An interview with fantasy author, Amanda Crozier

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the very talented, Amanda Crozier, creator of the fantasy novel, Ride the Wind. Amanda has selected the self-publishing route with her work and I’ve enjoyed hearing her take on the pros and cons of taking that particular road.

Cover

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Born in London, I have lived in Middlesex, Essex and Derbyshire before finally settling down in rural Suffolk. I am married with three grown up children and a grandson. A springer spaniel and a mini lop rabbit complete my family. They say never work with children or animals – I have done both in addition to working in customer service with the public. I am an avid reader, have a sense of humour, enjoy rock music and love to dance. I have a love for dragons and a tale to tell.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
As well as writing, I enjoy stitch work. I have many bespoke tapestry and cross stitch pieces that have gone to customers worldwide. I believe the furthest travelled pieces are two chair seats that went to New Zealand. I love making jewellery and my favourites are bead woven necklaces. Other interests are photography, gardening, and, of course, reading.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
I retired from working in early years childcare (2 to 4 year olds) three years ago and now do occasional bar work for events. I also earn from my stitch work.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
Whilst in High School, English was my favourite subject and all my essays were way above the requested word count. Since September 2000, I have been volunteering at my local Primary School, hearing children read, where they need extra support. I work with all ages from Foundation Stage (4 years) up to year 6 (11 years). One lunchtime, in the school library, I had an idea for a children’s story but it was years later that I actually did something with it. A Nativity poem that I wrote for Pre-School was published in an anthology in 2013 and a short story “The Inheritance” which was originally written for my ‘O’ Level exam, was published in 2014 in a new anthology. Ride the Wind was completed in 2017 with a final pre-publication edit early in 2018.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
Having been around horses for most of the first half of my life, as a young adult I progressed from “pony” books to westerns. Whilst having to lay flat following an injury to my back, a friend introduced me to Anne McCaffrey’s “Dragon Riders of Pern” books. I was immediately hooked! A dragon was so much more than a horse and my allegiance changed from a lover of equines to a lover of dragons. Since then, with a few author exceptions, Sci-fi/fantasy has been my favoured genre to read.
I do not know where I get my ideas. The story flows from within me and I am often surprised when I read back. The number of times that things tie in to clues that I did not even know at the time would be a clue never ceases to amaze me. Sometimes I will see a person for the first time and think to myself that they are exactly as I already imagined a particular character – it then makes it easier to describe them and bring them to life. I also once saw a fellow passenger waiting for a train who had the most amazing carved walking stick/staff, so I just had to write it in somewhere

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
No, never. I guess I have been lucky that way, but then I do not write if I am not in the right frame of mind for it.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
When I started, I had a good general overview, because it was intended as a shorter children’s story. However, when I got to the concluding dragon hatching, I realised that this was not the end but merely the beginning of something far larger. I rewrote the beginning and 400 pages later, I came to the realisation that there was too much for one book. Turning my thoughts to the sequel, I decided that it could be split into three and become The Dragonlore Trilogy. Once I started on the larger story, it simply flowed as I typed. When I write, I see a picture in my mind as if I am watching a scene from a film, and I write what I see. Now and again I will see a specific scene that I have to write down, even though I may not have got to it yet – but these have been in the second book rather than the first. I do know how the second book will end, and one event that will conclude the trilogy. Meanwhile, I await the words appearing on the page from the image in my mind to truly know what will happen.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I have always loved books. I was read to by my father at bedtime every night before I could read and later loved reading for myself. The three authors who have inspired my love for dragons are Ann McCaffrey, her son Todd McCaffrey (both together and separately have penned the Pern series), and Robin Hobb.

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (self-published or traditional)?
I was lucky to have the support and advice of a very good friend who is a creative writing teacher and has worked in publishing. So getting self-published was not as challenging as it would have been had I been in the position to try and do it alone without advice and support.

10. 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 not have had the first book on an online site, but instead, would have self-published straight away. I was happy with the take up rate for readers, except for the fact that very few leave a review whether it is positive or negative, which is frustrating to not know how it had been received.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
My book has not been out long, and I have had a steep learning curve, learning to use social media platforms. I have designed A6 handouts and A4 poster which I keep with me when I am out and about so I don’t lose an opportunity to promote or advertise it. In some ways, though, you cannot beat the old fashioned word of mouth, although online recommendations are also a great help. I have several other ideas for promotion, but it is early days and I need to take one step at a time. I also have my own website. One problem with the Sci-fi/fantasy genre is people either love it or you get the reaction “Oh no, I don’t read that” even when you know they never have tried the genre.

12. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
My first book has recently been self-published and is available in large format paperback and Kindle editions and is available from Amazon, your local bookstore or local library. Ride the Wind is the opening book in the Dragonlore Trilogy, written under my pen name Amanda Crozier, which also happens to be my birth name (I was adopted from birth so it was only used for a few weeks). The trilogy is suitable for any age of reader including YA.
The back cover blurb reads:
Zysal was the only person who truly believed in dragons, the ancient guardians of the peace. A War Lord has invaded, subjugating peaceful folk and taking all in his wake. Zysal’s sire, Zimadon, returns from his travels with this news for the village Elders at the Kevii Hall.

Zysal is drawn to return to a cave where he gains access to a hidden way, leading him to discover a large egg from which a dragon hatches. Magic has frozen time allowing the pair to mature together before returning to the village over the sacred waterfall.

He has to adjust to his new status as a Rider with help from two guardians who are as old as the mists of time, and whilst his sire agrees to return to the coast to gather more information, the pair need time to grow in strength, but what can they do to help the situation that is so far from their remote village?

They discover that the Kevii’s apprentice, Axen, can communicate with his dragon, Opalina, so what part will he play in the adventure that unfolds, and what will Zimadon learn when he travels down the coast with two fishermen?

13. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
I draw from life observations; after all, emotions are the same whatever the setting – whether real or made up. I also draw from half a lifetime spent with horses and most of my life living in a deep rural setting to create the type of world in my book. Place and people names are made up – I will see a name and think if you change a letter there and another there, that would give a good name. Mostly though, it is the product of my imagination.

14. What project are you working on now?
I am halfway through the second book of the trilogy “Weather the Storm”.

15. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Hopefully, Weather the Storm will be ready to publish late Autumn/winter 2018.

16. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I would like to do a prequel with the back story of Opalina’s dam Carnelia and Zysal’s ancestor Kethraine.

17. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The toughest was receiving a rude post in response to one of mine in an online book group from someone who had never even read my book. The best was when a friend who does not normally read the genre came to me after she read it saying that she had really enjoyed it and could see everything so clearly.

18. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Believe in yourself, especially in those moments of self-doubt! Don’t rush the end the story; let it evolve at its own pace. I find that keeping a time line helps with continuity, especially when events occur in different places.

19. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
To anyone who has taken time to read Ride the Wind – thank you for helping the dream become reality, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. It was only becoming an author that made me realise just how important reviews are to an author. So, please, always leave a review, even if it is only a few words such as “I liked it” or “good book”.

Please join me in thanking Amanda for her comprehensive answers and for sharing her experiences of the modern day publishing landscape. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Amanda via the following links.

Ride the Wind by Amanda Crozier ISBN 9 781975 939373

Amazon Author page:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07GL8QKP8

Social media contacts:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmandaCrozierAuthor
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandacrozierauthor/
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/authorcrozier/
Website: https://www.

Cover photo (waterfall) by Bernd Hildebrandt (User: Barni1 http://www.pixabay.com).
Skogafoss, Iceland

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An interview with Science-Fiction author, Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi

Welcome to the second in a series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am thrilled to introduce the Romanian writer, Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi, author of the science fiction thriller, The Restoration. Andrei has selected the self-publishing route and I enjoyed hearing his take on the ups and downs of the experience.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello and thanks for having me. To begin, my name is Emanuel Andrei Cosutchi, friends call me Andrew. I was born in August ’77 therefore I chose my nickname ACE977. I do not use a pen name. I live in the European Union (rubbing it in for your English readers – Ed.), Romania – best known as Dracula’s homeland more recently, Simona Halep, the world number one tennis player.
My goal is to become a professional writer and my dream is to have one of my books turned into a movie.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Like every good writer, I spend most of my downtime reading (particularly books in the science fiction and fantasy genres), but also enjoy a good film, gaming, travelling, cooking, nature, wildlife, geography, history, astronomy, science, space exploration and weird phenomena (UFOs and USOs (unidentified submerged objects) – possible alien vehicles or living fossils like Megalodon). I listen to epic music when I write. I like Two Steps From Hell, Audiomachine, Lindsey Stirling & Peter Hollens, Hans Zimmer and Jan Chmelar.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
I work as IT Engineer and write novels in my spare time.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
Once I was a consumer of books. I watched movies and I played video games, but one day I decided I’d had enough of imagining the creations of other authors and sat down to create my own Sci-Fi universe. I write my novels with the reader in mind and always try to see my work through the eyes of a potential consumer. As a result, the project named Starship “Apple of Discord” was born. Labelled as a space opera, I completed the first three volumes (350K word count) towards the end of 2017. I’ve spent the time since querying the concept and I’m awaiting answers from several publishing houses from the US, UK, Canada and European Union. I know nothing happens fast in the publishing industry and I’m developing a thick skin while I’m awaiting. I’m just worried the project is a little large in scope for a debutant author – but hey, even Stephen King was a debutant once! If you know any agents or publishers, don’t be afraid to put in a good word and send them my way!

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I’ve been writing seriously since August 2016, and chose the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre simply because I love it and wanted to share my stories with people. I get my ideas from science stories appearing in journals and books and websites around the world. It helps I have an untamed imagination!

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I certainly have but learnt how to deal with the issue. When I am exhausted or have no inspiration, I simply leave my writing desk for a while and recharge my batteries with a completely different activity – walking, swimming etc. It seems to work for me!

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I always start with a title. Then I create a short plot outline which will form the backbone of my story. I add characters and details on the fly as they come to me. I like to allow my ideas to flow and not restrain they with an overly detailed outline. The feedback from my beta readers seem to confirm this works. I create my own book covers using GIMP and other free software. I try to include as many subjects as I can in my stories – physics, mathematics, biology, psychology, genetics, history, geography, computer science, chemistry, astronomy and xenology – the sky is the limit (or not) when I’m in the creative phase. In my genre inventing new names a even language is part of the draw. I now have a massive database of information otherwise I’d lose track!

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
My favorite Sci-Fi books are:
Roadside Picnic by Arkadi & Boris Strugatsky
The Men in the Jungle by Norman Spinrad
Dune by Frank Herbert

My favorite Fantasy books are:
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Rune Swords by Clayton Emery and multiple authors

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Although working on Starship “Apple of Discord”, in the spring of 2017 I decided to take a break and learn more about Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Therefore, I created a Sci-Fi story named The Restoration. The initial impression was favourable and The Restoration received 4.5 stars. Unfortunately, later, Amazon decided to change the rules in the middle of the game and removed all reviews posted by people who received free books on promotions. This happened to The Restoration. Now it has 3.5 stars, because the person who posted this review said that this is a great book but complained about my English skills. My English was rough when I started to write, but the more I write, the more my style is evolving.

10. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I am trying to raise the awareness about my writing mainly through self-publicising myself on social media. Marketing is my kryptonite. I’m trying and hope it clicks for me soon.

11. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
Yes, Starship “Apple of Discord” but I’m trying hard! As I’ve said, I’m still waiting for a reply from several publishing houses. In Starship “Apple of Discord”, I’ve created a number of interesting alien species, worlds and technology and love describing the numerous space and ground battles littered through the books. I’ve spent hundreds of hours carefully sculpting my Sci-Fi vision and hope the readers will fall in love with the series as much as I have. I’ve certainly been told it has all the ingredients for a successful book and perhaps even a movie…

12. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
I published a revised edition of The Restoration in the summer of 2018. This book is available on all Amazon websites.
I am only couple chapters away from completion and intend to release a Sci-Fi novel called, SS Vagabond, during the autumn/winter of 2018.
SS Vagabond: In a distant dystopian future, Captain Edward Turner is struggling to survive, transporting goods and passengers with his freighter, SS Vagabond. Eileen, the second in command and Edward’s lover, urges him to accept a risky yet lucrative mission to Mars.

13. What project are you working on now?
Once SS Vagabond is complete, my plan to write a fantasy novel and aim to publish sometime around Christmas 2018. Ideally I’d like to add another volume to my Sci-Fi book series Starship “Apple of Discord “.

14. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I am in my comfort zone writing science fiction. I enjoy writing Fantasy, but I find this more challenging. IMO there is little room for manoeuvre in the Fantast genre and you must create genuine stories if you want to hook the readers. Plus competing with the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien, J. K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, and Clayton Emery isn’t easy!

15. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
The weirdest rejection I received was the first one. This came from a publishing house from my country. They responded me that my book Starship “Apple of Discord “, I quote, “it doesn’t fit in our editorial line”. This publisher is also a retailer and sells Sci-Fi and Fantasy books among others. Unfortunately they promote only well known foreign authors, like Isaac Asimov and G.R.R. Martin, and they don’t encourage local authors like me. This was the reason I first began to write in English.
People who bought The restoration and my beta readers said only good things about my books. This encouraged me to keep writing.

16. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write, publish, repeat.

17. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I hardly believe that it’s been a full year since I became a published author.
I want to thank those who read my first chapter and asked for more. You gave me the courage that I could really do this.
I want to thank those who purchased my book, The Restoration and helped me through my fear that I wouldn’t sell any.
I want to thank those who recommend my work to their friends and continue to spread the word about my writing.
I want to thank those who continue to encourage me through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Deviantart, Linkedin, Google+)

To all of you, I promise I will publish more great books soon.

Please join me in thanking Andrei for his honest assessment of the industry and for sharing his experiences and the problems associated with writing in a second language. My hat goes off to him – I certainly couldn’t do it!

If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Jon via the following links. Please show your appreciation by checking out his work on Amazon:

Social media contacts:
Website: https://sites.google.com/view/cosutchi/about
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ACE977

An interview with fantasy author, Faith D. Lee

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from novelists around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the talented writer, Faith D. Lee, author of the fantasy novels, “The Fairy’s Tale” and “The Academy.”

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in London with my cats and my husband – it’s a constant state of flux which of them has top priority, to be honest. Who I am kidding? It’s the cats!
I write fantasy novels in the Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde vein, but I struggle to think of the exact genre, which makes marketing a lot of ‘fun’. My series, The Pathways Tree, is an ongoing story about the sinister world behind fairy tales and myths. Think the old, pre-Disney blood-and-bones type fairy tales with a dash of dystopian politics and a sprinkle of Gothic and you’ll be there! A reviewer once described my first novel, The Fairy’s Tale, as “Cinderella meets 1984” and I think that’s pretty accurate.
I’ve also just finished a PhD looking at the importance of storytelling and why literature needs multiple voices and representations. I looked specifically at Self-publishing, of which I am a huge advocate, and how this new publishing method is breaking down the gates and allow more varied literature to reach readers.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Not much! I write a lot, usually about a thousand words a day, so that takes up a lot of my spare time. I am a geek, and in a number of fandoms, so that also keeps me busy, I love the theatre and go as often as I can afford to. And reading, of course – SF and fantasy are my go-to genres, but I’ll happily read most things if I think the characters are interesting. I’m a reader (and a writer, I suspect) who really focuses on character; I don’t mind if they’re good or bad, as long as they seem real.

3. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
A little bit of both. With all my novels, I always know what the overall arc is going to be, and where the main beats are. I then spend time working on my characters, developing character sheets and so on, before I start writing. At that point, I just write! I think it’s important to get the first draft done and not to worry too much if it isn’t perfect – that’s what draft two is for. I tend to have three or four drafts of a novel before I decide it’s finished.

4. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Blimey, yes! Tonnes! Like most bookish people, I read voraciously as a teenager. But Terry Pratchett is absolutely my favourite author – I have read and re-read all of Discworld novels and most of his non-DW books. I think the thing that makes Terry so wonderful is how layered and clever his writing is; the fact you can pick up something new every time you read one of his books is a testament to his genius. He also wrote about very real people facing very real problems, albeit they’re witches, dwarves, trolls or wizards (or a wizzard!) I think you can see his influence in my writing and also in the way I look at and think about the world. I was also lucky enough to meet him on a few occasions at signings, and he was a wonderful, friendly man. In fact, I met one of my dearest friends in a queue at a Terry signing, so not only did he gift me with hundreds if not thousands of hours of happiness with his books, but he also gave me one of my best friends.

5. Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences or purely all imagination?
To be honest, it’s a mixture of the both. Writing fantasy, of course, a lot of my world and its lore is created by my imagination. However, in terms of the emotional experiences of the novel and the journeys the characters take, I always draw on my own feels and experiences. I’m sometimes asked if my characters are based on anyone, or if any one specific character is me, but the truth is that they’re all me – or aspects of me, anyway. Bit worrying thing to consider when I think about some of the villains I’ve written! But then, I think a good villain, like any good character, needs to come from somewhere real. I’m probably aided in this as I trained many years ago in the theatre, so I draw a lot on the techniques I learned to get into each character’s mindset. However, this does backfire sometimes! I’ve one long-running villain, Julia, who I find it very uncomfortable writing scenes for as being inside her head is such a nasty, cold, calculating place to be. My husband always knows when I’ve done a Julia scene as I tend to dance around the house trying to shake her off once it’s finished!

6. What project are you working on now?
I’m just redrafting “The Princess and The Orrery,” the third novel in my Pathways Series books. I’ve enjoyed writing this one a lot as a couple of characters I’m very fond of take centre stage in this book, and it also sees the return of someone we’ve not seen in a while. I’m also writing the first draft of a new novel, “Rez-Q Me,” which is a mystery/detective novel that follows a superhero trying to make a living from saving people in a world were all heroes are rated on an app, and the more stars you get, the better ‘rescues’ you can apply for. A draft of the first chapter is up on my website (https://www.fdlee.co.uk/rezq-me) if anyone would like to check it out! Last but not least, I’m also working on a long-standing SF novel, “In The Slip.” This has taken a bit longer to get right, but I’d prefer to take a while and publish something I’m happy with than rush it out.

7. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write! It’s such old advice, but that’s because it’s true. Get that first draft written – don’t worry about every line being perfect or every plot-point lining up. You can fix all that in the redrafts. But if you don’t get that first draft written, you’ll never have anything to fix.

8. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Yes! Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm and for taking Bea and the gang into your hearts! Writing can be a very lonely, very nerve-wracking experience, and I hope that my readers know just how much it means to hear from them. I’m very lucky in that my readers are a really friendly, supportive bunch – it motivates me to keep writing even on days when I want to pull my hair out or am having a massive imposter syndrome moment. So a huge, huge thank you to each and every one! You all make it worthwhile xx

Please join me in thanking Faith for her insightful peek into her life as an author and for sharing some of her experiences. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Faith via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out Faith’s work:

Readers can pick up a complete, unabridged copy of The Fairy’s Tale for free if they choose to sign up to my newsletter at http://www.fdlee.co.uk
However, if they prefer to purchase a copy, here are the links!
The Fairy’s Tale (Amazon): https://amzn.to/2LgNrwF
The Fairy’s Tale (Kobo): https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-fairy-s-tale-2
The Academy (Amazon): https://amzn.to/2JnKAAb
The Academy (Kobo): https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/the-academy-39

Social media contacts:
Twitter: @faithdlee
Instagram: @faithdlee
Facebook: @fdleeauthor
Website: http://www.fdlee.co.uk

An interview with fantasy author, Mike Brooks

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the gifted author, Mike Brooks, creator of the Science Fiction / Fantasy novels, Dark Deeds, Dark Run and Dark Sky. Mike is traditionally published although experienced a few setbacks before securing the writers equivalent of the holy grail. It has been interesting to find out his take on the positives and negatives associated with his journey.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Gladly! I’m Mike Brooks, I’m 36 years old, I was born in Ipswich, Suffolk but came to Nottingham for university and stayed here when I realised it was far more interesting. I’m married, we have two cats and two snakes, I’m disabled (hearing loss), and bisexual.

2. What do you do when you are not writing?
I like to go walking: the Peak District is just over an hour away in the car, which is lovely. I also play guitar and sing in a punk band (no, that’s unrelated to the hearing loss), play tabletop wargames, and DJ wherever anyone will tolerate me.

3. Do you have a day job as well?
I do, although I have managed to drop my hours from five days a week to four as a result of income from writing, which is very welcome. I’ve worked for a homelessness charity in Nottingham since 2004; I used to be a support worker in hostels, but these days I’m a Housing Officer so I deal more with buildings, repairs, and legal issues like tenancy agreements and anti-social behaviour.

4. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started writing about as soon as I could actually form letters. I won a prize for Best Long Story at primary school (the prize was the book Fog Lane School & The Great Racing Car Disaster, I can remember it clearly), so I had the intent from early on. However, I spent my teens and much of my twenties messing around jumping from one idea to the next and never getting anywhere. At the end of 2008 I sat down and told myself that I was going to pick one and either finish it, or admit that I simply couldn’t finish a novel. It took me just over a year, was stupidly long and probably not very good, but I managed it, and it went from there.

5. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I write science-fiction and fantasy, and their various sub-genres, and I chose it because that’s what I like to read and watch. Working with homelessness gives me all I can stomach of the “real world”, so I value escapism. As for where I get my ideas, I can give no better answer than “everywhere” – so many things can spark off an idea for a setting or an event or a character, from a news article to a piece of art to a documentary. The trick is taking something and putting it into your work as something new and interesting, that fits your own setting.

6. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Not yet. Not really, anyway. Sometimes words don’t come easily, but I keep putting them down and it works through to a part of the story that’s far easier to write, and then sometimes I can go back and tidy up when things are flowing more easily. I mean, some days it just won’t work and I’ll give up and go play a computer game or something, but that’s isolated: I’ll get up the next day and it’ll be back to business as usual.

7. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I’ll usually start writing with a vague idea and see how things develop. If I feel that what I’m writing has legs, I’ll generally then sit down and start planning out much more fully. However, I always discover new things as I write, as new ideas come up or I realise connections that I hadn’t made until that point, and the plot links together in new and interesting ways. I don’t think I’d be able to write out a plot and stick to it with no divergence.

8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
“Influenced” is difficult. I love Terry Pratchett, but I wouldn’t say my writing style is particularly influenced by his. However, I do very much admire how he used the Discworld series to write whatever he wanted to write, but framed with that consistency. I maintain that science-fiction and fantasy aren’t really genres so much as settings: you can’t write a “science-fiction novel” or a “fantasy novel” unless it’s really conceptual, and incredibly tightly focused on the science or the fantasy element. I view it more as a way of saying “this novel is a certain type of story, but set in a place where physics/biology/chemistry, or our abilities to manipulate them, differ in some way from what we understand to be true”.
As an example, my Keiko series of novels are what I call “grimy space-opera”, and are certainly science-fiction, but if you read them you’ll see other genres there too. The first two are essentially thrillers: in Dark Run, the crew of the Keiko (a spaceship) are blackmailed and framed, and have to outwit a powerful adversary to survive. In Dark Sky, they end up trapped in a subterranean mining city during a rebellion and accidentally end up on opposite sides. On the other hand, the third one, Dark Deeds, is very much a heist movie, but on another planet (with a sub-plot that’s a gangster movie).

9. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
I’d written an urban fantasy novel and managed to get an agent. He liked my writing, and liked the world I’d created, but told me that we wouldn’t be able to sell the novel I had. I went away and wrote a new novel, with the same characters and in the same world, and honed that. Then we took it to publishers. One publisher was very interested and it got to the final yes-or-no meeting… and the answer was no. It wasn’t that it wasn’t good enough, they said, it was because they’d just taken on three urban fantasy novels and didn’t want to take a chance on any more until they saw how well those did. But let us know what you write next, they said. So it was back to the drawing board.
I think some people would have been crushed by getting so close but not succeeding, but luckily my mind worked more on the basis that I would have got a contract had I only got there a little sooner, so I wasn’t going to give up now. My agent asked me what I was going to write next, since we had definite interest from a publisher. I thought about it and said that I had several different ideas I could write about, I just wasn’t sure what to concentrate on. My agent talked to the publisher about what they might be interested in and came back with a list of broad things they were looking for. One of them matched up pretty well with an idea that had been kicking around in my head, so I got to work and, with not much more than a title, a vague concept and two pre-existing characters, started writing what would become Dark Run. The urban fantasy I’d been working on for years never found a home – the space opera I blasted out in six months got published.

10. 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 think there probably are, there always will be, but I’ve found that I’m good at saying “You know what; that’ll do” and just leaving a novel be, rather than tinkering endlessly. I would have liked to introduce more and stronger LGBTQ themes in my first two novels, but at that point I wasn’t sure what sort of reaction I was going to get from my publisher, and wanted to get my feet under the table, as it were, before I started pushing boundaries. These days I’ve found my writing voice far more, and I’m happier to throw in whatever I want to be there.

11. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I don’t do a great deal of marketing myself, since I’m lucky enough to have my original work published by two of the “Big 5” (imprints of Ebury and Simon & Schuster) so any marketing I could do would be dwarfed by their reach. Similarly, I’ve started writing for Games Workshop’s Black Library and their connection with their readers is far more efficient than anything I could do. However, I can track sales of my novels (to varying degrees of accuracy) and it is interesting how certain events can spike sales. As an example, a website review that compared my Keiko novels favourably to the Firefly TV series got cross-posted to a Firefly community (possibly on Reddit, I think) and I saw my book sales jump by about five times the week after!

12. Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
I do like my urban fantasy, although looking back I think it’s probably good it didn’t get published. I’d still like to publish that, and do the series I had planned, but I’d certainly be rewriting it. I’ve developed as a writer but also as a human since I wrote it, and I have a greater understanding of various issues now that I perhaps handled a bit clumsily back then.

13. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Dark Deeds came out at the end of last year, and (as I mentioned above) is essentially a heist movie on another planet. The crew of the Keiko need to pull off a big theft to save one of their number, which sets up a lot of scams, treachery and, it has to be said, tragedy.
I’ve also got my first novella for Black Library coming out towards the end of this year (I know the release date but I don’t think I’m allowed to make it public yet). It’s called Wanted: Dead and is set in the world of Necromunda, their recently revamped and re-released tabletop skirmish game. This was incredibly exciting as Necromunda was my favourite game as a teenager (and to be fair, I’m a big fan of the new version too), and the dark, gritty-but-futuristic feel of it (I always described it as “Wild West meets prohibition-era gangs meets Blade Runner”) was a big influence on the tone I wanted to evoke for the Keiko series.

14. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Very little of the Keiko series is based on my real life experiences as I’ve never flown a spaceship, shot a gun or pulled a heist. Similarly, Wanted: Dead isn’t based on my experiences as I’ve never been a lesbian gang member fighting for survival. However, I like to think that my characters are realistic and relatable, and – by and large – that’s the feedback that I get. And I do try to do research where I can. Some parts are science-fiction, and the fiction is stronger than the science. However, for the parts that do have some relationship to real-world stuff, I like to make sure that it’s as accurate as I can get it.

15. What project are you working on now?
I’m currently writing my first full-length novel for Black Library, about which I’m contractually obliged to say nothing other that it’s in the Warhammer 40,000 part of their universe, and touches on an area of the background that I don’t think has really been explored much yet. I’m also working on a fantasy novel of my own.

16. Will you have a new book coming out soon?
As I said above, Wanted: Dead is coming out towards the end of this year. Dark Run should also be coming out in French at some point before too long, although I’m not yet sure when. It came out in German in May this year, and it was a real thrill to be published in another language. I also have another Black Library short story called A Common Ground coming out in issue 1 of the relaunched Inferno! magazine, which is another thrill as I grew up reading that in its former incarnation, and I’m in there with some fantastic authors.

17. Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
I find my writing littered with characters that I introduce as bit-parts and which suddenly get their own personality and I find hugely interesting; which can be distracting, but is far better than feeling that they’re flat and lifeless. I could happily write about several of them. As for themes and ideas I’d love to work with, the fantasy novel I’m working on at the moment is doing just that. It features conflicts, but the main themes are around learning tolerance and understanding, and appreciating the diversity of others, and it’s given me a place to play around with my own understandings of sexuality and gender, as well as religion and belief systems.

18. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I have quite rigid mental processes, so criticism can be hard to take – my immediate reaction is that the other person must be wrong, because this makes sense to me, so why doesn’t it make sense to them? I’ve learned to work around that though, and to appreciate that other people have different perspectives that are just as valid to them as mine are for me, and crucially, might be shared by more people than share mine. I think I did get annoyed by one reader review which said that my characters were two-dimensional and the dialogue wooden, as I genuinely feel those areas are one of my strong points as a writer. However, they’re perfectly entitled to their opinion, and it seems that it’s not one shared by many others, from what I’ve seen.
The best compliment is probably a tie between “Great fun… Golden Age chic!” from Stephen Baxter and “If Firefly and The Expanse had a love-child” from BookRiot. Both of which ended up as pull quotes on the covers of my books, because my editors are no fools.

19. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Don’t be a dick. Apart from that, pick and choose whatever advice seems to work for you. Any piece of advice from anywhere will be contradicted by someone else. People will say ‘write what you love, don’t write what you think will get you published’, but I loved my urban fantasy and it didn’t get me published, and then I wrote Dark Run because I thought it would get me published, and it did. I mean, I enjoyed writing it – the Keiko books are a blast, tremendous fun to write – but I only picked that idea because I thought it would work. So you know, do what feels right.

20. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I am honestly, truly touched that you were and/or are prepared to take a chance and spend money on stories I make up in my head. Thank you.

Please join me in thanking Mike for his open and candid responses regarding the publishing industry and for sharing his experiences and journey as a writer. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Mike direct via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out his work on Amazon:

Dark Run – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Run-Keiko-Mike-Brooks/dp/0091956641/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1530916179&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+run+mike+brooks
Dark Sky – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Sky-Keiko-Mike-Brooks/dp/009195665X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530916325&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+sky+mike+brooks
Dark Deeds – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Deeds-Keiko-Mike-Brooks/dp/1534405445/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530916342&sr=1-1&keywords=dark+deeds+mike+brooks
Inferno! Issue #1 – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inferno-1-David-Annandale/dp/1784967335/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1530916371&sr=1-2&keywords=inferno%21+games+workshop

Social media contacts:
http://www.mikebrooks.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/mikebrooks668
Twitter: @mikebrooks668
Instagram: @mikebrooks668

An interview with YA author, Christopher Galvin

Welcome to the latest in my series of author interviews from talented writers around the world. Today I am pleased to introduce the talented author, Christopher Galvin, creator of the children’s fantasy novel, Strings. Christopher has selected the self-publishing path and it has been interesting to find out his take on the positives and negatives associated with his experience.

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1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m from Co. Offaly in Ireland. My background is in TV and film. I have a BA Hons Degree in Video. I’ve always enjoyed writing since I was very young, whether it was short stories or plays or comics. I write short films which seem to do reasonably well on the film festival circuit – the last one was called Stuck. I really enjoyed writing and co-directing that one.
2. What do you do when you are not writing?
Marketing my book! Pushing it on social media etc. But I’m also a videographer so I edit videos etc. too.
3. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I’ve been writing since I was old enough to pick up a pen, but my first book… I recently finished the third draft of my first novel, Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic, which I’ve begun to submit to agents. Although ASQM is technically the first book I completed, Strings, is the first book I published. It’s a children’s fantasy book which I’ve self-published on Amazon and came out earlier this year.
4. How did you choose the genre you write in and where do you get your ideas?
I’m not sure I have a genre as such, but there’s usually something supernatural added whether its monsters or ghosts etc. but I wouldn’t classify it as horror. Maybe drama or comedy with a hint of the unusual about it.
As for where I get my ideas… Sometimes they jump out at me from nowhere. Other times they have been developed from something else. For example, Strings came about because I read about a competition for a story which had certain ground rules (i.e. the protagonist had to be a certain age and had to meet certain people). I simply started writing the requested scene and a couple of hours later I created the basis of a story around a young girl, her imaginary friend and their discovery of a mysterious puppet theatre materialising in her room. After writing that piece I started thinking about what would happen next, so I just continued to write and finished it in a few days.
5. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes. The way your head goes blank. It’s frustrating but it can be overcome. Either by sitting there thinking it through, or by walking away and going about your business. Usually when that happens the ideas eventually start flowing again.
6. Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I just write. Most times I’ll have thought about it a lot, building the story in my head, but when I sit down, I simply write. I can edit out the bad bits later. I’m a great believer in just letting the words flow, especially with a first draft.
7. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I suppose the author or authors that stick out are Stephen King and Terry Pratchett. Their styles, while miles apart, really appeal to me. King’s strength is in his great build up of suspense and the horror he can unleash. Pratchett’s is his wonderful way with world play and his characters. Imagine combining those styles together!
8. Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (self-published or traditional)?
When I wrote Strings I thought, well I’ll self-publish it. This was on the basis the experience would give me a better understanding of the market and the process if I decide to self-publish, Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic. Publishing it on Amazon was fairly straightforward and went well. The decision on the size of the paperback was a challenge and the cover design certainly had its issues (although I’m pleased with the result). Sales went fine for the first few days (family and friends buying it) but there comes a time when you have to reach out to an audience of strangers and say, ‘Here’s my book – I think you’ll like it!’ I’m still trying to figure out how to do that effectively.
9. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I post about it on twitter and Facebook. I have a Facebook page for Strings and an Instagram account for it too. I made three short trailers for it (I think the last one got the most response) and I had a one-day sale where the digital version was free for the day. I haven’t cracked the market by any means but I’m constantly researching and plugging away.
10. Can you tell us about your upcoming or recently published book?
Well, I mentioned Strings which is about a young Irish girl who has trouble making friends. She ends up creating an imaginary friend who helps her through her ups and downs. But some malevolent force has detected she is unhappy and initiates a plan to lull her into the magical town of Puppet Town. Now, Puppet Town is great, has marionettes and shadow puppets and hand puppets etc but if she stays there for 24 hours she will become a puppet too and can never go back home. The remainder of the tale follows her journey to do just that.
Arthur Smallwood’s Quest for Magic is a bit more complex and is aimed at the YA market. I’ll talk more about that when it’s ready to go.
11. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely imaginative?
One or two little pieces that reflect my own life but mostly pure imagination.
12. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been your greatest compliment?
The toughest I think is that I’m very much in a hurry to get things written and done. In the past my first drafts were ‘it’. I didn’t bother with editing much. But that has changed for the better and I’m more patient. You kind of have to be. It makes your writing better. My greatest compliment is probably that I tend to make things very vivid – if you read my stories you can really imagine what the characters are feeling and the worlds they inhabit.
13. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
This is hard as I’d still describe myself as an aspiring writer. That said I guess my advice would be firstly to take your time and don’t rush a project. Give as much time to perfecting your work as you can. Secondly is simply to keep writing – don’t wait for inspiration to arrive before writing, it won’t! You have to work at your craft, inspiration rarely just appears and if you simply waited you’d be staring at a blank page most of the time. Finally you must engage with those willing to help. Let people read your work; if you are lucky enough to be friends with someone who can edit, don’t be shy about passing over your manuscript! They are a huge help and can improve your writing. If you have writing heroes follow them and keep reading. Sometimes going to a book signing can push you to want to have one of your own. *takes a deep breath and ends answer*
14. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Please pick up a copy of Strings and take a look. While it’s a kid’s book, it’s also not. I would imagine a lot of adults now might feel some of what Mary is feeling and enjoy her adventure. And if you do, please leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Not only is It a huge boost when you read about someone loving the story you have told but reviews are the life blood of a self-published author and essential if new readers are to discover our work.

Please join me in thanking Christopher for the insight into his publication journey and for sharing his more general writing experiences. If you would like to ask any further questions, please either use the facilities available below or contact Christopher via the following links.

Please show your appreciation by checking out his work on Amazon:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1981099468

Social media contacts:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrisGalvin1981
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/stringsbook/

Previous publications:
http://www.fishamble.com/fishamble-diaries/playsonatrain-my-lovely-molly-by-christopher-galvin