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YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart

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May 2017

Author Spotlight – Susan Faw

An Interview with author Susan Faw

By Michelle Lynn

susan

 

Susan Faw is a Young Adult author who writes intriguing and award winning fantasy books. Her stories can be enjoyed by readers of all ages from young adult on into old age, you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

  1. 1. What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

My titles, in order, are:

Soul Survivor
Seer of Souls
Soul Sanctuary
Soul Sacrifice

These titles make up The Spirit Shield Saga. It is now a complete series.

The books follow the struggles of a fractured family of godlings, struggling to control the souls of the world. When sibling rivalry is elevated to the level of the gods, survival is highly over rated!

  1. Who’s your favorite character from your books?

I seem to do evil antagonist really well. I think I have had a lot of experience with the evil side of mankind so it lends to limitless fodder to feed on, when creating my evil characters. So my vote goes to Helga.

  1. Alright, I have to do this one. You just won the overall at the Chanticleer book awards. That’s a big deal! How do you feel?

seerOMG how do I feel? Shocked. Amazed. I keep checking the awards on my wall (I put them in a shadow box to protect them) to make sure they are still there, like they might vanish or something. I think all authors are introverts at heart, so I keep looking for the other author with the same name. There must be a mistake, right?

It just goes to show that you can have a crap load of bad reviews (I have plenty, and those early troll-baited “DNF 36%” reviews hurt. Badly. I actually had Seer of Souls scheduled for a new round of edits I thought it was that bad. I was supposed to start them in January. I postponed them because making the first cut. And then the second cut. I mean you can’t mess with a manuscript that is in the running, right?

I always thought I could write. The biggest thing, for me, about this win is the sense of VALIDATION. It’s not just me saying this. Someone else says it, and not because I begged, not because I traded favours. The impartiality of it means so much!

  1. So, fantasy, huh? I’m a massive fan of the world you’ve created in Seer of Souls. What is the biggest challenge to writing in a genre where everything has to be made from your own mind?

Well, I live in a world of my own making every day. So do my characters. I think we both live in the same world, so it’s more like we visit back and forth. I like to live in their world more than mine, so I do! And if I really get stuck I go find some wacky element to bring into play and watch how my characters react to it, such as the flutes or the soul fetches. Adding an unusual element always gets the creative juices flowing!

  1. Gods living among humans has been done before many times, yet you still manage to pull something unique out of it. What’s your secret? – promise we won’t tell <;

I think most other series have left them as gods. I liked the idea of the gods sacrificing themselves to save the world. It’s a very common religious theme, right? But forgetting that they did so makes it fun, as the quest to discover who they are becomes a race to their own doom. (I am trying to not give away too much here, so I will say no more!)

  1. What authors have inspired you to write?

Hands down, JK Rowling, and Robert Jordan, for the uniqueness of their series and their seer 2skill at their craft. I also credit Brandon Sanderson, more so for his podcast, Writing Excuses. It was the first podcast I listened to, to learn the craft of writing a book, especially fantasy. His podcast was pivotal in my growth and eventual decision to become an author.

  1. What age were you when you started writing?

If you consider writing to be story-telling, then I have been writing since before I could write. When my sister and I were about four or five, we would play this game where we would pick a picture at random from the National Geographic and we would have to create, on the spot, a story to explain the picture. We would play this for hours and I can remember laughing at the silly stories we came up with.

  1. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I would call it more writer’s slow down. Most writer’s block is, simply not understanding where your story is going. For me, I am pantster through and through. I never know where it’s going. So what I do is throw in one of those random elements again, and figure it out from there. For example, I dropped a meteor on Ryder’s band in Seer of Souls, where it wiped out half of a village. I left it completely unexplained because I didn’t know where it came from either. But then in Soul Sanctuary, I figured it out. It was an explosion from the mountain during one of Helga’s experiments. She was responsible for it :-p. Whew. That was a close one…

  1. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

Pantser baby, all the way! I find outlines kill my creativity. I have an over-arching idea of where the story is going, but it’s more like A,B,C, you know, the three act structure, than an outline.

  1. Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

Yes, and not just my characters but other people’s characters too. I really wish I could meet Harry Potter. Just once.

  1. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

seer 3When I finished writing Seer of Souls, I really had no idea what to do with it next. Those podcasts from Brandon Sanderson were craft related, and he is a traditionally published author, so he really didn’t address the indie world. I knew people were indie publishing but I had no idea what to do or where to start. I had a friend who was an editor (she is retired now) and she pointed me towards some people I should be following (Kristen Lamb was one of the first, and Rachel Thompson) and it was through the connection with Rachel Thompson that I heard about Booktrope. I queried twice before being accepted in. Booktrope was a hybrid small press, and I got my start there, for they took my book and helped me find my editor and my cover designer, who are still with me to this day. They helped me get Seer of Souls published, in February of 2016 before they closed their doors on May 1st, 2016.  It was the start I needed and after that closure, I had learned enough to take it to the next phase as a fully independent author.

  1. If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

Not really. I needed the help to figure everything out. I will be forever grateful to Booktrope for giving me the foot up. Their model was unique, a blend of indie and traditional. I was sad to see it go down.

  1. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

As The Spirit Shield Saga is now complete, I am working on a brand new series entitled “The Heart Of The Citadel”. It will be a series combining dragons and djinn (genies)…or if you wish (say it aloud with me) Djinn and Dragons! Hahaha

  1. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

The toughest criticism has been that my characters lack development. Patently false, but it still stings.  My best compliment? From a reader, that they couldn’t put the book down and stayed up all night just to finish it.

From a reviewer, came this email, from the Book Pipeline Competiton, just after my Chanticleer win.

Dear Susan,
With regards to your submission for the 2016 Book Pipeline Competition, below is the internal feedback from our judges, commenting primarily on the entry’s film or TV potential. Although the notes are relatively brief, we trust this will help give you a bit of insight into our process.

Seer of Souls

This piece is incredibly well-written. The vivid exposition and intrigue, engaging plot design and heightened stakes all exposed in the opening chapter acted as clear evidence to the writer’s skillful abilities in the fantasy genre. This narrative felt as though it had the potential to reach the heights of an epic fantasy series like LORD OF THE RINGS while at the same time adding something new and fresh in the midst of familiar tones and fantasy elements. Immortals being born as human beings and a magic system that finds its roots in established fantasy works added with the maturity of a well-established voice all came together with the potential of creating an excellent fantasy-adventure. There is no doubt that the writing employs the use of large cinematic descriptions that would translate very well to screen and if this narrative’s execution proves as provoking as the writing style, it could very well attract producers and studios interested in finding the next epic fantasy film.”

  1. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Write what you love. Write with passion. Write the best you can, being conscious of quality and heart. Do this, rinse, repeat. We write because we love to tell stories. So tell them!

  1. Do you have any strange writing habits?

I listen to a CD of Lord Of The Rings music over and over and over, by Peter Hollens. It becomes mood music.

I also write on the deck under my patio umbrella. I will spend all day there in the summertime. I love to write outside.

What others are saying about Susan:

“I love fantasy if it’s well-written. The world-building has to be competent, the characters engaging and the plot well-realized and significantly short on holes. Susan Faw’s Seer of Souls checked all three boxes.”

“A great edition to an over saturated genre, and the author has real talent holding the reader’s attention through the complex storyline.”


Susan can be found on Facebook HERE!

Check out Susan’s book page at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE!

You can see some of our other posts HERE!

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Character Inspiration: People Watching

Character Inpiration: People Watching by Author Lauren Mayhew

Character Inspiration People Watching - Lauren Mayhew Author - YA Author RendezvousI love to people watch. I could literally watch people all day. Some of them are just so fascinating.

Have you ever been sat somewhere, and watched a person run through a town centre? Did a part of you ever wonder what they were up to? Did you then find yourself creating a scenario in your head about what it is they’re doing? If you did, then you’ve essentially created a character. If you’ve never done this, you’re seriously missing out!

Nobody is the same, and I’m not talking about skin colour, ethnicity, or accents. Nobody walks in the same way. Some people have limps, others drag their feet, and you’ll get the occasional person who seems to bob up and down with each step taken. What gave them their limp? Why do they drag their feet? Are they bobbing because they have an anti-gravity power that makes it difficult for them to keep their feet on the ground? Too far… Maybe, but you see what I mean, don’t you?

You only have to watch someone for a minute or two, and a character will emerge from them. 99% of the time, you’ll get everything wrong about them, but they don’t need to know what you’re thinking. As long as you’ve got that one character, the spark will ignite into a story line.

Only the other day, I was out walking with my mum and my sister, and a car sped past us down the road. It had to brake quite suddenly to avoid smashing into the car in front. All of us thought the same thing, ‘What a [insert expletive here]!’ He then sped off once the car in front had turned into another road, and my mum said, ‘He must be late for his dinner.’

To which I replied, ‘Or he’s been having an affair at work, and didn’t realise what the time was. He doesn’t want his wife to get suspicious, so he needs to get home on time.”

And suddenly I have a character, and the beginnings of a story. It’s not the sort of story I would write myself, I’m more of a Paranormal Fantasy writer, but it would work for someone.

It’s so simple to spend ten minutes every day observing those around us. Some people can do some fascinating things when they think no-one’s looking!


Want more from Lauren? You can check out her books on Goodreads HERE.

Find Lauren on the YA Author Rendezvous site HERE.

This was posted on the YAAR website with the express permission of Lauren Mayhew.

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Author Spotlight: T.L. McDonald

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An Interview with T.L. McDonald

By: Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?

I have three books out right now in a completed trilogy, The Marked Series. The first book is titled Marked, followed by Fated, and Redemption. My series is a young adult urban fantasy about a 17-year-old girl who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and inadvertently gets caught up in a prophesy foretelling the start of the apocalypse at the hands of a chosen one with dual fates. He’ll either become the world’s savior, or it’s destroyer, but which path he takes will be directly influenced by the choices she makes.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

Of course I love my main three characters Hanna, Jared, and Will, but I have to admit—and maybe this is bad—but Blondie, the villain of the story just might be my favorite. He was just so much fun to write.

Your debut series is a paranormal of epic proportions with all of the markedexciting staples of the genre. What was the most difficult aspect of writing in a genre that is so incredibly popular right now?

Being unique. There’s a lot of things the paranormal genre has in common, a formula so to speak, and I wanted to try my hand at being a little different, which I hope I accomplished. Instead of dreamy fallen angels the main character falls in love with, mine are malicious and sinister. Instead of my main character discovering she has supernatural abilities and that she’s been different all along without knowing it, her abilities come from a transference of power when she’s marked with a mystical symbol by a dying boy in a side alley outside a club.

Cliff Hangers. We love to hate them, but YA fiction has embraced them completely. Did you worry about how readers would react when your first book ended this way? Was there a strategy to the madness?

I did, but I had hope and crossed my fingers that it would be a good reaction, lol. Personally, I love a good cliffhanger because it makes me excited to read the next book in the series and that was my goal for my readers. I wanted the book to stick with them. I wanted them to shout out, “Oh my, I have got to find out what happens next.”

In Marked, it seems like secrets are the name of the game. Everyone has them and they drive the story, but you managed to reveal them slowly as the book progressed so as not to overload the reader. Can you tell us something about untangling such a web? How do you make a complicated story simple for the reader?

Raw talent. Ha ha. Just kidding. An outline or a general sense of your beginning and ending is the most important thing. Though I’m usually not one to have a detailed outline because I like the story to progress naturally, I did keep notes—mostly in the form of sticky notes plastered all over my work area—to help keep track of things. I wanted the book to feel organic and grow so to speak, so it was important to reveal things slowly just like how it would be revealed in real life because if everything is laid out all up front, it would make for a very boring book. I wanted the reader to become just as invested as the main character was in figuring out what was going on.

What authors have inspired you to write?

R.L. Stine was the first author that inspired me. I’ve always loved the horror genre and I used to gobble up his Fear Street books like they were candy. I used to read them and think Someday I’m going to do this. Tahereh Mafi also inspired me. I read her Shatter Me series and completely fell in love with the style, so much so that I completely rewrote Marked, changing it from 3rd person past tense to 1st person present tense.

What age were you when you started writing?

I was young, like somewhere between 6 and 8 years old. Of course back then my stories were barely legible and made no sense, and were always of the horror genre. I’ve still got them tucked away in a box somewhere. It’s fun to go back and look at them every now and then. After that, it’s all I ever wanted to do and I’d write every chance I got, whether it was for my friends or to fill out a journal in English class, which I did by the way in high school. We were supposed to turn in two pages every week, writing about whatever we wanted, so I wrote a book. J

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Yep. I think at some point every writer does. The trick is to just push though it and write even if it’s terrible because you can always go back and fix it during the editing stage. It also helps to find things that inspire you to get the creative juices flowing again, such as listening to music and allowing yourself to daydream, reading a book from your favorite author or genre, watching an addicting TV show, and what if-ing everything. Inspiration can be found everywhere.

Marked book cover symbol

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I like to just write. It feels more natural to me to just let the ideas come as they may. I do however keep notes—on my phone, scraps of paper I find at the bottom of my purse, napkins at a restaurant, on an obscene amount of sticky notes—because I tend to come up with ideas for scenes on the fly and at all hours of the day. The books I write are constantly percolating in the back of my mind with new ideas and directions forming, so I don’t want to be restrained by the traditional sense of an outline.

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

Actually, I kind of do. When you spend months or years writing your characters they become a part of you, so when you reach the end of the series it sort of feels like you’re moving away and leaving all your friends behind.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

My biggest challenge was pushing the submit button. Sure, I’ve wrote things before that I’ve shared with my friends and family, but this was going to be for the whole world to see. It made me nervous. Of course I ran into other challenges too because I’m a little impulsive and jumped right into the publishing lake without testing the depths of the water first. One of those challenges being the marketing side of things: covers, blurbs, graphics for ads, and so on. There’s just so much to learn, but it’s so worth it if you get to do what you love.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

If I could change anything it would be working on the editing portion a bit more with Marked before I submitted. Like I’d said in an earlier question, I tend to be a bit impulsive, and I was just so excited and nervous, but mostly excited to get it out there…typos and all. I’ve since re-edited and re-submitted, but my future goal from now on is to have all the I’s dotted and the t’s crossed before I submit. We all live and learn.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’m still in the beginning stages, but I can say it will be a young adult urban fantasy with touches of horror and that the main character will be a hybrid whose blood will have some very unique qualities to it.

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What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

 

The toughest criticism would probably have to do with my grammar skills…or lack thereof. Commas and I sort of have a love / hate relationship with one another. But as I said before, we live and we learn, and I’d like to thing that commas and I are becoming fast friends. Some of the best compliments I’ve gotten has to be when a reader said my books were just as good as Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments books—which happens to be one of my favorite series—and another said they loved them just as much as Stephanie Myers Twilight series—which I also love. I also had a reader love my series so much they tattooed Hanna’s symbol (from the original cover of Marked) onto their arm.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

My advice would be to have a good support team in place. The writing part is easy; it’s everything else like marketing, for example that can be daunting. Luckily, there are some fabulous Facebook groups out there where you can connect with other authors who are more than willing to help you out and give you feedback. I belong to a few of them and I have to say, I’ve learned a lot.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I don’t know if it’s strange or not, but I have to have music playing whenever I write. Some people may find that distracting, but I find it inspiring. For me, the music adds to the atmosphere of the world I’m creating.

What others are saying about T.L. McDonald:

“The author does a great job of weaving a vivid tale filled with twists and turns and creating characters that are truly relatable.”

“MARKED is a rollercoaster ride of mystery mixed with the classic YA elements we all know and love, and it sets up perfectly for the next installment in the series.”

“I found the story entertaining and I wanted to read about the characters. I cared about them and I wanted to find out what the mystery was. The author did a good job in creating tension and keeping the mystery interesting for the reader.”


You can find T.L. McDonald at the Young Adult Author Rendezvous HERE!

You can find her on Facebook HERE!

She’s on Goodreads HERE!

Don’t forget to check out some other posts on our blog HERE!

Story Seeds by Susan Faw

Story Seeds by Author Susan Faw

Short stories for when we just need the inspiration.

“I am purity of thought. I am steel sheathed in oil. I am justice made flesh. I am a blade master.”

sword-918542_1920

The thought skidded across the vacant space where normally lodged his fears, devoid of the normal sensations that fueled it. He packaged the sensations and pushed them into a blackened box, a box that constantly burned. He fed his fears to the flame and the box swallowed the ashes.

He recited the catechism, blocking out hope and despair in equal measure. Emotion had no place in the ritual of the blade. There was only form and shape, steel and flesh. All other realities were extraneous.

His opponent was at least a hand taller, with a corresponding reach, but his advantage lay in his speed, in his ability to dance the swords as light ballerina on pointe. In actual fact he practiced the traditional dance as often with his sister as with other blade masters, as the foot work of the dance gave him a swiftness and lightness of movement missing in most who claimed the title.

ballet-shoes-999807_1920

This dexterity had saved his life more than once.

He was not sure it would be enough this time.

Patel stroked the air with his blade, with practice strokes that whirled around his form and the blurring caught the sunlight in a sizzling arc that made his eyes blink bright trailers.

The crowd shifted, gasps and “ooh’s” rising in a wave and murmuring broke out.

Maybe I shouldn’t have challenged the king’s steward. Perhaps that was unwise… he shoved the thought into the box as his concentration wavered. He had no room for doubt. To win this battle would take every ounce of skill he possessed.

He squared with the towering bulk that was Patel, and touched his blade to forehead, then bowed.

Whatever the outcome, he would show himself true. His sister would be avenged. Raw pain lanced across his peace, but this time he stoked it, stroked it. This challenge was for her. Images of her broken body, tossed into a ditch along the roadside flashed into his mind. He held the image of her ravaged body in his vision, feeding his passion and his sense of justice to be served, but the anger, the fear, the grief of loss he fed to the box.

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He would avenge his sister. He would attack swiftly, with all the force he could bring to bear. Full tilt, unto the death. Life was not worth living without her.

“I am purity of thought. I am steel sheathed in oil. I am justice made flesh. I am a blade master.”

He launched himself at Patel, sword a matching blur to Patel’s. A whirlwind of dancing death descended on the unsuspecting steward.

sword dance girl-431751_1920

English Idiom: “Full Tilt”- As fast or forcefully as possible…Originally referring to the combatants’ thrust of a sword or lance this term has been used figurative since about 1700.”

Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.


Want more from Susan? You can check out her books on Goodreads HERE.

Find Susan on the YA Author Rendezvous site HERE.

This was posted by Michelle Lynn with the express permission of Susan Faw.

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