Interview with Brooke Burgess

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(check out the The Cat’s Maw on Amazon)

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It’s author Brooke Burgess on my blog today. He is the author of the acclaimed “The Cat’s Maw”. Be sure to visit his website http://brookeburgess.com/

1) Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hmm…let’s see. I guess I could share the bio from my new site 🙂

After a youth in eastern Canada spent daydreaming, reading, role-playing, and scribbling through plays and short stories, I officially started my jack-of-all-trades narrative career as a writer, producer, and voice director on AAA titles for software giant Electronic Arts. This period was a blessing on so many levels that I consider it my ‘Masters degree with pay’ to this day.

After several tours of duty in the videogame trenches — and with the nascent awesomeness of the WWW beckoning — it was time to embark on my ‘Storytelling PhD’ by creating the world’s first motion-comic epic: BROKEN SAINTS. (www.brokensaints.com) Experienced by millions worldwide — over dial-up, no less! — this life-changing project let me run wild with a narrative vision, and gain immeasurable growth as a storyteller for the digital age.

Nearly a decade later, I continue to work with the gaming industry while consulting on all things transmedia, directing voiceover, speaking and lecturing, and creating exciting original IP on multiple platforms.

2) Tells us about The Cat’s Maw.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4AxJFF15_s

IT’S ABOUT A BOY! A CAT! AND A NIGHTMARE IN TWO WORLDS! =)

Basically try to imagine a modern-day Narnia with a very dark side, as if written by Stephen King and/or Neil Gaiman? It’s my award-winning Mystery/Fantasy/Horror debut for brave young readers, and cat lovers of all ages. Here are some of accolades it has received so far: BEST YA MYSTERY 2015 — Gelett Burgess Awards SILVER MEDAL (Pre-Teen) 2015 — Moonbeam Awards TOP SHELF HONOREE 2015 — VOYA Magazine (Middle Grade) ‘Top 100 Children’s Books to Read in a Lifetime — GOODREADS ‘One of 8 Great Novels Starring Cats’ — CATSTER And a story synopsis: In the sleepy town of Appleton, a young loner follows a stray cat onto the road and is struck by a car. A leg is shattered, a summer is ruined, and the troubled life of Billy Brahm goes from bad…to cursed. When the mysterious cat appears at his bedside, Billy is haunted by strange and prophetic dreams — the creatures in them speak of Watchers, and Shadows, and the Enemy that Awakens. Does this impossible realm hold the key to healing the broken boy? Is the golden-eyed cat there to help him…or to make the nightmares come true? Too frightened to share the truth with his strict adoptive parents, Billy realizes that the only ones he can turn to are the local vet’s daughter, the town’s ‘crazy cat lady’…

And a mystical tiger, beckoning from his dreams! 

3) Any reason for your fascination with cats?

You mean besides the fact that they’re smart, beautiful, powerful, and mystical animals that seem to hold the secrets to the Universe in their eyes?

I was an only child, and grew up in a tiny farm town in Nova Scotia, Canada. A cat was my first real ‘friend’. He opened up my heart, and had a huge impact on me from a very young age. In fact, he was probably the first seed of inspiration for The Cat’s Maw, as you can read here:

http://brookeburgess.com/2013/10/15/my-first-guru-had-four-feet/

4) The Cat’s Maw has received a very positive response and many awards. How was the process like of writing and publishing the book?

I had been thinking about the story for many years, as I realized that there were all of these important moments from my life — ‘spiritual’ moments, if I’m being honest — where cats were involved, or somehow connected. So then I started forming this story in my head, the adventures of Billy Brahm and the big arcs of the Shadowland Saga, and doing lots of research. I looked at the history of cats in the civilized world, how different cultures viewed them (as gods, magic spirits, demons, and – most importantly, as dream walkers), and begin to make an outline for the entire story.

When it came time to write, I was fortunate enough to find a tiny, peaceful island in southern Thailand that was just perfect — there were cats everywhere!  The first draft of the book poured out of me in just over 8 weeks. After that, I took a break to rest and recover (writing can be very draining for me, because I really surrender to the process), and then edited and polished the book over several months while submitting to publishers.

There were several interested agents and publishers at first, but I found that the money they were offering was just too little in exchange for them controlling the rights to a very personal story — my story!  So I did a crowdfunding campaign on social media and raised enough through friends, family, and fans of my old series to finish the illustrations and book cover, properly self-publish, and create the amazing audiobook version:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_i98wBPXNDI

5) How many books will the Shadowland saga consist of?

Five. The story will also evolve over time. The first book is more of a mystery/fantasy, with some suspense and a touch of horror. The second book brings in more adventure and suspense elements. The third will move more into thriller/horror territory. The fourth is full-on fantasy. And the finale will combine all of the elements to finish as a ‘spiritual epic’.

6) The Cat’s Maw is both for adults and children. Was it difficult to maintain a writing style that attracted both age groups? How did you achieve it?

One of the best compliments I received from a reviewer mentioned that they loved the book because I had ‘faith in the audience’. I believe that younger readers are capable of understanding and really enjoying deeper and somewhat complex characters and ideas, and are also brave enough to immerse themselves in a scary story with big questions about life and death if the writing doesn’t talk ‘down’ to them.

These were the kinds of stories that interested me when I was young, and I find in my travels that many adults feel these types of stories had the power to stay with them their entire lives. That they were ‘timeless’. And that was always my goal — I just wrote for my 12yr-old self, and tried to keep him interested and excited 🙂  And this seemed to work, as many adult readers have reviewed and said that the book made them ‘feel like a child again, with a sense of wonder and dread‘.

7) I assume you are working on the sequel. Is the anticipation by readers daunting you? Do you have any fears that the sequel just might not live up to the first book?

I’m working on the sequel in Morocco right now! I wanted to go to a new place that had a history with and affinity for cats, and I’m feeling very inspired here. The island in Thailand had a cat-loving Buddhist culture, and the Muslims here appreciate cats very much. So that helps a little with finding the courage to keep writing, seeing cats every day and remembering that I have a responsibility to tell this story. But I certainly have some fears about the sequel — I don’t want to let people down, or copy myself, or play it safe and miss the essence and message that needs to be loud and clear in the story.

I’m also aware that I need to make some small structural adjustments to engage readers earlier on this time. The first book was intentionally designed to be a slow, hypnotic tale that carefully pulled people in and then suddenly dropped them into a roller coaster of weirdness about 2/3 through. For Book 2, I’ll be diving into more mystery, tension, and urgent conflicts from the beginning…and also blurring the line between what’s ‘real’, and what exists in the ‘dream’ world.

8) So which books and authors have most influenced you?

It’s quite a mix, but I’m a big fan of things that left a lasting impression, touched my emotions, and shaped my values and spiritual beliefs in some way.

Here’s a small list – ask me again tomorrow and it could change!

  • The Prophet – Kahlil Gibran
  • The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
  • The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Sandman Anthology – Neil Gaiman
  • Salem’s Lot / The Stand / The Dark Half – Stephen King
  • The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum
  • Valis – Philip K. Dick
  • Watchmen – Alan Moore
  • The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  • Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
  •   Watership Down – Richard Adams

 

9) What’s a typical writing day like?

When I’m able to get into a rhythm and have a month+ to devote to a writing project, my writing day usually unfolds like this:

  • wake up at 8’ish
  • do 20-30 min of yoga
  • go for a walk and have a light breakfast and coffee (or two!)
  • return, respond to mail and social media, and turn off internet
  • meditate for 20min
  • start writing around 10:30 for 4-5hrs
  • hit ‘save’, turn of my writer’s brain, and get out of the house
  • later that night, I’ll do a bit of research and prep, and make notes for the next morning
  • I do NOT read what I wrote that morning — if I did, I’d be tempted to edit. My feeling is that I should wait until the rewrite phase to edit.
  • REPEAT until complete!

 

10) So when is the next book coming?
If the Muse is kind, then early next spring. I’ll be announcing the title and doing a cover reveal before the Holidays.

11) Anything you would like to add?

I hope you’ll come and visit www.brookeburgess.com to experience all the weird and wonderful things I’ve been working on!  I split my time between videogame writing, audio projects, stories for comics, travel videos, and books…so there’s a lot to discover and explore. Looking forward to connecting with all of you soon 🙂

Thanks for the opportunity, AJ — good luck, and don’t stop writing!


A. J. Chaudhury is a young author from India writing mostly in the fantasy genre. His historical low fantasy short “A Song of Blood” has released and is being acclaimed by reviewers.

To download his fantasy novella “The Drabird” for free CLICK HERE!

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Interview with Casey Matthews

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It’s Casey Matthews on the blog today. Author of The Pygmalion Fail fantasy series, apparently Casey is the only writer on the internet who doesn’t own a cat. Be sure to visit www.caseymatthews.org/

1) Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a level 3 human with proficiency in writing and bardic knowledge. Extroversion is my dump stat. Not only do I have misophonia (rage when hearing people chew loudly), but so does my roommate. My house is full of skittish people constantly irritated at one another who have to hide in closets to eat.

Beyond my roommate there is also this girl in my life named Katie and she sleeps in my bed and plays with my hair and we spend a lot of time together. She is my everything and she is totally not imaginary.

2) Tell us about ‘The Pygmalion Fail’ trilogy. It revolves around paintings?

It revolves around paintings, geek culture, and RPGs. Isaac is a geek who gets sucked into his own fantasy world and has to deal with a wizard who’s jealous of his ability to draw things into existence. Isaac isn’t really the best at fighting off the minions of this wizard, though, so he needs help from some of his own creations—as well as his power-gaming best friend, Dak (initially Dak is back on Earth; later he’s sucked into the world with Isaac).

The story at its heart is about screwing up. Isaac’s creations are never quite what he intends: the bikini armor that doesn’t properly protect its wearer, the Queen’s (shall we say) ethical lapses—this world is a mess. Some of it is Isaac’s fault. Artistically, this story is about the messiness of creation. Culturally, it’s a love-letter to the fantasy genre that also pokes fun of the tropes a little.

The tone is light-hearted, the pace is quick—I learned a lot about story structure making it that way, and I’m proud of how it came out.

It’s also close to my heart, because it’s a proper bromance. The most important relationship in this story is between Isaac and his best friend, Dak.

3) Tell us about the upcoming ‘Blood and Factions’ series.

This one’s got a serious tone. It’s still sword and sorcery, but focuses more on adventure, deception, intrigue, and romance. If you like assassins, this one’s for you.

The story is about a conman-style assassin named Marlow, who has to protect the priestess Arca from a wicked tyrant who is contracting Marlow’s old guild to slay her. Marlow and his crew are pursued by his oldest and most dangerous friends; they’re chased across the world, and eventually take refuge in a foreign city where Marlow and Arca must pose as husband and wife (much to her chagrin).

I love the characters in this story. Marlow’s a charismatic asshole, principled and political, but almost too cynical to function. Arca’s past is troubled, but it’s made her courageous, and she suffers no fools. There’s also Rayk, a personal favorite of mine. He’s a Fae-blooded youth with the mindset of a particularly sheltered boy—and yet he murders easily and treats it like a game. He spends most of the story just being very excited to kill things.

4) How do you go about the process of preparing your books for publication?

I contract my editor early, alerting him to the work that’s coming his way, because mine is very busy and is usually backlogged. Editing is expensive and, if your person is good, it can take some time. I contract my cover art whenever I can, but at the very latest, a month or two before I anticipate the editing to conclude.

I do the formatting myself and at this point stick to KDP.

5) You released three books in a short period of time. How has that been helpful as a marketing strategy?

The theory behind doing a tightly staggered release is that people don’t have to wait long for the next story—so perhaps you draw more return readers than if they had to wait a year. My books are also fairly short and there’s a big plot arc that connects them, so I wouldn’t want people to wait more than a month or two in between each.

I’m not sure how much a marketing edge this is. Maybe it would have done better to bind them together into one large volume—I’m new to publishing and still experimenting with format.

6) Hmmm… So Spiderman is your role model?

When Spider-Man loses—and he loses a lot—he doesn’t give up. He goes back and studies his enemy’s weaknesses, he learns from his mistakes, and he goes into the next fight prepared. That combination of tenacity, adaptability, and use of mind make him formidable.

He’s flawed. He makes mistakes—sometimes very costly ones. But he tries, he puts himself out there every day, and even though he hasn’t got money and the press hates him, he does what he thinks is right. Not because it makes his life any better—it never does—but just because it’s right.

So yeah, I’m not half that awesome, but Spider-Man knows what’s up.

7) Any other interests besides writing?

I cycle between a few major entertainment sources: tabletop RPGs, novels, television and movies, and video games. I’m a pretty curious person and keep a stable of much smarter individuals whose blogs and brain scrapings I consume for pleasure.

8)Where do you think the world of indie publishing is headed?

Right now, I think most people who read indie books are looking for niche categories that mass market doesn’t address. Your prepper fiction, your lit RPG, your alien bodice-ripper romance—or hopefully in my case, humorous portal fantasy.

Point is, indie publishing can cater to demands that mass market won’t—because it’s too niche. And that’s where most of my books fall. They’re very good, but very niche.

There’s a quality problem in indie publishing, though. I hear a lot of folks complain that they want niche categories that are done better. And this is where it sucks not to have any gatekeeping: when everyone publishes, how do you tell the good from the bad?

Mind you, we shouldn’t just add quality filters. There is a strong case for bad fiction. Most bad books are still written with incredible passion, and many readers don’t actually care all that much if the grammar’s shoddy or the tropes are overdone. When someone makes a story with passion, and it finds some other soul with that same passion, the quality of writing is sometimes a distant concern. So while I’m very snobby about the quality of book I put out, I’m a libertarian snob and I don’t begrudge the success of bad books. If you didn’t cheat—if you actually wrote the book, and you actually pleased people with it—you deserve every five-star review, even if you don’t know how to use a fucking comma.

Amazon is a humbling teacher, and what she teaches me is that you don’t have to be Shakespeare to be read. Sometimes people are hungry for a story about an apocalypse-surviving badass, or a big, beautiful woman kidnapped by alpha male aliens.

But I’d like indie publishing to do a better job of rewarding good writing and good storycraft in conjunction with these niche categories. The technology right now allows us to easily identify genre and what a story is about; it’s not good at identifying the high-quality stuff within that genre. The review system kind of sucks; the “look inside” is a little better, but even then, it doesn’t give you a good feel for the work’s total worth.

It’s difficult to prove quality in indie publishing, and unless that changes, I don’t think it goes much further than it has right now. I can’t foresee a solution to the quality problem. Maybe good writers organize into guilds that screen for quality? Maybe a major publisher opens up an “indie publishing” wing that screens quality? I haven’t read up on the Kindle Scout program lately, but I’d watch efforts like that and see where they lead.

9) What has influenced your writing the most?

Comic books and superheroes. Most of what I write is secretly about superheroes, even if there aren’t any capes or costumes.

10) Anything you’d like to add?

Enjoy “The Accidental God”!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01IGIZNQI

 

The Accidental God (A Pygmalion Fail Book 1)

The world of Rune is just a series of fantasy paintings, or so Isaac Myers assumes; he’s even started adding some new art of his own to the seemingly abandoned project. He learns better after a frustrating night of gaming with his best friend, Dak, culminates in a one-way trip to Rune itse…

amazon.com


A. J. Chaudhury is a young author from India writing mostly in the fantasy genre. His historical low fantasy short “A Song of Blood” has released and is being acclaimed by reviewers.

To download his fantasy novella “The Drabird” for free CLICK HERE!

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Interview with Melanie Ifield

 

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It’s author Melanie Ifield on the blog today. She writes books for both adults (The Age of Corruption) and children (Chronicles of Novarmere, The Chicken Liberation Army) and has many books under her belt. Despite having long term illness she writes, and is easily the most positive person I have ever had the opportunity to meet online. Be sure to visit her blog https://melanieifield.wordpress.com/

1)Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in country Australia, where I have now returned after years away attending University and then working in both Sydney and Canberra. I studied journalism at Uni but ended up in the public service; a good occupation that gave me the chance to explore writing fiction in slow times. I started writing when I was very young, when my hand writing was so large each sentence took up a page! While I didn’t write so much for many years between then and now, being an author is really al I’ve wanted since I first picked up a book.

2) Tell us about your books.

I write both general fiction and fantasy for a mixture of age groups!

I wrote The Chicken Liberation Army (CLA), a general adventure novel for ages 7-10, after a friend commented that a fox had ‘liberated’ his chickens the night before, putting it like that so as not to upset his son. I quite liked the idea of liberating chickens, but by children with a desire to do what was best, not by foxes, of course! So I formed the CLA, a group of adventuresome children between the ages of 8 and 11 who know that something is going wrong at a new hen farm, so they set out to find the answers for themselves. It was incredibly fun to write, just allowing the children to have an action packed adventure, knowing they’d come home safe.

I also have a general fiction for adults called The Age of Corruption (AOC). This was a longer and harder project, but still enormous fun. It is all about a young woman who inherited a lot of money and turned to parties and alcohol to pass the time. However, she meets someone new, a dangerous someone who has a dark past and an even darker nature, who teaches her some valuable lessons in self-sufficiency and life. They are drawn into a web of hard men, international hit-men and drugs, but it is always told from the bumbling heroine’s perspective – giving the action and adventure a humorous edge. So while yes, it is about crime, it is also quite simply, just a romantic adventure.

Those two are my general fiction and I most certainly want to get back into that genre and both age groups. However, a lot of my time has been taken up with the release of my complete series one of the Chronicles of Novarmere.

The Chronicles of Novarmere is a fantasy series for the ages 12 and up. It has been read by those in their 20s 30s and older, and it appears to translate into the older groups as well as the younger. It is about a boy, an ordinary boy, who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances and has to find the hero within to save the day. It takes him from his home in our world and deposits him in the magical land of Novarmere, where his best friend is the little dragon Nilofar, who rides upon his shoulders, and the ranger Lan, who teaches him how to survive. It is great fun, with strange magical creatures, dragons, wizards and a war – everything I have come to love in fantasy!

3) You write fiction both for adults and children. How different is it to write books for children as compared to adults? Are there any additional difficulties?

I found that content is really the only thing that was mainly different for me. Of course, the children’s books had to have far more cliff hangers at chapter endings to get the younger audience to keep reading and stay off their computer games…! But in general, I write with a sense of fun always buried in my work, wondering what I’d do in any given situation and how much adventure could I handle? The content and themes, like the darker themes behind AOC, are what changes. It has to be age appropriate in danger levels.

The major difficulty is keeping a tight pace in the children’s books that will keep them interested enough to turn the page, want to read the next book, and stay away from the next box-set of DVDs! There are so many things that are clamouring for our time and attention, especially children who are learning concentration skills, it was harder to drive a plot that grabs them and doesn’t let go.

4) How’s a typical day like in the life of Melanie Ifield??

As some of you may be aware through reading my blog, I am not just a writer, but I am also someone experiencing a long term illness. So there is really no typical day for me. Each day is set up when I get up and my body tells me what it feels able to do. With an automatic nervous system disorder, my eyes are greatly affected, so the morning may be a little bit of social media, but screen time is hard and painful, so I limit it severely. I hand write most things these days, when able, typing on the screen as little as possible. A good day may see me able to spend an hour at the screen, a bad day sees me laid up on the lounge chair unable to look at anything.

5) How long do you take to complete a book? Do you edit as you write or after you have finished a draft?

When I first sat down to write the Chronicles of Novarmere, I wrote feverishly. I completed all four books and the CLA in an 18 month time frame. That’s not to say they were ready for publication, but the ideas were there and the characters were set. I’d write anywhere up to 6000 words a day, re-reading the last chapter and fiddling with it every day I sat down at the laptop. I like to edit ideas as I go, but my editor, who happens to be my sister, would say I don’t edit for spelling or grammar at all! Which is not quite true, she should read the first draft… I chop and change sentences as I go to try to make the action sleek, then go back over it all once I’m done to make sure there are no major inconsistencies, like a change of eye colour!

6) How is the publishing process like?

I found the self-publishing process traumatic as first! But now it’s not so bad. I think I must have made every mistake in the book (pun intended!) and still do, but I am learning as I go and find there are loads of groups that have amazing members ready to help out.

7) How do you promote yourself as a writer?

Mainly through social media. But due to the limitations of chronic illness, I’m afraid I don’t promote myself enough! It is a fine balance between rest, writing, research and promotion – one I am yet to master!

8) You have some interesting posts on your blog. For how long have you been blogging?

Thank you! I haven’t been blogging long at all. Only this year. I try to mix things up. It isn’t just about writing and my books, but more how writing integrates into my life and how my life affects my writing; especially how illness prevents the feverish writing I use to do, as I am more likely to do 7000 in two months, then not be able to write for the next two months.

9) Which author and books have most influenced you?

Oh that is almost impossible to answer! I read so much and feel that nearly every epic fantasy author I’ve read plays a part in how I write, as I think everything we read percolates through our subconscious, especially if we loved it. Enid Blyton and Emily Rodda have influenced my children’s books, along with JK Rowling of course! I’d have to say Janet Evanovich had a big impact for my adult book.

 

10) So what’s going to be your next release?

I am working on a compilation of short stories set in the Novarmere world that will bring to light the background of some of the things that happened in the Dark Wizard Series. There are so many books I have in my files, sometimes I do not even know where to start! However, I cannot pin a date to that, as everything takes a lot more time in my world these days.

11) Anything you’d like to add?

Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity. I have enjoyed not only answering these questions, but reading your interviews of others. I can only add to other authors out there that there is so much joy to be had from seeing your books come alive, don’t ever give up!

Happy reading! Melanie


A. J. Chaudhury is a young author from India writing mostly in the fantasy genre. His historical low fantasy short “A Song of Blood” has released and is being acclaimed by reviewers.

To download his fantasy novella “The Drabird” for free CLICK HERE!

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On Writing a Novel in Three Months

Writing a Novel in Three months:pic

On August 21st this year, I embarked on an ambitious project, that of writing a full length novel in three months. To add to that, the novel belongs to a mix of genres: Historical, fantasy and science fiction. I have never done anything of this kind before. My last novel, yet to be published, was written in nine months plus an additional six months to type it up as I wrote the first draft on paper. This time however I am writing the book directly onto the laptop, another new experience for me. My goal is to make the novel sixty thousand words long at the very least. Initially, I had planned to do eight hundred words daily, but after a setback due to a computer crash, I am doing one thousand words daily to catch up and plan on continuing that trend. So far I have done eleven thousand words, which is over one-sixth of the intended length. The novel is coming out fast and I have already deviated considerably from the outlined plot– which is a good thing.

As for the novel itself, it takes place in ancient and modern Assam (well… technically…) It explores Reality for the most part. There are two characters who are connected across time and space and realities. There are black holes involved too! I hope the novel is going to turn up something different, at least that’s what my intentions are. But most of all, I hope the novel will entertain people like no other book and make them look at the world and beyond with a fresh new perspective.

The last date that I have assigned myself for the completion of the novel is the 21st of November. So let’s see how it goes.

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Interview with K. J. Simmill

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It’s author K. J. Simmill on my blog today. She is the author of “The Forgotten Legacies” series. Be sure to visit her amazing website https://darrienia.com/

 

1) Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a mummy first, and I always will be. My son brings me more happiness than I could ever express and more inspiration than I could ever reveal. He is my pride and joy, and will always be my greatest accomplishment. I’m also an award winning British author, qualified project manager, herbal practitioner and holistic therapist. Given various circumstances I have the great pleasure of being a stay-at-home Mum for the time being.

I love to read, I don’t remember the last time I didn’t have a book on the go, and I am a passionate gamer. I’ve been console (and sometimes PC) gaming since the Master System days. My first real RPG being Ultima IV, I love RPG games, and I am currently replaying Disgaea 2 as last time I didn’t get the l40 weapons.

2) Tell us about your ‘The Forgotten Legacies series.’

The Forgotten Legacies Series is a collection of four stand-alone epic fantasy stories. Whilst they build on the book preceding it to the ultimate climax a reader could pick any from the series and not feel they have missed something integral as everything they need to know is explained and the main plot completely wrapped up. The general concept is there are things in the World of Gaea’s Star even those living upon it are unaware of, legacies long forgotten. But nothing stays buried forever, and each one uncovered brings with it a danger which must be overcome in order to return the world to the path it must take to survive.

3) You first book in the series is quite long at 700+ pages. How long did it take to write? What about book 2?

Darrienia is indeed a long book, as the first based in this world there was a great deal of lore, mythology and world building needed, a lot of which was later cut out or not included. Writing Darrienia took me about a year, and was normally done during lunch breaks and after work. Revising and editing however took me a further few years, during which time I also took a break and wrote the drafts of the other three books in the series.

Book two, the Severaine, is about 100 pages shorter and took around six months to write in draft and a further year in edit and revisions.

4) Was there any difficulty that arose due to the length?

There were two main ones, the first being if I wanted to employ an editor, due to the word count, the quotes I received spanned the region of 5-12k, certainly not affordable. I considered splitting the book into two, but it would have not only cost my readers more to buy but also detracted from the book. As a reader I love a good cliff hanger, but there is a difference between a cliff- hanger and the book simply being cut to force a second book out of what should be one.

The second was only a slight problem I had was with pricing. As an indie author I set the price of my paperback books as low as possible. The publishers create a price based on production cost and ensure they receive a good profit, then anything after this goes to the author. Given the length of the books the price is higher than I would have liked, although fitting with similar size works. I opted to round their set price up to the nearest 99p/99c I would much rather my readers have a more affordable book than line my own pockets.

5) You practice herbal medicine?

Yes. I have been studying herbal remedies and lore for nearly twenty years and first found an interest in this  as a teenager. I’ve always found it fascinating and this year I passed my exam to become an official herbal practitioner. I’ve not only practised herbal medicine for a long time, but I have also explored other uses for herbs, such as those detailed in my non-fiction book Herbal Lore.

 6) You have collaborated with other authors in the past. What was the experience like?

I have indeed. I’ve had the pleasure of working with two collaborations, both for charity.

The first one published was a book titled Camels and Cake: Tea for Three. This was a really fascinating exercise. It was initially pitched as a project by Karen Gray, author of the ‘Saga of Thistles and Roses’, and is a collection of flash fiction. Each author was given 12 prompts and a word count for each. It was a fun challenge and served to show the diversity of the authors involved. They were a very friendly group of people and I remain in contact with some of them to this day.

The second I was invited into last year, and is a continuation of Ian D Moore’s vision. This collaboration has already released one book, You’re Not Alone, and I was honoured to be invited on board for the second which I believe is due out later this year. I find the group amazing to work with, we all help each other to ensure the work we are producing reaches its full potential.

7) How do you promote your books?

I don’t have the greatest marketing budget in the world, in fact, I don’t have a marketing budget at all. My main means of promoting is social media, specifically Twitter, although I spend more time promoting other authors than myself.

I have had some amazing art work created for me, and use this with teasers in hope to generate interest and I also have the support of numerous authors who help me to promote. I am a strong believer in supporting authors, and have fortunately crossed paths with a number of like-minded people.

8) You have any amazing blog with many subscribers. How did you make your blog so popular?

To be honest my blog is a tool I use to support other authors. I review books, both officially for, Readers’ Favorite, and unofficially for things I read, as well as provide author interviews. Any success my blog enjoys I believe to be the product of those who I feature.

9) Which books and authors have most influenced you?

As you may tell from the size of my own work I love a thick book. I can attribute this to authors such as Raymond E Feist and Janny Wurts, but there also some books I have read which have a special place in my heart. The Tower of Geburah by John White, The Keys to Paradise by Robert E Vardeman, and for a long time I was a devout fan of L.J. Smith and her works. These days however about 90% of the things I read are written by indie authors.

10) So what are you releasing next?

My next book released will be Remedy, book three in The Forgotten Legacies Series, this one, unlike one and two focuses around a completely different cast of characters. I am also looking at a possible joint release, dependant on how the revisions and editing goes, of The Grimoire, a book centring around the antagonists of my first and second books, and their adventures before Darrienia as they seize the Grimoire to return their power to Night.

11) Anything you’d like to add?

I would like to thank you for the interview.

The only thing I can add personal to me is that I donate a percentage of royalties from each of my books to charity.

Darrienia donates 10% to the UHNM (University Hospital of North Midlands) for use by the neonatal department.

Herbal Lore donates 15%, and The Severaine 10%, to the DMWS (Defence Military Welfare Service.) who provide medical welfare support to the Armed Forces Community and other Frontline staff, across the UK and abroad. They are the only charity to deploy to areas of conflict alongside troops on the frontline, and are the first welfare service that service personnel will see when they are wounded, injured or sick.

Both charities do an amazing job and I am honoured to be supporting them.


A. J. Chaudhury is a young author from India writing mostly in the fantasy genre. His historical low fantasy short A Song of Blood has released and is being acclaimed by reviewers

To download his fantasy novella “The Drabird” for free CLICK HERE!

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The Invisible Entente by Krista Walsh

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“If you’re reading this note, I’m already dead. I find even more pleasure in the idea that one of you will soon join me.” At the precise moment of warlock Jermaine Hershel’s death, seven strangers are transported into a magically sealed room with only a letter from the dead man to explain. If they want to go home, the way out is simple: discover the murderer — and kill them. Tensions rise as each stranger reveals their connection with Jermaine, but the puzzle isn’t so easy to solve. At least one of them is lying. In an unlikely alliance, they have to act quickly to unravel the mystery before the murderer acts first.

GRAB IT ON AMAZON!!!

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Interview with Douglas Jackson

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It’s author Douglas Jackson on the blog today. He is the author of many historical fiction novels and thrillers, the first of which was Caligula, the story of Rufus. Be sure to visit his website www.douglas-jackson.net/

 

1) Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders in the summer of 1956 and educated at Parkside Primary School and Jedburgh Grammar School. My first job after leaving school involved the restoration of a Roman marching camp at Pennymuir in the Cheviot Hills, where I had a glorious two months turning turf, avoiding the occasional adder and dreaming of legionaries. Later I joined my local paper as a cub reporter and for the next 36 years worked in local and national newspapers in Scotland, including the Daily Record and the Scotsman. I left the Scotsman in 2009 after nine years as assistant editor to become a full-time writer, a decision I only ever regret on pay day. I’m married to Alison, and I have three children, Kara, Nikki and Gregor, who never fail to make me proud. Nikki and her husband Greg have just brought granddaughter Lily into my life and provided me with a new kind of happiness.

2) Tell us about your books.

My first novel was called Caligula, and featured a slave called Rufus, who was the keeper of the Emperor’s elephant. I’d planned it as a trilogy, but my publisher thought Rufus had run his race after the second book, Claudius. My editor asked me to come up with a more mainstream hero, so I came up with the character of Gaius Valerius Verrens, a young tribune destined to return to Rome and a rather dull life, who gets caught up in the Boudiccan rebellion and realises that his destiny is to be a soldier. That novel became Hero of Rome (my editor’s theory was that novels with Rome in the title sold well), and I think it took my writing to a whole new level. Six more Valerius novels have followed, with two to go, and he’s met up with Nero, Seneca, St Peter, General Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo and his daughter Domitia, the future Augusta, the future Emperors Titus and Domitian, and the Emperors Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian, as well as a host of minor characters, many of whom meet grisly ends. I have two more Valerius novels to write, which will take him full circle back to Britain and on campaign with Julius Agricola.

I’ve also written four thrillers, under the pen name James Douglas, featuring the urbane art recovery expert Jamie Saintclair. They’ve all been well received and I’m very proud of them, but my publisher decided they weren’t commercially successful enough and ended the series. It’s a crying shame. My own view is that they didn’t push them hard enough. They’re great light summer reads for anyone who likes a mystery with a bit of history.

3) How did you first get interested in Rome?
When I was restoring the legionary marching camp at Pennymuir. The Forestry Commission had ploughed it up to plant trees – this was in the 70s when panacea was a land covered from coast to coast in Norway spruce – until someone pointed out they were destroying a scheduled historic monument. We used mattocks and shovels to turn four feet wide slabs of peat turf back into the holes they’d come from. It could be an eery place, full of grouse and curlews and adders, but there was a gap in the hills where Dere Street entered the valley and in the quiet of the evening you could imagine the legions marching through it and the impact they had on the local population. I think that’s what draws me to the Romans in particular. Two thousand years ago they laid their stamp on the known world and almost everywhere you go the signs are still there. That said I only started writing about Rome by accident. I’d decided it was time to write a book, but had no idea what about. They say: Write what you know, but what I knew was deadly dull. So I came up with write what you love. I realised that what I loved was history. I also just happened to have Simon Schama’s History of Britain on the radio and the actor Timothy West suddenly intoned ‘And the Emperor Claudius rode in triumph on his elephant at Colchester to take the surrender of eleven British tribes’. I went home that night and sat down at the computer and a new career was born.

4) Can you remember the first piece of fiction you wrote?

It would be an essay at school. The only thing I was any good at were English and history (I only discovered recently that I suffer from something called Discalculia – numerical dyslexia – give me a string of numbers and I’ll always transpose two of them, which can’t have helped). My English teacher was also my form teacher. He didn’t like me and after the prelims he said I’d never amount to anything. I decided to leave, but when the exam results came in my English mark was one of the, or possibly the highest in Scotland and he pleaded with me to stay on. I said no. My first proper piece of fiction was a novel I started when I was about 27, rattling it out on an old portable Olivetti in an attic room. It was a thriller, very much of its time, IRA dirty bomb, Mossad, the SAS and a spy who knows this will be his last case. In those pre-internet days I decided I didn’t have the time or the money to do the necessary research to make it authentic, so I gave up and concentrated on raising a family. I found it recently among the junk in our present attic and was astonished to see that I’d actually written 80,000 words plus and it wasn’t bad.

5) What’s the main difference between writing thrillers and historicals?

I’m tempted to say how you kill people, and that would be partially true, but its actually more about the world your character is living in. In a historical novel you have to be certain about every detail of the street your walking down, what the people you meet are wearing, how they’d greet each other and what they eat and drink. In 1st century Rome you can’t have Valerius admiring a temple that wasn’t built until a hundred years later, and that’s more difficult than you’d think, because those kind of details are often uncertain and buried deep. That means research and more research. In a contemporary thriller the key to writing a similar scene is putting in the effort to make it interesting when your reader is perfectly familiar with everything you’re showing them.

6) How has your professional life as a journalist influenced your writing?

It was a huge help.l. I spent 36 years in newspapers and twenty of those in high pressure positions on major nationals. Standards were immensely high and we were taught never to waste a word and that has carried on into my fiction writing. My initial drafts tend to be clean and tight and my grammar and spelling tends not to need a lot of editing. Most of that time I’d be working in an open plan office amid mayhem (screaming confrontations, people throwing things, death threats: the normal atmosphere of a national daily newspaper) and I learned to focus despite what was happening around me. That made it much easier when I decided that the only way I was ever going to finish a book was by working on the commuter train between Bridge of Allan and Edinburgh. Previously I’d managed 500 words a day. Now I was doing 1200 or 1500 and the maths of producing a book started to add up.

7) How do you research your books? How do you balance between taking liberties and keeping the history as accurate as possible?

I’d love to say that, like Stevenson or the great western writer Louis L’Amour (“When I write about a spring, that spring is there, and the water is good to drink.”), I’ve visited every place I’ve written about. Unfortunately that’s not the case. I hate the internet. I’m of the firm opinion that it is a black hole that will eventually devour the world. But without the internet I could never have written a book. I have about two dozen bookmark files filled with several hundred web links. I could build a Roman flour mill or make a pair of caliga sandals. I know the range and power of a scorpio, the catapult the Romans called the shield splitter. I have the translated works of Tacitus, Suetonius, Dio and Plutarch. I know the rudiments of manufacturing a bomb, the sound of a Kalishnikov and how to fire it. All without leaving my desk. More importantly, thanks to Google Earth I can travel to the remotest places in the world, check out the terrain, the temperature, look at photographs and then link to blogs to get the first hand experiences of people who’ve been there. That said, there is nothing to beat being there in person. I’ve travelled to Rome, Madrid, Dresden and Berlin on research trips and it’s a lot easier to soak up the atmosphere than trying to evaluate what you see on a computer screen. Oh, and I have books, hundreds upon hundreds of books that cover my study floor like a sea.

8) Which authors have most influenced you? Which are your top three favourite books?

I think Robert Louis Stevenson would be the first. Kidnapped is a wonderful, simple story with captivating characters that takes you on a helter-skelter ride through the grandeur of the Scottish landscape. Alan Breck Stewart is the perfect flawed hero as the Jacobite who’s fallen on hard times and you can tell that Stevenson has visited every location and sketched it with words. I’ve always been drawn to thriller writers: Alistair McLean and Jack Higgins gave me the itch to write, because they have such a straightforward style. And the late, great George McDonald Fraser’s Flashman books taught me more about history than I ever learned at school. The fact that he wrote the first Flashman while he was still working at the Glasgow Herald was an inspiration to me. My three favourite books? Tough one, but I’d say Kidnapped, Flashman and the Great Game, and John Le Carre’s A Perfect Spy.

9) Any other hobbies aside from writing?

You sound like my mum. I’m always trying to convince her writing is my full time job. I like to annoy salmon if I can find the time. I seldom catch any, but there’s something wonderfully therapeutic about being on a river and doing physical exercise in the fresh air for hours on end. I love to watch rugby. I played it from my teens to my thirties. My proudest memory is scoring a try for Melrose Thirds in my last game when my leg was so badly injured I had to crawl up the stairs in the house when I got home. My wife almost choked laughing.

10) What is the one quality that you believe new author should possess to achieve both critical and commercial success?

I wish I knew. I seem to have cracked the critical side, with comparisons to some of the most successful writers around, but commercial success is harder to come by. I’d say be more savvy about the way the business works. if you’re going to be traditionally published use what power you have to squeeze as many guarantees about ongoing publicity, marketing, print runs and sales support from your publisher as you can. All debut authors are dazzled by the numbers, but it’s not all about the money. For independent and self-published authors it would be build up your back catalogue and maintain the quality of your writing and editing, which isn’t easy over a long period.

11) What is going to be your next release?

My next book, Saviour of Rome, is out on August 25. It takes Valerius and his sidekick Serpentius to the gold fields of northern Spain and a conspiracy to wreck the Roman economy at a time when Vespasian needs it most.

12) Anything you would like to add?

My best piece of advice to any writer would be: persevere.


A. J. Chaudhury is a young author from India writing mostly in the fantasy genre. His historical low fantasy short “A Song of Blood” has released and is being acclaimed by reviewers (grab it here!)

To download his fantasy novella “The Drabird” for free CLICK HERE!

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