Author Interview – Dave Higgins

Last year, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog.  (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.)  I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Dave Higgins, had some very cool responses which I’m sure will interest you, as well.  After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to his blog and follow him for a regular dose of his charm.  And now, heeere’s Dave…

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ABOUT YOU::

1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

I publish under Dave Higgins. I mostly write speculative fiction, often with a dark edge. Despite forays into the mundane worlds of law and IT, I haven’t been able to escape the liminal zone of horror. When I’m not working on dark and mysterious things, I co-write comic sci-fi with Simon Cantan. I was raised by a librarian, so I started reading shortly after birth and has not stopped since. I currently live in Bristol with my wife, Nicola, my cats, Jasper and Una, a plush altar to the Dark Lord Cthulhu, and many shelves of books.

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

Blog: www.davidjhiggins.wordpress.com
Twitter: @David_J_Higgins
Google+: google.com/+DaveHiggins
Pinterest: pinterest.com/davidjhiggins
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/DaveHiggins

3. How many books have you written?

I’ve published four books, not including freebies. I also have two novels I am currently preparing: one of which I finished the first draft of mid-November and one of which I started redrafting a few days later. In addition to those I have various short stories, both published and not. And the usual dark corner filled with drafts that I think are too broken to fix without starting fresh.

4. Has any of your work been published yet? If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

I have two collections of short stories out, an anthology, and the first book in a sci-fi series I am co-writing with Simon Catan.

Links to the various retailers of each book are available here: davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/opus/

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing? Why? If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

All my books are author-published; which wasn’t originally my plan.

I started submitting short stories to competitions, magazines and collections to get some validation and credits, and because I didn’t have a novel I was happy to submit to agents yet.

In mid-2013 I had a short story accepted for Fauxpocalypse. A little while later, the owner of the small press behind the anthology decided they couldn’t continue; rather than just cancel the project, they offered to transfer their rights to the contributors if they would take over publishing.

I said I would need to look into it further before committing, but might be willing. None of the other contributors were interested and though having a lawyer do it was ideal; so I ended up setting up as a publisher.

Once I had successfully published an anthology with contributors spread across the world, it seemed silly not to publish my own work as well. So I put together, An Unquiet Calm, a collection of five short stories most of which had been published in obscure places so probably wouldn’t be of interest to other publishers anyway.

I haven’t ruled out traditional publishing, but I don’t need to be traditionally published to feel like a proper author, so I would do it because a specific work would do better than if I published it myself.

6. How old were you when you started writing? When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I can remember writing out two single-page stories when I was very young, but it is long enough ago I’m not sure how old I was; maybe four-ish.

I wrote the occasional short story from then until I was a teenager (mostly for school) but didn’t write much. When I went to University I submitted a few pieces to student magazines, but stopped to focus on my degree.

Several years ago, the firm I was working for closed down and – while looking for something else – I found one of my old stories in a dusty part of a hard drive and realised it wasn’t terrible. So I decided to use my unexpected free time to try writing a few short stories

The many years of writing business documents had merged with the shelves of fiction I had read to give me a grounding in creative writing, so my work was still rough but wasn’t actively off-putting. I shared a few of the stories and people didn’t hate them, so I tried a flash-fiction contest and actually won.

I’m not utterly sure when I went from writing for fun to wanting to make it my career. I do know that I have always been able to imagine not working in law if I won/inherited enough money to live on, but that I can’t imagine not writing something even if I didn’t need to.

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

Probably life experience. I restarted writing after many years of working in satisfying but stressful jobs, so I expect the good moments (such as praise for my stories or days when all the words come out sounding great) to be mixed in with days when I do what needs doing, not what is fun and easy.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors? What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

As I am currently working on the second book of a series with him, I would have to say the author I like most after myself is Simon Cantan.

Rampant bias aside, the first five authors that spring to mind are: H.P. Lovecraft, Dan Abnett, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Misha Burnett.

At the time I wrote this answer, I had just finished Mikhail Bulgakov’s Black Snow and was about to start Liesel Schwarz’ A Clockwork Heart.

9. What is your preferred reading method? (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.) Why?

Either Kindle or paperback. I read voraciously, and in all circumstances, so I favour formats that are easy to transport and I can hold with one hand for extended periods.

I’m not sure which of the two I would pick if I had to: having multiple books on a Kindle is a great space-saver, but the battery life isn’t ideal if you read for hours a day.

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

Mostly third-person close, set in the past tense. It gives me some freedom to reveal things to the reader that the protagonist isn’t aware of without loosing the feeling of closeness to the protagonist that makes the reader feel immersed.

I have experimented with short stories from other points of view and in different tenses, but most of them have turned out technically clever rather than emotionally engaging.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books?

I constantly read. It isn’t the only hobby I have, but I do read for a large chunk every day, during nearly ever commercial break, while wait for my wife to put her shoes on, and any other time longer than a minute when I am not actively doing something else.

The only time I have a gap between books is if I finish all the books I have with me while I am somewhere inconvenient; one of my least favourite moments was being trapped on a train for five hours when I only had enough books for three.

I do read widely though, so I do sometimes take breaks between genres or tones.

12. How many books would you say you read in a year? How many at any one time?

Based on the number of books Goodreads claims I have read since I joined, an average of 200 books a year.

Unless I have agreed to read a book by a particular date (for beta-reading or reviewing), I only read one fiction book at a time.

I also try to keep my writing research down to no more than one non-fiction book at a time.

However, I also read poetry and non-fiction not related to current projects, so I could be reading three or four books at once.

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ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::

13. What is the title of your current work in progress or the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

Beauty in a Take Away Cup. One of my beta-readers suggested a brilliant, but radical, change to the book. So I am in the (slightly manic) process of turning a mostly finished publishable novel into a potentially much better but different novel.

14. What is your novel’s genre? Would you say there is a sub-genre? What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

Depending on where the line between urban fantasy and paranormal romance lies, some species of one of them. It started as paranormal romance, but the focus on romance has moved up and down between drafts, so I am not sure where it will end up.

Urban fantasy covers a large range of stories, levels of plot- or character-driven narrative, and styles, so I’m not sure if I could point at one thing that made it different from all the other books.

It is focused more on character than special effects so, while magic is a big part of the plot, there aren’t any spell-slinging duels or world-threatening evils.

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

The original seed grew from me noticing that most paranormal romance has a mysterious hero who is very rich and handsome and a heroine who is free enough of entanglements to join his lifestyle by the end of the book. So I wanted to try a story where the male lead’s physical appearance isn’t one of his strengths and the female lead isn’t in a position to suddenly start sleeping all day and partying all night.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

I don’t go out of my way to be explicit, gross, or shocking; however, I also don’t rigorously self-censor. So my work is less suitable for younger readers.

I also enjoy mystery and alternative interpretations, so I am aiming more for readers who don’t want all the answers by the end of the book.

I know men who read and write romance and women who read and write most genres and tones, so I don’t aim my work at a specific gender.

17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

Sarah is used to the odd looks every time she orders her coffee with more syrup than espresso, so when a handsome stranger claims she has taken his order she assumes it is just a chat-up line. But last month his body was a corpse, and now caffeine and sugar are the only things keeping it together.

As their friendship grows, she begins to think she might have finally found someone who cares about her for herself. But how will she cope when she discovers he fought in the Crusades, and has been running ever since?

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ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

18. How often do you write?

I decided to try writing every day this year. There have been a few days when people have come to visit or I have been ill where I haven’t managed it, but I have managed most days.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

It varies. My mean average so far this year is about 2,500 words a day, but some days I only wrote only a few hundred and others I managed thousands.

On most of the days with high word counts I did more than one session, so I estimate I don’t write more than 1,500-2,000 words without taking a break.

20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

I have a reciprocal editing arrangement with another author, so we do each other’s work.

21. What is your method of writing? (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes? Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters? Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

The first novel draft I finished was written based on a paragraph of ideas, but was also an unwieldy mess I have put away indefinitely. Since then I have been moving more and more towards detailed outlines of the whole thing before I start the first draft.

The biggest obstacle I had to writing a significant amount every day was editing as I went along, so I try to write an entire first draft without going back to make any changes.

Once I have a complete first draft, I put it aside for a while (a few days for a short story, at least a month for a novel) before I read it. This gives me a little distance.

I read the entire thing without making any changes so I have an idea how it flows and what needs more/less build-up or conclusion. Then I start editing the text.

22. Do you have a muse? If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

I have always been curious and have a good memory, so my unconscious is full of odd moments from life and what-if’s based on alternatives to stories I have seen.

When several of these fit together, I end up with an initial idea for a story. This is usually nowhere near a plot, so will wriggle and niggle in the back of my mind until I find a character challenge that fits.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

The transition from initial idea to outline varies depending on how much searches I do and how many potential confusions and issues I encounter turning a single thought into an arc.

Once I have an outline, I write 2,000 words each day that I work on it; however, I usually have more than one project going at a time, so I usually don’t work on a draft every day from start to finish.

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel? If so, please elaborate.

I have experimented with having daily word counts and having daily time minimums, and am still not sure which is more productive overall: first drafts need words on the page, so a word count helps, but can end up loose and rambling if pure word count is the only target; editing produces very few words per hour so works well with time minimums, but can take as long as you let it so can produce diminishing returns if you only measure on time spent.

As I write primarily for eBook rather than print, and don’t have to conform to publishers’ rules or deadlines, I don’t start a draft with a target word count or length, so my targets for a solo novel are  approximate.

My collaborations with Simon are slightly more regimented from the start as we need to keep our schedules aligned, so I tend to push the joint work hard to get it ready early and then expand my solo projects into the extra time I create.

Overall, I think not releasing a product until it is ready is better than releasing purely to say you met the deadline, so I avoid committing too early.

25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

For modern stories set in Great Britain I just pick them, and then go back during editing to change them if I realise they don’t quite work (my last short story had protagonists named Ben and Rebecca. This seemed fine when I created the outline, but when I wrote the story I used a more casual tone so they were called Ben and Becky throughout; which was a touch comical for a suspense piece).

If I am writing fantasy or science-fiction I pick a language or country and base names on that by changing letters. Once I have a few names/places, I invent the others to match those, so I don’t end up with something too regimented or obviously a foreign language. Because I did classics at school, the most common seeds are Latin or Greek.

I did experiment with using a book of baby names to give all the characters names with appropriate meanings, but decided it was too much effort to create detailed personalities for all the minor characters just so I could give them a first name and a surname that fitted, and make sure the spread of names felt neither too broad or too narrow.

26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

Before I started writing again, I worked on a few projects where the huge stacks of documentation produced at the start weren’t referenced again, so I prefer to do only as much documenting as I need to support the story. So my initial notes are not particularly detailed. A few names/places and a paragraph on what might happen.

If I am setting the story in the modern day, I tend to bookmark a few web pages relevant to a key thing I don’t know much about and move straight to the outline.

If the setting is more fantastical, I try to map out a very brief history and some interesting facts about the world so I have casual references to drop in to dialogue without having to pause to make them up while writing.

Once I start writing the outline I fill in background notes and characters as required to explain

My outlines are about what characters do more than why they do them, so each draft adds to the history and character backgrounds.

27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write? (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

There isn’t anything essential apart from a minimum level of consciousness.

I started writing before computers were common and still write poetry in longhand, so can work with pen and paper; however, I am left-handed, so writing large amounts is much easier on a computer.

I love real coffee, but I use it to mark changes in what I am doing rather than specifically for writing: some days I make myself a coffee before I start writing to switch from doing something else to writing; other days I use it to switch to relaxation after I have done as much writing as I planned.

28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location? If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

I almost always write prose at my desk, because that is where my computer is. I have tried working in cafes and libraries on a laptop, but find smaller keyboards really slow my typing down.

I treat writing as a flexible important task, so if I don’t have anything that I have to complete on a particular day, I do a session of writing after I have checked my email. If I don’t get my writing done in a single session, I tend to do one other important task and then a second session of writing.

My cats eat at 7:30 pm and then like to have a wander or chase each other for an hour, so however busy I am I try to be sitting on the sofa by 8:30 pm ready for when they decide it is sitting-on-people time.

29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing? If so, how do you feel about that?

In the wider meaning, yes.

Writing a first draft is early enough in the writing process that I have no hesitation putting it aside for other things.

As I get towards publication though, issues with cover design, final edits, and retailer requirements can push my usual division of time between writing and other things out of balance. So I have to cut back on cleaning and my hobbies.

I always feel slightly annoyed at the time that I am rushing around; however, I find unfinished problems more annoying than not playing a computer game for a few hours on a Saturday, so getting everything I can done is more relaxing overall than rigorously protecting my hobby time.

30. What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

Sometimes when I am writing a scene with lots of physical activity I leap up from my desk because it has boosted my adrenalin (so my writing works on me).

I also occasionally stop writing to act something out because I am suddenly not sure about a distance or timing: of course, my attempts to jump from a standing start like a boy half my age or whatever it is are probably no more accurate than a reasonable estimate, but it gives me the confidence to write the scene and leave the checking for when I edit.

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ABOUT YOUR WORK::

31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

The only novel I have published is Greenstar, my comic sci-fi collaboration with Simon Cantan, so that would get the vote for novel I have greatest confidence in.

Of my solo work, probably Beauty in a Take Away Cup because all my beta readers liked it, so I am making it better rather than making it publishable.

32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

Tricky question. I try to write all my characters with a proper flaw, so it would be exchanging one set of annoyances for another.

Potentially one of the vampires from Midnight Memories (a novel that I have packed away). I have no actual desire to wax in unnatural life, growing strong upon the blood of others, but if it was only for a day I could experience the powers of vampirism without the ethical dilemmas and hunters constantly thrusting crosses at me.

33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?

I don’t think of my characters in terms of movie stars, so I’m not sure.

I am a huge Christopher Lee fan, so I would be strongly tempted to invent a reason why he should play one of the characters, just so I could work with him.

34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?

I love learning new things, so most of the oddities I have researched were done for fun and only turned up in a story later.

I am gathering ideas for a collection of short stories based on Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, so stories about the market at Limoges is probably the oddest thing I have done specifically for a book.

35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?

The International Space Station. Fauxpocalypse is set in the aftermath of a giant comet, predicted to wipe out life on Earth, missing at the last moment. After my sad, philosophical piece was accepted, I was struck by the thought that maybe if everyone was going to die anyway, some of the crew of the ISS would stay up there to study the event until the very end.

I had a great idea for an overall plot. However, the more I looked into the ISS the more I discovered it was designed to survive exactly the sort of problems a near-miss might cause. So I spent days going through technical documents from NASA working out what might cause a serious but not immediately disastrous issue.

Once I had a scientifically plausible scenario for a disaster, I went back through the story trying to cut out every obscure technical name and process that I could trying to turn it from a theoretical case study back into fiction; which meant attempting to discover what the average reader might know or accept as right without supporting description.

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Thank you, Dave, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.

~Rachel

My Friend, Craig Boyack…

When I started blogging here, I never dreamed I’d meet so many wonderful and fascinating people.  So many of you make me smile each day with your comments.  One man in particular always makes me happy.  (You might remember him from a previous interview.)  When he blogs, he often interacts with characters from his books, and he allows us to see not only a snapshot of his writing style, but he also cleverly makes us want to know more about these endearing characters.

For years, Craig imagined, told, and wrote stories.  Finally, in 2014, he decided to jump into the self-publishing pool and share some of his talent with the world. He published four of his previously written stories over the course of the year while he worked on writing some new ones.  I’ll let him tell you about what he published last year.  Craig?

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Thanks, Rachel.  Craig here.  It’s good to be back.  I’d love to share a bit about my work:

Wild Concept is the story of an experimental robot. Lisa was designed to show off corporate superiority, and was programmed with emotional response software. She winds up placed with the local police department to help solve a murder. The end of the experiment involves her being disassembled and studied to perfect a commercial version of robot. Lisa decides to make a run for it, rather than be destroyed. This story explores prejudices and what it really means to be human.

Wild Concept can be purchased here:

Panama is a paranormal romp set during the building of the canal. President Roosevelt knows Ethan can talk to ghosts, and that Coop dabbles in magic. Roosevelt sends them to Panama to investigate some mysterious disappearances. The boys discover a demon army under control of a Carlist rebel, bent on recovering Spain’s lost colonies.

Panama can be purchased here:

Arson is the story of Perry Wolfe, an elite firefighter who works in space. Big insurance is the villain here. Perry has a minor accident that ends his career. While trying to rebuild his career, his sister is murdered. He travels off planet to train as a federal arson investigator with ATF. It is there that he discovers some unusual ties to his sister’s murder. He tries his best, but discovers something else he needs along the journey.

Arson can be purchased here:

Which brings us to The Cock of the South. This was a pile of loose notes and electronic pages at the beginning of 2013. I’m counting it as one of the older stories, even though it wasn’t finished.

I always challenge myself with each new story. The challenge in Wild Concept was to write a non-human protagonist. Panama challenged me to write a buddy story with two main characters. The challenge in Arson was to explore a main character’s downward spiral. These challenges won’t matter to readers, but writers might find them interesting. The personal challenge in The Cock of the South was to use fairytale story structure.

The Cock of the South is a fantasy set during Greco-Roman times. It involves a group of non-humans, who are all on the verge of extinction, banding together to carve out a place they can survive.

The main character is Cobby, a Southern Dwarf who was raised by humans. At the beginning of the story, he assumes he is just a short, broad human. When his comfortable world collapses he learns the truth. His “father” killed his real family and claimed Cobby as a prize of war.

Cobby makes a great character for readers to learn about this special world, because he is just learning about it himself. The world is a much bigger place than Cobby realizes, and there are more problems than just attending religious festivals or selling his wares at the market.

This story is a scoop of Exodus, with spices of King Arthur, hang together or hang separately, and finding the lost city. It’s all set in a Greco-Roman environment and I really enjoyed writing it.

The Cock of the South can be bloody and brutal in places. Fairytale structure isn’t necessarily for kids.

It’s important to me to stay true to my genre. A fantasy ought to have something fantastic in it. This story includes special people like centaurs, a minor goddess, and a touch of magic.

I strive to create memorable characters in my stories, and went out of my way to include some strong female characters. Many women like the fantasy genre, and the female characters ought to do more than cook, get rescued, or bind wounds.

I hope readers will take a chance on this story. I had a lot of fun with it, and I think you will too.

The Cock of the South can be purchased here:

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Hi, friends.  It’s Rachel again.  I appreciate Craig stopping by to share some of his work with us.  But what he didn’t mention was his upcoming novel Will O’ the Wisp.  Actually, I was among the lucky few to receive an advance reading copy of Will O’ the Wisp, and I have to say, it’s fantastic!  In fact, I’ll not only highly recommend it when it comes out, but I am hopeful that Craig will actually write a sequel.  Yes, it’s that good!

And there you have it, friends.  Doesn’t Craig’s work sound fascinating?  (And besides being an awesome writer, he’s also a really nice guy.)  If you don’t know him already, please hop on over to his blog and introduce yourself.  And be sure to tell him Rachel sent ya.

Happy Birthday, Lewis Carroll!

Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was born on January 27, 1832, in Daresbury, Cheshire, England.  His most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, which includes the poems “Jabberwocky” and “The Hunting of the Snark.”  In his later life, he wrote Sylvie and Bruno as an attempted comeback from his early success with his Alice books.

Besides being a writer, he was a mathematician, a logician, an Anglican deacon, and a photographer. In addition to his works of fiction, he wrote nearly a dozen mathematical books and a logistics book which were published under his real name, though some of these were published posthumously.

When he was a young child, he suffered a fever that left him deaf in one ear.  He also stammered as a child, and this condition plagued him throughout his life.  And at seventeen, he suffered a severe attack of whooping cough that caused him to be weak in the chest later in his life.  He was homeschooled through his childhood, and later he attended Oxford, though he was there only two days when he was called home because his mother died.

In 1856, he took up the new art of photography, and at one point even considered making a career of it.  He was an avid photographer who often took photos of young girls (who were sometimes nude), and as such, and because he was a lifelong bachelor, there were nasty speculative rumors spread about him.

He is credited with numerous inventions, and he also devised numerous word games, one of which was an early version of what we now know as Scrabble.  He died on January 14, 1898, from pneumonia which followed a bout of influenza.  He died two weeks prior to his sixty-sixth birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Carroll!

Let’s chat!  Who is your favorite Alice in Wonderland character?  Have you ever heard of Sylvie and Bruno? 

Something New

My sister and I recently redecorated our living room.  For the past decade since we opened our photography studio, we’ve had ugly, gross, secondhand couches and love seats.  It seems nearly every time we had clients with small children or pets, our furniture would get messed up, so we never wanted to put any money into it.

Once we had a client who fed their baby a bottle of red juice.  It was shortly after they left that I lifted a cushion off the couch and found where the bottle leaked a large red stain that would never come out, and rather than admitting it to us, the client hid the stain with a pillow.  Another couple of times, we found a dirty diaper stuffed between the seat and the back.  Too many times to count, we’ve had kids with sharp toys stab something into the seats or stand on them with their dirty shoes, or had their dogs (or babies) slobber or urinate on them.

Last year, we decided that the current professional photography market where we live didn’t support portraiture, at least not enough to justify living with furniture that we were embarrassed to use.  As such, we decided to cut our studio’s family portraiture and remain focused only on weddings.  And earlier this month, we went furniture shopping.

So I’m very excited to have finally gotten a brand new sofa, loveseat, coffee table and side table, with no danger of other people’s children or pets coming to damage them. Because of the tungsten lighting in the room, the color shown isn’t true.  They’re really more green and less brown than they look here.

We looked at several different furniture stores, but the moment I saw this couch and love seat, I fell in love.  I love the color, the fabric, and the retro shape it has to it when you look at it straight on.  And I love that the coffee table has the storage shelf underneath for lap blankets and baskets for remotes and things.

Because this is the also the room where my computer is located and where I spend most of my waking hours, I’m very happy that the energy in the room has escalated into a much more positive place and I no longer feel anxiety to work in a room that I hate.  I’m hoping my writing productivity will also increase with the new energy.

Time to talk:  What’s the last new piece of furniture you purchased, and how did it make you feel?  Was it exactly what you wanted, or did you have to settle for something else due to price, size, or some other reason?  Have you ever had a room that just emanated bad energy, and as soon as you changed it, it felt more inviting?

Happy Birthday, Allison DuBois!

Did you ever watch (or at least hear of) the television show Medium, starring Patricia Arquette?  If so, then the name Allison DuBois rings familiar.  The show was based loosely on real-life medium Allison DuBois who was born on January 24, 1972.

Mrs. DuBois claims that she became aware of her ability to communicate with the dead when she was six years old, and she has used her psychic abilities to assist law enforcement in solving crimes.

Besides being a world renowned medium and lecturer, she’s authored four books, including: Don’t Kiss Them Good-Bye, We Are Their Heaven: Why the Dead Never Leave Us, Secrets of the Monarch: How the Dead Can Teach Us About Living a Better Life, and Talk To Me—What the Dead Whisper in Your Ear.

Happy Birthday, Mrs. DuBois!

Time to talk:  Did you watch the TV show Medium when it was on?  Do you believe certain people can really communicate with the dead?  If you personally needed a crime solved and a medium offered help, would you listen to what they had to say?

Author Interview – Tom Wolosz

Last year, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog.  (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.)  I asked everyone thirty-five questions — some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries — and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, Tom Wolosz, had some very fascinating responses which I’m sure will captivate you, as well.  After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to his blog and follow him for a regular dose of his charm.  And now, I pass the microphone to DocTom…

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ABOUT YOU::

1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

My name is Tom “DocTom” Wolosz.  I was born in Brooklyn, NY, but currently live in Plattsburgh, NY (a long stone’s throw south of Montreal, Canada) where I teach at the SUNY College at Plattsburgh.  My field of interest is paleoecology (I’ve taught courses about the history of life on earth, dinosaurs, extinction and basic geology).  I’ve been a life-long sci-fi fan.  I find character driven stories the most interesting.  This may seem a bit odd for sci-fi, but if you think about it sci-fi is the perfect genre to ask questions about people and civilization.  I’m also a semi-pro photographer who loves taking pictures of the Adirondacks, especially at night. I’ve posted some of my pictures on my website.

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

My website is http://tomwolosz.com/

3. How many books have you written?

Just one so far.  It’s titled: The Agony of The Gods, Softly Falls the Snow.

4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

It’s been published by Bookkus Publishing.  It’s available December 1st from the Bookkus store at http://shop.bookkus.com/; Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Agony-Gods-Softly-Falls-Snow/dp/0991709462/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1417099020&sr=8-1&keywords=woloszand Barnes and Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/agony-of-the-gods-tom-wolosz/1120573287?ean=9780991709465.

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing?  Why?  If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

I guess I’d call it semi-traditional publishing.  William Yatscoff started Bookkus Publishing about 2 years ago with an interesting idea: let the readers decide what to publish.  He’ll post your book for a couple of months, and after it accumulates a number of reviews, will decide whether or not to publish.  I’d urge anyone with a manuscript that is close to publication-ready to try submitting it to Bookkus.com.  In general, whether the decision is to publish or not, at least you’ll get feedback from readers, which is a lot more than you’ll ever get from an established publisher.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Probably in grade school I wanted to be a writer, but life intervened and I went on for a Ph D. in Geology.  I always thought about story ideas, but never really had the time to do much with them.  Then, after raising a family and then spending most of my free time taking care of an elderly family member for a couple of years, I found myself not really knowing what to do with myself when he passed away.  So I sat down and started to write – probably as much therapy as anything else.  But once I got started I kept going.  The end result is “Agony of the Gods.”

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

Well, writing is tough, often a struggle, but in the end I really enjoy it.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

Terry Pratchett, Jasper Fforde, Tolkien, Raymond Chandler, Philip K. Dick and J.G. Ballard come to mind.  Over the last few years I’ve mainly stuck to non-fiction though.  I find that reading too much fiction tends to become incestuous when you write fiction since you tend to borrow ideas from other writers.  History and psychology books give me some insight into people and their times which helps me make my stories a bit more real and original.

Right at this minute I’m reading “Demiurge, Blood of the Innocent”, a really neat paranormal thriller by Mike Hagan.  It’s actually the second time because Mike and I have helped each other over the last few years (first on Book Country and then Bookkus) by critiquing each other’s work.  Before I post a review I wanted to read the final version of the book which has just been published by Bookkus.  Once I finish that I have another ms. I promised to look at, and then back to Brian Greene’s “The Elegant Universe”.

9. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?

Well, I’ve read with a Kindle, but I guess I just like the feel of a real book in my hands.  Somehow turning pages and flipping back into the book to check something I had read a few minutes or hours ago just feels right.  Guess I’m a bit old fashioned that way.  I’ll also say that when I read the proof copy of my book (mass market paperback format) it just felt so different compared to reading it on a computer screen – a sense of reality, I guess.

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

Currently a kind of hybrid.  Most of my writing is 3rd person, but I tend to throw in direct thoughts from the characters in an attempt to help build character.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

To a certain extent it depends on what’s going on in my day job – I teach at a college and at times have loads of student writing to grade.  When that happens I tend to stray toward video.  It’s the end of the semester as I write this, so there’s a real load of grading on my desk, and I’m currently relaxing at night by binge watching Babylon 5.  But then B5 is a kind of TV novel.

12. How many books would you say you read in a year?  How many at any one time?

20 – 30?  Really hard to say.  Reading a textbook on Planetary surfaces or invasive species takes a bit longer than a Terry Pratchett novel, and since I’m committed to Bookkus I tend to read a number of manuscripts (entirely or in part, depending on quality) and review them.

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ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::

13. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

My current book is “Agony of the Gods, Softly Falls the Snow.”  It will be published this month.  I’m currently working on a sequel with the working title: “Agony of the Gods, The Village”.

14. What is your novel’s genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

Well, AotG is basically science fiction, but with an undercurrent of murder mystery.  As one editor told me, it really doesn’t fit easily under any category because I’m trying to do something different.  It’s written in a semi-literary style, concentrates on characters, but at the same time tries to ask questions about human nature.  The closest thing I can compare this to is the story of the Krell in Forbidden Planet, except that instead of all the Krell staying on their home planet imagine if each individual was given their own world.

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

I’ve also written a novella, “And The Last Shall Be First” set on a generation ship on its way to another star.  It was inspired by the successes, over the last few years, achieved by the LGBT community in seeking equal rights.  Basically, it’s a cautionary tale, reminding people that while minorities are the last to be recognized as having basic human rights, they are also the first to lose them when times change.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

All my stories deal with adult themes of humanity and its experiences.  I would imagine that younger readers would be subject to nightmares.  So for mature audiences only.

17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

The best way is to just give you the cover blurb:

Who is killing the Gods?

Man created The Machine. The Machine gave to each man or woman a world of their own design, to do with as they pleased. They became Gods – omnipotent, absolute rulers; but also vain, arrogant, hedonistic and brutal. Now someone is killing them. The enforcer, a servant of the Gods, is tasked with finding the killer, but first he must train a new apprentice. Given a list of worlds to investigate, they set out trying to find a key to the identity of a killer they cannot hope to overcome. In their travels they come across worlds dedicated to the study of butterflies, to the perfection of music, to eternal war, and to a magical storybook existence where animals talk and act like characters from a children’s story; and on each world they find a brutal disregard for the people who serve the Gods.

As the death toll mounts, and the pressure from their masters to find the killer increases, they learn more and more about the strange universe of The Machine, and about themselves. But soon they face the ultimate question: is the killer a monster…or a hero?

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ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

18. How often do you write?

Whenever I can.  That’s unfortunately not often, due to the demands of my day job.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

Varies.  I write until I burn out.

20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

I do a lot of self-editing, going through numerous drafts.  I also got a lot of help from friends on Book Country and Bookkus, and from my sister, who is a dedicated bibliophile (and a pretty good editor).

21. What is your method of writing?  (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

Well, I never start a story unless I know two things – the beginning and the end.  Sci-fi has always had a problem with stories that have a great premise, but are always a letdown at the end.  So if I don’t have an ending, I don’t even start to write the story.  I knew the beginning and end of AotG before I started to write it, I know the beginning and end of the sequel, and I know the beginning and end of the 3rd and final book in the series (but not much else).  Once I have that, I work out a story arc connecting the two endpoints.  In doing that I go chapter by chapter (although they may actually end up being multiple chapters in the final product), but not necessarily in sequential order, although I have a pretty good sense of where they will fit into the final book.

22. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

Music often helps me write.  Much of AotG was written to the accompaniment of Liz Story piano music.  While I deal with basic ideas, the visualization is often helped by things that just strike me.  One scene in AotG was inspired by a PBS concert, another by walking through my local mall.  While the inspiration gets me started, the ideas will morph with time into a final product that would be hard to recognize as being related to the original inspiration.  For instance, as I said, one of my scenes in AotG was inspired by walking through a mall, looking at the mannequins.  I wanted a scene where a trap had been set for my main characters, and one store had mannequins dressed in western clothes.  The idea of the mannequins coming to life struck me as fitting, but then I thought about it and decided that had been done many times before, so dropped it.  Over time I kept playing with the idea of a mall as a trap, and eventually it morphed into a chapter in the book, but without the mall.  I’ll just leave it at that since I don’t want to give away to much.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

AotG took six years.  I have no idea how long one would take if I could devote a full time effort to writing (but I’d like to find out!).

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel?  If so, please elaborate.

No.  I’ve always found such limits artificial.  I work at it until I know it’s done.

25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

AotG has few names.  The tags are all descriptive: the Imager, the Good Doctor, the inspector.  It helps to aim at an everyman feel.  In other stories I try to go with common names to emphasize the average nature of the characters.

26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

I keep notebooks for novels and try to write down all important details so I can maintain continuity through the story.

27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

Sometimes soft background music helps, but otherwise, no.

28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

When I’m banging through the first draft of a chapter I prefer using my old laptop while sitting in a large armchair.  Revisions are always first done on paper (I guess I kill a lot of trees), but writing 2nd, 3rd, etc. drafts takes place at my desk using my PC.  Just more comfortable that way.  Looking back on it, I think of the first draft as the wild west – just go for it.  Later drafts are work and require notes, etc. to be spread out before me.

29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

What real life?

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ABOUT YOUR WORK::

32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

Truthfully, none of them.  I’ve read lots of books where I would have liked to have been a character for a day.  It’s always because of adventure or love, or some other great activity they take part in.  In AotG many of the characters do important things, but they’re a bit like Frodo in LOTR – he pays the price in the end, and so do they.

33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?

None of my characters are real heroes, so it would require an actor who’s good at playing real people.  That pretty much limits it.  I guess the main character could be done by Tom Hanks, Danzel Washington or George Clooney.  The female lead might work well for Sandra Bullock.

34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?

That’s easy – reading articles from medical journals describing the damage done to the human body due to falls from great heights.  If you read the first chapter of AotG you’ll know why.

35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?

Sometimes just reading history and psychology books is difficult.  The damage people have inflicted on each other over the centuries is often more nightmarish than the most grizzly horror story, because it’s true.

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Thank you, DocTom, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.

~Rachel