Archive for December, 2012

Introducing Author Angella Graff

Posted on December 31, 2012. Filed under: Author Interviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

angella

It’s my pleasure to introduce author Angella Graff in this weeks feature.  She is definitely going places.  I think you’ll agree when you read her book “The Awakening (The Judas Curse)” that this author is cut from a different mold.  Not many are able or willing to tackle the subject matter she does.  She’s a mix of Dan Brown and Robert Ludlum, and she makes the reader want more.  You can read my review of  Angella’s gripping novel, The Awakening (The Judas Curse) here.  The idea of using ancient gods and Biblical characters is not new, but in Ms. Graff’s capable hands they take on a life of their own and the reader is hooked from the first page.  This is urban fantasy at its best!

Interview of Angella Graff

by L.Leander

  1. Where do you write?  What’s your creative space like?

I almost always write in my room.  I have a laptop, but I write more comfortably on my desktop computer.  I find myself envious of people who write long-hand, and I miss it from time to time, but my brain moves so quickly that when I attempt to write it out with pen and paper I get frustrated.  My room is quiet, though, and a place I consider my own space.

  1. What is your favorite writing tool?

Probably my computer!  That, and conversations with other people, if you want to call that a ‘tool’.  I find myself constantly inspired by the stories of people around me, and I’m always thinking of ways I can incorporate that into my story.  Whether it’s an event, a personality trait, or even someone’s habit.  I don’t think I would be able to write as much as I do without experiencing life and the people around me.

  1. What movie star would you pick as one of the characters in your book and why?

I want to say Benedict Cumberbatch, because let’s face it, I’m mad for him.  It’s a problem, haha!  Honestly though, my husband and I have fun trying to “cast” actors into my book.  I did actually write a character after an actor, though.  The character of Greg/Asclepius was somewhat modeled after Harry Groener.  He played the Mayor in the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I just adored the way he could swap between good-old-fashioned guy and evil trying-to-take-over-the-world guy.  I absolutely LOVE him.

  1. What did you want to be when you grew up?  Did you realize that dream?

I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up.  Egyptologist, Archaeologist, Marine Biologist (until I learned it required biology, go figure haha!) but the one thing I always wanted to be, and the one thing I always came back to was writer.  And though I’m not famous or well-known (yet, haha) I have realized that dream.  I’m on my second published novel, and working myself into a series, so I’d say that if my dream hasn’t been officially “realized” yet, I’m definitely on my way!

  1. Explain your creative process.  Pantser?  Outliner?

Truthfully I don’t have a specific process to speak of.  Outlines distract me from what I want to say.  I’m a big fan of letting my writing grow organically.  I feel that it makes for more realistic characterizations of people, at least for me.  When I try and outline someone or something, it sort of gets this forced feel to it, and so I rely heavily on beta-readers (and my husband) to make sure that I’m keeping the story in line.  I tend to write a few pages of the beginning, then I start with the meat of the story in the middle and write to the end.  When I get there, I head to the beginning and patch it up, bit like quilting, actually.  I find it works well for me.

  1. If you could only have one mode of transportation what would it be, a horse or a bicycle?  Why?

Probably a bicycle.  I may get flamed for this, but I’m not really an animal person haha.  Although oddly, horses love my husband, and I have pictures of a horse giving him kisses to prove it!!  I had one pretty bad injury, a concussion, on a bicycle when I was young, so I was afraid to get on one for years.  Then last year while my husband and I were at the beach for our anniversary we rented bicycles and rode up and down the boardwalk for hours.  I realized how much I missed biking and would love to get one… once we live in an area that isn’t hazardous to cyclists!

  1. Do you dream about your stories?  Ever written about a dream?

Yes to both.  I’ve been inspired by dreams before, mainly for short stories.  When I’m in full on writing mode, when my characters and plot have a monopoly on my consciousness, I tend to dream about them.  It helps from time to time when I feel stuck.

  1. What were you like in high school?  Class clown?  Nerd?  Cheerleader type?

Oh dear.  Hah.  Uh… well… I was more the Marilyn Manson type.  Eh heh.  I wore a huge black faux-fur coat, torn fishnets, black skirts, Doc Martin’s and my hair was usually some combo of blue, pink, bleach-white and black.  I did the crazy eye make-up and black lipstick.  The whole deal.  Please don’t tell my kids, haha, I want to have some leverage when I want to tell them they aren’t leaving the house dressed like THAT.

  1. What’s your favorite theme park?  Why?  (If you’ve never been, which one would you like to visit and why?)

I’m not a big theme park girl.  I don’t like rides, or carnival games much.  I used to, but it’s just not my favorite.  I’d love to visit the Harry Potter theme park because I’m a huge Potter nerd.  And last year my hubby and I went to Sea World which was fun, but not nearly as fun as I remembered from when I was a kid.

  1. Are you a reader?  What types of books do you like best?  What author(s)?

I am a reader.  I read literally anything for my book review blog, and have found some really fantastic books… like Miss Leander’s INZARED, which I plan to re-read here in the near future.  When I’m choosing for myself, I almost always go with non-fiction Theology.  I studied theology in school, and I always go back that route.  My favorite theology author is Elaine Pagels, who writes some fantastic pieces about the Gnostic Gospels and some of the other Gnostic traditions.  It’s part of what influences me in my series.

Angella Graff’s Bio: Angella Graff lives in sunny Tucson, Az with her husband, three kids, two cats and one beta fish.  When she’s not writing or book editing, she’s either at a kid scouting event, yoga class, or tearing through some BBC show on Netflix, and possibly simultaneously and repeatedly pinning pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston on her pinterest boards.

Thank you Angella for your candid interview and the nice words about  my book.  (I promise, readers, I didn’t pay her to say that!  lol).  If you haven’t read The Awakening it’s something you’ll definitely want to put on your list for 2013.  The book is very different, with memorable characters and a subject matter that not many people tackle today.  I found it engrossing – couldn’t put it down.  That, in my mind, is a great read!

If you’d like to find out more about Angella Graff here are some places you can find her.

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Introducing Author Myra Johnson

Posted on December 24, 2012. Filed under: L.Leander Reviews and Interviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Myra Johnson 2012 smallIt’s Christmas Eve and what better way to celebrate the holidays than snuggling in with a good Christmas-themed novel.  My guest today is Myra Johnson, bestselling author of One Imperfect Christmas.  You can read my review here.

Myra has created a protagonist you either love or want to give a good swift kick in the seat of the pants.  She’s not all that different from most of us, really.  But that’s all I’ll say – you’ll have to read the book for yourself to find out more. Be sure to check out the book trailer for One Imperfect Christmas – the link is below – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

So, sit back and enjoy my interview with Myra and above all, Happy Holidays everyone!

Interview of Myra Johnson

by L.Leander

Where do you write?  What’s your creative space like?

My office is a converted upstairs guest room, and it’s pretty much wall-to-wall desk, filing cabinets, bookshelves, and bulletin boards. Oh, and a treadmill, which has a makeshift desk for my laptop so I can walk while I check email (don’t ask how that’s working for me!). I do most of the busy work of writing in the mornings while sitting at my regular desk overlooking our woodsy backyard. Then after lunch I usually move to my comfy Ikea chair and ottoman, where I open up my work-in-progress and spend 4-5 hours in focused writing time.

What is your favorite writing tool?

Not counting my trusty MacBook Pro, I’d have to say Scrivener writing software. I love being able to keep the entire manuscript plus character photos, notes, and research material all in one place and easily accessible. Note card view allows me to see scenes and chapters at a glance, and there’s even a word count meter that lets me know whether I’m staying on track toward my deadline. Once the book is complete, I can compile the document as an RTF file and then convert to Word for sending to my agent or editor.

What movie star would you pick as one of the characters in your book and why?

I recently watched a Christmas movie starring the perfect actors for One Imperfect Christmas. I’d cast Teri Polo as Natalie and Paul Essiembre as Daniel. They’re amazingly close in both looks and personality to how I pictured my characters as I wrote the book. (Hallmark folks, anytime you’d like to pick up the movie rights, just let me know, okay?)

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Did you realize that dream?

As a child I always wanted to become an actress or a writer. So yes, I’d say I have fulfilled the best part of that dream. As a novelist, I live out the stories in my head as both “actor” and “director.” Not to mention I can go to work in my jammies if I want to!

Explain your creative process.  Pantser?  Outliner? 

Definitely pantser! Once I have the germ of an idea in mind, I start imagining the characters’ current situations and backstories. Finding representative photos always helps. Usually I get a visual of an opening scene, and that kicks off the story. I might have two or three major turning points in mind, along with a general idea of the ending. But how we get from point A to point B to point C is always a journey of discovery.

If you could only have one mode of transportation what would it be, a horse or a bicycle?  Why?

If I could have the means to feed and care for a horse, that would be my choice. I’ve always loved horses, though I didn’t get many chances to ride until my mid-40s. While volunteering at a therapeutic riding center, I met some wonderful “horsey friends” willing to share their horses so I could take dressage lessons—what a thrill! There’s nothing quite like the bond between a horse and rider. We moved from that area several years later, and since then I have really missed the opportunity to ride. Unfortunately, circumstances have never come together in a way that would allow me to have my own horse.

Do you dream about your stories?  Ever written about a dream?

Actually, the idea for One Imperfect Christmas first came to me in a dream. We’d been watching a bunch of sappy Christmas movies on TV, and those were playing through my head all season. Then one night I awoke with dream images of a couple about to celebrate 50 Christmases together, only something stood in their way. It took a little imagining and playing the “what if” game to come up with the right characters and plot, and the story went through several incarnations before reaching its published form.

What were you like in high school?  Class clown?  Nerd?  Cheerleader type?

I’d have to say nerd. I was an A student (graduated 5th in my class), but I was certainly not popular—very much a loner, the last kid picked for teams, never had a real date, much less a boyfriend, didn’t go to prom. Very sad, yes. But that didn’t stop me from not only meeting the guy of my dreams (we’ve been married 40 years now) but landing the career of my dreams as a published novelist. I’m also blessed to have so many wonderful writer friendships now, tops among them the ladies of Seekerville.

What’s your favorite theme park?  Why?  (If you’ve never been, which one would you like to visit and why?)

I’m not much of a daredevil, so I don’t visit theme parks for the roller-coaster rides. Give me something fun and “gentle” like Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean river trip or the Haunted Mansion. I loved Epcot, too. We finally made it there a few years ago when RWA held their conference in Orlando. Visiting all the different “countries” was fascinating!

Are you a reader?  What types of books do you like best?  What author(s)?

I love to read. My pleasure reading is usually during the last hour before bedtime, and my favorite books ever are The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien. For the past several years I’ve mostly read inspirational fiction by favorite author acquaintances including Carla Stewart, Julie Lessman, Mary Connealy, Janet Dean, Cara Lynn James—too many to name! When I need a change of pace, I’ll try one of my husband’s techno-thrillers. Clive Cussler is always fun!

Myra’s bio: Award-winning author Myra Johnson is a Texan through and through, but she has no regrets about recently making the move to the more temperate climate of the Carolinas. She and her husband of over 40 years are the proud parents of two beautiful daughters who, along with their godly husbands, have huge hearts for ministry. Four rambunctious grandsons and two precious granddaughters take up another big chunk of Myra’s heart. The Johnsons also enjoy spoiling their very pampered oversized lapdogs. Myra’s first novel from Abingdon Press is One Imperfect Christmas (September 2009). She has also written contemporary romances for Heartsong Presents.

Thank you, Myra for a candid and interesting interview.  Readers, please leave comments for Myra – she’d love to chat with you!  Listed below are some places you can find Myra Johnson and check out her other books.

Find Myra on the Web:

www.MyraJohnson.com

www.seekerville.net

www.myra.typepad.com

www.facebook.com/MyraJohnsonAuthor

www.Twitter.com/MyraJohnson

www.Twitter.com/TheGrammarQueen

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1391761.Myra_Johnson

One Imperfect Christmas-coverOrder One Imperfect Christmas online at:

Amazon (print version)

Amazon (Kindle version)

Cokesbury

Christianbook.com

Watch the Book Trailer for

One Imperfect Christmas:

http://tinyurl.com/cec2fpj

 Want to see more books by Myra Johnson?  Her latest release, A Horseman’s Hope, is now available for preorder here:  Amazon

HorsemansHopeCover

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Introducing Author Barbara Watkins

Posted on December 17, 2012. Filed under: Author Interviews, L.Leander Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Barbs professional pic2I am so happy to have as my featured author this week the incredible Barbara Watkins.  She’s definitely got a lot of thrills and chills in store for her readers.  I’ve read Barbara’s short stories in a book she and Betty Dravis co-authored – Six Pack of Blood, but until I read Hollowing Screams I didn’t realize her capacity to hold a reader in suspense and make them squirm for hours on end.  You can read my review of Hollowing Screams here.

Interview with Barbara Watkins

by L.Leander

Where do you write? What’s your creative space like?

I have a room in my house that my husband and I converted into an office space. On the corner of my desk sits an old antique Royal typewriter,

a gift from my dear mother, and several horror posters adorn the walls including a poster from The Vampire Guardian Angel series, courtesy of horror Director/Producer, Lia Scott Price.

What is your favorite writing tool?

My just about worn out Dell computer and outdated Microsoft word processor! LOL)family pics from phone 801_1

What movie star would you pick as one of the characters in your book and why?  Nicole Kidman would be perfect to play the role of ‘Shannon’ – her performance in the paranormal flick, ‘The Others,’ absolutely blew my mind. Her portrayal of complex characters, along with the fact that she fits the description of ‘Shannon’ makes this actress my first pick.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you realize that dream?

I always thought that I would like to be an actress – that didn’t happen. However, I get to play make-believe and act in various roles every time I create a character – guess you could say that I have realized my dream!

Explain your creative process. Pantser? Outliner?

Um, I guess you could say that I’m more of a fly by the seat-of-my-pants plotter. It’s not like I don’t know where my story is going though – I just tend to let my characters lead me there.

If you could only have one mode of transportation what would it be, a horse or a bicycle? Why?

I’d have to say a horse, cause I’m too lazy to pedal a bike! LOL)

family pics from phone 802_1Do you dream about your stories? Ever written about a dream?

When I was quite young and would have nightmares, I often wrote them down in a journal. In fact, I have incorporated several of my nightmares into my writings – makes for some horrifying tales!

What were you like in high school? Class clown? Nerd? Cheerleader type?

Um, I guess you would say I was more of a class clown – definitely not a nerd or cheerleader type. I did have a habit of talking to my classmates too much, as often indicated on my report card. LOL)

What’s your favorite theme park? Why? (If you’ve never been, which one would you like to visit and why?)

Universal Studio in Orlando, Florida ROCKS! I love the simulated rides; particularly the ‘Back to the Future’ ride. Do they still have that one? LOL)

Are you a reader? What types of books do you like best? What author(s)?

family pics from phone 800_1I consider myself an avid reader when I’m not writing. It really depends on what kind of mood I’m in as to what I like to read.

I’ve been known to enjoy a good sappy love story, a comedy, and even a futuristic sci-fi. Nevertheless, give me a paranormal thriller, a thrilling horror tale and I’m in seventh heaven! Clive Barker, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and John Saul – all rate high on my list.

bwhollowingThank-you Barbara for an interesting and candid interview.  Readers, leave some comments and let Barbara know what you think about her interview and writing.  If you’d like to find out more about Barbara Watkins here are some links:

Barbara Watkins Website

Barbara Watkins Fan Page

Barbara Watkins on Twitter

Books by Barbara Watkins:

Hollowing Screams (Kindle Version)

Hollowing Screams (Paperback)

Mortal Abomination

Awaken Spirit (A Digital Short)

Six-Pack of Blood (with Betty Dravis)

Soon to be released:  Six-Pack of Fear (with Betty Dravis)

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INTRODUCING AUTHOR LAURA SEEBER

Posted on December 10, 2012. Filed under: L.Leander Book Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

lauraThis week my author guest is Laura Seeber.  I have just finished reading her novel The Spring And Autumn Murders. You can read my review here. This was an interesting book and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Ms. Seeber has done a great job of making the story personal and relevant to today’s readers.

I love getting to know authors and Laura is definitely not an exception.  How I yearn to be like her!  Read question #5 below and in Laura’s answer you’ll see why.  I am a total pantser, but Laura’s explanation of how she writes puts me to shame.  I just have to get used to outlining.

Enjoy our conversation and don’t forget to comment and show Laura Seeber some author love.

Interview with Author Laura Seeber

by: L.Leander

Where do you write?  What’s your creative space like?

I work primarily in my living room in a great big pink chair with my laptop perched either on my knees or on a nearby coffee table.  The area around me changes depending on how much other work I have going on- but it usually consists of a notebook, a sketchbook and a few wads of crumpled up paper tossed around the table and floor.  I am definitely not an organized person.

pENPAP_1What is your favorite writing tool?

My favorite writing tool is probably my notebook and pen.  I know, sounds weird when I spend so much time on the computer, but being able to draw out plot lines, etc. with pen and paper feels much more real to me.

What movie star would you pick as one of the characters in your book and why?

I would probably cast Jackie Chan as Lord Nianzu if I had the chance.  I’m a genuine fan of him, and his acting ability which goes way beyond what is shown in a lot of the kung fu action movies that you see him in.  It would be great to see him in a role that would highlight his acting ability without type-casting him as a kung fu master.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Did you realize that dream?scientist_1

Depends on when you would have asked me.  At one point I wanted to be a pilot, a tap dancer, a scientist, and a horse trainer.  To be honest, being a writer was never one of my dreams that I remember.  However, right now I also work as a geologist, so I guess I partially realized my dream of becoming a scientist.

Explain your creative process.  Pantser?  Outliner?

Oh I’m almost obsessive in my outlining.  I’ll start with a subject matter or area I want to write about.  Then I’ll spend the next few months researching the setting, the people, the eras, and the subject matter until I feel that I can truly internalize what I have researched.  Then for the next few months I’ll “write” the story in my head, reworking things, changing point of view, altering characters until I get to the point where I don’t think it can be changed anymore.  Then I break out the lap top and write it down.  After that I’ll revise it a few more times until feel it’s good enough to submit.

If you could only have one mode of transportation what would it be, a horse or a bicycle?  Why?

bike_1Unfortunately I would probably choose the bicycle.  Although I love riding horses, they can be quite expensive to fix and or replace when something goes wrong.  It’s much easier to fix a flat tire than it is to fix a broken leg.

Do you dream about your stories?  Ever written about a dream?

Actually, dreaming of my stories is one of my steps in writing.  If I continuously dream of a story for a few nights I know that it’s near completion and it’s time to break out the computer.

What were you like in high school?  Class clown?  Nerd?  Cheerleader type?

Actually in high school I was the quiet kid who sat in the back and didn’t say much.  The only time I came out of my shell was when I was around my friends- then I became a smiling goofball who wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time.HIGH_1

What’s your favorite theme park?  Why?  (If you’ve never been, which one would you like to visit and why?)

Well, I guess my favorite theme park would be Kenny wood Park in Pennsylvania.  It’s the closest park to where I grew up, and it has a great nostalgia feel to it.

Are you a reader?  What types of books do you like best?  What author(s)?

I’m a fairly avid reader, but I wouldn’t say that I read incessantly.  I prefer either mystery, non-fiction or the occasional romance if the heroine actually has half a brain on top of her shoulders.  Honestly if the story is well written, I’ll read just about anything.  As far as authors- Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Carl Sagan, Arthur C. Clarke, and Madeline L’Engle are a few that come to mind.

Thank you, Laura, for taking the time to join me today.  It’s been great chatting with you.  Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment and do check out my review of The Spring And Autumn Murders – I’m sure you’d love to read it!

You can learn more about Laura Seeber by visiting these links:

Where to purchase The Spring and Autumn Murders:


Spring and Autumn murders coverWriters Thread

Emerald Musings

Biography:

Laura Seeber has worked as a geologist, an environmental consultant, and a freelance writer.  She currently divides her time between her own environmental consulting business, handling various ghostwriting and freelance writing projects, and her own fiction writing.  Her interests include history, outdoor activities, martial arts, mysteries, and non-fiction material.  The Spring and Autumn Murders is her first novel.   She currently lives in Illinois with her husband, Michael.

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INTRODUCING AUTHOR ZOE BROOKS

Posted on December 3, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

zb_1This week it’s my pleasure to interview Zoe Brooks, author of Mother of Wolves.  You can read my review here.  Zoe is a fascinating author and reading her answers is like reading one of her books.  She has a real flair for words and description and it’s easy to see why her works are so popular.

Interview with Zoe Brooks

by L.Leander

Where do you write? What’s your creative space like?

I write in a semi-restored farmhouse in the Czech Republic. The house sits on the edge of a small hamlet a few miles from a magical town called Cesky Krumlov. I love it there, it is so quiet and peaceful. If the words stop flowing, I will grab a basket and walk in to the forest and collect wild berries or mushrooms. There is something about the focus that requires, which allows the book to slip back into my subconscious and stew for a while. My house is simply decorated – just whitewash over granite walls, with lots of Indian and Mexican embroideries together with prints by my friend and mentor Hannah. I sit in the corner of the living room at a table with my laptop in front of me and music on full. Virginia Woolf said “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” I don’t have too much money but I have not only a room but a house of my own.cesky krumlov small_1

What is your favorite writing tool?

A mug of tea! It warms me when I am cold and cools me when I’m hot. It soothes me when I am stressed about not writing and it stimulates me when I need inspiration. I’m very British when it comes to tea – my dad is a great tea lover and so tea was the first thing the family drank in the morning or when you got home, and during the day the kettle was constantly being recharged. It still is. Like all British ex-pats I know, every time I fly into the Czech Republic my bag contains lots of proper British teabags. They do sell tea in the Czech Republic, but it is very anaemic compared to the British sort. When I’m writing I will be drinking tea pretty continuously, which reminds me I must put the kettle on.

What movie star would you pick as one of the characters in your book and why?

I’ve always thought that my main character in The Healer’s Shadow trilogy, Judith, would suit Angelina Jolie. She has the beauty but can also act – I really rated her in The Changeling. I can’t think of someone who could play Lupa in Mother of Wolves. It would need to be someone dark, small but with tremendous presence. Maybe there’s an Indian actress who would suit. I found this picture of a Rajasthani gypsy on the web, who sums up Lupa for me – that piercing look, you wouldn’t want to cross her.

lupa_1

What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you realize that dream?

Oh I had all sorts of ideas – actress, archaeologist, teacher, and poet. I briefly did some acting when I left university, but decided it was not for me. I am too much of an introvert and acting took too much out of me emotionally. I couldn’t study archaeology at university, because my secondary school wouldn’t allow me learn history, english and science for my final exams, which is what I needed to get on to an archaeology degree course. But I worked in heritage management for a while, running museums and heritage centres. I did quite a bit of teaching in that work, running schools workshops and training museum staff. I really enjoyed it and I am told the kids did too. As for poet, I was very successful when I was younger – I was published and won a few competitions – but I rather let that slip. When I became a mum and then as my career working with disadvantaged communities took off, I never seemed to have time or energy. I think writing is a selfish art, that’s why you need a room of your own, and for about twenty years I dedicated myself to others. You will have noticed that being a novelist isn’t in my list of “things I wanted to be”, that didn’t really happen until a few years ago when I reappraised what I was doing with my life.

Explain your creative process. Pantser? Outliner?

Outliner. I don’t write anything down though. I know a lot of writers use index cards and software programmes, but I find I don’t need them, instead I carry all the ideas in my head for months playing with various options, before eventually sitting down at my laptop and writing. I do have a very good memory which helps.

The other thing that helps is that I was taught by an expert in story structure. My friend Hannah was a professional story editor in the film business and lectured on the subject. She taught me a lot about story structure and the tools of the trade – like building suspense and dramatic irony. She died last year, but I can still hear her talking to me when I am writing and working on drafts. Recently I have been writing a series of posts for Indie Exchange called Notes of a Story Editor, in which I try to share some of what she taught me.

 If you could only have one mode of transportation what would it be, a horse or a bicycle? Why?

I don’t know how to ride a horse, so that’s a non-starter. I do have a bicycle in the house, but I am rather put off riding by the very steep hills in our part of the Czech Republic. So I don’t think I would opt for a bike. I enjoy walking a lot, because it allows me to stop, examine a flower, gaze at the view or pick a mushroom if I want to. I will also be working on the plot of my latest book of course. So the answer to the question is not a bike, not a horse, but Shanks’s pony.

 Do you dream about your stories? Ever written about a dream?

That’s a really interesting question. I am one of those writers who does not write all the time. I have periods of intensive writing, when all that work which went into mentally plotting the book is transferred on to the page or rather the laptop screen. When this happens I have noticed that my dreams change. It is a sign that I am “in the zone”. I dream more frequently and more vividly. In particular I dream in the third person: I am not in the story but watching it. It sometimes feels as though I am a camera tracking through a scene. Hannah and my other Jungian friends were horrified when I said that I didn’t take part in some of my dreams, they said it showed I was dangerously detached. But I think a lot of writers do this – the overview I have as a writer extends into my dreams.

And yes I do sometimes dream about the book. Sometimes when I’m stuck with the book, I will go to bed even in the daytime and allow the subconscious to work. You have to be careful about using your dreams off pat, as you need to think about the words, imagery and structure, but yes I have used them. In particular I used two dreams pretty well in full in Fool’s Paradise, but that is a long poem, albeit with a story, and I think it is easier to incorporate dreams in poems than into a novel. I am currently writing the first draft of the third book of my Healer’s Shadow trilogy, and I am playing with making dreams feature more prominently in that. I have used some dreams in the first two books, but one does have to be so careful about avoiding dream cliches.

What were you like in high school? Class clown? Nerd? Cheerleader type?

None of them. I was pretty ordinary, I fitted in okay. Yes I was bright, but not so bright to be a nerd and I was too non-conformist to be a cheerleader or a member of any team. The truth is I did enough to get through school. My real life existed outside of my rather boring grammar school. All my spare time was spent at an arts centre for young people, where I could talk about writing with people like me, where I used to act and where I was able to shine and be a bit of a star. I think my schoolteachers found it hard to square the Zoe they saw in front of them with the Zoe who was getting in to the local newspapers for her poetry and acting. When my parents said I wanted to apply to Oxford University the headmistress, Miss Moon, told them that I shouldn’t bother, but my mother insisted that I should at least be given the chance. It was with great pleasure that I rang up Miss Moon to tell her that Oxford has accepted me.

What’s your favorite theme park? Why? (If you’ve never been, which one would you like to visit and why?)ferriswheel_1

I have not been to America and so can’t comment on the famous parks there. There’s a theme park in the Isle of Wight that I am particularly fond of and which you and your American readers will not have heard of. It is called Blackgang Chine and it dates back to the Victorian period. A chine is a narrow valley that drops down into the sea. My son and I used to go to the Isle of Wight in the Easter holidays leaving my husband at home. A visit to Blackgang Chine was an essential part of the holiday. It didn’t have lots of adrenalin-packed rides, but it was absolutely magical. There were dinosaurs, fairy grottos, a pirate ship, wild west town and much more.  I haven’t been to Blackgang for years and I do hope that my son (now an adult) provides me with at least one grandchild I can use as an excuse to go back. The British pleasure gardens of the 18th and 19th centuries were the original theme parks. The one at Vauxhall Spring Gardens in London was the most famous – with grottos, fireworks, automata, scenes and of course music (Handel’s Water Music was first performed there). It was copied all over the world. Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen were modelled on the Vauxhall Gardens and in turn inspired Disney. I ran a heritage centre on the Spring Gardens site and the history of the gardens fascinated me. For a while I was close to raising the money to rebuild the gardens, but family affairs took me away from London. So the theme park I would like to visit would be the new Spring Gardens I never got the chance to build.

Are you a reader? What types of books do you like best? What author(s)?

Yes of course. It’s essential for a writer to also be a reader, otherwise how do you learn. When I was a youngster I read nearly every book in the children’s section of the small local library. I stopped when I was at university. History students are expected to read up to twenty books a week, so I learned how to speed read which rather spoiled reading literature for a while. I have catholic tastes in books. I am not overly keen on “literary” books, I want a good plot and I don’t like the tendency in some novelists feted by the critics to structural high jinks. I don’t want to be thinking “how clever” but rather be caught up in the story and the language. Some literary writers are good storytellers too – I discovered Hilary Mantel several years before she became famous and was slight miffed that suddenly everyone was talking about her.

As a child I loved historical novels (no surprise there) – Rosemary Sutcliff was one of my favourites, and later I graduated to Mary Renault and Edith Pargeter. I’m still a fan and it’s good to see Mantel continuing that tradition. I was also a fan of fantasy as a child. There’s a picture of me asleep in bed with CS Lewis’ Horse and His Boy open next to my hand. I then discovered Alan Garner and of course Tolkien. My son introduced me to Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea novels, I love the way Le Guin writes about serious issues while telling a great tale and her world-building is simply the best. I was less keen on science fiction as a child, although I loved Madeleine booksL’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. Sci Fi is a still genre I haven’t got into, although I have several of Ursula Le Guin’s sci-fi books sitting on my shelf waiting for me to take them up.

I now tend to follow two rules when buying books. The first is to buy books in translation, it doesn’t really matter what genre. My rationale is that in order to be translated the books have to be very good. I find it really interesting to read foreign literature – I get to see the world differently and also find different ways of writing. I discovered one of my all time favourite writers, Andrei Makine, by buying one of his books on spec like that. He is an interesting mix, he’s French but with Russian family, something his books reflect.

My second rule is that, with the exception of detective novels, which I have a weakness for, I tend to like books with an element of fantasy in them, not full-blown fantasy, but a touch of the strange or spiritual. I’m not sure why this is. I have always loved fairy tales and myths; even now as an adult I feel they have a truth in them. I remember vividly the first time I read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It blew me away. When I published my first novel, Girl in the Glass, one of my early reviewers on Amazon said that it was magic realism. I didn’t know what that was, so I looked it up on Wikipedia and realised I didn’t just write it, I enjoyed it too. I now have a magic realism blog, http://www.magic-realism.net where I review one magic realism book a week. Magic realism is not really a genre, it’s an approach to story writing. You get magic realism in books in all sorts of genres, for example I am currently reading The Silver Cloud Cafe by Alfredo Vea, which is a magic realism detective story set in San Francisco. My own books tend to be more realist than magical. In Mother of Wolves Lupa, like all her people, believes in spirit animals, but that’s just how it is for her. The book is written in an unspecified land and time, but these are very much informed by my historical training. I like to explore big issues such as the persecution of minorities and I feel that by restricting the story to a specific space or time limits the impact. By using an unspecific setting I allow the reader to bring her own interests and experiences to the book. For a European, Mother of Wolves is likely to be about the persecution of the gypsies, for an American it is more likely to be about the persecution of the Native American peoples. Both perspectives are correct.

All my books so far have had strong central female characters. And when I look at both my childhood and adult reading preferences I can see that playing too. A favourite book of mine as a child was Little Women and I of course identified with Jo. I read lots of historical novels. I had a favourite trilogy about the young Elizabeth I (I can’t remember the title or author) and another favourite called The Queen’s Brooch about Boudicca. As a teenager the first “serious” literature I read and reread was Jane Eyre. More recently I read Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus, feminist magic realism and tremendous fun. Andrei Makine’s The Woman Who Waited is a wonderful book about a man trying (and mostly failing) to understand a woman. As a writer I was excited when I discovered Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It’s not fiction, but it’s about fairy tales and what they tell us about women. I found a lot in that book to aid my storytelling and plotting. I curate a weekly online newspaper about books by and for women – you’ll find it on http://www.womens-fiction.net.

Thank you so much for allowing me space on your blog and for asking such fascinating questions.

Here are other places you can find Zoe Brooks.

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Thank you for visiting.  If you’d like more information on Mother of Wolves by Zoe Brooks, click on the book cover to go to the Amazon page.  Please leave a comment for Zoe in the section below.  She’d love to hear from you!
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