron inspired the name of the first book, after which I watched a show that commemorated Earth Day. That’s when the story idea clicked. There’s been more of an interest in climate change since then.

Some of us thought Embers of the Earth might fall within the science fiction or climate-change fiction genres. Who’s your intended audience?

I consider the Gaia books to be dystopian with a crossover into sci-fi, but I see them as closer to general fiction than sci-fi.

How did you come about meeting and working with your editor and publisher?

I met my editor, Adele, at the East of Eden Writers Conference. There, I had the opportunity to speak with literary agent, Elizabeth Pomada, who was also in attendance. After reviewing a favorable rejection letter about one of my books, Elizabeth pointed out that the letter said to cut 20% of the book, and then pointed across the table and introduced me to Adele. Intense rounds of editing went on for eight months, and my book published with a small publisher in Berkley in 2006.

Did your travels and studies influence your creation of Gaia?

Absolutely. I lived and studied in Scotland and moved back. I’m a semi-Luddite, and one of my themes for the books is the dangers of a non-critical, non-careful, overwrought embrace of technology. Oral transmission of knowledge and information is different from written transmission.

When I created this new world, I gave characters Greek and Roman names, as well as made-up names. Talia, for example, is a made-up name. I even named one of the characters after a reader (with permission) who was really excited about the book.

What writers made an impression on you?

A lot of writers influenced me. I’m a huge fan of George Orwell and his book, 1984. I also love works by Margaret Atwood, Albert Camus, Thomas Hardy, and William Faulkner.

If you could talk to any of your favorites right now, who would it be?

This question reminds me of an idea I had, and still have, for a play about an event that happened in 1945. George Orwell waited at a café in Paris to meet Albert Camus, who didn’t show up. My idea would be to capture what would have happened had they both shown up.

What does being “independent for your writing” mean to you?

I believe in being autonomous when doing my work. In other words, I’m not connected to a certain organization.

How do you approach marketing your books?

I have my own marketing plan and have done more than 200 book signings. I participate in meet and greets and seek out local support. I develop relationships with booksellers and readers that way. I really love getting their feedback.

Author Bio

Robert E. Balmanno earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, receiving Highest Honors. He attended the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he did post-graduate work in Politics, International Relations, and Philosophy. Later he attended postgraduate studies at the University of London, King’s College, Department of War Studies.

Balmanno served in the Peace Corps in Dahomey in West Africa from 1973 to 1975. He worked training bulls to plow fields and pull carts in a region where no outsiders have ever been before—the place where the New World practices of voodoo originated among the Adja people of West Africa.

Between 1975 and 1978 Balmanno traveled through Europe and Asia. He’s dedicated his life to producing contemporary literary fiction, with a recent switch to the genre of science fiction.

Learn more about him and his books on Goodreads and Amazon.

Don’t miss the next TalkBooks group read. Connect with us on the SBW Goodreads page.

Re-Release of The Phoenix Project

I’m excited to host D.M. Cain on my blog today for the Dec. 11 relaunch of her novel, The Phoenix Project. Learn more about this amazing person and author, as well as the events leading to the re-release below.

The Phoenix Project full cover

You first published The Phoenix Project in May 2014. What events led up to the re-release?

I initially released this book myself through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. I never expected, or even wanted, it to be a success – I just wanted to take pride in finally holding my baby in my hands! But the book received a lot of praise and some excellent reviews, so I decided to take writing and publishing more seriously. I wrote and released my second novel, A Chronicle of Chaos, later the same year. In January 2015, I approached US publisher Booktrope who, much to my delight, accepted The Phoenix Project. Thus began the eight-month long process of re-editing and re-designing the entire book.

I put the whole thing through a thorough developmental edit and two rounds of proofreading, plus had a whole new front cover designed. Now it is better than ever and ready to be re-released. 🙂

Could you give a quick description to readers new to the book?

The Phoenix Project is a dark and gritty psychological thriller that is designed to question the way you view justice. This book has brutal violence and ‘edge-of-your-seat’ tension where prisoners are forced to fight to the death for the public’s entertainment. However, beneath all the action the real message of this book lies in the protagonist’s journey as he struggles to overcome his guilt and remorse from the crime that landed him in prison.

When did you first start writing?

I’ve always written stories, for as long as I can remember. I planned my first books when I was around 11 years old but never actually got to writing them until I was 18. That’s when I started working on The Phoenix Project, and it took me 10 years until I finished it! My writing process is now, thankfully, much quicker as A Chronicle of Chaos took 3 years, and The Shield of Soren (due next year) only 1 and a half.

What is your primary genre?

My favourite genre to write is fantasy. My first novel, The Phoenix Project, and a short story that I published in the Awethology Dark entitled ‘The End’, were both dystopian fiction and I did thoroughly enjoy writing both of these. However, I feel that my real passion lies in the epic fantasy genre and the next 10 or more books that I have planned will be within this genre as part of my Light and Shadow Chronicles series.

What do you hope to communicate to your readers?

I feel that my writing is less about communicating something from myself and more about drawing things out of my readers. Yes I poured a lot of my own thoughts, feelings and opinions into my work, but my dream as a writer is to be able to lock onto a reader’s innermost emotions. The Phoenix Project in particular features a lot of emotionally and morally taxing issues which readers have responded to in a multitude of different ways. My main aim is to make my reader feel, no matter which direction this is in.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I do almost all of my writing through two distinct methods. The first and foremost way that I get my words down is through weekly #Writestorm sessions with my fellow #Awethors (a Facebook group of other authors that I run.) These intense weekly writing sprints have helped me to write a large number of words in a short amount of time and more than anything they have continued my writing momentum, which sadly gets pushed aside when most of my focus is upon marketing, editing etc.

The other way that I write is by heading to a cafe or restaurant alone, hiding myself in a corner, plugging in my headphones and hand-writing up a frenzy! I get very attached to certain beautiful notebooks and particular pens as well!

Do you keep a regular diary or journal?

I always used to, from the ages of twelve to around twenty. I used to write in it religiously and I have around thirty old notebooks packed full of my daily thoughts, experiences, concert tickets, love letters etc! Then adult life got in the way and I stopped writing my daily life and started writing my make-believe life instead!

Where’s your favorite place to read?

I love to read in the bath. With a very busy and hectic day job and a four-year-old child at home, it’s very difficult to find the time (and quiet!) to read and the bath is one of the few places that I can find some peace and solitude.

If you could spend one day in the life of one of your characters, who would it be and why?

I’d love to be Callista Nienna, the matriarch of the Children of Light in A Chronicle of Chaos. I’m not sure that it would be totally pleasant as she has a LOT of responsibility, but she is amazing – beautiful, immortal, intelligent and one of the strongest warriors the world has ever seen. It would be incredible to walk in her shoes for just one day.

Profile picAuthor Bio

D.M. Cain is a dystopian and fantasy author working for US publisher Booktrope. She has released three novels: The Phoenix Project – a psychological thriller set in a dystopian future, Soren – a middle-grade fantasy, and A Chronicle of Chaos – the first in a dark fantasy series. She is currently working on the next novel in the series, ‘The Shield of Soren’, and a novella to accompany it.

D.M. Cain is also a member of the International Thriller Writers and is one of the creators and administrators of the online author group #Awethors. Her short story ‘The End’ was published in Awethology Dark – an anthology by the #Awethors.

Cain lives in Leicestershire, UK, with her husband and young son, and spends her time reading, writing and reviewing books, playing RPGs and listening to symphonic metal.

Connect with Cain online at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DMCainauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DMCain84

Mailing List: http://eepurl.com/XevZH

Website: www.dmcain84.com

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+DMCain/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7888430.D_M_Cain

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzt_E8st1pyfkoTiA4E5jNg

For more information on her work, check out her books on Amazon:

The Phoenix Project –

US: www.amazon.com/D.M.-Cain/e/B00LTTX3PA/

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/D.M.-Cain/e/B00LTTX3PA/

A Chronicle of Chaos –

US: www.amazon.com/Chronicle-Chaos-Light-Shadow-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00NJ89B8M/

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Chronicle-Chaos-Light-Shadow-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00NJ89B8M/

Soren

US: www.amazon.com/Soren-D-M-Cain/dp/1507796579/

UK: www.amazon.co.uk/Soren-D-M-Cain/dp/1507796579/