Author Interview: Elizabeth Spencer

Today I’m welcoming Elizabeth Spencer to my blog as part of my ongoing Author Interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

justice_unending_cover_largeElizabeth Spencer: Hi! I’m Elizabeth Spencer, and I’m a bit of a nerd. A nerd who likes to make stuff. So it’s no surprise that I spend a lot of time writing YA fantasy—but also baking, crocheting, sewing, and pretty much anything else that involves making cool things. (I’m currently working through the entire World of Warcraft cookbook!) I also play a lot of video games, particularly RPGs. I live in New England, but I’m a very new transplant and I haven’t really settled in here yet.

PW: I lived in Massachusetts for 12 years myself. Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

ES: I’ve been writing since I was in grade school, but it took me a long time to muster up the courage to try to publish something. I started writing seriously about nine years ago, and wrote five full-length novels before Justice Unending. Justice was the first book that I really made me stop and think, “Wait. What am I doing? This is good. I could query this.” I’m glad I did!

PW: What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

ES: 

Justice Unending is an action-adventure-style YA fantasy with some light steampunk elements to it—so while there are corsets and trains and at least one giant steam-powered laboratory, the story’s main focus is an insular group of bodiless immortals and the conflicts between them and the people they possess.

Justice was the product of this persistent, half-formed idea that haunted me for most of a year, where I wanted to write some kind of fantasy about people marked with tattoo-like symbols on their body that gave them certain magical powers. But that wasn’t an idea as much as it was a magic system, and I had no idea what kind of story should go with it. I was on a long plane ride when it finally all came together—what if these people were possessed by some sort of spirit, and the symbols on their bodies were the marks of whoever was inside them? And, hey! I love Victoriana and steampunk, but I hadn’t actually written anything but high fantasy. So why couldn’t I throw in some corsets and big hats in this one? By the time that plane landed, I had the setting, the main conflict, and most of the main plot points and characters worked out.

PW: Oh my God, I am so in! This book sounds amazing. Okay, in Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

ES: A teenage girl is possessed by the spirit of an ancient assassin who wants to use her body to take down the kingdom—and to right an ancient and terrible crime.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

ES: Is… is this the time to admit that I don’t watch a lot of movies?

PW: LOL! Fair enough. What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

ES: Ahhh, I can never pick a favorite! The Seraphina books by Rachel Hartman are some of the best YA books I’ve read in the last few years, and Catherynne Valente’s Fairyland books are my new favorite MG series. But Patricia McKillip will probably always be my favorite author, though—I started reading her books when I was very tiny, and read all of her books throughout my teens and early twenties. She’s probably the reason I became so determined to write my own books.

PW: What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

ES: I just started on the first Mistborn novel! It’s amazing, and there are tons of them, and I can already tell that this is going to be a series I’m going to be reading for a very long time. I also want to check out Martha Wells’s Ile-Rien books, if only because I have been completely obsessed with her Raksura series, and the next one doesn’t come out until mid-2017.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

ES: I’m definitely a plotter! But recently, I’ve found that something halfway between plotting it and winging it seems to work best for me. I go into my first drafts with about four or five major plot points and a lot of world building—I like to have my world, characters, and magic systems figured out in advance. But then I just loosely follow the outline, point my characters toward the next big plot point, and see if I actually end up there. When I hit the end of a writing day I’ll write a quick “mini-outline” of the plot points that feel like they should happen next, and then use that as a guide the next day.

I write in a seldom-used guest room that I’ve crammed a desk into. I’m a bit ritualistic about it—that room is only for writing, and the internet is only for accessing my files and doing research. There are very few distractions in there, except a bunch of warm blankets and a pair of speakers for background music. Alas, while I’d like to say my writing drink is “hot chocolate,” if I make some before I write I’ll forget about it until it’s ice cold. I just wait until I’m done to treat myself now.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

ES: I am extremely neurotic about tracking how much I write—I have an Excel spreadsheet that tallies up my totals by day, week, month, and story. So I can say with complete confidence that it takes me 4-5 months to write a first draft, about two to do the first edit, and however many more months it takes to drum up some beta readers and work through their changes. Thus far I average about a year to a year-and-a-half from starting to being query-ready.

Justice was a bit of a mess, though. I started querying it before it was ready and had to stop, get some new betas, and rewrite some of the story before I tried again. The first version I queried was only proofed by me and my beta friend who reads everything I do. And while they’re a fantastic reader, I needed the cold, hard, dispassionate gaze of a perfect stranger to figure out which things really weren’t working. After getting three new betas and rewriting the first fourth of the story, Justice was finally ready to go. That took nearly two years. Goodness!

PW: I’m a slow writer myself, which agonizes me since so many people say you should put out several books a year. How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

ES: I queried 30ish agents, stopped, then rewrote. Then I queried 93 agents over the span of (again—crazy detailed Excel spreadsheet here) 10 months. That resulted in 5 full requests and 1 partial, but no one ultimately offered me representation. And while that was very disappointing, I knew by the end of it that I probably had something special if I was getting this much interest.

I later submitted it to nine publishers and got two full requests and two contract offers. That took another 10 months—although most of that time was spent trying to get my first contract offer to work out, and then having to hunt down and negotiate a second one. But this is my first published novel. Now that I know the ropes, I hope the next ones will go faster!

PW: I’ve had similar experiences in querying and submitting. It does (usually) go faster once you get the hang of it. That said, never a good idea to rush it, right? What are you working on now?

ES: A YA high fantasy about an impenetrable fortress in the middle of the ocean that is said to be home of the gods—until a ship full of starving and half-dead children crash-land on the shore, bearing a curse that’s slowly killing them. I’m about 85K into it and am hoping to be done with the first draft by the end of the month.

PW: Yow, sounds intense. What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

ES: Start a writing habit. Don’t worry about being good. Don’t worry about publishing or getting an agent. Worry about establishing a habit where you write on a schedule—whether it’s every day, 3 times a week, or whatever makes sense for your schedule. Then learn how to finish projects reliably and on a decent timeline. It took me wayyyyy too long to learn that it didn’t matter how good my writing was or how interesting my ideas were if I was unable to finish a first draft in a reasonable amount of time—or if I never did at all.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

ES: I’m hoping I’ll get an agent sometime in the next five years. Fingers crossed! But even if I don’t, I intend to keep publishing books. It took me a long time to decide to publish something. Now I need to get my butt in gear and actually start building a library!

PW: Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

ES: I’ve always been fond of “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

PW: I’ve never heard that one, but I really relate.

Favorite color:

ES: Plum-colored purple!

PW: Favorite TV show:

ES: Is this a bad time to say I don’t really watch TV, either? Uh. Can I do my favorite video game?! I’m a diehard fan of the Castlevania series (before they rebooted it with the Lords of Shadow spinoff), and while Symphony of the Night is probably the best game in the series, my favorite story (and cast of characters) will always be Aria of Sorrow.

PW: Works for me! (I know nothing about video games except what my kids and husband try to explain to me.)

Favorite movie:

ES: I’m not sure I have one! I’ve enjoyed a bunch, but claiming a “favorite” seems like a pretty big burden. And I’m not sure I’m ready to make that sort of commitment.

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

ES: It’d be so lovely to have a chance to talk to Tolkien about how he came up with his ideas and built his worlds. World building and linguistics fascinate me!

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

ES: My website is at elizabeth-spencer.net, and you can find Justice Unending on Amazon and the Evernight Teen website!

Blurb

Within the walls of the Bastion, it’s an honor to become a host for an Unending—the bodiless, immortal spirits who rule the country.

But for Faye, it meant her sister would have to die.

When Faye sneaks into the Mother Duchess’s manor, she just wanted to see her sister one last time. Instead, Faye finds a manor in chaos, a murdered man, and an Unending assassin named Aris who needs a new body—Faye’s body—to bring the Bastion to its knees.

Now Faye’s harboring the Bastion’s most wanted criminal. And if she wants to live, she’ll have to escape the Duchess and her immortals, all while keeping Aris from harming anyone else.

There’s just one problem—Aris is not the villain. And now Faye is the only one who can help her stop the Duchess before anyone else—and especially Faye—has to die for the Unendings’ whims.

Excerpt

Trays rattled. A half dozen women gasped. Justine was on her knees and forearms, her head inches away from the tiles. Her fingers clawed at the grout.

It happened so quickly Faye was left standing with her hand in the air. She dropped to her knees and put an arm gently on her sister’s back, her voice shaking so hard she had to force herself not to yell, “Why didn’t you say you felt this bad?”

“I—” Justine croaked. She clenched her eyelids shut, clamped her arms against her chest, and bent over herself, folding her body into a tight ball of pain.

The maids crushed around them. Olivia crowded up behind Faye, sounding worried. “We’ll have to carry her to her room. Two or three of us can do it. Faye, tell your father—”

“No,” Justine whispered. “No.”

Faye watched Justine’s back rise and fall with every unsteady breath. “Oh. Oh. Me? You want me.”

“What?” Faye asked.

“I can’t… I’m sorry. Please, one moment… I…”

“Justine?”

Justine didn’t answer. Slowly, unsteadily, she pushed herself up to her knees. She was still shaking as she pulled her arms away from the curve of her stomach, lifted them, and showed their backs to her sister.

Thin black sigils ran all the way down her arms, spiraling and looping from her knuckles to her elbows. They looked like stylized flames.

Those were the sigils of an Unending.

Faye stiffened. The maids sucked in a collective gasp of surprise. Only Olivia managed to croak, “Whose are they?”

Justine stared at her own hands like they belonged to someone else and cocked her head to the side, as if listening to a voice only she could hear. “Belisama.” She paused a moment, dreamlike. “The Mother’s guard? I would imagine that she’d choose someone big, someone strong, someone who can…” She fluttered her eyes weakly, and it sent tears sliding down her cheeks. “I am admirably responsible? Duty? Is that enough?”

Faye wished Justine would stop talking. Her sister did not ramble. Her sister was proper and well spoken, and this … this was terribly, desperately wrong. Faye stared at the sigils as her stomach shuddered like a pot in rolling boil.

Justine pulled herself away from Faye as she rose to her feet. Olivia offered her a shoulder, and Justine leaned against it before she tried to speak again. “We need to send a message to the Mother Duchess. I’ll have to go there, talk with her, be Fixed.” Her eyes widened, as if she only then realized what she was saying. “I have to tell Mother and Father. I have to get my things in order. I have to make sure the maids know what to do. I…”

No one said anything, even as Justine trailed off into silence. The maids looked at her achingly. Olivia shot Faye a concerned glance, then gently took Justine by the arm. “Come, miss. Let’s tell your parents the news.”

Faye tried to breathe and choked on a sob. No one seemed to notice. The maids stepped around her, their skirts rustling against the tiles as they followed into the hall, leaving the half-finished dinner still bubbling and popping on the stoves.

Faye couldn’t move. She was trembling, she realized, trembling so hard her fingers were numb. Her brain looped wildly, madly, hysterically through a pair of awful, unbearable thoughts.

Her sister had been chosen by an Unending. Her sister was going to die.

Buy Links:

Evernight Teen:

http://www.evernightteen.com/justice-unending-by-elizabeth-spencer/

Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MD2BSZT

About the Author:

Elizabeth Spencer is a YA fantasy author who writes action-packed adventures about magic, mystery, and very brave women. She also writes steampunk, although that’s mostly because she really, really loves big hats. Her first novel, Justice Unending, was released by Evernight Teen in November 2016. She otherwise has a very normal job as a professional editor and project manager. She lives in New England with her husband and an extremely fluffy cat.

Author Interview: Sarai Henderson

Today I’m welcoming Sarai Henderson to my blog as part of my ongoing Author Interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

hunter-evernightpublishing-2016-ebookSarai Henderson: My name is Sarai Henderson. I live in Oregon, in a small town south of Portland. I’m the mother of three young boys who keep me busy and the author of HUNTER, a YA urban fantasy/paranomral about bounty hunter telepaths who work for a ruthless telepath faction.

PW: Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

SH: My writing started after my ballet career suddenly ended when I was 18. I had always enjoyed writing when I was young, but didn’t truly come to life until that was all that was left. I wrote my first novel in my early twenties (House of Chaos) but didn’t publish it until this year, 2016. After I had my third son, I decided to write Hunter, my most recent novel and my first to be published. It took me a year of lunch breaks from work and a Twitter pitch party to land my publisher, Evernight Teen.

PW: ET is the publisher of my YA novel Manifesting Destiny! What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

SH: Hunter is a YA urban fantasy/paranormal. I love urban fantasy because I can describe the world around me, so people can see what I love and hate about places I’ve been. In Hunter, I describe how the rain falls here in the NW. Its something I actually love, but I let my main character in the book loathe it. I wanted her to portray misery in that moment and the rain really helps with that (even though it truly is a beautiful thing).

PW: Nice use of imagery and symbolism. In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

SH: Sixteen-year-old Hunter is stuck between her telepath world and the strong arm of the government where she must choose between trust and loyalty.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

SH: I’ve always loved Emma Stone and her big eyes. She would be a perfect Hunter and I think I would make Chris Pratt Seeker. He has the big brother kind of vibe that Seeker is known for.

PW: I love Chris Pratt, would watch him in just about anything.

What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

SH: I’m a huge fan of Garth Nix and his Old Kingdom series. He was what drew me to epic fantasy, magic and the paranormal. Everything he writes is unique and creative. He is my favorite author.

PW: What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

SH: I’m reading Allegient right now, finishing up the series before I see the last movie. I’m also working through the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I’ve been reading those books for 10 years now and I’m only on Book 4. That’s some deep stuff.

PW: I read the first couple Wheel of Time books but felt overwhelmed, not up to the task. I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to read something so densely, lushly written. I stand in awe of Jordan’s world building, and in awe of you for attempting to read it!

Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

SH: My process is pretty much word vomit. I sit in my car on my lunch break from work and write until my hand cramps. I can usually come up with a pretty good plot in my first draft that needs some small tweaking in the next draft. Its worked for me so far.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

SH: My first draft takes me about a month and a half, but the following drafts can take me another six months or so. I usually consider a novel done when I can’t stand reading it any longer.

PW: How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

SH: This book was unusual when it came to the submission process. I finished it just in time to participate in Pit2Pub, a Twitter pitch party by Kristin D. Van Risseghem. My first 40-character pitch received eight requests, one of them happened to be my current publisher, Evernight Teen. I was researching all the publishers that had shown interest in my novel when I got a message on Twitter from Evernight Teen saying that they were really interested in my novel and how much they wanted me to submit to them, so I did. They were the second query I made with this new manuscript. A few months later, Hunter was published.

PW: I had a similar experience with Manifesting Destiny. What are you working on now?

SH: Right now, I’m working on the sequel to Hunter called Seeker. It’s going to be telepaths against telepaths with a new threat and blast from Hunter’s past. Who knows what will happen? Well, I guess I do 🙂

PW: What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

SH: Don’t give up. I spent several years trying to publish my first manuscript and only two tries to publish my second. Anything can happen. You never know.

PW: Good advice. Seems like if the first book doesn’t sell, write something else and try again.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

SH: I dream big and want to have my Hunter series turned into a movie, but in reality, I think I’ll have my current series done and started on another. Hopefully, a little better known than I am now.

PW: I’ve been trying to get one of my novels turned into a movie for over three years now, but the industry is a tough nut to crack. Good luck with your work!

Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

SH: My favorite quote is from the movie ThorL “You want me to put down the hammer?” I use it for everything. “You want me to put down the tuna sandwich… Laundry… Three-year-old child.” It works for everything….

PW: Ha! Love it! Favorite color:

SH: Orange!

PW: Favorite TV show:

SH: The Walking Dead

PW: Favorite movie:

SH: Fifth Element… Lelu Dallas, multi pass.

PW: Oh my God, we say that around our house all the time! Okay, someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

SH: My favorite Chrises: Pratt, Evans, Hemsworth, Pine.

PW: Good taste! And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

SH:
http://www.exballerina.com/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7708229.Sarai_Henderson
https://www.amazon.com/Sarai-Henderson/e/B01H7MFNUA/
https://twitter.com/shendersonbooks
https://www.facebook.com/authorSarai/
https://www.pinterest.com/udjb1984/
https://www.instagram.com/exballerina/?hl=en

Blurb

Sixteen-year-old Hunter belongs to the Telepathic Alliance for the Latent or Newly manifested, otherwise known as Talon, a bounty hunter community known for their ruthless tactics. Her latest mission in San Diego was supposed to be a piece of cake, but when the job takes a treacherous and deadly turn, not even her telepathic abilities could have warned her of the dangers lurking around the corner.

There is only one place for Hunter to go, and that is straight into the hands of the government and their Psychic Intelligence Team, but even the “Normal” world isn’t safe. With each passing hour throwing her deeper into the game of life and death, Hunter must decide who to trust before this mission becomes her last.

Buy Links:

http://www.evernightteen.com/hunter-by-sarai-henderson/

https://www.amazon.com/Hunter-Sarai-Henderson-ebook/dp/B01I4MKWRG/

saraihendersonAbout the Author:

Sarai Henderson is a retired ballerina from Oregon City, Oregon, where she spends most her time chasing down her three rambunctious boys and writing on her lunch break at work. She enjoys DIY projects, Photography and writing on her blog about life as a mother of an autistic son. Find her online at www.exballerina.com or on Twitter @Shendersonbooks.

Character Interview: Peter Stoller

In advance of the Virtual Book Fair this weekend, I thought I’d post this interview with Peter Stoller. And hey! You can grab his novel for just 99 cents on Amazon!

1. Name: Peter Stoller
2. Role: Protagonist
3. Age: 36
4. Description: Tall, thin, ash blond hair, grey eyes, sharp features
5. Nickname: n/a
6. Occupation: Intelligence Agent
7. Location: London
8. Goal in life: to take over the Agency when my boss retires
9. Motto: Quod me nutrit me destruit (that which nourishes me destroys [me])
10. Family: Estranged mother, deceased father, deceased older brother
11. Best friend: Charles
12. Current conflict: Charles is accused of counterespionage, and Peter must find out the truth
13. Favorite Food: Ice cream
14. Addictions: Work
15. Pet Peeve: Inefficiency
16. Favorite Hobby: I don’t think I have any.
17. What do you do for fun? . . . Work?
18. Favorite childhood memory: Time spent with my brother. He always let me tag along.
19. Dream job: Doing what I do.
20. Favorite part of your day: Getting into the office before everyone else and settling in.
21. Pessimist, Optimist, or Realist: Realist, I think.
22. Beverage of choice: Tea.
23. Most annoying person in your life: Depends on the day. There are a number of candidates. Miranda, Jules, Gamby… Trevor is always near the top of the list.
24. Taken or single? Any love interests? Taken, very taken.
25. Pets: None, unless Mr. Martin counts.
26. Biggest Fear: Failure. On any front.
27. Guilty Pleasure: A gentleman doesn’t discuss it.
28. Most embarrassing moment: My first kiss. Any and every first kiss, come to think of it. That’s always an awkward moment.
29. Greatest Strength: Loyalty.
30. Greatest Weakness: Loyalty.
31. Who do you most admire? Gordon Lessenby
32. Are you keeping any secrets? It’s my job to keep secrets.
33. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Still doing my job in whatever capacity I’m most needed.
34. Advice for the reader as they follow you through your journey? It’s in my nature to withhold information. Probably best to keep that in mind.

Author Interview: Kristen Morie-Osisek

The-Sixth-Event-evernightpublishing-JayAheer2016-finalimage Today I’m welcoming author Kristen Morie-Osisek to the blog as part of my author interview series!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

Kristen Morie-Osisek: My name is Kristen Morie-Osisek, and I’m currently living in Connecticut. I have a Ph.D. in psychology, but I’ve also long been interested in prehistory and paleontology, which is what led me to write my book, The Sixth Event.

PW: Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

KMO: Back in probably fourth or fifth grade, I was bitten by the writing bug. I had always been a voracious reader, and it was around the time I discovered the fantasy genre that I realized I could write stories of my own. I started trying to write by hand, and because I have a very hard time doing that, it didn’t really go anywhere. Once I learned to touch type, though, I began writing short descriptive scenes and short stories. Finally, once I had free time in college, I finished an entire novel. From there, I just kept going. I have to say that it all started through reading—I don’t think I would have begun had I not been a huge reader as a kid.

PW: I think many writers do begin as readers, or at least good writers do. Writers who don’t read don’t write all that well in my experience.

What about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

KMO: The Sixth Event actually started life as a short story. I had always had the idea of someone waking up at a previous moment in their life at much younger age and trying to change something that will happen in the future. I brought a draft of that story to a creative writing class in college, and while it needed work, everyone really liked the concept, so I kept it in my back pocket. In addition, I’ve always been fascinated by extinct animals—everything from the dinosaurs to giant mammals in the ice age. I combined the two ideas into one in The Sixth Event, where the main character gets thrown back in time to prevent another planet-wide extinction event. The idea evolved from there.

PW: Sounds fascinating. In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

KMO: Hmm… probably something like “This time, extinction isn’t the end.”

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

KMO: This one’s a toughie since I don’t know actors or actresses very well. I would probably want new talent to come in! The characters are very down-to-earth, so it’d be neat to get some new up-and-coming actors to play the roles.

PW: What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

KMO: My favorite book of all time is TailChaser’s Song, by Tad Williams. Its animal fantasy about a cat and cat society. Think Warriors but darker and more fantastical. As for favorite authors, I love Mercedes Lackey and Anne McAffrey. Sci-fi and fantasy are my favorite genres.

PW: Oh my God, I love Tailchaser’s Song! I read Watership Down and then Tailchaser and just love them both. What are you currently reading? What’s on your TBR list?

KMO: At the moment, I’m reading The Storyteller Trilogy by Sue Harrison, which is fiction that follows Native American tribes that takes place in Alaska during the ice age, 800 years ago. It’s a really fun look back at the past. Up next, I intend to read some more YA, including the Maze Runner series, which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

KMO: I tend to write as inspiration strikes, sitting on my couch in between playing video games. I don’t have a set schedule, but I try to write at least 400 words a day.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

KMO: I’m a bit on the slow side—a book a year is my likely rate, with novellas or short stories added in on the side. As for readiness, I typically will finish the book, then take a break from it for a few months before going back and editing. Once a beta reader takes a look and I do one last editing pass, I call it ready.

PW: How did you get the publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

KMO: The Sixth Event had a lot of near misses before I heard the unfortunate news that no one wanted dystopian or apocalyptic books any longer. After about a hundred queries and 25 or so full requests, and two editor requests, I went with small presses. Evernight Teen snapped it up very quickly!

PW: I had a similar experience with Manifesting Destiny. What are you working on now?

KMO: I have a YA portal fantasy series called A Ring of Stones in the works. Book 1 is complete and Book 2 is in the works, out of what will likely be three or four books. In Book 1, a young girl, Ryn, discovers she can walk through the veil between worlds and enter the fairy realm at will. The fairy world was closed off from the human world centuries ago, and Ryn has to figure out why she can travel the two worlds and how to protect the human world from powerful fairies who want to harm it.

PW: Cool! I keep hearing “portal fantasy” getting thrown around these days and had to look it up. Seems to mean a story that involves a magical doorway of some kind (in case anyone else was wondering).

What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

KMO: Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses, so it would depend on the person, but the old clichés still work. Practice makes perfect. Write every day. And most importantly, keep reading! Reading and enjoying other people’s books is the best way to keep your own creative juices flowing.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

KMO: Given academia these days, probably scrambling for grant money. 😛 Seriously though, I hope to keep finding success. I want to put out my YA portal fantasy with Evernight Teen, and hopefully have the whole series out by then!

PW: Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying:

KMO: This was said at my middle school graduation (class of 2000!). It’s a cliché saying, but I love it. “Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.”

PW: Favorite color:

KMO: Probably green.

PW: Favorite TV show:

KMO: I love The Simpsons, but the TV show that will always give me warm fuzzy nostalgic feelings is Dinosaurs. Yep, the old puppet show. And if we include anime, Trigun! I love space westerns.

PW: “Not the Mama!” (Nod to those who get it.) Favorite movie:

KMO: There are so many good ones! I think the most recent would likely be Rise of the Guardians.

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

KMO: Einstein. I’d love to chat about the history of the universe with him.

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

KMO: My website, which I should update more often, can be found here: http://sfwrites.blogspot.com/

The Sixth Event can be bought from Evernight Teen here: http://www.evernightteen.com/the-sixth-event-by-kristen-morie-osisek/
Or at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Sixth-Event-Kristen-Morie-Osisek-ebook/dp/B01FEEITZ4/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1472521826&sr=8-1

Blurb:

During Raquel’s first semester of college, she witnesses the end of the world, only to wake up in her old room at her parents’ house two years in the past. Even worse, it seems she’s the only one who remembers—until Chris Lyley, a boy Raquel always thought was a loser, tells her he remembers the catastrophe.

Before long, they both discover new abilities. They’re able to understand any language and teleport through time and space. If Raquel and Chris can figure out what caused the end of their world, maybe they can stop it.

Author Interview: Stacey Bryan

#6 in my author interview series. If you’d like to participate, please send me an email at the Contact link at the top of this page.

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

Stace Bryan: I was born in San Francisco but raised from age 6 in the San Fernando Valley. I was extremely embarrassed when Valley Girl came out in the ‘80s because I recognized myself in there—at least a little bit. I’m mixed race and was adopted as a one-year-old, and I write about those issues a lot. I was a tomboy and have never grown out of it. I wiped out on my bike in Griffith Park a few years ago and have a nice scar on my left forearm that makes a good conversation starter. I met my husband in Brooklyn when I lived in NYC for several years. He’s also a writer but more of a film guy, and we both love movies.

PW: Already I’m fascinated, and since I also have a film/screenwriting degree, I totally dig that you guys love movies. But I’ll try to stay on topic here. Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to write?

SB: I don’t remember being inspired, per se. I just remember being alone a lot—my choice—and reading all the time. I loved stories so much, I started to write them myself. I sort of just moved into it as the natural course of being a hermit. I also love the sound of words and love it when words and/or images that don’t ordinarily go together are forced together in a sentence.

PW: And what about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

DayForNightFinalRETAILCover700x1066p96dpiRGBSB: Day for Night is an urban paranormal comedy that I was inspired to write because of all the “serious” vampire/paranormal literature. Not that serious is bad, but I like to laugh. I had to work up the nerve to read “The Lovely Bones” because it’s about a serial killer, a monster which is all too real. In the paranormal, nothing is real. And anything can happen. I also thought all the non-ethnic 25-year-old protagonists in general needed some variety, so my protagonist is an “older” mulatto wannabe actress.

PW: You’re hitting a lot of my sweet spots here. I love stories about actresses and Hollywood. Plus an urban paranormal comedy?! That sounds too awesome to miss.

Speaking of Hollywood, do you have a log line for your book? (A log line is one sentence that sums up the story.)

SB: A 39-to-40-something wannabe actress walks in on an alien abduction taking place in a laundry room and turns to supernatural means and a little Jack Daniel’s in order to fight back.

PW: And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you’d envision as your main characters?

SB: Thandie Newton or Sherri Saum as Rae, the lead character. Raul Bova as Rex, her long-time-and-lots-of-sexual-tension-friend. Luca Calvani as Giancarlo, her date.

PW: What are some of your favorite books? Favorite authors?

SB: I’ve read The Descent by Jeff Long three or four times, A Certain Age by Tama Janowitcz three or four times, and all of T.C. Boyle’s short stories three or four times. I love Cormac McCarthy (The Road) and Diana Gabaldon (Outlander).

PW: I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to stomach The Road, though I’ve heard it’s wonderful. How about current reads? Your TBR list?

SB: A hilarious novel called Blood Sucking Fiends by Christopher Moore to counteract the gloom and doom of the novelization of Alien. I’d love to get more of Richard Kadrey’s stuff and I’m always looking for really good time travel romances.

PW: Tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

SB: I need to be completely isolated with maybe only instrumental music playing when I’m in the early stages of planning and writing. So that’s the bedroom with the door closed and the soundtrack from The Hours playing in my headphones. Once everything’s laid out or I know where I’m going, I can go to a library or coffee shop with the laptop and not worry about distractions; I’m beyond them at that point. I usually don’t eat or drink while I’m working. Except for potato chips.

PW: How long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

SB: I haven’t written that many, but the ones I have completed have taken six months or under. Once I’ve shown it to writing friends and rewritten it to the point where I can’t stand the thought of it anymore, I basically regard it as ready.

PW: How did you get the agent/publisher for this book? How long did it take, and how many queries or submissions did you send out?

SB: Day for Night is the first novel I’ve attempted to publish, and the road has been long and frustrating for me. I spent over a year querying agents and got two responses back. At some point I found a handful of publishers that accept un-agented manuscripts and began querying them, which is how I found my publisher. I wrote to the self-published author of the Breakers series a few times, and he told me he got so frustrated querying agents, he just gave up and did it himself, and he’s achieved a nice amount of success all on his own!

PW: What are you working on now?

SB: I’m planning the sequels to Day for Night. I was working on the novelization of a sci-fi screenplay (which is why I’m reading the Alien novelization; to see how Alan Dean Foster did his) but I think I have to put that on the back burner for now.

PW: I’ve found it’s good to have something simmering so that if you get stuck on one thing, you’ve got something else to jump to. What advice would you give to young writers, or writers just starting out?

SB: I hate to be a cliché, but try to write every day. And if you can’t write every day, try to do it every other day. And if you can’t do that, do it several times a week. Or at least once a week. Until you can get back to several times a week and then back to every day. I’m saying this because I stopped writing for a long time and then wrote intermittently, and I regret having lost that time. You can never get that time back, so keep writing. I have nothing to say about too many adjectives or get life experiences or write what you know. I say just do it. The rest will fall into place.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

SB: In the best of all possible worlds, living on Maui with my husband, freelance captioning for chump change, and writing for a living.

PW: Sounds divine! Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying?

SB: When I die, I want to go peacefully like my grandfather did–in his sleep. Not yelling and screaming like the passengers in his car. —Bob Monkhouse.

PW: Favorite color?

SB: Aquamarine!

PW: Oooh! I love that color, too! It figures as the wall color in a number of my novels. Okay, back to business. Favorite TV show?

SB: Man Seeking Woman

PW: Favorite movie?

SB: Your Highness

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet?

SB: Octavia Butler

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

SB: Please visit me at: https://staceyebryan.wordpress.com/

PW: Thanks so much to Stacey Bryan for taking part in this interview! Go check out her book!

Blurb:
When reality TV star Rae Miller is kicked unceremoniously to the curb by her back-stabbing cast mates, she quickly realizes that revenge fantasies and unemployment are the least of her problems after she witnesses an alien abduction in broad daylight. Worse, after escaping a terrifying almost-abduction herself, Rae succumbs to a sexy Nosferatu’s silky assurances, becoming undead in order to up her alien Ultimate Fighting skills. Life is hard as a 38-to-40-something aspiring actress in L.A. Thank God for Jack Daniel’s and denial.

About the Author:
Stacey was raised in the San Fernando Valley but born in San Francisco, where she left part of her heart. She has worked on a dude ranch, coached gymnastics, and captions for the hearing impaired. Her work has appeared in several literary magazines in New York and L.A., including Ginosko and The Rag. She is currently working on the sequel to her novel Day for Night. She lives in “beautiful downtown Burbank,” as Johnny Carson used to say, with her husband who is also a writer. Visit her at https://staceyebryan.wordpress.com

http://www.vagabondagepress.com
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Character Interview: Peter Stoller

I ran across a list of “ice breaker” questions on Facebook that seem like good interview questions for a character. So I decided to ask Peter Stoller a few.

MPL: Who was the last person you held hands with?

PS: I decline to answer that.

MPL: But it was totally Charles, right? We all know it was Charles.

PS: It’s really none of your business.

MPL: Oookay. Are you loud, outgoing, or shy?

PS: . . . Shy, I suppose.

MPL: You suppose?

PS: Well, are those my only choices? I’m not loud, and I’m not particularly outgoing, therefore I must be shy.

MPL: Let’s just move on. Have you ever given up on someone but then gone back to him or her?

PS: [stares]

MPL: Right. How about . . . [scanning list] Do you like big crowds of people?

PS: Not particularly, but they can be useful in certain circumstances.

MPL: You mean spy stuff.

PS: [blank stare]

MPL: You’re not very easy to interview.

PS: In my line of work, we’re not meant to be.

MPL: What do you do when you wake up?

PS: Open my eyes.

MPL: What do you say during awkward silences?

PS: Nothing. That’s what makes it awkward and silent.

MPL: Oh, for— Do you have trust issues?

PS: In my line of—

MPL: Work, yes, we get it. If you’re being extremely quiet, what does it mean?

PS: That I have nothing to say.

MPL: Do you believe everyone deserves a second chance?

PS: No. Not everyone.

MPL: You sound very definite.

PS: Is that a question?

MPL: All right, what was the meanest thing someone ever said to you?

PS: [laugh] Just one? I wouldn’t know where to start.

MPL: What about the nicest thing?

PS: [frowns]

MPL: No one has ever said anything nice to you?

PS: It was nice at the time, but . . .

MPL: What was it?

PS: Byron used to say I was his world, the only thing that mattered.

MPL: That’s sweet. Who is Byron?

PS: [shakes his head]

MPL: A boyfriend? He was in the book, right?

PS: Yes.

MPL: And what happened to him?

PS: Suicide. [beat] I think we’re done here, yes?

MPL: But . . .

PS: We’re done. I’m done. [stands up to leave]

MPL: Just one more thing. Please.

PS: Hesitates.

MPL: You and Charles? You did get back together, didn’t you?

PS: Officially? No.

MPL: Unofficially?

PS: [slight smile] See you in the next book.

If you haven’t read it yet, pick up The Fall and Rise of Peter Stoller from Tirgearr Publishing. Excerpt and all buying links available here.

Author Interview: R.K. Gold

Here is #5 in my author interview series! If you’re an author and would like to participate, click the Contact button at the top of the page and send me an email!

PepperWords: Easy stuff first: Who are you and what should we know about you? Where are you from, etc.?

R.K. Gold: My name is R.K. Gold, I am a novelist from Buffalo, NY. I am a dog lover and enjoy spending my free time walking my plott hound through the city. He is so manipulative and gives the cutest puppy eyes it’s impossible to not give him all your attention when he’s in the room.

PW: Awww. I grew up with dogs but don’t currently have any. Would love a Corgi, though! (Then I war with myself because I know it would be better to get a shelter dog, if I ever got a dog at all.)

Okay, enough of that. Back to you. Tell us a bit about your writing history. Have you been doing it long? What inspired you to start writing?

RKG: I started writing in the end of January 2014. It was my senior year of college at the University of Maryland and I was in a bad car wreck. When I got back from the hospital, I realized that no matter what—even if you aren’t doing anything wrong—your life can end at any moment. So I made the conscious decision to pursue my greatest passion and haven’t looked back. I began writing novels in March the same year and signed my first deal at the start of 2015.

PW: Wow. Talk about motivation! What an inspirational story! And what about this book? What sparked it? What genre is it, and what draws you to that particular genre?

RKG: Just Under the Sky is—well it will always be meaningful to me because it’s the first novel I ever wrote. Though it’s only a little longer than The Old Man and the Sea I really touched on some themes of self discovery and our unknown impacts on the world. It is closest to the magical realism genre. I would like to thank Weasel Press for all the marketing and designing efforts they put into it, I really love everything they’ve done.

PW: How did you land Weasel Press for this book?

RKG: I found Weasel on PW.org and started talking to them on social media. I had a short story published in one of their anthologies and they liked my work so I sent them a query letter with my manuscript attached. They sent me back a contract and we enjoy working with each other so much I have signed on for two more books (three total).

PW: That’s awesome! Okay, going backward a bit, tell us about your writing process. Is it very structured? Do you have a favorite place to sit and write, or a favorite food or drink while writing?

RKG: I love sitting in my kitchen next to the window or in my family room by the fireplace. I don’t have a set time to write but I aim to write at least 2500 words a day when I am working on a rough draft.

PW: And how long does it take you to write a book? How do you know a manuscript is ready to send out to agents and publishers?

RKG: Oof, depends. I have knocked out a 50,000-word manuscript in a week but editing normally takes me a while. My big problem is I start editing and then I think of a new idea and write a new book instead. I’ve been writing novels for exactly 2 years now (March 2014) and I have 10 completed manuscripts—only 3 have been fully edited.

PW: 50,000 words in a week?! @.@

What are you working on now?

RKG: Ha! What am I not. Let’s see I’m editing a manuscript following a high school girl’s friendship with a 79-year-old woman while being cyber bullied. I just finished two rough drafts since January for new manuscripts and I am prepping for my next two releases with Weasel Press (Brinwood May 6th 2016, and Lost Boys August 2016).

PW: Let’s go back to your most recent release, Just Under the Sky. In Hollywood we write log lines for scripts—one sentence that sums up the story, a bit like the write up in TV Guide. For example, the log line for Back to the Future might read: “A teenager gets sent back to 1955 where he must contrive to get his parents to fall in love else risk never being born.” What would the log line for your book be?

RKG: Two journalists discover the truth of their village while trapped in a forest that’s trying to kill them.

PW: Definitely sounds intriguing. And if you were casting your book as a movie, are there any particular actors you envision as your main characters?

RKG: Daniel Radcliffe for Jasper and Donald Glover for McMichaels.

PW: What are some of your favorite books and authors?

RKG: Too many. Reading is so engraved in my daily routine—I feel incomplete if I don’t read. Off the top of my head I think Hell’s Angels by Hunter Thompson and Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card are two of my favorite books. I can say I am currently reading The Dark Side by Jane Mayer and since January I’ve read Catch-22, Saving Capitalism, Swag, Race Matters, Skin Cage, On Writing, And Then All Hell Broke Loose, and I think Going Under but that might have been December.

PW: What advice would you give to young writers, or writers who are only just starting out?

RKG: Actually, I don’t mean to plug but here is a blog post I wrote on the 8 most useful tips I have discovered since I started writing: http://www.buzzfeed.com/rkgold/8-tips-for-indie-writers-1osct. I think that will do a better job at explaining than a couple sentences but I guess if I had to sum up the most important thing you could do—I would say read as often as you can and find time to write at least 6 days a week.

PW: Where do you see yourself in five years?

RKG: Hopefully signed to a large publishing house. I also want to help encourage creative education with students from public schools that lack sufficient funding. STEM is amazing and very important to education, but the one thing all of the greatest minds in history have in common is an influence by art and literature. While sciences can help us find answers, the creative arts helps us ask questions we never thought of asking before.

PW: Those are admirable goals. Now a little about you in general. Favorite quote or inspirational saying?

RKG: Ha, again too many. Oscar Wilde has always offered some good quotes to reference. I’m a fan of “There is no sin except stupidity.” “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” And “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.”

PW: Favorite color?

RKG: Purple.

PW: Favorite TV show?

RKG: Ink Master and The Edge and Christian Show That Totally Reeks of Awesomeness.

PW: Favorite movie?

RKG: V for Vendetta, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Midnight in Paris, and Wimbledon.

PW: Someone (living, dead, or fictional) you’d like to meet:

RKG: Lin-Manuel Miranda.

PW: And last but certainly not least, where can we find you and your book?

RKG: Weasel Press: http://weaselpress.storenvy.com/products/14275899-just-under-the-sky

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Just-Under-Sky-R-K-Gold/dp/099729681X/

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/just-under-the-sky/id1053995353

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/just-under-the-sky-rk-gold/1122874676

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/just-under-the-sky

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/588646

Thank you, R.K. Gold, for being a willing victim! Find him on Twitter at @RKGold91 and online at rkgoldcreations.com.