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Greetings 🙂 Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author / artist / actor Jeff Musillo. His latest novel, The Eternal Echo, released a few months ago (Feb 10).


Blurb

The Eternal Echo is a terrifying story, equal parts literary and horror. Doctor David Ravensdale is a madman who conducts an experiment by adopting a baby and raising him from infancy to adulthood, strictly by use of technology. The Good Doctor believes he is attempting to discover the key to the human psyche, and conducting one of the most significant experiments known to man. In actuality, he’s raising a murderous monster. The Eternal Echo is a millennial mix of Frankenstein and American Psycho. You will never look at your computer the same way again.


  • Hi and thanks for stopping by my blog. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Thanks for having me! My name is Jeff Musillo. I’m currently living in Brooklyn. I’m the author of The Ease of Access, Can You See That Sound (poetry), Snapshot Americana (non-fiction), and my latest novel is The Eternal Echo. I also paint and have had the chance to show my artwork at various shows in NY. I sometimes act. The next project I’m in is a pilot for HULU called, Shelter. They’re doing the final edits for that pilot now. I’m excited to see how it all comes out.

  • I believe The Eternal Echo is your latest release. Where did the inspiration for this story come from, and can you give us a brief overview of it?

With this book, at first, I wanted to make a story that was a bit more lighthearted. But that didn’t happen. The more the protagonist developed the more he took control and guided the story to where it was supposed to go, which is into darkness and horror. The protagonist – Doctor David Ravensdale – is a madman who conducts an unusual experiment. He adopts a baby boy and raises the child from infancy to adulthood, strictly by use of technology.

Ravensdale believes he is attempting to discover the key to the human psyche, and conducting one of the most significant experiments known to man. In actuality, he’s raising a murderous, psychotic monster.

  • Your writing appears to span quite a breadth of genres and styles. Do you have a favorite or ‘most comfortable’ genre?

I don’t really have a most comfortable or favorite genre. I like playing around with different ideas and feelings. I try to not overthink what I should do or even what I want to do. If a story feels authentic I pursue it, no matter the genre. I suppose it’s all about what clicks at a certain time.

I recently finished reading a memoir where the author wrote about how her emotions and viewpoints are similar to an old school radio, the type with a dial, and how she just keeps turning the dial until something clear comes through. I think writing is sometimes like that.

  • What would you say your most significant influences are toward shaping your genre and writing style?

There have been a number of writers who have influenced me a great deal. Hunter S. Thompson. Charles Bukowski. Kurt Vonnegut. John and Dan Fante. Chuck Palahniuk. Bret Easton Ellis. Hubert Selby Jr. Marquis De Sade. To name a few. But I also think of my home state as a major influence. I grew up in New Jersey. A friend of mine who is not from Jersey once looked me over and said of my outfit, “You Jersey guys are weird. You never know if you’re going to a club or a dive bar or are going to build a house or teach some class.” He said this because I was probably wearing something like work boots with jeans with a light sweater under a blazer and some gelled up hair. But I think there’s something to that. There are a bunch of individuals from New Jersey with the ability to exhibit a whole range of different personalities. And that has definitely influenced my writing.

  • Some writers have little idiosyncratic habits. For example, the first word in each of my novels is a statement reflective of the mindset or situation of the main character at the outset of the story. Do you do anything like this or have any ‘easter egg’ type things you insert into your writing? (If not, do you have any particular habits – e.g. a particular cup of tea you /must/ have in order to write?)

I like that! Like a treasure hunt. Now I’m going to be looking for that in everybody’s books. The only habit I have is that I go outside to smoke a cigarette after I complete a page. So these damn words are killing me. But, in actuality, I do find that taking a step away every now and then helps me a lot. It sometimes helps me see an angle in the story that I wasn’t noticing before.

  • Tell us a bit about Ease of Access. I noticed it’s classified as a psychology / counseling title. Is this a fiction novel?

Is it labeled as counseling somewhere? That’s pretty funny. I hope no one finds a counseling vibe in it, at least not in the sense of obtaining advice. The story is about an apathetic male prostitute who is hired to service reality TV stars. It’s dirty and peculiar but I think it does have some philosophy in it as well. It was published a couple years back by an independent financier, but people have said there’s some similarity between one of the characters in the novel and someone who is currently running for President.

  • For your fiction writing, do you tend towards being an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants type writer?

I hardly ever outline. It might be because I can occasionally be a bit impatient. The thing is though, I love letting the story take itself where it wants to go. When I overthink things the writing stops being fun for me. And that’s really the main reason I’ve been writing for as long as I have – because I find it really fun.

  • Which of your writing projects was the most fun to work on, and which the least?

Each project was a lot of fun simply because I had the desire to do it and wasn’t being pushed into it. But there have been moments or sections in certain projects that I didn’t necessarily enjoy working on. There’s a scene in The Eternal Echo that involves sexual abuse and I found it really difficult to write. It made me incredibly sad.

  • Have you ever had a reader comment “make your month?” If so, tell us a bit about what the reader said and why it resonated with you. If not, feel free to share the best (or most wild) thing a reader has said about your work.

Oh I don’t know that phrase. What’s that mean?

I’ve had a lot of funny conversations in connection with The Ease of Access. Due to the content in that book, a good number of people have informed me about some of the unusual sexual scenarios they’ve had. Their stories were sometimes humorous. They were also sometimes pretty damn uncomfortable.

  • Between when you started as a writer and now, what’s the most surprising or unexpected thing you’ve encountered about getting published?

The most surprising thing I found is how each book after the first one is still difficult to get published. I was naïve. I thought it would be smooth sailing after publishing my first novel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s become slightly easier, but it’s still hard work to get the stories out there. But that’s good. I believe the struggle keeps me hungry and pushes me to write better. It makes me learn more. I think discomfort goes a long way. It keeps people on their toes. Possessing total convenience is a good way to become indolent.

  • Do you have any future projects or ‘stuff-in-progress’ you can share a few words about? What’s next for Jeff Musillo?

I’m currently writing a story about the return of Jesus, but in this story no one knows he’s actually Jesus, so he’s treated almost as if he’s homeless as opposed to supernatural. It’s a strange one so far.

  • If you could be any of your fictional characters, would you? And who/why?

Hell no! My characters are creepy and dejected and often alarming. I think they’re fascinating from a distance, but I wouldn’t even want to be in a room with them.

  • Do you have a favorite novel that you’ve read?

That’s a tough. There are so many great novels. But if I could read only one book for the rest of my life I think I’d have to say Ham on Rye by Bukowski. It’s got everything. Humor. Sadness. Relatability. Perseverance. Although Bukowski probably wouldn’t use that word – Perseverance. I think he would just call it living.

  • Assume that The Eternal Echo becomes a movie – who would you pick to direct it?

I’ve actually been speaking with a Finnish Director about a possible adaptation. He made a really interesting horror/comedy film called Bunny the Killer Thing. He’s a cool guy, so it would be amazing if that all came together. But if that doesn’t work, I was thinking about stalking out and begging Darren Aronofsky. That shouldn’t be a problem, right?


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Greetings all,

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Hoffman, a writerly friend of mine, who is running a new writer’s contest called #FicFest. The aim is to bring manuscripts and literary agents together with writing submissions from five categories: Children’s Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult, and Adult.

Manuscripts will go through a few rounds of voting and be filtered down to an equal number of finalists in each category (so there isn’t a glut of YA for example). From the finalists, a pool of (I think the last count was nineteen) literary agents will be requesting partials and/or fulls.

The contest is looking for complete manuscripts (not manuscripts in need of editing / polish). Think of it like submitting your work to an agent directly, only with a wider net of a contest instead of the single fishing line of a query.

From the details, it looks like forty-five manuscripts will be considered finalists (nine of each category). Agents will be requesting partials/fulls for any of the finalist manuscripts that pique their interest.

This seems to be a great opportunity to get your work in front of agents looking for writing in your genre. Entries aren’t open yet, but keep your eye on this site for more details:

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Interview

 

  • Tell us a little about how FicFest got started. What inspired you to put this together?

For the New Year, I posted a blog with my 2016 goals. One of those goals was to start my own writing contest. I’ve been entering contests such as PitchWars and such for the last fews years, but I really wanted to design the type of contest I knew I’d enter myself.

  • Up and coming authors are no doubt going to be quite grateful for this opportunity. Who or what convinced you to deal with the burden of managing something like this?

I remember my first contest, which was Brenda Drake’s Pitch Wars in 2014. Through the process of submission, a fellow writer and I launch a webshow called ‘Whiskey, Wine, and Writing’. We interviewed the PitchWars mentors and the creator of the contest, and one of the underlying reasons they all participated each year was because of the joy in helping another writer realize their dream of signing with an agent and moving to publication.

In late 2015, I opened my own freelance editing business called Deep Water Editorial Services, and as I worked with clients, I realized how much I really loved helping other writers better their work and move toward their dreams. #FicFest is a fun way to keep doing that. To give other writers feedback and help get their manuscripts in front of the agents who can help make their publishing dreams come true.

  • If FicFest had a “mission statement,” what would it be?

I think our mission is to provide a fair and equal contest to all writers were one category does not over power another, giving every finalists an equal chance to get request from agents, and giving agents a real diverse spread to request from.

  • How did you get the interest of agents to participate in something like this?

When we started looking for agents, I thought it was going to be hard getting them to participate. We wrote a letter to request agent participation which not only invited the agent to join but explained to them what #FicFest was, when the agent round was, and why this contest would be a good one for them to participate in. Then we waited. Within a week the confirmations started coming in.

The agents were just as eager to join as we were to host this contest. As of right now, we have 19 literary agents confirmed to participate in our agent round, and I’m thinking that number may very well go up before July.

  • Who is FicFest for? (Who should be looking to submit entries?)

This is the beautiful thing about #FicFest. The only category we are NOT accepting is non-fiction. Every other category and genre is welcome. We accept Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, New Adult and Adult. EVERY genre is welcome as well. From contemporary to erotica. Our goal is to host a contest that gives a fair chance to each of the five categories, and every genre.

  • Can you shed a little light on how the vetting process works? I.e. how does a story go from being submitted to advancing to the next round and eventually to finalist status?

The submission process is fairly easy. While, I can’t lay out what material must be submitting at this time, (The official submission guidelines will go live on my blog on March 20th), I can say that to submit, each person will have to send in a submission email with all the required material during the submission window, which is 12:00 AM EST on April 24th until 11:59 PM EST on April 25th.

Once the submission window closes; the #FicFest mentor teams will spend the next week reading through submissions and choosing their finalists and alternates. There are three teams for each category. Each team will be choosing three finalists to advance to the agent round, and one alternate. This means that there will be a total of 15 alternates and 45 manuscripts that move to the agent round. On May 4, 2016, we will announce the finalists and alternates via my blog and they will then begin working with their mentor teams to get their manuscripts ready for the agent round in July!

  • Is there anything that authors should not send in for this contest?

Unfinished manuscripts. Our mentor teams will be working with a total of 4 manuscripts (3 finalists and one alternate) and they only have 8 weeks for revisions before the agent round. If the manuscript isn’t as polished and query ready as the author can get it, there is just no way it will be ready in the 8 weeks before the agent round. So, before submitting, writers should make sure that they are submitting a polished manuscript.

Do not submit a first draft, and do not submit a manuscript that you’re not finished writing. We also will not take any manuscript that has already been a finalist in another 2016 contest. If you were a finalist for Sun vs Snow this year, for example, do not submit the same manuscript to #FicFest. And lastly, we won’t accept any manuscript that has previously been slef-published.

  • I noticed one of the categories is “Children’s Books.” Are you looking for books with completed illustrations or the manuscript itself in this category?

Both. Many Picture Book writers already work with illustrators, or are illustrators. We will accept those that have illustrations and those that do not.

  • When the time comes, how do authors send in manuscripts? Is there an email address or a website they should be looking for?

All submissions for the contest will be emailed to us at ficfest (at) gmail (dot) com.


 

FicFest Schedule:

March 20, 2016 @ 12:00 PM EST

Guidelines & Theme Reveal

 

March 27, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST

Meet the Team Leads & Their Members!

 

April 3, 2016 @ 6:00 PM EST

Agent List Announced

 

April 17, 2016 @ 7:00 PM EST – 10:00 PM EST

Q & A with Team Leads & Host

 

April 24, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – April 25, 2016 @ 11:59 PM EST

SUBMISSION

 

April 26, 2016 – May 3, 2016

Teams will choose their finalists/alternate

 

May 4, 2016 @ 10:00 AM EST

Finalists/Alternate Reveal

 

May 5, 2016 – June 30, 2016

Revisions

 

July 8, 2016 @ 12:00 AM EST – July 14, 2014 @ 11:59 PM EST

Agent Round

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Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing Hayley Stone, author of MACHINATIONS, which is due out on June 14th, 2016. Also, I get to help share the cover reveal.

Machinations Final Cover


 

Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

 The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.


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Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

Machinations is her debut novel, releasing June 14th, 2016 from Hydra/Random House.


Interview

  • Congratulations on the release of your debut novel! Regarding the process of going from staring at a Word document to being published: Aside from getting signed, what was the best thing, worst, and most surprising to occur along the way?

Thanks, Matt! And thanks for having me on the blog.

This is a great question. The best moment of this crazy process was my agent giving me the news that my editor, Anne Groell, loved the book. Anne freaking Groell who edits for two of my favorite authors, George R.R. Martin and Peter F. Hamilton, loved my book! Not only did she love it, but everyone at the publisher did as well. You try to have confidence and faith in your work, but it never hurts to hear that it’s good from someone with the industry experience to know.

The worst thing was the waiting. While on submission, it’s easy to second-guess every narrative decision you’ve made in a book and be cannibalized by doubt. I won’t lie: there were times I thought, “okay, if no one wants this book, that’s that. I’ll have to live with it.” I’m so glad it is getting published, however, as the story is near and dear to my heart. Also, the main character’s a riot to write.

As for the most surprising moment, it was getting actual input into the design of the cover. You hear horror stories of writers getting saddled with covers they hate, and I was worried about that happening. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded! The designer I worked with was very open to suggestion, and together we ended up with a design I absolutely love.

  • Let’s start with something you’ve probably been asked a dozen times – Can you give us some insight into what got you interested in writing a novel and how you went about deciding on genre?

I was practically a writer in the womb. As soon as I could put two words together, I was making up stories and pushing them onto people, haha! I didn’t jump straight into novel-writing, however. I began as a fanfiction author, playing in other people’s universe, adding an original character here and there. Post-by-post roleplaying also helped me grow as a writer, allowing me to interact with other people’s writing styles, and improve on my own. I finally made the leap to writing—and finishing—novels in 2009, prompted by the challenge of National Novel Writing Month.

As for genre, I’ve always been a sci-fi and fantasy girl. I grew up on Star Wars and Legend of Zelda, so I guess it was only natural for me to gravitate toward the SFF genre when it came time to write.

  • What is your target audience for MACHINATIONS? Is this a young-adult title or adult sci fi?

Machinations is adult sci-fi, but I think it would appeal to readers of upper YA, as well. It features a spunky female protagonist that I feel people of any age will relate to. It also has a clear, concise writing style that makes for fairly easy reading.

  • Tell us a little about the machines involved. Is this a story of runaway technology where everything from microwave ovens to cars to jet planes is trying to kill people, or are we talking about androids and cyborgs?

No, no killer microwaves, sadly!

There are various models of machines in Machinations, each with a specific purpose—scouting and combat, to name a few. I wouldn’t classify them as androids or cyborgs; they don’t share humanoid features, nor are they combined with human anatomy. The majority of the machines are actually dependent on a higher artificial intelligence referred to as the higher echelon, which possesses true sentience. Imagine a hive of mindless worker bees, all governed by an intelligent queen. That comes close to the machines we’re dealing with here.

  • As your book hasn’t released yet, I haven’t had a chance to read it – but based on the description, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities to the Terminator franchise in that intelligent machines have made the decision to wipe out humanity, and there’s a resistance. Aside from the lack of time travel, what unique twists does MACHINATIONS bring to this setting?

You’re not the first person to make that comparison, haha! On the surface, they do share the whole “robot apocalypse” premise, but they’re totally different stories when it comes down to it.

For starters, Machinations takes place in Alaska, and without giving too much away, I can tell you the majority of the machines the characters encounter are not nearly as sophisticated as a T-1000, and the higher echelon morally divergent from Skynet. The story also centers more on the struggle of the main character, Rhona, a clone left questioning what it means to be human after being “born” prematurely. At the same time she’s trying to fit back into her old life, she’s also running a struggling resistance. Rhona wishes she had it as easy as Sarah Connor. 😉

At its core, Machinations explores themes of identity and living up to expectations—those dictated by society versus the self—which I don’t think the Terminator franchise ever really touches on.

  • What authors would you consider to be your inspirations, and if you had to pick a favorite book, could you?

Ooh, inspirations! Off the top of my head: Margaret Atwood, George R.R. Martin, Audrey Niffenegger, Matthew Stover, and most recently, Kameron Hurley.

I think I’d rather have teeth pulled than pick a favorite book! But for the purposes of this interview, let’s say Kindred by Octavia Butler. That’s a book that stays with you long after you finish the final page.

  • Some writers develop idiosyncratic habits around writing – such as always having a cup of Tazo orange tea close at hand while drafting (looks around innocently). What, if anything, do you need to have in order to get into the zone?

It’s funny you should mention tea, as that’s been my go-to lately! A black chai does wonders to coax out the muse. I also like to use music to get myself into a specific mood when writing certain scenes, especially emotional ones.

I have a few other writer idiosyncrasies that are a lot weirder. I like to draft with all my paragraphs justified, and if the word count shows at the bottom of the document, I prefer ending on a 0 or 5.

  • Are any of your characters inspired by or based on anyone real?

If they were, I’d never admit it! 😉

Kidding aside, as a rule, I don’t usually base characters off of people I actually know. That said, I do tend to use “character models”—celebrities whose appearance help me visualize the character better. For instance, I’ve always imagined my main character, Rhona, as looking like Karen Gillan. Blame Doctor Who.

  • You’ve perhaps seen that comic where the author meant “the curtains are blue,” but the English professor goes on and on about the ‘deeper meaning’ behind the curtains being blue. To what extent (if any) is your story, or smaller elements within, a metaphor with a deeper meaning?

I’m meticulous when it comes to my writing, so nothing is really throwaway. If it’s on the page,  chances are good that I’ve included it for a reason. Plus, I come from a fandom background where everything can mean something if you squint, so I might have included things for the sole purpose of what they might inspire readers to imagine. I look forward to seeing what crazy and wild interpretations may come from an otherwise benign moment of description or dialogue. Bwahaha! clears throat Ahem.

  • Now that you’ve got a release date and a book coming out (congrats again by the way) – is there anything you would do differently if you had the chance to change any part of the process?

Hmmm. Not really! I’ve been very fortunate in the way things have worked out for Machinations, in no small part due to the efforts of my agent, Marlene Stringer. When you have good people fighting in your corner, it makes it much easier to get done what you need to get done.

  • Is MACHINATIONS part of a series or a standalone novel? What plans do you have writing wise in the future?

I’m glad you asked! Machinations is the first book in a planned series, though it can definitely be read as a standalone. I’m currently contracted for two books and finishing up the first draft of the sequel right now. My hope is that these two books will sell well enough to justify writing a third.

  • While writing, do your characters ever do anything you weren’t expecting? If so, do you run with it or force them back in line?

All the freaking time. In my experience, forcing them back into line never works. It just makes the narrative feel insincere, and authenticity of feeling is always my primary goal in telling a story. At the end of the day, the characters tend to drive the plot in my stories more than the plot drives them, and that’s the way I like it.

  • And finally, what message do you have for your readers?

I hope you’ll check out Machinations when it releases this summer. If you enjoy it, please tweet me and/or spread the word using the hashtag #Machinations to let others know about the book. I love connecting with fellow fans of sci-fi and fantasy—especially other writers—so if that’s you, definitely drop me a line!

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Greetings all,

I had the opportunity to interview Kate McIntyre, author of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant! She’s a joy to chat with, and her book was a lovely read as well. I’d seen the cover going around the CQ groups for awhile, and despite several past bad experiences with ‘steampunk,’ the itch to check out what lay behind this amazing cover kept needling at me.

When Kate posted to express interest in doing interviews, I figured that was as good an excuse as any. Fortunately, I was far from disappointed.


Darrington City is on the verge of total political and economic collapse. Olivia Faraday. the eccentric Deathsniffer, is the only employer willing to consider the resume of impoverished rich boy Christopher Buckley. Soon enough, Olivia and Chris have a grisly murder to solve — if they can manage before the city is torn apart around them. The Deathsniffer’s Assistant combines fantasy and mystery and is available via BookBub for .99c on November 30 and December 1st!

Beautiful cover by Amalia Chitulescu

Beautiful cover by Amalia Chitulescu


Interview

Kate

Note how the author lulls the trees into a sense of complacency by hugging them. Soon, they shall be books.

  • In Deathsniffer’s Assistant, you’ve established several categorizations of magic-using people. What percentage of the population has gifts? Are there any categories that you’ve come up with that weren’t included?

In times of yore, about 99% of the population would be awakened to a magical gift during the categorization process. But in the era I’m writing, it’s down to about 75%, which, as you can imagine, has made quite a dent on the infrastructure!

The Timeseer’s Gambit, the sequel to TDA, really delves into the process of categorization. You’ll see a few categorizations that weren’t in the first book, like hymnshapers who can amplify or dampen sound waves. You also learn what happens  when categorization doesn’t find any gifts in you.

  • What inspired the story / world? Are any of the characters based on anything specific?

I taught myself to read using Nancy Drew novels, so I had a great love of mysteries implanted young. In my early teens, I read a short story by Mercedes Lackey where a mystery was solved using magic. Thus began my quest to find more fantasy murder mysteries… which are in short supply! I decided to write my own.

As for the world and characters, Darrington and its inhabitants are kind of a composite of a hundred different things I wanted to do in a book. The lynchpin of the whole thing was that I wanted to write something set in a fluffy and wondrous world with unicorns and faeries where everything was magical. And I wanted to write something where the arcane was mundane and the characters lived normal daily lives, oblivious to the magic around them. Making those two worlds one and the same was a huge part of my vision for the series.

  • Can you give us a little hint of where the story might be going / what your future projects may be?

In The Timeseer’s Gambit, readers are going to see Chris and Olivia growing up and growing together. They’ll definitely see a lot more of the mysterious timeseer, William Cartwright. There’s a cathedral, a serial killer, a grand ball, and quite a few escaped elementals. There’s also some romance as Chris gets in over his head with his personal relationships.

As for future projects―I’m working on a historical fantasy set in 1960s Ireland. Like TDA, it combines the magical and the mundane when a half Irish lawyer from London fleeing a falling out with his politician father ends up fighting faeries in the Otherworld.

  • Deathsniffer’s Assistant seems to blend aspects of Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Victorian setting, and a little dash of Steampunk together. What genre would you consider it? Did you set out to hit a specific genre or did you have a story in mind and genre be damned?

Oh, that pesky genre question!

I was only aiming to combine the fantasy and mystery genres, I swear! But others kept sneaking their way in. The Urban Fantasy happened when I decided to contain the project to one city to prevent scope creep. The Victorian happened when I wanted my narrator to be overly concerned with the rules of society to contrast his employer. I don’t even know where the Steampunk came from! We’re not even done yet―wait for the sequel when Romance takes a major role!

I really never set out to create such a chimera of genres, but if I can be honest, I kind of like my lumbering creation. While the parts seem disparate, I like how they fit together. I think it’s because I never intended this much genre melding. It happened naturally, pieces from different puzzles just fitting smoothly together as I wrote. Nothing was grafted on to meet some market demand or give my book a little of this flavour or that scent.

  • Are you an outliner or a pantser? Have any of your characters ever taken umbrage with the way the story was going and made you change something?

I wish with all my heart I could be a pantser, because I hate outlining. I hate it so much! It’s the worst part of the process for me and it takes a lot of discipline to get through it.

But Kate without a roadmap is Kate wandering around in a forest swearing she’s not lost right up until she walks into the bear cave. Much as I wish it were different, I can’t write a damn book without an outline.

But that doesn’t mean my outlines are immutable. Far from it. I’ve changed plot points, plot arcs, and even added or removed entire characters. Scenes with Olivia in them are harder to outline reliably. She’s a sneaky little bugger and never acts exactly the way I want her to once I get her in the moment.

We all get to the same place we originally planned, but sometimes we make a few pit stops.

  • What would you consider the most difficult part of writing Deathsniffer’s Assistant? And what was the most fun part?

The most difficult part was sitting my fat butt down and writing the damn thing. I’d been in a funk with original work for years before I got going on TDA, and I struggled with shelving it quite a few times. I had to learn a lot of discipline and a lot of confidence in order to get through the first draft. But of course―that was the most fun part, too!  There’s a moment after the initial grumbling that you’re writing when everything clicks and words just start to flow. The more I made myself write, the easier I found myself sliding into that groove. My best memories of writing the book are from the last quarter of it. Something just took hold of me and I couldn’t stop writing until the last word was down. What a rush!

  • Tell us something that happened during your journey from having a manuscript to holding your book in your hands that you never expected?

Actually, this is a really good story.

My amazing agent, Caitlin McDonald, exchanged quite a few emails with me while she was reviewing the novel and considering representing me. I made one of the biggest goofs you possibly can in early communication with a professional contact: I sent an email from the wrong account and emailed Caitlin with the address I’d used for writing fanfiction.

I was pretty sure my chances had been completely blown by that screw-up. My old, embarrassing work was really easy to find via Google once she had that email. I breathed a sigh of relief when she asked to represent me, anyway. Phew! She’s being professional even though I wasn’t.

And then she asked: “Are you the same _________ who wrote _________? Oh my gosh, I loved your stuff!”

The world is too small!

  • About the gorgeous cover – how much of the design came from your suggestion, or did you let the publisher/artist run with whatever they thought of?

It’s so beautiful, isn’t it? I contributed a bit. I requested both Chris and Olivia on the cover, and suggested the misty blue sort of feel to it. Gosh, but all my expectations were blown away when I saw the first drafts. That was the moment when it got real. Amalia is talented beyond belief. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for the sequel!

  • During the story, it seemed that a relationship might’ve been brewing with Christopher and Ana, as well as the story giving off a sense that Chris and Olivia might be drawn together despite the ten year age gap. Are you seeing that going in a romantic direction or more of a quirky partnership / friendship angle?

There is definitely romance in Chris’s future―but definitely not with Olivia.

It was really important to me from the start that Olivia maintain her agency apart from Chris. And a big part of that is that she couldn’t become his love interest. In fact, Chris’s romantic plot was created specifically to eliminate speculation that he and Olivia were an item.

A lot of people love them together, and honestly, I don’t blame them. Chris and Olivia have a ton of chemistry, and the bond they forge is at the centre of everything in the series. But I always wanted that bond to be a platonic one.

  • Do you have any idiosyncratic habits around your writing? (Need certain things in place to be able to write, or tend to do something while writing like my first word thing?)

Gosh, yes.

I can barely write a word unless I’m at my local Starbucks, with a venti Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher made with lemonade instead of water, with my writing laptop, sitting in my special spot. It’s something that I trained myself to do, because I used to write in my house, and it’s just too easy to slack off when you’re in easy arm’s length of your main computer, or your Wii, or the kitchen. I needed discipline, and I read about writing rituals online.

The downside to my system is that if I can’t get out of the house, nothing gets done. But the upside is that I work much, much faster. The Deathsniffer’s Assistant took me almost three years to write, but The Timeseer’s Gambit took me only five months!

  • If you don’t consider this a spoiler, how does Rosemary feel about the elementals? Does she regard them as poor sentient souls trapped in slavery or as talking batteries? The part with the undine when she’s first introduced makes it appear as though she thinks of them as people, but she doesn’t seem to have much of a problem stuffing them back in their boxes when necessary.

Rosemary is an odd duck. She’s young enough that she hasn’t really had the opportunity to form her own opinions, but strong willed enough that she’s formed them anyway. The problem is that she holds those opinions in tandem with the ones her father taught her, and she’s still too sheltered to see where they conflict and try to reconcile them.

Right now, she thinks that she can see them as poor sentient souls and talking batteries. But the real world is crashing in on her, and she’s definitely going to realize those are incompatible viewpoints and decide where she really stands soon enough.

  • How has it been for you working with Curiosity Quills? Tell us how you found them and a bit of your journey from querying to being signed.

When Caitlin contacted me with the offer from CQ, it wasn’t the only one. I had to make a choice between publishers, and it was really, really hard. The following weeks had a lot of phone interviews with people from the different options, and while I liked them all, I really felt a connection with Vicki Keire, my acquiring editor at CQ. She convinced me to give CQ a close look.

Ultimately, I chose them over the competition because they promised a close relationship between the publisher and the authors, and between the authors themselves. And that’s exactly what I got. I’ve always felt like CQ is in my corner. Not just the editors, marketing folks, and production crew, but all the other authors signed with me―like you, Matthew! When I told the community about my upcoming BookBub promo, I couldn’t believe the offers to help spread the word. The people I work with are all wonderful. I wouldn’t trade them for a bigger name.

  • What books/movies/authors would you say are your greatest influences?

Oh geez, so many. Like I said when discussing genre, The Deathsniffer’s Assistant is kind of an amalgam of a hundred different things I’ve seen and liked over the years.

Right now, I’d like to give a shout-out to the absolutely brilliant Robin Hobb. Hobb’s novels inspired me in a way I’m not sure anything else ever has, because of how damn human her characters are. Robin Hobb doesn’t care whether you like the people she’s writing about or not, so long as you understand who they are, why they are that way, and how that decides their actions. I’ve always known I wanted to write characters like that, who aren’t likeable so much as real. Her work really gave me the courage to find the humanity in my characters, even when it wasn’t pretty.

  • What would you like to say to your readers?

I love you so much!

A writer is nobody. Words written in the dark that nobody ever reads are nothing. We write because we want to share the stories crammed up in our heads, and anyone who says otherwise is talking nonsense.

I could write the greatest novel ever written, have it win every award on the planet, and it wouldn’t be worth as much as just one person telling me they cared about what happened to the people I created. To everyone who’s read my book, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’re the reason I do this―the reason any of us do this.


Review

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in to The Deathsniffer’s Assistant. The beautiful cover gave off a Victorian / steampunkish vibe, which had me apprehensive as I’ve had bad experiences with steampunk in the past. I’m happy to say that this novel is more of a Victorian fantasy with magic and elementals.

This is a world where the binding of elementals to power items is commonplace (and dangerous). Enchanted objects from the necessary (lights) to the frivolous (amusement park rides) to the grim (executions) are infused with the essences of unwilling elemental beings. There’s an underlying story arc of a conflict between traditionalists (the enchanters) and progressives (those who wish to wean society from magic and rely on technology), though it serves as a subtle backdrop to the events of the story. In this society, most non-nobles are ‘categorized’ according to their magical abilities. Some people have power over the body and get assigned to work in the medical field, others are ‘heartseers’ and know the feelings of those around them. Some are also ‘truthsniffers’ who are supposedly able to detect lies – though this ‘power’ seemed a bit underwhelming in the story. (I’ll come back to that.)

The story is told from the POV of Christopher Buckley, a ‘fallen aristocrat’ from a once prestigious family who is struggling to provide for his younger sister after the death (several years before) of their parents. His family fortune has dwindled, and he is forced to take work. He winds up in the office of ‘deathsniffer’ O. Faraday, who is a truthsniffer specializing in the investigation of murder. Her occupation (and proud embrace of it) keeps people away out of superstition, but having no other options – Mr. Buckley decides to accept work as her assistant. His magical gift of being a wordweaver allows him to cause writing to appear as fast as he can think it, and his job is to ‘take notes’ of everything that goes on.

The major characters and the antagonist are all richly developed, full characters with believable quirks and unique personalities. With a murder mystery afoot, the author did an excellent job keeping me guessing as to the identity of the killer (though a few hints gave me a strong suspicion which later turned out correct.)

If I had anything somewhat negative to say, I thought the ‘truthsniffing’ was underplayed. The titular ‘deathsniffer’ didn’t seem all that much different from an ordinary investigator with the occasional ‘hunch.’ A minor character (timeseer) wound up adding more of a magical essence to the investigation that I think would’ve felt better coming from the deathsniffer. For the reputation she has, her effect on the story seemed almost brushed aside – Christopher did as much or more figuring out as the primary investigator, and her magical ‘truthseeing’ didn’t feel magical, more like a detective with strong instincts.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of this world, as the conflict between the enslaved elementals and humans looks to be something that Buckley’s sister might play a pivotal role in changing. The way the author portrayed even the elementals left me feeling sympathy for them, and I am wondering if one of the characters is going to wind up leading a crusade to emancipate them at some point.

All in all this was a wonderfully woven tale of murder mystery laced with magic, set in a rich and detailed alternate world England.

 

 


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Twitter – @KateMcBooks

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Well, it’s not quite Thursday anymore, but today was busy. Sneaking in this post after finishing up a proofreading project. I recently had the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of Ann Noser’s Dead Girl Running novel, and she agreed to this interview in anticipation of the book’s October 26th release date.

A fellow Curiosity Quills author, Ann’s first book Neurontin yellow capsule was a wonderful story. Though this novel isn’t within the same setting, she brings her characters to life in a genuine way that has you rooting for them as she proceeds to torture the hell out of them as soon as she gets you to like them.

Thanks, Ann, for being willing to do the interview, and may Dead Girl Running do well!

cover


Dead Girl Running

Eight years ago, SILVIA WOOD’s father died in an industrial accident. After suffering through years of Psychotherapy Services and Mandated Medications for depression and multiple suicide attempts, she longs to work in Botanical Sciences. When the Occupation Exam determines she must work in Mortuary Sciences instead, she wonders if the New Order assigned her to the morgue to push her over the edge.

To appease her disappointed mother, Silvia enters the Race for Citizen Glory, in an attempt to stand out in the crowd of Equals. After she begins training with “golden boy” LIAM HARMAN, she discovers he also lost his father in the same accident that ruined her childhood. Then Silvia meets and falls for Liam’s older cousin, whose paranoid intensity makes her question what really happened to her father. As the race nears, Silvia realizes that she’s not only running for glory, she’s running for her life.

 


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Interview

  • Your first novel, How to Date Dead Guys, is a contemporary paranormal story about witchcraft and ghosts. How’d you go from that to the near-future dystopian Dead Girl Running?

I do realize that it’s “recommended” for new authors to stay within the same genre (at least at first), but I simply write what interests me and what stories flood my mind. Different moments inspire me. How to Date Dead Guys was inspired by a late night NPR program on the Smiley Face Killers and my personal sadness over a friend’s recent death. Dead Girl Running was inspired by an online newspaper article about Agenda 21.

  • Give us a quick idea of the themes in Dead Girl Running.

Self-preservation, mother-daughter relationships, coping with the loss of a loved one, the mental benefits of exercise, father figures, power and corruption.

  • Hmm. Dead guys, dead Girl, I’m sensing a theme here… or am I reading too much into things?

I hope there’s not a theme! I promise to work VERY hard to stop using the word “dead” in my book titles (except for the How to Date Dead Guys series, which will continue with How to Ditch Dead Guys and conclude with How to Destroy Dead Guys). Perhaps, since I deal with life and death on a day-to-day basis as a veterinarian, some of this reality is bound to seep into my writing.

  • Running is a primary story element in the book. Did you work that into the book because you enjoy it, or are you so into running that you wanted to write a book based around it?

It’s true that I am “so into running” that this might have influenced me. (I’m running—or at least attempting to run—a 50k trail ultra this coming Saturday, for example.) I chose to use a real race as the contest to make the idea of the book very real. Although I love Hunger Games and admire the ingenuity of the games involved, I wanted something so real it was scary.

 (Good luck on the run Saturday!)

  • Dead Girl Running has some dystopian aspects to the society that seem scarily possible given the way things are going today. What do you think influenced some of the worldbuilding you used here? Would you say you drew more on satirizing real life or from other fictional dystopias?

My goals were to avoid replicating other dystopias and to use little bits of information from the news articles I’d read on various topics: Agenda 21, government involvement with birth control, government control of food and portion sizes, etc. I very much wanted Panopticus to be a foreseeable future.

  • From the mouths (or keyboards) of readers – what has been the greatest/most humbling thing you’ve heard about one of your books? And what’s been the most surprising? (E.g. ‘that molding cheese was the perfect allegory for human suffering’ [and you’re thinking: cheese is cheese.])

What makes me happiest is when a reader really loves one (or more) of my characters. I’m not sure why this makes me so pleased. Perhaps it’s because by the time I’m done torturing them, I REALLY love my characters. What surprised me the most were the people who came out for my book signings: friends from college, a high school teacher who was also my forensics coach and directed plays (she was SO GOOD at that), high school classmates, and old neighbors. I hadn’t seen many of these people in years and maybe never would have again if not for my book signing.

  • When you’re writing, do you outline or sit down at the keyboard and see where the story goes?

A bit of both. I usually know the beginning and the end of the book. I write a very loose outline—with no form to it at all. It’s just a bunch of thoughts arranged in order of where they will show up in the book. (I don’t always follow this outline, however.) When I begin a chapter, I generally know where I start and where I end. That’s when I start typing.

  • Which comes first for you, the story or the title?

The story comes first. Dead Girl Running was titled YA DYSTOPIAN for a long time. Then I spend forever trying to figure out a title. How to Date Dead Guys was entitled The Drownings for a long time, but no one liked it except for me.

  • Silvia went through some rough events at an early age, which left quite a mark on her psyche. What do you see as having helped her cope with the issues and become the strong character she is at the time of the book’s events?

Silvia took control. She saved herself and her mother. Some of this was chosen and some of this was forced on her because of the situation. She chose yoga and running, both shown time and again to be beneficial to mental health. There are plenty of articles discussing how running is just another form of addiction and helps runners cope with previous (more damaging) addictions.

  • You certainly do wear a lot of hats – Mom, Veterinarian, Author, Running, Yoga… My head spins even thinking about that. When do you sleep? Or do you? So far, your novels haven’t had animals as major characters. Do you foresee any future projects where the Author and Veterinarian spheres come together?

I don’t sleep enough, that’s for certain.

If you remember the character Bernard from How to Date Dead Guys, he was originally part of a fairy tale I wrote but was edited out. However, I loved him so much that I reincarnated him in How to Date. He was a veterinarian in the fairy tale, but a hospital manager in reincarnated form. I didn’t think pets belonged in Dead Girl Running. I snuck a cat in How to Date Dead Guys. There are lots of creatures in the fairy tale (entitled An Occasionally Grim Fairy Tale).

But, to more clearly answer your question, a topic I really feel the impulse to write about is Alzheimer’s Disease. I already write articles as a veterinarian, but haven’t felt an urge to write fiction as a veterinarian yet.

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  • The ending of Dead Girl Running left me eager for the next book in this series. Can you tell us anything about upcoming projects? HTDDG 2?

I hope to get back to work on Dead Girl Fighting (temporary title for book 2) sometime in the next few months. How to Ditch Dead Guys is on track to be published March 2016. An Occasionally Grim Fairy Tale just got accepted for publication by Fantasy Works Publishing.

  • What aspect of Dead Girl Running took the most research/effort to make right? What was the most fun part about the project?]

Since I’m a mid-pack runner at best, I had to research winning times of major half marathons. I had to ask an ultrasonagrapher specialist the specific findings present in a human liver riddled with lymphosarcoma. Other than that, I just knew most everything else in the book. This is perhaps why it seemed so effortless for me to write it when compared to any other book I’ve written. I’ve done so very much more research for everything else. However, I’ll need a great deal of research before writing book 2.

  • Talk a little about the cover design. What inspired it? Is there any specific symbolism with the fireworks?

The tall buildings, the starkness of the colors, the fireworks, and the smoke are all very visual details in the book. Yes, there is symbolism with the fireworks, but talking about it would result in a SPOILER ALERT.

  • Are you superstitious about an interview having thirteen questions? (This is #14.)

TBH, I hadn’t even noticed this was the fourteenth question. Numbers don’t bother me.

  • What is your favorite Book (if you can pick one – I know I struggle with this question. Feel free to answer with a genre/type rather than a specific title if there’s no clear favorite.) Favorite movie?

Whenever anyimages-51one asks this IMPOSSIBLE question, I mumble something about The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and then Anne of Green Gables and then Harry Potter and then someone mentions Katniss and I go off on how I love The Hunger Games and then I start to think about non fiction…

 

My favorite movie is The Sound of Music. Judge me if you will.


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Author Bio

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My to-do list dictates that I attempt to cram forty-eight hours of living into a day instead of the usual twenty-four.  I’ve chosen a life filled with animals.  I train for marathons with my dog, then go to work as a small animal veterinarian, and finish the day by tripping over my pets as I attempt to convince my two unruly children that YES, it really IS time for bed.  But I can’t wait until the house is quiet to write; I have to steal moments throughout the day.  Ten minutes here, a half hour there, I live within my imagination.

Like all busy American mothers, I multi-task.  I work out plot holes during runs.  Instead of meditating, I type madly during yoga stretches.  I find inspiration in everyday things: an NPR program, a beautiful smile, or a newspaper article on a political theory.

I’d love to have more time to write (and run, read, and sleep), but until I find Hermione Granger’s time turner, I will juggle real life with the half-written stories in my head.  Main characters and plot lines intertwine in my cranium, and I need to let my writing weave the tales on paper so I can find out what happens next.