Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Who's In My Office Today? JOSEPH MULAK!

My Interview with JOSEPH MULAK!

Thank you for meeting with me today.  I was privileged enough to interview you back in July 2014, so it will be fun to catch up with you again, my friend!
1.     I always kick off my interviews with the same question.  Therefore, please tell us how you’d describe yourself?
Short, bald, and ugly. Oh, that probably isn’t what you’re looking for. Well, I live in Northern Ontario (that’s in Canada, for the geographically challenged). I’m married and have five kids. Well, four biological kids and one step-son. Three of my kids are teenagers, so I no longer have any hair. Oh yeah…and I’m a writer, which is why you’re interviewing me, I guess.
2.     I know you really found your love of reading through The Hardy Boy Mysteries by Franklin W. Dixon.  These books, along with the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene, were had a huge impact on readers of my generation, as well as that of our parents.  In this set of questions, I would like to ask you about this book series, and other authors and books that inspired you to both read and write.
·       What was so fascinating about The Hardy Boys that you were hooked?  Was it the writing style, the stories, or something else?
o   The initial fascination was the fact that they were there. My uncle had given my brother a bunch of the old Hardy Boy books. The blue hardcover ones. There was a set of about 55, I think. My uncle had 30 or 40 of them and gave them to my brother. He’s never been much of a reader, so they sat on a shelf in his room.
o   I always liked to read. I’m not sure where that came from. I don’t remember ever seeing either of my parents reading when I was kid (though Mom reads a lot of mysteries these days).
o   I started swiping the books from my brother’s room, one at a time. I think he knew, but he didn’t care. He had no interest in reading them anyway. But those books were my first foray into fiction that I remember and it was the first time I ever thought about writing my own stories.
·       These books are primarily crime mysteries.  How did you get interested in the horror genre?
o   Probably because I am a sick and twisted individual that should be in a psychiatric hospital. The irony there is that I used to work in one.
o   Actually, it’s my mother’s fault. She was the president of the North Bay Literacy Council for a few years. They would raise money with book sales. So one day, she comes home from one of these sales with Stephen King’s The Dead Zone. She hands it to me saying, “I know you like mysteries. I think Stephen King writes mysteries.”  This was no surprise. My mother was never a very good judge of what her kids should be watching or reading. We had to have her banned from the video store because she would bring home movies based on who was on the cover. That’s how I ended up watching Red Heat when I was six. “It has Jim Belushi in it. It must be a comedy.” Anyway, I devoured the book, then went looking for more of King’s work.
o   I would get books from the library, and the librarian noticed I was only borrowing King books. So she started to make recommendations. She told me I should read Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Dean Koontz, and Frank Defelitta (I think that’s how you spell it). So I started borrowing their books as well. 
o   I couldn’t get enough horror fiction. I even started sneaking horror movies into the house or watching them at friends’ houses, since they were forbidden in our home. Kind of weird when you think about it, since my mother is pretty much responsible for my love of horror.
·       I know Stephen King, and his book, The Dead Zone, was a huge inspiration.  What about him and this novel made them important to you?
o   I’m not sure. I loved the story. And reading Stephen King is where I learned characterization. That was a big thing about King’s books. His characters just came alive. Protagonists, villains, even the guy who had one scene then died. None of them were cardboard cutouts, and that was one thing I really loved about his work. His endings sucked though. I actually haven’t read anything by King in the last 20 years because I still haven’t forgiven him for the ending to The Stand.
·       Are there other authors or books you feel helped to build your thirst for reading, or influenced your writing in any way?
o   How much space do I have? I mentioned Barker and Campbell. Those guys were huge influences on me.
o   Barker for imagination. I’m not even sure you could categorize him as a horror writer. His fiction is just so imaginative and I think that really encouraged me to think outside the box when it comes to stories. Don’t just do what everyone else is doing.
o   Campbell taught me that you can write a good horror story without tons of violence and gore. Then I found Edward Lee and Wrath James White and they taught me the opposite. You can write stories that are over the top violent and sexual and still find a publisher and a market for your writing. That’s probably why my writing is so all over the place.
o   I’ve had so many different influences that are extreme opposites of each other. Pretty much every writer I read influences me in some way. Some personal favourites right now are J.A. Konrath, Michael Wiley, and Brian Knight (especially his Butch Quick stories). I’m reading a lot of crime fiction right now.
3.     I read you started writing when you were around 15 years old, and you published your first book in 2009.  I would like to target this topic in the next set of questions.
·       Why did you decide to move from a writer to a published author?
o   That was the decision of editors around the world rather than mine.  I have been collecting rejection letters since I was 15.  Finally, I wrote something someone thought was worth publishing.
o   It was kind of a fluke really.  I found an e-zine that was looking for zombie stories.  They did monthly themed issues.  I knew nothing about zombies, since I didn’t read much zombie fiction, and I had no ideas.  So I mentioned that I was looking for an original zombie idea.  The write, Bryan Smith, jokingly said, “A guy walks into a restaurant.  He eats so much, he dies.  When he wakes up, he’s too full to eat anybody.”  My response was that it was the stupidest idea I’d ever heard and I might as write a story about a guy who wakes up as a zombie and goes home and reads the paper.  Then I thought, “I bet I could turn that into a story.”  So I did. 
o   It was called, “As in Life, So in Death.”  It had a very brief run in the e-zine, then I self-published it a few years ago (maybe 4 or 5) as an ebook. That didn’t last long. It was a really bad story, at least the writing was. I cringed every time I read a passage from it, so I took it off the market and haven’t thought about it since.
o   I published my second story about a month after the first was published and I thought I’d made it and it was only going to get easier. Boy, was I wrong.
Ø  Why did you choose this pathway?
§ I think, “I didn’t choose this path, it chose me,” is the stock response here. It’s actually not far from the truth.
§ Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop. It was a great way for me to release my frustration.
§ The first short story I remember writing that I thought was decent was about my jealousy over my girlfriend still having a thing for her ex. I was 16 or so when I wrote it. I got to stab the guy in the story. Very cathartic.
·       Is there something you know today about writing or publishing that you wish you had known then?  If so, what is it, and how do you think it would have made a difference for you?
o   Just how hard it is to break into traditional publishing. When I first started out, there was no CreateSpace and if you wanted to self-publish (which was called vanity publishing back then, and it was frowned upon by everyone who wasn’t involved in it) you had to shell out thousands of dollars. If you wanted to be published, traditional publishing was your only option, and it’s not easy to get acceptance letters from those guys. But I also didn’t know about agents back then either.
o   I sent a manuscript to Random House when I was 15 or 16. I had no idea I couldn’t just send it to them without an agent. So, a lot of trial and error. I don’t know if it would have made a difference, except that I would have gone a different route. I would have sent my work to an agent rather than a publisher.
o   I also would have written more short stories back then too. Get more of a publishing history before trying to publish novels. I didn’t start writing short stories until my late twenties.
·       What do you feel is the hardest aspect of writing, and why?
o   Not procrastinating. I tend to get up in the morning and think I should start working on my new book. But first I need a cigarette. Then I need a coffee. Then I need to check my email, and Facebook, and Twitter, and I forgot to watch that Game of Thrones episode last night, I should watch that before I get too far behind, oh and the dishes from last night never got washed, better get on that…and so it goes.
·       What do you think is the most difficult aspect of publishing, and why?
o   Marketing. I suck at promoting myself. I have a hard time telling people how awesomely wonderful my work is. That’s why I wanted a publisher rather than going the self-publishing route…I need help with telling people how talented I am and how truly marvelous my books are.
4.     Let’s talk about the industry of literature.  There are so many layers to it, and I find it is interesting to see what other authors think about it.
·       I know you are a blogger.  What encouraged you to start a blog?
o   Same reason everyone starts one, I guess. I have an opinion and I think other people care about it.
Ø  How do you feel a writer can benefit from maintaining a blog?
§  If you write about a subject people are interested in, they’ll find your blog. If they like your blog, they’ll check out your work.
Ø  Are there any drawbacks from having a blog, and if so, what are they?  Why do you feel these have a negative impact, at least, where you are concerned?
§  If you’re too opinionated, you’re going to alienate people. Let’s say you have a blog about how great Trump is. Well, there’s a whole section of people that won’t read your work based on the fact that you like Trump. Same thing if you write a blog supporting the Democrats. You’ll alienate republicans.
§  Most people can’t separate the artist from their art. They don’t like the person who wrote the book, so they won’t read the book. I’m guilty of it too. That’s why I don’t listen to Nickelback. It’s also why I tend to shy away from talking about certain topics in my blog.
·       Do you give ARCs to beta readers?  Why, or why not?
o   I give beta readers a doc file, if that’s what you mean. And I do it because I want to make sure something doesn’t suck too bad before I send it out.
Ø  What benefits do you think beta readers offer?
§  They catch what I miss. They point out typos, inconsistencies in story or character, tell me if I didn’t develop characters too much.
§  They’re a necessity for any writer.
§  The trick is finding good ones. Too often I get feedback like, “I liked it,” which doesn’t tell me anything about how I can make the story better.
Ø  Do you ever act as a beta reader?  Why, or why not?
§  Absolutely. I know how much help my own beta readers have given me and I feel it would be selfish if I didn’t give back to others in the same way.
§  Plus, I know what most authors look for in a beta reader, so I feel like I can be very helpful to them and their story.
§  Plus, it’s a real treat when I get to read stories by some of my favourite authors before they’re published. It’s a good feeling.
·       What makes you pick up a book, and read it?  Is it strictly genre, or do you think covers and blurbs matter?  Why, or why not?
o   I read a lot of genres, so that really has nothing to do with it. I read horror, fantasy, mystery, crime, mainstream, etc.
o   A lot of it has to do with whose name is on the cover. If it’s Jonathan Janz or J.A. Konrath, there’s a good chance I’m buying the book without even reading the back.
o   Or, if the back cover synopsis really intrigues me.
o   Sometimes I pick up a book based on recommendations, but not too much these days. Most recommendations I get are for authors that you have to have been living on a deserted island for thirty years to not have heard of them. “Have you ever heard of James Patterson?” Really?
·       What turns you off to a book? 
o   When it doesn’t buy me dinner first.
Ø  Have you ever NOT finished a book you’ve started reading?  If yes, why?
§  Rarely. A recent example would be a friend of mine’s book I tried to read. Made it less than a quarter of the way through. The book was good, but there were tons of grammar and spelling mistakes. I know most of us end up with a few errors that weren’t caught during editing, but this one had several per page and it was too distracting.
§  The crappy thing was it wasn’t entirely my friend’s fault. The publisher decided to put the book out, knowing those mistakes were there. Some publishers have no scruples in that regard. You live and learn in this business.
·       Do you care about reviews?  Do they impact your book select or alter your writing choices/style in anyway?  Why, or why not?
o   I think all writers care about reviews at least a little. Even the ones who say they don’t. I have one 1-star review so far because someone didn’t like the level of violence in my short story collection, Haunted Whispers. Probably my fault for putting one of the most disturbing stories near the beginning. The guy admitted in the review he didn’t make it past the second story. I was upset at first, but after a good cry and some psychotherapy, I’m over it now.
Ø  Do you write reviews, and if so, do you have any rules you use when doing so?  For example, some people will only give 1 – 3 – 5 stars while others won’t write any under 3-stars.
§  I write reviews on my blog on occasion. Especially when it’s a book I really enjoyed. There are authors I like to promote when I can, either because they’re friends or I just really enjoy their work. So when I read something new by them and like it, I try to give them a shoutout.
Ø  Will you review a book you dislike?  Why, or why not?
§  I tend not to. Partly because I can’t be bothered and partly because I know a lot of the people whose books I read (most of them are online friends, but I still consider them friends) and I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.
§  If I think there’s really something wrong with the book (like my friend’s I talked about earlier) I’ll message them privately rather than publish the book’s shortcoming’s for all to read.
5.     What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
I have no idea, to be honest.
I did have a short story called “Ghost of the North” submitted and I thought a good chance of it getting published in an anthology I was invited to submit to. But the editor left over a dispute with the publisher and, since he’s a friend and I felt he was in the right, I had his back and pulled the story. So I have no idea if it will see the light of day.
I have another story called “In The Hands of an Angry God” out on submission right now and still waiting to hear back. I’m not sure if anything I’m working on right now will be out before the end of the year. Depends on how fast I work, I guess.
·       Do you maintain an annual writing strategy or do you sort of “wing it”, based on the characters and stories that dominate your mind?
o   Usually I wing it and write what comes into my head, but I’ve developed a bit of a plan for a few projects I have going on right now. I skipped ahead to the next question, so I’ll talk about those projects then.
·       What is your current WIP?
o   I have a few things on the go. Two short stories at the moment. Possibly a third, if I decide to rework my older story, I Was A Teenage Redneck Zombie From Outerspace, to fit the guidelines of an anthology. I like the concept of that story and I love the humour in it. It’s been sitting on my hard drive for a long time and I’d like to finally use it for something.
o   I do have a novel planned soon. I’ve been working out the details in my head for a few years now. It’s going to be a kind of ghost story. I just haven’t started writing because I’ve been focusing on short stories the last few years, plus I went back to college so that took up a lot of my time. I think it’s about time to get another novel written, so that’s most likely going to be the next one.
Thanks again.  I really enjoyed hanging out, and I am sure my readers are excited to check out your books.  Take care, and much success!

Friday, August 11, 2017

CASEY BARTSCH's WIP - Behind the Red Curtain

WIPs and New Releases

1)    Tell us about your work-in-progress, or WIP, as it’s known as in the industry or New Release…
Ø  What is the story about?
·  The new one is called, Behind the Red Curtain.
·  It’s about a woman in her forties that gets taken prisoner by man, tied up in a room inside a skyscraper, and tortured physically and mentally.
·  The book is very dark, and explores the recesses of the mind and how much it can take.
Ø  Who is the main character?
·  Lucy works in a gourmet popcorn shop. When a man asks her out, she can’t help but say yes – he was just too damned attractive. As a prisoner, her mind will be stretched to the breaking point many times over, and she uses the wisdom of her past to cope.
2)   What inspired this tale?
Ø  How did the story come to you?
·  I was in the process of writing another book, but it was kicking my ass. I finally decided to put it on hold. Just after I made the decision, I went to the bathroom, and the idea came to me.
Ø  Did you have to research for this novel, and if so, why?
·  I did have to do a bit of research into exactly how one-way mirrors work.
Ø  If you did research, what do you think surprised you most to learn, and why?
·  I did not know that the mirrors only work if one side is completely dark.
3)   Do you relate to your character?
Ø  Is your protagonist anything like you personally?
·  All of my characters are a bit like me.
Ø  If yes, then how?
·  I am not the most stable individual, and exploring the process of insanity affected me a great deal.
Ø  What made you write this character; what made them important to you or made you want to tell their story?
·  The setting for the story came first, and then I just needed to craft a character that would fit in.
·  Much of Lucy came together as I wrote the first draft.
4)   Is there anything you specific want readers to know about this piece of work?
This one really is intense. There is gore, rape, and serious psychological terror.
5)   When will the novel be available for purchase?
I hope to be done within a few months.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Author LG SURGESON Is In My Hot Seat!

My Interview with LG SURGESON!

The publishing world of literature is rough, but I am thinking it isn’t as difficult as your normal “day” job – You’re a math teacher in a special school for students with emotional and social difficulties!  Yep, I need to interview you!
1.     Let’s start as I always do – please, tell us how you’d describe yourself?
Difficult.  I can tell you what I do, and how I look, but that doesn't really answer the question.
I was brought up as a dreamer, but with my feet firmly on the ground, and with the belief that people are just people and they all deserve care, freedom and love. I suppose I'm a natural story-teller, a bit of a free spirit, a loyal friend, open-hearted but not sentimental.  According to an old friend, I'm the kind of rebel that knows when to break the rules and when to follow them.  Not sure how much of an accurate picture that paints, but it'll have to do.
2.     Before we get into talking about writing and publishing, I want to discuss your everyday life.  Math is so technical, and well, hated!  I get the correlation between writing and mathematics – the abstract thinking, hypothesizing, and you have that whole ‘matrix’ thing (maybe you have a different meaning for ‘matrix’ than I do? J) – Still, it is a completely different world than writing and literature.  I have so many questions to ask you!
o   Define ‘Matrix’?
·       An array of digits that follow certain rules.
o   Being a creative person, who loved writing and reading from such a young age, how did you end up becoming a math teacher?
·       I'm good at it. I may have loved writing and reading from a very early age, but I'm dyslexic, and I didn't know until I was in my twenties, so essay subjects were something I struggled with at school. Math is beautiful in its own way and awesome, so I studied that.  And I always wanted to teach, so that's what I teach.
o   What’s an ‘exponential’?
·       An exponential is a function that is basically defined as constant to the power of a variable. This makes the function increase in a curve.
o   Did you intend to work in a school for troubled kids?  If yes, then why, and if no, how’d you gain a position in one?
·       Yes, I did.
·       I have a knack for connecting with kids who have emotional and behaviour difficulties, and that connection is vital if you want to help them learn. I've always had the knack throughout my career, and whilst I've now got years of training and experience, the basics were something that comes naturally.
3.     Now, a conversation about your writing.  I am sure I will work in a few things about being an avid reader and your path to publication.
o   What first led you to putting a pen to paper?
·       I have no idea.  I come from a family of story tellers, books and films are a big part of our family still. When I was growing up, making up story was the most natural thing in the world.
Ø  I read you were inspired to write by Jo March, protagonist in LITTLE WOMEN.  What made her so special to you?
Jo March was a strong, independent woman that did things her own way – that's something I've always been able to relate to. She wasn't interested in traditional female priorities, and she wrote. Even at the age of six, I could relate to that. I wanted to sit up in the attic late at night and have stories come alive to me the way they did for Jo.
Ø  What was it about LITTLE WOMEN that made such an impact on you, particularly at such a young age?
Little Women is a family thing. My mother & my grandmother both love the book. My 'Ama' read it to me as a very young girl, and I was intrigued by the four sisters. The story has become something of a special connection between the women in my family, gentle humour and the beautiful, simplicity of the family's affection and faith, as well as, Jo's independence appealed to all of us.
o   Do you think your love of reading sparked your need to write, or did your love of writing enflame your desire to read?
·       I, actually, wrote a book before I read one independently – like I said, I had no idea I was dyslexic, so I didn't know why I found it so difficult to finish a book, but I did. I was 9 before I managed to finish one on my own.
o   You have been writing your whole life – you even wrote your first book at age seven – what drew you to writing, and where do you find your stories?
·       Like I say, books are a really important part of my family – stories, with humour, particularly – are something that I have always been surrounded by. Mum encouraged me to put my work in writing, and helped me to consolidate ideas. After that, I was always coming up with new stories and characters. I still see stories in everything, it's the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘maybes’ in things that I love.  
o   What author(s), book(s), and/or character(s) help influence your tastes and writing styles?
·       Apart from Louisa May Alcott & Jo March, probably my biggest influence as a writer is Sir Terry Prachett, I love the way he takes the fantastical and makes it real, the people in his books live ordinary lives with privies and damp, and they are still heroes.
o   Why do you prefer to write fantasy adventures and semi-autobiographical tales of teachers?  Do you prefer to read from these genres as well?
·       Fantasy gives you the scope to explore a different world, to be creative and free, and to take flights of whim and amusement. When it comes to writing fiction, it's about painting a picture of what you see. It's got to feel plausible, but you can tell stories that connect more directly with people's experiences.
·       In terms of reading, I like comic/light-hearted fantasy similar to what I write, and speculative fiction.
4.     POP QUIZ!  Ah, how the tables have turned! J
o   What is a ‘binomial’?
·       A binomial is an algebraic expression that involves the sum or difference of two terms
o   When you’ve described your writing, what does ‘semi-autobiographical’ mean to you?
·       Semi-autobiographical means that some of the details, conversations and scenarios in the stories are things that have actually happened to me, and the factious stuff is based on my knowledge and experiences.
o   When writing out a number, where do you place the ‘and’? (you can find answer here)
·       You'd put it where you would say it, so usually before either the tens digit or the units digit if the tens column is zero.
o   How many words do you need for your book to be considered a novel? (you can find answer here)
·       Technically, it's 50,000
5.     Let’s discuss the ‘meat & potatoes’ – THE BLACK WATER CHRONICLES!  This set of questions will be focused on your book series.
o   The first question HAS to be – why aren’t you writing the series in chronological order?
·       It's no secret by now that before I wrote the Black River Chronicles as a series of novels, I worked on a live action roleplaying system in Aberystwyth. For twelve years, I worked on the team that wrote the plots and settings for the game. Before I'd even thought of writing the novels, the plot arc of the Chronicles existed.
·       I hadn't originally intended to write more than one novel. The Freetown Bridge, which is based on a specific event, was the easiest story to tell as a free standing novel. Then, when I realised how much I loved writing that story, I started writing Dawn of Darkness – book 5, which was a piece of plot work I was really proud of.  After I started that – whilst I was still writing The Freetown Bridge – I decided I'd map out the whole series. Once I knew what I was writing, I just dived in where I felt like it.
o   Who or what is ‘The Aberddu Guild of Adventures’ found in this book series?
·       A Guild, in medieval times, was a trade organisation that supported and regulated a certain profession.
·       The Aberddu Guild of Adventurers is just one of many Guilds in the city.
·        The adventurers that belong to the guild are a bunch of individuals with a unique range of talents. They are available for hire by people who require their talents for everything from rescuing damsels in distress to investigating long forgotten crypts. More often, they end up stuck in the middle of good and evil, trying to referee. Most of the adventurers join the guild for the excitement or the fortune – they tend to stay because no one else will put up with them after a few months as an adventurer.
o   What do you want readers to specifically know about The Black River Chronicles as a whole?
·       The Black River Chronicles is a series that doesn't take itself too seriously. It's not written entirely for laughs, but it has a light side, and it tries to connect on a 'human' level with the readers.
o   Can you give us a quick overview as to what this series is about – not the individual books per say, but the collection of tales as a whole?
·       The series follows the adventurers as they try their best to stop various evils and save the world, even though, all they signed up for was a little light bandit-killing and the occasional Temple raid. Like they say, 'it's a mad world, but someone's got to save it'.
6.     FINAL EXAM!  I hope you studied! J
o   What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
·       I'm hoping to be able to release the next 3 books in the BRC in the next year, and maybe another book set in the same world.
o   What is your current WIP?
·       I am currently working on 'The Fireborn Road' – the fourth BRC.
o   What’s the best way for readers to connect with you and your work?
·       Connect with me via Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LGSurgeson
·       Connect with my work here: https://aberdduadventures.wordpress.com

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today.  It has been a lot of fun, and I am sure my readers will be excited to learn more about you.  I wish you all the success in the world, and thank you for helping to shape the minds of our youth!