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YA Author Rendezvous

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

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Author Spotlight: Gina Azzi

Young Adult Author Rendezvous Author: Gina AzziInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with author Gina Azzi.

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

Sure! My books are in the young adult and new adult genres. The first book I wrote is entitled Corner of Ocean and Bay. It’s a mature young adult novel that highlights the friendship of Nessa and Jacie during the summer before their senior year of high school. Primarily focusing on teen topics such as underage drinking, family issues, and first loves, the novel explores how Nessa and Jacie navigate these challenges and the impact certain situations have on their friendship.

After writing Corner of Ocean and Bay, I started working on The Senior Semester Series, a new adult and college romance series that follows four best friends as they embark on their senior year of college, new adventures, and love interests! The first book in the series, The Last First Game, focuses on Lila Avers as she completes a medical internship in California and meets football player Cade Wilkins at the airport! Their romance is a whirlwind but things grow complicated as Cade deals with the fallout of a sudden illness and Lila struggles to be there for him. The second book in the series, Kiss Me Goodnight in Rome, follows Mia Petrella to Italy and chronicles her romance with hot Italiano Lorenzo Barca. This book deals with body image issues, family financial concerns, and a looming long-distance relationship. The third book in the series, All the While, focuses on Maura Rodriguez and Zack Huntington and will release January 17, 2017. And the final book is Emma’s Story which is set to release next Spring.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

Ah, what a tough question! I really like Lila a lot – I think she’s really laidback, fun, and easy to get along with. At the same time, she’s incredibly loyal, family-oriented, and genuine. I also really enjoyed writing Lorenzo’s character as he is rough around the edges, a bit arrogant, and pretty cocky before he falls for Mia.

In your book, The Last First Game, you tackle some pretty huge issues – namely cancer and sexual abuse. Is there a reason you chose to write about these massive topics?

In all of my books, I try to write about themes that are relatable and age-appropriate. The cancer element was really difficult to write about but it’s also something that most people can relate to – having known someone close to them that is struggling with an illness. How do they cope and handle these challenges? How does it change their relationship with this person? Sexual assault was a really important topic for me to include since statistics show that 1 in 5 women on college campuses experience sexual assault. That is mind boggling! It’s also a topic that is finally being covered in the media, discussed in politics, and receiving attention and education on college campuses. The Obama Administration launched the It’s on Us campaign in 2014 to combat sexual assault on college campuses. I think it’s a huge issue that deserves attention and awareness and I wanted to help do so through The Last First Game.

What advice would you give to someone writing about a topic that people tend to have very strong opinions on?

Be sensitive to the opinions of others, be factual in the information you provide, but never be afraid to write about something you believe in/believe deserves attention.

Amidst these big things that are happening to Lila and Cade, you manage to give them some normalcy as they fall in love and learn to rely on each other. Was this difficult?

It wasn’t that difficult since it’s very common for young people to experience a lot of challenges or things that bring them stress and pressure – and in the midst of all of that, still fall in love, form meaningful friendships, have these important relationships with other people. I think people are always dealing with things that are difficult for them but at the same time, trying to cultivate a support system is important, and connections with other people can’t be overlooked.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

No! haha! I was pretty set on the ending of The Last First Game – I actually wrote it before I finished a good portion of the middle bit!

What authors have inspired you to write?

I’ve always loved reading – I was totally that kid that read under the covers by flashlight at night! Some of my favorite books growing up were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Harry Potter – all of these books and more and so many talented authors have inspired me in different ways to write.

What age were you when you started writing?

Super young! I suppose about 7 or 8 – I used to write and illustrate stories to read to my friends!

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Totally! Sometimes I have to take a step back from my work for several days and just do something completely unrelated before I can go back to it. Having that break from the story usually helps me look at the content with a fresh perspective.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

A little of both. I usually make a general outline with major plot points, themes, scenes and then just free write from there. Most of the time, I begin without knowing the ending and at some point, I sort it out and then write the ending, sometimes before I finish how the story arrives at that conclusion.

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

Haha not really – they’re real to me because they exist in my mind anyway!

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

It was totally trial and error. I went the self-publishing route as I liked the idea of having complete creative control. I did some research about how to go about the process and spoke with some other self-published authors. Through learning about their experiences – and reading a lot of blogs! – I learned about how to find an editor, a cover designer, a formatter. Little by little it fell into place. Something I love about the self-publishing route is it’s a constant state of learning – and that is pretty exciting by itself!

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?

No – mainly because I really enjoyed the learning process and feel like every step of my journey has gotten me to where I am today. It’s tough to skip steps and even the mistakes I’ve made have taught me a lesson. I think experiencing these lessons first-hand is really important for me in order to value what I do and to encourage me to keep writing.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

Sure! All the While is a new adult, college romance book releasing on January 17, 2017. Here’s the blurb:

Consumed with grief for her twin brother Adrian’s death, Maura Rodriguez is spinning out of control. To cope with Adrian’s loss, she numbs her pain with bottles of vodka and sex with random men.

Consumed with guilt for his best friend Adrian’s death, Zack Huntington is yearning for a past that no longer exists. Reaching out to the familiarity and comfort an ex-girlfriend offers, Zack aims to recreate what once was but can never be again.

When their worlds collide while running on the trails along Boathouse Row, Maura and Zack find comfort in each other and in the memory of their shared connection, Adrian.

From their unlikely friendship grows an undeniable attraction, an irrefutable desire, and an unexpected love. While Maura and Zack struggle to heal, to forgive, to accept, they also learn how to let go and allow themselves to fall in love, a truth they’ve both known but resisted all the while.

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 depth. That’s hard to hear as I really want my characters to resonate with readers and if they’re not, then I have to try harder to create more layers for them. Another criticism is the lack of sexual content in my books – I tend to imply sexual encounters rather than write more graphic content. The best compliment is when people tell me how much they could relate to a character and understand his/her challenges, point of view, experiences. That makes me super happy!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing! If it’s something you love to do, keep it up – even if it’s for your own peace of mind!

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I’m not sure – I like to write at coffee houses and cafes with my Spotify playlists and a sweet treat! I feel like that sounds pretty boring though.

What others are saying about Gina Azzi:

“This book tackled some very serious issues and it did so with a cautiousness I appreciated. I think it was a true representation of what might happen to a very young, very new couple when faced with these issues. They were very human.”

“Her characters are well-drawn, realistic, and could be people that you actually know (or knew). Her stories are invariably sweet and romantic, stories written about love and all the highs and lows that go with it.”

Find Gina on Amazon

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Author Spotlight: Miracle Austin

Young Adult Author - Miracle AustinInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with author Miracle Austin.

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

Doll is my debut YA Paranormal novel—it is story about mean girl (Pepper Fox) versus the outcasts, since junior high. Outcasts are now in high school and so fed up with Pepper and decide to seek help from the paranormal world to teach Pepper a good lesson, but will they get what they always wanted or something much more they never expected. Twists, spells, and social awareness issues breathe in this work.

Boundless will be my second release. It will be a very eclectic collection of micro and short stories (some less than 20 words while others are over 5,000 plus words) with many social awareness themes weaved in. Some works will be light, while others will be much darker…May need a flashlight for a few…Make sure you have extra batteries, just saying…

I’ve written various short stories and they have been traditionally published in anthologies or ezines. I love writing short stories and will continue…

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

This is hard one. I will confess Lisette from Doll is one because of her inner and outer mystery…she is more powerful than she actually realizes… Tomie (Toe-me) is also one of my faves because he has no idea what breathes inside of him…I have others, but will discuss another time.

Doll is quite the creepy book – that’s a complement by the way. Lol. Is it difficult to go from writing parts of the book to living your normal life? Difficult to get out of that frame-of-mind?

Thank you so much. I absolutely take that as a lovely compliment. It was not difficult at all to write. In fact, I rushed home each day to dive into Frost High and its related worlds—they were my escapes, in fact every time I write, I have a chance to enter the character’s worlds—love that!!

The heart of Doll is about getting back at bullies, whether they do so in the right way or not. What made you take on this topic?

I took on this topic because of what I witnessed in junior high/high school/college, being a past victim of bullying myself, and my awesome mom sharing a story with me that ignited me to write Doll.

If she had not shared that story, then Doll would never be. In fact, my mom (so appreciate her) is my biggest inspiration for writing my stories—she has shared some pretty amazing stories growing up in the 40s in Crawford, Texas, (a lot of secrets live in small country towns) and living in the 50s-today. I just use my fictional magic to bring one story at a time to life.

I love the New Orleans voodoo feel of Doll. What kind of research did you have to do to get this right?

I did very little research because my mom lived in the Louisiana area for a short time. I utilized her experiences, she was the majority of my research.

What authors have inspired you to write?

So many—R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Octavia Butler, Shirley Jackson, William Shakespeare, and so many more….

What age were you when you started writing?

Probably around 13

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Sometimes—I will take a break, listen to some awesome music—classical, 60s love songs, or a little lite rock helps me find my way back to writing. I will also Netflix it or Hulu watch…I catch ideas from anywhere, which helps me write.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I do both, but now for longer works—the outline has become my writing/dance partner.

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

No, because they are real to an extent. I know each character is a little part of me, others I know/observed, and/or mash-ups.

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

Short version–Doll was never supposed to be a novel, only a short story, maybe 10k words. It was only a distraction because Boundless was supposed to be published first. It met over 315 rejections. —I kept persevering.

I finally landed a small publisher and everything, but personal things in publisher’s life caused my rights to be returned back to me, which was a huge blessing in disguise. It sat untouched with the publisher for almost a year. After being inspired by other Indie authors, I decided to pursue self-publishing and BOOM for Doll!!

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?

No, definitely self-pub all the way from what I had to endure for almost two years.

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

Not so nice reviews, but I’m okay with criticism, but there is a way to express it in a constructive way versus being, well you know the rest… I know that not everyone will love my works for various reasons, but I write what moves me, like many writers, and there will be others who will enjoy. Best compliment—Cannot wait to read more from you!!!

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

A few things I would share:

Never allow someone to tell you not to write what you feel in your soul.

Don’t rush your teen years—take the scenic route

Surround yourself with positive bees because there will always be negative bees who will try to steal your honeycombs.

“Pay attention to those who don’t clap for you…” not sure who said the last one—love it and so true.

Praise for Miracle Austin:

“The characters were well-realized, and Pepper was deliciously evil (and I couldn’t wait for her to be taken down!). And even though one might think the ending would be predictable, it wasn’t. There were plenty of twists that I wasn’t expecting.”

“This story is dark, and full of so many twists and turns and suspicious characters that I had no idea what to expect. There were moments that sent shivers down my spine. There were moments that made my heart skip a beat. This story has everything: magic, revenge, romance, suspense…”

“With a flawless plot, descriptions and style, this book is the perfect combination of horror, suspense and a little teenage drama and romance. A definitely must-read for this year!”

Author Spotlight: George Sirois

george sirois - authorInterview by Michelle Lynn.

An interview with George Siroiswww.georgesirois.com

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

“Excelsior” is a young adult / science-fiction novel, the first part of a trilogy. It tells the story of 17-year-old Matthew Peters, who has been spending seven years writing and drawing his own webcomic about a character named Excelsior, who is from the faraway planet Denab IV. Matthew is visited by an older woman who tells him that she is from planet Denab IV, and everything he has been writing and drawing have actually taken place. So now, with Excelsior’s enemies growing in power on both Denab IV and Earth, Matthew realizes that he has the opportunity to become the hero that he thought only existed in his imagination.

“From Parts Unknown” is a five-part science-fiction / sports serial that is currently available on eBook as one complete file. The main character is Stephen Barker, a man who is trying to provide a living for his family by getting on the roster of the only sport left in America: the GCL (Gladiatorial Combat League). The company is a combination of the over-the-top characters & good guys vs bad guys storyline of professional wrestling and the reality of boxing & mixed martial arts. Stephen unknowingly becomes a pawn in a behind-the-scenes battle of control over the league between the current champion and the top villain in the company, and is turned into a monster of a man stripped of his identity and humanity. While his wife tries to find him, she discovers that the GCL is not only providing entertainment for the masses, but it is also used as a tool of distraction and stripping of people’s rights by the US Government.

The first of two “Excelsior” sequels – “Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey” – is currently being edited and prepped for a November 2016 release.

Who’s your favorite character from your books?

It’s easy for me to say Matthew Peters is my current favorite, since I put so much of myself and my late cousin Matthew Peter Henkel into him. He’s the ultimate in wish fulfillment, getting to be a hero that he thought was just his idea.

But looking at all the completely fictional characters, I’d have to say my favorite is General Hodera, a truly ruthless woman who is in the top ranks of the Krunation Empire. While my main character has been sitting in my head for a very long time, Hodera came to be during the rewrites of the original novel. I had a big, tall, force-of-nature like being that would really strike fear into the hearts of the Denarian people, modeled after The Undertaker in WWE. When I told my editor about him, she asked, “Can it be a woman?” Best. Suggestion. Ever. When I took the character and reworked him into a her, she leapt to life and became a truly delicious villain. I loved her almost from the beginning, and I got to use a lot of space in “Ever Upward” to further explore her character. I can’t wait to show you what she’s really made of.

In your book, “Excelsior,” Matthew is a comic book writer and illustrator before he discovers the world behind what he thought he was creating – how did you come up with such a unique storyline?

It really goes back to 1992. When I was in grade school (1985, to be exact), I created some characters with my friends based on everything we grew up watching: Star Wars, Transformers, G.I.Joe, Voltron, etc. We were just killing time between assignments in school, and when I lost contact with them, I kept picking at them. I knew there was something there, but I didn’t know what. Anyway, in 1992, I was in between my sophomore and junior year in high school, my grades were less than stellar, and I was in summer school taking English over again. It wound up being a blessing in disguise, because one of the things we did in this class was watch the 1981 movie Excalibur, which is all about King Arthur. At that time, I was thinking about coming up with a new character, and after seeing this, I knew I wanted him to be a legend within my little universe, a god made into a man, striking down his enemies with his sword. I took elements from Arthur, Jesus Christ, and Optimus Prime and he just came to life.

The original story of Excelsior was all about the character being reborn through someone on Earth, and back then it was an adult who was a comic book writer. When I decided to start writing the novel in 2008 that would be the definitive take on him, I realized itha hads started his own webcomic, so I borrowed that element from him and named Matthew’s uncle after him as a thank you.

Have you always loved comics and superheroes? If so, which one is your favorite?

I’ve always loved both comics and superheroes, more comic book films than comics themselves. The characters grabbed me from the start, and I still love them to this day. It’s almost cliché to say Batman is my favorite, but there really is something special about him that has allowed him to endure in so many different forms.

I’ve also been a fan of Transformers, ever since I heard that they were getting a Marvel comic mini-series and animated series on Sunday mornings. Optimus Prime very quickly became a personal hero of mine, and he always will be.

Matthew gets thrown into a new world pretty quickly, yet is quick to adapt and strong throughout. What are the keys to writing a character like this?

I’m confident in saying that Matthew is not a wholly original character. He’s the form I chose to go on what Joseph Campbell referred to as “The Hero’s Journey.” He’s in the same boat as Luke Skywalker, Marty McFly, Neo, Alice, and all the other main characters who are thrust into an extraordinary adventure. I wanted to make sure that he was capable of becoming this hero, but not ready to jump in with both feet since he believed he would be giving up everything he was. I don’t know about anyone else, but it’s not always a flip of the switch for me when it comes to major milestones. Doubt lingers, confidence has its ebbs and flows, and that’s what Matthew deals with in both “Excelsior” and even more so in “Ever Upward.”

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

Kind of. When the barebones elements of Excelsior’s trilogy came together during my high school years, the first two parts were more or less how they wind up in these finished drafts but the third part was different, more than a bit darker. But after I discussed it with my editor, she convinced me to steer it in a different direction, and now I’m confident that the third part is going to wrap up Matthew Peters’ story in a very satisfying way.

What authors have inspired you to write?

I’ve been a huge fan of William Goldman’s writing ever since I saw The Princess Bride, and I went on to get his “Adventures in the Screen Trade” books that gave me the confidence in my own voice. And I wanted to be a storyteller of any kind when I saw the original Star Wars. That really got me into my love of science-fiction / space fantasy.

What age were you when you started writing?

I had been creating characters since I was nine years old in 4th grade, but I didn’t start filling notebooks with text until I was 14 years old in 9th grade. By that point, the characters had evolved to the point where I couldn’t really draw them anymore. My very limited artistic ability had hit the proverbial wall, but I wanted to keep going with them, to give them detailed origin stories, let them interact with and fight against each other. As time went on, and my writing in high school improved, I incorporated my high school friends into the stories, making them supporting characters, which got them wanting to read them. That was a lot of fun, and I almost wish I still had those notebooks today. (I say “almost” because, if they’re as bad as I remember them, it’s probably best that they stay in the past.)

Do you ever experience writer’s block?

Sometimes, but more often, it’s – as Kevin Smith once called it – “writer’s laze.” If I’m not in front of my monitor hacking away at my work-in-progress, I lose the momentum and find myself either on social media or in front of the television in the middle of the latest Netflix marathon. Thankfully, I know now what gets my momentum up and running again, and that’s a deadline. I asked my publisher to let me know when they would like to launch “Ever Upward,” and once I got that, it suddenly became a little easier to sit down and edit one chapter after another.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I’ve done both. When I did the first draft of “Excelsior” in 2008, I knew the beginning and I knew the end. That was it. It was up to me to figure out what happened between Point A and Point B.

The outline for “From Parts Unknown” wound up being the original novel that I published through iUniverse in 2002. I was under the impression that I was just going to punch up that one, update the technology, and incorporate a subplot I had been thinking about ever since I got the rights back from the publisher. But as plans will do, that plan went awry in the best way possible because only scraps of the 2002 novel remained, and it went from a 234-page novel to a 550-page serial.

Before I started writing “Ever Upward,” I wrote an extensive outline and worked on it with my editor. That helped out a lot and became a map for me as I went through all the different twists and turns with this story. I think with the third one, I’m going to do another outline, but I want to see if I can make it not as detailed as the second, so there’s more room for me to embellish when I get to actually write it.

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

Not really. I’ve taken enough elements from my life that my characters have some form of reality attached to them. Matthew Peters feels real to me because of how he’s an amalgam of myself and my cousin, and I’m grateful to the one to take him on the adventure he’s on now, since it keeps my cousin’s name alive. And Excelsior has been with me for almost 25 years, so I can’t imagine my life without him.

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

The original versions of both “From Parts Unknown” and “Excelsior” were each different challenges. “From Parts Unknown” was finished in July 2002 BK (Before Kindle), and self-publishing was still looked at as the “last option” for writers. I sent it to an agent acquaintance, and he suggested I self-publish since it catered to a very niche market. That September, I came across iUniverse and they offered a setup package of just $199, which included a free hardcover upgrade. I took a shot, the book was launched in November, and it literally came and went without much of a whimper because I had no idea how to market myself or my book.

When I was working on the rewrites of “Excelsior” in 2009, I opted to self-publish that one because I didn’t want to just throw away the rights on these characters I’ve known for so long. But by this time, I had a website, I was writing regularly for a successful pop-culture website – 411Mania.com – and I was more confident in this particular story. So I set up a crowd-funding “Early Bird Special” drive where all participants would guarantee their own signed copy and their names would be listed in the back of the book in the acknowledgement section. That drive brought in all the money I needed for setup at

Infinity Publishing, everyone’s copies, and mailing of copies to everyone out-of-state. It took a while for that money to come in, so it was a stressful time while I was working on my edits, but it felt great getting it self-published without having to pay a dime.

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 knew what “From Parts Unknown” would go on to be, I would have just shelved the 2002 novel without releasing it at all.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

It’s going to be hard to say too much without giving away elements of the first one, but here goes…

“Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey” picks up six months after “Excelsior” (in Denab IV time, so SHOULD BE five years in Earth time). I gave myself three commandments for this one: I wanted it to be longer (the first book is less than 80,000 words and this one is between 110,000 & 115,000 words), I wanted it to go deeper into Excelsior’s mythology, and I wanted it to be darker. All three are definitely accomplished. We’re going to take a much bigger look at Denab IV itself, we’re going to go inside the hierarchy of the Krunation Empire, General Hodera will be given a much bigger role, we’re going back to Earth to catch up with Matthew’s uncle Jason, a major character from the original will come back to life, there will be a major battle on the 70th floor of Rockefeller Center in New York City (with cameos by former Top of the Rock colleagues), and we will not only see the complete origin of Excelsior himself, but also that of his greatest enemy.

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

I’ve had people say that “Excelsior” is clichéd, which makes me want to say, “Of course it is, it’s my take on Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey,” so that doesn’t really bother me too much. The toughest critique I’ve gotten is that it’s under-written, and I understand the way of thinking behind it and I won’t fault them for saying it. I’ve always been story-driven, and I just want to get on with telling the story when I feel I’ve given enough description.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – be afraid to write a crappy first draft. Get it on the page, get the story out, and commit to going back and fixing what you have. Almost every bit of writing comes from rewriting, and you can’t rewrite from nothing.

Thank you George for sharing a bit of yourself and your books with us.

What others are saying about George Sirois:

“Thank you, George Sirois, for making me feel like a kid again.”

“This story grips you from the beginning and does not let go. I was blown away with the author’s ability to build worlds, and quite frankly, this is science fiction at its best.”

“Sirois has done a fantastic job of borrowing small elements of familiarity from comic books and cartoons and combining them into an amazingly original and fantastic story.”


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Finding Inspiration: an interview with Siobhan Quinlan.

Margaret Mead Quote - Young Adult Author RendezvousFinding Inspiration: an interview with Siobhan Quinlan.

Interview by Michelle Lynn

A lot of awful things are happening in the world right now. We see them every day. No matter where we live, no matter who we are, we are being continually touched by tragedy, our worlds dimming each time. There’s not a lot we as individuals can do to fight these bigger problems and we all deal with them in different ways. As writers, most of us here at the YA Author Rendezvous use our words to try to make a little sense out of all the madness.

Despite a feeling of overwhelming darkness that sometimes seems to be covering our planet, this past week has reminded some of us that maybe we can still make a difference. Most of us will never be on the front lines fighting terrorism or saving babies from burning buildings, but this week a community came together to do something good, great even.

This post was just supposed to be an interview, our first with someone who wasn’t themselves a writer, but when opportunity strikes to be inspired and to possibly inspire someone else, we take it. Siobhan Quinlan has been with us from the beginning. She isn’t an author, but she loves books with a passion I’d never seen before. She’s a reviewer for Reader’s Favorite and our number one cheerleader – our very own Irish Pirate.

Well, this pirate of ours needed some help. It was time for a pirate to get a new eye, a prosthetic that would cost $1200. K.R. Conway, one of our authors who writes Siobhan’s favorite book series, decided it was time to step up. A girl in the Netherlands tagged her in a video on YouTube about Siobhan’s need and became determined to make it happen. She turned to the author community, issuing a call to members of YAAR that was also eventually answered by the Indie Author Support and Discussion group as well as other friends. Within three days, the GoFundMe campaign had more than enough.

Desmond Tutu Quote - Young Adult Author Rendezvous“Sometimes the world is brutal and fate throws you the worst curveballs,” K.R. Conway said. “But when people pull together, they can do amazing things. It goes to show you that human compassion is still alive and well, despite the daily news.”

It was unbelievable to see something so inspiring on Facebook among the fear and anger that’s been going around. I don’t know about anyone else, but this writer hasn’t stopped smiling.

Now, we know many people who read our blog are other authors, so this month we decided to interview a reader to get some real answers to many of the questions floating around out there. And Siobhan is the ultimate reader as well as being a fantastic person in general.

As someone who isn’t the typical target age for YA books, what does the term Young Adult mean to you?

Young adult is usually aimed at 12 to 18 year olds and I’m 31 so I am a bit passed that, but to me the term young adult means I can relate with the characters as I have experienced the same things and having been that age and being able to look back on that I can relate and say whether I would have been the same or not.

What is it about Young Adult books you love so much?

I love being able to get lost in a young adult book. I love the wide range of books about all different things that are available in the YA section

Favorite genre? Why?

Horror. I love a good scare that will keep me up at night and worried every time I hear a noise.

You don’t just read the books, you write reviews. Why do this? What is the importance of reviews?

I write reviews and I make YouTube videos as I feel reviews and ratings are the best way for authors to be found. I also like to talk about the books I have read and authors I have discovered whether it’s good or bad

Describe your ideal heroine.

A strong independent lady who can hold her own and knows she doesn’t need a man to have her back.

Describe your ideal leading man.

A man who knows how to treat women as an equal. One who isn’t afraid to show his soft side and even flawed knows he isn’t perfect and doesn’t pretend to be

Favorite book of all time?

Well this will be a shock to anyone who knows me. My favorite book of all time has to be Undertow by K.R Conway.

What made it special?

Everything 🙂 I love the writing style, the amazing characters, and the inability to put the book down every time I reread it.

What is the one thing you hate to see in a story?

Insta-love. I cannot stand insta-love

Cliff hangers. Yay or nay?

Yay, but at the same time nay. I Love a cliff hanger if I know I don’t have a huge wait for the next book, which is why I tend to read series when they are fully or close to done so I do not need to wait so long in-between books if I fall in love.

Do you notice a difference between the indie published books and traditionally published ones?

I have found that for me indie published books seem to have more individual art work. I prefer reading indies and I find the authors seem to have more freedom with what they say.

Werewolves or Vampires?

I am a lover of vampires. There’s nothing scarier then knowing there could be a vampire lurking outside my house right now waiting to get me

Do you like books that make you cry?

I am a book crier. In fact, I can become a total mess while reading. I love books that can hit me right in the feels and have me sobbing in starbucks while being stared at by the staff and customers (thanks for that K.R Conway)

If a book has a less than happy ending, does it affect your overall feelings about it?

Sometimes I love an unhappy ending, especially if it fits in with the story and makes sense. It will probably make me cry, but leave me satisfied

Romance. Many people think books need some sort of love story, even if it’s in the background. Do you agree? Why or why not?

I do not think a story needs a love story. I can very happily read a book without a love interest. I’ve found a lot of relationships are portrayed as amazing and perfect in books and that just isn’t real life or they come across as abusive and played off as normal which gives young people the wrong idea about relationships

What are you reading now?

I am reading a few different books right now. I’m a multi reader ( no wonder I don’t have a big monthly read figure ) on my currently reading pile right now I have School of deaths by Christopher Mannino, Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, and a scary number of review copies of books.

How many books would you say you get through a month?

This varies from month to month depending on work. Some months I could get through 10 books others 1.

And finally, the big one. Why do you read? There are so many other things that can occupy your time. You have a child. There are great TV shows and movies being made of a lot of these books. So why should someone pick up an e-reader or flip through the pages of a paperback?

I love watching certain T.V shows and movies, but I have found a lot of the shows have pretty much the same story line and they just do not make movies the way they used to I feel with reading. I can get lost in many worlds and read about many different things in the space of time it takes me to watch a movie.

There you have it folks. Most of what we do here at the YA Author Rendezvous is for the readers and that hasn’t changed, but today, this week, this is also for the author community.

Thank you to everyone who inspired me this week.


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: 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: Hayley Barrett

hayley barrett - young adult authorAn Interview with Hayley Barrett

By: Michelle Lynn

Hi Hayley, welcome to YAAR. First things first, can you tell me about your books.

My first novel is called Into Darkness and it’s a dystopia set in New Zealand about a privileged girl who is convicted of a crime she didn’t commit by her father. I’ve also written a novella which includes some of the same characters but happens before Into Darkness, and that book is called In the Cool Light of Dawn. In September, the sequel will be released and it’s called A Silhouette in the Night.

So, at first glance your book seems to be just a dystopian, but there’s a bit of the paranormal thrown in. Can you tells us about that?

It is primarily dystopian, but there are also a race of people whose ancestors were experimented on many years ago and genetically modified. The result is that these people, Drifters, are faster and stronger than humans and they require human blood to survive. However, a few drops of Drifter blood can fix any human illness or disease meaning that humans and Drifters are constantly at war with each other.

How did you come up with the world you’ve created?

I’m not really sure. I had a basic idea of the story I wanted to write and the world just sort of formed around the story.

You’ve created so many great characters that move the story forward. Who’s your favorite?

Emily Jane. She doesn’t appear much in Into Darkness, but she is the main character in Cool Light and is a supporting character in Silhouette. Her back story keeps revealing itself each time I write about her, and I really enjoy finding out what she’s gone through in the past.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

There is a part near the end of Into Darkness where readers often tell me they hate me (I can’t say more without giving the plot away). I loved writing that because it upset me to write it. It comes unexpectedly and with any luck, it makes readers feel something that they weren’t expecting to feel.

Were there alternate endings that you considered?

Nope, not for Into Darkness. Cool Light originally finished where Emily Jane first meets Alex and Will in Into Darkness but I’d glossed over what are now the last chapters of the novella. A beta reader suggested I try a different ending and I like it so much better than what I’d originally written.

Are there any other authors that have inspired you to write?

When I read Sara Donati’s Into the Wilderness, I’d never read a book that I was so invested in and I decided that I wanted to write a book like that. It took about twelve more years before I actually sat down and started to write, but it really was that book that did it.

What age were you when you started writing?

My school reports right back to when I was about eight years old all say I had a flair for writing. In high school, I won the school writing competition twice without (I hate to say it) really trying. But once I left high school, I didn’t write anything for about eighteen years.

Writer’s block – an author’s worst nightmare. Ever experience it?

Yes, although I don’t often find I can’t write anything. For me, it’s more that I find myself writing the wrong thing. When that happens, my writing doesn’t flow and I need to scrap it and start again. Usually it means I have to do something entirely different with the scene to make it work.

Do you work with an outline, or just write?

I’m not an outliner. I often wish I was, but plot twists often come to me as I’m writing and if I’d written an outline, it would have to go out the window at that point.

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

Hehe. Not so far!

Here’s a couple just for fun – If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?

I don’t know! Maybe Super Mom. I’m not sure what my costume would be, but I’d definitely need a decent vehicle so I could run my kids to all their afterschool activities (hmmmm, that sounds suspiciously like real life!)

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

I was going to say Irish because I just love the way it sounds. But I also have a thing for Diana Gabaldon’s character Jamie Fraser, so I’m going to go with Scottish!

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

I actually didn’t have too many challenges. Double Dragon Publishing was recommended to me by another author and they were one of the first publishers I submitted to.

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 don’t think I’d change anything!

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

I’m currently working on something completely different.  It is another young adult novel but this one is historical with a hint of paranormal.  It’s been a lot more challenging to write, but I’m pretty happy with how it’s turning out.

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

I find it really hard to read critical reviews where some of the things the reviewer has a problem with are actually answered in the novel – if only they’d bothered to read it properly!  The best compliment was hearing about an eleven-year-old who likes my books who had a “To Do” list beside her bed. One of the points on her list was “read more of Hayley Barrett’s books.”

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Everyone says it, but it’s true. It’s easy to come up with a reason to stop writing such as, “I can’t work out why this character does this and I can’t go on until I figure it out.” Something like that is just an excuse. Even if you can’t make it work, move on. Write the book. Then go back and fix the difficult part in editing. Oh, and that’s another thing for aspiring authors. Make sure you edit your work!

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Not really. I can’t write on an empty stomach though, so I’m least productive right before a meal.

Thanks for joining us Hayley and to all of YAAR’s readers out there – I hope you’ve found another fantastic Young Adult author to follow!

Praise for Hayley Barrett:

“I was hooked at the beginning. I thought it was such an original and unique way to introduce us to the characters, which have amazing personalities, portraying the real complex of human nature.”

“The story is fast paced, there is lots of action, intrigue, romance and adventure, and I was constantly surprised by all the plot twists, especially the shocking turn of events near the end of the book.”

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

 

Author Spotlight: T.D Shields

tdshields-page1

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

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