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Author Spotlight: Lili Mahoney

lili mahoney - authorInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with Lili Mahoney.

Hey Lili! Thanks for doing this interview. We’re excited to share your wonderful book with our readers. What can you tell them about it?

My debut novel is Barefoot Pastures and is the first of four in the saga.  It’s a young adult novel about a Texas cowgirl who is finishing her senior year in high school and trying to figure out where she wants to go next.

Do you have a favorite character? I know, that’s like asking someone to choose which of their children they love more.

To pick just one is really hard. Does Rusty count? I mean I know he’s a horse, but he’s got such personality! Tory’s gang, as I like to call them, is made up of characters I love for different reasons.  Of course there is Megan, her best friend who counter balances Tory and is light and carefree.  I also love Dillon and the support and loyalty he shows.  But the twins are her pillars and comedy relief as well.  I guess if I had to pick just one that I always go to, it would be Tyler.  He just makes me laugh so much.

Tory works the rodeo circuit, something that I loved. I know nothing about it so I found that world fascinating. Do you have a lot of experience in that world?

I do and I don’t.  I wasn’t born on a farm or ranch, so compared to individuals who were, I’d so no.  They are the true cowboys and cowgirls.  Folks that live that life in order to survive.  However, I did start barrel racing when I was about 12 years old and continued throughout college.  Though it was a “hobby”, I worked my horse every single day, for hours and hours, and raced most weekends, all over the great state of Texas.  It’s a world that I feel truly at home in, the people and the animals are where my heart is.

When most people think about rodeos, they picture bull riding and the other big events portrayed by movies. But this book is about the horses and there’s something so pure about the bond between Lili and her horse. What is it about horses that you love so much?

Horses have a way about them that is hard to explain.  Besides the obvious, being huge and powerful, yet soft and furry, they are also magnificent creatures whose soul reaches something deep inside you and both calms and ignites a fire.  When you work with a horse, it’s a partnership built on trust and a drive to work hard, to give all of yourself to each other in order to accomplish the goal. A horse doesn’t know how to hold back. That is what I love.

Tory goes through a lot, yet remains strong and confident in herself. What are the keys to writing a character like this?

Tory has accomplished a lot in her young life and that builds a certain level of self-worth.  She is flawed though, and she knows it.  To create a character, a teenage girl that other teenage girls can relate to, is a challenge.  But to be honest, Tory really took on a life of her own.  She is loosely based on my daughter.  A strong-willed, independent, and feisty female who will not be held back by gender roles.  Sometimes that makes her annoying.  She can be too stubborn at times, but like all young females, she’s still learning and growing.  Tory is fighting to find out who she is deep inside, who she truly wants to be, and that is the key to her character.  I think we all continue on that journey of finding ourselves, or at least a version of ourselves that we like and are proud of.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

Tory’s journey was written in one document and in about four months. It was only after the story was “purged” that I began learning about publishing, (ie. book length) and discovered that it would need to be broken up into four books, thus creating a saga.  So, the “ending” had to be a point along that journey that could sort of be a break, or a timeout so to speak.

What authors have inspired you to write?

It never crossed my mind, being a writer.  I wasn’t even a reader, honestly.  Reading takes work for me, being dyslexic, and it was not a pastime I enjoyed.  The way it happened is sort of strange, I have to admit.  Some fellow teachers who were reading the Twlight series talked me into reading the books (of course I was hooked) and as I was reading them, “Tory” began telling her story.  My daily thoughts became consumed with in inner dialogue and I simply had to write it down to get it out of my head. 

What age were you when you started writing?

In my 30’s

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

My stories don’t seem to develop that way, so no, I haven’t.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I just write and as I get it put down on paper, the story just progresses.

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

What do you mean they aren’t real?

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

I tried traditional publishing first.  I had two agents that were interested in representing me, but insisted the book be shortened, by almost half, since I was an unknown writer.  They both said it would be hard to find someone to publish it because of the length.  After a lot of consideration, I just couldn’t change the story from the way it was written and proceeded to learn about Indie publishing. 

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?

There was a lot to learn, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way.  Except maybe to not be in a rush once I had the book polished and ready.  I should have done a bit more exploring about publishing companies and marketing.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I have two books ready to be published, I just need the time to put into the marketing and release.  One is the continuation of Barefoot Pastures, and is Young Adult.  The other is Contemporary Romance that I will publish under another name.

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

I have been told that Tory is annoying, more than once.  And in a way, I already knew that.  She’s slightly flawed, but she’s growing and maturing.  Still, it hurts when someone doesn’t like your character.  It’s like someone saying they don’t like you or your friends. 

The thing I’ve heard more than once, and makes me the happiest about my book is when they stayed up all night reading, that they couldn’t put it down.  My favorite was someone telling me they called in sick to work so they could finish reading!  LOVE THAT.  I’m selfish that way.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

I’m probably not the best to give advice since I just starting writing, and with no prior training.  But I think it’s important to do what you think you would be good at, what you dream of.  So learn all you can learn about that “craft”.  Research and research some more.  Then share your work with someone you trust will be honest with you.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

When I write I like to have headphones on to help me block out the things happening around me.  I like to snack, and not be interrupted until I get out what is currently playing in my head.  Which I guess isn’t very weird, but for me it’s a big thing.   (snacks vary between sweet and salty.  I love popcorn and reeses pieces mixed together)

Thanks for the chat Lili! For anyone considering reading about this crazy and complex world of rodeo and the pure, sweet bond between girl and horse, here are what others are saying.

“Tory’s awkwardness was cute and her brothers made her all the more endearing. They provided both the humor and a large part of the heart. The theme of family is very strong and I could fall in love with the story on that alone. “

“I would recommend this book as a great coming-of-age story about what it means to be a teenager. Whether you’re familiar with Texas or tending horses (both of which you’ll get a real education about in this story) or not, the familiar teenage themes will resonate with you whether you’re currently living your teen years or well past them.”

“Lili Mahoney does a great job at creating an introverted and socially insecure character and then allowing her to grow and blossom throughout the story. She paints a wonderful setting and I really enjoyed reading Barefoot Pastures.”


Miss last week’s post? Check it out here!

Are you a teenager or know a few who love to write? Our Flash fiction contest is now open. Find out how to enter to win some great prizes. Contest details.

Author Spotlight: Korey Ward

korey ward - authorInterview by T.D. Shields

An Interview with Korey Ward.

Tell us about you! Where are you from? What’s your family like? We want to know it all!

Well, I grew up in the small town of Flatwoods Ky. I was raised by my grandparents on my mother’s side. They took sole custody of me when I was about six, because I was in a really bad place at that time in my life. My father took off shortly after I was born, and my mother is an alcoholic who likes to throw wild parties. I could literarily write a book on all the things I’ve seen and experienced just with in the first 5 years of existence. And perhaps I will one day. I owe my whole life to my grandparents because without them I probably wouldn’t have one.

When and why did you begin writing?

My writing, I believe, was a progression of little ideas before I ever even dreamed of writing an entire novel. My first experience with writing, that wasn’t part of my schooling, was in the form of little poems that would pop into my head from time to time. Then after high school I formed a rock band called Fates Tragedy. We were together for about 8 years, and were becoming quite successful locally before we all went our separate ways. I wrote the majority of the lyrics for the band, which I found easy transitioning from poetry to structured lyrics. It wasn’t until after my daughter Zoey, was about 8 years old that I even thought about writing a book.  We were rather poor at the time and we couldn’t even afford cable and it was well before streaming services such as Netflix, so we started to buy a book or two a month and I would read it to my daughter, and even act it out occasionally. After reading the likes of the Grey Griffins series by : J. S. Lewis, and Derek Benz, someone suggested to me that I should write my own stories to read to Zoey since I had a vivid imagination. That is when I began writing the first lines to what would later become Rise of the Shadow Seekers. It wasn’t until years later that I buckled down and finished the book, due to my wife’s constant encouragement.

What books do you have published and where can we buy them?

I have two books published at this time. The first Being Rise of the Shadow Seekers: The First Seeker. It was published on November 3rd 2015 under Korey L. Ward. The second book is Strawberry Sorbet: A Noir, published on Valentine’s Day 2016, under my pen name, Landon Wake. You can find all of my books on amazon, BAM online, and Barnes and Noble online.

What project are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on a psychological suspense thriller called G.P.S I can’t reveal any more details than that at this time, other than it will be published under my Landon Wake pen name. In case you were wondering, I use Korey L. Ward as my young adult/ kid friendly books, and Landon Wake as my more adult themed books.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing for me is the stick-to-itiveness. With life and work and family and just not being in the mood, gets in the way sometimes, but you just have to push through it.

What is the best thing about writing?

The best thing about writing to me, is that feeling of completion, and knowing that others will get the chance to hopefully enjoy the labor of my love.

Just for fun… If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be?

If I were a superhero, I would have the power to heal all diseases. If you really want to save someone I think that is the best place to start. Superman could catch a person falling from a tall building, wouldn’t be able to save that person from the cancer that will take their life next week.

What book are you reading now?

I’m reading Intensity by Dean Koontz right now.

Who are your favorite authors?

My favorite authors are the king himself Stephen King. Dean Koontz, Joe Hill, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. J. S Lewis, and Derek Benz.

Where can readers find you to say hello and keep up with your latest news and new releases?

You can find me at koreylward.com, Facebook, Twitter, and other various social media.

And finally, anything specific that you would like to say to our readers?

Yes, of course. I would love to thank you all for giving me a chance. I strive to entertain you all and poor my heart and soul into all of my books. I also have to give you props for actually reading to the end of this whole thing, Ha! Check you later.

Korey, out.

Author Spotlight: Christopher Mannino

Christopher ManninoInterview by Michelle Lynn 

  • Hey Christopher, thanks for doing this. We’re all pretty excited to learn more about the man behind the brilliant world of deaths, so let’s get started. First, can you tell us a little about your books?

 

School of Deaths and Sword of Deaths form the first two parts of a trilogy called The Scythe Wielder’s Secret. The final novel, Daughter of Deaths, will release in 2017. In School of Deaths, a young girl named Susan is pulled from her home in Maryland and brought to the College of Deaths, where she’s forced to train to become a Death, Reaping souls from the Mortal World to the Hereafter. She learns that she’s the first female Death in a million years, and faces sexism and bullying from all her peers. She eventually forms a group of close friends, and as the series progresses realizes that her presence in the World of Deaths is no accident. A war between the ancient original reapers, the Dragons, and the Deaths is about to erupt, and Susan’s right at the heart of the conflict. In Sword of Deaths, Susan and her friends find an ancient artifact that may help in the oncoming confrontation. In Daughter of Deaths, the Dragons attack, and Susan and her two closest friends undertake an epic journey across three worlds hoping to save the Deaths.

 

  • You’ve written some great character that people can really identify with. Who’s your favorite?

 

I really like Frank, and the arc his character goes through, progressing/maturing from the first book through the end of the series. I also intentionally paralleled Susan’s arc to Frank’s.

 

  • As a woman, I loved Suzie. Girl Power! She’s the lone girl character of any importance. As much of a dream as that would sound to most girls, I’m sure it created some problems or unique situations when writing? Can you tell me about that?

 

Yes! In the very earliest draft, the sexism wasn’t even an issue. The main character was Billy, and the College was co-ed. However, as I worked on the book, I wanted to increase the main character’s isolation, and that led me to realize that the overwhelming majority of grim reaper portrayals are either men, or are parodies. I wanted to make a female Death who wasn’t a parody, and was a strong heroine in her own right.
However, as a man, writing in a girl’s point of view, particularly a teenager’s, can be problematic. In one scene in book one, Susan has her first period. It’s an intentional scene, both in terms of the fact that it sets her apart, and also it serves as foreshadowing for several events. I wrote the scene, then gave it my wife to help me re-write it, and later had two female beta readers pay special attention to it, but I’ve still had students tell them that scene in particular made them a bit uncomfortable.

 

  • So, death, huh? Your characters are training to be grim reapers. Does spending so much time dwelling on death get exhausting?

 

Death’s the only absolute certainty in life. While the book has extremely dark undertones, I intentionally kept the tone light, particularly in the first two books. The focus in my series isn’t really the reapings or the occupation, it’s the world that the reapers live in. From a social justice perspective, the Deaths in the book are not the horrors, the sexism and racism are. For me, and for the characters, the focus is on what we can do in our lives, not a fear of what might happen after.

 

  • Personally, I love dragons. So, I was pretty psyched when I read your book and realized they were going to play a part. How do you find a new take on such a popular and often done creature?

 

I love dragons too, and it was fun to write about them. Especially in Daughter of Deaths, when we see the world of the Dragons up close, I think you’ll find extremely different dragons than usually appear in fantasy or elsewhere. For me, the series has an underlying theme of addressing sexism, bullying, and racism. As one of the races, Dragons became a non-homogeneous collective. I think too many stories lump all dragons together as being one certain way. I think each dragon would have its own issues and own society.

 

  • Were there alternate endings that you considered?

I always knew exactly how this series would end. However, without giving anything away about the end, all of the plot strings wrap up, but the door’s left open a crack.

 

  • These days, there are so many amazing books out there. What authors have inspired you to write?

 

My favorites growing up were Tolkien, Asimov, and Pratchett. They were my initial inspirations, joined later by authors such as Gaiman, Rowling, and Ken Follett.

 

  • What age were you when you started writing?

We were given an assignment to read three books, then pick an author of one of the three and copy their style. My three were: “The Lord of the Rings”, “The Mabinogion” (A Welsh myth cycle- I used the four book Evangeline Walton translation), and Robert Holdstock’s “The Hollowing.” This, while half the class chose “The Cat in the Hat” as one of their three. I ended up writing a short story in Tolkien’s style about the Ents searching for the Entwives. It was my first written story, and I’ve enjoyed writing ever since.

 

  • Do you ever experience writer’s block?

 

I honestly don’t believe in writer’s block. I have trouble progressing at times (extremely rarely), but since I get so little time to write regularly, I have to be efficient about my writing time. I don’t have time for writer’s block.

 

  • Do you work with an outline, or just write?

 

 

In the past, including for The Scythe Wielder’s Secret, I used what I called an image outline. I’d start with a concrete idea, and then develop a series of images. Many of the art pieces on my SITE are images from my image outline, that I later described to my cousin (the artist). I have vivid pictures in my mind, like photographs, and know I want them to be in the story, but don’t necessarily know how they’ll connect- I just write after that.

However, the more I write, the more that’s starting to change. I’ve been working on my current novel by outline sections of about six chapters at a time, still connecting the image outline, but less by the seat of my pants. At the same time, I’ve already started a detailed outline of the book I’ll write after that, including eleven pages of pure plot outline, and a thirty page glossary of places/characters. This is new for me, and we’ll see how it impacts the writing.

 

  • Our characters become like friends to us. Some of the time we spend more time with them than we do with the people in our lives. Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real?

 

But they are real. As long as we can imagine them, they’re real in a sense.

 

  • We all want the ability to do the extraordinary. Sometimes writing allows us to do just that. If you could have any power in real life, what would it be?

 

Shape-shifting! It covers most of the other powers I’d want, including flight.

 

  • If you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

 

Indian

 

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

 

I did not want to self publish. I queried hundreds of agents and publishers, before eventually finding the publisher who printed the book. It took me about a year to find a publisher, and then another year to go through the editing process.

 

  • 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?

 

I’ve learned a lot about both writing and publishing since my first book came out, and definitely feel that I’ve grown as an author significantly. There is a sport called boskery that appears in the first two books. While I do think it adds to the novels, I’m not sure I would include it at all if I was to write them over again.

 

  • Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

 

Two years ago, Susan Sarnio was brought to the World of Deaths.

Fighting sexism and bullying, the first female Death helped reinvent the College.

Now, her friends journey deep into the heart of enemy territory, hoping to rescue her. Ancient secrets come to light. The horrifying truth behind Susan’s arrival in the World of Deaths is at last revealed. War erupts between Dragons and Deaths, and the fate of three worlds hangs in the balance.  Daughter of Deaths, the epic conclusion to The Scythe Wielder’s Secret releases in 2017.

The final novel in the trilogy is told from the same three points of view as book two. The series has now moved completely from light fantasy (Harry Potter/Percy Jackson style) to epic fantasy (Lord of the Rings/Eragon style). There’s a lot that happens in book three, and the end just may shock you.

 

  • Criticism can be the hardest part of being an author. How do you deal with it?

 

It hurts, but you move on, and focus on the positive acclaim you’ve gotten. In the end, I write because I have stories to tell. Not everyone will want to hear them, but the stories still need to be told.

 

  • There has never been a better time to be a writer. The publishing world is wide open and more books are being published than ever before. Do you have any advice to give to writers thinking about jumping in to this crazy world?

 

Never give up.

 

  • Do you have any strange writing habits?

 

I like to write with Pandora on- I play film scores, or trailer music such as Audiomachine.

 

  • And finally, for some fun – Dogs or Cats?

 

BOTH- although I only really like cat sized dogs. (I have a shih tzu)

 

  • What is your biggest fear?

 

That someday I’ll meet Susan on one of her colleagues for real. J

 

Thanks for joining us, Christopher.

 

Don’t forget to check out the exciting world of deaths in The Scythe Wielder’s Secret!

 

Author Spotlight: Sarah Wathen

sarahwathen-page1

 

Written by L J Higgins

 

It’s time again to meet one of YAAR’s talented authors! Today we interviewed Sarah Wathen, author of the Catchpenny Series.

 

 

  1. Tell us about your Catchpenny Series.

Catchpenny is an offbeat romance—one novel released in 4 serial parts. The original title was Wicked Lover, and that’s exactly what Meg Shannon is…in all of the ways you might interpret such a phrase. She’s in her senior year of high school, so imagine the consequences of playing that role. Meg has plenty of enemies and slut shame is a big theme. She does find love, yet finding her true worth as a human being is the ultimate quest. In that way, it’s also a coming of age story.

 

  1. Why did you release it as a serial?

I had intended it to be a pretty short read in the beginning. My first book, The Tramp, is part of a long epic story, with tons of characters, history, and interweaving plot lines. With Catchpenny, I wanted to take a breather and write a simple love story. Of course nothing about love is simple, and writing about it isn’t short or simple either. I finished Wicked Lover (part one) and while I was working through it with my editor, part two just couldn’t help itself from happening.

 

  1. Your main character in Wicked lover is a teenage girl who is obsessed with poker. Do you play?

I would say Meg’s a gambler in almost every sense. Love interest Tristan would say she gambles with her body, but not her heart. I do play a little poker, but my game is Blackjack and I learned from the best. My Aunt Maxine taught me everything I could know about cards and she was a true romantic, a guiding force in writing this book. She passed away right before Thanksgiving last year and Catchpenny is dedicated to her.

 

  1. The world is captivated by young love, which seems to be a main theme in Wicked Lover. What do you think we find so enchanting about it?

Young love is pure. We can all remember when we felt so powerfully about another person, before all the worries of adult life got in the way: finances, marriage, family, career. Back when we were invincible and our worlds were filled with boundless hope and endless possibility. Of course, I remember young love being pretty painful, too, when I really stop to think about it. Reading a book about it is much more fun!

 

  1. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

I’m always influenced by whatever good book I am currently reading. Right now it’s The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro, a collection of short stories. Makes me feel like writing a short story, which I’ve never done.

 

  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?

There’s plenty I would change about the money I wasted! I made so many mistakes it’s ridiculous. But I guess I learned from them all, too, and in a way, the knowledge I gained is priceless.

 

  1. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Catchpenny is the collection of four serial parts: Wicked Lover, Battle Ax, Cactus Heart, and Gold Mine. It was fun to release the books as a serial at first, and since I’m a brand new author, it was a great way for readers to get a taste of my writing before diving into a full novel. Yet after finishing the serial, I really wanted to give people a chance to read the story as a whole.

 

  1. How did you come up with the title for your books?

“Catchpenny” means something cheap, bought for pennies. In the beginning, that how Meg thinks about herself (though she doesn’t realize that). Her journey from a Wicked Lover, through to the Gold Mine in the end of the series, is about her discovering her worth. The two books in between are titled for key concepts in each, but I can’t give that away!

 

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

I’ve been told that my first book, The Tramp, moves too slowly by some. It’s hard for me not to take that to heart and just stay the course of my plan for the series. I hate that I feel like changing the story because of what some people think, because I think it’s a great book and I do have a plan for it as a series. It was written with a lot of purpose and not every book needs to move quickly, like Catchpenny does. Mostly, I think I made some marketing and genre mistakes. Because the best compliments have also come from The Tramp! Maybe it moves slowly, but apparently that’s because I’m a darn good “wordsmith” and I’m great at painting a rich, visual landscape. That doesn’t happen when you rush through a book! You need to settle in. I guess my favorite books that I’ve read are of the settle in variety.

 

  1. If you had a superpower what would it be?

Mind control, so I would never have to worry about marketing ever again!

 

  1. What else are you working on at the moment?

I’m marrying writing and making art together in a graphic novel. It’s a really exciting project and a huge challenge for me. The story comes from a series of Flash Fiction that I wrote back in April last year called Gaslight. The short, 300-word segments are perfect for graphic novel chapters!

 

  1. Tell us about your cover design.

Each of the four drawings on the Catchpenny cover were covers for the four serial parts. The first one, the cover for Wicked Lover, was a charcoal drawing with a long history for me in grad school. This weird little figure began as a chalk smudge on velvet paper, then came alive as I discerned a tiny being and filled in details with a pen. I wrote it’s birthdate down and “pregnant, dancing, armored bodice.” Next, it became a series of silk screens, each print different. Finally, she was fully realized in the detailed drawing I used for Wicked Lover. When I found the drawing in a flat file, she was just perfect for this strange creature that Meg Shannon is in the beginning of Catchpenny. The figure becomes more human and more beautiful in each part, then finally takes flight. It’s such a great metaphor for discovering yourself.

 

  1. Your website shows that as well as writing you have a passion for art. Which do you prefer and why?

They are apples and oranges, though both ways to create. Writing and making art couldn’t feel more different to me, and I need them both. Here’s a good way to think of it: when I paint I listen to rock, when I draw I listen to jazz, and when I write I listen to white noise on noise-canceling headphones. I was classically trained in painting and up until a few years ago, that’s how I would’ve defined myself. Now I realize that, as an artist, I just choose the hat for the moment. Last year I was “a writer,” this year I’m “an illustrator,” and before that I was “a painter.” It’s all art.

 

  1. Are you a coffee or a tea drinker?

I’m drinking coffee right now, but I prefer wine.

 

  1. Is there anything else you would like your readers to know about you?

Yes! I work closely with my musician husband when I write, and the title Wicked Lover is from a song that his band, Her Last Boyfriend, wrote. It’s the song in the book trailer I produced and you can check it out here: http://bit.ly/WickedLoverTrailer

Also, HLB has decided to produce an EP album of four songs, one tune for each serial part of Catchpenny. It’s not finished yet, but they are doing some really cool stuff that goes so well with the story in the book. I love it! The second song is a remake of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” The fourth is an alternative rock version of the famous wedding song, Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” Follow my blog, and I’ll keep you informed: www.sarahwathen.com

 

An Interview with L.J. Higgins

New Release January 2016Written by T.D. Shields

  1. Tell us about your book, Dawn of the Dreamer.  Do you have a favourite part or character?

Dawn of the Dreamer is set in the year 2023.  It follows the story of Amelia who, due to new technologies being unable to change her dreams, has been labelled a Dreamer and is therefore made to feel different and unlike her friends and family.

My favourite part to write was the fire scene. I can’t pinpoint why exactly, but it came to me so
easily and I really enjoyed writing it. As for characters, I couldn’t decide between Amelia and Jonah.

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

When I was around twelve years old. I use to write stories and short novels then take them to my teachers for them to read and give me feedback. I have a folder full of old, cringe-worthy stories. I’ve always loved reading, so I guess it stemmed from there.

  1. How long does it take you to write a book?

Dawn of the Dreamer took eight months, but Fall of the Dreamer only took me three to four. I’m getting better at mapping out and planning my novels, which makes the writing process easier and quicker.

  1. What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Schedule? What is that? I’m a stay at home mum and between getting kids to school, keeping my daughter occupied all day, and trying to keep a clean house and a happy husband I don’t have much of a schedule at all. I write when I can fit it in, which usually means very late nights.

  1. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I’d like to say I don’t have one. But I’m sure if someone came and watched me write they’d find quite a few.

  1. How do you overcome writer’s block?

I haven’t had to yet, and hope I never do have to. I’ve had motivation block before. But YAAR’s group usually helps with that one.

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

Relax with a green tea and read a good book, spend quality time with my family, I love to paint, draw and craft (I have my own shed dedicated to this)

  1. What does your family think of your writing?

They are all extremely supportive. They don’t always necessarily understand the hours and effort that goes into writing and publishing, but they have always told me to go for it.

  1. What made you decide to write for a young adult audience?

Because they are my favourite type of books, and because I think YA covers the period of a person’s life when they go through the most change. Trying to work out who they are and what they want to do with their life.

  1. Where did you come up with the idea for Dawn of the Dreamer? Was there something in particular that triggered the idea?

I’d started a blog, and noticing that I was reigniting my passion for writing, a friend of mine bought me notebook and inside she put a post it note saying that she couldn’t wait to read my future novel. With no word of a lie, that night I had a dream that sparked the idea for Dawn of the Dreamer and the Dreamer Trilogy.

  1. What project are you working on now?

Fall of the Dremer (Dreamer Trilogy, Book Two) will be released on the 28th January, so I have been working on getting it ready. I’m also writing Book Three of the trilogy, while also mapping out the story for my next series. There is also a stand-alone book I am working on that is more contemporary but still young adult.

  1. Anything else you’d like to tell your friends and fans?

At the moment I am running an amazing giveaway where you can not only win softcover copies of Dawn of the Dreamer, and Fall of the Dreamer but also a Dreamer singlet, a beautiful Dream Catcher, Journals and other great Dreamer goodies. You can find out more on my Facebook page.
I will also be a part of a 5 Author Extravaganza with four other YAAR authors on the 30th January. It is an online event where we will play games and giving away prizes. You can join us by clicking on this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/1665268217072460/
And of course, Fall of the Dreamer will be released on the 28th of January as both an Ebook and softcover book!

Author Spotlight: T.D Shields

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Written by
Michelle Lynn

What are the titles of your work and can you tell us a bit about them?
My first two books are Into Shadow and Into Light. You should probably read them in that order. I just heard from one of my beta readers for Into Light and she accidentally read it first and then started on Into Shadow… she was very confused!

Both books are set in the not-so-distant future… there has been an enormous war that involved the entire world and the country is only now beginning to recover from it. The country is led by a dashing, handsome war hero who you would like very much if I didn’t kill him off within a few minutes of opening the book.

After his death, his daughter Poppy has to learn to fend for herself and figure out what to do next. She ends up hiding in one of the many cities that were left decimated and deserted after the world war, only to learn that the city of Denver is not nearly as empty as she’d been led to believe.

Into Shadow is really about Poppy finding her way and figuring out how to be her own person after spending so many years as an extension of her father. Into Light is where she returns to confront the man who destroyed her life and killed her father. It all sounds kind of dramatic and dark, but I try to let my snarky sense of humor peek out enough to lighten the mood.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?
Poppy is my favorite, of course! She’s the center of the story and she’s really everything I would like to be myself. She’s smart and loving but tough and able to literally kick butt when the situation calls for it. And she’s a redhead – as I am myself. I have a hard time NOT making the heroine of one of my stories a redhead; I just think it’s the best possible hair you can have.

Your series consists of two books at a time when trilogies are very popular. Can you tell us a little about what goes into a decision like that?
I guess I have a little trouble with premature encapsulation… I wound up the whole story too early so it was only two books instead of three!

But really, so many stories ARE trilogies these days and often that’s just perfect. But sometimes it feels like the story is being stretched out unnecessarily just to make it fit into the three-book mold. Poppy’s story was done at the end of two books.

Besides, how many times have you loved the first two books of a trilogy and then the third was kind of a let-down? I avoided that by stopping with two. I won’t rule out revisiting the world at some point – maybe to give Rivers and Sharra their own story.

How important is reading to your writing? Any particular genres that get your mojo flowing?
If you want the really honest truth… reading is actually a barrier to writing for me. I LOVE to read. I will forgo sleep and slack off on my paying job occasionally when I get caught up in a great book. (Unless my boss reads this and then I definitely NEVER slack off on my day job to read a book! And if I ever did, I totally made up for it later, I promise!)

And when I’m all caught up in a great story from another author, I’m so into it that it crowds out my own stories. I do my best writing when I force myself to put down my reading and listen to the stories in my own head.

I like to read almost any genre, but my favorites are dystopian (big surprise!) and anything with a paranormal twist; ghosts, urban fantasy, and other things that go bump in the night are always fun for me.

What authors have inspired you to write?
It’s so hard to pick just one… but I will go with Kiera Cass, who wrote The Selection series. That is the series that I read just before I finally sat down at the computer with the intention of writing out one of my stories. The world that she created just felt so real to me that I wanted to stay in it a while longer. In the end, the world my books live in is not the same as Cass’s world – which is as it should be, because I want to be inspired, not a copycat. But it was definitely that view of the future that led to my version of it.

What’s your favorite book and what is it that draws you to it?
Another tough one! I love so many… The Dresden Files, the Mercy Thompson series, The Selection series, The Hunger Games, pretty much anything by Mercedes Lackey.

But if I really have to pick one, I would have to go with The Belgariad by David Eddings. This is a series of five books and it’s high fantasy – full of wizardry and drama and peril. It’s the first series that I really remember being completely immersed in. I have read it a dozen times at least and it never loses its magic (no pun intended) for me.

What age were you when you started writing?
As I recall, I wrote my first book at about age seven. It was around a dozen pages long, hand-written and self-illustrated on lined paper that I tore from a notebook and stapled together. I couldn’t tell you any of the storyline anymore, but I do remember that my heroine was named Philadelphia and liked to be called Philly. I also remember an illustration of Philly sitting in a nest. I don’t know if this is because the story ACTUALLY involved Philly sitting in a nest or if that’s just my lack of drawing ability coming to the fore – maybe the picture was supposed to be something else entirely.

To my parents’ great credit, they almost managed not to laugh out loud as they read my first attempt at a book. Since the story of Philadelphia was quite a serious drama, I was pretty offended by the laughter. That may be why it took another thirty years or so before I made another serious attempt at writing a book.

Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you deal with it?
It’s not a huge thing for me, but I do run into it from time to time. My preferred method of dealing with it is to play lots of rounds of Monster Busters (a match-three game) on my tablet. It occupies just enough of my mind to let me bypass the block and work out some plot points in the background of my thoughts.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I have a very loose outline. I know where I’m starting out and I know where I want to end up, and I lay out a few major milestones along the way. Then I just write and find out where the story takes me.

It has been said that authors sometimes think of their characters as an extension of themselves. Do yours ever feel real to you?
Oh my gosh, yes! I sometimes have to remind myself that these are not real people. I think of my characters as my friends and it’s actually kind of sad to me when I have to stop and realize that they are actually just figments of my own imagination.

If you were a super hero, what would your power be?
I’m greedy. I would want a bunch of them, kind of like superman. I want the super-strength, the super-speed, the x-ray vision, and definitely the ability to fly. I would also like the power to be invisible, especially when the kids are looking for me to tell me more tales of Minecraft. I could just lie right there in the bed taking a nap and they’d never know where to find me!

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
The technical aspects were a little challenging at first. Just figuring out where to go, what to do, and how it all works can be intimidating. I kind of fumbled my way through it, but it worked eventually.

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?
I would learn more about the whole marketing side of things first. I really had no idea how much work it would be to handle the marketing for the already published stuff while still trying to write something new. For me it kind of turned into an either/or thing. I could either focus on marketing Into Shadow or I could focus on writing Into Light. Now that I’m making final tweaks on Into Light, I can move back into marketing mode again, I guess.

Can you tell us about your next book?
The next book is the start of a new series. Hey, maybe this one will be a trilogy! It’s more lighthearted than Into Shadow and Into Light. It will be called Catbird Seat and it’s urban fantasy, featuring a main character who is a crime-solving cat. It sounds kind of strange, I guess, but I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest critiques are the ones that are correct! When I read a comment about something that could have been better and realize that they have a very valid point, it stings a little, but ultimately helps me do things better the next time around.

I really dislike it when someone gives me a low rating of one or two stars, but doesn’t say WHY they feel that way. I’m totally on board with your right to not like my book, but I would like to know what it was that turned you off so I can try not to do that again. Then again, maybe if the one-star reviewers left comments I would hate it even more than when they don’t comment, so I should probably leave well enough alone!

The best compliment is when someone tells me they loved the book and can’t wait to see what happens next. The idea that someone else is enjoying my story and wants more is exhilarating. And my mom didn’t laugh at my book this time around (except in appropriate spots). That was a big relief.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Just jump in and give it a try. Until you give it your best shot you don’t know what you can do.

Do you have any strange writing habits?
I can’t write in the daytime. Or when anyone in the house is still awake, really. I will procrastinate all day long and get nothing accomplished, but suddenly at midnight it’s like an alarm goes off in my brain and it’s time to be productive!

Dogs or Cats?
Cats, for sure. Dogs are cute, but I can’t stand it when they slobber on me. And with Roomie as a major character in my first books and my next series starring a cat as the main character, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I lean that direction.

Chocolate or Vanilla?
I’ll never turn down chocolate, but given a choice between the two, I’ll take vanilla.

What is your biggest fear?
It’s an oddly specific, but real fear… I worry that my car will catch fire while I’m filling it with gas. I try to never re-fuel the car while my kids are with me because I don’t want them strapped in their car seats while the car is on fire. I will postpone fueling up for as long as possible in hopes that my husband will just give in and go to the gas station before I have to.

I realize that it’s ridiculous, but in my defense, my brother’s car really did catch fire while he was filling it with gas. It burned down to a charred frame and nothing more, right there in the parking lot of the gas station! Ever since then I have obsessed over it a little.

Also, vampires. When I was a kid (around 4th grade) I slept with a jar of garlic salt and a fork under my pillow. Apparently my mom felt a stake was inappropriate? I’m still not entirely convinced that vampires (of the scary, non-sparkly variety) are not lurking in the dark when I have to go out alone at night.

So, pretty bleak view of the future. Are you insane? And should we be worried?
Yes. And yes.

Just kidding, I hope. I like to look at Into Shadow as the bleak future, but Into Light takes us past that into bright new possibilities (at least by the end of it all). But even amid the desolation of bombed-out, rubble-strewn cities, people still find friends and family and build good lives. Technology keeps progressing and finding new and better ways to do things. And most people want to do the right thing. So even though there’s plenty to worry about these days, I try to focus on the light, even when it’s almost hidden by the scarier stuff.

And as far as my own sanity goes… I wouldn’t lay any bets in favor of my clean mental-health evaluation. 😉

What People Are Saying About Tara and Into Shadow:

“With the verbal brush-strokes of a Renaissance artist, T.D. Shields crafts a vivid picture of a world two centuries in the future. Thousands of books are given such a setting, but it takes a skilled author to immerse us in that world without weighing the story down in descriptions.”

“The faultless writing style sweeps you into a survival story and leaves no reason to ponder how certain events occurred in this incredible adventure. Tackling bullying and inequality between the sexes, pointing out corruption in government officials, and veering between kindness and cruelty, this novel covers all the human conditions.”

Find out more about T. D Shields HERE

Author Spotlight: Kayla Howarth

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Written by
Bethany Wicker

Time for another Author Spotlight and a chance to get to know Kayla Howarth, author of the Institute Series.

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

The Institute, Resistance, and Defective (Books 1, 2 and 3 of The Institute Series) follow my heroine Allira Daniels and her struggle to live a normal life. Her brother is Defective, a term used for people who possess supernatural abilities. They are seen as dangerous and are segregated from the general population by law and forced to live at the Institute.

Everything Allira does is to protect her brother, Shilah, from having to be sent to the Institute. (Even if she completely screws that up sometimes … okay a lot.)

 

You have many great ones to choose from, but who is your favorite character from your books?

Are you really asking me to pick one of my favourite children? Because that’s what it feels like!

I feel closest to Allira, obviously being inside her head for three years while writing the trilogy.

But my favourite character might actually be Drew, the enigmatic boy who learned early on in life that to survive, he had to screw people over. He had the biggest struggle and growth as a character and earned a place in my heart. (And a lot of readers’ evidently.)  

 

Out of all the action, what was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

There are so many scenes that I read and reread over and over again because I loved them so much, and looking back now, it wasn’t so much the action scenes, but the ones where friendships and relationships developed.

Any scene with Allira and Tate was always fun to write.

The awkwardness between Allira and Chad gave me butterflies of nerves.

Allira and Shilah’s sister/brother relationship.

Any of the interactions between Allira, Drew, Jayce and Jenna in book #3.

 

Your endings have the perfect closure, but were there alternate endings that you considered?

The Institute had a whole extra chapter at the end that was cut and reserved for Resistance. The scene answered a lot of unanswered questions readers have when they reach the cliffhanger ending of book one. I, myself, as a reader hate cliffhanger endings, and I hated that I did it to my readers, but the scene that was cut just wasn’t strong enough of an ending to the story. It lacked the punch that was needed and would have had readers questioning, “Well, okay … but what now?”

Both Resistance and Defective ended how I’d planned from the beginning.

 

What authors have inspired you to write?

Suzanne Collins. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a major Hunger Games fan. Before that series, I hadn’t really read much at all since high school. THG inspired me to start reading again, and that inspired me to write my own stories.

 

What age were you when you started writing?

I’d taken an elective writing class in high school, but didn’t do any writing after that until I was about twenty-eight. That’s when I started shaping The Institute.

 

Writer’s Block. A common enemy to all authors. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, what helps overcome it?

I hate it. I HATE it so much! I used to just force myself to push through it, telling myself I could just go back and fix the drivel later. That doesn’t work so much for me anymore.

I will try reading, but usually if I’m in a writing slump, I’m in a reading slump too. I will try different projects, which is probably why I have four … crap, FIVE unfinished works in progresses right now. *face palm*

But when all else fails… coffee.

 

Do you ever get sad when you realize that the characters that you’ve created aren’t real? Like Allira and her badass-ness?

They’re not real? What? I don’t understand the question. Why would you say such a mean thing?

 

If given the choice, would you be normal or defective?

Defective!

 

If you were Defective, what ability would you have and would you have a cool nickname?

I would really love the ability of power of suggestion. I write this as I beg my child to go put pants on for the thirtieth time today, only to get a resounding ‘no’ in response.

As for a name, right now I’d settle for anything other than, “Mummy… Mummy… Mum. MUM! MUMMY!”

 

Allira must have been fun to write. Where did you get the idea for her? Is she similar to you?

Allira started off very much like me until I realized no one wants to read about a socially awkward, insecure, second-guessing yourself kind of person for 350 pages. She ended up developing into the kind of person I want to be. She’s someone who will stand up for what she believes is right, and even though she does have flaws and insecurities, she doesn’t let them own her like perhaps I do.

 

Australians have awesome accents, but if you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose? Would you keep the Aussie one?

I’d like to refine my Australian accent to sound more like Nicole Kidman and less like Rebel Wilson. I love the Aussie accent but not the bogan (trashy) version of it. Sorry Rebel.

 

Publishing books can be challenging and stressful. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I put it out there before it was ready and had to fix it up after it was published. I didn’t realize how big the indie publishing world was or the amount of help available pre-publication. So I regret not doing more research beforehand.

 

We are all eager to see what comes next. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

There will be very short novella written from Chad’s perspective. “Through His Eyes (The Institute #3.5)” fills in the eighteen month gap in between Resistance and Defective.

Then shortly after, “Losing Nuka” will be released. Nuka from The Institute Series is all grown up and gets her own book where she searches for her birth mother, only to find herself involved in an underground illegal fight ring called “Litmus” where Defectives are pitted against other Defectives. The Litmus Series will have three books, each from a different person’s perspective. It’s very different to The Institute Series even though it’s technically set in the same world.

 

As an accomplished author, do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

When I first published, there were so many times where I thought to myself “I’m wasting my time!” My husband kept having to remind me that it’s not an overnight success type of thing.

It’s easy to get disheartened when your sales are in a slump, or you get a bad review. You spend countless hours/days/months/years slaving over a story that you just hope others will love as much as you do, and when they don’t you feel like you’ve failed. For some stupid reason, our brains are wired to focus on the bad reviews and not the positive ones. It’s a lot easier to remember when someone says something negative than when they pay a compliment.

The key is to take it all in stride, improve where you can, and just continually learn to grow and master your craft. I guess I’m trying to say, ‘Don’t give up’.

This cliché (but true) piece of advice brought to you today by lack of caffeine.

 

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I have to edit out a lot of ellipses from a first draft. Generally, when I’m thinking about what a character should do or say, I reflexively type … like they’re actually thinking about it too. My first drafts usually read like all of my characters have stutters or can’t think straight.

 

Now, time for some random, fun questions. What toppings do you like on your pizza?

Meatlovers. Any kind of meat. NO PINEAPPLE EVER. Pineapple is a fruit. Fruit does not belong on a pizza. All of you smarty-pants out there saying “Tomato is a fruit and it’s nice on a pizza,” you just shhh now. It’s not the same and you know it! Pineapple is a fruity fruit.

 

Dogs or Cats?

I love both. Right now we have one dog at home, but I’d love to have a cat again one day.

 

What is your biggest fear?

Oblivion. No wait … That was Augustus Water’s answer in The Fault in Our Stars.

Mine? Anything to do with my son, really. I’m the overprotective mother who freaks out any time my child goes near water, falls over, gets sick … I try not to be, but it seems my mother instincts are stronger than my common sense.

 

So there you have it: a look into the mind of Kayla Howarth. If you’re interesting in checking out her books then the links have been placed below.

The Institute
Resistance
Defective

Author Spotlight: Lauren Mayhew

laurenmayhew-page1 (1)Written by

L J  Higgins and Michelle Lynn

 

It’s that time again where you get to meet another one of YA Author Rendezvous amazing authors. Lauren Mayhew is the author of Reality is in a Dream and we can’t wait for you to learn more about her and her book.

 

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

My first book is called ‘Reality is in a Dream’ and it’s part of the Liliana trilogy. I am currently writing the second book in the series called ‘Mourning Memories’.

Reality is in a Dream follows a girl called Liliana who we meet on her 16th birthday. From the moment that she wakes up, strange things start to happen in her life. Not only does she start dreaming about family members that don’t exist in the waking world, she realises that she has powers she never knew about. We follow her over a year, as she tries to figure out what is real and who she can trust.

 

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

Initially, Reality is in a Dream was going to end without the epilogue. I was going to use the epilogue as the beginning of Mourning Memories, but it wouldn’t have worked. It would have made the beginning of Book 2 drag a little.

 

What age were you when you started writing?

Whenever we were asked to write a story or a poem at school, I remember getting really excited, so I know I was interested in writing from a really young age. I don’t think I came up with a big story line for a novel until I was about 15 and I started writing properly when I was about 17 or 18 I think.

 

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

I have had writer’s block for most of this year. I think I got so caught up in trying to promote my first book, as well as going to work full time, that I struggled to find the time to write. That meant I wasn’t in the writing head space I was in for writing my first book, so I’m still struggling to get back into it.

 

Lauren Mayhew - Reality is in a Dream PlanDo you work with an outline, or just write?

I usually havea beginning and an ending in my head, so I start writing straight away. Then I get to a point when I realise that I have no idea what happens in the middle of the book, so I then write a plan. It’s basically a bullet point list of the book in sections. I end up writing notes on it everywhere when I think up something that needs to be added in. It ends up being quite a mess, but I understand it.

 

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?

I would definitely take my time and not rush into it the way I did. I got so excited about it all, I didn’t do any research. Now I know about beta readers, so my second book will be done a lot more professionally!

 

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

It’s hard to talk about without giving away the twist at the end of the first one! All I can say is that Liliana’s parents kept a big secret from her about herself. She finally begins to understand the true reason why Duana wants her above all others with powers.

 

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

On the first book that I ever started writing (a love story which may never be completed!) someone read the first three or four chapters and basically slated the whole thing. They said that I should delete everything that had been written so far and start the story from then on. I would have accepted their comments had it not been for the way they ended it – “Hope this helps!” I cannot begin to explain how angry this made me!

 

The biggest compliment would be from my boss’ 11 year old daughter, Sophie. The first time I met her she got very excited at the fact that I was writing a book. When it was released, she read it in one sitting, loved it and started telling all her school friends that she personally knew an author.

 

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I write everything by hand, some might think that’s strange nowadays considering the amount of electronic devices we have to type things up, but I really struggle to write straight to a computer.

 

I also write down the date each time I start writing. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea!

 

Dreams can be difficult to write. In Reality is in a Dream, you’ve managed to make the dreams a major part of the story without breaking the action or boring the reader. What made you want to tackle such a big challenge?

Firstly, thank you!

 

For me, the dreams were basically half of the story. Without them, I would have had to do a lot of information dumping on the reader and long explanations between Liliana and Justin, as she started to remember more and more about Samson and Asher. That would have slowed the story down a lot more.

 

It just made more sense to write it as dreams so that the reader was finding out this information at the same time as Liliana. That way the reader is more involved.

 

I also tried to make sure that the dreams added significance to the story and gave important information. So many dreams in books are pointless page fillers and I wanted to avoid that!

 

If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

I’d love to be able to have the power to tell if someone was telling the truth or lie. It might not sound like a great power, but I know of a few politicians who would be quaking in their boots! I think the obvious choice for a name would be Truthsayer. I’m not a big fan of dressing up, so I’d probably just try and blend in with everyone else.

 

What people are saying about Lauren Mayhew and Reality is in a Dream:

 

“Telling a story like this requires an expert hand. When you have to use your mind to know the points when we’re in the “real world” and when we’re not, and Lauren Mayhew did a very good job of this. The characters were well-developed, and Liliana herself was a good lead character, a typical teenage girl trying to solve an unsolvable puzzle.”

“The writing kept me enthralled and wanting to read more which is all I can ask of any book. At its heart, this book was romantic- about people trying to find their way back to each other. What better story is there than that? I can’t wait to read more.”

 

Check out Lauren Mayhew’s page on YAAR to learn more!

 

 

 

Author Spotlight: Paul Briggs

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Written by
Linda Higgins and Michelle Lynn

Here we go again! This is the second author spotlight from the Young Adult Author Rendezvous and we have a good one for you. Paul Briggs is the author of Locksmith’s Closet and we’re excited for you to get to know him!

Tell us about your book.

A boy discovers a portal to the future, finds nobody living there and sets out to discover what happened.

Who is your favorite character that you’ve written? What makes them special?

Her name is Rikki. She’s the least predictable. Depending on the situation, she can be businesslike, rebellious, heroic or just plain fun. If she weren’t such an exhausting character to write, I’d give her her own spinoff.

What is your favorite type of scene to write and why?

Any scene where a character is exploring a new place. I love trying to capture the look and feel of a setting.

What authors have inspired you to write?

Many. If I were to single out a couple, they’d be Isaac Asimov and Harlan Ellison.

What age were you when you started writing?

I think I must have been six or seven. I taught myself to read at age two, so I had a head start. Learning to write things that other people would want to read took me a lot longer.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Often. Usually it’s because there’s a specific place where I just don’t know how to tell the story. I deal with it by starting work on something else.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

Generally I start by just writing, then realize this mess I’m making needs some organization and start creating an outline.

Does anything you write ever trigger emotions? For example, do you get sad when a character dies or excited while writing fight scenes?

Planning and writing a scene does trigger some of the same emotions as reading it. I did have fun writing the fights and escapes, although I tried to make the violence in the last fight scene a little uncomfortable to read. The scenes where Lock and Gary are angry, sad or despairing were definitely the hardest for me to write.

Your series has a lot to do with time travel. What drew you to this topic?

Originally, it wasn’t so much the time travel itself as what it revealed — the empty and abandoned world. It was only as I was writing that I realized the portal had to be more than just a plot device.

In your book, Locksmith’s Closet, your characters travel forward in time. If you had that ability, would you rather get to see the future or experience the past? Why?

I’d rather see the future, just out of curiosity. I can read about the past, after all, and there isn’t any bygone era I’ve read about that I’d like better than the present day. (Although I think I would have appreciated the nineties a little more if I’d known what was coming next.)

If you were a super hero, what would your power be?

Telekinesis. It would have so many practical applications.

Traditional publishing, Indie publishing, or self-publishing? Why did you choose to go the way that you did?

I wish I could claim that I’m a heroic pioneer in the self-publishing revolution. Truth is, I just couldn’t find an agent.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

My next book is Altered Seasons. I’m hoping to have it published traditionally. It’s about a group of politicians and ordinary people coping with a relatively sudden change in the climate after the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean melts one year. I’m also going to use NaNoWriMo to try to finish Locksmith’s Journeys, or at least get it close to finished.

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

The toughest criticism I’ve ever gotten was after I’d written a series of short stories about a woman with gigantism. One person felt that I’d made light of what would be a really tragic situation.

The best compliment was when my teenage nephew told me he’d read Locksmith’s Closet in one sitting. (That draft of it was several thousand words longer than the final product.)

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Be a good listener. There are a lot of people out there with a lot of stories that will give you lots of ideas. Also, this will improve your ear for dialogue.

What People are saying about Paul Briggs and Locksmith’s Closet:

“What a story! It’s one of those that you’re sure is headed in one direction and then takes a detour that makes it an even better story.  You won’t be able to stop reading.” 

“Rather than be a plot-driven story, it becomes a character-driven story, and with it we become closer to the characters as they deal with the harsh realities and tragedies that life in their own world has to offer. It becomes very introspective and philosophical, and I must say, I did not see that coming. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys Young Adult or time-travel stories. I can only hope that Part 2 of this trilogy comes out soon. Well done, Mr. Briggs.” 

“The writing and plotting of this book is absolutely the equal of anything published by the big publishing houses. Briggs is a formidable new talent. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for the next installment!” 

Check out Paul Briggs’ author page on YAAR to learn more!

Author Spotlight: Patrick Hodges

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Written by

Bethany Wicker

Welcome all and thanks for checking out YAAR (those pirate fans say it with me in the appropriate accent Yaar…). Sorry couldn’t resist.

I’m sure you’ve learned that we are a group of authors who are avid fans and writers of young adult and children books. Twice a month, we will be posting an Author Spotlight so we can introduce you to each of our wonderful authors. It would only be appropriate to have the Founder of YAAR as the first person up. He is also the author of Joshua’s Island and Ethan’s Secret and the reason most of us are here.

So, here’s the man of the hour: Patrick Hodges.

I understand that your books address bullying. Can you tell us the titles of your works and a bit about them?

My first book, “Joshua’s Island,” is a book that features kids of middle-school age, but it leans toward YA because of its subject matter. It’s about a bullied boy named Joshua whose life has become hellish – beaten and tormented by bullies, and ostracized by his peers, he finds the courage to go on when he is partnered with a popular girl named Eve in science class. Even though she doesn’t like him at first, the two form a bond of friendship that helps him find the courage within himself that he never knew he had.

My second book, “Ethan’s Secret,” is a sort-of sequel to “Joshua’s Island.” I say “sort of” because although it takes place at the same school (and three years later) and involves some of the same characters, it’s a totally separate story. The main character is Kelsey, an eighth-grade girl who loves mystery stories, who faces a mystery of her own when a new boy named Ethan appears in her algebra class. As she seeks to learn more about him, she eventually discovers that there are serious things going on in his life, and that by getting to know him, she might be putting herself in danger.

You have many characters that people can relate to and fall in love with, but who’s your favorite character from your books?

Definitely Kelsey. In “Joshua’s Island,” she was a spunky, fearless fifth-grader with a strong sense of justice and fiercely loyal to her friends. I knew when I finished J.I. that my second book would be about her, and it was a joy to give her her own story. She’s the type of friend that everyone should have, and she’s a great role model for girls.

You have many riveting scenes in your books so we want to know what was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

In both books, it was the scene where the main characters finally get over their teenage awkwardness and uncertainty, and not only realize that they have strong feelings for each other but find a way to express it. To me, there’s nothing as innocent, sweet and beautiful as falling in love for the first time, especially when it comes from a place of friendship and genuineness.

Were there any alternate endings that you considered to either of the novels?

Not really. I tend to think about exactly how I want the story to end long before I get there. It may have evolved into something else by the time I get there, but so far, I haven’t wavered from it. I’ve been told that my endings are very good, so I must be doing something right!

What authors have inspired you to write?

I can’t specifically claim that any authors inspired me to write, but there are many authors that I have admired in my lifetime, whose style heavily influenced my own. Authors like Douglas Adams, Richard Adams, Timothy Zahn and Terrance Dicks are ones that immediately spring to mind.

What age were you when you started writing?

Um … 45. And, in case you were wondering, I’m 46 now. Honestly, prior to penning “Joshua’s Island,” I hadn’t written anything more elaborate than a movie review or a TV recap since high school. Until last year, I honestly didn’t think I had it in me to create an original story.

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Not really. In my current project, there was a section I was having trouble writing, but I was able to overcome it with the feedback of a few people that I trust implicitly. That, plus taking a break from it and then picking it up with fresh eyes when I was ready to start again, was all it took.

Your books come together perfectly. Do you work with an outline, or just write?

Oh, yes, I definitely outline. Without it, I would just feel lost. Planning it out beforehand makes writing the story infinitely easier for me.

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

Definitely. I don’t have kids, but I would be proud to call any of my main characters my children. If there is an afterlife, I would love to spend a few millennia hanging out with my creations. Perhaps even becoming them.

Now for a couple of random questions… If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

I’m not sure I’d want that job. I’m not a risk-taker. Plus, I hate costumes.

If you could have any accent from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?

Probably Irish or Scottish. I just think it sounds cool.

We love how your characters overcome the challenges they face. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Well, my biggest challenge was ignorance. I knew NOTHING about publishing when I wrote “Joshua’s Island.” I had a lot to learn about the world I was stepping into, and I made a few mistakes (I’d rather not get into them), I will admit. There really is SO much to learn. But I think I’ve got a much better handle on it now.

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?

Okay, you’re gonna make me say it, huh? Well, the first company I chose to self-publish “Joshua’s Island” ripped me off. They charged way too much and did almost nothing for me in return. I have since found a much more economical self-publishing company called Alpha Academic Press, and if I had to do it again, I’d have gone with them from the start.

We’re eager to see what you have in store for us next, so can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’ve only just started, but it’s the third book in my series. Again, I am advancing the timelines three years from the end of “Ethan’s Secret.” This time, the main character is Sophie, who appeared in both books. Now she is thirteen and in eighth grade, and having to deal with many of the same issues that her big sister Eve did. I’m tentatively calling the book “Sophie’s Different.”

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

My biggest criticism has been that I often make my characters act and talk far more maturely than kids their age typically are. And that may be true, but I’ve met 13-year-olds that act like 30-year-olds, and 30-year-olds that act like 13-year-olds. But my characters are dealing with very adult situations, and so I feel a certain level of maturity is needed for them to effectively deal with them. As for compliments, well, there have been so many, and I’m quite overwhelmed by them. I suppose the biggest compliment is that my stories evoke raw emotions in my readers, which is really the best compliment that an author can have. I’ve also been told that my stories are easy to read, hard to put down and very entertaining, which is also terrific.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Never give up, and never stop learning.

What toppings do you like on your pizza?

Pepperoni and sausage. And I’ve become a fan of feta cheese on pizza too.

Everyone has some type of fear. Those who’ve read your books know that your characters are fearful but manage to overcome it. What is your biggest fear?

Before I became an author, it was that I would live my entire life without finding my purpose. And without that, can one ever really be happy? But now, a few years shy of fifty years old, I think I’ve found happiness. So my biggest fear now? Heights.

So there you have it: a look into the mind of Patrick Hodges. If you’re interesting in checking out his books (and I hope you are) then the links have been placed below. Be on the lookout for our next author spotlight on October 23rd.

Check out Patrick Hodges author page to learn more!

JI thumb Joshua’s Island       ES thumb  Ethan’s Secret

 

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